5 ways for developers to get their health on track

Samy Dindane

Rarely in other fields besides programming do you find

  • people so passionate about their job
  • tech that evolves very quick

In the race of staying up to date with the latest JS framework or functional programming language, we might often forget our health and let ourselves go.

Unfortunately, while cool new tech is released everyday, you have only one life, one body, and once you damage it, it’s not always possible to fix it.

I’ve been in that situation: I was destroying my body without realizing it, until I couldn’t ignore the physical cues: my shirts didn’t fit, my pecs almost turned to tits, and I was out of breath when taking the stairs.

Problems we, developers, struggle with the most are:

  • Overweight
  • Brain fog
  • Posture
  • Back pain
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Metabolic syndrome (medical symptoms usually leading to diabetes and heart diseases)

In this post I will give you simple actionable advice you can put in place right now to fix these issues and improve your health.

Why be a superheroes fan when you can be a superhero yourself?

Get leaner by skipping breakfast and eating the right food

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is basically cycling between periods of fasting and eating.

The most famous format, popularized by Martin Berkhan, is 16:8: fasting for 16 hours and eating during an 8 hours window.

To reverse fat gain, or to avoid becoming overweight in the first place, intermittent fasting is the easiest technique to use.

We developers don’t often start working until 10AM, then we go to eat at 12PM.

Why not simply skip breakfast?

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting:

  • Caloric restriction: by skipping breakfast you limit your total energetic intake, which reverses fat gain and makes it unlikely you’ll gain weight again.
    When you think about all the crap we usually eat in the morning: orange juice, biscuits, cereals, bread — the effects could be huge.
  • If the fast is long enough, IF promotes autophagy, which is the process of cell regeneration. If you aim long term, and you should, it’s a good anti-aging method.
  • Regulates your relationship with food: we live in a society abundant with (junk) food. By doing IF you will learn it’s okay not to eat all the time, and it’s okay to be hungry from time to time.

How to prevent hunger?

Eat a complete dinner, and drink coffee in the morning.

Food that helps fat loss

Calories are fuel for your body.

In order to lose weight, you need to eat less to create a caloric deficit.

In other words, your calories in should be less than your calories out.

1g of carbs or protein contains 4 calories, 1g of fat contains 9.

But not all calories are created equal.
For example, a calorie from carbs isn’t the same as a calorie from protein.

Why?

Because protein is the most satiating nutrient.

Eating it will reduce hunger, which is the hardest thing to endure during weight loss.

Eating fat will reduce hunger too.

Whole foods, being rich in nutrients, are good for satiation as well.

Carbs, on the other hand are not filling. You’ll need to eat a lot of them before being full.
Sugar more specifically, has been proven to enlarge the stomach and therefore make us more hungry.

FYI:

Example of satiating foods

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Avocado
  • Cheese

You can notice that all these foods are natural, if bought from a good source, they are usually not very processed.
This is the kind of food you should consume.

Bonus tip

Snacking is one of the main reasons people become overweight. I did.

Snacking is usually done on junk food, that is full of carbs and sugar, and it is not satiating.

Before you know it, you would have consumed huge amounts of energy.

And you’d still be hungry.

How to avoid snacking?

Fortunately, if you are consistently eating big meals, you will be full and have less reasons to snack in the office.

To avoid snacking at home, simply don’t buy snacks.
You can’t snack on stuff that isn’t available.

My transformation

Fight inflammation by reducing carbs and avoiding sugar and vegetable oils

Inflammation causes:

  • Depression
  • Acne
  • Hormonal imbalance and low testosterone
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased cognitive ability
  • Brain fog
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Joint pain

Excessive consumption of carbs, sugar and vegetable oils can cause inflammation.

Let’s start with sugar

Avoid it as much as you can.

It causes fatty liver disease and insulin resistance, which itself can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer.

Sugar also makes your stomach expand, which makes you more hungry.
If you want to lose weight, that’s counterproductive.

Also, sugar is an addiction in itself, why have it in your life?

Of course, sugar from fruits is okay. But that doesn’t include drinking one bottle of orange juice in one go.

Vegetables oils

Vegetables oils, which is an euphemism for industrial oils, are unnatural oils made by humans (machines, actually).

Examples:

  • Soybean
  • Canola
  • Sunflower

Their main specificity is their high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.

Omega-3 is a fatty acid found in natural sources: fish, meat and some seeds.

A high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, like sugar, is linked to heart disease, insulin resistance and aging.

Vegetable oils are also linked to brain fog.

Solution: use coconut oil, olive oil or butter for cooking. Eat less often in restaurants (they use reusable vegetable oil that can cause cancer).

Carbs

While carbs can come from natural sources, nowadays they are the cornerstone of junk food.

Why?

Because ultra-processed industrial carbs are cheap to make.
Example:

  • Cereals
  • Soda
  • Biscuits and cakes
  • Bread made of white flour
  • White rice and pasta

These cheap carbs share similar effects with sugar: can lead to insulin resistance, increase blood sugar in the blood which encourages fat storage, and cause inflammation.
Bonus: carbs also cause gout, acne (I can relate) and Acid Reflux.

Which carbs to favor?

  • Sweet potato
  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Apples
  • Oranges

A word about junk food

You know this already:

Avoid junk food. It has everything bad mentioned earlier: based on ultra-processed food, lacks nutrients, doesn’t contain enough protein, has too much sugar.

Takeaway

The TL;DR of this section is: avoid fake food.

If it’s (too) processed, it’s bad for you.

If it didn’t exist one century ago, it will fuck your health up.

If you’re great-great-grand-mother can’t recognize it, it’s poison.

Balance your hormones through lifestyle changes

Hormonal imbalance causes:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Low libido
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Lack of concentration
  • Mood swings
  • Brain fog
  • Visceral fat

How to improve it?

  • Get enough sleep: at least 8 hours a day. I know that life is too short to spend the third of it sleeping, but you can’t cheat nature. This shitty mentality is gonna get back at you and bite you sooner or later.
  • Get leaner: especially important for men. If you are a fat or obese man, a lot of your testosterone is converted to estrogen. Low testosterone is linked to fatigue, low sexual function, anxiety, depression — High estrogen causes mood swings, man boobs, and visceral fat.
  • Avoid soy if you are a man: clichés and memes don’t come out of nowhere. Soy contains phytoestrogens, Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals that act like estrogen and cause the same side effects.
  • Eat more fat: fat is the source of steroid hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. A balance of these hormones is necessary for the balance of your hormonal system and your overall well being.
    Here are some healthy sources of fat your can consume: olive oil, coconut oil, beef, avocado, nuts, eggs, olives, sardines.
  • Avoid chronic stress. Easier said than done, right? Stress increases cortisol, which in turns lowers testosterone and affects sleep, muscle mass, fat storage and depression.
    Cut toxic people out of your life. Disengage from stressful projects. Find a better job. Avoid very long workouts keep them shorter than 2 hours).
  • Get enough vitamin D. Sunshine vitamin deficiency is linked to higher rates of sickness, fatigue and depression. Get more under the sun! If you’re really lacking vitamin D (proven by blood work), you can supplement with it.
  • Avoid EDC’s: not only they fuck with your hormones, they also impact the development of children in the womb and during their growth, reduce the sperm count in men, and cause menstrual problems in women.
    A famous EDC: BPA.
    How to avoid them? Use glass instead of plastic as much as possible. Don’t touch store receipts. Eat organic food. Use natural self-care products. Don’t drink beer (not-sorry).
  • Get your hormones checked! Ask your doctor for complete blood work.
    If you are a man, ask for total and bioavailable testosterone as well. If they don’t want to prescribe it, go see another doctor who is not an asshole.
Orsay is a good boi we adopt from time to time — Get some sunshine!

Lift weights: better posture, no more back pain and improved cardiovascular capacity

Lower back pain is a problem most developers have.

I had it too, and it disappeared after I started lifting.

Weight lifting, beside making you look like a greek god (or goddess), fixes your back.

There aren’t many details to get into.
Put simply: once you start hitting the gym and get more efficient at beating gravity

  • The muscles on your upper back will grow and fix your posture
  • The muscle on the lower back will cure back pain for more people

What exercises to do?

Deadlifts
Not only is it a badass exercise, it will build a lower back of steel, among many other muscles.

Make sure your use the right technique.

Send me a video if you want a form check.

Alan Thrall’s videos are a good resource to learn to properly lift

Rows

Your best friend for a big and strong upper back.

There are many variations: with a barbell, with dumbbells, Pendley’s, bent over, inverted rows (with a pull-up bar), and others I’ve never heard of.

Choose one and stick to it.

What about cardiovascular capacity?

Contrary to popular belief, running isn’t the only activity that improves cardio.

Top cardio and resistance training are not mutually exclusive.

In fact, you can make lifting weight a cardio activity by itself.

How?

Simply by increasing the intensity of your trainings:

  • Reducing the rest times between sets
  • Increasing the number of reps
  • Increasing the number of sets
  • Training with heavy weights

Put simply, if you’re not sweating, grunting or at least making weird faces, you aren’t pushing yourself enough.

Careful! Training with high intensity doesn’t mean rushing things and lifting with bad form. Always take your time to use the correct technique when lifting.

Other benefits of lifting weights

  • Less risk of being overweight due to the metabolism increase (lots of calories are needed to preserve muscle mass)
  • Higher insulin sensitivity
  • Amazing 🍑 (if you are a woman)
  • Higher testosterone (if you are a man)
  • Less risk of CVD, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and mortality
  • Less risk of depression
  • Being confident as fuck

Walk

Walking an easy way to burn more calories and improve cardiovascular fitness.
It would be a shame not to make the most of it.

Taking public transport takes 10 minutes, and walking 13 minutes?
Just walk!

You can gamify this process by using a steps tracker app on your phone, or getting a device like the Fitbit.

More reading

TL;DR

  • Skip breakfast
  • Don’t snack
  • Eat more protein and fat
  • Get your hormones checked
  • Lift weights
  • Walk more

If you have any question, please leave a comment or send me a DM!

At Tarball Barbell, I offer 1-to-1, adapted and customized fitness coaching and nutrition services.

If you want to get in shape and fix your nutrition, get in touch with me: twitter or website.

Samy Dindane

Written by

Software engineer and fitness coach. I assist you getting leaner, stronger and healthier.

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