I am thrilled to be starting a new round of Game On tomorrow. Game On is kind of a diet or fitness program, but it is really so much more. When I told my friend Sandy several weeks ago that I had just completed the Clean regimen, and was looking for another way to stay on track with my eating and exercising, she told me that she was involved in a game in which you try to lose weight (or meet a fitness goal)as a team sport, and that there were cash prizes! Now this notion really spoke to me. I am very competitive, and am much more likely to stick to goals if it involves accolades and prizes. Not surprisingly, the co-author of Game On has a similar personality.
Krista Vernoff is a writer and producer of the TV show Grey’s Anatomy, and shares that the only thing that got her motivated to get in shape was a contest, proposed by her friend and fitness competitor, Az Ferguson. You see, Krista had put on a little weight after having a child (sound familiar), and as a writer for Grey’s Anatomy, she reports that she rarely left her comfy chair during the long days she spent writing. Over time, all of this sitting and eating and not exercising caught up with her, and she found herself 40 pounds overweight. Az gave her some tips on how to start getting in shape. He suggested exercising for 20 minutes every day, and eating 5 small meals consisting of a lean protein, a small portion of carbs and a bit of good fat every meal. He advised eliminating certain foods, drinking lots of water, and getting lots of sleep. Do it and the weight will come off, he told her. Well, despite whining that she really wanted to lose weight, Krista only followed Az’s advice for maybe two days. Then several months later, Az proposed following his guidelines as a contest, and all of a sudden, Krista was out of her chair, on her stationary bike and eating 5 healthy meals a day. Funny how the mind can work.
I was really excited about starting Game On last month. Our game was administered by the vibrant and supportive Skipper Kim whom Sandy had met at Glide church in San Francisco. Everyone enters data on to an Excel spreadsheet, and everybody has to be honest. It’s kind of like grade school – if you cheat on your homework or test, you’re only cheating yourself, right?
Skipper Kim helped get us ready the weekend before the game began, encouraging us to grill up some chicken and vegetables, and start assembling our Game On (GO) meals. Now five meals a day may sound like a lot, but some of the meals are more like snacks. And there is no snacking between meals except for cucumbers and celery. (Apart from any one 100 cal snack of your choice if you must). Otherwise, your meals should include one palm-sized portion of protein, a fistful of whole-grain carbs, and a thumb-sized portion of healthy fats. There is a list of foods you cannot eat from (including any with refined sugar and fried foods) and a nice list of healthy foods. Here are photos of some of the meals from the book, and one of my own:
Pete’s Perfect Oatmeal Puddin’ Breakfast
Az’s Easy no-Cook Meal
Turkey Breast, Grilled Zucchini and Millet a la Deirdre
Bill’s Spicy Stuffed Pepper To Go (stuffed with turkey breast, dijon mustard and olives) and a cup of Low-Fat Milk
Az’s Super-Smooth Smoothie (that even my cat wants to drink)
Mandy’s Friggin’ Awesome Chicken Cacciatore
Kevin’s Vanilla Strawberry Almost Ice Cream Treat
There are some really good recipes in the book, and plenty of ideas for creating your own healthy combinations.
I mentioned exercise (20 min per day), water (3 litres per day), and sleep (7 hrs per night). There’s more! You must introduce a new healthy habit and eliminate a bad one. Last time I limited my coffee intake to one cup per day. For my new habit, I committed to at least 10 minutes at the piano each day (which usually led to 30-40 mins). You must communicate with your team mates and opponents on a daily basis. And if you meet your fitness or weight goal, you get big extra points. There’s one day off and one meal off, and a limit on alcohol.
I was feeling great the first week of my last game. I had a perfect score! It couldn’t be easier. Just follow the rules, right? Not so fast, champ. The second week I found myself snacking during my five year old’s temper tantrum (emotional eating, anyone?) I didn’t have time to do my practicing one day. And then I didnt make my weight goal. So what happened in the end? My team didn’t win. But you know what? I think we all won, and that’s why the game is so great. I lost weight, I had developed good habits, and I was feeling good.
Thanks to the daily communication with supportive team mates (and opponents whom we taunt but generally encourage), I have begun to run, and even like it! I bought a snorkel and have been doing laps in the pool (it’s so peaceful – just like snorkeling in the Caribbean minus the beautiful fish). And I want to try a new art practice called Zentangle.
Don’t get me wrong – I still want to WIN win this next round. But I’m mostly looking forward to the structure, the teamwork, and the benefits.