Spreadsheets and Weight Loss

This is going to be really out of date by the time I actually post this, but I really couldn’t wait. My weight loss has stalled of late, and the biggest reason is my lack of discipline in logging. Not surprised there. I’ve been trying and trying to re-focus and get going on this week after week, but I keep dropping the ball.

Weight Loss Spreadsheet
Weight Loss Spreadsheet – The Basics

So today (editor’s note – April 25th), I drew up a new spreadsheet. It’s basic, so I’m hoping that will help me keep motivated to fill it out – and properly, at that. This means that I need to have mostly accurate data from MyFitnessPal to get any use from the numbers.

I hope to see some great numbers at the end of the month.

What I hope to get out of this exercise is to see if my logging is accurate. My goal is to lose 1.5 pounds / week, which means I need to have a calorie deficit of 750 per day (based on 500 calories per day = 1 pound of fat). If I’m logging correctly – and my smart watch is giving me accurate results – I should see it accurately reflected in the final totals at the bottom.

The reason I’m tracking MyFitnessPal (“MFP”) totals vs regular totals is because the numbers for MFP are slightly different than when I use a TDEE calculator. The difference is only 100 calories or so, but this is becoming my “control” month to see whether or not I should stick closer to my TDEE or if MFP is close enough. When I get to the end of May I’ll have a look at the results and make some decisions.

Other notes about the spreadsheet – I need to make sure to re-adjust the BMR & TDEE numbers every 10 pounds. I don’t anticipate that happening this month, as long as I stick to 1.5 pounds per week. As I intend to keep this spreadsheet going, however, it’s a good reminder to keep in the back of my head.

The waiting game starts.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Health Notes + Quick Dailyio Review

I’ve not seen very much progress in the weight loss department over the last 90 days.  My numbers have pretty much fluctuated up and down, meaning I’m more or less maintaining my weight rather than losing.  That’s fine, it’s definitely better than gaining.  

I know the reason for this too – I’ve not been properly tracking my calorie intake via MyFitnessPal.  It’s been a combination of a number of things – either I skip days entirely, or I only enter a portion of my diary, or I don’t record “treats” – the bottom line is that I’m not keeping track of what I’m eating, so I’m not holding myself accountable to the weight loss.  

In looking at my numbers, I think part of the reason for this is because I set my daily food goal too low.  It looks like I based it on losing 2 pounds a week – which is pretty aggressive, but it meant that daily I was only allowed 1690 calories.  That’s really low.  I asked some questions yesterday about what I was doing, and the person responding felt my calorie deficit was really high.  That’s when I looked at my numbers and agreed with them.  Helps to get outside perspective every now and then.  So I’ve done a reset, based my numbers on my TDEE – 500 per day (so the goal is: 1 lb per week).  

We’ll see how this goes.  I’ve also decided not to focus too much on the exercise front; I will be going to the gym, going for walks, playing some sports, etc.  But I feel that I’m putting too much emphasis on getting my daily steps in and I’m not getting as much reading done as I’d like to.  

Edit: My overall goal too is to help me feel more comfortable with the clothes I’ve bought.  I liked them in the store, but when I go to put them on at home for work, I don’t like the way they look.  So there’s a confidence thing going on too.

Daylio

I’ve recently started using the Daylio app.  I’m…not at all sure how they came up with that name, but it serves a specific purpose that I was looking for.  Namely, to track how I’m feeling.  Mostly I wanted to do this for days when I feel “down”, to try and figure out the reason behind feeling that way.  

I wanted something simple, quick, and give me the option to look back on it later to track trends.  I stumbled upon Daylio quite by accident, because I was originally thinking of tracking this kind of thing in my bullet journal.  I saw someone recommend Daylio and it turned out to be exactly what I needed.  

I stuck with the free version for a while, but they ended up having a 50% off sale – so I jumped on it and bought the paid version of the app.  To be honest, I think most people will be fine with the free version – I probably would still be using it for free had there not been a flash sale.  

But the app is pretty basic.  You open it up, add an entry (which is done by clicking on an overall mood and associating with an activity), and that’s it.  You can type notes if you want to, but it’s completely optional.  The simplicity of the app is what makes it great.  I believe the paid version opens it up to add more “moods”.

Overall it’s only something I recommend if you need a quick tracking app.  It’s not an in-depth thing that has a lot of utility.  I would say that if you need help with mental health in a serious capacity, this is not a solution.

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.

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?

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.