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13 Weeks: The Thirteen Weeks Method

Okay, so back to work.

I've now completed the first week of my second 13 week program, which is like the first 13 week program with more cowbell exercise. I've also been thinking a lot about something that had been in the back of my mind for awhile: that this notion of thirteen week "programs" was applicable to lots more than lowering blood sugar. Dave Swindle noticed the same thing, and mentioned it in one of his own self-improvement pieces.

So let's think about this in more general terms. My first, unformed, thoughts went like this: If I don't do something about the diabetes I'm going to die, and I don't want to die. But I've been on a million zillion diets and they've always been heartbreakers, appealing and attractive and exciting and then after a while leaving me flat. So I decided to try something I'd had some success with in the past, a low-carb diet informed by Gary Taubes books. Somewhat coincidentally, going low-carb meant not eating much wheat, and about the same time I read Wheat Belly, and realized my lifetime stomach problems might have something to do with wheat. But then I thought "I'll never eat chocolate and pasta and bread again?" and wanted to shoot myself.

Which would really screw up the "I don't want to die" part.

So I decided to make it an experiment. Limited time, limited goals, just doing something that I supposed would be helpful and seeing what happened. How long? It had to be long enough to see some real differences, but not so long that it seemed endless. I narrowed down to thirteen weeks sort of by intuition, based on liking the number 13, but thirteen weeks turns out to be 91 days. It's basically one meteorological season, and when I was a kid at least it was a TV season -- would Batman get picked up for another 13 episodes? There are four 13-week periods in a year, with a a day or two days change.

And it worked -- I've lost 30 pounds, my blood sugar is back into more or less normal range, and as a side effect my stomach troubles are much much better.

By accident, however, I'd noticed a process, or pattern.

  1. Decide there's something you want to change.
  2. Find ways to measure your progress.
  3. Decide on some small unthreatening things you can do that should affect those measures.
  4. Track the results for 13 weeks and see what happens. It helps to pick appropriate tools and techniques for that tracking, but something as simple as a Seinfeld calendar, where you just draw an X on a calendar for every day you do something can be very powerful.

I also, over this thirteen weeks, have realized there are some things that have been key insights for me.