Level up! Bring your best game to health.

Is your good-health-plan strong, like Donkey Kong?

Sticking to a good-health-plan involves a lot of management skills, a surprising amount of which can be learned from video games.

Here are a few gamer rules that we apply to our own diet:

  1. Primary goals should be hierarchical, planned, and rewards unto themselves.
  2. Secondary goals should be unexpected and celebrated.
  3. Cheats should be limited, earned, and saved till needed.
  4. Know your arsenal.
  5. When you have to restart a level, it doesn’t diminish your chances of success.
  6. Play with the expectation that life will interrupt.
  7. Don’t get into gamer-wars or become a game-missionary, or you’ll quickly lose friends.

Primary goals should be hierarchical, planned, and rewards unto themselves.
Make a list of primary goals, which are goals that are rewards upon themselves. Put them in order and remind yourself that achievements are won in steps! An example would be: (1) Eat only the required amount of calories every day for 2 months, (2) Lose 20 pounds from you start-game weight, (3) Keep 20 pounds off for 2 months. If you happen to lose 20 pounds before you reach Level 2, great! It’ll make Level 2 easy when you get there, but — you aren’t there yet.  It’s important to remind yourself that each level has it’s own rewards, and that hierarchy has a purpose.

Secondary goals should be unexpected and celebrated.
A secondary goal is like dropping one or two pant sizes, or having your skin clear up, or making a gym buddy. It’s not something you should expect if it’s not your primary goal, but it’s pretty great. And as something pretty great, it should be celebrated!

Cheats should be limited, earned, and saved till needed.
Cheats shouldn’t be taken for granted and used at random. Whether your cheat is a food or a day off from exercise, you should create a system where you earn the right to it. Maybe even give yourself a physical token to represent it! Then, just like in a game, save that shortcut for when you really need it. Cheats don’t grow on trees!

Know your arsenal.
Memorize the list of things, people, and places you need to succeed in your goals. What foods can you eat? Know them! You should be able to glance at a menu and know what you can eat and what you can’t. Are there things you need to exercise? Make sure you have them with you so you can’t make excuses.

When you have to restart a level, it doesn’t diminish your chance of success.
Stuff happens, try not to be restarted more than one level at a time. When you start over, know it’ll be easier the second time around, and have faith! Success is still within your grasp.

Play with the expectation that life will interrupt.
Life interrupts. People interrupt. If you take those interruptions too seriously, that angst will transfer to your game and put you behind your goals.

Don’t get into gamer-wars or become a game-missionary, or you’ll quickly lose friends.
You’re excited about your good-health-plan, we get it. It’s working, we get it. If you try to convert people or tell everyone about all the details of it all the time, though, you’ll just alienate people.

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And on that note, thanks for your patience as I blog my way through Diabetes Awareness Month.

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69 thoughts on “Level up! Bring your best game to health.

  1. Congrats on being FP! I love this post! I am going to quote it when I write about video games in coming weeks since it’s a perfect example of how people learn lessons and attitudes from video games they can apply in tangible life. Do you know SuperBetter? The post I am publishing on Wednesday explores it and I think you would find it very interesting. It’s a game you can use to stay focused on your goals, like lowering stress or loosing weight. Check it out! Congrat again dino friend!

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  2. I don’t know if I see any similarities in Dieting and video game playing at all. Sorry, I just don’t see it even with your metaphors. To me, dieting is hard and I am always loosing!

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    • Ah, Segmentation. I didn’t mean to diminish the work that goes into dieting. It *is* work since it so often requires an entire reboot of your life systems. But the gamer tips help keep things fun, help remind us that losing is just part of winning, and helps us take things a little less seriously (like Thanksgivings where we can’t eat anything, ha!). Anyways, they’re just things that work for us– but I think it’s important to have some sort of guidelines in your diet plan. Keeping healthy is always work, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Good luck!

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    • Yay! You’re gonna succeed, I can feel it in my bones. :) The exercising regularly is a worthy first level goal, and it sounds like you’re acing it. The rest will come. Thanks for reading!

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    • Me too! The cheats and the re-starts are the two things that led me down this path to begin with. I’d see people say, “It’s my cheat” all day long, and think… if this was a video game, in about 10 minutes, you’d find yourself stuck in a room without doors and you’d be regretting using your cheat. Or I hear people say, “It didn’t work this week, I failed, I guess it’s just not for me.” and the truth it, you were just set back. Dust off your gamer pants and get back out there!

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      • epilepsymeandneurology says:

        you mean in brit speak cheating = up a creek without a paddle? I like just a set back, you can recover from set backs, its not terminal or failure… its like shit happens move on…

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  3. Cool post. I think the best games make you feel like you’re always accomplishing something, always moving towards some goal, or new area. I try to bring that sense of advancement and opening up new areas to my own life, away from Xbox Live, too.

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  4. Good set up of structure. It was enjoyable to read and take in. The way you were able to mix a rather serious topic in a humorous way was enlightening. Liked it a lot!

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  5. Reblogged this on No 'FRIES' for 365 and commented:
    This is probably one of the most genius concepts I’ve ever read concerning health! All of these principals should be applied to anyone trying to “level up” on their health. Kudos to the author and thank you for this enlightening post!

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    • Thanks! I liked your use of the word “resonates”. It’s funny how basic rules of gaming sort of seep into our minds after hours of play, and then when someone says, “you know how in videogames, blah blah blah”… the other gamer just says “yes, I know.” It’s like we’re all part of a little community… and the rules of that community resonate. Anyways, that was a bit of ramble– thanks for commenting!

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  6. I saw this the other day in FP, but hadn’t checked it out until now. I detest video games so I really didn’t think I’d find anything pertinent to my own life. But as it had to do with health, here I am, checking it out. And y’know, I discovered two things: (1) that this is definitely worth the read, and (2) I can still learn something – who knew!!! :-) Now, to actually put it into practice … hmmm … ever heard of horses of different colors?? :-)

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  7. Reblogged this on Budget Girl and commented:
    I’m trying to prepare another post (it turns out, the spray paint needs more time to dry) and this post from rarasaur was just too good not to share. Obviously, my favorite part is the way Donkey Kong was incorporated (nice!), but the advice she gives is excellent. If you’re a gamer, this post will be easy to relate to and make the rules to help you “level up” easier to remember. If you’re not, I’d read it anyway because the rules are still good ones. Note to self: Final Fantasy victory music after every level up. Yeessss!

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  8. I’m not a gamer but the blog episode makes good sense as a dieter! I will keep those ideas in my mind as I strive to go up a level. I’m really enjoying all the reading I’m fining on WordPress, yours is a good example.

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  9. I love your blog!
    I was losing weight but I ran out of protein bars in my health pack and now I have to restart the level! I have to adjust my strategy and reset my secondary goals to keep the belly fat beasts at bay. I think a testosterone power up will help. Thanks for a fun, uplifting post.
    Warmth and Peace

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  10. I would love to design a video game where kids get “life points” for eating foods that have nutrients…. if they go over their calories and don’t have enough Vitamin C or get too much Sugar… ooops. Game over. But that broccoli! Wow, tons of points.

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