2019 1st Quarter Check-In

It’s been a while now since I’ve had a meaningful health update on my blog – lately it’s been a lot of stuff of a promotional nature (podcasts, mainly). I haven’t really written anything of “substance” in a bit. This won’t change that, but at least will change up the routine a little.

Physical Health

I can’t remember right now when my most recent weight update was, but luckily all of the digital entries I have at my disposal are helpful in this regard. I closed out 2018 at 274.0. Today (as I write this, “today” is a Tuesday) I weigh 271.8, with Happy Scale telling me my moving average is 271.4. So let’s call it 271. Down 3 pounds in 3 months; not terrible but not where I’d like to be either.

I’ve been up and down when it comes to properly logging food in MyFitnessPal. Some days I lack the discipline to stick with it (I get lazy, or I am purposefully ignoring the fact that I know I’m over-budget). What has been happening lately is that I am solid with logging for a few days, and then fall off the wagon.

I haven’t figured out a solution to this yet – the best solution is that I just log consistently, every day. However this doesn’t work for me mentally. Something I need to brainstorm.

Mental Wellbeing

This is one category I’m happy with. It’s not perfect, but I’m definitely doing better than the physical side of things.

Reading – I’ve been doing a lot of reading. I’ve finished 2 books in the first 3 months of the year, and am making good progress on 2 others at the same time (“Dune”, and “Gone”). I’ve rolled my reading into a new podcast too, and while that’s not taking off very fast, I’m having a good time with it.

Writing – Yeah, haven’t done a ton with writing. I was going to work on a fiction project as my “project” for 2019, but instead of moved to creating a new podcast. I have some stretch writing goals for my blogs, and this I guess is part of it.

Other parts of mental health – Recently my workplace’s health team shared an article about fostering mindfulness – I gave it a quick skim but I saved it for later. I think I’m going to go back to it. Not something I usually think about but sometimes it feels like something I need.

Overall, I’d say I’m doing pretty well. I feel like I had some more things to say but I had to take a break from writing and came back to this the next day, so that’s that. I will try to get some more things written in the near future. I have a couple of gadget reviews that will be fairly easy to write.

Weight Loss Update

I wish I could come up with more creative titles for these; but as it stands this is what it is: a weight loss update.

Recap

My goal for March 5th 2019 was to lose 22 pounds and weigh in at 154 pounds. I forget exactly how many weeks I gave myself but I started in November. That should have been plenty of time to reach the goal.

Reality

But I didn’t quite make it. The long and short of it is that I couldn’t get the scale to budge and as I got closer to the March 5th date, I ran out of weeks in order to lose the weight I wanted to. In total I lost 5.5 pounds, 16.5 pounds off from my actual goal weight.

Solution

Well…I don’t know really what my solution is. I’m just going to keep doing what I started back in February, which was to be stricter with logging my calories (both in and out).

I came up with a method originally of tracking my net calories, and it worked overall, so I think I’m going to continue with that. I just need to tweak my setup and try better not to falter.

According to Happy Scale, if I stick to 2 pounds per week, I’ll hit my goal (still 254) by April 24th; on my current overall rate it won’t be until January 2020. What I deemed my “realistic” goal (average of 2, 0.34, and 1 pound per week), it looks like June is my target date.

I think I’ll be happy if I can hit 254 pounds by May 1st. That gives me 8 weeks to hit my goal.

On Writing

Not referring to Stephen King’s book here (a book I plan on coming back to this year, actually). A few weeks ago I had this great idea pop into my head for a short story. Then a few things in life happened, and I haven’t really thought about it much.

The idea is still there – I haven’t given up on it exactly. I actually transformed it from one idea into something else in my little notes, I’m just not writing it. I find that I’m back into a reading & podcast groove that is taking me away from the writing head space.

Still, I have it tucked away for future use. It’s part of my 2019 goals to start and complete a piece of writing, so this falls under the “started” pile.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a writing prompt I found earlier in the year that I’m no longer going to use. It comes from the Writing Excuses podcast:

You are about to cut into a cake…and it speaks.

Have fun with that!

Quick Weight Loss Update

Back in November I wrote out a goal – that I wanted to lose ~20 pounds by March 5th 2019 (my 35th birthday). The only reason I picked my birthday was because 5 years ago, I had a huge weight loss goal for my 30th birthday, and I mostly attained it.

Anyway, suffice it to say it has not been going well. I started at 276 lbs November 28th. January 28th, I was at 275.8. Between then and now, I’ve flirted with reaching 270 but have gone back up. I know the reason: inconsistent food journalling / calorie tracking.

This week I gave myself a wake-up call and readjusted my calorie goals to aim for a 2 lb / week goal. I’m fine with 1 lb / week but this way, I aim high and won’t be disappointed if I get less than that.

I started the week at a really low weekly weight loss rate, but with my re-focused efforts have improved to a 0.40 lbs / week rate. I’ve started using Happy Scale to take some of the math away from me (I feel my own math is at times suspect), and it’s telling me that at this current rate, I’ll reach 270.1 lbs by March 3rd. That’s not ideal but better news than when I started the week.

Oh, I should mention what I’ve been doing to realize this change. I found a post on reddit on /r/LoseIt that gave me a different way of tracking my progress; to save you a click, I’m subtracting my daily calorie burn as measured by my Gear S3 from my calorie intake. The difference is either a calorie deficit (good thing) or a surplus (bad thing).

To lose 2 lbs / week I need to hit a 1000 calorie deficit weekly – 500 for 1 lb. As long as I’m in that range I’ll be in good shape! Now…to stay disciplined on weekends. That’s the real challenge.

What about Breakfast?

I’ve seen plenty of things said about breakfast; the most popular is that it’s “the most important meal of the day“. In my experience, this is simply not true. I rarely eat breakfast, and I don’t suffer for it. Unfortunately, I do not have empirical evidence; I can’t tell you whether I’ve been negatively affected by it (are my insides rotting because I’m not eating breakfast?), and I also can’t tell you that my positive weight loss results can be directly attributed to not eating breakfast (it’s not – it’s tied to my calorie deficit that I try my best to maintain).

Lumberjack Breakfast
Not a typical breakfast for me. Photo credit:
Clemens v. Vogelsang

I thought I would do a bit of research for this instead. I performed two different searches:

  1. “Is breakfast really necessary?”
  2. “Why should you eat breakfast?”

I wanted to word each search to try to get a tailored result; with the first search term, I expected to see articles that either support skipping breakfast or at least tell you that it’s a personal decision about whether or not you need to eat breakfast.

The second I purposefully worded it “pro” breakfast, to see if I would get something that supported the idea of eating breakfast. I was also curious with this search term to see if the articles I got were backed by anyone with an agenda (i.e. food companies). So here’s what I found out.

Is breakfast really necessary?

I found this article from the BBC: “Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?” Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait.

One of the very first things I noticed is that this article tries very hard to remain neutral, and even links to some interesting stuff about the food industry pushing studies that support eating breakfast. The most interesting thing I took out of the article was this section about trying to determine a relationship between breakfast and obesity:

What they found was that it wasn’t breakfast itself that caused the participants to lose weight: it was changing their normal routine. The women who said before the study that they usually ate breakfast lost 8.9kg when they stopped having breakfast, compared to 6.2kg in the breakfast group. Meanwhile, those who usually skipped breakfast lost 7.7kg when they started eating it – and 6kg when they continued to skip it.

Jessica Brown – Nov 28 2018

And, of course, this line here:

A 2016 review of 10 studies looking into the relationship between breakfast and weight management concluded there is “limited evidence” supporting or refuting the argument that breakfast influences weight or food intake, and more evidence is required before breakfast recommendations can be used to help prevent obesity.


Jessica Brown – Nov 28 2018

The entire article goes back and forth between whether or not breakfast is good or bad. One study says yes, another says no. One scientist says simply “don’t have a late dinner if you skip breakfast”. It goes on.

The final conclusion seems to be: nobody agrees, so just pay attention to your body (in other words, eat when you’re hungry). OK, let me circle back to this after the next section.

Why should you eat breakfast?

The very first search result was definitely pro-Breakfast: “5 Reasons Why You Should Eat Breakfast“. Again, I’ll be here.

Once again, first impressions: what the search result doesn’t tell you is that this is a sponsored post. From the article: “This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of belVita for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.” OK, so immediately I know that this is supported by the food industry; but perhaps there’s more substance here.

Breakfast is a must for all of us.  It is the most important meal of the day.  A nutritious breakfast is very important for our health and weight management, but not having it at all is the worst option.  5 Reasons why you should eat breakfast: burns fat, keeps blood sugar even through the day, helps to fight daytime cravings, lower incident of heart disease, keeps our brains sharp, helps with concentration and productivity.

Amy, A Healthy Life For Me

This is the opening paragraph. It goes on, but I’ll reflect a bit here. First, there are no indications that there’s any sourcing for these claims. The author just states them as fact. I just finished reading in the BBC article that many of these reasons provided are contentious and studies both prove and disprove them. I’m a little disappointed in the effort here.

But the article does go on, as I said; it provides some basic information about protein and fiber – still not sourcing anything – and repeats the 5 basic reasons from the opening paragraph.

In general this article is not very helpful and even though it is sponsored content, I think more care should have been given to find sources for the information given.

So, what about breakfast?

As I mentioned at the start of this post, and found out from the BBC article, it ultimately depends on your own body and your needs. But what I think you should pull from this article is more about how careful you should be when searching for answers about something.

The positive or negative spin you put on a search term will definitely influence your results, and you need to be careful about what you’re reading. There are a lot more sponsored content pieces out there these days, so it can be difficult to determine what’s fact and what’s not.

Either way, this was a fun little exercise that supported my own personal viewpoint.

How I Learned to Stop Drinking Pop and Love Flavoured Soda Water

When I was younger I used to drink regular pop all the time – usually Coca Cola. I long since switched to diet pop and never looked back.

But recently on a whim I decided to try President’s Choice Blue Menu sparkling water. It was 89 cents for a tall bottle, so I figured I would give it a try. I’ve never been a fan of soda water – for some reason, I just find the carbonation negatively affects the taste.

But this PC sparkling water was flavoured – watermelon, to be specific. Probably not the first flavour I’d normally choose, but I thought I’d give it a try; the flavour really helped. At first, it took me a bit to get used to. The carbonation was still a bit overpowering, but after getting through the bottle, I enjoyed it.

From the watermelon flavour, I branched out to a few different ones. They have lime, lemon, orange – quite a range. I liked them all. So far from the PC line of sparkling water my favourite of theirs is the Blueberry Pomegranate. You can smell the blueberry flavour as soon as you open the can, and it tastes really good.

I find that I drink the sparkling water a lot slower than pop; I think the carbonation is a a bit harsher than traditional soft drinks. I did some very brief research (read: one google search and glance over a wikipedia article) but I can’t find anything that seems to substantiate this. Whatever the case is, I find that I enjoy these drinks more because they take longer to drink, and it’s a good thing that they last longer. Sometimes it kind of just sucks when you run out of a nice drink too soon.

Since discovering my affinity for flavoured sparkling water I’ve branched out a bit and tried some different flavours. Perrier has a really great-tasting strawberry flavour, and I recently tried a Montellier lemon-flavoured drink. I’m happy to stick with the store brand because it’s much cheaper than these “premium” brands of drinks.

I highly recommend switching the flavoured sparkling water, if soda/pop/soft drinks are an issue for you. Nothing beats regular water, but when you want something different – these fit the bill.

Motivation

Last night I was washing the dishes. Not in order to feel good about myself – no, sometimes I need to clean to ward off negative energy instead.

Last night I was feeling ready to blow up at my dog, who was driving me a little batty. Instead, I attacked the dishes. As it tends to happen, I had a few thoughts pop in my head.

Lately I’ve wanted to get back into fiction writing. Just small stuff, short stories (probably flash fiction at that) – nothing lengthy. I’ve been doing some reading to brush up on my skills/habits; not other fiction right now but namely prompts, idea sources, etc.

Writing short fiction is easy – it doesn’t take long to write a story. Writing a good piece of short fiction is levels more difficult of course, but that’s not the issue I need to tackle at the moment.

The problem I’m having is one of motivation, and that’s the thought/realization that I had last night while I was doing the dishes. It’s something that I want to figure out how to fix but I’m not sure how to do it just yet.

Motivation in some fields of my life isn’t hard to come by. I can find the motivation to go to work, to put podcast stuff together, to work out, to eat right; but to write? It’s missing.

And I don’t understand why. I have a memory of maybe 6-7 years back at Christmas when I would write short stories in a notebook. Where has that inspiration gone?

I’d like to find it. I’ll see what I can do.

I feel good.

I just came back from a walk (at the time of writing – 12:45pm today). It’s cold – my weather app says it’s -8, but with the wind it feels like -16. I think it’s colder than that. I was bundled up – good jacket, warm hat, new gloves – so I really only felt the cold on my face.

I walked to the local Tim Horton’s, about 10-15 minutes up the road on foot. I picked up an XL dark roast coffee, and a lone Old Fashion Plain timbit. I was going to go with a full doughnut, because I honestly forgot that I could get individual timbits. These ones are 50 calories each – a much better option than 210 calories from a full doughnut.

I kept it in my pocket the entire walk back to the office. It tasted so good. Yeah, a full doughnut might have been nice, but I think I would have wasted 160 calories. I’ll take the feeling of enjoying a great tasting, tiny doughnut combined with a brisk walk over the extra 160 calories.

Starting Over (Again)

I recently took a look at my weight numbers and came to the realization that since August 2014, I have gained at least 40 pounds. This, after having lost about that same amount in a period of 15 months from 2013 to 2014. 

That kind of number should be shocking, and it is. But I’m not reacting negatively to it. Instead I’m using the shock as a motivator.  For the last year+ I’ve been trying to lose weight, but haven’t really been getting anywhere (and in fact, have gained weight – just look at the chart for the last year!).  Seeing that I’ve gained so much weight back is an eye opener.

My weight from the last 365 days

Clearly, I’m not “doing it right”.  If I’m being honest, I know also I haven’t been recording my calorie intake (using MyFitnessPal) properly – at least, until last week.  If I were to think about any change I could possibly make, this is the first place to start.  

Sure, even in the last week, I still have had a couple of days where I was lazy and didn’t log things properly.  But what’s important to me here is that these days are 1 or 2 in 10, rather than 7 or 8 in 10.  So I have started here, with logging.  

Looking back before my hard restart, I can see that I just gave up completely on days where I know I blew my calorie goal.  I’d stop logging and not worry about it.  This is where I went wrong.  Today, I’ll keep logging the calories even if I’m going over my daily budget.  It’s the only way I’ll keep accountable.

My weight from the last 30 days

It really boils down to accountability.  For the longest time, I’ve been entering all of this fitness data and not doing anything with it.  Not only am I fixing what was broken, I’m going to have to do a regular review of my progress.  I won’t do that here, but this blog post is basically just as much for people reading it as it is for me to say, “I have to do this.”  

And I will do this.  I did it before.  My first goal post is 20 pounds by March 5, 2019.  I’ve only been at this in full force for about a week, and I’m at about the same weight as when I started.  I’m going to do a meaningful review next week (at the two week mark) and see where I am.

Simple Changes Make a Big Difference

This probably seems like a very obvious revelation, but recently I’ve discovered how great it makes me feel to work with a clean kitchen.

Clean kitchens are great.

Let me explain a bit further. It’s not like I never cleaned the kitchen before, or never appreciated a clean kitchen, it’s just that up until this past weekend I was very lazy (or maybe more appropriately, lackadaisical) after cooking dinner. We have only one sink, plus a dishwasher, but with that set up it’s a pain to keep the dishes clean. So then I decide I’ll do it later, and then everything just keeps piling up.

This weekend I did a major clean of the kitchen after cooking dinner for the family. It made the next morning amazingly easy for making breakfast, and then the dishes piled up a bit more after dinner. But then I cleaned it all up before going to bed. The next morning, making lunches was even easier. Everything was where I needed it to be, and ready to use. So I kept the chain going, and cleaned up after last night’s dinner, too.

The side effect wasn’t just the useful, clean kitchen. That I feel is the bonus in this situation. I’ve noticed a significant positive impact on my mood, too. Now, I think this is a large part of my personality. I like it when things are clean and orderly, and it bugs me when I start to see the kitchen dirty with dishes piled up waiting to be washed.

While this is a simple habit I’m hopefully going to stick with, it’s something that makes me happier just a little bit in my life. This is one room I have locked down (so far). Next thing I need to tackle is the basement. But I hope this little write-up helps someone pick out something in their own life they can change to make a bigger difference.