Current Happenings

Plains & Pastures Bike Tour (2013)

I'm so proud to live here! Fredericton folks are just AMAZING!!!  Thank you one and all!!  My team raised over $2000.  The support was humbling.  What a great place to be!!!

Mind you, the journey isn't about me - it's about people who fight this horrible disease on a daily basis.  If you're reading this now, I hope you'll come back and sponsor me in the ride next time. 


Bike for Breath

Many thanks to everyone and their generosity.  The amazing people in my life supported me to the tune of $377.  Some days it is just great to be here!   (Fall 2012)


Entries in Data (13)


Fitbit woes

Ordinarily I sing the praises of a handy dandy little doodad called a "Fitbit".  If you want a simple definition, a Fitbit is a really fancy step counter.  The long drawn out version is that is has all kinds of little gyro motion detector sensors and it can guesstimate your number of steps, changes in elevation (e.g. climbing stairs), and your sleep patterns of movement & rest.  For certifiable data geeks, the Fitbit is the cat's meow.

I make daily use of my Fitbit to not only track my steps and sleep, but also to log activities like swimming and add that to my workout diary.  All was quite fine in Camelot, until I really started looking at what it was doing while biking.  Due to all the vibration of the bike on the trail, the fitbit interprets that as if I was running and adds literally thousands of steps to the daily guesstimate. 

It would be ok if they were calibrated to the equivalent work of biking, but that's really expecting too much of a tiny little piece of electronics.  In short, this is a problem.  How big of a problem?  Pretty big actually.

Let's look at the stats for one of the days biking in Plains & Pastures.  There was a little bit of walking around from the dorm to breakfast & to the bike storage: 10 minutes tops.  There was another flurry of activity at the end of the ride putting the bikes on the van, having a lunch, getting changed, etc.  Then I sat behind the wheel and drove for 2 hours home.  Another 15 minute flurry to unload the van, make a cup of tea, and go to bed.  If there was more than 2500 steps I'll eat my shirt.  Fitbit thinks I walked over 14 kms and nearly 20,000 steps.

As it turns out you can't stop the Fitbit from making theses erroneous calculations if you want to keep it on your person while you get from point A to point B.  A helpful hint from their helpdesk was to simply not wear the thing while biking.  Hmmmm I think........ Did you read my question?  I ride my bike to work in the am and ride my bike home in the pm.  NOT taking it on the bike means NOT wearing it for my 8 hours of working day either.  That's sort of counter-productive don't ya think???

A different technical type on the helpdesk suggested that I log "automobile or light truck driving" for the exact times of the bike ride, and it would over-ride the steps of the bike-ride.  Then I would log the bike riding and it would show up properly.  Are you kidding me?  Uh no apparently not. 

So to make sure there is matching timestamps on the entries I have to use the stopwatch mode from the start to finish of the bikeride.  Then I override that with the truck driving.  Then I log the biking.  Sigh.  

The kind souls of the helpdesk have passed on my comments to their design team.  They even thanked me for them!  LOL.  Poor sods.  They earned their keep that day!!!  Let's wait and see shall we?


Keep on keepin' on........

Einstein is often quoted in the weight loss world: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results."  While that's true, I find it rarely FITS in the weight loss universe because so few people TRACK what they’re doing and could repeat something if they tried.  

Over the past two months, specifically between March 21st and May 19th I lost a grand total of ONE lousy pound.  ONE!!  That utterly sucks.  I’ve been losing a pound every week for two years.  One measly pound in two months when I haven’t changed anything?  Surely I must be on a plateau??  Actually, NO.  

The calorie tracking, futile and unreliable as it might be, would have you believe that I should still have been losing.  I was in a caloric deficit throughout the time period.  The difference for me was sleep and stress.  Especially the sleep in terms of quantity and quality.

But the story doesn’t stop there.  I’ve got a long ways to go yet.  I have now finally reached the point where I left off in the winter.  OK.  We’re starting fresh.

Then I took some measurements.  In between the two months and that measly pound, there was a significant difference in body shape.  Now I just assumed that my bathing suit was stretching from the pool chlorine, well actually it was, but it turns out that wasn’t the whole story either.  I have also lost 3/4 inch off my waist, 1&1/4 inch off my hips and 1/2 inch off each thigh.  

So, the moral of the story according to me, if you don’t have a realistic and varied data set on yourself, you have absolutely no way of knowing if you’re on a plateau or not.  The scales are certainly not the ONLY measurement.  I can tell that my pants are fitting differently but since the fashion parade is pretty low on my priority list, it wasn’t something I was tracking.  I mean really, pants are pants.  I figure I’m doing good to pay attention whether or not they’re clean.  Anything else is not worth burning up brain cells.  

SO, any fancy guru trainer who tells you that you’re on a plateau after a paltry little two weeks had better be taking a boatload of different measurements to prove it.  Otherwise?  I call “BS”.  In defiance of anybody quoting Einstein, I just keep on keepin’ on with the same thing: eat, swim, rest, repeat.  Insanity is a completely different problem!


Staring at the abyss...... 

It is so easy to slip up.  If you've never lost control then you won't understand.  If you're one of those lucky bastards that won the genetic lottery you won't understand.  It is frighteningly easy.

Stress plays nasty games on your whole body.  The mindfulness class is like a breath of fresh air in the middle of a hurricane.  A start.  It takes discipline to carry it through to living practice.

Discipline.  Sigh.  It takes discipline all the way around.

On the exercize front I've not slipped up too badly.  What with all the things going on I've not made it into the weight room for weeks, but I've kept swimming my 1.5k every workday.  I've not made any progress on the fitness instructor certification either.  BUT I've kept swimming.

On the food front, while I'm recording every single day, it's tending to be at day's end rather than during the day.  My common practice was to record breakfast & lunch plus all snacks/drinks BEFORE planning my supper.  That was the easiest way to keep on target.   

Stress steps in and you just get sick of it.  You know that you probably should divide that item but it's just too much hassle.  Or it's higher carb than you remembered.  End result at the end of the day there's this little "oops" going on.  Not a big one -- but still an oops.  Looking at the guesstimated calorie burn on Fitbit  was 2480 (daily ave.) over that timespan.  At least in theory I shouldn't have gained.  The margin between intake and burn was shrinking, but in theory it was still a negative on average I shouldn't have gained.

On the weight recording front -- still stepping on the scales every day.  Staring into the abyss..... the normal dancing up and down was there, but the trend line was flat(ish) and maybe even trending UP.  What gives??

The answer of course is stress.  Well that's pretty subjective.  How do you measure it?  In my case I've got my handy dandy Fitbit which tells me how much time it thinks I was sleeping, and how many times I woke up during the

night.  The numbers are rather staggering when you stop and think about it.  I clearly do not function on 6 hours of sleep per night. 

So there you have it.  Exercise and food can be balanced but stress will kick it out of whack.  Proof positive.  N=1.  And another seriously good reason to keep records I might add.  This whole situation might have been misinterpreted as a "plateau" if it weren't for all my spreadsheets.  Clearly I need to take better care of myself and we'll see how soon we can turn this trend around. 

Spring is here in New Brunswick and I've been able to start riding my bike to work again.  It is such a pleasant trip along the river, with morning mist rising and birds chirping.  It sets a wonderful tone for the day.


Swimming upstream

Sometimes you’ve got to let life happen.  I knew my winter was busy and I knew that March was going crunch.  The data shows how delicate the balance truly is.

 It’s not like March has been a free-for-all.  The weekly data summaries from my food and exercize logs would have you believe that weight loss should have happened.  Ketosis wasn’t broken and I didn’t stop swimming.  Mind you, there was a LOT more standing around cold curling rinks, and driving to curling bonspiels.  But in theory at least, I should have still been losing.  

I’ve already acknowledged in other posts just how imprecise the science is around this, but, my weight loss has been closely (and surprisingly) tracking the expected path for many, many months.  Looking at this graph, I was indeed losing weight according to those  expectations in January and February.

What happened in March?  STRESS happened.  I just ran out of time to manage all the things that needed to get done.  Expectations piled up like snowdrifts.  Sleep suffered.  I could just feel the mental wheels starting to spin as my powers of concentration slipped lower and lower.  

The graph pattern for March was actually a big surprise.  I knew I wasn’t losing - I mean HELLO - I was stepping on the scales every day.  But one thing I’ve learned on this journey is that you have to keep the analysis to weekly or monthly time frames since day to day fluctuations are just too erratic for any peace of mind.  So, while I was stepping on the scales, I wasn’t mentally mapping anything.  Besides...... I was TOO BUSY!!!!  How do you think I got into this in the first place?

So there you have it.  When I went to a massage therapist last year, the result was an unexplained bonus 10 pound loss over that time period.  Those 10 pounds stayed off, and the rate of shrinkage went back to the normal pre-massage achievements.

On the flip side, this month of prolonged stress has resulted in a gradual gain, even though the food consumption wasn’t out of control and the majority of exercize was still in place.  The big difference in the month of March was coping with it (or not!).  

So I now have experimental proof, n=1, on both sides of the stress management equation.  Just like the textbook says, weight loss is greatly enhanced when you deal with it AND weight loss flies out the window when you don’t.

What am I doing about it?  Starting next thursday evening, I’ve enrolled in a “Mindfulness” workshop spanning 8 weeks.  I picked up the textbook the other night.  It’s called “Full Catastrophe Living”.  YEP  Haven’t cracked it yet but somehow I expect that’s just what the doctor ordered!!!!


Trash the bathroom scales? Bullfeathers.  

I don’t know what gives lately, but a lot of resources I follow seem to be on the same wavelength: throw away your scales.  No surprise to anyone who knows me: I disagree. 

The most recent one that rolled across my horizon was slightly different than the rest.  Essentially, the owner of a fitness studio endures huge personal frustration levels with clients who are in fact making healthy progress but don’t see it because they’re fixated on "weight".  He’s started a programme where he is challenging his clients to use ANY other measure of improvement that they can dream up.  And then of course there’s the kicker: throw away the weigh scales.  When I first read the website/invitation my reaction was strong and immediate.  Then I started to think.

First of all, I don’t make my living based on being polite and supportive to paying clients, including those who happen to be drama kings or queens.  My hat’s off to this guy who does this daily.   

I also have to admit that there are literally dozens of ways to measure increasingly positive health or lifestyle indicators.  I’ve mentioned a few before and I thought of a new one this morning.  

It’s saturday, and a late, lazy morning for me.  I rolled over and snuggled back into the middle of the bed.  No big deal right?  Wrong!  There was a time in the not too distant past when rolling over was hard because I didn’t have the strength to just up and move the weight I carried.  Plus, sheer size meant that rolling took up more space than was available.  Now that I’m smaller, rolling over just gets me to the middle of the bed.  WAHOO!  It’s been a while since we’ve been to a hotel, but I’m truly looking forward to it, knowing that we can be comfortable in a normal double bed.  It will significantly improve the vacation experience.   

I keep coming back in my mind to the “hate the scale” frustration that this particular trainer is admitting in public.  (Truly authentic marketing if nothing else.)  So I started mentally dissecting the concepts ......

Body dysmorphia is rampant in this image-conscious society of the modern  moment.  I’ve blogged about that before.  (So is photo-enhancing of model’s images which totally screws up the ideals.)  What’s the most common word that gets used for this?  “Weight”  How do you describe it?  In pounds.... that you count.  Weight isn’t just a number -- it’s a fantasy concept and a mental image all wrapped up in that number.  Instant gratification is also rampant.  Quick fixes, easy diets, magic fat burning pills and zero calorie “food”.   Fantasy cures.

Combine a fantasy concept with a fantasy cure, sit back, and watch things spiral down the drain.   

Who goes to a gym?  That’s not an idle question.  Take a look around the gym and I can guarantee you that there will be incredibly few people in there that are clinically obese, and from experience I can tell you that there is pretty much zippo for a head count on morbidly obese.  I can also tell you that it is a royally mortifying experience and if it were not for the dreaded spectre of that cane, I would not have done it.

So I ask again - who goes to the gym?  I suggest that it is most likely people who don’t actually have a lot of weight to lose, who want to do it in a hurry and then get on with their life once they see the ideal picture looking back at them in the mirror.  I would also suggest that nobody in their right mind would sign up for the gym with eager anticipation of spending a whole lot of their time trapped indoors with a bunch of other sweaty people in closed room.  Therefore I postulate that most people sign up with a get in-get out mentality.  Maybe not a fantasy, but a quick fix would be nice.

Then there’s the spending money part.  Most people don’t like committing money over an extended period of time.  People lose sleep over making payments.  So extended gym memberships had better be reasonable or people won’t do them at all.  If the gym marketing revolves around a formula to change your life in a short period of time, like say two months, then the fantasy expectations are gonna be pretty close to the surface too.
So I keep coming back to the trash the scales notion.  Why does it bother me so much?  Because “scales anxiety” goes hand in hand with denial.  Fantasy & denial are the two sides of the same coin.  

Here’s the bathing suit I used at the pool when I started this journey a year and a half ago - a 5X - and the blue one on top that I’ve just started wearing - a normal size 16.  A visual measure of success.

There was a time I did not weigh myself.  Most scales didn’t go that high, and I didn’t want to know anyway.  I will continue to weigh myself daily now, and I will continue to count my blessings.  I will attempt to acknowledge every achievement - there are no small ones - as I continue on this journey to reclaim my health, my life, and my sanity.  

That daily step onto the scales yields data like this graph.  When I look at the slope of the line there is a change in mid-summer 2012: the slope of the line gets steeper. Another way of saying that: I'm losing weight faster.  That change happened when full fat-burning adaptation was achieved by strictly limiting carbohydrates to less than 50 grams per day. I know that thanks to my food diary. In addition to this graph, thanks to my bathroom scales, I also know that my body fat percentage has dropped from over 70% to just under 30% now. 

I figure it’s going to take me another year and a half to get down to, and to stabilize around, a healthy size/weight/body fat.  I’ve given myself three years to accomplish my transformation.  You can bet YOUR bathroom scales I’ll be doing it with data all the way!!!