Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Working Monk's Breakfast

First, let me say that the primal mindset says that grains are evil. They spike blood sugar levels, leading our bodies to secrete insulin in order to get it out of the blood. (Which it usually does by storing it in fat cells, by the way.) This can lead to insulin resistance where your body starts to ignore the hormone that's meant to regulate blood sugar. This leads to increased risk for coronary artery disease and strokes. Especially in families with a genetic predisposition, like mine, insulin resistance often leads to type 2 diabetes.

Then, let me say that there are several ways to mitigate the major problems with grains.

1. Don't eat modern wheat. Use einkorn, emmer, rye, oats, and other ancient grains.
2. Use the whole grain. The extra fiber slows down your body's absorption of the carbohydrates that get converted to blood sugar. Yes, they get absorbed eventually, but it's the spike we're trying to prevent.
3. Ferment it. This breaks down gluten and starch, turning them into (delicious!) acids.
4. Eat it with LOTS of fat. Again, this slows the absorption, reducing the blood sugar spike.
5. Eat it just before or after exercising. The other things insulin can do with excess blood sugar are to burn it as fuel if you happen to need it at the time (you are currently exercising) or use it to replenish depleted muscle fuel stores (you just finished exercising).

Here's a photo essay of where this breakfast came from. I wish it included pics of our grass-fed cow being milked and our free range hens and their eggs, but alas! Not yet.

The Granary

Today's Selection.

This bread will be a classic German "fitness bread" with just rye, oats, and caraway. It's called Vollkornbrot, "full corn bread", referring to the kernels of grain that are soaked, fermented, and used whole or just cracked.

The Miller, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker.

The photographer opted for highlighting the beautiful holiday decorations and missed the mill. :)

The Mill.

It's slow, laborious, and just my style. On the floor you can see the older mill that I use for cracking grains.

The Scene.

This bread is ready to rise while I clean up the mess and start the next batch of whole grains fermenting.

Two Loaves, Ready To Slice.

Notice that one loaf is cut in half with a piece missing. In order to make sure it got baked all the way, I cut it open. And, who can resist hot, fresh-baked bread with butter? Not I. It's now a house ritual to share this first slice. Then, the loaves cool and get wrapped in plastic overnight to soften the crust in preparation for slicing.

Sliced And Ready To Eat.

It takes a very sharp knife and a strong, steady hand to make these slices as thin as is traditional. This is a very dense bread so a little goes a long way. Besides, I want to enjoy it slowly with lots of butter. Thin slices help make that feasible.

And since today is a day of heavy work, I am supplementing the bread with coffee for a little extra boost. Aaaand, lest you think me too abstemious, this breakfast is only meant to power me for a couple of hours until lunch, a larger meal with lots of veggies and greens. Dinner is predominantly meat and greens. Repeat.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2400 Feet Means SNOW!!!

Those of you who've followed my blog for the last few years will recall that I seem to move my studio every six months or so. This has been the result of growing fast, gaining independence, and finally, relocating our whole group to the mountains.

I've spent a number of winters in Southern Oregon, but always at around 1,000 feet elevation. Yes, it snows, but it's never more than a foot or so and it generally melts within a few days. Yeah, sometimes it sticks around for a week or two, maybe even as much as a month, but that's pretty rare.

The mountains are different. We have had snow nonstop for almost a week now. It's real snow, too. Sometimes a foot or more a day. And, yes, it warms up between squalls, but not enough to really melt much.

These are the steps that lead to my studio. In the two days since I shoveled, about three feet of snow has landed on them. This is helped by the fact that the roof dumps directly onto them. I spent extra time shoveling off the roof before even starting on the steps.

Yesterday, the first hour of my work day went toward gaining access to the studio. This snow was extremely wet and heavy, requiring extra work to get it unstuck from the shovel. I guess this counts as a cardio workout, don't ya think?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Long Time!

Hey, folks!

It's been a long time since I posted an update, so this will just be an overview of what's up.

Wintertime depression is a real thing in my life. When the days get short and cold it affects my ability to get much done. I don't really think straight. I forget a lot of things. And my motivation to keep up with production while planning the next year's shows isn't always there.

And this year I've focused a ton of energy on diet and exercise to help keep the depression in check. I spend lots of time nearly every day exploring the forests in my area for pleasure and exercise. One side effect is that I've lost over 30 pounds and 6 inches off my waist since August while gaining muscle mass and definition. I have a lot more energy and everything is easier a) without shlepping around all that fat and b) with more muscle to move my new body around. Movement often feels like dancing to me now. It's kind of amazing.

I've got a lot of stuff I want to talk about, but I think it's going to have to wait a little longer.

Here are some upcoming topics:
Shows: How To Do A Professional Photo Shoot
Shows: How To Analyze Income
Shows: How To Choose Good Shows
Fitness: Cost/Benefit Analysis
Fitness: Primal Lifestyle Basics
Primal Lifestyle: Minimalist Footwear
Primal Lifestyle: Cold Water Plunges
Primal Lifestyle: Handling Holiday Eating
Depression: Cortisol
Depression: Light And Circadian Rhythms
Depression: Insulin Sensitivity

I can't even guess how long it's going to take me to write the next post, say nothing of completing this series. I just wanted to give y'all an idea of what's swirling in my head and might make its way into the blog soon.

Be well!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Reasons To NOT Get Into Shape

I know that I tend to focus on the positive and not let people know when things are challenging for me. Well, let me just go on the record as saying that getting into shape is one of those things. It's really hard and the results come very slowly.

In weaving, particularly with the thin threads that I use, I'm used to performing many, many minute actions and seeing very little visible result. Weight loss is just like that. I work hard and track my diet and exercise every day in the hopes that maybe in three or four days the scale will read one pound less. And maybe one day far in the future I'll be the size I want and have strength, flexibility, agility, balance, and more.

And as I do the work, I step back and watch my inner excuse maker at work. Yeah, there were some truly tough days in the beginning when my body was learning to stop living on sugar and power itself with real food. I honestly did not have the energy or presence of mind to do very much.

But the rest of the time, it's just a lifetime of bad habits that do their darnedest to prevent me from making a change. The excuses come from a seemingly unending well. I have just learned to listen to the excuse maker and then use my rational mind to create an answer. I treat it like a conversation with a surly child. Below, I've collected some of the best excuses I can remember and the answers that got me past them.

Reasons Not To Try At All

  • "Our family have always been sturdy working people. We're just not cut out to be 'show horses'." Answer: That might be true, but there's a wide range of realities between "average overweight guy" and "competition physique". Let's just go as far as we can and see what's possible. We'll never know unless we try.

  • "I've got a bad back. Enough exercise to make a difference might make it worse." Answer: The doctors say that exercise will strengthen the muscles and make it hurt less. Let's try it and see if they're right.

  • "It's going to take a ton of time to really get into shape and I'm too busy to really commit." Answer: If time really becomes an issue, we can slow down the pace. Besides, we just hired an apprentice to give a little extra time in the schedule. Maybe there really is time.

  • "What will my friends think? I don't want them to feel bad about themselves." Answer: Maybe they'll be inspired. If they are good friends, then they'll support me in making positive changes in my life.

Reasons To Skip The Next Task

  • "I'm tired right now. I can make it up later." Answer: Let's just get started. We can go slow at first and stop if we really need to.

  • "I've got a lot of weaving to do so it should take priority." Answer: Yes, the weaving is important. If Winter comes and we're too depressed to work, though, we're going to lose even more time.

  • "I could just skip a snack and balance the calories that way instead of exercising." Answer: How are you going to gain strength by eating less food? Let's just get some exercise so we can eat more!

  • "Remember the jumprope injury? What if exercise causes an injury?" Answer: We'll stretch before hiking and do our best to be super-aware of what we're doing. We'll take it all very slowly and do our best to minimize the risk of injury.

Obstacles That Require Investment

  • "It's hunting season. I could get shot by hiking through the woods." Answer: We'll get a bright orange shirt.

  • "Hiking every day is building up my legs but my upper body is just getting skinny." Answer: Let's get some barbells and use them for a gentle, prolonged upper body workout while enjoying the woods. I'll bet the results will come naturally like they have been for the legs.

  • "What if muscle gets burned instead of fat?" Answer: Let's get the tools to track body fat and lean mass and see if that's actually happening. If it does, we'll make the necessary changes at that time.

  • "We can't hike in the rain. Raincoats are steamy and we'll get wet without one. Jeans are cold and heavy when they're wet." Answer: Synthetic workout clothes. They don't repel water, but they don't soak up as much as jeans, either. They also retain heat when they're wet. By the time water soaks through, the body is all heated up from exercise. And, they'll dry in time for the next hike.

  • "What about your feet? Hiking boots take forever to dry." Answer: Running shoes. They make some that are all mesh and designed to dry quickly. They give the added benefit of cushioning so we can jog a little more without damaging the knees.

  • "Dumbbells, workout clothes, running shoes? You look like some sort of a fitness fanatic." Answer: So what? Nobody's seeing me except the trees, the animals, and maybe my friends. If I have to look like a fool to be warm and keep going, then so be it.

  • "Isn't all this investment really expensive?" Answer: Remember that stint in the Intensive Outpatient Program for Depression? THAT was expensive. And the monthly bill for medication? The insurance premium? How much will it cost if I stay addicted to sugar and develop diabetes like others in my family? I think a little fitness gear is totally reasonable if it can prevent all this other stuff. Besides, these are upfront costs that will be amortized over a lifetime of fitness.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How It FEELS To Get In Shape

When I started my new habit of fitness, I had one primary motive: to stave off winter depression. It was July and the days were just barely getting shorter but I could feel the downward shift in my energy.

Years ago I was diagnosed with depression and went through an intensive outpatient program. Part of this program was education - we learned how to recognize the early warning signs of depression and do something about it before it got debilitating.

Well, it worked, and this time I didn't have to go on drugs. I used diet and exercise instead. I have only lost half of the fat that I expect to lose and just began building muscle in the last few weeks, but I already feel at least ten years younger. I've lost 16 pounds since August. To simulate my weight when I started, I could hang two gallons of milk from my belt. By the time I'm done it will be four gallons. No wonder I had been moving slower and slower, groaning every time I stood up from a chair or (gasp) sitting on the floor. And the more muscle I build, the easier it is to move the weight that I do have. Seriously, it feels like I'm dancing around the studio as I do my work now.

The muscle-building has all happened very naturally. First my legs got stronger and more defined because I was hiking 5-10 miles in the mountains every day. Then, I started doing interval training, which was mostly focused on the core: abs, obliques, and back. And now that those are pretty sturdy I can stand up or sit up straight, even on a bench.

This is a big deal, by the way. I was born with a condition called Spina Bifida. Mine isn't that serious, but it's serious enough that I should have been building core muscles since I was a kid. For the last 10 years or so I haven't been able to sit comfortably without sturdy back support and was in pain half the time even with it. Well, that has changed with the recent development of strong core muscles. I can now sit on a bench for hours. My posture is upright and totally effortless.

So, just like building a tower, I can move on to the next step: chest and shoulders. These will need to be strong before I can devote real work to my noodly arms. I mean, how do you work out your arms if your shoulders are too weak to lift the weight?

So now, I've got more goals than just to keep depression at bay. I want to look great and feel even better!

For years I have never been willing to invest in decent clothes because "I'm about to lose some of this extra weight and they won't fit anymore." Well, I'm finally doing it and look forward to being able to invest in some of the clothes that I've wanted for years: a Utili-kilt and a vest from Phoenix Rising.

(I tried one of these vests on at the Oregon Country Fair. They are gorgeous, but let's just say that I was not pleased with the effect of drawing attention to my very large midsection.)

(And when I got sized for a Utilikilt, also at the Oregon Country Fair, I was shocked at my waistline measurement.)

So, yeah, I think vanity has crept into the mix. As a good friend of mine said when I told him about this, "Whatever it takes to maintain your discipline, go ahead and use it!"

But, vanity aside, I cannot emphasize enough just how much better I feel. I'm way more stable, balanced, flexible, and energetic. And I feel like I'm just getting started!

Friday, October 12, 2012


Today I'll keep it short and sweet. Calorie tracking combined with healthy eating and exercise really work at burning off fat. And MyNetDiary really works at providing the information necessary to take control of the whole endeavor.

Here's a chart of where I've been... See those two little plateaus with the labels? Those are periods of time when I didn't meet my goals. The first time I went to visit some friends, ate Mexican food with flour tortillas and drank bourbon. Then, seeing the results and knowing that I had another "free rein" weekend coming up, I precrastinated, losing extra weight for the week leading up to that show.

Today you'll notice a significant dip in my weight. I've stepped up the exercise while stepping down the snacks for a couple of days in preparation for a weekend of fun. I'm not going to go crazy and eat deep-fried ice cream in sugar-coated funnel cakes, but I won't be getting my exercise no matter how good I eat. And, since I'm with friends, I just might eat a meal or two that's "off the plan". It's fine. I'll be back on track before my show next weekend.

Here's another chart that I use daily to hone my fat loss. You'll notice that its getting harder to lose fat than it was in the beginning. I've had to start shorting myself by an extra 500-1000 calories a day to get the same result. Don't worry, I'm not starving myself. It's just the opposite. I'm eating more fat and protein and exercising more every day. The better shape I get in, the easier this is to do without any noticeable muscle strain at all.

And I did really screw up one day. I had to weave at full speed for 12 hours straight to have ruanas sewn in time for a show. I ate the same amount but still found myself at a significant caloric loss that night. I'll watch for that in the future!

Thursday, October 11, 2012


In my posts over the last few months, you've seen how my new goal of fitness started out. At the end of July I started tracking exercise and increasing the amount of it with the Nike FuelBand. That felt great but wasn't helping burn much fat so at the end of August I started tracking and modifying my diet with MyNetDiary. (I also went Primal, but I'll write more about that in another post.)

Next, I wanted to start getting more structured exercise so I bought a $5 jumprope and started with five minutes a day. And on the third day I found that I could do 4x 5-minute sets of jumprope exercise. And on the fourth day I could hardly walk. I had overexerted my calves by bouncing on my toes for 20 minutes. It was very painful but just muscle pain. It got me thinking, though... Just how much damage could I do by working out in unhealthy ways? How much studying will I have to do to learn healthy ways? I will not let fear and lack of knowledge become my excuse for stopping.

That was when I decided that, just like with diet, I could use some help. I read a book on exercise that doesn't use expensive or fancy equipment. This method of exercise is called "Bodyweight Workout".

Remember high school with a coach making us do push-ups, squat thrusts, and all that sort of stuff? Well, that's all that a bodyweight workout is.

There are people who will tell you that it's impossible to build muscle while losing fat. Anabolic vs. catabolic, blah, blah, blah. Well, I'm here to tell you it's bull-pucky!

Yeah, maybe it's an optical illusion when I reach out to pick something up and catch sight of my arms that are visibly larger. I mean, who am I to judge? I've just been looking at those noodly appendages that haven't really changed in, oh, twenty years... And maybe I'm imagining that it's easier to reach out and pick up the pint-and-a-half tankard that I've been drinking my water from for a year.

Anyhow, I've reached the point with my fat loss that I'm comfortable managing my diet and exercise to keep it plodding along, 2 pounds a week, until I've reached my goal. As long as I exercise and eat right, the fat just keeps melting off like a slow-motion ice cube on the counter.

But I've decided recently that I'd like to have more muscle in place when my body padding and midriff glacier melt all the way down. I'd also like more indoor exercise that I can do in the rapidly approaching rainy season.

My minor, but terrifying, jumprope injury sent me off to seek the advice of a personal trainer, sort of. Now, remember that I'm pretty broke overall. I don't have the money to hire a real live trainer of my own and if I did it would entail an hour's drive each way to see him. And, I don't think my needs are so special that I need personal attention. I'm just an average forty-something male with a bunch of extra weight, mostly around my midsection, and muscles that have been underutilized and underdeveloped for a few decades. Really, this is probably the one area of my life in which I am the most "normal".

I just needed someone to show me what exercises are available to develop different aspects of musculature and fitness. Then, I needed help designing workout routines and timing me while I did them. I just needed some guidance.

Well, being "normal" has its perks, one of which is that there are apps written that cater to my specific need. I tried a bunch of free ones and found that one stood out above the rest as being just what I needed.

It's called Workout Trainer, published by a company called Skimble. And what it does, it does very well. It's essentially a personal trainer for your iOS device.

I use it to peruse professionally-designed workouts and put them on my calendar with reminders in case I forget. When the alert pops up I click "Do The Workout" and a coach walks me through each exercise while giving tips on form and keeping track of time. Perfect!

Let me walk you through how it works...

First, I want to find a workout. There are hundreds to choose from, so it's nice to use the filtering feature to find just what I'm looking for.

Then I scroll through the list...

And for each workout, I'm presented with two options: Do Workout and Save For Later

Scrolling down past the action buttons, I can review the exercises that make up this workout. This helps me decide whether it really does what I want.

I then "Save for later" and an iCal event comes up. I choose a date and time and it's added to the calendar. I then manage my schedule from within iCal.

Since iCal is integrated into the iOS notification center, I can swipe down on my screen no matter what I'm doing throughout the day to remind myself what workouts are coming up in the next couple of days.

And then comes the reason for all of this searching and scheduling... Doing the work.

The interface is fantastic. I set my iPod near my exercise mat and hit play. A voice announces each exercise five seconds before it starts and counts down so I'm able to transition smoothly from one position to the next. This same voice coaches me on proper positioning for each exercise and offers tips and encouragement as I go.

If I don't understand the instructions, there's a video playing simultaneously. I just glance down and see what they're doing so I can match them. After doing a workout a few times, I know the exercises well enough that I don't need to look at the screen any more.

There is one aspect of this program that I am reluctant to admit having gone for... Pro status.

It's an in-app upgrade that many people can skip. And it's kind of steep at $24.99. What it gets you is real human trainers coaching you instead of a computer-generated voice. It also unlocks more higher-quality workouts.

Maybe it's just a personal preference, but I really didn't like being coached by a monotone computer voice. If you can stand it, there are still many workouts available to you in the free version.

There are many more parts to the app. I rapidly ignored "Programs" because they weren't right for me. I want to do very gentle amounts of exercise several times a day instead of larger amounts three or four times a week. And, your program is managed within the app so there is no integration with the notification center. You cannot see which workouts are coming up for you without launching the app.

I also have yet to explore creating custom workouts. Part of the reason I use this app is because I don't have the knowledge that it takes to create a well-designed workout. If you use this functionality, leave me a comment and tell me how you like it.

And finally, to add to the myth-dispelling aspect of my blog, I'm providing a link to my Skimble account. (Caution: more shirtless photos of an out-of-shape middle-aged guy.)

In a previous post I gave a link to my MyNetDiary account so you can get a bird's-eye view of how my diet and exercise regimen relates to my weight loss goals. Now I'm giving you a workout-by-workout program so that there's no mystery. Next year when I finally post some pics of myself with my new body in my new clothes, you can look back and see exactly how I did it.

Or, if you want, you can join Skimble, start doing some workouts and "friend" me there. If pacing yourself with a motivated disciplinarian would help you, then I'd be happy to help. Just don't push yourself too hard at first. Remember, I've been working up to where I am for about ten weeks already.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Blue Is On The Loom!

I finally got the photos off the camera. Along with the photo I just took of the finished beam, I also found some "beauty shots" of the process.

Here is a shelf of plied cones waiting for their turn to be added to the warp. This is about 25 of the 50 different "shades" of thread that went into this cloth.

And here's a closeup of one set of threads as they get wound onto the loom. This is in the Navy-Purple section, but you can see how much denim, blue, and green are in there, too. This color mixing is one of the secrets to my cloth.

I put an "extra" 20 yards on this beam, too. See how full it's packed?

And here's the latest blue design! It goes from a deep navy with hints of purple to deep blue-green.


Mostly blue


But don't forget that I make the warps way more extreme than the final cloth will look. When the weft threads are added, they will dilute these color shifts and look like a variety of rich blues.

In a few days you'll see the sample blanket and get an idea of just how blue this cloth is.

If you'd like a piece woven from this cloth, the earlier you contact me the better. Time flies and this cloth will be woven and sold before you know it! And don't forget... Blog readers get 25% off until the end of the year.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Black To Blue

Here's a whirlwind tour of the last few days in the production weaving world. Remember the black beam that apprentices started weaving in June? Well, it's finally woven off. I needed the harnesses and reed to set up my next batch of cloth.

When the beam gets this close to done, I switch to weaving möbius scarves.

See the blue beam in the background? Real photos will come off the camera tomorrow...

Shuttles for three möbius scarves...

A couple scarves coming off the loom...

And look how good I did getting my sections all the same length. The fates smiled and put the two mistakes on the edges. And they're longer than the others so there's no wasted cloth at all.

I decided to squeeze one extra scarf off this beam, leaving me very short ends to tie onto the next beam.

And here's the "outside the loom" view of today's work: tying on 10 sections. And don't worry, those ends are taped in place. I just pulled them all out at once so I have a visual confirmation of my goal.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

MyNetDiary For Diet And Exercise Tracking

A little while ago I promised to write about how I am tracking my diet and teaching myself how to eat healthier while losing a bit of unnecessary weight.

The answers to many questions have been provided by an iOS app called MyNetDiary. First, I just have to say that I don't like the name. It does not tell me what the program does, who it was written for, or why I would want it. But, experience has taught me that this is no reason to avoid something. When I tested iOS calorie-tracking apps, this one was the best for my needs.
Let me break down what I wanted out of the app and then show how MyNetDiary met and exceeded my expectations.

First, I wanted a program to look up caloric values for foods that I eat and help me keep a daily log. I wanted those calories broken down into macronutrients: fat, carbs, and protein so I could see how many grams of each I was eating and how that translated into calories.

Next, I wanted the same lookup and tracking for the calories burned by various exercises.

Then, I wanted something to track my longterm weight loss goal and tell me how many calories I needed to be in deficit for my body to use up the right amount of fat that day. Not so little as to keep the weight and not so much as to cause problems from losing it too fast.

And, finally, I wanted something to correlate all of this information to help me make moment-to-moment decisions about whether I need more exercise or more food. Or, more accurately, to tell me how much exercise I'll need to do if I take a second helping of beef stew.
Well, MyNetDiary does all of this and more. First, take a look at the main screen. From here you can see some of the categories of data tracking and management. This shot was taken after dinner on a day when I wanted to short myself by an extra 500 calories.

Under meals, it tells me that I ate more than was recommended by 257 calories. Under exercise, I've done more than was planned by about 750 calories. And that gives me the daily goal under analysis: 522 calories left to exactly meet my weight loss goal for the day. Bingo!

Tracking calories in absolutely simple. Since this is on the iPod that I keep clipped to my belt, it's always at hand. Whenever I eat, I pull out the iPod and enter the food under the appropriate meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack. Searching for foods is easy and robust. Once you've eaten a food, it jumps to the top of the list next time you search.

When you tell it that you've eaten 4 ounces of chuck roast, for instance, it knows about the calorie count, but it also knows all of the rest of the nutrition information, which you can configure it to track as well if you like.

The next tracking function is exercise. Again, it knows about many, many forms of exercise and can calculate how many calories a person of your current weight would burn while performing that activity.

You just tell it what you did and for how long. See those entries for "Skimble"? I'll be writing another blog post about this digital personal trainer app. After each workout, it tells you how many calories you burned. I then enter that info into MyNetDiary by hand.

Along with tracking diet and exercise, MyNetDiary helps you set a weight loss goal and stick to it. All of those numbers on the main screen came about after setting up this plan. I decided to lose the maximum healthy recommendation: 2 pounds a week. It told me that, based on my starting weight, start date and my goal that I would meet that goal on November 22nd. That seems so soon! I mean, I've been collecting this weight for 20 years. I could really be rid of it in less than three months without starving? Cool! (The key to not being hungry is to add a lot of exercise so I can eat regular meals and healthy snacks pretty much whenever I want.)

As the day progresses, it's nice to have a plain-language interpretation of what all these numbers mean, especially when I was just getting started. There's a screen for that.

Now, I don't agree with some of the basic premises behind these warnings, but its nice that they're there at the bottom of the analysis screen.

And now, the total pushing-it-over-the-edge-into-fabulousness feature: charts. I'm a visual person and receive much clarity from seeing data formatted into charts. It also gives a sense of satisfaction that's lacking in plain numbers.

First, the calorie chart. This tells me at a glance whether I need to eat more food before bed to keep my body from burning up fat (or maybe muscle) too fast. There are a ton of problems that can arise from starving yourself to lose weight so I don't want to do it accidentally.

In this chart you can see that today does not have enough calories in it. I need to eat at least 500 more calories before bed. That's a heaping spoonful of peanut butter and a glass of milk. Yeah!

And here's the end result of all this data tracking: 12 pounds lost in about a month.

See that big dip? I didn't realize how accurate this program is so I was being conservative in my intake "just in case". I lost weight way too fast for a few days and then intentionally ate more for a few days to bring myself closer to normal.

This is reflected in the calorie chart by a few days in a row of very low intake. And the next week I overdid it a few times on purpose, reflected by tall yellow bars in the calorie chart.

(Of course, being the overachiever that I am, I need to stay slightly ahead of the curve.)

Now here's the part that's weird, but I'm doing it anyhow... All of this data syncs automatically with the web-based version. I've set my visibility to public so anyone who wants can follow along with my progress.
(Caution: shirtless photos.)

I sort of think that creating public accountability will keep me focused. I don't want to let y'all down, right? Besides, I write this blog to inspire others to follow in my footsteps if I'm doing something that they wish they could do. I don't have super-special magic powers to get things done. I just set reasonable goals and do my best to stick to them, using any tool I can get my hands on to help me.

And, if losing weight is a goal of yours, MyNetDiary can take a lot of the guesswork out of managing your diet and exercise.

Disclosure: I am in no way associated with this company. They just make a program that's totally amazing!

Update: The link above doesn't show very much info unless you're a member of the forums, I guess. If you're really interested, I'm pretty sure it's free.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nike FuelBand

A while back I promised to write about the tools I'm using to motivate myself to get in shape. Now that I've been using them for a while I can show you that they are working! Today I'll tell you about a device called the Nike+ Fuel Band.

It takes the form of an unobtrusive black bracelet while it silently measures your movements and updates your daily activity score. This score is a new concept - a brand new generic unit of measurement called Nike Fuelpoints. Its purpose is to level the playing field for people of all body shapes and sizes. A heavy person burns more calories walking a mile than a light person, but they would each earn the same number of points as Nike measures them. Yes, the device also measures calories and steps taken, but I don't know how accurate those measurements are.

Here's my score after waking up, taking a shower, boiling water for tea and carrying my tea tray to the kitchen.

The red and green dot make more sense a little later in the day when you can see more of the dots. The green dot is the goal I've set for myself. When these pics were taken, I think my goal was about 3500. Throughout the day, I push the button to display the time and get a sense of how far the bar graph has progressed.

When I want to know my score, I push the button twice to display the actual number.

The motivating effect of this simple device is pretty amazing. I rapidly found myself doing extra things in a day just to get my score up. And, if my score was low after dinner, I'd go for a walk. With my goal set as high as it is, I have to stay active all day to make it. It would take something like a 10-mile run to get a days' points after dinner.

Now, this functionality is pretty amazing, but it gets better. The Fuel Band syncs with my iPod through Bluetooth to upload all of my activity history. The chart below is for today. I started the day a little different than normal. Since we had a house meeting this morning, I started in the studio at 5:30. Then, around 7:00, I left for my regular morning routine - a brisk 5-mile hike in the forest. At 9:00 there's a 15-minute workout and then it's back to the studio until the big dip, the house meeting. At 5:30, there's meditation before dinner and then a short, gentle walk to "help digest".

If we look back over the last two months, you can see that this device has been doing exactly what it was intended to do - keeping me more active. You can see a steady escalation in my daily activity after Coupeville. (After one day spent mostly in bed. Those shows are exhausting!) See the thin blue line behind the bars? That's my activity goal for the day. I kept moving it higher and higher until it was kind of hard to reach without some real exercise.

And, you can see that September has not been as successful. I'll explain that when I write about my new diet. It took a few days of sluggishness to get my body used to functioning without lots of sugar and caffeine, but you can see that I'm back in the saddle!

There lots of other bells and whistles (sometimes literally) with this app, but there's one other piece that really keeps me motivated. It's the "Streak". A streak is a series of days in a row wherein I met my goal.

My longest streak was 26 days. It got broken when I placed Jacob's loom setup at a higher priority than exercising. It was a calculated risk, and I was hyper-aware of the decision I was making thanks to the Fuel Band and its records.

And now that I'm pretty well adjusted to my new diet and exercise program, there's nothing keeping me from beating my previous streak record. I'm on Day 5 right now. Just three more weeks of disciplined exercise until I beat my record!

See? The self-competitive game aspect of this thing is addictive and the end result is more exercise and better health. Awesome, huh?