Nerd Health

The word ‘nerd’ gets bandied about rather too much for my liking. These days you only have to find the Big Bang Theory witty, post up a couple of memes from IFL Science or read a Ben Goldacre book to be able to self-identify as a nerd. (Also, just for clarity, if you like the Big Bang Theory, you are wrong. Sorry.)

Oh just SOD OFF. The only reason anyone thinks you're funny is you have a laugh track.
Oh just SOD OFF. The only reason anyone thinks you’re funny is you have a laugh track.

I’m not a nerd in the traditional science-y sense at all, more in that I find odd things deeply pleasurable. One of these things is the act of making and sticking to timetables.

I’m reasonably disorganised in most other ways, so the fact that I really like following schedules was a bit of a surprise when I found it out.

The revelation occurred when I was training for the London Marathon last year (an uncharacteristically sporty endeavour which has landed me with knee pain forever more). When I started on my 16 week training plan I was focused on the big race day and the lovely medal (which I did eventually get). However, as my training progressed I found myself liking it more and more, and specifically the act of following the training plan.

When you have a plan set out ahead of you it makes your progress very easy to see. You tick off the runs (or training sessions, classes, whatever) and you can see where you started, where you have got to, and your target to aim for. By the end of my marathon training, the much coveted medal was very much an afterthought.

At the risk of spouting tired homilies, it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.

So that’s what I decided to do for my gradual healthy eating journey. I got my geek on and made a timetable. Here’s some of it.

Ooh, I do love a nice bit of Excel.
Ooh, I do love a nice bit of Excel.

The green boxes indicate where I should eat a healthy meal, the blue ones where I don’t have to worry about what I eat. (As you can see, I’m not busting a gut yet, effort-wise.) I’ve got a column for notes to show when I’ve met my target for the day (plus a little smiley face) or if I haven’t managed to meet it, and why. And as you can see, progress is made, slowly but surely.

I think a correct amount of structure is what’s missing from most traditional healthy eating advice. Either a diet is too structured, requiring you to cut out all manner of foods from the word ‘Go’ and not allow any aspect of the real world to encroach on your ability to follow it; or there is no structure at all, and you’re merely supposed to follow very vague advice like, ‘Just eat less and move more’ without any indication of how this should be accomplished.

What I’m hoping is my new method will provide the best of both worlds – clear progress without being off-puttingly restrictive. A gentle, gradual change to habits.

Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. (Speaking of which, I’ve had my healthy meal for the day. I reckon it’s pudding time…)


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