Posts Tagged ‘Routine’

Goals Are Best Achieved by Sticking to Routines

March 14th, 2016 at 3:05 pm by timigustafson

It is common knowledge that persistence and perseverance are important ingredients for success in almost any field. Whether we seek it in our careers or personal interests, stick-to-itiveness is one of the key factors that make or break our advances.

Even the most accomplished people share this. In addition to their talents, they develop and maintain routines they rarely deviate from, allowing them to keep building on their achievements.

In his informative as well as highly entertaining book, “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work,” the author Mason Currey describes how structure and discipline have formed the work and lifestyle habits of dozens of famous writers, painters, composers and musicians. The rules and parameters they set for themselves not only helped them with their tasks at hand but also let them overcome obstacles and adversities.

Of course, not only the gifted few but all of us depend on schedules, programs and routines, if we want to get anything done. Although these devices may connote repetitiveness, automation, even monotony, they are in many ways the very foundation on which the extraordinary can unfold.

Yes, Currey admits, “to follow a routine is to be on autopilot. But one’s daily routine is also a choice, or a whole series of choices. In the right hands, it can be a finely calibrated mechanism for taking advantage of a range of limited resources: time (the most limited resource of all) as well as willpower [and] self-discipline.”

The choices we make throughout the day may feel like they are based on well-considered decision making, but they are not, according to Charles Duhigg, the author of “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business” – they are mostly habits themselves. In fact, he claims, almost half of the actions we take are not based on conscious decisions at all. So it is those habits that we need to focus on and change or fine-tune if necessary.

But this is not always an easy task. Many of us have only a vague idea of what we want or which direction our life should take. Generally speaking, we all want to be happy, do meaningful work, have rewarding experiences, be in loving relationships, enjoy good health, and so on. We may be aware if something goes wrong or could be improved upon. We may even see a solution right in front of us. And yet, making the extra effort and bringing about a positive change may still seem out of reach. Why?

What happens when good intentions fail is that they are not sufficiently anchored in people’s reality, their daily form of existence, says Dieter Frey, a professor for psychology at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany. Someone may want to make more money, find a better job, lose weight or gain greater fitness, but it won’t happen if there is no infrastructure in place to facilitate the necessary steps towards such goals.

A framework must first be built where individual actions can turn into patterns, and patterns become habits, thereby supporting and promoting the whole process, which eventually can lead to the desired outcomes.

All objectives have to be aligned with the existing conditions; they have to be realistic, and progress has to be measurable, says Frey. Obstacles and hindrances will continuously arise, but they become more manageable when they are faced with an arsenal of well-honed countermeasures. And those can only be obtained with practice.

Obviously, no pursuit, no matter how well designed, is ultimately guaranteed success. But the odds tend to improve in favor of those who patiently persist in their efforts.

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Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (


For Maximum Diet and Exercise Benefits, Timing Is Everything

October 14th, 2012 at 1:38 pm by timigustafson

Diet and exercise are the two main pillars of a healthy lifestyle. For both weight management and physical fitness, they are equally important and go hand in hand. But how do they relate to one another? Scientists suggest that coordinating your eating and workout schedules can improve results.

Our busy lives make it oftentimes hard, if not impossible, to maintain a health-promoting regimen. We eat at different times, skip meals, snack in between, work out irregularly. While flexibility can be both a necessity as well as a virtue, keeping to a schedule has advantages that are hard to substitute.

“Every organ has a clock,” said Dr. Satchidananda Panda, a researcher at Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. “That means there are times that our livers, intestines, muscles and other organs work at peak efficiency, and other times when they are – more or less – sleeping.”

Lab tests showed that when mice were allowed to eat any time they wanted, they soon gained weight. But others who had access to food for only eight hours a day did not, although they consumed roughly the same amounts. “Metabolic cycles are critical for processes such as cholesterol breakdown, and they should be turned on when we eat and turned off when we don’t,” Dr. Panda said in an interview with MSNBC Today/Health. Squeezing in quick bites or snacking throughout the day and at night can throw off these normal metabolic cycles, he warned.

What about exercise? While there is no ideal time for running or lifting weights – early risers may prefer the wee hours before the day starts, night owls may put it last on their to-do-list – there is the question of how to maximize the benefits.

For those who aim for weight loss, it can be important to coordinate their food intake, both in terms of quality and quantity, with their work-out schedule. Studies have suggested that intense physical activity like running, swimming or bicycling on an empty stomach can increase fat burn and therefore promote weight loss.

Other experts, however, caution against pre-exercise fasting. They say running on empty may help you get rid of fat faster, but you won’t have enough energy for a more rigorous training. “If you have a long, hard run without breakfast once a week, that hard run will train you to burn fat,” said Dr. Ron Maughan, a sport science professor at Loughborough University in Great Britain. For the rest of the week, however, he recommends eating plenty of carbohydrates, provided you can keep exercising. Also, if you allow your body to become too depleted, you may be tempted to overeat afterwards, thereby undoing all your good efforts.

“People often skip pre-exercise meals due to lack of time or not knowing what to eat,” said Manuel Villacorta, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics. He recommends consuming appropriate amounts of carbohydrates and protein to keep you fueled and give you energy and a steady stomach. But be careful: “Even the best foods can come back to haunt you mid-workout if not allowed to properly digest,” he said, “so it’s best to eat 45 minutes to an hour before you work out – longer after heavy meals.”

Some foods settle more easily and enter the bloodstream faster than others, he explains. These should be your preferred choices. Avoid those that make you feel sluggish or cause you having stomach cramps.

After you finished exercising, your muscles need to recover and nutrients need to be replenished. Focus on protein, especially after resistance training, and carbohydrates for refueling. Even if you are not hungry after being active, you must rehydrate by drinking plenty of water and perhaps some diluted juice or sports drink.

Obviously, there are no clear-cut rules that satisfy everyone’s needs. Experts recommend you pay attention to how you feel during exercise and how your performance is affected. Only your own experience can guide you and help you get optimal results.

Timi Gustafson R.D. is a clinical dietitian and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (, and at You can follow Timi on Twitter and on Facebook.

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About timigustafson

Timi Gustafson, RD, LDN, FAND is a registered dietitian, health counselor, book author, syndicated newspaper columnist and blogger. She lectures on nutrition and healthy living to audiences worldwide. She is the founder and president of Solstice Publications LLC, a publishing company specializing in health and lifestyle education. Timi completed her Clinical Dietetic Internship at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an active member of the Washington State Dietetic Association, a member of the Diabetes Care and Education, Healthy Aging, Vegetarian Nutrition and the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition practice groups. For more information, please visit

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