My Experiences with Diet and Exercise

As developers we live a very sedentary life for the most part. Most of our workday and a lot of times our off hours time is spend in front of a computer, reading or watching videos. For a lot of us being a developer isn’t a career it’s a lifestyle. That lifestyle has a number of physical and health drawbacks.


I’ve watched a lot of documentaries, read books, tried a number of diets and plans, tried a lot of apps and in late 2013 I decided to take a different perspective on the whole thing. The company I work for just recently did an agile transformation, and one of the reoccurring themes coming out of that was “just don’t implement agile by the book, implement your way”.

I feel that any diet and exercise that we undertake really cannot be quick fix stuff and we cannot just follow the blueprint or plan in a book. It needs to be our own version, what works for us.

These are some of my experiences with dieting and exercise, I’m not a doctor or a fitness/diet expert so take everything with a grain of salt. This is just what is working for me and my take on it.

Diet is everything

Exercise is great, but it doesn’t matter if your diet isn’t good. What is a good diet? Who knows really. Is it low carb, no carb? Gluten free? What? From my experience there is no 100% perfect diet, everything has drawbacks and anyone selling or pushing the perfect diet to me is warning sign. To be clear, I’m not talking about a weight loss diet plan, but your all around diet that you will use for the rest of your life.

I’ve seen a good diet do amazing things. My first experience was I saw a change in someone’s diet fix a seizure disorder and clear up a viral infection. These to me are first hand experiences of how important putting good things into your body are.

What is a good diet? For me it was putting fresh healthy things into my body. I don’t drink soda’s or energy drinks anymore. I instead have Ice Tea and Coffee (I drink water but I hate it). I almost completely stopped using Ketchup and other sauces. I try not to eat or drink stuff that I don’t know what’s in it. Zero calorie to me doesn’t mean it’s healthy. This was a huge issue as low calorie/zero calorie food and drink are marketed as healthy, but how do they get something to taste good and have zero calories, chemicals that’s how!

I’m well aware that organic is now more of just a marketing term so they can charge you more for food. So it’s important to research a little about which organic food your buying. It also needs to be certified organic, yes it’s still a marketing term, but at least they use less chemicals. Buy local if you can, but hey that’s not easy. My local Walmart is stocking local organic food that we buy, which is awesome.

I try and keep my carbs down, eat gluten free at times, I eat more carbs/calories in the morning and midday as opposed to the evening. I try and not to eat after 6 or 7 (hard sometimes) and I eat more fiber. I tried juicing, but it’s too time consuming and too expensive. So that’s more of a once and a while thing.

Exercise when you can

A gym membership is nice, but in my experience it’s just not needed. Your diet without working out it the vast majority of the work. But you should still be active, not hardcore working, but active. Working from home gives me much more options to work out.

What I’ve been doing is every time I get out of my desk I do jumping jacks, I have a 35lbs barbell in my office that I do some weight lifting with, I do sit ups and push ups to mix it up. If I have a long compile going, instead of checking ProFootballTalk I do something active.

The best thing, it to have an active hobby that you love. Running, biking, hiking, etc. For me it’s Firefighting and MMA (which I haven’t been able to do for months now). Find an active hobby that you like and do it a couple times a week, then mix in some ad-hoc workouts. You’ll save money, work out more often and all around feel better, plus not having the ‘guilt’ of paying for a gym membership that your not using.

If your working from home the challenge is different then being in an office. At least you can get some exercise every morning and evening going to and from work. So while working from home you should change you habits when you do go out. Go for a walk to check the mail, I park further away when I go shopping, I take the stairs (if it’s not too many floors). It’s just little things to get a little more activity in your life.

Small Changes over Time

Don’t go all out and try to change your lifestyle right away. This is my issue with weight loss diets. It’s BAM start doing this now and for the next n weeks. Forming a habit can be difficult and the time it takes varies by person and the complexity of the task your trying to turn into a habit.

So I made small changes every few weeks, adding another element to my lifestyle to help my overall health. I’m still making small changes and will continue to make small changes for a long time to come.

Give in sometimes or a little all the time

Seeming I’m not on a diet plan that restricts what I eat, I pretty much eat what I want. I focus on portion control more then anything. When I remember being on a strict diet I would crave food. Eventually I think for most people the cravings win and when the win we gorge or go all in. Instead if I have a little treat every now and again I feed my craving and won’t binge.

When I did try a strict diet plan, most of them had cheat days, or extra points that you could use to satisfy a craving or two, I think this is vital to long term sustained success. We can be on a strict diet plan for the rest of our lives, at least the vast majority of us, so we need to do what works for our lifestyle.

So those are just some of the things I learned about myself while experimenting with diet and exercise. Everyone will be different and so I think we all need to explore, try different things and take what works for ourselves and implementing in our own way.

About: Shawn Jackson

I’ve spent the last 18 years in the world of Information Technology on both the IT and Development sides of the aisle. I’m currently a Software Engineer for Paylocity. In addition to working at Paylocity, I’m also the Founder of Resgrid, a cloud services company dedicated to providing logistics and management solutions to first responder organizations, volunteer and career fire departments, EMS, ambulance services, search and rescue, public safety, HAZMAT and others.