Wednesday, August 24, 2005

New 30-Day Challenge: Calorie Deficit

I'm feeling especially motivated these days, and the circumstances in my life are conducive towards releasing body fat: For the first time in a while, I'm in a low-stress environment, I have sufficient free time, I have a gym I like to go to, the weather is beautiful, and I've kicked my sugar "addiction." I'm going to try a new 30-day challenge, which will overlap with my no-sweets challenge.

Starting tomorrow morning, I will average a 500 calorie per day deficit per week for four weeks. I will hold myself accountable for each 7-day period, so for example if in the first 6 days I eat 2500 total calories fewer than I burn then on the 7th day I'll have to eat 1000 less than I burn. Since I usually have a hard time eating fewer than 2500-2800 calories on a good day and according to Fitday I burn about 3200 calories a day without exercise, if I eat significantly too much for even one day, I'm going to have to do some serious exercise to make up for it.

Weight loss has been at the top of my goals list for a long time, and I'm ready to do something about it.

This challenge will be 28 days (since it's four weeks) and end on September 20th. I hope to be about 4 pounds lighter. If I am, it seems likely that I'll decide the effort is worth it and press on.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Are my Goals Worth the Effort?

The most important thing about goals is having one. --Geoffrey F. Abert

What should I do? How should I spend my time?

I've been thinking a lot about goals lately, having discovered Steve Pavlina's website and then, a free online task manager, yesterday. I'm convinced that setting proper goals and working towards them (without becoming too rigid) is the best way to get things done. However, I have a hard time picking goals.

Except for losing weight, my goals seem too small to be worth pursuing. I have a pretty good job, a great relationship, and a good financial position. Having a better job, an even greater relationship, or becoming wealthy don't inspire me enough to get off my ass. Steve Pavlina (I swear I'm not joining a cult) wrote an article about this called How to Get From a 7 to a 10. He claims that,

There is no 7.

What you’ll find when you leave the comfort of your 7 and go chasing after that 10 is that your 7 was never a 7. It was only a 3.

If you think you’re at a 7, you’re really at a 3 maximum. The 10 is way, way out there. You think you can see it, but your definition of a 10 is based on your experience of a 7, and you can’t even see a real 10 when you’re standing at 7. It’s beyond your ability to fathom.

It's interesting. Maybe I'm selling myself short, and I have no idea how great my job, my relationship, or my wealth* could be. From where I stand, it often seems like it's not worth the effort it would take to go from a 7 to a 10, but maybe I'd feel differently if I were there. I guess the thing to do is to run an experiment: put in the effort to raise one 7 towards a 10 and decide afterwards whether it was worth it. Or maybe the lesson is to never become content in any area of my life -- there's always not only room for improvement, but limitless room for improvement.

When I graduated college and became a professional and an "adult" at the same time, I realized the scary fact that everybody learns at that stage of life, which is that adults are just people like us. Older and more experienced, yes, but fundamentaly made of the same stuff as me. My parents, my professors, firemen who run into burning buildings -- they're all just people, and the only difference between them and me is that they'd followed a certain path which I hadn't (yet) gone down. Similarly, maybe the difference between those super-successful people everybody marvels at and the rest of us is that the super-successful don't settle for 7.

* I'm not really comfortable with the idea of being very wealthy. Compared to the third world everybody in America is fabulously wealthy, and I'd feel selfish hoarding a bunch of money. However, I could define wealth as freedom, either financial freedom or freedom to travel or the freedom to be a philanthropist. We'll see.

Friday, August 19, 2005

I Will Not Consume Sweets for 30 days

Lately, I've been reading the articles of Steve Pavlina. I've found these particularly informative:

(series) Excellent. Start here.

Six Months of Goal-Mongering Inspiring. How Steve practices what he preaches.

The Meaning of Life (series) Not great, but interesting. I took out of it Steve's idea that since life seems to have no specific purpose that we can see, we should use a heuristic approach: specifically to evolve ourselves constantly. We might not know where we're going, but evolution is the right general direction.

30 Days to Success
Simple but motivating trick: think of a change you want to make and commit to it for 30 days. Afterwards, decide if you want to keep it.

One of the major goals in my life for the past 10 years or so has been to lose weight. Another, to feel less depressed. I've had more success with the depression than the weightloss, but I know eliminating sweets would help significantly on both fronts. I've read a number of books which claim a link between depression, compulsive overeating, alcoholism*, and sugar consumption and, although to be honest, most of them have the smell of quackery, what they argue does line up pretty neatly with some of my experiences. I swore off sweets successfully once for a number of months and during that time I dropped weight easily while experiencing fewer mood swings than usual.

I've had two major problems with eliminating sweets from my diet. First, it's hard to make myself do it. Second, it seems to increase binge-behavior when I do return to sweets. I hope this 30-day trick on my brain might avoid those problems.

So: I'm starting now. One a.m. August 19th, 2005. My before picture: I've been craving and eating a lot of sweets. I've experienced a lot of fatigue. I have dark circles under my eyes. I'm thirsty all the time and have trouble staying hydrated.** I weigh XXX.*** I find it difficult to keep my calories below 3000. I haven't binged recently except for a couple of incidents wolfing down 4-5 granola bars in a ten minute period. I'm going to count granola bars as sweets because my body seems to.

August has 31 days, so my time will be up at 1 a.m. on September 18th. Until then:

I will not eat sweets. This includes normal (i.e. not sugar-free) versions of candy, cookies, cake, ice cream, frozen yogurt, beer (except light beer), fruit juice, granola bars, sweet cereals, "nutrition" bars, etc. I will be wary of foods which suddenly become exciting to me, especially if they are sort of sweet or are full of crappy carbs. (In other words, I won't binge on pretzels or lightly-sweetened cereal.)

* Thankfully, alcohol's not my poison, but it's a recurring theme in the literature.
** Although these sound like diabetes symptoms, I don't have it. I checked.
*** I have records of what I weigh. You don't need to know. :)