Tater’s Takes: The Flu, Back Pain

March 13th, 2018 by Potato

The flu swept through town here (word from the school is that Toronto Public Health confirmed it was a flu outbreak that hit Blueberry’s class) and I had a rough week there — high fever, chills, aches, as well as a bit of a cough. Though it wasn’t a bad cough in the sense of coughing non-stop, I did get hit hard by the coughs when they came, and now a week and a half later I still can’t talk right and can barely move, because I seem to have thrown my back out and damaged my vocal cords coughing. My back was just starting to seem a bit better today (I could bend over and reach all the way to my knees! I could sit in a chair and type!) when I did something that seemed totally innocuous but put it out again today.

So that sucks. Also makes me feel really old to be shuffling around the house, doing awkward things with my knees and hips to try to reach things without actually flexing my back.

Yesterday was my first day back at work, and it was hard, especially the part where I couldn’t take a nap partway through the day. The flu’s a hell of a virus.

Behind the scenes, the blog is still very quiet. I do have thoughts on the new Vanguard all-in-one funds, and they are positive ones. I’ve also been trying to do a little video to accompany the guide to Canadian taxes for freelancers, but can’t really record anything other than a throat cancer awareness ad at the moment. I figure it could wait until April, however, I’ve seen a fair number of people inpatient for various tax slips so they could go ahead and file, and I’m like man, it’s still early March. I know as someone with a non-registered account I can’t file until April because of T3’s, but even then, don’t most people wait until close to the deadline anyway? Isn’t that what deadlines are for?

One good thing about getting really sick is just shedding the pounds — though I suspect I’ll gain much of that back before the next official weigh-in (and by definition, that’s not healthy weight loss).

Since I’ve got nothing else for you to read, why not check out Sandi’s reads, or Dan’s take on the new one-fund solution. I noticed a lot of people talking about burnout — here’s one from Des at Half-Banked as an example — around the turn of the new year. Definitely been feeling a touch crispy round the edges here, but don’t have articulate thoughts yet on the topic — though many of you have likely noticed the lack of posting frequency, or the number of emails and side projects that get a “that’s nifty, but let’s just park that for a few months until I can properly think about it or really anything.”

I had a few people ask me about dollar-cost averaging late last year, and was going to bring the threads together into a post, but then Dan hit all the points in this post and podcast.

Speaking of podcasts, there are just a whole bunch of episodes of Because Money out now in case you somehow feel the need to make up for the lack of activity on the blog.

Never Weight — 4th Quarter Update

December 31st, 2017 by Potato

I have a bad habit of powering my way through tough projects and tight deadlines by eating at my desk — a bio-hack I picked up ages ago (undergrad for sure, and I think I used it a few times even in high school). I thus tend to gain some weight with many major projects, and it never quite goes away. For years I didn’t really do much about it — too busy on the next thing — but during grad school I set a “never weight” for myself, a point where I’d give myself a mental slap in the face and re-prioritize my health over whatever project was consuming me at the time. I hit that never weight near the end of 2016.

I actually made some decent progress in the first three months of 2017 after resolving to lose the weight. But then I backslid, and backslid, until by the fall I was over where I started.

So to make it real, I committed to dropping the price of the course and the book if I couldn’t lose the weight.

Here we are at the end of the year, and in the 4th quarter I’ve managed to lose a hair over 12 pounds, which is pretty impressive considering this is the quarter with Halloween, my birthday, and Potatomas. That also brings me back under my never weight so I can finish the year down from where I was this time last year… but it’s not quite good enough as I’m still not back to where I was in February, just barely erasing the gains that happened in the third quarter (and to be fair, half that was dropped almost instantly after the bloating from the Sept all-nighter season passed — it’s been about 2 lbs/mo of real progress).

For Potatomas, my parents got me a fitbit, I’ve got a new android phone that can do apps the BlackBerry couldn’t (like Carrots), so I’m more hopeful heading into 2018 that I’ll be able to keep up that ~2 lbs/mo improvement.

But for now, my failure to undo the damage of Q3-17 means a discount!
The course is down from $299 to $169 now!
The ebook version of the Value of Simple will be going down to $6.99 (this will take a few weeks as I’ll synchronize it with the 2nd edition release).

Otherwise, it’s been one of the longest-ever hiatuses here in the 19 years of BbtP. I don’t have much of a public update: things are busy in RL, and I’m trying not to stay up late blogging after everything else is done (and my brain is too broken to write anyway, whereas before it was broken in a way that I had to). I’m taking the next week off work, so hopefully I can get a few draft posts out to published status (as well as pushing the 2nd edition of VoS out the door).

Never Weight — 3rd Quarter Update

October 9th, 2017 by Potato

In the 2nd quarter update I said that things were bad, I wasn’t blogging much, etc. Well September was so much worse, with quite a few all-nighters near the end of the month for a major grant, and I ended the third quarter up 12 pounds — putting me over the “never” point that started this whole goal.

That’s just bad, no sugar-coating that (mmm… sugar-coating).

On the bright side, the crazy busy period is just about over: I’ve got the long weekend here to finish up the changes to the book to get the 2nd edition out the door, and then things should be relatively quiet for the rest of the year [engages in all the superstitious rituals].

Considering my very modest progress before, just getting back to normal isn’t enough — I have to step things up. One thing that was working earlier in the year was to actually track everything that went into my junk-food hole (and I never should have stopped that). A commitment mechanism is another good way to go, but I’m not quite sure what to commit to yet: I could donate money to a cause I’m against, or let Netbug do my meal planning. What I think might be fitting would be to cut the price on stuff I sell: the course and e-book. I’ve created an exponential scheme for the course price to be cut and a linear one for the ebook depending on how badly I fail come the end of the year.

Never Weight — 2nd Quarter Update

July 1st, 2017 by Potato

I started the year off with some goals and made some early progress. In the second quarter though, that momentum was lost and things were bad, as you could probably tell by the fact that I all but disappeared from the internet. Weight backslipped (up a pound over the quarter), sleep was garbage, exercise program completely derailed.

Meaningless excuses: first off, I was sick for a month or month and a half in April/May. Spring allergies, head cold, strep throat, combination thereof, whatever it was I had a hell of a time concentrating and writing. I barely made it through each work day and then had nothing left for side projects/blogging/getting in shape.

Which is a real shame, because Blueberry was going to give me a medal if I managed to check off every cell in my exercise regimen for June. A medal! And I couldn’t do it. So I kind of feel like a failure as a father as well as on my own personal health goals right now.

Then in May I got a device to help my sleep apnea, a special mouthguard from my dentist that repositions my jaw to keep my airway open. It works for the primary outcome: I don’t snore or choke with it in. However, it takes me an extra hour or two to fall asleep with it because it feels weird and my jaw aches sometimes from holding the strange position. So it’s a bit of a catch-22: a small amount of good sleep, or a larger amount of sleep with apnea and snoring (because there aren’t enough hours in the day to just go to bed earlier and get both). Either way, as June comes to a close I’m feeling super sleep deprived, like it’s exam time cramming or a major grant deadline level of dark rings under my eyes. The last few days I have been falling asleep better with it, but it may take the rest of the month to get back to caught up on sleep.

Anyway, for the third quarter of the year I’ve got to get back on track: sleep better, exercise regularly, eat decently (in that order of priority).

Never Weight – 1st Quarter Update

March 30th, 2017 by Potato

Back at new year’s I decided (resolved, even) to focus on taking better care of myself. I had finally cleared some major things off my plate: the investing course was finished, the major grants for the season were done, and Wayfare was out of the hospital and on the long road to recovery. Plus I had hit my “never weight“, a line in the sand I had set long ago. I knew the things I needed to do were fairly simple: sleep better, eat better, exercise more — the challenge was just in implementation.

I’ve been better about my sleep, but not as good as I should have been given that a) things are really quiet right now on the work front and b) it was my top priority to start on. Part of this issue is I had a minor cold/sore throat for several weeks which meant that I was getting poor quality sleep even when I went to bed earlier. Still working on that one. However, I did finally get off my butt to have a sleep study done, which looks like will lead to a dental appliance in the next few weeks to see if it helps my sleep apnea.

For exercise, I have recruited Blueberry as my personal trainer. Let me tell you, four-year-old girls do not fuck around when there is a chart and checkmarks (or stickers!!!) involved. She helped me come up with a simple routine of basic exercises that can be done in ~10 minutes, including things like push-ups, sit-ups, and ballerina twirls. She’s been fantastic at checking in on me everyday to make sure that I’m doing them, and if I have to do it after she’s in bed, she will even critique the quality of my checkmarks the next morning. One day when I really pushed myself, I got two stickers for each exercise. I’m thinking of writing a paper for a change management journal.

The exercise regimen Blueberry helped create; the following week, I got stickers as well as checkmarks.

When spring finally comes (vs. the spring-tease we’re currently getting where we’ll get one or two decent days followed by a deep freeze and maniacal laughter from mother nature), Blueberry wants to start working on biking further and further each day until we can make it all the way to Grammy’s house (about 6 very hilly kilometers one-way — a pretty intense distance for a bike with training wheels). And I know she’ll get me out to the park and running around, so my personal training regimen should only get better.

I have not made as much progress on implementing a process for improved dieting: I’m eating a bit better, snacking a bit less, but haven’t yet gone into meal planning or tracking or anything that’s a substantial change beyond some low-hanging fruit (like eating more fruit). I started tracking what I was eating in January, but stopped in March (which is quite likely related to the backsliding from February’s weigh-in).

As for my weight, I was down 5 lbs by the end of February, but have plateaued in March and am still only down 5 now. So I’m sitting just under that “never weight” threshold still. Other than “doing better” (ideally in a life-long sustainable way), I haven’t quantified my goals yet. Am I aiming for my new-daddy weight of 5 years ago, or my pre-MSc-crisis weight of 12 years ago? And how fast should I try to get there? A pound a week seems to be a reasonable goal according to many sources, and I’ve only lost 4 in 13 weeks — just one third of that textbook rate. But even rolling back the clock by 12 years, which seems like such an unrealistic goal now — going all the way from obese to just a tad overweight in BMI — would be just over a year at that accelerated rate. Yet getting to that level would require some more serious dieting and exercise interventions — drastic lifestyle change, as Joe put it in the comments to the last post — whereas this more leisurely rate has been achieved with minimal actual sacrifices. And losing 16-20 lbs/yr with a lifestyle that has “minimal sacrifices” would make me pretty happy in the end, if I can keep it up.

For now, I’m going to continue to make better sleep and exercise my primary focus, and will get back to tracking what I eat to raise awareness without setting explicit weight goals (just “lower!”) or getting into meal plans for the next quarter.