Journey to Build a Healthier Lifestyle

Mohamad Ayyash ·

This will be my experimental lab as I test new diet changes, muscle building workouts, sleep hacks, and activities that reduce my stress and increase my long term happiness.

I'm  still sticking with the nutrition and workout plan as before but my weight is still at 193lb (so I didn't lose nor gain any lbs this week). #setback

This might be due to the fact that I was using an antibiotic in the past week for a throat bacterial infection. I have already bought a powerful probiotic (40 strains and 150 billion CFUs) that my #goal is to take this month instead of my usual 45 billion CFUs one. I also bought some bone broth and fermented vegetables for daily consumption during this month for the same purpose.

Research shows that gut health is important for metabolism and regulating hunger hormones and since antibiotics destroy the good bacteria in the gut, it could lead to long term digestive and metabolic issues that should be addressed quickly with a good probiotic and a sustained healthy nutrition plan. Saturday is my last dosage of antibiotic and I will monitor the progress for another week after the treatment is over before I make any changes in nutrition or workout. I will do my best to avoid any sugar-heavy cheat meals for this month as I've read that sugar feeds the bad bacteria in the gut.

I've already had 2 cheat meals in 3 weeks which felt great the day after. I'm glad I was able to bounce back to my plan the day after the cheat meal. This used to be an issue for me in the past especially during the night but I have found that having a scheduled 450 calorie meal at 9PM has massively helped me in overcoming those cravings. This is a confirmation that I'm on the right track.

Still going strong on the new nutrition plan! Lost 6lbs in total in 2 weeks so far and I'm at 192.5lbs as of today. I love that my energy levels are actually higher than before and I'm sleeping so much deeper. Stress levels are low and happiness levels are much higher so this is working and I can see myself following this plan forever! #milestone

Speaking of nightly routine, I've been enjoying taking a cup of chamomile tea at 11PM and I've been somewhat consistent in sleeping between 12-1AM so this probably helps as well. I also use orange lights in my room and on my macbook (use an app called flux), all this coupled with no heavy mentally draining sessions after 11PM has helped me sleep and relax better.

I've been consistent on walking 7000 steps a day (usually 45 minutes before my 6PM dinner) in addition to my workout routine to destress and lose more weight so that's great!

I tried walking at 10:30PM (close to bed time) one day but that kept me awake past my bed time so I won't do this again #lesson

I had 2 cheat meals (dinner and nightly snack) last Saturday where I ate lots of carbs and sweets. The reason I did that is because I felt a bit tired the day before so that certainly helped and didn't really impact my weight loss (I gained 1lb the next day which I eventually loss later). But it's good to know that I have a guilt-free breathing room every now and then. #lesson

Another #lesson I learned is to take 2 days a week off from weightlifting and cardio. My previous workout routine involved alternating days of weightlifting and bike rides but I noticed that after a while of following this routine I start feeling low energy during the day. My new routine cuts my cardio days in half, so within 8 days, I weight lift 4 days (40-50 minute sessions on alternating days) and I do cardio only 2 days (30 min bike rides). This has helped maintain my energy levels during the day and I no longer feel tired after a while. Again I'm looking for a plan that I can stick to forever, so this certainly works well!

My current weightlifting workout routine is the following with the focus on maintaining my strength during this weigh cut. For the heavy lifts such as deadlift, bench press and shoulder press I aim for 3 sets of 8 while focusing on increasing the weight with 2 minutes rest. For the rest of the exercises I aim for 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps with 1-1.5 minute rests. As a skinny-fat guy this has been working very well for me so far:

I use the strong app during my gym sessions.

Once I hit 185 lbs my #goal is to do another DXA scan (body spec) to hopefully confirm that most of the weight loss is fat and not lean muscle. For the record this is my last DXA scan result from August 28 where I was at 25.3% body fat percentage at 198.4lbs:

I'm no longer tracking my #number_of_work_sessions as it's successfully on auto-pilot now. Time for a new habit now. #milestone

The last week I got sick (had a nasty fever and sore throat) and for the first three days I had no appetite for food. However, I have learned a valuable lesson in turning adversity into a very positive thing. I used my limited appetite to re-evaluate my nutrition plan which has been failing me recently and I made the following changes that I have stuck with for 10 days now and have already dropped 7 lbs:

  • Added a basic multivitamin (Amazon basics). Just to make sure I'm not missing anything.
  • Added a Vitamin D + Calcium supplement (from Thorne Research) as I have limited dairy intake
  • I added a fish oil supplement (Amazon basics)
  • I moved my 500 calorie afternoon snack (oatmeal and nuts) into my last meal at 9 PM. I did this accidentally in my first couple of days of sickness and then I realized that since all my cravings happen at night then this should help control it and boy did it help the most!
  • I'm becoming more flexible in my nutrition plan to allow myself junk food without ruining my daily caloric intake. For example, my last two meals are 600 and 500 calories each so if I was craving a pizza (1000 calories) now I can schedule it as a replacement to my last 2 meals without feeling guilty that I'm behind my fat-loss plan. I can also switch my last meal into a waffle or cookie or ice cream with no negative consequences. Actually just knowing that I am not limited in my nutrition plan makes me NOT want to have those unhealthy snacks as bad as I used to when I would strictly prohibit them. This certainly is a great #lesson I learned.
  • I was forced to cut sparkling water for the first few days and then I realized that I'm less bloated. I did some research and turns out sparkling water is indeed the culprit. There were also studies that show sparkling water can induce more hunger so I'm glad I've cut that seemingly healthy habit of drinking 5 cans a day. Now I have 5 cases of Perrier that I need to get rid of!

This is an update on what my new diet looks like:

Daily Status Update:

#number_of_work_sessions: 2 (Success)

Daily Status Update:

#number_of_work_sessions: 1 (Fail)

Daily Status Update:

#number_of_work_sessions: 1 (Fail)

Daily Status Update:

#number_of_work_sessions: 2 (Success)

Today I was reflecting on the power of enforcing habits without being a slave to them and how to eliminate the extreme feelings of guilt when broken for reasons beyond our control.

A popular habit system is the "don't break the chain" system which is attributed to Jerry Seinfeld and of which advocates users to track their habits in a chain that gets broken every time you break the habit. This encourages keeping the habit as time goes on in order to avoid losing a long streak.

Although I like this approach and have tried a lot in the past I personally think it's a terrible system for long term success. I can recall a few instances where this failed me, for example, earlier this year I committed to a no-dessert habit and reached a 60 day streak that I was very proud of. However, one night I visited family and ended up eating one of my favorite childhood desserts which felt great in the moment unfortunately it meant that my 60 day streak is over. Looking at the fact that it will now take at least 2 months to get back to my previous streak I lost my motivation to re-build the streak and the next day I fell off track as well, followed by a week and ended up not following that habit anymore.

This is the danger in the "don't break the chain" system. Luckily I have learned to forgive myself and accept that sometimes life happens and forces us to fall off our habits so I decided to follow my own new system which is the "keep a 90% success habit system". The goal behind it is to ensure I follow any habit at least 90% of the time so if I start a new habit for 2 weeks I allow myself a maximum of one hiccup in those 2 weeks. If I follow the habit for a month then I will allow myself 2 hiccups and so on. However, and this is the key point, if I get below 90% for reasons beyond my control or to avoid feeling too restricted, I know that in a few days I can get myself back to 90% which is what success looks like. Also I know that the longer I follow the habit then the more slack I can cut myself off in the future which is a great motivator to keep going; however, just like people with sizable savings avoid spending a lot in order to keep the satisfaction from seeing the numbers go up, I feel the same (positive) effect is likely to happen here  #lesson

My #goal now is to #experiment with this new habit system and use it in my future daily status updates as a mean to measure my habit success over time. Maybe I'll make a game out of it.

Daily Status Update:

#number_of_work_sessions: 2 (Success)

Daily Status Update:

#number_of_work_sessions: 0 (Fail, I was having a social day with new friends. I will now have to extend this habit challenge to another week with October 7 as new target end date)