Friday, September 25

Toward healthier living

It's approaching a year since I decided it was time to lose some of the extra weight I'd gained sitting in front of a monitor for 60+ hours a week for years on end. I figure it's time for an update.

I got off to a slow start, followed by period of little to no progress. I dropped a total of about 10 pounds from October 2008 through May 2009. A start, but only barely. Since the end of May however I've dropped another 25-30 pounds, thanks to eating MUCH healthier, and getting a little bit more time outside with my dog. My BP has dropped from scary numbers (150/110+ at times; gave the hospital a scare after a diagnostic procedure in June) to something generally much closer to 120-135/82-88.

Now, I should note: by MUCH healthier, I mean no Dunkin' Donuts or McDonald's breakfasts, and very few take-out lunches. And less drinking of alcohol or sugar. A little more fiber. Less sugar overall. Less bad fats. (Less fatty meats.) More good fats. (Fish, flax, nuts.) More veggies. More legumes. I was still frying foods all summer, but ran out of frozen fryer food in my freezer and tossed the deep fryer sometime late August or early September.

Interestingly, to me at least, what this DIDN'T mean was that I had to get all "Nazi" on my diet or lifestyle. I still often eat a steak, or two, a week, but it's more often a NY strip or sirloin or London broil than a ribeye, and I'm eating more chicken instead of steak (there are weeks with no red meat at all, which is a big change for me.) More low-fat cottage cheese as a snack, or even a small meal. I still order the occasional six-slice half-pepperoni pizza (maybe 2x a month, sometimes more) or Chinese take-out (1-2x/month, much smaller (1/2-2/3) quantities than previously) and my longtime favorite, buffalo chicken wings (2-3x/month instead of 4-6.)

I still go out for the occasional drinks with friends and professional acquaintances, and I still drink more Scotch than I (or anyone) should. I did cut out almost all non-diet drinks of any sort however. Still drinking my french pressed coffee, with sugar, Splenda w/ fiber and skim milk. I'm probably drinking more milk (skim and low-fat chocolate) than before. I'm drinking more Lipton's diet green teas than before. Water/overall fluid intake is probably about the same as it had been, maybe slightly increased.

I've been getting out for longer/more frequent walks with my dog, thanks to the benefits of doing mostly remote (phone and email driven) technology consulting work that has given my schedule a lot of flexibility. My dog has lost about 7 pounds too. That said, the busier I've been, the less we've been getting out for walks. I still try to get at least 2 miles in a day, but it has become tough. In the height of the summer weather, during a lull in my work, we were getting 2-3.5 miles every day, no problem.

Along the way I've used a few different sites to track progress, motivate me, and/or find healthy recipes and exercise techniques. These are:

An embeddable graph. Not a lot of innovation over the past couple years. Now offering a premium option that I don't feel it worth paying for. I will probably stop recording my weight here ... in fact, I just made the decision. No more skinnyr for me.

DailyBurn (formerly Gyminee)
Great UI. Decent social interaction capabilities that can contribute to progress and motivation. Great food tracking. Good progress tracking overall. Decent reporting. Tim Ferriss is an investor, which personally I consider a negative point. Fortunately I don't see his obnoxious personality and ego in my day-to-day use of the site.

Antique-looking UI. Great social interaction. Great database of healthy recipes. Great meal planning capabilities. Food database seems lacking compared to DailyBurn however, and the process of recording what you ate, if you eat off-plan, is EXTREMELY cumbersome. Decent reporting.

If you could combine the best of DailyBurn and SparkPeople, you would have the ultimate fitness site, in my ever-so-humble-opinion. ;)


I almost forgot WalkJogRun! This site is awesome for hikers, walkers and runners. You can plot and save your routes, sharing them publicly or keeping them private, on a Google map, but unlike Google Maps, you can go off-road with your waypoints. WalkJogRun calculates distance and calories burned. WalkJogRun also offers an elevation map of your route. I'm not completely sure, but the calories-burned calculator may also take that elevation into account. (Which would be pretty freakin' cool if true.)


I intend to drop another ~40 pounds in the coming year, which would put me under freshman year (high school) football weight, as well as get back in the gym and starting lifting some weight. Diet alone won't get me where I want to be.

I'd like to thank Allen Stern at CenterNetworks for originally turning me on to Skinnyr and SparkPeople.