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Improve your life or die trying, part 1: The Idealog guide to maybe sorting your shit out in one month or less

“That’s the thing about self-improvement,” sang David Lee Roth all the way back in 1996. “Don’t get me wrong, I plan on gettin’ some soon”.

In that, as in so many other things, I feel ya, Diamond Dave. I, for one, have a very overdue account with the Department of Self-Improvement.


Between my desk-jockey days and debauched nights, things were beginning to take their toll. With a spare tire – grown considerably in the last few years – an omnipresent hangover and a Marlboro-flavoured cough – all products of a fairly epically misspent forty years – I had been beginning to look less like the angel-faced heartbreaker I once was and more like the middle-aged cliché I swore I would never become.

So it was one morning, as I fumed off the previous night’s debauch, I thought: why don’t I do something about it?

Now I’m not one to rush into these sorts of things. Forty is forty after all, and most guys my age are packing a little bit more cushion for the pushin’ than they were in their youth, right? And life’s for living, right? We’re here for a good time, not a long time, right? And hey, we all read that article that said that the ‘dad-bod’ is a real thing and women love it, right?



It was obviously time to do something, so I went to my doctor, my very Russian doctor, to get the bad news.   

“Dis ess verrry faaat,” she said, crunching my height vs weight numbers. “Ye-us. Definitely overveight. Definitely.”

What she lacked in bedside manner she made up for in candour, and candour was what I needed most. It was time to make some changes. And besides, I was sick of walking around with my gut sucked in. It’s not working for David Hasselhoff and it’s not working for me.

Image: David Hasselhoff fooling precisely no-one. 

And though I don’t rush into these things, I don’t do them by halves either. I told the doctor to work up all of my stats – weight, BMI (body mass index), blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. – right there and then.

The news was pretty grim from start to finish and on the car ride home, I got to thinking: It’s not just about being a bit fat. It’s about everything. Not only my (possibly sexy?) beer belly, my crumby cardiovascular endurance, my tar-filled lungs, and my alcohol-pickled brain. This is about how I feel about myself too, about the way others see me, and about that nagging voice that won’t stop reminding me that I’m somehow better than all of this.

Simply put, if I was going to sort this shit out, what else was I overdue to sort out as well?

What if – just what if – I sorted out…everything? Not just dropping a bit of weight, but the whole shebang? What if I could sharpen my brain, improve my mood, and do whatever it is that yoga’s supposed to do? What if, with the right tools, a little effort and just a little bit of my long-lost willpower, I could not only undo the damage my crapulent lifestyle had created, but actually improve?

“A dream is a goal without a deadline,” opined a Tony Robbins audiobook to me once, so if I was going to do this, I was going to need a timeframe. And I’m impatient as hell.

One month, I decided. Just one month to drop this weight. One month to quit these bad habits and sharpen this brain. One measly month to sort my shit, by any means necessary.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to find out what the latest science says and I’m going to apply it to myself, for one month of manic self-improvement. If there’s a pill, I’m taking it. If there’s a technique, I’m trying it.

One month to change my life, maybe for the better, or die trying.

Is it really possible to move the needle when it comes to all those things – IQ, creativity, energy and body composition – by willpower alone? Can ultra-clean living, the latest techniques and those supposed miracle supplements advertised on the internet actually make me a better man? And can it be done all within a single month?

Goddammit, let’s find out.  

Read Part II here

Got an exercise, supplement or health suggestion we should try out? Enter it in the comments below and be in to win a 15 pack of Heineken and a 20 pack of Marlboros*.

*Idealog’s lawyer’s approval permitting

Jonathan has been a writer longer than he cares to remember. Specialising in technology, the arts, and the grand meaning of it all, in his spare time he enjoys reading, playing guitars, and adding to an already wildly overstocked t-shirt collection.

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