Get the Fans into the Game

Why are football teams more successful at home than when out of town? It’s partly because they’re sleeping at home, etc. But it’s largely about the fans. The fans keep them motivated, cheer them on when they’re doing well, remind them (sometimes not so subtly) when they’re not performing well, and generally help them feel supported.

Fans are a big part of the Football Diet.

Recruit at least 2 fans.

This could be a family member, friend, co-worker, or all of your 537 FaceBook friends—anyone you see fairly regularly. The key to a successful fan is what you do with them right from the start: you tell them that you’re going on the Football Diet, and you are going to try to lose one pound this week. Believe it or not, telling them your intention is huge. This is like Babe Ruth pointing at center field before hitting a home run (sorry for the intrusion of baseball).

By declaring your intention, you do 2 critical things:

  1. You publicly commit yourself to your goal. The behavioral scientists have shown that this is a huge deal that makes it much more likely you’ll do what you want to do.
  2. You recruit supporters. Your fans can help, and not just by nagging you. If they know what you’re doing, they can…
  •  Eat healthy things around you
  • Stop offering you cookies
  • Ask you how it’s going
  • Eat the ice cream in the freezer so it’s gone when your 9:00 p.m. craving hits
  • Join your team! How cool would it be to have 2, or even 11, people all on offense or defense at the same time?!

Take this seriously. What football team would want to perform with no fans? Why should you try to do this alone?

Continue to Away Games

Working Out

It turns out football players work out, and that is somehow related to how big and strong they are.   😉

Somewhere, sometime, we each have to figure out a way to get some exercise. This is likely even more important than all the stuff we do around eating. An offense week isn’t all about healthy eating—it’s also about getting as much exercise as possible. And a defense week is very much about keeping up the exercise routine, even if you’re not hitting the exercise quite as hard as you would on an offense week.

The three keys to regular exercise:

  1. Pick something you enjoy
  2. Do it at the same time every day
  3. Make it as easy as possible to do it

I have an old stationary bike that I found out by the street one day. It’s so old it doesn’t even plug into anything. But I’ve set up a music stand in front of it to hold my iPad, and I watch TV shows while I ride—ideally TV shows with chase scenes to help me pedal faster.

I ride the stationary bike every morning after breakfast. It’s in my bedroom. My bike shoes are right next to it. I don’t need to go anywhere, pay anything, or think. It’s easy, and it gives me an excuse to watch stupid TV shows without actually wasting time. I pick shows that run about 45 minutes.

On defense weeks, I ride 5 days a week. On offense weeks, I ride every day, and if I’m really pushing it, I’ll ride once in the morning and once in the evening, and I might watch longer TV shows to extend the ride. This is a lot, and I’m not saying you need to do what I do. But I am saying you’ll greatly increase your change of success if you make it easy for yourself to do somethine you enjoy at the same time every day. First establish the basic routine, then boost it when you’re on offense.

Continue to Momentum: Get the Ball Moving

Hot & Cold Times – Momentum 2

There are some times when I am very committed to more healthy behaviors. These are called “cold” times, because my passion to stuff myself is low:

  • While brushing my teeth after breakfast
  • After eating and drinking way too much and feeling sick to my stomach

And here are the “hot” times when my passion to consume calories is high and I am least committed to healthy behaviors:

  • When I first get home from work
  • When free lunch is served at a meeting, especially if there are chocolate chip cookies
  • At about 9:00 p.m. when I get a craving for ice cream, or 10:00 when I get a craving for a glass of scotch or Bailey’s Irish Cream

So how do we make use of this? I try to take advantage of the cold times to manipulate my behavior in the hot times. Ask yourself, “if I were a controlling, manipulative taskmaster, how would I make sure someone in my house didn’t have a beer when they got home? How would I make sure they didn’t eat ice cream in the evening?” The easy answer—keep the treats out of the house.

So if I have an attack of conscience while brushing my teeth in the morning, because I had 2 beers when I got home from work yesterday and my weight went in the wrong direction, I can walk into the kitchen and take the rest of the beer out of the fridge. I hate warm beer, so I’m unlikely to have beer when I get home later that day. Even moving the beer to a fridge in the garage can help—anything to make it less desirable and less convenient during the “hot” times.

Fans can help too. My wife always knows if I’m on offense or defense. When I’m on offense, during a cold time, I ask her not to buy any ice cream that week. I’ve even been known to ask my wife and kid to eat my favorite ice cream before I get to it. When do I have the fortitude to make this request? During my cold times. I ask them while brushing my teeth in the morning. Or if I’ve just pigged out and eaten half of the ice cream and I’m feeling guilty and stuffed, I ask them to finish it off as soon as they can so there will be none left for me.

Continue to Get the Fans Into the Game

Get the Ball Moving – Momentum 1

This may have no base in science, and maybe it’s just me, but it seems that when I first start trying to lose weight, it takes several weeks before anything happens, even if I’m being really good about sticking to my plan. But once I get the weight moving, it’s easier to keep it moving. I think my body gets set at a particular weight, high or low, and holds it there. I’ve noticed the same thing when I’ve maintained a healthy weight for several months—I can pig out for several days in a row with little or no effect on my weight.

So the key is to keep working at it the first few weeks when nothing seems to be happening. And then, when the weight starts to move, keep going with some more offense weeks to keep the momentum rolling.

I’ve read that some people lose the first few pounds of “water weight” pretty easily and then have trouble moving past that. And there’s also something about the weight not moving when I start exercising, because I’m converting body fat to muscle. These reinforce my point—if your weight isn’t moving, keep believing that if you stick with the plan, if you keep blocking and tackling well, good things will happen. And when they do, take advantage of the swing in momentum by stringing together several offense weeks in a row.

Continue to Momentum: Hot & Cold Times

Protect Your Weak Side

Even great football teams have weaknesses. But they know their own weaknesses and take great care to not let those weaknesses bring them down. Think about your weaknesses and be ready to bring in a free safety or an extra blocker.

Food & Drink

When it comes to weight management weaknesses, I know where to look. For me, it’s all about ice cream, beer, and third helpings. If I can stop eating pints of Ben & Jerry’s, limit the number of days when I drink beer, and stop eating when I’m full, I have a fighting chance of at least playing solid defense.

Pay attention to your own habits, and notice which items you tend to overdo. Just noticing this will go a long way when you find yourself at Thursday of an offense week and you’re a little heavier than you were at the start of the week.

Emotional Triggers

Sometimes I eat because I’m hungry. Sometimes I eat because I had a hard day. Sometimes I tell myself I deserve a 3rd beer, a 3rd helping, and an extra scoop of ice cream, even though it’s going to make me feel like crap afterwards. I’m trying to get better at noticing when I tell myself I deserve it and will feel better, because the truth is I also deserve to be healthy, and unhealthy eating doesn’t actually make me feel better.


Again, notice the situations where you’re more likely to fumble the ball. Come up with strategies to protect the ball in these situations.

There are two situations I’ve learned to watch out for. The first is when I come home from work. I love to walk through the door, open the refridgeerator door, and pop open a beer. What I’ve found is that if I can make it past the first few minutes after coming home, the frantic desire for a beer declines dramatically. If I have a pitcher of ice tea ready in the fridge, and I pour myself a glass of ice tea when I get home, I’m not nearly so tempted by the beer.

The second situation, before which I am almost helpless, is free food. I don’t know why, but it’s very very hard for me to pass up free food. This includes anything where I don’t have to pay extra for more helpings, like at a buffet. To tell the truth, I haven’t figured out how to deal with this one yet. I rely on will power, and my will power is usually no match for free food, even on an offense week. Sigh…

Continue to Working Out

Build on Your Strengths

Don’t make this all about depriving yourself of things you like. Make a list of healthy things you enjoy doing and eating, and do them more often—especially on offense weeks. For me, the list includes things like these:

  • Fixing things in the house and yard
  • Dancing
  • Walking and hiking
  • Fresh fruit
  • Ice tea
  • Kombucha (check it out!)

It’s easier to increase healthy things you enjoy than to decrease unhealthy things you enjoy. So be sure to:

  1. Know the healthy things you love
  2. Do them more
  3. When you’re doing them, notice how much you enjoy them!

Continue to Protect Your Weak Side

The End Zone Dance!

The main thing about the Football Diet is to focus on one day, or at the most one week, at a time. Lose a pound this week. Don’t gain a pound this week. It’s all about making first downs, moving the chains, rather than scoring a touchdown. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a bigger goal. Just don’t get too wrapped up in it, and don’t measure yourself against it all the time.

With the Football Diet, you aren’t going to score by throwing an 80 yard touchdown pass. You’re going to work you way down the field one play at a time and then score with a run straight up the middle.

But when you do finally score a touchdown, when you reach a big milestone, do a fabulous dance in the end zone. Celebrate! Here are the keys to a great end zone dance in the Football Diet:

  1. Celebrate with your fans!
  2. Plan it in advance, because you want a great dance, but…
  3. Don’t draw a penalty for overdoing it.

The best end zone dance will be a great celebration with your friends that doesn’t set you back and take points off the board. As you approach your goal, think about something you love to do, with others, that’s healthy. A great concert, 50 yard-line seats at the next game, a weekend trip, an entire weekend without doing anything useful! Plan it in advance so you have extra motivation to meet your goal, and so you don’t pick an end zone dance that will draw a penalty because you ate too much and went right back over your target weight.

Continue to Blocking & Tackling: Build on Your Strengths


Recovering fumbles

By Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Nobody’s perfect. We all drop the ball sometimes. Maybe it’s an offense week and I skip exercising 2 days in a row, or it’s a defense week and I accidentally eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk and 6 chocolate chip cookies. Just like in football, here’s the key to dealing with fumbles:

  • Get over it. Fumbles are part of the game, and even the best players fumble now and then. So don’t beat yourself up. Instead of giving up or being hard on yourself…
  • Recover your own fumble! When you drop the ball, pick it back up rather than letting the other team take it and run with it. Get right back into whatever your game plan was for the week—offense or defense.

Ball Control

If you notice you’re about to fumble,

  • The most important thing is to notice you’re at risk, so you can protect the ball.
  • Ask yourself if you’re really, really going to enjoy this fumble. Why turn over the ball for a third helping of a casserole you don’t even like?
  • If you notice early enough, ask your fans for help. The sooner you can do this, the better (see “hot & cold”). I’ll sometimes say to my family, “OMG, they have a chocolate fountain over there. Please help me eat only one banana’s worth from the fountain.”

Continue to Special Teams: Extra Points


No football team can succeed if it refuses to ever give the ball away. Sometimes we have to punt. And I refuse to accept any game plan that won’t let me eat cake and ice cream on my birthday. On Thanksgiving Day, on my birthday, sometimes while on vacation, I punt. In the Football Diet, punting means I eat and drink whatever I want, as much as I want, and I don’t exercise unless I feel like it.punt

Here are the keys to punting in the Football Diet:

  1. You have to plan it in advance (otherwise it’s a fumble)
  2. It lasts only one day. Football teams don’t punt 2 plays in a row, and I don’t pig out 2 days in a row.
  3. After punting, go right back to offense or defense the next day.

Continue to Fumbles