§3 – Flashback to August 2018

(Part 3 of 3 in Weight to Waist Ratio)

This post is from some quick notes I made in August 2018. I’m only just getting around to publishing it now, 8 months later, as part of this series. Today, at ~230 pounds, 215 seems like a dream.

I’m recently back from traveling to Denmark and France to attend two Parkour events back-to-back. As usual when I’m traveling, I don’t attempt to keep up my normal routines so there’s no data recorded for most of July 2018.

I’m happy to return still around 215 as I try to get back to my routine of “chaining together” my mornings. Compared to July, I’m not as active, but I’m trying to AVOID the, “let’s be super active and try the 100-days-of-activity challenge,” mistake I made in 2017 when I came home from the same events all excited about movement.

Anyway, what about that ratio of 1958? …it’s so low that it’s not even on the graph! This reminds me of two things I believe I’ve noticed:

  1. The ratio lags behind when I’m actively losing weight. My guess is that the different components (water, subcutaneous fat, visceral fat, and muscle) change at different rates. So when losing fat from calorie deficit, the peripheral/subcutaneous is liberated first—which aligns with my recollection that visceral fat is more tenacious.
  2. The best ratio is very hard to find—to actually see it in the measurements. I have to lose weight gradually, and then stay at the new weight for many weeks to see the ratio rebound to above 2000. (Reminder, the ratio is in wacky units of “tenths of pounds per millimeter midriff circumference” because of how I record the numbers. The numerical value of the ratio is of no concern; It’s only useful for trending.)

On not letting go

https://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2013/07/do-your-goals-conflict-with-your-personality/

I experimented by letting go of goals for a while and just going with the flow, but that produced even worse results. I know some people are fans of that style, but it hasn’t worked well for me. I make much better progress — and I’m generally happier and more fulfilled — when I wield greater conscious control over the direction of my life.

~ Steve Pavlina

“Letting go” of my structures and goals is good for short-term health. I do this when I’m traveling, or when something unusual happens, (such as having a house guest for a weekend.) Letting go enables me to see if my default habits have changed, as I’m often working on some goal or project that involves habit change. Letting go creates space for serendipity.

But letting go does not get things done. My mind is meant to have ideas, not to hold them. Systems (a grocery list, a todo list, plans for projects, and so on) are how my mind creates the changes I want to see in the world.

Letting go certainly recharges me. It’s the restorative yin to my personality’s default yan.

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§7 – Exercise

(Part 7 of 9 in Changes and Results)

Exercise is not about weight loss.

Exercise builds physical ability and mental health.

For me, it began when I fell in love– with a bicycle.

The story of a boy and his bicycle

Long after college, way down in my downward death spiral, I bought a cheap mountain bicycle. Today, I don’t recall what possessed me to even want to buy a bike. I guess it just reminded me of the freedom I’d discovered when as a kid I first set out on a bicycle.

At the time, we were living in an apartment a short ride from a long park that followed a meandering creek. The park has long trails—some asphalt, some packed gravel—that follow the creek, and it has a few, short, side trails that almost resemble mountain biking.

I fell in love.

I fell in lust is probably more accurate.

I pedaled and pedaled. …and then I pedaled some more. …and then a lot more. I literally wore out that cheap, beautiful bike in the first summer.

During that summer we bought a mountain bike for my dad. He bought an hybrid bike for my mom. Then for a Christmas present, my parents and Tracy bought me a nicer bike. Whereas I was previously crazy about riding, with a new, better, lighter bike, I took things up several notches to addiction, and began riding the daylights out of everything.

I bought a “Mountain Biking Pennsylvania” book and started just heading out to ride trails from the book. Tracy bought a Cannondale when she changed jobs, and then things got out of hand—like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas out of hand. In the end, I was directly responsible for 27 people going to a particular bike shop and buying bikes because I kept trying to find someone who had the bicycling bug as bad as me.

I pedaled on into the seasons. I commuted the short 2 miles to and from my office in rain and snow. I had studded snow tires for the winter. I replaced bike parts as they wore out, and modified the bike more and more until the bike shop owner, (at this point, a good friend,) finally said, “You know, there are other bikes.” It had never occurred to me that I could own more than one bike. he looked at me like the simpleton I was, “Craig, some people have so many bikes, they hide the newest ones from their wives.”

Re-learning to move

The story continues of course. (The new bike is named Beelzebub, and is the first bike I’ve ever named.) But this article is about “exercise”, not about my affairs with bikes.

In the midst of it all, I understood that it was all partly the runner’s high aspect. But also knew that I simply felt better the more I rode those bikes. Sure my wrists got sore, and I became a menace in the local park zooming around and around like it somehow mattered in the grand scheme. But in the process, my body was changing.

Much later I learned that what I had done was change my identity; changed the way I saw myself. I became the sort of person who would get up early on weekends to drive an hour to ride a bike all over some trail because it was “Trail number #87” in a book. I became the sort of person who learns about bikes, then learns about exercise, and then learns about glycogen storage in muscles.

At the very beginning of the bicycling epoch, I was building a lot of muscle. Well, a “lot” compared to the gelatinous blob of fat I had converted myself into after college. Muscle requires energy to build it and then some energy to maintain it. So in the beginning I got a small win on weight loss, just by adding muscle. As my daily caloric needs went way up, it halted the creeping weight gain.

Years later I learned that exercise is simply, generally healthy.

That sounds like a platitude, but it’s not: Even small amounts of exercise have out-sized benefits in your health and your daily mood. If I exercise just a little, (for example, 20 minutes of moderate walking,) then I sleep better that night, and every time I exercise I get a small psychological benefit.

The key point was the change in my mental health: Exercise made me feel better, and the better I felt, the more I wanted to exercise. Exercise didn’t make me lose weight: It improved my health, and I became the sort of person who weighs less. That sounds subtle, but it’s tremendously easier than trying to lose weight directly.

Compensatory adaptation

I changed my behavior (I added biking) and my body responded by adapting. (Compensatory adaptation from Ned Kock is a great, deep-dive.)

I added some muscle, changed some hormone levels and interactions, cleaned up some mitochondrial function, and other things improved. But soon (it was probably about a year) my body had adapted to where its new state worked well enough for the activities I was doing regularly. This is the famous plateau effect.

As I’ve mentioned, I didn’t realize this is what was happening (the plateau). I just bike bike bike bike biked all over everything. Meanwhile I was tracking things in my health journal, tweaking things here and there (sleep, moving dinner-time earlier, food choices, etc..)

How would you implement this intentionally? If you are even farther out of shape than I was at the start, I don’t suggest starting with biking. Walking is probably better, or maybe even swimming. Exactly what you do isn’t the point. It’s that you begin to exercise. Don’t to do in the sense that, “I have to go exercise now.” (This is why gym memberships generally don’t work as a New Year’s resolution.) Rather, you want to exercise just as something you do, and that will transform yourself into the type of person who exercises.

I am the type of person who…

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All things

https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2007/12/16/post-dreaming-reality/

One day I’ll be a filmmaker! One day I’ll be a famous artist! One day I’ll be a CEO! One day I’ll be a Creative Director! One day I’ll be a Venture Capitalist! And so forth.

Then you get to a certain age and you realize that the time for “One Day” is over. You’re either doing it, or you’re not. And if you’re not, a feeling of bitter disappointment starts hitting you deep into the marrow. Which explains why we all know so many people in their 30s and 40s having mid-life crisis’.

~ Hugh MacLeod

Whether I’m different, or have already passed through that, I know not. What I can tell you is that my problem is not at all a feeling of not doing what I want to do.

My problem is the feeling that I am doing too many different things. All things I’ve chosen. All things which I’m passionate about. All things which are cool, rewarding, meaningful and make the world a better place.

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I don’t scale

https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2008/06/25/meaning-scales-people-dont/

No matter where your adventure takes you, most of what is truly meaningful is still to be found revolving around the mundane stuff you did before you embarked on your adventure. The stuff that’ll be still be going on long after you and I are both dead, long after our contribution to the world is forgotten.But often, one needs to have that big adventure before truly appreciating this. Going full circle. Exactly.

~ Hugh MacLeod

I like this idea because it means that today, things are as bad as it can get.

I’m already super-busy, super-stressed, super-anxious, super-self-critical and super-distracted. I’m pretty sure that finishing another project—just. one. more!—is not going to magically fulfill me. Somehow this lesson is easy to understand but hard to know… hard to integrate.

But “scale”? That’s something I really understand. I understand what happens with something that can scale, and something that cannot scale. So if humans—i.e., me—don’t scale, why do I keep trying to make me scale?

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Irrelevant

At the dawn of the internet, posting a commercial message was the indicator used by everyone to point and say, “that is spam.”

This was a huge mistake. Because it led to a deep rabbit-hole of requiring us to answer the question: Is this message commercial?

I think it’s commercial? …do you? Wait what is “commercial” is it any time we exchange any amount of value? That’d be two people talking! “Commercial” isn’t inherently bad… Ok, but we need to agree so we can make a decision! Is “we” a few of us in this space, or does the poster’s opinion matter? Does their “street credit” in the space affect how much we value their opinion? Maybe we can rate-limit how many border-line-commercial messages each person can… Oh, wait, I know! Let’s appoint someone to be the arbiter of this space and… deep. deep. rabbit. hole.

And we went to great length to try to place (move, cajoul, beg, etc) the commercial stuff into designated areas.

It’s not commercial that is the problem. SURPRISE is the problem. If something is unexpected, it better be perceived as desired. It’s not the content of the message (post, email, phone, whatever) that matters, it’s the recipient’s REACTION that matters.

That phone call at dinner from the caller ID you do not recognize—unexpected and undesired—spam!

The garage that fixed my car that later robo-calls me to beg me to 5-star rate them—unexpected and undesired—spam!

The web site pop-up dialog talking about…—spam!

So the first challenge is to get control of the channels. I’ve moved away from anything where random people can easily interrupt me. (Where “moved away” means everything from literally eliminate said thing, to change or reconfigure how it works, etc. My “inner circle” of people can easily surprise me, of course!) This drastically reduces surprises, and so drastically reduces spam.

Then the second challenge is to locate the channels that contain the information—including commercial information—which I want to receive. My favorite clothing retailer has learned that I like to be surprised with email from them. Commercial? …absolutely. Spam? …yes, please.

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Time is slipping

Thank you for giving me a few moments of your time.

Every moment—well, minus the 1/3 of my life when I’m horizontal and unconscious—I have the power to exercise my free will to decide what to do with my time. Since you are on the Internet, you likely also have this power and freedom. (Many people do not.)

Which moments do I regret? The ones where my choices were not intentional. Moments where I was habitual. Moments where I was reactive.

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Ownership

https://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2012/06/virtual-real-estate/

Ownership is somewhat of a gray area, both with physical and virtual real estate. I use the term loosely here. Ownership depends on how much control you have over the property, so we have a spectrum of possibilities. For instance, if you want to discover who really owns your home, stop paying your property taxes for a while and see what happens.

~ Steve Pavlina

This pull-quote has little to do with the linked article. It simply made me laugh out loud—for real, in the literal sense. If you’ve not owned a house, you cannot aprehend property taxes. I digress.

Just before this article by Steve, I had read a short piece about adulthood and children. A piece about parents who give children too much choice. It contained a thought or three about:

Why would I want to grow up and have to accept all the responsibility, when I already have all the freedom and luxury?

That is one of the Big Questions. The day on which I understood the answer was the 3rd most important day of my life.

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Inspiration is for suckers

https://seths.blog/2011/05/self-directed-effort/

The thing I care the most about: what do you do when no one is looking, what do you make when it’s not an immediate part of your job… how many push ups do you do, just because you can?

~ Seth Godin

Stumbled over this 8-year-old post from Seth. It’s suprisingly apropos—confirmation bias in action I suppose—of a conversation I just had.

There are two ways I can go with my thoughts on this: It turns out that I do a lot push-ups, (and other things, “Hello, Art du Déplacement,”) just because I can. But I think there’s a more interesting thread I can pull from this serendipity.

I don’t trust inspiration. I don’t trust it to show up, let alone motivate me. If something inspires me, I channel that energy to envision the path which could make the inspiring idea into some reality. I use moments of inspiration to propel me into doing the hard work of figuring out the next possible step. …and the step after that. …and after that.

The rest of the time—most of the time in fact—all I’m doing is working my systems. A bit of this, a bit of that, some of this, and some of that.

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