There is a lot of common behavior associated with being a geek. Geeks take pride in drinking caffeine, eating junk food, being out of shape, and working long hours at a computer. Yes, I was like this. Many of you may be too. I got my cup of coffee first thing in the morning. I drank high caffeine beverages such as Bawls and Jolt. I ate penguin mints. Most of my exercise involved moving my trackball wheel. I always took the elevator. I stayed up late and got up early. I slouched in my rocking office chair. I sat for hours on end with little movement. I ate a lot of junk food, mostly Taco Bell with no vegetable or fruit intake. I didn't drink any water.

Does this sound familiar? This was my life. It was a typical geek life, I thought it was cool to reject the modern concept of healthy living and join my fellow geeks. I have changed my ways. You see, gradually I started to realize I wasn't happy. I didn't feel good. I was even in pain. I didn't sleep well, probably about 5 hours a night, which made me often cranky and tired during the day, making it difficult to do my job. I always had puffy eyes with dark circles under them. My lack of movement and poor posture, combined with TMJ gradually let to nearly constant neck pain and tension and mild to severe headaches. The lack of exercise had led to weight gain which lowered my self confidence. All of this weighed down on me, which had the added effect of making me mentally unhappy. I got sick of it. I got sick of my lack of will to change my life. I got sick of not feeling well. I got sick of being lazy. I decided it was time to change.

It hasn't been that long. Changes like this aren't overnight. But I'm working at it, taking it one day at a time. There are many things I am now trying to do with my life.

  • Sleep better
    I now go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time. I don't read in bed, and I no longer lay in bed late watching TV waiting to get tired. This helps to set my body on a timer so that it will know when it is time to sleep and time to be awake. It also help me associate my bedroom with sleep and not reading/watching TV so that my body recognizes that when I lay down it is time to go to sleep.
  • Eat better
    I dreaded this, but it's not that bad. My thinking was simple, I enjoy food, but I only eat a small fraction of the day, and I'm willing to sacrifice some of the enjoyment from that short period of time to gain enjoyment for the rest of the day. I eat breakfast now, which I never did, typically a bowl of cereal with lowfat milk and no sugar (Honey Bunches of Oats are great), a glass of orange or grapefruit juice, and toast or a bagel. For lunch, I'm at the mercy of local restaurants, but I've managed to find at least moderately healthy things at most places. Hey, it still tastes good without cheese and mayo! Besides, there's nothing wrong with the occasional fatty food in moderation. For dinner, I cook several nights a week. I do a lot of stir fry. If I'm not in the mood to cook, I generally pick up some of the Lean Cuisine skillet meals at the store. They are quick and easy, taste great, and have less than 5 grams of fat and 500 calories. I usually have some Briers reduced fat ice cream as well, it's very tasty and not overly fatty. I also try to snack on fruits in the afternoon if I get hungry. I also drink mostly water and fruit juice. I was surprised to learn that I didn't miss soda much.
  • Stretch and move
    Yes, once an hour I get up for about 5 minutes. I generally go get a glass of water, walk around a bit, and then do some stretching in my cubicle. This really helps to relieve the neck pain and gives me a nice break if I am frustrated with my current project.
  • Exercise
    I once thought exercise was only good for keeping in shape if you worried about how you look. Not true. Exercise not only keeps you looking better, but it helps you feel better. It relieves tension, eases pain, and gives you a positive attitude. I now ride my bike twice a weak for several miles, and weather permitting I ride the 1 mile to work. I also do sit-ups and pushups each day.
  • Posture
    Oh yeah, I have bad posture. I slouch, I don't walk upright, I recline too much. I now try to sit straight up at work, and walk more upright. I don't recline my work chair. I shift my work position throughout the day so that my muscles don't get tense. I think I'm going to get a firmer bed, my waterbed doesn't support too well...

And remember, it's ok to be a healthy geek.

Being a self-induced healthy computer nerd, I have to wholeheartedly agree with ccunning's writeup. In addition, I have some more suggestions:

  • Take Vitamins:
    You'd be suprised how much of a difference 500mg of multi-vitamins can make a day; just take it with breakfast (you do eat breakfast, don't you? you should!) and tell me that you don't feel healthier in a month or less.
  • Drink Water:
    Cut back on the coffee, despite its pleasant side effects. Buy yourself a 1-liter Nalgene water bottle and keep it filled. Sure, you'll have to go to the bathroom 5 times a day, but it will keep your system clean like nothing else.
  • Squeeze your Hands:
    Go to a sporting goods store and buy a forearm exerciser. It's a simple device, a spring with two handles, that you put in your hand and squeeze. It's a remarkable stress reliever and actually gives you a pretty good concentrated workout on your forearm. It also will improve your handshake grip, which could in turn improve your career.
  • Don't be Scared of the Big Guys in the Gym:
    Most workout facilities are actually remarkably friendly places. A "serious" (read: intimidating, big) weightlifter would actually probably be impressed that you're actually trying to gain strength and be more supportive than anything else.
  • Run:
    You'd be suprised at what running for even 30 minutes a day will do for you. You'll sleep sounder, and feel better when you wake up. Your legs will hurt after the first two weeks, but eventually, you'll laugh at how hard it was to run that first mile.

Improve your body; it's the vessel for your soul!

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