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.

Never Weight

January 2nd, 2017 by Potato

I’ve gained a crapload of weight in my life. I started undergrad as skinny and ended a touch on the pudgy side. But the final year of my MSc was the worst — I was depressed, my experiments failed so I had to repeat a number of experimental runs, and my nominal two-year master’s took over three to finish. Plus I got a kidney stone and was bed-ridden for over a week, and had trouble even making the 20-minute walk to work for several months afterward. In that short span of time I gained so much weight I blew right through fat to obese. Over half that weight was packed on in a span of just a few months, weight gain so rapid it left me with stretchmarks.

But I had work to do — thesis to write, experiments to science, thorium to mine. Losing weight takes willpower and mental energy (and moreover, can’t be done while also powering through consecutive all-nighters on the power of caffeine and refined carbohydrates).

After I defended my MSc, I managed to lose a tiny bit of that weight (not much) and get in a bit better shape (not much). As my PhD was coming to an end, I knew that I might backslide a bit, but set a “never weight” for myself so that I wouldn’t go through another round of that kind of damage to myself as I finished my PhD, especially because at that point I had (somewhat) figured out that I wasn’t destined for an academic career and science wasn’t worth the sacrifice. If at any point I hit my never weight, I made a deal with myself to miss deadlines or whatever it took to keep that under control. I managed to finish my thesis with minimal weight gain, and lost that and then some after Blueberry was born (having a kid is a great impetus for changing bad habits). I figured ok, this is just my life now: I’m overweight but have held steady here for a few years running.

Then I hit a few busy periods at work, and again all-nighters and 100-hour weeks became a central part of my life. Here’s a hot bio-hacking tip: you can survive on just 3-6 hours of sleep per night for up to 2-3 weeks of insanity if you just keep eating. Can’t fall asleep while you’re mid-chew!

I gained 10 pounds in just a few weeks for one big project (my “Discovery Frontiers” weight), managed to hold the line for a year, and then gained another 10 lbs over a few weeks (the “CFI Innovation Fund” bonus gift). By then I let some bad habits form (esp. eating at my desk at work), and got really run down from chronic sleep deprivation (many causes), so even holding the line became hard, let alone losing that weight after the crises passed. But as long as I had shown I could work so intensely for someone else, I decided that rather than simply throttle back after those busy periods and focus on recovery, I would keep it up and work for myself. I wrote The Value of Simple. I started developing the Practical Index Investing for Canadians Course, both brought to you by the letter C for chocolate, chips, coke, and caffeine, and the number 5, for the hours of sleep I averaged most nights.

Then in the last big project (that ended in early October) I gained some more weight and hit my never weight. I was about to put up this post and commit to focusing on my health as soon as the investing course was done, but then Wayfare got sick, which was not exactly a stress-free time. But now it’s a new year, and the course is done, so this seems like a good time to commit to making this year all about improving my health. I started already, skipping any bound-to-be-disappointing New Year’s Eve stuff to just get to bed by 8 last night :)

I don’t have a diet/exercise plan sorted out precisely yet, but I’ve got some ideas. My first priority is to fix my sleep schedule, as that alone will close some positive feedback loops.

And that’s it for the year’s goals: I’m not writing another book, I’m hoping that now that the course is done I’ll have put myself out of the investment coaching business, and I don’t have plans to take on many freelancing projects. A few speaking gigs will likely be the extent of my non-daddy, non-day-job stress-inducing activities.

Emergency Funds FTW

December 1st, 2016 by Potato

I don’t want to risk having my personal finance blogger license revoked, but I haven’t been paying attention to our budget as we deal with Wayfare’s recovery. I’m pretty sure we’re spending a bit more than average — we’re certainly eating more pre-made food, and spending more on drugs and parking and a walker, but much of that pre-made food is brought over by family and friends.

I actually haven’t been thinking or worrying much about money the past few weeks, which is as it should be. Early on my mind would wander to the topic and I’d try to crunch numbers as I rode the subway, without the benefit of a proper spreadsheet. But at some point I internalized the message that we’ve got an emergency fund and we’ll be ok. So I stopped worrying and focused my energies elsewhere.

And really, that’s what emergency funds are for, so you can make it through these completely random, crazy events without also having to worry about money in the short term.

TTP is a very rare disease, with an incidence of about 3 in a million. But that means that next year about 100 families in Canada will be hit by this. Another 200,000 or so will face a cancer diagnosis. Some others will be hit by a job loss, or a major repair bill.

As financial literacy month draws to a close I just wanted to quickly underscore how important it was to be savers when times were good, so that we could make it through a trying time like this. Yet many Canadians don’t have an emergency fund (here’s one survey that says a quarter have less than $1000). I mostly focus on investing stuff — it’s important too, and where I can actually make a difference — but emergencies can strike at any time. I don’t know what to say to all those people to get them to start, but having an emergency fund is important. I don’t know how we’d be handling this situation without it.