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.

6 Responses to “Never Weight”

  1. Netbug Says:

    I’m here if you need a plan. From the simplest to the most hard-core, you know that I’ve done them all.

  2. Potato Says:

    Thanks, I’m trying to think through some lessons from investing and behavioural economics. For example, that willpower is depletable, and that following simple rules works in times of stress. That might suggest that rigidly planning explicit meals (perhaps with a cheat day as you had) may be a good way to go. OTOH, I know from my own budgeting process that tracking, reviewing, and adjusting worked well to create an automatic set-point.

  3. Noel Says:

    I hear you on the weight gain. I’ve managed to take off a few pounds through increased exercise over the last year… until the holidays hit, and the almost non-stop feasting. Fortunately I’ve held the backslide to a couple pounds.

    My “big goal” for 2017 is to get more sleep… at LEAST 7 hours a night, though hoping to get 8 hours like “I’m supposed to”. I think that alone will do wonders for my overall well-being… and in theory, it’s dead easy.

    However, seeing that I’m writing this at 1am, I’ve got some good-sleep-habit-forming to “work on”… or is that “not work on”? Nite!

  4. Potato Says:

    Congrats on that over the last year, and hopefully when the holidays are done that backslide will be taken care of!

    I have already broken my sleep goal this week. Twice.

  5. Ben Says:

    I got me a Fitbit for Christmas so I expect the pounds to start melting off any day now…

  6. Joe Says:

    IMO, I think it takes a drastic lifestyle change to truly get the pounds off. Maintaining afterwards is much easier, but recidivism is very high within the first 2 years, so be prepared to pay attention to your weight for several years after the big loss.

    Maybe pull a MMM, and build some houses for fun. Or take your family and head to Ubud, Bali.

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