I love numbers. Numbers are beautiful because they don’t really lie. They simply present the fact although it’s up to you to interpret those facts correctly. I love crunching through them and seeing what useful information I can find. I suppose that’s one reason why I’ve spend much of my life working on optimization related technology, because this field is all about using numbers to make stuff better.
I apply this same love of numbers to my life (much to the annoyance of my loved ones on occasion), and especially to my health. I love tracking stuff and seeing how I’m doing compared to last week, last month or last year. I enjoy looking at the nutrient breakdown of my day and then comparing it to my mood that day. Sometimes you get useful insights and some times you don’t but the numbers are always beautiful.
last weekend I sat down and charted my own weight against various events in my life just to see what had made a difference and what did not. The results were interesting although pretty much expected. Four events stand out.
I graduated college at a lean 200lbs. Actually, that’s about 20lbs overweight but not too bad. I was pretty active in college, biking and walking a lot. While I ate like a typical college student (a lot of pizza and junk food) I rarely snacked during the day. This wasn’t out of choice, it was simply because I had no money. I could only eat when the cafeteria was open and thus no between meal snacks.
After college I started working at a wonderful little tech start up in the Silicon Valley. This was the beginning of the dot com boom and life was great. I still biked and walked a little, but not as much as before. I also ate A LOT. I had plenty of money (when you’re 22, making 37k a year makes you AMAZINGLY RICH!) and a lot of it went to food. Finally, I started my life long addiction to sodas at this point, usually downing about a liter of coke or Nestea ice tea every day.
End result? Net gain of about 10lbs per year. It’s hard to see on this chart, but this weight gain was slightly faster in the beginning, which makes sense. As I grew heavier, my body needed more daily calories, which means I was slowly approaching equilibrium. Sadly, that equilibrium would have probably been in the upper 300′s but luckily for me, I stopped before that point.
The Turning Point
At around 30 years of age, I had reached my low point. I was fat, lonely, unemployed and miserable. I was spending most of my time playing video games while consuming large amount of junk food. The turning point came when I finally found a job. It was crappy, with long hours and little pay, and I thought to myself, “is this the best I’m going to do?”, and the the answer was a resounding “hell no!”
So I started changing. There were quite a few changes back then but one of the biggest was around health. I signed up for the gym, I started eating healthier and I started getting more active. I got back into hiking and even tried out biking again.
End result? I started losing weight quicker than I had put it on. An average of 20lbs per year for about 30 years. I plateaued at age 34 at around 215lbs. This was the time when I experimented with vegetarianism by the way, which I suppose proves that eating only veggies won’t help you lose weight.
By the way, I kept trying to lose more weight but I always failed. There was too much free food at my office and I enjoyed it way too much. Even though I worked out 5 times a week, my weight never fell below 215lbs until…
Yes, I went through a pretty rough time in 2008. I split from my wife and sank into a 6 month depression. I stopped working out altogether and I also stopped eating. My weight dropped and not in a healthy way. In about 2 months I dropped 10lbs and got to my lowest adult weight, 205lbs. I do NOT recommend this as a diet and I’m very happy to be over it.
When I came out of my depression, my appetite returned, as did my workout routine. Unsurprisingly, I went right back to my previous weight of 215 and stayed there for a whole year until…
I found a wonderful new job early last year which I’m quite happy with, and I met an incredible woman who I’m madly in love with. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? It is, except it’s also been taking up all of my time! I work a lot more than I did before, leaving little time for the gym and I eat more because I enjoy spending time with my amazing fiance. Put those together and you can see why I’ve gained 15 lbs last year to end up where I am today, 230lbs.
The primary lesson here is that Life Matters. We like to think that health is about eating and exercise but health is about much more than that. Health is about how you feel and what your life is like. Changes in your health don’t just happen, they usually involve some kind of major life change. That corollary to this is, if you want to make a change in your health, you’ll need to make a change in your life.
You might have the best intentions and really want to lose weight, but your life may be setup to make that difficult. Which means to lose that weight you need to change the aspects of your life which are making it difficult, and not just put an action item in your to do list called “workout more!”
For me, it seems like health is an issue of time and place. I like being social and that usually means “let’s go get something to eat”. I’ve already taken care of that at home by cooking more and I’m now working on that at the office by lowering my snacking. Also, as I discussed before, I am now going on the 4 hour body diet full time, so that should also help control the snacking by giving me a solid framework to follow. Time is another factor. I want to work out more but I’m not finding enough time. Perhaps I should invite my fiance to work out with me? Perhaps I should find a fun physical activity we both enjoy and do that (we both love hiking). Whatever the case may be, I need to find a solution to the underlying problem and not just bang my head against the wall over and over, blaming myself for each failure.
My To Do List:
- Block out specific parts of the day for working out
- Keep making dinners at home (this has really cut down on our calories and budget plus I’ve found out that I love cooking)
- Keep preparing lunches at home (same as the dinner item above)
- Start hiking again with fiance
- Daily walks with fiance
- Follow 4 Hour Body diet as guideline
What about you? What aspects of your life are making it difficult for you to be healthy? How are you going to change them?