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.

Another Weight Loss Angle

Weight Scale - courtesy pixabay
Weight Scale

I wasn’t sure what to write about today, so I thought I’d go with a popular topic in my grab bag – weight loss.  It’s something I struggle with every day, and likely will until I reach my goal (which is a healthy BMI, generally).

I think I got to my lowest and visually best weight three years ago, when I got down to the 240’s for a friend’s wedding.  Actually, looking at my old spreadsheets, it looks like I was in the 230’s (at least according to whatever scale I was using) in 2015.

But now I’m in the 260’s, hovering in that range for quite a while.  That’s not to say I haven’t made progress though!  I ballooned up to the 270’s and in the past year and a half made good progress to come back down to where I am now.  The thing is, it’s slow progress, and I’m not seeing the results I’d like (I can tell that two years ago, I was a lot thinner looking in the face, for example).

And I’ve tried several things.  Most recently I tried looking at my calorie count weekly.  Since MyFitnessPal makes this somewhat difficult, I made myself crazy trying to get Tasker & FitBit to give me daily notifications; once I got it working it was great.  But I found that I wasn’t really paying much notice to it.

So I took a break; I’m back at tracking my calories now.  I saw a post on reddit.com/r/loseit that suggested a hybrid of calorie tracking – use a higher daily limit on the weekends than the weekdays.  Essentially it’s the same as tracking weekly, but I know that I only have so many calories to use during the week.  I haven’t been 100% successful in implementing this yet, mostly because I haven’t figured out how many calories I want to restrict myself to on weekdays.

But the other thing that I thought of on my own was to use MFP’s great “Quick Add Calories” tool to my advantage.  I figure that I should be tracking daily – it’s the best way to keep myself accountable.  And I recognize that sometimes, I do go over my goal, and that’s OK.  What I need to do in order to counter this is to make sure I don’t keep going over my goal every day.

To that end, I’m trying something new this week: adding the calories I overeat back to my log the next day as a “Quick Add” entry.  So Tuesday I went over by 72 calories, and I added it to m Wednesday totals.  Wednesday, I went over by 392 (320 + 72).  Oops.  OK, so I’ll add 392 to today (Thursday).  My goal today is 1568, effectively.

I’m also trying not to eat back exercise calories.  I’m hoping that this works to my advantage, because it also means despite going over my calorie goals, I technically still had room left to eat more.  We’ll see how it works!  I hope I’m explaining myself clearly enough too, by the way.

So far, so good though – I started the week at 265.9, and weighed in this morning at 263.7!  I’m doing a daily weigh-in and taking the weekly average though, because weight can fluctuate so much.  Still, I take this as a success.

My Dog is Leash Reactive

You’ll remember at the beginning of September, we adopted Bailey.  I keep calling her a 12-month old puppy, though now I think it’s fair to say she’s 13 months.  So far, we’ve had many ups and downs with her; training is proving to be quite difficult sometimes.  With some other things though, we are seeing a lot of positive progression, and I think it’s fair to say there’s more “ups” than downs.

Bailey playing after being alone all night
Bailey playing after being alone all night

I think one of the biggest problems we are having right now is her general re-activeness toward…everything.  Particularly when she’s on a leash, Bailey is very aggressive toward other dogs.  I did some basic research and the general consensus in most cases is that she feels extra threatened by the other dogs (and sometimes, people) while she’s on a leash, because she’s restrained.  So she growls, barks, does whatever she can to keep the other dog away.  Since in her mind it works, she keeps doing it.

I found a 3-step guide that I think will work.  The trouble is that Bailey seems to have Superman-quality vision, and it’s hard to practice this stuff in a planned manner.  She just needs work.  Luckily, beyond this 3-step guide, there seem to be plenty of other resources online for leash-reactive behaviour.

Unfortunately there’s not so much information about when your dog gets mad at other cars, inside the car.  I think the reason behind it is similar to why she gets mad on the leash; she feels threatened by the oncoming cars, which is then made worse by the fact that she feels restrained being in the vehicle.  We wouldn’t care so much, except that she takes to biting at the window and vinyl in the car.  Oops.

Our solution to this for now is a restraint that buckles into the seat belt and hooks onto her harness.  She can still move around, but ultimately I’d like for her to not get crazy mad at oncoming vehicles.  Our priority would be the leash training though – it’s slightly embarrassing when she lunges at other dogs or people and makes us look like we don’t know how to train our dog.  That is definitely something I want to avoid.

Bailey enjoying the sun.
Bailey enjoying the sun.

Long Journey

I was going to post something about a Batman comic I found in my collection the other day (it’s pretty great, ironically).  But I haven’t gotten to writing that up yet.

Instead I’ve been thinking about my weight loss progress a lot lately.  I haven’t really made any progress, at least not on the scale.  I haven’t taken any measurements lately, but I will be doing that at the end of the month.  I’ve been hovering around the same weight for the last month or so, again according to the scale.

The only thing is that I have no other data to back up what I’m doing.  I still log my weight every day in MyFitnessPal, even when I don’t weight myself.  I think I decided to do this because I’ve got a Google Spreadsheet updating automatically every day with my weight, so not having an entry every day creates gaps.  It’s all about the data!

But I haven’t been logging any food in MFP.  As far as I can see, the last date I entered my food for a full day was Wednesday June 28th.  Woops.  I go through this kind of cycle every now and then – I enter my food rigorously for a short period, and then I get tired of doing it.  Either because I’m not seeing any results, or else it’s too difficult to be accurate with my entries.

It’s fine to take a break – weight loss is a hard, long journey.  At some point I feel like you need to give yourself a break.  Don’t go hog wild and reverse your progress – just take it easy with the careful logging of everything.  I feel like my eating habits are ingrained enough that I’m able to keep my calories in mostly maintenance mode, and I know that I’ve been active enough to offset anything extra.

Is that something normal people do though?  Maybe I’m doing it wrong.  Maybe that’s why I’m having such a tough time since my successes 3-4 years ago.

Well, for the umpteenth time I’m going to start everything over August 1st.  And I mean everything.  Today, I’m going to stop my automatic weight loss logging (which if you’re curious, is being done via a combination of IFTTT / FitBit / Google Drive).  I’m going to let my 100-day MFP streak die, and only let it continue if I truly make an entry.

On July 31st, I’m going to get a new starting weight and measurements.  Beyond that I haven’t set any goals.  That’s something I need to think about.

2017 Goal Update

I’m not sure if this is a post people are looking forward to, but it’s something I need to do for myself.  This is a continuation of my first post back in January about my goals for 2017, which I followed up back in March for lack of better things to write about.  At this moment, I’m going to put my foot down and not come back to my goals until the end of the year.

Remain Organized

This feels like cheating to keep this on at this point, but I’m going to officially keep it on my list of goals for the year.  So far, so good.  I’m on page 43 of my Leuchtturm 1917 notebook and have over 200 to fill up.  I’m remembering to write things down as necessary.  Playing around with different ways of tracking things.  Things are going great!

Let me throw a wrinkle into this right now then.  I’m going to modify this goal to include details for this blog and my podcast hobby.  The blog is pretty well-organized, but the podcast is in shambles by comparison.

Be a positive Example

I’m doing well with this one.  I don’t think I’ve posted anything negative online anywhere, and if I have, it’s been constructive criticism.

Learn more about driving social media engagement

I’m learning, slowly.  One of the things I’m starting to get a hang of – finally – is the “Yoast SEO” plugin I use for this blog.  It helps me optimize my posts on the blog so that it can be found more easily by search engines.  I’m including that here in this category.

Write more

I give myself a passing grade on this, but just barely.  I’m writing consistently for the blog, I’ll grant that; but I don’t really feel like I’m doing anything…worthy.  That’s the best way I can think of to describe it.  In the back of my head, I keep thinking that I want to write some fiction but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Read more

This is the one place I’ve noticed a marked improvement.  I finally finished a book I was stuck on (The Mechcanical) and moved on to something else.  I’m making good progress with the book and hope to move on to a few other things.  If you include comic books/graphic novels, I’ve gotten through 7 this year.

Conclusion

To give myself a fair grade, I think C+ encompasses what I’ve done in the first 4 months of the year so far.  OK, let’s move on from self-reflection.

On Thursday: my monthly podcast update.  I’ve got a brief review of the latest hit show, S Town!