Thursday, November 20, 2008


Status update-- looking good

I haven't completely abandoned this blog. Site Meter shows that I get about one visitor a week, sometimes less. Still, I keep imagining some guy eating lunch at his desk and just clicking around, and somehow ends up here (probably from my equally neglected flight sim. blog), and he reads a bit of this because he is also trying to manage better weight control and fitness. So, I feel obligated to put something here once in a while, because it might encourage someone else on the same journey. Hey, eating and reading guy (or gal), if you're reading this, write me a comment, will ya?

So far the new weight loss effort has been a roaring success! This probably would have motivated me to write more entries in this blog, but I have since started a completely private blog on another blogger site which serves as my online journal. So, I've been doing my celebrating and obsessing there.

So here's the deal: if my Hacker's Diet widget is working properly, if you're reading this today I have gotten down to 193.5 lbs. I feel very good about this--I don't think I've been this low since the first part of this recent fitness phase which started a little more than 5 years ago. I'm not sure I got this low even then, so it is more like maybe 18 years since I've been this low. It feels really satisfying to be here now.

My goal is to maintain 190. This means losing probably 6 more lbs. I'm excited, but also a little nervous, to see how this goes in maintenance. I will continue to use the Hacker's Diet daily plotting and endeavor to keep the trend line between 187.5 and 192.5. I think I can do this without counting calories.

So, mainly recapping information from earlier posts, here's how I got here:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Not Doomsday Morning

OK, just one last post on the Hacker's Diet. After all, it's free and online, so you can go read it yourself (heck, there's a Wikipedia article that does a better job than I have been doing of explaining it). However, I just wanted to point out how it helped me out the last couple of days. Above is my daily weight chart. Circled in yellow is an abnormally high weight from Monday morning, which might have caused me much alarm and discouragement. However, armed with the outlook I've gotten from the H.D., I'm learning to take this kind of thing in stride.

In this chapter of the H.D., we learn how this degree of variability is to be expected. In fact, I got the title of this post from the example included in this chapter, from which I excerpt two figures here. The first shows a typical daily weight plot. He has added some labels to capture the feeling of the person experiencing those daily fluctuations. The second chart shows the same data, with the data smoothed out to show the actual trend. Leaving the original labels on the smoothed data plot is a great sight gag that really drives home the point and makes it memorable.

By the way, the last two days have brought the trend line back to almost a straight line, indicating a constant rate of loss since I started this tracking.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


More on the tools (with pictures)

After a couple of weeks of using the new tools I described in my previous entry, I am still very excited about them. Here's a few more details. The image above is the "Eat Meter" that is an option component of the free Calorie Counter Plus membership, and resides right up there in your Firefox toolbar. As you log the day's food, you can watch the meter move to the left (and turn orange and then red). Nice little reminder that helps you pace your day's intake.

CCP turns out to be pretty easy to use. I have some minor grumbles about the interface, but considering it is free, it's easy to overlook them. I tried looking around at alternatives, but I didn't see anything else that is free that offers all of the features.

Here's a picture of my new scale, a no frills $26 Health-O-Meter. This replaces the old spring model. I wish I had gotten this a while ago. This thing is so accurate-- I tried weighing myself 10 times, and it gave the same number each time. The old springer would usually give me 10 different answers, even if I re-zeroed it between each weighing. Fun fact: I have experimented and found that I sometimes weigh 3 or 4 lbs less in the morning than I do before going to bed. Some of that is pee but a substantial part is fluid loss from respiration and perspiration. This brings me to my next topic:

The daily variation in fluid is the major motivation for charting method of the Hacker's Diet. Since my last post I have created an account (free!) to use the online tracking tools on the authors web site. I really like how it plots your history, using a weighted averaging method to smooth out the bumps and help you understand how you are really doing. Below is a shot from a few days ago. The red line is the calculated trend (lookin' good so far!) and the blue diamonds are what my scale tells me. The web site also allows you to configure a widget that lets you display your live progress. If I did this correctly you should be able to see it there on the right of this page.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Cool tools

First, an update: the reason I haven't been posting here is that I have been too busy, not because I haven't been thinking a lot about the weight maintenance game, or keeping up with the running. As for my how its been going, the good news is that I ran a half marathon back in May, with a time I am pleased with. The bad news is that my weight has been ever so slowly creeping back. One step forward, 1.1 steps backwards.

I feel as if I am starting to make a very positive change. I have finally reached the point where I am really feeling heavy. I still wear my 'skinny' clothes but they feel a bit snug now. I can't deny that I've gained when I catch a reflection of myself. So I have a new determination to get back to all the good habits I had before.

Well, I've had a bit of luck or maybe divine intervention because just at this time 3 very helpful tools have come my way. These are Calorie Count Plus, The Hacker's Diet, and the 5BX exercise program.

Now, I've always been averse to calorie counting, because it seems like an unnatural way to live. But I've been thinking lately that living with a constant supply of energy rich food at our fingertips is not very natural either. So, I'm going to give it a go, at least for a while. I think it will be a good learning experience and help me recalibrate my sense of the proper quantity of food I need to maintain my weight.

I think Calorie Count Plus has been around for a while, but I've only become aware of it very recently, while I was searching through Firefox add-ons. CCP is an online tool that lets you record what you eat, and they will tally the calories, fat, protein, carbs, etc. Very handy and pretty easy to use. What really got me going is the Firefox add-on (see it here) that interfaces with this website. The neatest thing about this add-on is that it puts an "Eat Meter" on your browser so that you can see at a glance your calorie consumption throughout the day, and how many you have available if you want to stay within your target. Check it out!

The Hacker's Diet is an excellent diet plan for those who like to take an analytical approach to dieting. It is presented as an online book. Written with clarity and humor by an engineer, it boils down to this:
  1. Weight control is totally a function of calories in minus calories out.
  2. People who have trouble with weight gain have a faulty feedback circuit--i.e. their body does not give proper signals about when to eat and when to stop.
  3. Because of daily fluctuations in water balance, weighing yourself on a scale can be misleading and discouraging.
  4. The solution? Use a weighted averaging scheme to track your weight. This will show a clear trend and help you gauge your success. Then you can adjust your diet accordingly. Use this in place of your faulty appetite gauge.
I love this approach because it respects the dignity of the dieter, and assumes that when given good information most people will take the proper course (and it uses Excel spreadsheets!!). A bit optimistic, but I'll take that any day over a deterministic view of behavior. However, it is not a nutrition book, so it will not tell you what kinds of food you should eat, just how to regulate how much you eat. Please check out this site using the link above, it is well worth your time.

Finally, the 5BX program is calisthenics program designed for the Royal Canadian Air Force to keep their pilots in shape, and it has been very popular with the general public. It claims that if you follow the program you can stay in excellent shape using a workout that requires no special equipment and takes only 11 minutes a day. The Hacker's Diet recommends a modified version of this program, but I'm going to try to adopt the original 5BX (maybe it's the pilot angle). I will of course keep up my running. What really appeals to me about the 5BX is that it is a no-excuses program. You cannot honestly claim that you do not have the time (11 minutes), equipment (shoes), or proper weather to get your daily workout.

I'll try to update this blog from time to time, hopefully more frequently than in the past, but not every day. See you later.

Monday, November 12, 2007


A problem you can do something about

First, a prefatory comment, to what I hope will be a long series of posts on the maintenance game, particularly the mental/motivational angle:
I am no expert on anything directly relevant, such as psychology or nutrition. I am a mediocre sucess story myself. I have lost about 50 lbs, and more or less maintained most (at the moment 2/3) of that loss for 3 years. So what do I hope to bring to this subject? I answer in two ways. First, my main motivation for writing is to keep myself focused, so it doesn't really matter if I have anything original to say. Secondly (should others read this), I hope that by keeping the light of common sense and reason on the issue, but also maintaining an appreciation for the non-rational human experience, I might provide a balanced view that would be helpful for others on the same mission. A little bit of common-sense pep talk, mixed with a little bit of existentialism.

Today's topic is a pep talk of sorts.

There are many things in life that give us trouble, and for which there is little we can do to improve the situation. If you car is reaching the end of its useful life, you can do little things here and there to keep it going, but it's never going to fully recover. If you get back into the good habit of changing your oil every 3000 miles, it may delay the end, but it won't make your engine stop burning oil. Likewise, if the paint on your house is faded and peeling, its only going to get worse. Of course you can eventually buy a new car or repaint the house, but the current car and the current paint job are past hope.

If you're dealing with an overweight body, then, in comparison to the situations described above, you have a reason to be hopeful. You can do something to fix this situation. The means to improve the situation, better eating and more exercise, are available to everyone. Even better, if you do your part, your body will do a lot of healing on its own. A body damaged by poor habits is not a lost cause, which is good, because you can't buy a replacement.

Of course I'm oversimplifying. There's a huge difference between knowing what you need to do to lose weight, and actually having the willpower to do it. But I believe that attitude shifts can strengthen the will, and this kind of thinking can do a lot to improve your attitude.

Consider this thought experiment: Imagine being ill, and having no access to what will cure you. Then one day, whatever barrier was there has been removed. Wouldn't you rush to obtain that cure, even if it came at a high cost? We who are heavier than we'd like to be are to some sense ill, but the cure is there. We just need make taking that cure a priority.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


A year after the marathon

I have been meaning for some time to provide an update. Not that anyone reads this (if the Site Meter is to be believed) but just because it will make me feel a little better to assess where I am now. I'm also contemplating reviving this blog and focusing on the weight maintenance side of things.

On the one hand, I feel like I'm a far cry from where I was last year at marathon time. On the other hand, I think I've done pretty well considering three major events, two very good and one not so good, that have happened since the marathon. The two good things are the new baby in February, and the new job back last November. The baby has obviously cut into my sleep supply, which makes it harder to get up early enough for long pre-work runs.

The new job came with a longer, more stressful commute and a busier workload. With the baby and the longer drive time I usually get here early enough for a 3 mile run at most. However, one very good thing about the job is that there is a strong fitness culture here, and there is a gym and locker room on the premises.

But the just plain bad thing (not too bad as health problems go) is that I came down with plantar facitis last January. This is a kind of foot pain that takes a long time to heal. I tried light running on and off in the early spring, but it was not getting better. I saw a doctor and he told me not to run for at least two months. That really broke whatever momentum I had built up from last year.

Well, to make a long story short, I worked out on the elliptical machine as much as I could stand, and then gradually started running again. I have done as much as 4.5 miles, but I still feel a ghost of a hint of the plantar facitis, so I'm being very conservative. I ran the CVS Downtown Providence 5K in September, and finished under 24 minutes, which pleased me very much. On average, I do about 5-10 miles a week.

So I am encouraged that my foot is getting better, and that I am still very motivated to keep running. Honestly, the only thing keeping me from doing more running at this point is lack of time (or sleep, the two being interchangable these days).

What is somewhat discouraging is that my eating habits are not so great. I've put on maybe 10 or 15 lbs since the marathon. That's not awful, given how much I have cut back on exercise. I still wear the same pants and have not conceded a belt hole yet. But, I really feel like I have to reverse the trend now or else. This is a tough time because the weather and the holiday busy-ness are really going to cut into workout time, and of course the holiday food will be plentiful.

But I look at this from another perspective and see it as encouraging. If, given my poor discipline with eating, I've not outgrown my clothes, and been able to keep fit enough to run 4 miles, then, if I just toe the line a little better I should be able to reverse the weight gain. In other words, if I were living on skim milk and lettuce and still gaining, that would be discouraging. But what I am seeing now is that the equation (weight change = calories in - calories spent)is working perfectly fine. So the solution is clear, and doable. I have all the ingredients ready.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


On hiatus

I was afraid this would happen-- after the marathon was over I would not find myself adding much to this blog. I must say in my defense that the main reason things have tapered off is that my new job is more demanding on my schedule, leaving less time for such things as blogging.

I don't think this blog has gotten many (any?) readers besides my brother and sister, but I still feel duty bound to put a formal close (perhaps only for a while) rather than to just go to dead air.

My main motivation for starting this blog was to explore ideas about weight-loss maintenance in contemporary society-- some reporting from the trenches, some commentary on our culture and its conflicted values, some existential explorations (i.e. why do rational creatures so often make irrational choices). These latter two themes would require some careful thought, and lots of review and revision. I don't have time for such writing right now, and I will not attempt to write on these things in the few spare minutes that I have these days.

So, I am stopping the writing just when I should be getting to the good stuff. Oh well, perhaps I'll pick this up later.

Where am I now? I am still running, at a much reduced rate. I'm trying to work out the practical details of a running schedule with my new work schedule, and of course weather is more of a factor these days. Still, the motivation is still high. Eating-wise, I've slipped a little with the holiday smorgasbord (would have been good subject matter if I could have made time to write) but I think I can turn it around.

So, hopefully I'll pick this up sometime later, but that's it for now.

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