Reality Check

Posted on Jul 2, 2009 in Thoughts, Tools & Gear | 1 comment

Today is the first day that my weight trend has completely flat-lined since the first three days of my diet. It’s mainly due to my eating a midnight meal at Casa Vega last night (the very type of full scale late-night eating that contributed to my weight gain for years). Yesterday was also the first time I’ve been over my goal by 1,000 calories plus in over a month. Definitely not a great day.

I read somewhere once, that one of the difficulties with being on anti-depressants is that once you start taking them you feel fine, and begin to think you don’t need them anymore. In a way, I feel like I’ve reached a similar point in my weight loss; a dangerous point where I feel good about the progress I’ve made, and start looking too far forward, at the expense of the present. In past weight loss attempts, this is the point where I would lose my way. I’d justify eating one bad thing “Because I’d been doing so well,” and that one bad thing would lead to another, which would then lead to more, until eventually I’d be right back where I started (or worse).

Luckily, I have a much more accurate and objective response mechanism for my weight than I ever have in the past – this site. I can’t just dismiss last night’s binge in the way that I used to, because now I have the evidence of its impact staring me straight back in the face. Even better, I have the ability to see that yesterday isn’t the whole story.

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Technical Support

Posted on Jun 25, 2009 in Tools & Gear | 0 comments

In 1988, a programmer by the name of John Walker decided that he was going to approach his weight problem “…as something to be investigated, managed, and eventually solved.” Six months later John was no longer overweight. In 1991, he compiled his personal discoveries and results and distributed them online as The Hacker’s Diet in order to help others achieve the same success.

While it’s certainly an interesting read, The Hacker’s Diet isn’t revolutionary – it essentially boils down to eat less calories than you burn. However, John’s use of exponentially smoothed moving averages to trend one’s weight and become liberated from the tyranny of a fickle scale really struck a chord with me – both as a geek and someone who’s dieted diligently only to see the scale not reflect it.

I knew I wanted to incorporate those calculations into My Wasted Life, and luckily I decided to do a quick Google search before I started, because most of the work had already been done for me via The Hacker’s Diet plugin for WordPress. All of the weight calculations and charts on this site are based off of the code in that plugin. I had to do a bit of poking around to get the data displayed in the way I wanted (details of which can be found here) but that was trivial compared to all the work that had already been done.

So, despite the fact that neither of them will actually ever see this, I want to express sincere thanks to both John Walker and Keith Thornhill. Their work on The Hacker’s Diet and the The Hacker’s Diet plugin helped make this site possible.

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Quick Questions

Posted on May 11, 2009 in Thoughts, Tools & Gear | 4 comments

After having talked to some of you over the last couple of days it occurs to me I’ve answered alot of the same questions more than once, and I figure that means I should put that info on the site somewhere. I guess a quick Q&A is easiest on me, so here it goes:

How are you calculating calories?

Guesswork mostly. I’ve been trying to eat at home more, and since I don’t really cook, those calories are easy to track as they’re listed right on the package of whatever I’m eating. When I eat out it’s trickier, but not impossible. As long as I’m willing to honestly judge portion sizes, I can get all the data I need using sites like Calorie King & Nutrition Data. Obviously in those cases the calories I’m listing are only best estimates (which I’ve been denoting with a tilde before the calorie count), but I’m working diligently to make those estimates accurate.

Eventually I plan to eat out less and cook more, but unless I buy a digital scale to weight out ingredients it will still result in the same basic guessing game. I figure as long as I’m seeing results, then I’ll assume my estimates are correct.

You don’t seem to be eating much healthy food…

No, I don’t. The scary part is, the meals I’ve been tracking here are exponentially better for me than what I was eating before. Up until about 3 months ago, I was literally eating fast food (Carl’s Jr, Del Taco, etc) 2-3 times a day.

I know I could lose more weight if I drank nothing but water, but I honestly don’t think I could maintain that. I’ve tried going cold turkey on things like that before and it’s never worked out. Rather than give myself rules I know I’ll end up breaking (and thus feel bad about), I’m trying to make intelligent decisions and use my better judgment.

That’s a terribly risky proposition for a ‘diet,’ but it’s a skill I’m going to have to develop if I ever want to live a truly healthy lifestyle. By making small changes, one or two things at time, I’ll eventually reach the same healthy lifestyle I could theoretically implement all at once, but this way I think I actually have a chance of succeeding.

Why is your goal 2,500 calories? Isn’t that alot?

Yeah, but I’m a big guy. When I started building this site, I used just about every tool I could find online to help me determine what were realistic goals.

I discovered that the recommended rate of weight loss while remaining healthy is 1-2 pounds a week in most cases; far less than I would have expected from shows like The Biggest Loser. In fact, most nutritionists seemed to agree that normal, healthy weight loss should not exceed 1% of your total body weight per week, which for me would be no more than 3.25 pounds. I then calculated my BMI, my BMR (2,476-2,809), how many calories I was actually burning in an average day (2,971-3,358), etc.

Armed with those numbers, and the knowledge that cutting 500-1000 calories a day results in 1-2 pounds a week, 2,500 was pretty straight forward – it’s about 500-800 less than I’m currently burning, and allows me room to burn more via exercise while staying in that healthy range of 1%.

It’s not the most aggressive weight-loss plan in the world, but I think it’s a realistic one I can stick to.

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Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

- Calvin Coolidge