Journal
Annual Review 2018: Not Good But Not So Bad Either

While I’ve been writing a ton recently about my software development progress it was the topic of quantified self, longevity, and personal fitness experimentation that started this whole blog. As this year rounds out I once again looked at the state of my fitness over that time. Just as with last year while I have only been at most intermittently focused on what I would call a healthful lifestyle I have continued to be meticulous with measuring my daily food intake, how well I adhered to my five goals, and ancillary observations from there. Let’s see how 2018 was in an absolute and a relative to 2017 view.


First Jekyll Post

I’ve been blogging on Wordpress since 2013. For a long time I had wanted to blog and tried LiveJournal and sites like that. It wasn’t until 2013 when I was deciding to embark on a personal fitness experiment that I finally bit the bullet and created the N=1 blog. The original premise was exploring the whole area of Quantified Self and longevity for my own purposes. It was going to kicked off by a grand experiment of living various different fitness lifestyles for periods of time to see if any made a dramatic difference, positive or negative. I never really got too far into that experiment. Then the blog became my ramblings on the topic. Over time I had less interest in that and more in software engineering. Rather than create a whole new blog I decided to just add new categories. As the boundaries of what I wanted to post became less clear it really just became my public journal on all topics interesting to me.


Baby Steps, Ten Minutes of Them On an Elliptical

Since I’m no stranger to starting fitness routines over again it’s always the constant reminder of how far I’ve fallen when I start back up a fitness routine again.  Of course with each passing year the threshold drops further and further on the fitness levels at the beginning of each phase.  On this particular startup phase I started up this week with elliptical cardio.  Yes, I’d like to get back to running long distances again, but I’m still very early in the building phase and I know I have lots of body strength symmetry issues I want to work through.   It was shocking and disappointing when after ten minutes of a thirty minute “easy” elliptical workout that I could feel the burn in my quads and calves.  Because of some stuff around the house I have to get done I couldn’t risk having rigor mortis for the rest of the day so at that point I switched off to do an additional ten minutes of medium-speed walking on the treadmill.  My heart rate which was in the high-160s to low-170s during the “easy” elliptical routine was now in the 110-115 range.  That’s a perfect sustainable pace.

I’m sure I’ll be able to work up to much greater cardio levels over time.  I’ll have a similar problem with my strength training as that kicks in.  But it’s better to do the build up as baby steps rather a huge burst and then a crash and burn.  It’s easy enough to lose focus with a sustainable pace much less with a crazy fast one.


Annual Review 2017 Good and (mostly) Bad

While I’ve mostly been absent from writing to the blog, and my fitness routine has only been slightly less absent than that, I have been able to maintain one thing completely dialed in over all this time: fitness tracking (as usual).  With all of that data together I decided to create my first annual review post.   I’d say compared to the average American I had a very normal year.  Unfortunately I don’t want to have the fitness level and longevity of the average American, so while I’m not going to say things were bad they weren’t where I want them to be either.


23andMe Weight Loss Study

Being the new year is almost upon us and I’ve spent most of the last year lamenting my lack of progress on health fronts (besides that sweet spot in the summer) I was looking forward to dialing in my lifestyle and diet over the next month and into 2018.  It wasn’t going to be anything more structured than 2017, which may or may not have led to more or less the same results, but I was going to be focusing in on the same core Blue Zones lifestyle elements that I’ve previously highlighted.  It was therefore a bit of a coincidence when I received an e-mail from 23andMe about enrolling in a genetic weight loss study they are doing.


2017 Phase 8 Goal Accountability: Finally Dialed In

At the end of June, part of the way through this year’s 7th goal accountability phase I decided to finally get my shit together.  I carried that momentum into the 8th phase.  I haven’t done too many summaries this year, since I’ve mostly been sucking wind, but I have been keeping up my daily grading.  Now that I’m dialed in from the goal perspective, so too will I be dialed in on reporting it. I am happy to report straight A’s across all my goals, finally!


Finally had a 4.0 week, don't make it a stumbling block

Since I started dialing my fitness regiment in three weeks ago I’ve been striving to get a perfect 4.0 grade across all five of my daily goals for an entire week.  I was getting really close, but each week had one or two hiccups/slip ups that kept me off the perfect mark.  No longer.  I finally got a 4.0 across all my categories for an entire week for the first time since I started trying to do  this whole daily grading thing (even back to my Nutritarian Experiment of 2016).  First, I’ll congratulate myself for a job well done.  Now, a word of warning.  When I nail something like this I often have an impulse to try to extend it longer and longer.  Inevitably I stumble, just like anyone else does with anything like this.  That stumble then usually leads to a crash.  That crash then leads to a period of rationalization of how I was doing well so deserve a little “reward” for it, whatever that means, and that I’ll get back to it tomorrow.  String a bunch of tomorrows together and I get years of getting back to it “tomorrow”.

This week may be a perfect week again, or it may not not.  Instead of focusing on these longer term trends like I usually do I’m going to take my “being in the present” mindset that has been working these past three weeks forward. I’ll concentrate on nailing my goals today, and only today.  I’m not going to worry about what I screwed up yesterday, or if I’ll screw up tomorrow.  I’ll still track and trend all of these things as an observational and historical thing, but I’m not going to expend mental energy on it beyond just working it out today.


Momentum Made Me Do It!

In a world where “life” didn’t get in the way of me doing my exercise/fitness things I’m sure I’d still find a way to avoid them.  Part of the reason for doing the daily metrics and grading is to make how lax I am getting in those areas apparent.  In the past three weeks I’ve had it dialed in really well though.  My 10K steps goal is one that my fitness watch tracks for me.  As the consecutive day counter goes up every day it seems like an even bigger shame to break my record.  Yesterday work really got in the way of me getting to over 10K steps.  It wasn’t that abnormal of a day compared to my normal schedule, but it was the first time since I decided to dial everything in that it happened.  If it was three weeks ago I would have just said to myself, “Screw it! So I get a low grade on that that goal for the day!” Yesterday was different though.  The low grade may not be enough to move my hand but the idea that I’d break my streak was enough.  I hadn’t had time to squeeze in a morning walk (or run) before work, it wasn’t until mid-day that I realized I wouldn’t be home in time to do it before dark, I didn’t have exercise clothes, and it was 100 degrees outside.  I even had “other things” I could have done to kill some time waiting for traffic to die down to make my way home.  But I didn’t.  Not this time.  This time I just started walking and more walking for an hour, until the counter clicked just over 10K steps.  The streak continues for another day and I registered another 4.0 day.  It’s a minor victory to be sure, but string enough minor victories together and you get real progress.


Coming Out of Fitness Hibernation

After a year of false starts, many written about here ad nauseum, but with maintaining my tracking of nutrition and fitness goals every day, I can say that this time around I’ve started off on the right foot on dialing in my fitness/lifestyle goals and getting myself back on track.


What Does Fasting For Weightloss Look Like?

I’ve written several times about the use of periodic fasting days to counteract our periodic feast days as well as health benefits of fasting from the perspective of supposed cancer fighting and potentially longevity.  I’ve also mentioned fasting as a means of accomplishing weight loss too.  Now that I’m a couple months into that practice, I figured I’d show what that actually looks like.


Forks Over Knives Follow Up?

The 2011 documentary Forks Over Knives had lots of testimonials.  Has anyone done any follow ups to see where they are years later?


Using my own blog as a research tool is cool!

I’m not a professional blogger.  I’m just a guy that had been doing quantitative self (QS) type stuff, has an interest in overall health and longevity (albeit not with as much discipline in the follow through as I would like), and decided to write this in a blog format rather than just use a personal journal.  My thought that maybe someone could find this information was a bonus.  It turns out that I’m the one who is finding this information useful several times recently.


2017 Phase 2 Goal Accountability: Finishing Strong

Phase 1 of 2017’s Goal Accountability project was a disaster, as I chronicled here.  Phase 1 ended weak, really non-existent adherence, which rolled into Phase 2 beginning equally weak; but I got my butt in gear one week in and finished it strong!


2017 Phase 1 Goal Accountability: A Dud

When I wrote about kicking off 2017 (link) with a new push for goal accountability I specifically stated that it wasn’t a new years resolution and that those don’t work for me anyway.  If my performance in the first phase isn’t a pointed tail of that I don’t know what is.


No resolutions, just keep trying to dial it (again)…

Yesterday I had a tongue in cheek conversation with a friend about our resolutions.  He asked me what my resolutions were for this year.  I stated: “To not exercise, eat continuously, and try to add thirty pounds of fat…I’m trying the reverse psychology thing.”  Knowing my penchant for trying new things it isn’t totally ridiculous that he took me literally, but I quickly corrected that notion before I got a call from one of my family members asking what the hell I was thinking about.  I used to do resolutions, but I don’t, that doesn’t mean that the roll over of the calendar isn’t a good occasion for me to double down on trying to dial it in.


Goal Tracking Report Card 2016 Phase 11/12, A Big Fail…

October 16, 2016, when I got back from my honeymoon, I said I was going to be emphasizing a fitness focus by looking at using a goal accountability report card.  Really this is getting the tempo for doing these things more into 2017 and beyond.  Work and life took my eye off the ball but it didn’t stop me from actually keeping the report card.  What’s the point of an accountability exercise if you only do it when you know you are going to score well?  That’s like only going to the doctor when you are healthy.  The sobering reality is that right now I’m failing on my five goals, but I didn’t need a report card to actually tell me that.


It’s Marathon Weekend; Or Was Supposed To Be

Tomorrow is the Space Coast Marathon.  The Space Coast Marathon was the first, and at present only, marathon I’ve ever run; way back in 2012.  About a year ago I decided to try to run it again in an attempt to run it three times and get a bonus medal.  That was a scaled back version of the original “plan” to run it every year and get all seven medals as part of a series.  After a solid start for a few weeks then half assing it a few more the whole plan crumbled.  After countless weeks of not doing any exercise at all I decided to do some light yoga and go for a couple mile walk yesterday and today I’m feeling tightness everywhere and an irritated knee.  The day before I was supposed to run 26.2 miles I can’t even do a workout routine that most people in their end years can do or walk (not run) even a tenth that distance. I’m not pissed, I’m just over it.

It’s not that being able to run a marathon makes you fit.  There are marathon runners that die of heart attacks, have major joint problems, et cetera.  Of course *not* being able to run a marathon doesn’t mean you are fit either.  But at this point I couldn’t even run a 5K or a 10K.  My strength, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, and so on are back in the toilet.  Something in the 2011/2012 time frame really had me going strong with running and for the first time in my life actually enjoying exercising.  Every year after that has been at best doing fitness in fits and starts, and it shows.

I don’t need to be in marathon training shape, but I do need to be at some level of fitness in excess of where I am now.  As I have probably lamented before, this is the age where it is most important for me to keep up on body maintenance.  While it’s important to do so throughout ones life, this is the beginning of the declining years.  The body is resilient and can make up for a lot of bad behaviors, but every year after your 30s it gets harder and harder to build back up.  Every time I try to get back into working out, albeit briefly, I’m quickly reminded directly of this fact.  If I don’t get my shit together I may be able to live into my 100s but it’d be as a part-bionic pharmaceutical held together miserable mess.  That’s not what I had in mind for my objective.


Zero Waste As a Path To Voluntary Simplicity

Years ago I remember reading a blog article on this family that generated almost no trash.  I was picturing some very granola hippy family in a house with soft lighted wooden rooms and homemade furniture; sort of a hunting log cabin meets Swiss Family Robinson.  I ran across this video of the family and their actual lifestyle is not even remotely like that.  Instead this family lives a very normal urban lifestyle.  She doesn’t spend her time accommodating her zero waste lifestyle, it actually saves her time.  It doesn’t cost a fortune to do things this way her spending is down 40% from where it was originally.  As a person that generates far more waste than the average consumer and spends way too much on too much crap that I don’t need I like the idea of exploring her methodologies as a way to reduce that and maybe move towards the principles of Voluntary Simplicity that I found so intriguing years ago but that I have in recent years totally divested myself of.


Cranking Up Fitness Focus

With a wedding and honeymoon now out of the way it’s time to get back to being serious about my fitness levels again.  Yes, I was able to not go totally off the rails over the last few months but I had a bit of a fitness deficit to work out of to begin with.  All of the excuses, legitimate or otherwise, are now gone.  No, I’m not going to do an experiment.  No, I’m not going to be targeting some specific weight loss, muscle increase, or performance goals.  I’m instead taking the tools that I’ve applied to those sorts of expeditions and applying that to a more general concept.


A Shift Away From Health Experimentation

My experimentation in fitness has taken a back seat these past few years.  My hardcore experimentation really has fallen more into hitting a point of being unsatisfied with where I am and then clawing back for a bit.  While I intend to continue to write on that topic as the desire strikes me, the topic of experimentation that has been occupying my time recently has been my good old computers/software engineering.  I’m adding a section to this blog specifically for this, and changing the format around to accommodate that.  I look forward to getting all of these thoughts out of my head and onto “paper”.


I’m Not Labeling Myself By My Diet

Today was the day that health related podcasts come up on my listening roll as I drive around running errands.  In that podcast there was a discussion with a vegan about what kind of vegan she was.  There was a good half hour discussion of the ins and outs of the different kinds of vegans (who knew), and that a relative of her was really a vegan except for one or two things she just had to eat.  I ended up being done my errands half of the way through, but the entire dialog was exasperating.  I’ve never labeled myself by any particular eating style, if for no other reason than I don’t subscribe to one for any particular length of time.  But it did make me wonder why would anyone do that?  What are the advantages?


Bread Experiments On the Horizon

This blog is/has been mostly about fitness and diet related experiments, thoughts, et cetera.  However as I’m getting back more to my favorite hobby of bread making I’m planning on honing my technique and really start nailing down a more diverse range of recipes.  Yes, I’ve had some good success with my basic Tartine Country bread and variations of loaf shapes related to that:

11082514_960335893977884_8408062637322397951_n(1)

10305072_960310847313722_5426166030919110844_n(1)

Yes, I’ve had good success with related bread products like English Muffins, sourdough pancakes, and pizza/flatbread:

12804631_1149084535103018_1203291884389114324_n

VeganPizza

But I not only want to nail these down even more, I want to get into a larger variety of whole grain breads and other products.  I’m going to start approaching those with the same fun but systemic approach I’ve used for other experiments.  It should be tasty.  I’ll just need volunteers to help eat all the proceeds of these experiments.

 

1465_371195512980157_982324736_n


Naked and Afraid Marathon: Best way to end a tough fasting day

I guess this week will be the official start of this fasting experiment. Last week I got one day in, and it went a lot smoother than I thought it would.  But travel and a family wedding made carrying it through unrealistic.  This week I have no such constraints, but allergies and self-sabotage were definitely lurking behind the scenes.


Feast then fasting

I’ve been fixated on fasting a lot over the past year.  This isn’t some starvation diet fixation, although it can be used for losing weight too as I am about to lay out.  This is on the potential health benefits of doing moderate fasting, intermittent up to a few days, for things like cutting cancer or diabetes risk.  A month ago I ended my “exercise only” diet experiment with good results on changes in body composition and biomarkers.  Unfortunately the intervening month I didn’t continue the plan at all so I backtracked a little . Wanting to try to jump start things again I’m looking at doing an experiment that ties in fasting as a regular protocol.


Exercise Isolation: Mixed Results

I’m one month into my exercise isolation experiment to see what would happen if I really crank up my crappy exercise regiment (which means not exercising at all) while holding my pretty decent diet pretty static.  Over the month I’ve seen some good changes, but some other things stayed more static than I was expecting.  A full writeup of my experiment methodology is here.  I’ll do a full break down later, but I wanted to do a quick summary with the last day done.


Another Week of Great Progress!

After my extra long spat of running over my 4 miles this weekend I gave myself an extra day of taking it easy, light cycling and what not.  I was curious to see how well I did on my treadmill intervals this week over last and wanted to add one extra two minute running interval.  I couldn’t be more pleased with the results!


Causation Doesn’t Equal Correlation (or Is My FitBit Screwing Me)

I’ve built up a lot of narrative in the past couple of years about why my body composition estimates went from being spot on to diverging rapidly.  I presented the graph of my estimated body weight change against my actual in my 2014 recap.

image001

I have had lots of theories but it seemed to correlate well with my marathon training starting up. I’ve been asking if I had “broken my metabolism” or if there may be something else going on.  My weight loss from the 80/10/10 experiment exceeded my projections by several pounds as well.  Maybe I had overcome inflammation that I had created.  Or something to that effect.

Lots of narrative around the correlation, but was it really causation?  This week I was looking at the projections of my weight gain over the past several months, planning for my weight loss tracking for this new experiment.  I was pleased to see that I was spot on in my projections.  Then it occurred to me, I hadn’t been updating my activity levels in my tracking software since November and I had really only been using my FitBit to track sleep most of the time in the September and October time frame where I had those inputs.  So that means that I had taken the FitBit out of the equation and now everything was tracking great again.  Could the obvious problem not have been inflammation or broken metabolisms but that the FitBit is chronically overestimating my calorie estimates?

In the summary article I lamented that the middle of 2013 was when the estimates started diverging.  Guess when I bought the FitBit?  middle of 2013.  In the middle of all of that training as well.  So was it the training or the FitBit?  I’m going to investigate more to find out…


My Legs Are Reminding Me Why We Ramp Up :)

It isn’t an “ouch” but more of an “ugh” now, of course that was after a big “yay!” from how my hard workout went this afternoon.  This week was my first week of really ramping up the running.  I celebrated the first trot on a treadmill last week, but this was for real trying to build up my running back to where it was a few years ago.  It went a lot better than I had expected, but I’m certainly feeling it a bit now.


Marathon Baby Step #2: Four, Two-Minute Run Sessions

Last week I celebrated running for the first time in a year or so.  It may have only been two minutes at a time of a 10 minute mile pace, and a total of six minutes over half an hour, but it was a start.  This week I ramped it up another level by doing one extra set.  I also added some miles to get up to three miles and to do a fast walk at a 15 minute mile pace instead of a slower walk, but it was a start.  I maxed my heart rate out on the last step, but it felt great.  Now I have to deal with the tightness throughout the day and probably some delayed onset muscle soreness.  The expression, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” sprang to mind today, hence my tweet about it earlier.  The fact that in 2012 I ran that same pace over 13.1 miles and was going strong at the end should be demoralizing I guess. I’m basically back to where I was in the beginning of that year though.  So when you think about it that way it’s a bit encouraging, once you get over the whole letting myself go thing…


Isolating Exercise For Fitness Improvement

When I get into a fitness groove it is often a combination of diet and exercise that really happen at the same time.  Even when doing a long stretch of “being healthy” it’s really the combination of the two.  And when I do that I go into full Rambo mode on both, versus kind of muddling through.  Because the two happen at the same time it is hard for me to break out whether it is one or the other or the combination that is really the driving factor.  I’ve always wanted to see if it was diet or exercise that was driving that.  I’m now set up to do just that.


Hawaii: A Story of Two Visits

I’ve recently returned from my second trip ever to the state of Hawaii. While a lot of Hawaii reminds me of other tropical places in the the world, it is unique to me in also being a volcanic island. The hiking bug in me is activated as soon as I see the miles of beach coast and inland trails to explore these natural features. My ability to indulge in those sorts of activities has changed a bit however.


All I can think about is my first free day, and I’m not happy about it

The six week challenge is winding down this week, and after yet another week of deprivation at social events all I can think about is my first day of freedom afterward.


Week 3 Redux

The third week of my diet challenge is now behind me.  I added some formalism to how I’m grading myself on each category each day, and therefore the weekly grade.  I’m getting faster and stronger too, but for some reason I’m now being haunted by food dreams.


Bizarre Food Dreams

Three weeks into the challenge the diet component is going well, but for some reason the forbidden list items have started creeping into my dreams.


Goal Week 2 Redux

The second week of my diet challenge is now behind me.  I’ve really settled into a good tempo on the diet, even managing eating out rather well.  While I’ve made some improvements on the other goals I still have a way to go.


Salt Withdraw or Too Little Sodium?

I’m trying to decide if what happened to me the other day is a case of water intoxication or sodium withdraw…


Goal Week 1 Redux

The first week of my nutritarian diet challenge is now in the books.  I’ve had some good food experiments, I’ve made some progress on my body composition, and I’ve survived some of the challenges.  I’ve also stumbled a bit, but that’s I guess why I called it a challenge in the first place.  So, how did I do with each of my goals?


A Six Week Challenge

What to do?  What to do?  Either as a mechanism of procrastination, or as a legitimate mechanism of study, I’ve really not been doing well the second quarter of the year.  After tightening up my diet and getting some exercise going in the first quarter, with good results to show, the second quarter was more slacking off.  It culminated in a long vacation on a cruise which meant gobbling up tons of junky (but tasty) food, beer, and wine.  Even though we were walking 6-8 miles a day it wasn’t enough to ward off fat gain.  Tomorrow is my first day legitimately back home to actually try and get squared away in this third quarter.  How will I go about doing that?


Pollen Down–Time to Run

I could of have been running the past several months, nothing actually stopped me from doing it.  Allergies and pollen levels certainly prevented me from running outside, but that’s not the same as avoiding running at all.  Regardless of the reason, the fact is that today was my first day running in.


80/10/10 Day Redux

Wow!  I thought I liked to eat.  I knew that trying to eat ten pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables in a day was going to be daunting.  I got most of the way there, but enough was enough!


An 80/10/10 day

I’m really craving fruits and vegetables.  Whether it’s the fact I haven’t been eating or exercising right as much as I’d like to (which begs the question of why I don’t just do it, but don’t bother me about that) or just the seasonal explosion of fruits and vegetables, it’s just something that I’m craving.  Think of how most people, including me, crave a piece of cake when they go to a nice a nice restaurant.  That’s how much I’ve been craving to just sit down with a watermelon and go to town (yes a whole watermelon), or a big bowl of berries.  Juxtapose that with a serendipitous exposure to some stories and podcasts on the 80/10/10 diet and I’ve decided to give it a shot for one day…tomorrow.


Itching to post again…

I’m not sure if it’s a question of procrastinating on work that I have to get done, but something in me is dying to start experimenting and blogging about biohacking again.  I don’t think I’ll try for a huge diet experiment again, more just little anecdotes that I keep thinking to myself as I go along, or recipes that I’ve decided to try and start experimenting with.   I know that listening to the MTA podcast, thinking about how much I want to get back to a regular fitness routine and wanting to try this healthy clam chowder recipe all within a period of a few days really drove me in that direction.  I make no promises on volume of posts, however.


Blowing Up (Waistline)

I didn’t need my monthly measurements to tell me that the last month things were still going off the rails.  Yeah, I sort of cleaned up my eating on most days, except for the indulgences in desserts and cookies every night.  Yeah, I did start working out a bit, but that still equated to only a half dozen work out days over the whole month.  I don’t want to know incremental steps of progress but I do have to recognize that my lack of ability or eagerness to get back on the fitness rails is causing things to go completely out of whack.


2014 Recap, Nothing Goes As Planned

This day one year ago I was going to be embarking on the beginning of one and a half to two years of self experimentation in the name of figuring out what works best for my body and documenting the process for any internet passerby to read.  I had just come off of my first marathon and had hoped to get a second one under my belt in 2014.  I had hoped to lean out a little bit, increase my strength fitness and complete my second marathon strong, regardless of how long it took.  I missed the mark by just a little bit…


Bitter Sweet Congratulations

For much of this last year today was supposed to be the day of my second marathon.  I didn’t actually make it, which is mostly a story of self-sabotage.  Yes there were some legitimate places in my calendar over the last year where training needed to go off the rails.  Most of it though was procrastination followed by lack of motivation and just plain not wanting to do it.  When I finally decided to pull the plug on the whole notion a couple of months ago I was relieved.  I felt like I had lifted a burden off of myself.  The intensity of the workouts I’d have to do and the ground I would have had to make up was truly monumental.  It was technically doable, but I wasn’t sure at what cost.  I therefore felt it was best to just let it go.

Yet this morning, when I saw my friend’s posts about getting on the line to race and then his finishing medal, I didn’t feel relieved anymore.  I felt immensely happy for him.  He not only finished but met his objective time.  Yet it also was a poignant reminder that my year of procrastination and then final abdication led me to missing my ultimate end objective of completing the medal series around this marathon.  It’s just a shame I let it get that far away from me so fast, and the results in my overall fitness show for it as well.

I could technically finish out the marathon series anyway, having missed just one medal.  I’m not sure if I care to do that though.  Right now I’m not in a place of being in great shape and needing to hit another goal, like I was last year when I planned to do my first marathon.  This year I’m very much out of shape and overfat.  Would a marathon goal be enough to motivate me or be so far removed from my reality as to seem like a mirage?  I’m torn.

In the mean time, I just have the greatest heartfelt admiration and kudos for my friend that stuck through it throughout the year and managed to hit his goals.  Hats off man!


Mystery Solved? It’s the Exercise, Stupid!

It is no secret that the path to health is a good diet and moderate exercise.  What “good” means and what “moderate” means is left up to someone else to sort out.  Mostly I think that is because a one size fits all model is not applicable.  Over the past two years I went from having my weight and body fat really dialed in well to everything going to shit.  There were ups and downs in my exercise levels.  There were ups and downs on my diets.  There were some unavoidable life events too.  Is there something that I could learn from all of this data that would give me some definitive indication of what is going wrong?


November monthly update

A month ago I gave myself a call to action. Unfortunately that turned out to be more theoretical than practical.  I actually did manage to do some calisthenics in the beginning but that fizzled. I need to try to get back to daily exercise if I’m going to beat back the weight.  I didn’t clean up my diet as much as I’d like, but I did manage to clean it up a little bit.  The net effect is about one more pound of fat on my bones but no more muscle.

I have two things on the horizon that I am weighing to use to jump start my process.  The first is the idea of signing up for a half marathon for late March.  It’s far enough away that training is reasonable.  I really don’t have any more marathon ambitions, while I still regret not achieving my extra long goals in that area, and half’s are still challenging enough that I have to keep moving forward.  That seems like a great path to take.  However it doesn’t address the problem I was having in getting my butt to do proper cross training and strength training.  Running is better than nothing, but it will not help slow down muscle atrophy caused by aging.

A second idea is to do monthly contests with friends.  I have seen this work wonders with people in the last year.  People set targets for themselves and then win, or lose, based on how well they hit their targets.  The targets have to be mutually agreed upon and reasonably challenging.  What good is it for someone’s target to be to lose ten pounds and the other to lose none over that same period of time?  When done in larger groups cash purses have been what I’ve seen done.  Perhaps on a smaller scale it could be something like buying a dinner or something along those lines.

Either way, I have yet another month of increased size, increased fat and at best plateaued muscle mass.  I need to reverse these trends sooner rather than later.  It’s no mystery why they are happening: I’m not eating as well as I should and I’m not exercising at all.  The longer I wait to actually start doing these things the harder it will be to correct.


I Didn’t Need a Ruler To Prove the Obvious

As I wrote a couple weeks ago I really need to start getting back ahold of my fitness. As my clothes got tighter and the scale (with body fat measurement) kept creeping up I was feeling more and more desperation.  I needed to break my procrastination on this matter, which has been dragging on since late-July.  After three years of tracking food, two years of sporadic but periodic exercise and eating solid during the week and lax on weekends I had pushed myself into my experiment and burned myself out on the whole matter.  Yes, that was after personal trials that provided good excuses for going off the wagon, so to speak, but it’s still just rationalizations.

With my “fat clothes” that were supposed to be thrown away but instead put in permanent storage now what fit me easiest, I started the climb back yesterday by taking my measurements and setting my baseline.  I can feel how off everything is, so it’s not like I needed the ruler (or the scale or body fat percentage reading) to tell me that things were off the rails. It just provides good feedback.  The bottom line is that it is far easier to fall back than it is to claw your way forward or maintain a certain level of fitness.

I won’t post specific measurements, but suffice it to say that three months of not exercising, eating pretty piss poor even with reasonable (but negative) calorie balances and being overly sedentary have taken its toll. Weight wise things are deceiving.  I’m still hovering just under 190 pounds. That’s where I’ve been basically since the end of May, with the exception of when I was on the Paleo phase.  However I have had peaks as high as 193 over the last couple of weeks.  As more proof that weight isn’t everything when you factor in body composition that’s where you can see the real bomb going off.  Yes, my weight is pretty much the same but my percent body fat has shot up above 20% for the first time since March 2011.  That trend is measured both with the on-scale body fat measurement and with skin fold calipers.  This is actually the largest skin fold measurement I have taken since 2006, which just was less body fat on a younger body.  In three months I’ve lost anywhere between five and six pounds of muscle.  I’ve gained a proportional amount of fat.

That actually creates a double problem.  Fat doesn’t burn as many calories as muscle.  I’m therefore not only getting fatter, my base metabolism is also going down which will reinforce the fat gain feedback cycle.  That’s a problem at any age, but when you hit your late-30s, early-40s the problem of muscle atrophy begins to accelerate.  How did I have such a steep drop off?  I hadn’t been exercising much this past year, but recently it has been none.  I guess it turns out that a little is substantially better than none, even if it’s not as good as it should be.

The extra fat showed up in how my clothes were fitting, but that really showed up most in my abdomen measurements.  In three months my chest circumference went up by one inch, my hip circumference went up by 0.75 inches, my torso went up by 1.25 inches and my belly went up by 1.75 inches.  That’s the same weight but with a 5-6 pound swing in fat and muscle mass landing straight on my core.

If I just sulk and bitch and moan then this will continue to devolve into even more disasterous proportions. Instead I’m trying to clamp down on my eating, introduce at least 15 minutes a day of exercise each day to get into a rhythm and hope that some of these short term gains turn into short term losses.


Starting up again

I’ve had a lot of ebb and flow with my fitness routine over the past couple of months.  I’ve gone periods of eating like shit to periods of eating huge quantities of vegetables and no treats.  I’ve gone from doing no exercising at all to being really focused on my exercises.  While my plans for a grand diet experiment fizzled, and I still don’t feel the urge to attempt something like that again.  I do have an urge to get back into a better fitness regiment and to begin my QS practices again.

Through it all (from 7/28 until today) I consistently logged all my food, even during the couple of weeks that I was really feeling zero motivation to do even that.  I therefore am now pushing four years of nutritional data.  My weight has gone from 188 to 191 and back again.  My diet has been pretty diverse, with 75% of my calories coming from foods that make up less than 2% of my calorie consumption.  However there are some staples that I ate regularly that pop up above the 2% threshold, and for the most part they aren’t the best.  I don’t mind the fact that eggs, sushi and Chipotle Buritto Bowls are in that list. I also don’t mind the fact that wine and beer show up on the list, I just wish they weren’t as prominent. Brownies and pizza on the other hand are a bit of a disappointment.  It’s not that I mind having eaten them, I just can’t believe that over the last couple of months they have accounted for over 5% of my total calories.  Despite the lack of eating nutritionally dense food and not taking any vitamins I did get by without any nutrient deficiencies except Calcium coming in a little under RDA.

So now it’s off to do some less ambitious experimentation with the relatively modest goal of getting my daily exercise routine re-estabilmed and to get my consumption of nutrient dense foods built back up.  As a consequence this journal is really more for me than for anyone else, not that it ever was all about being outwardly focused writing in the first place.  If others find my journey interesting then that’s great.  If the only person that reads this is myself, that’s fine too.  I just like having some accountability that comes with publishing this into the open versus a purely self-read private journal.

 


Post Deluge About To Commence

While I have been dutifully writing up my daily updates on the Paleo phase of my experiment, I haven’t had the chance to get them posted to the blog over the past few days.  Rather than just dump all of them at once, I’m rolling them out two at a time.  I’ll keep blogging about my days but add them to the back of the queue, so in essence I will be publishing two daily updates a day for awhile.  Everything should be caught up to real time by Saturday, if I’m doing my math right (I hope).


T Minus 1 Day to Paleo Phase

I readily admit I’m once again treating the ramp up like a last meal.  I try not to do this, and wonder how confusing my mental state will be while I’m holding religiously to one eating protocol while preparing for the next as the experiment carries on.  Yet my already low will power is pretty much non-existent today.  I’m celebrating my birthday a little early anyway, so I know I’m going to eat ice cream, as if I didn’t eat two different ice cream treats yesterday.  I’m going to have bread products with dinner, as if I didn’t just eat half a from scratch homemade pizza for lunch.  I’m going to have cheesecake because well, cheesecake is awesome.  Even in a world where I discovered that these sorts of foods are not what works best for my system would everything come crashing down?  Would I never ever again be able to eat something like this if I so chose?  Absolute not!  Stop being melodramatic.  It’s just a few weeks of avoiding these damn things.  So I’ll stop pouting like a four year old stating, “I want!  I want!  I want” and enjoy all the foods I can still eat…after I over-indulge in these soon to be Verboten List foods.  Hey it’s symbolically my birthday after all.


Paleo start inches closer…

Sunday as the “big day” kick off.  I will have completed all of my baseline measurements, and maybe even gotten all my back articles written.  The last two months I have been dutifully recording all my data but I haven’t had the time to sit down and writing about it.  Since my Paleo experiment’s recipe experimentation isn’t going to be quite as persistent, I won’t be having to write ad nauseum about all that.  So that will give me time to catch up on the other journaling.

In the lead up I’ve been enjoying some indulgences I know I’m going to be swearing off for awhile.  I’m eating moderately healthy most days, but have been throwing in bread, pasta, ice cream or maybe some pretzels and cheese.  I will be going hard core into it after June 1st, which unfortunately means my poorly timed “pizza night” for Sunday is out of the question.  There is no way I’m going to start off with trying to make one of those cauliflower “crusts” for a paleo pizza on the first day.  I want to start off with some wins, not an epic fail.


Staging For Paleo Start

Yes, there is a lot going on but I’m really looking forward to getting back on track with the experiment.  The first thing to do is get my baselines.  I had originally planned for this to happen on the quarters of each year.  Obviously that’s now shifted a month.  It’s certainly not the end of the world, but maybe I’ll change the durations so I can get back on phase later.  As for right now, the big things I need to have are my baseline monthly body measurements, my baseline physical fitness metrics and maybe some starting pictures.


Turkey: Country or Food? (In Other Words, WTH English?)

I do love some good turkey, and despite all the hoopla about tryptophan it’s probably the carb crash from the rest of the trimmings and your system needing to process the overeating that hits you.  Turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey in whatever form is delicious.  What about the country?  I’ve never been.  I do remember the first time I even knew there was such a country.  It was fourth or fifth grade and we were identifying blobs on a map as a whole class.  The teacher pointed to one blob that none of us knew and this girl, I believe her name was Theresa L., bursted out in a somewhat timid manner, “Turkey?”  The entire class, me included laughed at the ridiculousness of it.  Who names a country “turkey” and why would she think such a place existed?  The teacher came back with a, “no but very close!”  I sat there stunned.  Once again, who names a country after a bird?!  It turns out it’s the other way around.


Set the Goal But Enjoy the Journey

People need goals to actually get somewhere. If you don’t have some idea of what your target is, how are you going to hit it?  At the same time if all we do is jump from goal to goal, what we end up doing is burning out on goals and actually never achieving a point of contentment.  We spend all this time trying to achieve some goal while the actual goal itself will at most be a fleeting moment.  There is some irony in the fact that 99% of the time we are chronically not at our goal.  In fact if we are setting ambitious goals it’s possible we will never achieve them.  Does that make a person a failure because they didn’t achieve it?  I think that depends on if they are looking for enjoyment at achieving a goal versus from going through the process of trying to get there.


Paleo Begins June 1st!

Maybe I’m crazy to try this with other things still going on, but I’ve decided to fire up the Paleo phase starting June 1st.  I’ll work out the rest of the follow-on phasing after that.  In order to get ready for the Paleo phase I’ll have to get my baseline measurements and tests done towards the end of this month.  I’m going to be eating cleaner this month anyway, but I’ll just be a bit more conscientious on that as well.  I’ll also be ramping up my exercise as well, which again was intended.  The biggest thing I’m going to have to coordinate is holiday plans and that sort of thing.  I suppose it will just have to be whatever it is, but I’d like to be as compliant as possible during those phases.


Craving Some Treats (Not What You Expect)

I’m now two weeks into my hiatus from starting the Paleo experiment.  In that time I haven’t been eating like total crap, but I have my ups and downs.  My lunches have consisted of a huge hoagie, cheesesteak or otherwise packed sandwich every other day.  I’ve been snacking on pretzels and sweets.  All of this is being washed down with lots of Coke Zero again.  These aren’t the cravings that I speak of though.  Instead what I’ve been craving is something far different.


Who Needs Sleep When There Is Caffeine?

Tell me if this sounds familiar.  It’s sometime early in the morning and you are roused from your sleep by the alarm blaring at your head.  A quick snooze will give you that extra ten minutes of sleep.  Maybe a few more snoozes before you have to wake up.  Perhaps your body “just wakes up” right before that infernal alarm starts up, so you can proactively hit it.  While you start off dragging ass a quick jolt or two, or ten, of caffeine gets you wired up fine.  Maybe a little sugar high too can be used to push you on your way.  The rest of the day can be fine or an exercise of chasing one caffeine or sugar high to the next.  Sound a bit familiar?


Best Laid Plans…

People of Christian faith would probably recognize the expression, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans.” Well, that certainly applies here.  Life gets in the way of things I suppose, and it is very true here.  Due to a very large event in my life I’m going to be focusing a significant amount of time and energy into some matters that need immediate attending to.  This is going to be going on for several weeks and possibly longer.  While I didn’t intend the experiment to occur under idealized lab conditions, I don’t think I’ll be giving it a fair trial under these circumstances. I’ll be trying to eat well, but I know I’m going to be eating lots of foods out of convenience rather than pure intention.  I know I’m not going to be sleeping properly and probably not getting appropriate exercise either.  I won’t even be able to get the blood tests and other metrics to kick this thing off.  For that reason I’ll be delaying this until these events pass.  Perhaps a month, maybe two or three.  It’s still something I intend to do just when it is appropriate.

If you know me in person (which is most people), please feel free to reach out to me if you want more details.  Otherwise, catch you when I get back to this in the future.


Paleo Phase Week 1 Plan

Monday begins the Paleo week off in high fashion.  Actually, it’s going to be starting the Paleo Phase off a day early.  Considering all the gorging on junk food I’ve had (did I mention I ate a Coldstone Creamery Ice Cream for lunch) I figured it’s good to get cleaning out early.  While I won’t have the luxury of being creative with my meal planning for breakfast or lunch, I do plan on spreading my wings at dinner time.


Gorge before the storm

I’ve been off all Virgin diet detoxes for a couple of weeks now.  Did I take those two weeks to practice up on eating Paleo, as I will be for the next few months?  No.  Did I power through the Virgin diet to keep myself “pure” going into my tests before the Paleo diet?  No.  Did I decide to treat the two weeks as one grand “last meal” like some death row inmate rolling up to his execution?  No.  In hindsight however that is exactly what it felt like though.

If you made a list of the things I’m not going to be eating for the next several months to years then you probably would have a pretty good list of what I have been consuming the last two weeks.  Processed foods were my friends, especially store bought cookies and sweets.  Coke Zero made a tremendous comeback as well, even though I spent most of the end of last year avoiding it.  I didn’t gorge like I did over the holidays in December.  My calorie count per day is mostly in check, but I was definitely eating a lot of garbage.

That fact showed pretty starkly too in my weight.  While throughout the past few weeks I have been eating slightly more than I’ve been burning, the level of weight increase on the scale has been far greater.  While my weight increased by seven pounds I know for a fact, even if I account for vast errors in my accounting, that I didn’t consume 25,000 in excess calories.  I did average 100-200 calories a day in excess, but that adds up to one to two pounds, not seven.  A lot of that is coming from my recently discovered fact that my body composition does change rather dramatically when eating certain foods.  I have yet to figure out why that is, but it’s pretty clear what the effect is.

Through the weekend I’m going to be starting to plan for the launch of the Paleo diet on April 1st.  I’m hoping to find some delicious new recipes to try and share here.  I’m also hoping I can quickly settle into an easy routine that allows me to plan for the eating style without it being overly repetitive, although I’m usually not one that needs a ton of variety to stay happy about it.


Testing Over! Now On To First Phase

The last two weeks has had me rounding out my testing of additional food types as I finish up my Virgin Diet.  Now that I’ve tried corn and peanuts all that is left is to summarize my results and prepare for my entry into the Paleo world for the next three months.  While I have had no ground breaking sensitivities to report, it’s good to know that there may be some minor effects I’m pretty much good to go on any of the foods I’d be considering trying in any of the diets.


A Bit of a 'Bender' And Now I'm Paying For It

Yesterday was supposed to be the first day of me testing soy in my diet.  Instead it turned into a bit of a binge on junk food literally containing almost everything I’m supposed to be avoiding.  Everything started off okay, with my usual (compliant) shake.  I then had sushi for lunch with soy sauce, which went fine.  The rest of the day was a devolving train wreck.


Gluten Test Week Not As Successful As Dairy…

As with the dairy test week, this is unfortunately probably tainted by the medicines and recovering from the surgery.  That probably means I should do a second round of test week later in this experiment, but from what I’ve found so far I think that I at least have some adverse reactions to the consumption of gluten.


Snow shoveling is a great workout–glad I bought a snow blower…

 

The year I first moved into my current house was the year of “Snowmageddon” or “Snowpocalypse”, which ever you prefer.  The winter season started off with a good 15-18 inch snow storm that shut the place down for several days.  The Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, Virginia region really doesn’t know how to deal with snow at those levels.  On top of that four of our houses are responsible not only for clearing our own driveways but the road that leads up to our houses, which is about 250 feet.  With our neighbor’s small snow blower as long as you kept the snow levels to 6-8 inches everything was fine.  Thankfully we were all able to do just that.  The same couldn’t be said for the truly ridiculous levels of snow we had a few leeks later.  Fifteen to eighteen inches is bad, but 2-3 feet is off the charts.  Our area was shut down for a week, but we were left to hand shovel that snow, which drifted up to four feet in some areas, by hand!


Day 22 and 23: I think I'm switching to weekly updates

As the diet experiment drags on it’s clear that the novelty quickly wears off, and therefore so does the need to have literally daily updates.  Sure, it is interesting when I’m first getting the hang of a diet.  There will always be times when I have a new recipe I tried, or something along those lines as well.  However after a while this whole thing becomes rote, and the daily update is really just overkill.  I will still track all my foods and moods daily, but I think unless an interesting thing happens on a given day, I’ll be reverting back to once a week updates for this phase.


T-1 Day To Elimination Diet, Strict With Touches of Indulgence

Yesterday was the last day before the grand diet experiment begins.  I made some conscious decisions in terms of practicing for the big shift, but I still granted myself some last minute indulgences while I still had the chance.


T-2 Days to Elimination Diet: Cleaning Out the House!

With only two days left to go I decided to finish up cleaning out the house.  I hate wasting food, which means I’m a really good left-overs saver.  I know lots of people can’t stand the idea of putting food they made away in the freezer to be thawed out, reheated and eaten later. Sure, it’s not as good as the day you bought it.  Consider though that most of the prepared food you buy and reheat from the grocery store went through the exact same process, it just did it on an industrial scale and with god knows what (along with excess salt and sugar) added to it.  Since several of the foods in the house were going to be verboten for the better part of a year, I started eating my way through them.  I was able to do it in a mostly responsible way.


Making Pasta: Started off disasterous but saved it in the end…

What better way to start off a series of diets that discourage the consumption of gluten and grains than by making pasta!  It actually wasn’t my intention to do it on this sort of schedule.  I had been planning on trying to make pasta for several years now, but in the past year I’ve just been getting more and more stoked about the idea.  This led to a nice manual pasta maker and some other utensils showing up on my Amazon wish list.  Thankfully I actually got these things for Christmas.  The timing could be better of course, but I was determined to actually try my hand at making pasta before these items would be verboten for half a year.  The results, in the end anyway, turned out amazing!


T-minus One Week and Counting

The new year is almost upon us, and with that the beginning of the diet experiment.  I’ll be covering my standard monthly review of December, but needless to say I didn’t clean up my diet the way I had hoped I would before beginning the experiment.  Since the first diet phase is the elimination diet, not one of the eating styles I’m experimenting with, that’s not as important.  I still wish I could have done better than I did.  I’m looking forward to beginning this new phase, but getting exercise incorporated back into my lifestyle, since it has been completely absent since completing my first marathon at the beginning of the month.

I was happy to get tools and some topic-appropriate cookbooks for Christmas from my family.  The whole wand blender thing wasn’t going to cut it, but one of those turbo blenders should do the trick.  Likewise I’m going to have some time limits that will come up frequently, so having a legitimate and fully featured crock pot (versus the $10 one that has “on” and “off” settings that’s in the closet) is also going to come in handy.  With that are some good books for recipes for these new devices, as well as other handy books like one on gluten free cooking.  Again, I look forward to breaking these bad boys in!


Preserving Your Family’s Food History

My fascinating with food extends far beyond fitness and exercise.  The topics I love range from just the latest cooking techniques to historical recipes.  I think a lot of that comes from my family having a rich cooking tradition, especially since both my parents have great cooking instincts.  There is also the essence of preservation of the foods from my childhood.  As we eat them less and less and as the people that make them pass on they have a real danger of becoming things which will be lost to time.  My mom’s side of the family went through the process of documenting a lot of the family recipes into a nicely bound cook book.  I wish I could say I’ve made more progress cooking my way through it, but I have tried several and they generally turn out much like I remembered them (even if sometimes I have to try it a few times).  Unfortunately not everyone has the same access to graphic design and digital publishing resources that we do.   Thankfully I ran across a site that does that and more, The Family Cookbook Project.


I Forgot That "Dieting" Psyches You Out

Mindlessly clicking through link after link of holiday food recipes and posts, looking over my own backlog of things to try and simultaneously noticing that my own experiment begins in a little more than two weeks I found myself with what I remembered to be the typically claustrophobic experience of dieting.  Now I remember why in the long run  it never worked for me, and why it probably never worked for anyone else either.


Good news, Coke Zero relapse proved doesn’t taste as good as I remember…

Anyone that reads the past posts knows that the one thing I struggled with the most in getting ready for this experiment was getting over my diet soda obsession: Coke and Sprite Zero to be exact. Going from 8-12 cans of that stuff a day (yes, a day) to none ever just seemed so daunting.  Fortunately in August I was tripped over the solution in the form of my week long trials for each of the diets.  I have been happy to report that from August 18th until last week I didn’t have a single diet soda of any kind.  Last week that record came to an end, but at least I have some lessons learned out of that too.


First marathon down: lessons learned and what to do better next time.

Well, I now get to strike one more item off my bucket list.  For many years the idea of running a marathon has always intrigued me.  When I started running as a means of fitness a few years ago I set that as a potential end goal.  With several aborted attempts at running a marathon in my history I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it, but by breaking it up into smaller goals (first a 10K, then a half then a full) over multiple years I was actually able to finally finish my first marathon.  What can I say besides how awesome it feels?  I could talk about how my legs still aren’t working well the next day, but I think a lot of that comes down to errors in my running and training strategies.


Thanksgiving Reax: As bad as I planned, so what?

For many years I was like most people, where Christmas would surprise me by being in December and I wouldn’t have enough saved up to buy presents for people.  So I did what any other red blooded American would do.  I whipped out my credit card, blew it up and then paid it down over the next few months.  Holidays are a lot like that too but with calories rather than dollars.  Up until a couple years ago I was in the same boat as everyone else.  I’d gorge on holidays, blow up a few pounds and then go on a diet to lose the weight.  I’m now in a different mode of operating, which means that whether it’s good for me or not I actually plan my holiday feasts and save up for the occasion.


Skip the caffeine to see what it really does to your system

Since my mid-teens I’ve always had a steady diet of sodas, mostly diet from the college on, all of which had healthy doses of caffeine in them.  I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker, but just by the shear volume of soda, and periodically unsweetened tea, I managed to consume a good deal of caffeine each day for a period of years.  Because I like to continuously wet my whistle I may have my last sip of caffeinated soda literally minutes before bed time.  I swore it did nothing to me, while simultaneously reaching for it for my morning jolt of course.  Once you do without it for awhile however boy can I say that it was obviously doing something to my system.


A Real Mediterranean Diet

After complaining several times about not being able to find a real Mediterranean diet, I have actually had the fortune of being exposed to several examples due to my reading of both Blue Zones and Jungle Effect.  In both of those books on indigenous diets that proved healthy to the people of places like Sardinia, Ikaria and other areas outside of the Mediterranean, I got a good cross section of the various kinds of diets.  Furthermore Jungle Effect was even good enough to provide recipes for some dishes.  Armed with that information, plus a couple of other sources I’ve found from the internet, I should be able to come up with a legitimate representative whole foods Mediterranean diet.  Hint, it won’t be stocked full of pasta, pizza and fried calamari.


Soda detox summary: done with diet soda!

Starting on 7/8/2013 I started my attempt at cutting out artificially sweetened beverages, specifically diet soda, from my diet.  I have wanted to get off this damn kick for some time and I knew I would need to do it for my diet experiment.  The first phase of that draw down ends today, and I was supposed to be down to just one can a day, down from 10-12 a day when I started.  After that I was going to be down to just 7 cans a week, then 6 then so on until I was having none at all.  I’m happy to say that not only have I abstained from regularly drinking any diet soda or artificially sweetened beverages for nearly a month, but I’m not even tempted by it any longer.


Natural Biohacking

Biohacking is a relatively new phenomena, and I myself claim to be a biohacker.  Reading a lot of the different blogs and articles I wonder if I’m a different kind of biohacker than many of the others writing about these things.


Vegan Week Experiment Summary

With all the data collected about my week of eating vegan, plus my own direct personal observations of how things went.  I thought it was time to take a look at how things went and if there are any lessons learned from it.


Are you self sabotaging without knowing it?

Do you hear a repetitive dialog in your head going something like, “I know I should do [insert idea here], so maybe I’ll start [tomorrow, next week]…“  So something like, “I know I should stop eating donuts for breakfast, so maybe I’ll start eating healthy tomorrow.”  Or, perhaps something like, “I know I should work out more, so next week I’ll start using that gym membership that has been unused for the past three years.”  When I get in these ruts I always wonder what it is that has me stuck.  I honestly think it’s just a case of self sabotage being done subconsciously.  Maybe it all it takes is thinking about the situation from a slightly different perspective to get the ball rolling towards doing rather than wishing you had done it already.


Vegan Week Day 6

The final day of the vegan week experiment is over.   As promised, it started humdrum but ended with some good experimentation and flare!


Vegan Week Day 5

Fifth day of the vegan experiment week was much more ho-hum than the last.  Sadly, food wise it was also the most boring.  The day was less hectic and I didn’t feel any compulsion to cheat, which was good because I knew from the beginning I wouldn’t be trying anything tasty or new today.  Breakfast was the same as always.  I didn’t have time for lunch so that was just a big heaping pile of carrots and celery that I dipped in a big serving of artichoke and spinach hummus (commercially made). Dinner was all leftovers.  Left overs from last night, plus one of the beet and bean burgers reheated from the freezer.  I’m glad they thaw and heat up well since I’ll always be making a whole bunch at a time and only feeding one.  I finished off with a big bowl of the butternut squash soup and then frozen berries.

Just like the paleo experiment, it seems to get easier and easier as you get into the diet.  I’m sure that knowing the last day of it is tomorrow helps.  The idea of perpetual abstinence is what trips us up, at least when we are trying to get used to doing things a different way.  Perhaps if one was looking to make a permanent change the idea of allowing intentional trip ups, or free days, is important to get over the psychological barriers that we setup for ourselves.  For one week however, with the exception of falling back on my old stress relief indulgences, that wasn’t necessary.  Tomorrow I think I’ll be trying to do a vegan indulgence like how I ended my paleo week.


Vegan Week Day 4

The fourth day of this experiment was one where I was really close to breaking it. Stress always requires release, and we want to fall back on our crutches.  That’s booze for some, drugs for others.  For me it’s food.  Combine that with some lack of preparation and I narrowly averted breaking the plan.  I didn’t though, and got the chance to try another new dinner option concocted by my friend.


Vegan Week Day 3

Third day of the vegan experiment went off without a hitch.  Preparation and familiarity is the key, but ending off with the best vegan “burgers” I’ve made yet was perfect.


Vegan Week Day 2

Day 2 started off and ended better than Day 1 did.  I was certainly a bit more prepared, but it was still a bit trying due to a heavily compressed schedule.  What I’m looking forward to is trying tomorrow’s new vegan burger recipe, but today’s food was certainly tasty nonetheless.


Vegan Week Day 1

Maybe I didn’t pick the best day to start Vegan Week, but it is what it is.  I know I didn’t prepare enough for it which is going to make things ever more interesting through tomorrow.  Despite all the problems I actually got through mostly okay, minus one slip up….


Time for another weekly challenge; Vegan Week here we come…

A couple of weeks out from my paleo week experiment I’m feeling the urge to try another one of the diets.  I like the idea of trying the ones that flex my fortitude a little more.  Sure I could just pic the pescatarian diet, which would mean basically only cutting meat and poultry out. When I’m on these plans I’m also substantially cutting back on refined sugars, desserts and so on which makes them more healthy than that.  However I really want the challenge of experiencing one of the more challenging diets.  I think my choice is going to be to try the vegan diet for a week.  As a side benefit of that I’m hoping to get more focused on eliminated artificially sweetened beverages.  I did great on that for two weeks.  Then I had one every other day.  Now I’m up to two.  You can see from my chart I am still doing well by the original projection but definitely not headed in the right direction.  So, stay tuned for my setup and execution of Vegan Week, coming soon to a theater near you…

1465_371195512980157_982324736_n


Local foods taste good too

This weekend I had the pleasure of catching up with friends of mine and going hiking in Southwest Virginia.  I sadly was only doing a bit more than a day trip, so couldn’t hit up everyone I knew down there.  To those that I missed that want to catch up next time, shoot me an e-mail or nasty IM and let’s get things straighten out ;).  Along with the good health of exercise, I also got to experience the good health of eating local at a very nice restaurant in Roanoke, Virginia called Local Roots.

Now, not everything there is truly local.  Mussels from Prince Edward Island, Canada is hardly local.  However most of their produce and meats come from farms nearby, if not their own garden just a brief walk from the restaurant door.  Their presentation style is exquisite as well.  You can get a taste of their menu and style by checking out their menu and website.  You could actually do that every week and get something new.  Since they truly cook what’s available only their menu changes drastically from week to week, sometimes even day to day.

When you are eating like that the ingredients are obviously fresher.  An unskilled chef can slaughter any quality of food but a talented one can make these sorts of ingredients sing, and sing they do at this place.  I definitely left full but not overly stuffed.  That was even though I ate three courses of food.  The volume wasn’t that large but the richness was tops.  To make things even better they introduced me not only to a range of local craft brews from around the U.S. but also classically made cola.  All I have to do is take one look at the photo of this imported classic soda and it makes my mouth water for more of it.  It is the best tasting soda I’ve ever had, and the fact that its classic fermentation process means it has alcohol too just makes the nostalgic appeal even greater.

IMG_3954

Tasting this made me realize that a large part of the cola flavor that I love is actually coming from the ginger.  That got me thinking about maybe infusing my seltzer water with ginger.  Could that be what makes me not even miss my favorite cola products?  Gears are turning…


Breaking the fast after 11 days, damn soda still tasted just as good.

When I was planning my Paleo experiment week last month I had to think carefully about whether I would do it exactly as I would during the year of experiments by avoiding all artificially sweetened beverages, even my favorite diet sodas.  That sounds like an almost silly challenge, but I was actually just in the beginning of trying to taper off of the stuff when I was doing the experiment.  I was down to, yes down to, 4-6 cans a day.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to swing it but I actually kept off of the stuff for the entire experiment and then almost a full week more, until yesterday.


Paleo Week Test Summary

With Paleo Week now behind me, I wanted to take a look back and see how things ended up.  While it’s easy to draw potential false conclusions while you are doing something, I liked the idea of looking back at hard data while thinking about how the week went.  The bottom line is that the week was very successful overall.  I got all the nutrition I needed.  I felt as good as usual, although some noticed I was a bit more irritable than usual.  I had a lot of weight loss, which I wasn’t expecting or shooting for and want to try to understand better.  I learned a few new recipes and coping mechanisms for the actual diet phase later this year.  Lastly I was able to go a whole week without consuming any diet soda or artificially sweetened beverages.


Paleo Week Test Day 6

The sixth and final day of the paleo test has been completed.  Why isn’t there seven?  I’m calling tomorrow my Sabbath so I’m going to have a day of rest, already!  Most of the day was a rehash of various meals from the week but the ending came in the form of a most delicious homemade paleo ice cream (yes you read that right)!


Paleo Week Test Day 5

I’m really getting into the groove, or rut, now.  I have always been able to eat the same thing over and over and over again without getting bored with it.  That’s how a lot of this week is turning out, but today still left some new discoveries to be found.


Paleo Week Test Day 4

Crossing the half way point the whole Paleo thing is certainly getting easier, but there are definitely tons of landmines to navigate still.


Paleo Week Test Day 3

Day 3 went much easier for me, perhaps I'm finally getting into the groove.  Restaurant eating is proving a bit of a dicey road but I think I want to intentionally try to eat out more to test my reflexes.


Paleo Week Test Day 2

Waking up with a hangover (even though I didn’t have a drop of alcohol the previous day), not packing enough snacks and having a tasty but not filling lunch made the second Paleo day drag on, but it ended with bacon wrapped chicken and sweet potato pancakes so all ended well.


Paleo Week Test Day 1

Ah, the first day of Paleo!  The beginning of my one week Paleo expedition began somewhat auspiciously after an afternoon and night of feasting.  The trials of breaking my daily routines, attempting to avoid Coke Zero, and to eat a pure Paleo way on a day when I woke up especially irritable to begin with, certainly posed some challenges.  However by the end of the day the challenge of the diet wasn’t about what I wasn’t eating but what I still had left to eat.


Let Paleo Week Commence!

After a fun afternoon and evening with friends at a pool party, which was decidedly not Paleo but very delicious, I get to start my first day of Paleo with a bit of a food hangover.  I’m sure having 5 beers over 8 hours may be contributing a little bit too it, but that’s hardly the stuff of hangovers over embarrassing internet photos.  The food on the other hand, especially with the dessert selections that I made sure to try one of each of, definitely put things into high gear.  Try this, I ate over 3300 calories over the course of the party and that wasn’t with a bunch of grazing or drinking high calorie cocktails.  Ouch!  But today is the beginning of one of the “clean” diet phases so I can pretend to be detoxing or what not.  So what are the steps for getting this week kicked off?


T-2 Days to Paleo Week

It’s two days until I start my one week of Paleo Diet.  Yes, between vegan and Paleo I decided to try the latter.  I’d like to be able to include my partner in it somewhat, and there is absolutely no way I’d be able to get him to try more than a bite or two of any vegan food at all.  In the grand scheme it’s also going to be far more difficult to adapt my snacking and during the day eating around Paleo as well.  All my snack bars have grains in them.  I’m a huge fan of rice-based dishes for lunch, whether it be sushi, or burrito bowls or Chinese food.  I therefore consider it a bit more of a challenge than adapting to veganism.

By far the biggest adaptation day for me is going to be next Friday.  We are supposed to hang out on the town, which would include eating out in a restaurant and going to happy hours at various places.  I need to, and will, do all of those things still but I’m going to have to do it in a Paleo friendly way.  That will mean at most having one drink of something like wine, but probably not even that.  That will also mean that any place we hit up I’ll have to eat in a Paleo friendly way.  Gone will be my favorite indulgences of bread and rich, sugar laden desserts.  I’m going with a strict dairy free Paleo, which somehow still includes butter, so I won’t even be adding cheese or yogurt to my diet either.

Instead of concentrating on what I’m leaving out, it’s best to concentrate on what I’m adding in, which is lots of delicious whole foods and nutritious meats.  To keep things manageable I’m going to spend a good part of that Sunday planning my meals for the week and prepping things like snacks, breakfasts and making sure that I’m stocked up for everything I need for each of the dinners.

From the time I wake up Sunday morning until the time I wake up on Saturday morning I’ll be zealously Paleo, minus any annoying evangelism or air of superiority that some adherents are known for (and if you do run across me in such a state, please bitch slap me).  The big question is if I’m going to go uber-Paleo and skip all artificial sweeteners (aka Coke Zero) for the entire week as well.  Kind of me is excited at the prospect of going cold turkey for a week, yet if you look at my success in weening off this past week, I’m still stuck in the 5-6 cans a day range.

Stay tuned for more updates after tomorrow’s pre-Paleo week pool party at my friends house :).  Sorry, I just wasn’t going to miss all the delicious but non-Paleo food for the experiment yet :).


Which diet should I use for one week trial?

I’m really itching to give a much longer duration experiment, including weekend nights, in as soon as possible.  I’d like the experiment to be with one of the extreme, for lack of a better word, diets that I’ll be cycling through.  I’ve decided it will either be a week of Paleo or a week of Veganism.  I’m going to start the trial on 7/28 and I’m going to end it the morning of 8/4.  Once I select a diet I’ll lay out the rules that I’ll be following for that diet.  I’ll be asking around to see if anyone has some suggestions on which of the two I should select.  From friends and family I’ll probably get “none of the above” :).


Doubling down on muscle stiffness theory…

I’m doubling down on my theory about what is causing my leg stiffness.  Today I was stuck in the car for multiple hours, when I wasn’t stuck in a chair somewhere for multiple hours.  I walked in total just over three quarters of a mile.  What’s worse is I didn’t have time to do my workouts, or even some basic stretching or yoga.  The net result is my legs are even tighter than yesterday and I can feel it from my ankles to my waist.  I have to figure out a way to get a lot more mobility in my day to day lifestyle.


Leg tightness is from lifestyle, just not the way I thought (I think)

When this lifelong non-athlete got too winded from walking up the stairs a few years ago, he decided to start doing something about it.  Exercising just for the hell of it, or for some long term health benefits didn’t seem to be motivating enough.  I instead directed that towards the one thing that I thought may work, attempting to run a 10K.  I thought a short term but doable goal would motivate me better than anything, and I was right.  But a 10K soon became a half, and now I’m on may way to starting to run my first full marathon.  While that has been good, one thing that has been concerning me is my perpetual muscle tightness.  I’ve talked it over with my PT several times and had some late night sessions with Doctor Google trying to figure it out, but it has been persistent.  I had hoped it was a lifestyle thing, and after the last week I think I’ve figured out that indeed it is, but not what I was originally expecting.


Countdown to just one can of diet soda a week starts!

The closest thing to an addiction that I have is soda, now diet soda.  We were allowed to drink soda all the time as a kid.  That contributed a lot to me being a chubby kid growing up.  There were other factors too of course.  None of my other siblings graduated into “husky” sizes, but perhaps I just drank more of it and was more sedentary as a computer geek than they were.  As I grew up that graduated into being hooked on diet soda.  Like all programmers, I turn soda into code.  My poison of choice has always been the least revolting diet soda, until the Zero products came along…


Holidays Are A Time For Pigging Out

I’d love to say that this holiday weekend I’m going to be sticking to my guns and attempting to eat completely healthy throughout.  I’d be lying of course.  This weekend is going to be full of lots of standard American fare: beer, hot dogs, pizza, ice cream, potato chips, et cetera.  I’ll be mixing in a lot of hiking, but no running, which should offset some of it.  I’ll be hiking with my health bars and “Paleo Pacs”.  However Sunday is probably going to be more of a detox day than anything else.  Should I avoid the crap food in the first place?  Yes.  Next year I will have no choice otherwise I’ll skew my results.  However for this year, I’ll stick to my unhealthy habits.


Cruising To The End Via Mediterranean

Today was the last day of the week of diet experiments.  As planned I finished up the week with a nice, easy Mediterranean diet.  By far the most liberal of the diets I have planned is the Mediterranean diet.  Having part of my ethnic heritage hailing from that part of the world also makes this diet very easy for me.  Almost any of the traditional foods I’d eat, with some tweaking for whole grain over traditional versions of some foods, fit the mold.  As a lover of wine, the prescription of 1-2 glasses a night, assuming that works for you, is also a nice plus up.  While I enjoyed the food, over-eating on this diet seems easier than on other diets.


Paleo Experiment Filling But Somewhat Challenging

The day of Paleo was overall quite easy to hit, in terms of what I had planned to eat.  I had a small divergence at lunch but the big problem was the temptations. The number of my foods that are grain or dairy based is astounding!


Pescatarian Experiment Day Left Me Hungry :(

To recap, today approximates what would be the pescatarian diet option.  That’s all of the lacto-ovo vegetarian option with fish added into the mix.  That’s a pretty liberal diet with just the meat and poultry missing.  I would have thought that as the diets get closer to my regular diet, which is sadly too close to my SAD diet, that it would get easier.  Unfortunately I was wrong.  It wasn’t that following the diet was hard, it’s just that I was pretty damn hungry by afternoon!


Vegetarian Day Experiment, No Sweat!

I was expecting the vegetarian day to be pretty easy to do, and I wasn’t disappointed.  I should say that by “vegetarian” I mean a lacto-ovo vegetarian. I should also say that the level of experimentation is less and less exotic as the week goes on, but I figured I’d analyze and write about it nonetheless.


Vegan Day Experiment Went Great!

Day 1 of the experiment is over and I can’t say that I’m glad that the first day is completed.  This isn’t my first hand eating a vegan diet.  For several months a few years ago I used to do a “Vegan Tuesday” with some other people.  I generally stuck to health bars, big salads and soups.  This was different however.  This was me trying to emulate how I was going to eat vegan for every day for a three month period of time.  That made it more challenging and daunting in many ways.  The end result however was a quite enjoyable food experience, and one that I can see going on for some time.


Paleo Spaghetti Squash Bolognese

Experimenting with recipes for each of the types of diets I’m planning on trying is going to be key to having any success. I have tried some Paleo recipes off the internet for health bars and some other things, but I only have one Paleo cookbook in my library, Practical Paleo, by Diane Sanfilippo. This is the first entree I’ve ever attempted from this book. I was hoping for the best based on the description.


Sticking With the Plan Through Holidays

Even before I finally decided to start planning this experiment, well planning to begin the experiment in the very near future, I always suffered thinking of the notion of not getting to experience holidays with everyone else.  So much of our family holidays surround certain foods and good drink.  What would a birthday party or New Years Eve be without a good toast of champagne?  What would Christmas Eve be like without being able to chow down on some big bowls of Scungilli salad, crab claws or pasta in mushroom sauce (with of course some nice bottles of wine to wash it down)?  What would Christmas Day be like without noshing on a nice charcuterie and cheese plate and later a high stacked keilbasa and ham sandwich with freshly grated horseradish on dense traditional rye bread?  I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.  However for the duration of the experiment, which could be upwards of two years, these will not be in the cards at all.


Who Am I?

As with an a early post to any new blog, it is fitting that I lay out who I am and why you should care about anything I have to say. First, I’ll say what I am not. I’m not a doctor or a personal trainer. While I have stayed in plenty of Holiday Inn Express hotels, scoured WebMD and online medical journal sites countless hours through the years and had a keen interest in human physiology I can make no claim of being a licensed expert in these fields. I’m not here to claim to be a health guru either. I don’t have some new magical elixir to sell you that will magically make you healthy, feel twenty years younger or be able to live into your 100’s. I’m not an adherent to any particular diet principle, tried and true or relatively newly discovered. I’m not a film maker working on yet another recast of a Morgan Spurlock adventure.  So who am I?


Welcome

I had originally intended to wait to open this blog up to the world.  I wanted to have more of a foundation in my plan, however I’m too excited to wait at this point.  Besides, I can use the practice in regularly updating things.

Several months ago an idea of self experimentation to determine the best diet for me crystalized in my mind.  Using the tools and techniques I have been employing daily I was going to figure out if there was a truly superior way to eat for my body.  This entails lots of journaling and daily tracking.  It occurred to me that opening that experiment up to the public in general could be useful in two ways.  First, it could help people who are looking for help in figuring this problem out as well.  Second, if even a few close friends are tracking, much less more people than that, then I’d have built in accountability to help me power through the times when it gets tough.

So here it is, hopefully not too prematurely, the beginning of my experiment in exploring diet and fitness concepts to determine the best choices for my body to stay as healthy and vibrant as possible for as many years as possible.


Picture of Me (Hank)

Categories

Updates (124)
Journal (113)
Daily Updates (84)
Software Engineering (71)
Commentary (65)
Methodology (56)

Archive

2019
2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013