13 Weeks: A New Year


Yeah, I sort of went missing for a while there. As some of you may recall, I had been looking for a new day job, and went out to San Francisco to audition with a startup. The company is Sumazi and it’s in the social media world, but still somewhat in stealth mode, so I can’t talk about it too much yet. In any case, I’ve joined Sumazi; as befits an Internet company, I’m working out of my home in Colorado and not moving to San Francisco.

The interruption of traveling to San Francisco and all did interfere with my previous 13 Weeks experiment; as I said before, sometimes it’s just a learning experience. But in two weeks it’ll be past the Time of Diet Horror and Family Drama and it will be time to start a new experiment, so I’m getting my head around what I want to try next.

In the year-plus I’ve been doing that, I’ve come to see these 13-week experiments don’t have to all be about what I’m eating; several other people have used the 13-week framework to do other things, from reading plans to personal finance. I think now what is important is that by establishing a change to try, and a limited period in which to try it, what we’re really doing is establishing a structure for experiments in living life.

So this last six weeks have given me some other ideas; there are other things I want to change.


First, of course, is the whole issue of weight, health, and diabetes. That hasn’t gone away. I still want to lose more weight and I still need to manage my blood sugar. Now, I’ve done reasonably well maintaining my losses — I’m right at 269 (that same damn plateau!) and my blood sugar has been reasonable — honestly I haven’t been monitoring it so closely recently, but I’ve been sampling it and it’s sticking with a morning fasting blood sugar of around 110.

Working at home presents some new challenges to this. The biggest one is that I’ve reduced my commute to the walk down the stairs to the coffee pot, followed by going back upstairs to the computer; as I was joking to my boss the other day, if I’d just get a Keurig machine in my office I could cut my commute in half.

I really like working at home; most everything I do for a living and a big damn part of my social life is on the computer anyway, and I can happily work dressed like I am now. You don’t want to know. Oh, okay, sweat pants and a tee-shirt. But I tend to get a little obsessive, and I focus just a little too much perhaps; I realized the other day that I hadn’t actually left the house in six days, and only did leave because I was out of dry cat food and they were looking at me accusingly. But I also forget to eat, and I’m not seeing much natural light at all, something I think is important for my mood if nothing else.

Second, this ability to get excessively focused was great when I was 20, or even when I was 30 and in grad school, but I’m no longer impressed with the ability to work for 30 hours at a stretch — it takes too many days afterward to recover.

It also means I tend to get caught in one thing to the exclusion of others (see above, forgetting to eat.). While I’ve been in the first flush with Sumazi, I’ve been working 12-15 hours a day on Sumazi and neglecting other things, so I’m behind on writing, haven’t been getting my columns done, and I’ve been looking up at 10 p.m. and realizing I haven’t showered yet. Since yesterday.

And third, even for me I’m not getting much exercise. I’m not over-fond of exercise anyway, but up and down two flights of stairs a few times a day is a little ridiculous.

So there we have a list. I want to try another weight and glucose regime, I need to have more exercise, and I want to balance out what I’m doing so that all my active projects get some time and make some progress. Here are some ideas for how to do this, as usual presented in no particular order.


Diet and Diabetes

I’ve given this a fair bit of thought, as you all know if you’ve followed this for the last 14 months. I definitely want to continue exploring the literature on weight, body fat, and glucose regulation, and I’ll be working with an academic friend to develop a more rigorous model of all the different things that can change that regulation. Frankly, I don’t know why no one has done a global look at these things. But in the meantime, while I’ve played with the idea of making a more radical change, like trying an Ornish diet or something similar, the truth is that low-carb has been successful in managing my most important health issue, my blood sugar. I don’t want to mess too much with what has been really a pretty significant success.

I am going to go back to keeping a food diary when I start up the next experiment, and in the next two weeks I’ll be looking for a better approach than the Lose It site. There’s got to be one.

I am kind of thinking about one more extreme diet choice. Back in junior high I lost a lot of weight on the old Stillman Quick Weight Loss diet, which is a LOW-fat, low-carb diet. This comes down to lean meat, eggs, and low-fat cheeses, plus plenty of water, coffee, and tea, and a vitamin pill every day. As you can imagine, compliance on this sort of diet can be an issue but what I’m thinking is I might use it as a sort of induction diet, followed by relaxing the diet back to the HFLC diet. But I haven’t settled on a plan yet.



Have I mentioned that I’m not over-fond of exercise?

So here’s what I like to do:

  • racewalk
  • lift weights
  • Pilates and yoga

I’ve also learned that the 4 minute Tabata routines are, for me, pretty effective and mostly harmless. The obvious thing is to make sure I get some exercise every day.

But I don’t have to like it.


For me, the issues in what is trendily called “work life balance” all center on knowing when to stop and when to change tracks. I need to cut back on total hours, and I want to make sure that I’m doing the right things so all my projects are getting their share. Again, I’m not laying out the real plan yet, but I think I need to make sure that:

  • I get enough rest and time away from work to recharge.
  • I leave the house, during daylight, each and every day.
  • I time-slice so that I’m getting things done on all the projects during the week.
  • In particular, I have an agreement with Sarah Hoyt and several other friends to commit to writing 1000 words a day of something besides things for my day job: columns, articles, and fiction.

I suspect the techniques here are going to be time-tracking, something like Getting Things Done(tm), and a Seinfeld Calendar.

I’m also thinking about using Pomodoro in a somewhat different way. Instead of using it to keep my focus on what I’m doing, I’m going to use it to know when to break my focus and change to something else.

Oh, and I’m going to set a limit on the number of hours I work on all these projects and things in a week. Something like 80 hours. It’s a sign of how this is an issue for me that as I composed this paragraph in my head, I’ve been negotiating with myself — I started with 60, then said 70, and now 80. I’m not sure. But here’s the deal: I tend to get up at 5:30 and start working on something at 6. Even if I take a day off a week, and have an 80 hour a week limit, that means stopping work by 7p.m., which would actually mean cutting back significantly. Since the phrase “taking a day off” fills me with existential dread, it might be instead quitting by 5.

So this plan is a work in progress, and I’ll be interested in seeing your comments, ideas, and suggestions. Come back next week for another exciting episode.