Personal Challenges & Habit Formation 2

This blog has always been finance and investment related, and I never shared much on the personal front. However, I figured I will share some of my personal goals that I have struggled with & achieved so far in 2018 — just because its something that I have been reading & thinking a lot about recently and find it interesting. My major personal goal for 2018 was related to habits (and habit formation). Over the years, I had fallen into some bad habits while letting go of the good ones; so I am making a conscientious effort to change things one month at a time.

These small incremental changes can have a profound effect over time. The benefit (and detrimental effect, in the reverse case) of compounding is something most investors are well aware of. Same concept applies to life and building those marginal gains and compounding them. This article from James Clear and the associated image conveys this point well.

You will notice that most of these challenges are health related. After finance, most of my focus & passion surrounds health. In addition, I am always looking to optimize things so that I can live longer and healthier life. I wrote about Jan-Apr update in spring. This is a follow up post revisiting all challenges since Jan + new ones from May-Aug.


Challenge: Floss everyday.

Oral hygiene is one of the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to avoiding heart diseases (one the three major killers in humans). There is a lot of evidence to show that oral hygiene has a direct correlation to heart health. This one has been a big winner for me and I can say that the habit has set in without any extra effort needed. I automatically find myself flossing almost after every meal now…a habit that will pay dividends for the coming decades.


Challenge: Limit alcohol consumption to weekends only.

While I struggled a bit initially, I was able to get better at it over the more recent months. I have drastically cut down alcohol consumption and hope to keep up with this habit. I’ve had up and down months since February, but the trajectory remains down — which is what I was aiming for.

In fact over the month of July, I experimented with a zero alcohol consumption challenge. I failed at this, and ended up having four nights of having a drink, but it was an interesting experiment. I think zero drinks is a bit unrealistic since I do enjoy an occasional beer/cider/whisky – so I am targeting more of a 3 drinks/month kind of a limit. Hopefully, I can achieve that goal going forward.


Challenge: Work out 4x per week & start lifting weights atleast once a week.

A win but not completely on this front. I have been working out regularly and have gone back to hitting the gym & lifting weights regularly, but haven’t kept up to 4x per week. Hopefully, I can up the ante a bit going forward.


Challenge: No screen time for the last hour before bedtime.

A complete failure on this front 🙁 I have not been able to kick this habit of staring at my computer or phone before bedtime. It remains one of my goals, but perhaps I need to try some other tactics to achieve this.


Challenge: Eat organ meats once a week

I have been reading a lot about the ketogenic/carnivore/LCHF(low carb & high fat) diets lately. I am not going to go into the details and the benefits of these diets since that information is readily available elsewhere on the web. For the most part, our household follows a paleo diet (not 100%, but close enough). But even from an evolutionary standpoint, one point that is always missing from most debates is the consumption of organ meats. Even in the carnivore community, most people seem to focus entirely on lean meats — which misses the point. Organ meats are probably the most nutrient dense foods available and the current culture has shunned these as waste. I grew up eating organ meats regularly (perhaps once a month or so), so I decided to start introducing these back in my diet.

I was successful during the month of May, but haven’t kept up with this habit. Needs more attention going forward.

June & July

June Challenge: Zero snacking

July Challenge: Intermittent Fasting

I’ll combine June & July challenges since they are related.

In addition to reading about the different diets mentioned above, I’ve also been following the research & benefits of intermittent fasting (IF). One of the leading causes of Type 2 diabetes has now been revealed to be the constant secretion of insulin. I found that most of my snacking was related more to boredom rather than a need to eat or drink anything. Initially when I started, I found it hard as I kept finding myself going to the fridge after dinner looking for something to eat, simply because I was bored. On the Intermittent Fasting front, I have also started skipping breakfasts — which has freed up my mornings completely. The only thing I consume between dinner and lunch is a cup of coffee with a small amount of coconut oil. Most IF proponents suggest 16:8 to be a good balance (16 hrs of fasting and 8 hrs of eating). I started off with 12:12, and progressed to 14:10, then 16:8, then 18:6 and even tried a few days of 20:4.

These two habits have been a resounding success and a complete life-changer. In addition to all the health benefits, I have a lot more time on my hands since I don’t have to think about breakfasts, snacks etc (I still prepare a breakfast for my 2-yr old toddler, but the cooking & cleaning is minimal).


Challenge: Reduce sitting time

As a software engineer, I spend a lot of time in front of the screen and majority of it: sitting. I think everyone can agree that this is a horrible position to be in for an extended period of time. Some people even go as far to call “sitting is the new smoking”. The challenge for the month of August has been to reduce the sitting time. I was able to convince my manager to get me a standing desk at work — which has helped me in addressing the point. While this is great when I am at work, I need a similar setup at home since I only go to office about 1/2 the time and work from home when I can/want.

Progress has been good, but I can do better going forward.

That’s my update YTD. What do you think? Share your thoughts below.

6 thoughts on “Personal Challenges & Habit Formation 2

  1. nice road.

    Sounds like you are doing really well with your goals.

    The fasting one in particular stands out for me. I have heard / seen a couple people do this and they got some serious results.

    Did you find it hard to transition?

    keep it up

    • Hi PCI,
      Not too bad. The key I found was getting enough fat to keep me going. I found that there was a difference between having just a black coffee (which is what I normally drink) and adding a little bit of coconut oil. The fat from coconut oil ties me over pretty well until lunch time.
      The recommendation is to add just a little (about a teaspoon) so that you dont secrete insulin in the morning.


  2. Jon says:

    I love your blog but we’re definitely on a different page when it comes to diet. haha.

    I went from resting bps of 84 to 63, high blood pressure is normal now, and after being told for the past 5 years that I’d always have trouble walking due to a messed up knee (osteoarthritis) I’m now jogging again and finished a 5k run a week and a half ago. All this happened after I switched to a plant-based diet.

    I was the best meat cook I know because I’m awesome with spices, so it’s a bit of a learning curve for meals, but I regret nothing except not doing this earlier.

    • Glad you are seeing some good results, Jon.
      I have tried going vegan in the past as an experiment. I did a similar one-month challenge and last only about 3 weeks. Like you said, we have very different viewpoints on this. A lot of research that I have done seems to point to the unsustainability of a complete plant-based diet. It has not been possible to study long-term effects of such a diet since no society around the world has done it for centuries/generations. There are vegetarian soceities, where they consume dairy, eggs etc, but not a pure plant-based diet. So, the current vegan movement is a grand experiment is how most researches view it. Whether its life affirming and sustainable, will probably only get answered after a few hundred years.


  3. Some of those sound like real challenge. I hope you get the results from them you’ve want. I’ve never heard of eating organ meat being more nutritious, but I think I’ll try that. How does organ meat in comparison to “regular” meat?

    I’ve cut back on alcohol consumption for a completely different reason than most. It makes me sleepy.

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

    • Hi ARB,
      Organ meats pack a bigger punch when it comes to a cocktail of vitamins, iron & plenty of other micronutrients. You can get some (or most) of those in regular meats too, but pound for pound, organ meats are considered to be a superfood. There’s plenty of literature if you look up ‘organ meat nutrition’.

      Funny you should say that about alcohol — its something Ive been thinking about too. It may make you sleepy and help you pass out, but overall your quality of sleep is worse when you drink.


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