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!

Update on 2017 Goals

Back in January, I set some goals for 2017 and thought that since we’re now three months into the year (and my birthday is this weekend), I should leave a little bit of a progress update. I didn’t intend to do this until April, but like I said – my birthday is this weekend so it felt like a good time to give the year a quick assessment.

Remain Organized

This is going pretty well, I think. At this point I’m not really worried about my level of organization – I just did a little bit of a purge of my work space at home, and my journal is updated mostly every day (weekends tend to be the exception, which I’m perfectly fine with). The fact that I’m concerned with making my journal look nice as opposed to keeping up to date with it tells me I’m fine here.

Be a positive example

This is probably going to be the toughest one to judge progress. I think I’m doing okay here. I haven’t done a lot of venting anywhere.

Lose the weight.

It’s going, and that’s about all I can say about it right now. I’ve written more about it recently though.

Learn more about driving social media engagement

Right now this is taking the form of figuring out “how to blog”, sort of. One step has been to buy a domain name.

Write more.

Middle grade on this one. Technically I am writing pretty frequently on the blog, but not feeling as productive as I feel I should be. Objectively though, I’m doing great.

Read more.

As overall progress goes, this is fine; however I’m still stuck on a book that I should be finished by now. I just haven’t been making much time for reading novels, but if you want to talk comic books I’m your guy!

In conclusion…

I think I’m plodding along quite well with my goals for the year. I’ve picked some pretty tough ones to assess, which means I think I should do a formal draft of the goals + measure of success for these. I’ll do that in April, when I originally intended to do a follow-up post.

“That is why you fail.”

I was recently introduced to MyFitnessPal’s Calorie Intake Report as a means for tracking progress with my weight goals.  I already subscribe to the notion of CICO – Calories In, Calories Out – but have had middling success implementing it in day-to-day life.  I understand how it works and everything, but my weight is fluctuating up and down constantly (which is expected, since I’ve been less than disciplined with my eating habits since Christmas/New Year’s).

weight-chart-90-days
My weight over the past 90 days. 

Looking at my weight over a 90 day period, I’ve mostly made progress that I’m happy with.  It’s the up and down business of the last month and a half that I could do better with.  For a solid two months from November to December, I was hitting all of my goals every week.  Since then, I’ve not had the best results.

So I looked up my own Calories Consumed report.  Immediately, I can see why I was set up to fail by my own habits.

calories-consumed-90-days
Calories Consumed over 90 days. Blue = my calories, red = goal.

The red line isn’t the most accurate – as my goal hasn’t been the same over 90 days; it’s actually gone down quite a bit, so some of the “high” days are probably closer to their target than they appear.

Still, I can clearly see where I faltered.  Yes, there are some days there that are showing way under my calorie goal, but I’ll be the first to admit that there are many days where I under-reported my calories.  A common theme for those days – and I know this is true – I often overate or was too lazy to figure out how many calories I ate.  I have a streak of 376 days – most are legitimate log entries, but I probably shouldn’t have such a long streak going.

In fact, I was going to let that streak die today.  I was sitting eating my lunch, leftover from dinner out last night, and hadn’t yet entered anything for breakfast, or my daily weight check-in.  I was mentally prepared to take a “skip” day, and let the streak die.  Take the weekend off.  I know MFP would probably send me a notification, gently reminding me that if I don’t login before midnight, my streak will end!

I was okay with that.  Ready to start a new streak, or at the very least get into a new rhythm.

But then I read that reddit thread above in /r/loseit (which is a fantastic resource, by the way!).  Consciously I know that my weight fluctuates constantly, and I’m not hung up on the day-to-day number – I just keep it because I’m tracking my numbers independently of MFP, so I don’t need to pay to extract my own data.  But looking at my progress this way aligns more with what I’m trying to accomplish with my weight loss efforts.

fu0mna2
My weight loss chart, from my Bullet Journal.

I’m trying to keep to a weekly calorie goal; this is easy in theory, but MyFitnessPal forces you to track daily.  I think keeping tabs on the calorie intake report (which I can pull for 7 days), and adding a column to my chart to include how many calories I’ve had vs my goal, will help me better manage my CICO efforts.

I’m going to wait until Monday to put this practice in full force, because I want to have 7 days’ worth of uninterrupted data to match with my tracking dates.  But I’m going to modify my weight loss chart as of February 27th – as I’ve already written it out until the 26th.  I don’t like scrapping perfectly usable tables.

Working toward a healthier life is a complete lifestyle change, and it’s hard.  It’s well worth examining what’s working and what’s not working, and constantly changing for the better.  For me, what works best is to analyze things as soon as I start to hit a plateau or steadily climb the opposite direction on the scale without fluctuating up and down.

I don’t think I will ever stop monitoring what I’m doing.  I hope one day I will be a little more relaxed about it, but I know that not being careful at all was what piled on the weight in the first place.  It’s all a matter of finding the right balance, in the end.

A Tale of Three Brewers

Last week I was working out of Barrie, ON while my wife was completing some training. Naturally, I decided to check out the craft brewery scene while I was there. There are three of them in Barrie: Flying Monkeys, Redline, and Barnstormer Brewing. Here’s a mini review of each spot.  Note that I didn’t spend a ton of time in each place – so my reviews are based on first impressions.

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Redline Brewhouse

Redline Brewhouse
A newer brewery, this one is family owned and operated and launched in mid-2015.  When I first stepped in, I was impressed by the atmosphere – very large and spacious, with cool decor on the walls (barrels, what have you).  The theme of this one in basic terms is cars – all of their beer is named after cars in some form, and their logo is a gear shifter.  Redline’s focus seems to be on the brewhouse part – when you walk in, while there is a large store for you to buy from, I think the restaurant makes them the most money.  I didn’t get the warmest of welcomes when I went in to buy beer, but still was pleasantly surprised by their 6 offerings.  I haven’t tried them all yet, but they’ve got a variety of styles and definitely worth checking out.

Barnstormer Brewing Company
Barnstormer Brewing Company

Barnstormer Brewing Company
I felt Barnstormer had a bit more of a brewery vibe than Redline.  The focus was still on the restaurant here, but their store front is – well, front and centre when you walk in.  They have a large variety of beers, including many seasonals.  I picked up 4 cans, but haven’t tried them yet.  The staff there was helpful in answering some of my questions about their beer.  I’m looking forward in particular to trying their Cirrus Saison beer. Their theme seems to be aerial in nature.

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Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery

Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery
These guys are fun.  A much smaller location compared to Redline or Barnstormer, they’re in a downtown area not far from the waterfront.  As soon as I walked in, I was greeted and asked if I’d been there before.  The server was really helpful with answering my beer questions, and I ended up choosing a couple of multi-brewery collaborations.  They have so much more to choose from though, but probably worth another trip another time.

In summary, Barrie is about 3 and a half hours away from where I live, otherwise I would have picked one brewery and spent more time there.  As it is, I think I’d make a special trip to see Flying Monkeys – but I’d just look for the other two at the LCBO.