jmadigan.net

4Jul/11Off

4th of July 2011

Photo dump! Had a great 4th of July weekend at The Farm, per our annual family tradition. We actually had a HUGE crowd out this year, with over 40 members of Geralyn's extended family all sitting down to the same dinner at one point. With the heat the lake saw a lot of use, including by our new puppy, young Ezio. Since he's not very well trained yet, we had fears of unclipping his leash and then watching as he sprinted off into the woods to be eaten by a bear, but he actually did really well while off the hook. He chased some butterflies on the beach, explored his love of digging in the sand, and even went for a handful of short swims.

Ezio was also the center of much attention and fawning, though I lost count of how many puzzled looks I received when trying to make people understand his name. "It's Italian" isn't quite the conversation ender I had hoped it would be, as people kept asking "So what does that translate to?"

At any rate, lots of fun and the girls were really well behaved despite all the commotion. Would do again.

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30Jun/11Off

We Are Dog People Now

Yep, we are no longer among the canine challenged. Behold young Ezio:

(The name is Italian. Ask a gamer to explain it to you if you don't get the reference.)

We'd been talking about getting a dog since before our cat passed away, but kept putting it off for one reason or another. Then Geralyn found online photos of some dogs from a rescue shelter that were going to be at a Pets Mart up the road last Saturday and we decided that it was as good a time as any. They actually had several really great dogs there, though a litter of little shitzus (which is a phrase with just one too many "zus" to properly describe those things) was getting all the attention. Our decision came down between the beagle-something mix we eventually walked out with and a cute labrador-spaniel mix. Both were puppies, about 11 or 12 weeks old. The latter displayed a more friendly personality, but eventually we decided that at a projected 40-45 pounds he was going to grow too big. Ezio (the adoption folks had accidentally named him "Cody," but we're fixing that) was a bit more mellow, about the right size, and satisfied our "we want a beagle mix" criterion. So after long deliberation we went with him and it seems to have been a good choice so far.

The adoption process was more involved than I expected. I had thought that if these places could load up a vending machine full of cats and dogs, they'd be happy to let you walk up to it, purse your lips in thought for a second, then select a puppy and maybe a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos to walk out with. Instead, we had no fewer than three interviews where they tried to ask us questions not much more sly than "So, how long do you think it will be before you abandon this cute little guy in a ditch?" I guess we came across as all-American enough to warrant rescuing a dog, though, and Geralyn's status as a stay-at-home mom probably helped a lot. So they had us fill out some paperwork, told us some cautionary and very disturbing stories about heart worms, and helped us pick out some squeaky toys.

As I said, Ezio is a pretty mellow fellow for a puppy. He doesn't bark much (except in one situation I'll get to in a sec), he hasn't shown much interest in chewing things with electricity flowing through them, and he has proven himself able to endure much hugging and involuntary relocation at the hands of Mandy. He's playful, friendly, and generally what you'd want out of a puppy.

The challenges, it seems, are going to be house breaking him and crate training him. The house breaking is to be expected, of course. He'll usually do his business outside if we take him, but he also seems content to just drop a load on the kitchen floor if we don't. But we're making progress. One of the tips we're trying to follow is to leave his scat out in the yard so that he can smell it there and associate that area with his bodily elimination. Geralyn thought this made sense in principle, but was worried about all the little brown land mines littering our yard and decided that we should wrap each piece of dog crap with a paper towel, then leave these sheets out in the yard. This is exactly as disgusting as it sounds, so I hope Ezio turns out to be a quick learner.

The other major challenge we're facing is with crate training. Since he's not housebroken yet, we want Ezio to stay in a crate during the night and when we have to leave him alone in the house. This is based on the principle of "don't defecate where you sleep" which most living creatures seem to think is a right and sensible policy. So we've been littering his crate with dog treats and praising him when he goes in to get them, thinking that this will build positive associations with the den-like environment and we'll be able to close the door and have him lie quietly. Ezio, on the other hand, believes that closing the door is his cue to begin howling, braying, and crying bloody murder. The first two nights we put him in our bedroom at night, thinking that our proximity would calm him. At one point he barked for two hours straight, so we relocated the crate to the basement. He still barks incessantly, but now it sounds like something in the ventilation ducts is very upset with us. Hopefully he'll get used to it and we can move him back up to a more trafficked area if not our bedroom again. But we went through this crying through the night thing with two human youngsters already. Not keen to do it again.

Anyway, on balance he's pretty great and makes a nice addition to the household. We're taking him through obedience training, so I'm sure I'll have some stories to share again in the near future. Now, here are pictures!

Filed under: General, Parenting 2 Comments
10Apr/11Off

I Ran a Half Marathon!

Samantha and I had a weekend full of running, and nobody was even chasing us. Today, for example, I completed my first ever half marathon --13.1 miles in 2 hours 23 minutes and 20 seconds. That's about 10:56 per mile on average. I'm not particularly happy with this time, but going in I was thinking that I'd be satisfied with two hours 20 minutes, happy with 10 minutes less than that, and ecstatic if I could finish in 2 hours or less. But really, if I finished on the same day that I started, I'd call it a success.

As I said, this was my first half marathon and I'd been training for it for months. I did a 13.1 mile treadmill run a few weeks ago so I knew I could finish, but I wasn't sure beyond that given that this race would be a) on the ground, and b) starting at 7 in the frigging morning. Here's how the time line broke out:

  • 5:00 am - Wake up after maybe 6 hours of sleep (probably closer to 5), dress, eat oatmeal and drink large mug of coffee.
  • 6:00 - Leave the house.
  • 6:30 - Arrive at the race site. Visit the horror that is the port-a-potty to deal with the large mug of coffee.
  • 6:58 - Oh, man, I need to go to the bathroom again, but the race starts at 7:00! Do I have time?
  • 7:00 - Nope.
  • 9:23 - Cross the finish line, bladder still demanding my attention

The course took us through various parts of downtown St. Louis and the surrounding areas, including treks past the Anheuser Busch brewery, Busch Stadium, Union Station, and the Soulard neighborhood. The latter was fun, as in keeping with that area's quirky character, many of the spectators were drinking bloody marys and cheering us on while wearing pajamas and bath robes.

I started off doing great, reserving my strength and maintaining a pace between 9:00 and 9:30 per mile, as per The Plan. I felt great for a long time, stopping to walk only when I hit the water stations and when I snarfed my Cliff bar at about the halfway point. Things were fine until around mile #11, when suddenly the bottom dropped out of my energy levels for some reason. This coincided with a really long, gradual hill that sapped what juice I had left. For the rest of the run I had to alternate between running and walking, and the former became increasingly more difficult. Upon approaching the finish line I tried to sprint to cover the last remaining ground, which in hindsight was probably a mistake because after crossing I seriously felt like I was going to either throw up, black out, or both.

Still, I finished and I got my medal and some little granola bars. Also some "Gu" which is a kind of high energy goop that's supposed to be great, but which left me feeling like I had a mouth full of vanilla flavored snot. I think I'll just pass out next time, thank you very much. On the plus side, I still think the best part of these races is how after hitting the water stations you get to just crumple your paper cup up and throw it on to the ground with complete impunity. That's worth the $80 entry fee right there. And over all, I enjoyed myself despite the weak finish and I'm going to try to do another half marathon in October and see if I can't get my time closer to the 2 hour mark. Need new training plan!

In other news, the day before my run, Sammy had her own event --the Read, Right, and Run Marathon. The idea was that in the weeks leading up to the date she and her participating classmates were supposed to read 26 books, do 26 good deeds, and run 25 miles (one mile at a time, of course). On Saturday they topped off the mileage to marathon length by doing a 1.2 mile run. Sam did pretty well, though like me she crossed the finish line dragging pretty hard. But we're proud of her, and she wants to do it again!

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22May/10Off

My First 10K Race: DONE

As I've mentioned here before, I've kind of gotten back into running in the last few months. More so than ever before, really. Earlier today I finished my first actual 10K (about 6.21 miles) race and had a great experience. There were a LOT of people there. I finished in 54 minutes and 59 seconds (8:51 per mile), which placed me in 108th place total and 20th place in my age bracket. Not trophy winning, but that's not what I was aiming for. I finished without walking (or lying down, for that matter) and I'm pretty happy with that pace; I'll try to kick it up next year.

Sam, Mandy, and Geralyn came down to see me after the race as well and they even surprised me with some pretty awesome signs. Though I actually didn't see the signs until after I finished the race, at which point the advice they gave was a bit inappropriate. But it was still great! Here's some pics!

Instead of writing up a big long post about the race itself, here's some bullet points in stream-of-consciousness style:

  • I listened to music during the run and had my Nike+ track the kilometers. That did a lot to break up the monotony, but apparently the randomization algorithm in my iPod thought that Black Eyed Peas was the most motivating music available.
  • The best thing about the race: periodically there are these tables where guys hand you paper cups of water --then you can totally just THROW THE CUPS DOWN ON THE GROUND! Being a runner means you get to litter!
  • Mile 2: Oh, god, oatmeal burps. Yeaugh.
  • Passing people is invigorating.
  • Getting passed is emasculating.
  • Mile 4: Broke through a wall and just ran on autopilot the rest of the time. Almost easy from here on out.
  • There was this guy in front of me for most of the race I came to think of as "Daddy Long Legs." Because he ran the whole 10K pushing a double jogger stroller with two kids in it. Impressive.
  • Thinking that the asperin I took just prior to the race was a good call.
  • Wow, there are a lot of really toned legs.
  • Mile 5: There was totally a huge and dead racoon lying right in front of the mile marker. Oookaaay.
  • Waving at people standing on the side of the road and cheering you on is more awesome than you'd think.
  • Knowing what I know about crowd psychology doesn't make me feel particularly confident about just following everyone else when some of the trail markers went missing. Worked out, though.
  • Mile 6: Tried to do the exact math to figure out how much distance was left. Failed.
  • Finish line: Woo! Free Vitamin Water(tm)!

I've got a 5K in June, but I'm already setting my sights on a half-marathon, possibly as early as October of this year. We'll see...

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6May/10Off

Weight Loss Week 18: 6 Pounds to Go

May 6 weight: 168.0
Weight TWO weeks ago: 170
5 day avg weight: 169.8
5 day avg weight two weeks ago: 171.7

All right, finally establishing a beach head in the 160s and just 6 pounds to go. Hopefully I'll keep the momentum up until I hit my goal. I missed last week's update because I was traveling and didn't take the scale with me. So the graph actually has some guesswork in it:

Weight loss graph week 18

Weight loss graph week 18

That's still about a pound per week, which at this point I'm happy with. My food diary has helped me keep my diet a little more in check, though I still don't count calories because every time I come across a meal that isn't prepackaged or served at a restaurant it becomes more trouble than it's worth to figure out the caloric content and serving size. I've just tried to use what I know to eat healthier and in reasonable portions.

The other part of the equation, of course, is that I'm working out a lot. Specifically, I've gotten into running more and have been doing weird things like tracking my miles (22 last week) and trying to get my pace down. I'm also running my first 10K race on May 22. I don't think finishing will be a problem (I ran 13K last Saturday, albeit on a treadmill) so I'm really looking forward to it.

In fact, I'm been so savaged by the running bug that I went out last weekend and did something ludicrous: I bought a pair of shoes specifically designed for running. BEHOLD!

running shoes

The box says they're "Nike Zoom Structure Trimax+13 size 9.5" I went to a small local shop that specializes in running equipment and the guy there was really helpful. He had me jog the length of the store so he could study my gait --normal, except I turn my right foot a bit and push off of it hard. He then recommended some different kinds of shoes with different types of support that would help me based on that and the types of surfaces I usually run on. I still ended up trying on 8 different pairs before I settled on the ones above. I also decided to go whole hog and buy a couple pairs of socks made from that technical fabric that supposedly "wick away sweat before it reaches the liquid form." Which is fascinating, because I wasn't aware that sweat came in any other form than liquid and honestly I'd rather not think about it.

Do the shoes work? Well, they're definitely lighter, and they feel different. But the psychologist in me wonders how much of any other benefits (less post-workout pain, easier to run, etc.) are are result of the shoes and how much they're a result of my expectations and desire to justify the expense. Well, either way is fine, I guess.

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22Apr/10Off

Weight Loss Week 16: 8 pounds to go

April 22 weight: 170.0
Weight two weeks ago: 170.5
5 day avg weight: 171.7
5 day avg weight two weeks ago: 171.4
Workouts in last 7 days: 6

Hrm, stuck in another plateau. Weight spiked up on Monday, then it took me the rest of the week so far to bring it back down to basically where it was last week.

Weight loss graph week 15

It's odd, because I've really cranked up the intensity of my exercise. I went running six days last week, covering 27 miles --a record week for me. That's a lot of calories burned, but apparently not enough to move the needle much.

The culprit, of course, must be food. I've abandoned calorie counting because it's too much of a pain to do with home made food. I don't really want to be the kind of person who obsessively enters every component of a recepie in order to get an estimate of its caloric content that's probably not that accurate, anyway. But it strikes me that a good middle ground is probably to just write down WHAT I eat and approximately how much, even if I don't track the calories contained in it. So I bought a $.79 pocket notebook and plan on carrying it with me everywhere. Just the act of writing down that I just gobbled a fist full of jelly beans may be enough to make me stop there, or better yet eat something else. So we'll see how that goes. I really want to get into the 160s, like NOW.

Returning to the topic of exercise, I've really been enjoying running lately. I did my first 5K run at SIOP the other week, and signed up for another 5K in my neighborhood this June. But then I found that my local science museum was sponsoring a 10K race in May, so I signed up for that. I think I could do 10K at this point, since I have, in fact, run that far in one go many times at the gym. I'll just have to do it outside now, on a ground that doesn't politely move itself underneath me to spare me the extra trouble. I'll let you know how that goes, too.

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15Apr/10Off

Weight Loss Week 15: 8.5 pounds to go

April 15 weight: 170.5

Weight two weeks ago: 170.0

5 day avg weight: 171.4

5 day avg weight two weeks ago: 171.1

Workouts in last 7 days: 6? I think?

Well, I missed last week's update because I was out of town at a convention and forgot to throw my scale in my suitcase. So I really didn't have any good way to weigh myself and this week's graph involves some guesswork. This causes me much consternation, as I have been trained and conditioned to hate dirty data.

Weight loss graph week 15

I'm hovering right around 170, which is annoying. Eating while traveling is always tough, as you don't often cook for yourself and it's hard to go to restaurants where they don't give you massive portions. On top of THAT, the convention where I was featured 2-3 catered coffee breaks per day where they would roll out these big trays full of cookies, energy bars, cakes, and the like. I didn't partake every time, but I abstain every time.

However, I'm not at all bummed for two reasons. First, this is an annual convention that I go to almost every year and see old friends and colleagues so I was about 35 pounds lighter than the last time most of these people had seen me. I got several comments and compliments on this, and I'm not going to lie to you --I enjoyed that.

The second reason I'm not bummed is that I ran in my first ever semi-official 5k race --the SIOP 5K "Fun Run." The downside was that the race took place at 6:30 on Saturday, the morning after a late night. Also, it was far too chilly for my tee shirt and shorts. And we spent more time bussing to the race location and waiting for them to set up the trail. But once we got started, I had fun running with a pack of other people. While I found the 5K run easy (I run 5K to 6K for routine workouts 3-4 times a week) I wasn't anywhere near the front of the pack. The winner had an average mile of 5 minute 11 seconds (!) but I came in #63 out of 107 with a total time of 27 minutes on the nose and an average mile of 8 minutes and 41 seconds. Here's a post-race picture:

Weight loss week 15

I'm slowly getting more into running now, especially with the warmer weather. I still track my stuff at DailyMile.com, and I've sigend up for another 5K in June. I'd really like to find a local 10K to work up to, though. I think I could do that at this point.

Anyway, I've got some time before I have to travel again, so it's time to get back on target. 160s here I come.

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1Apr/10Off

Weight Loss Week 13: 8 Pounds to Go

April 1 weight: 170.0

Weight a week ago: 171.5

5 day avg weight: 171.8

5 day avg weight a week ago: 171.6

Workouts in last 7 days: 6

Another pound and a half down, though the 5-day average weight was basically a wash. I let myself have a "fall off the wagon" weekend but got right back on track Monday. I'm SO close to being in the 160s. Hopefully I will be in the next few days, though with Easter coming up I'm no so sure. There's going to be a lot of candy and food at our big family gathering this Sunday.

Graph!

Weight loss graph week 13

No picture at the moment. Maybe tonight.

I started mixing in a bit of weight lifting to my workout routine, and this has reminded me of something very important: lifting weights after not having lifted weights for a long time makes you hurt very, VERY much. So sore. Still, it's nice to have some variation and it'll be good for the long term.

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25Mar/10Off

Weight Loss Week 12: 9.5 pounds to go

March 25 weight: 171.5

Weight a week ago: 172.5

5 day avg weight: 171.6

5 day avg weight a week ago: 173.7

Workouts in last 7 days: 6

Another week another pound. That loss should be higher. I was weighing in at 170.5 yesterday and the day before, then ate poorly yesterday. Still, I'm down over TWO pounds if you look at the 5-day running average. I hope to drop into the 160s next week or the week after at the latest.

Graph!

Weight loss graph week 12

Picture:

And just for fun, here's me photobombing my daughter after she asked to play with the camera remote:

You probably can't tell from the photos, but it seems that one place the weight loss is really showing itself is my face. I've actually got a more squared off chin now (the trademark Madigan chin, which my dad had, which my sister has, and which Mandy has) and I swear sometimes you can see cheekbones. There's stil some soft/baggy flesh under my lower jaw, but even that is diminishing. It's nice to see. Or not see.

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18Mar/10Off

Weight Loss Week 11: 10.5 pounds to go

March 18 weight: 172.5

Weight a week ago: 173.5

Last 5 days avg weight: 173.7

Workouts in last 7 days: 5

I've lost one pound (or 1.3 pounds if you go by the running 5-day average) in the last week. That's okay. Not great, but okay. It's progress. Graph:

Weight loss graph week 11

Unfortunately I didn't live up to my pledge to avoid the "Monday spike" I talked about last week. This probably had something to do with the St. Patrick's Day celebration over the weekend, with specific blame going, oddly enough, not to beer but to baked goods. Part of me says I should have opted for the beer.

Sorry, no picture this week. I find it harder to get up in the morning with daylight savings time and I was running late this morning. Maybe I should start taking them Wednesday evening.

With the weather warming up I'm starting to get outside to run a bit more, and I'm reminded of how much better (and more demanding) it is than running on a treadmill. Still, I can still run well over 5K at a time on the ground, so I shouldn't have any trouble finishing next month's 5K race. I actually haven't attempted a long run (by which I mean in the 10 kilometer or 6 mile range) on the ground yet. I hope to soon if the weather would stop slingshotting around.

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11Mar/10Off

Weight Loss Week 10: 11.5 pounds to go

March 11 weight: 173.5

Weight a week ago: 175

Last 5 days avg weight: 175

Workouts in last 7 days: 6

Okay, back on track and trending in the right direction. I had been worrying that this would be another bad weigh in.

Graph:

Weight loss graph week 10

And here's a picture. Happy St. Patrick's Day. God, why are my pants hitched halfway up to my armpits?

Weight Loss picture week 10

I noticed something about the graph. Notice how it regularly spikes. Those spikes? Seven days apart. Every Monday. Every one of those spikes is a Monday weigh-in. The implication is pretty clear: I do fine when I'm at work and I have little choice but to eat what I packed. I could go out or go to a vending machine, but that's kind of a pain. At home on the weekends, though, I'm more likely to snack and eat bigger meals at breakfast and lunch. Apparently.

So, here's my new mini-goal: No spike come this Monday. I'm counting every calorie again to help make this happen, but I want to see that green line smoothed out next Thursday.

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4Mar/10Off

Weight Loss Week 9: 13 pounds to go

March 4 weight: 175

Weight a week ago: 174

Last 5 days avg weight: 175.6

Workouts in last 7 days: 6

Feh. Bad week, not sure what else to say. The culprit is, as usual, diet. I really need to rein that in and see what I can do over the next 7 days.

Graph.

Weight loss graph week 9

I was running late this morning, so I didn't grab a picture yet. I'll try to snap one tonight and update this post. If not, just use your imagination

And now, I'm going to get ready to head to the gym.

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25Feb/10Off

Weight Loss Week 8: 12 pounds to go

Feb 25 weight: 174

Weight a week ago: 176

Last 5 days avg weight: 176

Workouts in last 7 days: 6

Two pounds down and 5-day average weight down a pound. Hopefully, this is the end of my plateau. Getting under 175 pounds is a big psychological milestone for me, since that's the weight I was when back in grad school when I was lifting weights A LOT and was probably the most fit I've ever been. Only admittedly a lot less of my current weight is from muscle. Alas. Up next: college weight!

Graph!

Weight loss graph week 8

Picture! I need to learn to smile in these things.

Weight Loss picture week 8

I really upped the intensity of my workouts this week in addition to tightening up diet. I'm trying to do 10k treadmill runs three times a week, with eliptical workouts in between to let my legs recover. This has meant getting up early enough to get into work by 7:30 so I can leave at 4:00 and have a 60 minute workout instead of a 30 minute one. I wish my gym offered a spinning class or something at a time that worked for me; the "Cardio Blast" stuff they offer would probably indeed blast me, but just doesn't look like it's for me.

The diet part of the eqation has been helped out by the fact that Geralyn has committed to giving up candy for Lent, and is herself dieting and abstaining from baking cookies, cakes, pies, muffins, cupcakes, breads, or other such hidiously delicious things with which she usually keeps our kitchen stocked. So we have all been snacking either better or not at all. The price of progress.

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18Feb/10Off

Weight Loss Week 7: 14 pounds to go

Feb 18 weight: 176

Last 5 days avg weight: 177

Weight a week ago: 176

Workouts in last 7 days: 6

Meh. I seem to have hit a plateau already, as my weight isn't any different than what it was 7 days ago (though my running 5-day average did go down by over a pound). Valentine's day treats probably didn't help. Well, in my experience the thing to do with plateaus is to keep on grinding until you get past them, so that's what I'll do.

Graph!

Weight loss graph week 7

Picture!

One thing I have been doing really well with is my workouts, which makes the plateau kind of aggravating. I've been running on the treadmill, trying to get ready to run a 5K run this April. I don't think it's going to be a problem, as on Monday I surprised myself by running, nonstop, for 10 kilometers (about 6.2 miles) with a pace of 5:30 per kilometer. According to my calculations, that 10k run ate up 844 calories which is like HALF my daily calorie goal. Two days later I ran again and hit 8 kilometers before having to cut it short and go home because I was already late for dinner. I can't wait for the weather to warm up so that I can try my hand (foot?) at running outdoors on the ground.

I could tell myself that maybe I'm putting on muscles in my legs and that's accounting for the plateau in weight loss. ...If that didn't sound like something that someone trying to fool himself would say.

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11Feb/10Off

Weight Loss Week 6: 14 pounds to go

Feb 11 weight: 176

Last 5 days avg weight: 178.2

Weight a week ago: 176.5

Workouts in last 7 days: 6

Pretty unimpressive week. I either lost half a pound or no weight at all, depending on if you look at this morning's weight or the 5-day running average. I had a bad weekend involving Chex cereal mix and the dreaded "Donut Sunday." The latter is our church's monthly, free all-you-can-eat donut bonanza. Not to go all "Cathy" on you, but donuts are my favorite food. I won't say anything as untruthful as "I can't help myself" but the fact is that if you set a platter of them down in front of me, I don't want to help myself. I'll eat them until I literally feel ill and at the time I'll think it the best of all possible situations. Alas.

Chart!

Weight loss graph week 6

You can see how much I'm bouncing around, but at least there's a downward trend there. If you squint and kind of tilt your head. I'll make next week a better one. Thank God that Donut Sunday is only once a month.

And picture!

Half a pound doesn't show up much in pictures. So for comparison's sake, here is an average six year old girl who insisted on trying out the camera's remote control:

I think she weighs like four pounds. Five tops. Wait, that just makes me look heavier, doesn't it?

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4Feb/10Off

Weight Loss Week 5: 14.5 pounds to go

February 4 weight: 176.5

Last 5 days average weight: 178.2

January 28 weight: 181

Workouts in last 7 days: 6

Ah, back on pace. I've lost 4.5 pounds in the last week, which makes up for last week's gain and then some. And not only that, it takes me past the "10 pounds lost" milestone after just 5 weeks. Apparently working out regularly and not snacking on calorie-dense foods is important to weight loss. Who knew?

Chart!

Weight loss graph week 4

Very squiggly. And here's me this morning:

So, let's talk about weighing. People sometimes tell me that you shouldn't weight yourself every day because your weight fluctuates naturally and you can get depressed when you stay the same or even gain weight the morning after what you considered a good day. Poppycock. It's true that your weight fluctuates (look at the green line in that graph above), but the regular feedback motivates me more than it demotivates, and if I have a bad (or a particularly good) weigh-in I remember that the orange, 5-day average line up there is what matters more.

I weigh myself every morning. I stumble into the bathroom, use the toilet, get nekkid, and then step on the scale. Same conditions every morning, which removes many sources of random error variance, such as what you're wearing and how full your bladder or stomach is. Sure, it doesn't eliminate the variance in your weight not attributable to diet and exercise, but it gets close enough. Heck, one dieting hack I've started doing is weighing myself in the evening after dinner, thinking "Okay, if I don't snack on anything else for the rest of the night, the laws of physics demand that I will weigh no more --and maybe less-- than this in the morning." It works.

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28Jan/10Off

Weight Loss Week 4: 19 Pounds to Go

January 28 weight: 181

Last 5 days average weight: 180.9

January 21 weight: 178

Workouts in last 7 days: 2

Oof, bad week. I've gained 3 pounds in the last 7 days. Part of this was because a severe gout flare up (yes, gout) kept me away from the gym all but two days. So I exercised nearly not at all. But I also have to own up to eating pretty poorly this week. I ate cake at Sam's birthday party, too much pizza at her diner, and I generally snacked too much on cookies and these little chocolate covered pomegranate seeds that Geralyn bought a big bag of.

Here's my chart of shame:

Weight loss graph week 4

And here is my none-the-slimmer self:

While I think the lack of workouts and the poor eating are due to different causes, they are definitely related. I've noticed that when I work out, I'm less likely to snack and even less likely to make bad choices if I do snack. I may look at an oatmeal cookie and think, "Just an hour ago I burned about 400 calories at the gym and it took 40 minutes. I could eat this cookie in 4 seconds and undo half of that work." Framing it as a loss helps me restrain myself because people are loss averse. So working out is doubly important -- it not only burns calories but helps me not eat as much afterwords.

I'm feeling better now, though, and am determined to get back on track. I'm pledging to do what it takes to lose at least 2 pounds in the next 7 days.

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21Jan/10Off

Weight Loss Week 3: 16 Pounds to Go

January 21 weight: 178
Last 5 days average weight: 181.2
January 14 weight: 181.5
Workouts in last 7 days: 4

I've lost 3.5 pounds in the last 7 days. I'm more than happy with that rate, and a little surprised given that I not only had a bad weekend, but a bad three day weekend where I ate the better part of a pile of oatmeal cookies.
In fact, if you look at the graph below you can see where my weight rose back up ABOVE where it was in last week's post:

Weight loss graph week 3

This really stressed me out, as I kept thinking about having to post here, today, that I had failed. How embarrassing! So, I clamped down on the diet in the last 2 days and thankfully the influence of those few bad days wasn't long lasting. I think this is a perfect example of why public goals work so well: you may be able to make excuses for yourself, but if you know other people aren't going to buy them, you may just decide not to fail in the first place.
Of course, I'm totally setting myself up here for gaining weight next week, aren't I? Well, here's a poor quality picture:

The hack I thought I'd mention this week is another food one: smoothies. A few weeks ago Alton Brown did an episode of Good Eats devoted to how he dropped a ton of weight. That's where I got last week's almonds recipe, and Alton had exactly one other idea that I thought was practical: a fruit smoothie for breakfast every day. Well, almost every day. Most nights what I do is place 3/4 cup of each of the following in the blender's pitcher: strawberries, blueberries, banana, and skim milk. I then just put the pitcher in the fridge and when I get up the next morning it takes me about 10 seconds to make a pretty good breakfast that's just under 300 calories.

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14Jan/10Off

Weight Loss Week 2: 19.5 Pounds to Go

January 14 weight: 181.5

Last 5 days average weight: 182.6

January 7 weight: 187

Workouts in last 7 days: 5

I lost 5.5 pounds over the last 7 days. That's a lot for one week, but not completely unexpected. I've noticed that the weight tends to come off fast right when I tighten up my diet, possibly because I'm cutting out a lot of salt (which makes you retain water) and eating more fiber (which makes you ...you know...). I expect things to slow way down going forward.

Look, I made a graph!

Weight loss graph week 2

Notice the two lines. Notice them! The green one is my daily weight. The orange one is my running, 5-day average weight. Since weight naturally fluctuates on a daily basis, it's the "smoothed out" orange line that I pay most attention to. Because it lets random error variance in weight gain/loss cancel itself out over the course of 5 days I think it's a better measure of actual progress. You know this makes sense because I used a fancy phrase like "random error variance" to explain it.

Now, here's this week's awkward self-portrait taken while I was still groggy this morning:

One little diet hack that I thought I'd mention this week because it seemed to work: almonds. I got a one pound bag of raw almonds and toasted them with some salt, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and a dash of chill powder. Geralyn then put them into little zip-top bags in one ounce servings. I put all those bags in a bigger bag and put it in the trunk of my car. Now when I leave work every day I grab one of the baggies and eat it in the car on the way to the gym. At 170 calories for 1 ounce (about 22 almonds) they're calorie dense, but I've noticed that it gives me energy for the workout and keeps me from snacking before dinner. Plus they're awesome.

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7Jan/10Off

Weight Loss Week 1: 25 to go

And now for something that most of you completely don't care about, but which I do.

In 2009 I lost about 25 pounds by eating less and exercising more. Hardly a Biggest Loser rate of loss, but respectable and most of it actually came in the first 6 months, after which I slacked off and maintained.

In the last few weeks, though, I've started trending upwards again so I'd like to drop another 25 from where I am now, which would place me at 162 pounds for a 5'6" guy. I didn't want to blog about weight loss last year because I didn't want it to come across as the same lame new year's resolution that everyone makes and honestly I wasn't sure if I would do it. But given how I can't seem to stay back on the wagon, I thought some kind of public declaration and tracking of my goals and habits would help me. And besides, this isn't really a new year's resolution, it's just the continuation of the one I made last year.

So once a week I'm going to check in here and post my weight and a quick rundown of what I ate each day that week. FASCINATING, I know. But again, making goals public makes you more likely to achieve them, and I'm partially inspired by the guy over on 344pounds.com who started doing this kind of thing at 344 pounds and had wild success --he's currently at 216 pounds and still dropping.

As far as how I'm going to proceed, I'm going to do what helped me drop the first 25: eating less and exercising more. Taking in less than I put out. To help do that, I'm going to again track the calories of everything I eat and I'm going to aim for working out for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week. I'm using Myfitnesspal.com and the associated iPhone ap for the tracking at the moment.

So, here's the check-in for Week 1:

January 7 weight: 187 lbs.

Calorie reporting will start next week.

Week 1

So, wish me luck. Or, alternatively, say "Put down the fork, fatty!" Either works for me.

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