Something I Will Probably Never Do Again

I was listening to a recent episode of the Raise the Bar podcast (iTunes) and one of the hosts was talking about their experience of doing stand-up comedy to open up for Don Burnstick.  Specifically he was relating how he felt it was “game time” once the spotlight shone in his eyes.  It got me thinking about one experience I had in high school – I think it would have been 15 years ago now.

I acted on stage in a one act play festival.  I honestly could not now remember what the name of the play was, but I do remember it was something about playing the father of the last fertile man on Earth (very Children of Men-ish).  Up until the point of when I decided to audition for a part, the only “acting” I had ever done would have been reading lines from a church Sunday School play, or performing speeches in elementary school.  I’d been on stage before playing music as part of a high school band – but never anything at this level.

I think I got involved because of the group of friends I surrounded myself with.  They were very much involved in the Drama department, and I think I was close to getting involved with one of the big productions in the school but backed out.  The One Act Play festival was much smaller and felt a little more approachable.

The audition process was probably the most difficult part for me.  I had to first find a monologue to deliver – something I’d never done – and then memorize it.  There were some minor lines or references in the monologue that apparently I could have had an audience member perform but I didn’t find that out until after.  I think it went alright though.  But it was hard also because I could see everyone in front of me and I knew every single one of them.  And I was being watched.  It was a bit nerve-wracking.

By contrast acting in the play was a lot easier.  Similar to the Raise the Bar host who experienced the “game on” feeling of having the spotlight shone on them, the bright lights on the stage blacked out the audience.  If I entered the stage before seeing the cafetorium (our school’s cafeteria doubled as an auditorium), I’d never know anyone was there.  But I also knew my lines, we all rehearsed everything and knew what to do.

I can definitely relate to those stage lights increasing that feeling of confidence.  I can’t remember the moments leading up to being on stage, but I’m pretty sure I was a little bit nervous.  I think I missed a line on one of the nights.  But I felt really good about the whole process.  It was a different feeling than playing in band – on those performances, everyone makes up one whole.  Acting in a play, everybody got a chance to get audience focus.

I don’t think I saw any reviews.  I have no idea how good or bad I might have been.  But it was an experience I probably will never have again.  I say “probably” because you never know – maybe one day I might find myself on a stage.  You can’t rule everything out.

But I’m glad to have had the experience, however short it was.

Restart

Flat restart iconEvery now and then I feel like I need to stop and take a break from constant food logging.  Usually it’s for a short period – a week, maybe a few days – and then I get back on track, and I either maintain my weight or gain 1 or two pounds.

Unfortunately I recently took an extended break from food logging.  My last full entry seems to be Friday February 9th – and even then, I’m not sure that it’s really complete.  It looks like the 8th was really the last complete day.  Since then I’ve maybe added one or two things, but for all intents & purposes, I’ve basically taken an entire month off.  And now I’m here to tell you that there are consequences:

On February 8th I weighed 262.3 pounds; as I write this (Monday March 5) my weight is 269.4 pounds.  An increase of 7.1 pounds.  I may not have done any tracking, but I know that not doing so allowed me to be irresponsible with my eating.  I worked from home a lot in that time period, and didn’t think twice about getting up and grabbing a snack.  I almost sank back into this behaviour this morning, in fact; I was about to grab some chips and poured them into a bowl without measuring the portion size.  I stopped and remembered that I should be logging everything and promptly measured out 50g.

What I realized in the process though is that when I’m not logging for an extended period of time, I’m a bit careless.  I don’t think too much about what I’m eating.  When I’m not logging for a day or two, I usually still measure things out and stick with proper portion sizes.  When left unchecked, I get lazy.

This past weekend I picked up a Samsung Gear S3 (Frontier edition, if you were that curious).  I already had the fitness aspects covered off with the FitBit Charge 2, but now I’ve added some productivity options as well.  I think the fitness features are just as robust an option as FitBit’s, just “different”.  Apparently connecting MyFitnessPal to my Gear S3 also gave me a year’s premium membership, for free.  So, I’m using this as a kicking-off point to restart my fitness journey.

I reset my goals in MyFitnessPal, to show losing 1 pound per week to start.  According to the new settings, I should lose 5 pounds by April 2nd.    As I go through this process I’m going to take notes on how the premium version of MFP works too, and probably will review that.  I have no idea if it’s something I need personally, but you never know.

Wish me luck!

Stealth update: Already down to 268.3.  I’m always amazed how quickly I can bounce back when I get back to proper logging.

Beware of the Green Check Mark in MyFitnessPal

I just found out about this recently – the green check mark next to food entries in MyFitnessPal does NOT mean that it’s a verified, “official” food.  I found this reddit post today very revelatory!

The green check mark on MFP does not mean it’s verified or guarantee the entries accuracy. from loseit

Click through on the link to read further details, but suffice it to say that the little green checkmarks don’t actually mean that it’s a “verified” entry.  It simply means that is has what MyFitnessPal calls “complete nutritional info”.

This was stunning for me, because all this time I thought that the green check mark indicated it was a “verified” food – that the information was correct and could be trusted.  Now, the post I linked above used some hyperbole (“100% wrong” is probably stretching the truth) but it does mean that there’s room for error.

Still, I think that entries with the check mark is as good as verified, because someone taking the time to enter complete data is probably entering mostly accurate data.  Just something to be aware of when wading through all of the food entries out there.

Wellness Update – Slow & Steady Wins the Race

I’ve got a ton of posts about media coming up, so I thought I’d break things up a little bit with something a bit more personal and leave a little bit of a fitness update.  So far, I’m doing fairly well.  My original title for this post was “fitness update” but I thought I would expand and talk about my overall ‘wellness’, in general.

Physical Health

December 2017 Weight Loss Chart
December 2017 Weight Loss Chart

The chart to the right is from December 2017; I’m honestly not sure if I shared this on the blog already, but it’s my blog, so too bad!  I’m sharing it now.  I finished December on a high note; my goal was to lose four pounds and while I didn’t get to that goal exactly, I did make some seriously great progress.  As I type this I do remember talking about this a while back so I won’t pound away too long on December, but suffice it to say – I have continued that progress through January, so far.

I started my number tracking on January 2nd, I think mainly because I might not have weight myself for a few days after December 31st.  Which is fine.  Anyway, I started the month at 261.2; with 4 weeks in the month for tracking I set a goal of losing 1 pound per week, or 257.2 by January 31st.  As of today (January 23rd), I’m sitting at 258.2!  So about a pound off my goal, with a week still to spare.  I’m really proud of that accomplishment.  I had some periods this past month with my weight going up, but that was in direct response to A) not tracking my meals, and B) there was one night when I had at least 5 beers, so to expect my weight to NOT go up is just silly.

Apart from weight, I’m also pretty satisfied with how I’m doing.  I’d like to be getting out to bootcamp (twice weekly) but I don’t feel terrible if I don’t go.  I’m still curling twice a week, and I don’t often drink while I’m there.  The club I’m at isn’t very big on the ‘buy for the losing team, then the losing team returns the favour’ that my old club was.  Actually, my team doesn’t seem to stick around after games anyway (they live a bit out of town so I understand).  So the side effect is I’m not drinking very much beer, which I find is usually the bigger obstacle when it comes to losing weight.

Oh, and also we just got a ton of snow in the last 24 hours – so I did some shoveling that I feel makes up for any missed gym time.

I’m trying to maximize my use of my FitBit Charge 2 (I’ve got a fun post about that coming up in February), and challenged myself to match Vanessa’s own goals on her Apple Watch.  It’s no longer about just meeting my daily step goal (though that is still a priority for me), but I turned on my “reminders to move”.  Every hour between 10am and 3pm FitBit wants me to get 250 steps.  If I haven’t reached my goal with ten minutes to go in the hour, it buzzes at me to remind me to move.  Still a work in progress.  Days when I work from home are harder to get 250 steps per hour, over 5 hours, than if I were to work in the office.

Mental Health

I don’t focus on this a lot – in general I feel like I am pretty healthy mentally.  At the same time, I feel like I shouldn’t ignore it, and when I think about it, a lot of things I do to in my day-to-day life fall under this category of ensuring I stay mentally fit. All of this is over and above simply talking with my wife, which does wonders on its own.

The thing I do most often is listen to Podcasts.  And I listen to a lot of podcasts.  My work environment right now is somewhat isolated, especially when I work from home (I try to work in the office as much as I can, but weather often dictates this reality).  Having podcasts to listen to and interact with provides a sense of community helps keep my mind working, while I’m working.  Also fun to listen to while in the car on the hour-long commute.

One podcast I’ve just started listening to is one that started up local to me – it’s a couple of guys from Manitoulin Island that have a show called “Raise The Bar“.  It’s essentially an outlet for them to share their own weight loss journey but they also talk about other things in their life.  I haven’t reached out to them yet, but I’m thinking about it.  What I find interesting is that their podcast style is quite close to another one I listen to – The Benchcast.  I am thinking that they base their show off the same influences (I think both are a fan of Joe Rogan’s show…maybe I should check it out as well).

I also try to read as much as I can.  I posted my reading list earlier this month – I’m slowly making my way through it.  I’m trying to set daily targets and make sure I reach them, but so far it’s not going like I wanted.  There are so many other easier distractions out there that make it hard to choose reading.  I used to be a voracious reader, and I still have the ability to tear through a book in a matter of days…depending on the book.  I’m still working on this one – I think I’m probably going to be marking January as a “fail” in terms of how much reading I’ve done, but I’m not quitting on it and I plan on improving this in February.

I maintain a daily journal (specifically, I use the “Bullet Journal” method) too.  Mostly, its purpose is to make sure I don’t forget anything and it’s mainly a to-do list.  But I also write down stray observations, other notes etc. of what happened during a day.  I find it more useful than dumping things into an electronic database.

Overall

I thought maybe I’d have more categories to write in, but I guess those are the two major categories.  I think I’m doing great overall.  I could be doing better, but so could everyone; no one is perfect 100% of the time.  I know what I’d like to focus on to be better, so I’m not going to worry too much about what’s already working.  It’s still important to me to recognize what I’m doing right, so that stuff doesn’t start to slide.

Any suggestions on finding time to read?  What do you do to carve out reading time?

Plans, plans, more plans!

OK, so it’s been a week since I wrote publicly that I wanted to get back into writing on this blog (writing in general, really) and yet, this is the first time I’m writing.  If I was serious about it, wouldn’t I have written some posts by now?  Maybe some actual content, instead of posts about posts, like this one?

Don’t answer any of those questions, they’re rhetorical.  Yeah, I’ve dropped the ball already.  Thank goodness those weren’t resolutions, I dodged a bullet there.  I just came in from a walk with my puppy and as I did it without headphones lodged in my ears, I had the opportunity to do some thinking and some planning.  Naturally when I’m walking and without anything to write with is when I do the most thinking.

My pledge as I write this is to work on getting at least 6 weeks’ worth of blog posts written (or at the very least, mostly written).  Next, I’m going to turn Facebook sharing on, finally; I want people to read this, and the most views I’ve seen have come from when I shared a post or two on Facebook.

There are some reasons why I haven’t shared with Facebook up to now.  One is that I am I guess shy about sharing my work with people I know (which is stupid, since I’m perfectly fine sharing with strangers).  The other is that I feel like I’d be spamming my friends feed.  Also a stupid reason, since I barely post at all.  Sharing an extra 1-2 links every week isn’t going to hurt anything.

I am at least hoping that having more people read it on a regular basis will motivate me to keep searching for more things to write about and share.  Wish me luck!

2018: The Year to Come

Accompanying music: The Band: Greatest Hits

Of all the ways you could describe 2017, the best and most accurate way would be to say that it was a year on Earth.  I think that many other people seem to have been mostly negatively affected during the course of 2017, but for me it wasn’t anything special; nothing terrible, nothing overly fantastic either.  It was a year.

I expect much of the same for 2018, to be honest.  So that’s why I want to do something different.  Unfortunately my plan so far doesn’t extend much further than that.  I have a list of things I want to do, things to try, but beyond that I don’t have anything too specific that I want to work on.

I’ve had serious thoughts of stopping both this and my music blog; however I think I’m going to keep going.  It turns out that I enjoy the outlet for writing, even if some days (or weeks) it feels like I have nothing worthwhile to provide to the Internet.

It definitely helps to know if someone out there is reading, so please reach out and say hello.  If your comments mistakenly get flagged as spam let me know!  Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between real comments and spam comments.  I tend to trust WordPress when it tells me something is spam.

Anyway, my primary goal for 2018 is unchanging: managing my weight.  That part I’ve got down pretty well so far; in December my goal was to go from 264.8 to 260.8; my final weigh-in was 262.10, and I averaged 261.2 over 31 days.  So overall I’m pretty happy!

My goal is to drop another 2-4 pounds this month so I am fairly certain I’ll end the month under 260.

Beyond that, I will make an effort to write some more.  Some of my writing won’t be making it onto the blog, but that’s OK.  I’m tracking a few things here and there on my own, so it’s not necessary to show the Internet that “YES, SEE, I DID WRITE TODAY!”.

On a completely unrelated note, I decided on a whim this afternoon to listen to The Band’s Greatest Hits; I haven’t listened to their stuff in a long time.  If you haven’t ever listened to The Band before, or like me it’s been a while, do yourself a favour and listen.

The War Against CICO

The War Against CICO
The War Against CICO

There are a lot of articles lately in the fitness world about the “phenomenon” known as CICO.  CICO stands for “Calories In-Calories Out”, and generally it refers to the simple fact that to lose weight, you must burn more calories (“Out”) than you consume (“In”).  I think it was shortened to CICO because it’s just an easier way to remember the term, and it is kind of catchy.

I don’t want to give these articles more views; but just do a quick search online of “why cico doesn’t work” and you’ll get a bunch of hits.  I haven’t given a lot of time to these to read them in detail, but many of the articles suggest that CICO is a fad diet that won’t work for sustainable weight loss.

They use a strawman argument to suggest that proponents of CICO think you can eat all the junk food in the world and lose weight.  Technically, this is true!  If you eat all your calories in junk food, but you burn more than you eat, you WILL lose weight.

The problem with these articles is that they focus on the junk food aspect.  They harp on this over and over, telling you that not only do you need to eat “healthy” (which in itself is a very vague term that’s not helpful at all), but you need to include an exercise regimen in your weight loss plan.

What they overlook is that using the “junk food diet” part of CICO is a means to an end.  The /r/loseit subreddit doesn’t advocate eating whatever you want, whenever you want, all the time.  What they suggest instead is to start this way – don’t change what you’re eating, but change how much of it that you’re eating.

As you start logging your calories and seeing how much your regular food costs you in a day, you begin to learn about other foods that are more calorie-dense and leave you feeling full.  In effect, following the CICO principle teaches you to eat healthier.

In short, you need to learn about how weight / fat loss works (CICO is the mechanism of fat loss) in order to learn how to eat better.

It’s important that you remember most of these websites and articles waging war on CICO are in the business of selling a product to you; whether that’s a weight loss tips newsletter subscription, or diet pills, or a weight loss plan – they have some sort of service that they are trying to push.

Technically speaking, CICO is not a threat to their well-being – but they perceive it to be.  They probably sell some worthwhile information (and when you read the articles, they all circle back to the fact that if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose fat), so being armed with knowledge is not a bad thing.

But their perception is that if people knew the basics of weight loss, no one will buy their services.  So, they attack the principle of CICO framing it as a weight loss fad that doesn’t work.

Keep this in mind when you’re reading conflicting information out there.

Bullet Journal

Preparing my Bullet Journal for December
Preparing my Bullet Journal for December

Pictured above is the set up I used to set up my monthly pages for December 2017 in my Bullet Journal. If you’re not familiar with the concept of Bullet Journals, you probably haven’t been to the notebook section of your local book store chain recently; in that case, have a look at the “official” website for this popular system. I’ll wait for you to come back.

The System in a Nutshell

Up to speed? In case you didn’t read it, the short version is that the Bullet Journal is an analog system designed to allow for rapid logging and tracking of virtually anything you want. It was developed by Ryder Carroll but since its inception has taken on a life of its own.

The great thing about Bullet Journal is its flexibility.  You can essentially use any notebook you like – and any size you like – to make the system work for you.  The pieces in between the pages can be flexible as well, using what works for you from the main system and ditching what doesn’t.  

For some people this is a point of contention and has led to people slapping the “bullet journal” label on any hand-written notebook / journal, straying from the “pure” Bullet Journal experience.

I understand where they’re coming from, but really…if it works for you, don’t listen to the naysayers.

How it works for me

I use a pretty loose implementation of the “OG” system.  I have a monthly layout where I put all important things for the month, and then from there I write things daily and use the space as needed.  Lately I’ve been adding more “thoughts” (probably what you’d call rapid logging) under each day.

Ultimately what this is REALLY doing for me is feeding my addiction to buying pens and notebooks.  I haven’t found the perfect notebook yet, and there’s no such thing as a perfect pen.  They’re all great.  I just can’t use them all at once.

But I find that it does keep me better organized.  When I write things down, I tend to remember them better.  I know that if I don’t put an item on a ‘to do’ list for the day, it sometimes doesn’t get done.  So writing things down makes it easier to commit to memory.

Closing

Other than that, I also appreciate that it gives me time to sit and figure out things I need to do, things I’ve accomplished, and so forth.  It’s a great tool for that, as one of the notions of the “BuJo” system is to review each month and each year.

I’ve started tracking some daily habits I want to do, and got really excited when I hit 5/5 for the first time (I’ve got max 4/5 all month so far), and I think if I wasn’t deliberately tracking these habits I might not have even taken notice of it.

So check it out – pull out a cheap dollar store notebook and give it a try.  It’s fun!

A bit of progress

When I last wrote about my weight loss goals, I was trying something new: “flexing” my calories for the week, in an attempt to give myself fewer calories during the week and more on the weekend.  Well, that didn’t work out exactly as planned.

I’ve reverted to just focusing on my daily number.  The short reason is that it was a pain in the butt to manually track everything.  Actually, that’s also the long reason.  Anyway, the point I’m making now is that going back to basics and tracking my daily numbers still works.  And since I’m making sure I am active every day, I’m not at all worried about going over my daily goal a little bit.

But enough writing – how about some friendly charts?

Libra Scale Data October-November 2017
Libra Scale Data October-November 2017
FitBit 28-Day Step Average
FitBit 28-Day Step Average
Net Calories - 30 Days
Net Calories – 30 Days

I’ll quickly walk you through what you’re looking at here.  In the first chart, that’s my scale results since October 27th.  I think what it’s saying is that I’m currently on track with my goal weight, but I have some work to do.

The second chart are my FitBit steps for the past 28 days.  That’s how I’m staying active.  Most weeks I reach my step goal (10,205 currently – I may need to alter it) almost every day.  This is helping to make sure my NET calories are a reasonable difference from my daily goal.  I try my best not to eat back anything.

And the third chart are my net calories.  You can see there are some missing days, as well as some really low ones.  I missed a couple of entries, and not all of them are complete.  But with the exception of one day there – I’m well below 2000 net calories.

So things are going well.  I could be doing better, but I could easily be doing a lot worse.  It’s a lot easier to ADD pounds than it is to lose them.

Make it Okay

I was turned onto the podcast “The Hilarious World of Depression” (Apple Podcasts, apm podcasts) when Wil Wheaton announced he was going to be a guest on the show – back on September 24th.  I wasn’t really interested in the “depression” side of things – mostly I am a big fan of Wil Wheaton and like to hear him speak.

To be brutally honest, the interview wasn’t all that special for me.  I’ve heard and read Wheaton’s thoughts on depression and what he deals with on a day-to-day basis – that wasn’t new.  But I thought I’d give the show a chance, because the host (John Moe) is charismatic and despite hearing some familiar stories, the conversation was frank, honest, and true to the name of the show, funny.

I’ve been listening constantly since then – Margaret Cho, Neal Brennan, and John Green – and hearing about new people I’d never heard before and hearing about their struggles with depression.  I think it’s important to note that despite coming from different backgrounds, their stories are all strikingly similar in terms of how depression affects them and how they cope with it.

I say that it’s important to note this because I think a lot of people suffering from depression feel that they are alone.  I don’t know this for a fact, but that seems to be a common thread in all of the stories I read and hear about depression (and surprise, it’s a common thread in THWOD [excellent acronym for a show, by the way]).

It’s also important to note that it got me thinking about myself.  Am I experiencing symptoms of depression?  Am I depressed?  A cursory self-diagnosis says no; but it’s not something I’ve really thought about addressing before.  In high school, I think I remember feeling like I was depressed.  I don’t think I really was, but with less than 18 years of life experience it can be hard to tell.

The last thing that I want to do with this post is play down the seriousness of depression.  We’ve all seen the cause gaining traction in media – I even wrote about the coverage this past year.  What I’m trying to do is highlight the fact that it’s important to accept that depression affects a lot of people – often people whom you don’t expect.  It’s a silent illness that is hard to diagnose and treat.

I’m glad that I don’t feel like I’m suffering from any form of depression.  But I know some people aren’t so lucky.  I’m also glad to know about this website through THWOD: Makeitok.org.

I haven’t fully taken the time to look through the website, but it looks like a very comprehensive place full of lots of knowledge about mental illness.  I think it’s worth combing through, whether you feel like you need to for yourself, or to find out how to better talk about it with other people who might need help.

Thanks for reading.