13 Weeks: Week 11 -- In Which We Consolidate Our Losses

It turns out that I happened on a picture I took of myself on the 16th of October, which is just about the time I started finding myself writing in my morning pages that I was only 12 years younger than my father had been when he died….

2012 October 16

Here’s a picture from a similar angle with the same (iPod Touch) camera, taken today (Friday):

2013 January 18

I see where I’ve lost the 30 lbs: it was all from my neck. Jaysus.

So, even with my troubles seeing myself clearly, I’ve got to say, now I’m seeing some differences.

I’m continuing to plan for my next 13 weeks experiment, and you know, there’s a question I’ve been asked multiple times now: why 13 weeks?  Honestly, the answer is probably “I don’t know.” Some of it is pure superstition: I have good luck (contrarian that I am) with thirteens.  Both of my parents were born on the 13th, and they married on the 13th; I’ve lived at #13 addresses many times.  But there are some practical points about it.

Thirteen weeks is exactly one calendar quarter — there are 4 of them in a year, with a day left over.  Thirteen weeks is long enough for longer-term trends and effects to show clearly, but short enough that I can foresee an end.  If I hadn’t decided to do this experiment for thirteen weeks no matter what, there have been a couple of weight plateaus (and sudden weight gains) that could have been very demoralizing — about which more below.  Thirteen weeks is right around the average lifetime for a red blood cell, so an A1c (average blood sugar) taken next month will be from entirely within the experiment. (As you’ll recall, it’s my blood sugar that concerned me more than weight in itself.  Even though, dammit, I do tend to obsess about the weight loss.)

Now, I’ll say, the thirteen has put some people off for the opposite superstition from mine, the common triskaidekaphobia. I do intend to write this up in book form; I’ve had people tell me that I’ve got to change the title. But I have to say, 13 weeks seems to have worked for me.

As far as consolidation.  The pictures above do show the difference I think, and I’m really feeling other differences.  I’ve got a two story house; I’m not putting off trips up and down the stairs as I used to.  I feel exceptionally good.  I got a CPAP about 10 days ago, which is also helping — I may be sleeping well for the first time since puberty.  I’m sure that the apnea has been helped by the weight loss and I’m hoping continuing weight loss will help more. And, of course, my blood sugar has showed a marked improvement — as I said last week, from diabetic to post-diabetic (although it’d be more correct to say “type II diabetic in remission.”)  My mood is better too, which for someone who has had paralyzing depressions is a good and useful thing.

I seem to have more energy, both physically and mentally. Again, this isn’t too surprising.  I buy water in 1.5 liter bottles from Eldorado Springs Water Company, in cases of a dozen.  That’s basically 40 lbs; 9 bottles is just about 30 lbs.  The effect is like if I were carrying around nine of these bottles in a backpack and I took the damn thing off.  But I’m just finding it easier to do things, and not just physical things — I’m actively studying Mandarin again, and getting more writing done.  Some of that also may be the CPAP — I don’t think I understood the effect of actually getting a decent night’s sleep.

More Training

As I’ve promised, the next 13 weeks will be more about exercise, physical activity, and so forth.  i’m accumulating a number of experts to help me with this, and reading a bit more widely.  Now, you may have noticed that there is a fair bit of controversy about different diets — low fat, low carb, paleo, and so on.

Well, let me tell you something: compared to the controversies about the most effective and efficient exercise, diet controversies are nothing.

My plan is that next week, I’ll write a piece on my more or less complete beginning plan for exercise;  the last week will be something special, a minor work of science fiction as I consider what might be the outcome of the Taubes view of nutrition.  But I want to lay down some markers about exercise here.


In my next 13 weeks, I’m going to document my plan; starting with the new 13 week period, I’ll report exactly how well I’m following the plan.  For this 13 weeks, I said “oh, I’m going to exercise more” but I wasn’t very good about either doing it or reporting it.  Now, my daily updates on the Facebook page will always include how well I’m complying with my exercise plan.

Time limits.

The fact is that I’m not that thrilled with exercise and don’t want to spend many hours a week doing stuff specifically for exercise.  I’m going to be looking for the things I can do without spending an immense fortune, and do in a reasonable amount of time; at least at first, I’ll be looking to spend more more than two hours a week on the exercise.

Measurable effects.

I’m concerned about things I can measure.  In software, we talk about SMART requirements: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Testable (yes, I know I’m changing that a little from the link. There are lots of different specific lists, and the article is a good one in general.) I’m a very big believer in the idea that what gets measured, gets managed.  The question is what can I measure effectively?

I bought a Withings scale a few weeks ago; I’m using it for weight, but in the next 13 weeks, I’m going to use its body fat measurment function as well, with the intention being to see a significant downward trend in percent body fat.  In parallel with that, I’ve also gotten a conventional skinfold caliper, which I’ll use every Sunday in addition to the body measurements I’ve been doing (which frankly haven’t been very effective, I think because my measurement methodology hasn’t worked.)

Added to that, I bought a Fitbit One wireless activity tracker — basically a nerd pedometer.  This has several measurements I’ll be using.

The No Dogma, No Boredom Rule.

I’m looking for good research, strong validation, and frankly, plausibility.  I’m not going to do CrossFit religiously, although I’m definitely going to take advice from CrossFit.  But I’ll be adding in Pilates, some weights, some martial arts stuff (I was once pretty good at karate, but I slacked off as knees and ankles hurt), and also I’ve got an XBox Kinect just waiting for me, one that I bought with exercise in mind.  The point will be to have enough variety that it doesn’t get boring, while still being trackable.

The No Puking Rule.

I’ve had some bad experiences with personal training, most of which have come down to this: the trainers aren’t looking at my effort, they’re looking at what they thing I ought to be doing.  If I was in shape enough to be doing what they think I ought to be doing, I wouldn’t need to hire a trainer.  I want to make good progress, but as I’ve learned in gyms, hot yoga places, and gym classes in the past, throwing up deters me badly from exercise.

The Five Rules Rule.

No more than five rules. This is supposed to be simple.

Continuing Efforts

Besides the additions, I’ll be continuing my diet (ooh, that word) plan for another 13 weeks.  It’s worked, what can I say?  The short summary is 200g protein and 200g fat every day, with no more than 30g net (ie, total carbs minus fiber) carbs, and a daily food diary to track this.  I made one more addition to this by buying a digital scale.  I know, I said I wasn’t going to be one of those people that weighs everything, but the truth is that I’ve learned it’s hard to keep a good food diary without one: it’s hard to track things like the amount of meat in a serving or the quantity of kim chi I have with my eggs (it’s good, try it!)

The food diary is something that needs work. I’ve been using Lose It!; when I started I was pretty satisfied with it, but there have been some problems. First, I have been noticing that their nutrition information isn’t very reliable. I noticed this first when I looked at my day’s nutrition and saw that I’d had something like 3000 grams of carbs that day, and while I thought it was perhaps plausible that I’d overshot, I was pretty sure I hadn’t had ten pounds of carbs that day. I worked back through the day’s meals and discovered that the data they had for one variety of salami included something like 640g of carbs — more than 22 ounces — per one-ounce serving. Second, and more annoying to my OCD science-guy side, was that they had some system problems and application problems around the first of the year, which resulted in me losing all my data for January 1 (grr) and having to uninstall the iPod and Kindle apps; they were corrupting the data. The connection to Withings was also a problem, although that was in part me; I can’t resist weighing myself several times in a day, and when I connected to the Withings with Lose It!, that meant I was posting new weights several times a day, most of them being weight gains. (Now, this isn’t the way you’re supposed to use it, but it’s the way I use it.)  Lose It! has been very responsive and their customer support folks were quick to apologize, but that couldn’t bring back my 1 January data; it was gone, and I didn’t realize there’d been a problem until long after I’d forgotten what I’d eaten that day.  They gave me a year’s Premium membership to make up with me, but I still need to be confident in my tools.

I’m beginning to think about some new diet and exercise software; I’ll keep you up to date on what my thoughts are. I’m also interested in any suggestions.


Here’s a word I hate, perhaps even more than “diet”. “Online community” and “social network” and all — I’m tired of them.  But I have noticed two things with this experiment: first, I get a lot of support from my readers; and second, I’ve got a number of readers who say I’m inspiring them. So I’m going to start inviting people to make their own 13 (or 14 or whatever) week plans, and linking them.  If enough people are interested, maybe I’ll make up a web site, although that sounds an awful lot like work.

In any case, though, I’m going to continue to report on my own plan, and looking forward to your responses. I think this is going to be an interesting next 13 weeks.