September 30

How I Got Here…

I posted something on Facebook the other day, with a couple of pictures (last year vs this year) and a brief statement that I’d gone from 324 lbs to 287 (37 pounds lost). A co-worker asked me how I’d done it, and I gave a short answer… which later I realized was far too short.

So what has changed?  What did I do to get here?

That’s a good question.  And there’s a lot to think about, and I probably won’t give credit where it’s due, but I’ll try.

First, I drew my line in the sand.  I was in the fight of my life, for my life, a fight just to survive.  My health was spiraling out of control, and I needed to do something, not just plan and think, but DO something.

I started going to the gym.  I got a membership at the YMCA, went there with a buddy (thanks, Prophet), and put my nose to the grindstone.

I logged every trip to the gym, with very few exceptions.  The only way you can see change is if you track it.

I started seeing some changes, added some muscle and lost some weight…. but I needed more.

I added racquetball to the mix, because it was fun and got me moving.  Even though Prophet (and later my son) kicked the snot out of me, I had fun.

I learned to sweat, and to enjoy sweating.  I learned that it was okay to huff and puff, to have to stop to catch my breath, because that pounding in my chest was my heart telling me I was still alive.

Nerd Fitness - Join the Rebellion
Nerd Fitness – Join the Rebellion

I found this awesome website jam-packed with information, called Nerd Fitness.  No pushy sales, no need to buy anything to get help.  It actually took me a while to figure out what there was to buy.

I started investing in my health: I gave up going out to eat every morning so I could afford a gym membership.  I asked for–and received–a membership to the “Nerd Fitness Academy”, a one-time fee that’s turned into the best investment I’ve made.

Logging stuff was a huge thing, so I finally took an interest in an awesome little app called My Fitness Pal.  I used it to track food intake, and to track carbohydrates, so I knew how much insulin to take.  Insulin and blood sugar levels have all been logged religiously in a cool little app called OnTrack by Medivo.

gallery_5603_173_202964 gallery_5603_173_125417

The graphs above show what tracking progress really means.  The one on the left has all the individual readings, while the one on the right uses daily averages.  They cover slightly different time frames, but that little gap–the funny little line between October & January–is when I started caring.  When things started turning around.  That was the end of 2013, into the beginning of 2014.

 

I started walking more.  I embraced the Walk to Mordor challenge, going so far as to start work on my own app to track it (yeah, it’s still in the works).

When my knees started giving me problems from walking too much (especially with stairs), I got myself a bike.  When I started, I could barely get around the block… now I feel like I’m slacking if I only get 15 miles a week.  I only feel really accomplished when I hit the 4 mile mark on a single ride, though I generally limit myself to an hour a night.

So that’s what I’ve got so far.

It wasn’t a simple thing.  It wasn’t some crash diet.  No “juicing” or 90-day crash diets.

I hope you enjoyed reading about it.  Feel free to ask questions or whatever in the comments below.

Category: Health, Rant | Comments Off on How I Got Here…
March 18

More Insights on the Hobbit Walk

This is sort of in line with my previous post, as I was a little frustrated (with myself) that I’d not had any progress on the Hobbit Walk (there’s another reason, too).

Anyway, on to what I’ve found.

First, it’s a little frustrating to name a race.  Naming is one of the hardest tasks there is… well, besides cache invalidation.  I should be able to dynamically set the name of the race, because I’ve already stored the list of participants.  I kept teetering between dynamic versus static naming.  Ultimately, though, it seems like static (or maybe “arbitrary” would be more apt) naming.

Second, it’s nice to know who created the race.  Right?  That allows explicit listing of the races I’ve created, allowing “creator” permissions (like deleting them).  Maybe I’m waiting on the other person to accept (which I may not have considered yet).  Or I want to see all of my races, including all the ended ones.

Third, sometimes I try to normalize the data too much.  This one’s another tough one.  When I started working on TTORP, I had very non-normalized data: I wanted to get something up and running fast, so I just threw a bunch of arbitrarily-named fields in a database, all of which were just text… I was bit by this laziness later, because I had to pay the technical debt.

I found all kinds of other little things in the process.  Countless little nuances that I could spend all night enumerating, finding even more in the process.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I’ve made progress.  I’ve got more information in my test database, which will help me to visualize things.  At this point, unless I find more problems, I should be able to start spitting out some progress information in the very near future.  Stay tuned!

Category: Code, Health, Hobbit Walk, Software Development | Comments Off on More Insights on the Hobbit Walk
March 2

We Have Milestones!

After much waiting: there are now milestones!

Yep.  A bit of a let-down.  I know.  Sorry.

In creating the milestones, I noticed there were some things that were probably missed… setting up an order to the milestones (so I don’t necessarily have to insert them in the proper order), etc.  Nothing mind-blowing here.

I’m working on the code and associated SQL to figure out a contestant’s progress in relation to milestones.  Nothing exceptionaly difficult, just takes a little time to do.

But there are MILESTONES now, people!

Category: Code, Health, Hobbit Walk, PHP, Software Development | Comments Off on We Have Milestones!
February 4

Project Hobbit Walk: There’s a Database

That’s right, now Project Hobbit Walk actually has a database behind it.  And that database is actually getting data put into it.  Automatically.  Huzaaaa!

I’ve still got a bit of work to do.  But this is an incredibly important foundational piece of the puzzle.  With a single query, I can see how far everyone has traveled.

The only numbers I have to worry about are each user’s grand total, and their progress since the race against me started.  So it’s pretty non-complicated right now.  WOOO!!!

I’ve still got more stuff to do.  Here’s a pretty short list, in no particular order:

  • a URL scheme for showing race data:
    • for anyone (e.g. “/race/{id}/current”)
    • for all races of the currently logged-in user (e.g. “/races/”)
    • for progress on a specific race, up to a given date (e.g. “/race/{id}/20150104)
  • a URL scheme for handling open invitations (anyone can click it, sign up, and enter the race): (e.g. “/race/challenge/open/{id}“)
  • a URL scheme for handling user-specific invitations (only for a selected user, others get an error) (e.g. “/race/challenge/closed/{id}“)
  • some way to graphically show progress generically, without milestones
  • a way to show, graphically, progress with milestones (e.g. progress to Mordor)

Okay, that’s probably enough for now.  I’ll probably dream about this stuff now, since I’m thinking about it so close to bedtime… d’oh!

Category: Health, Hobbit Walk, Software Development | Comments Off on Project Hobbit Walk: There’s a Database
January 21

Project Hobbit Walk: Yay, Progress!

I had a little time last night to hammer out some code.

I’ve got a database layout done basically done, so I can store data.   There’s already a script in place that will download a set of spreadsheets in CSV (“comma separated values,” basically just really simple text).

Now I need to get some more code written to interact with it, create reports, and send emails.  And eventually put in some “fun” text into those emails, like, “whoa, you overtook John last night by a staggering 3.45 miles! Hope you told him to eat your dust on the way by!

I’ve spent some time figuring out how to layout the data, where the data comes from, what it looks like, and how to store what I need to make “Project Hobbit Walk” something worthwhile.  In order for me to consider the application truly useful, it has to do a couple of things.  For users (including me), it must:

  1. Be Intuitive.  Like picking up the controller for a game, and having every button and key combination work exactly the way you expect, so you can have fun right away.
  2. Stay Out of the Way. Once it’s configured, it can just stay out of your way.  No muss, no fuss.
  3. Be Useful.  Probably the most important part, it needs to show you what you want to know, and help motivate you to get healthier by gamifying life.
  4. Be Fun.  Seriously, it has to create enjoyment.

But let’s be honest.  There’s other considerations for me.:

  • Easy to Maintain.  I can’t spend all my time fixing/updating code, since that would keep me from moving around… I’d fall behind in all my races!
  • Easy to Get Started.  I don’t have time to walk every single user through the process of setting it up.  This goes hand-in-hand with the Be Intuitive part from above.
  • Help Pay for Itself.  I have a server that I pay for each month out of pocket; if this can generate enough money (through some hopefully innocuous ads) to pay for that, I’d have less stuff to worry about.
  • Grow On It’s Own.  There will hopefully be enough tools available that it’ll just grow “virally,” like users sending emails to their friends with messages like, “I challenge you to race me to Mordor,” or “I challenge you to climb Mount Everest with me.”

Let me know what you think in the comments below.  And a special thanks to all those that have signed up for testing!

Category: Code, Health, Hobbit Walk | Comments Off on Project Hobbit Walk: Yay, Progress!
December 19

Project Hobbit Walk: Preliminary Ideas

I’ve got some data from a few other people, so I’ve been thinking about it.  And be sure to read the teaser.

The Basics…

I’m going to setup the system so each user can compete in multiple “races.”  I’ll automatically keep track of each person’s complete history, and I’m thinking each will get put into a separate race that will be just them.  So I’ll be in my own race, showing my own progress from whenever I first got data into the system.

Other Types of Competitions

There will of course be other races.  I might challenge my buddy “John” to a race that will start on January 1st, and simultaneously begin a race today with my other buddy “David” right away today.  So those are examples of one-on-one races, though there could be multiple participants: if another person wanted to jump into an existing race, they could, though they’d be at a disadvantage (but a marathon runner joining late in a race with a couple of geeks might end up having a much larger advantage).

Another race type would be pairs.  In the vein of Lord of the Rings, you know, like Frodo and Samwise.  Each pair would have their daily totals averaged… think of it like Samwise carrying Frodo when he couldn’t walk on his own.

For Now…

Right now I don’t have anything setup to automatically track progress.  I’ve got some spreadsheets that have been shared with me, but that’s pretty much it… so I’m probably going to send out emails manually, stating results.  I’ll refine them as I go.

Into the Future!

That seems like a quote.  Anyway, the initial races will be based on the Walk to Mordor from Nerd Fitness, which has milestones along the way that I can use.  I hope to incorporate an ACTUAL map from LoTR, with something that shows where each team is on the trail.  Because that’s awesome.

Once I’ve got that down, it’s time to open it up to accept ANY map.  I have no idea how that would work… but I would imagine I’ll have a lot more to go off of after I’ve done that with the LoTR map.

Are You Ready to Get Started?

If you’re interested in joining the fun, I’m accepting a limited number of participants right now.  Send me an email (if you’re privy to that info), or just drop a comment below, I’ll get to you as soon as I can. 🙂

Category: Health, Hobbit Walk, Software Development | Comments Off on Project Hobbit Walk: Preliminary Ideas
December 17

Project “Hobbit Walk”: The Teaser

I’m working on a new project that combines fitness, programming, and technology (the last two seem a bit redundant… but whatever).

The project is based upon the “Walk to Mordor” post on NerdFitness.com.  Anybody that’s interested just needs to setup a spreadsheet on Google Docs that I can access, with some basic information:

  1. Date
  2. Steps
  3. Distance (in miles)

There’s a bunch of different ways to get that information logged… manually is an option, but I think that kinds sucks.  Not a big deal, but it’s a pain to remember, especially when you can use something like a Fitbit with IFTTT on a smart phone (or tablet) to automate that stuff.   More on that later.

If you’re interested, send me an email, say something in the comments below, or in some other way express interest to me.  I’ll send you instructions on how to get started.

The application is in ALPHA testing now.  Alpha testing means pre-beta… basically, that means that I’m still building it.  I’m letting a handful of people in right now.

UPDATE: see “Preliminary Ideas

UPDATE: see “Yay Progress

UPDATE: see “There’s a Database

(if you wanna see all updates, in case I missed a link, check out the “Hobbit Walk” category).

Category: Code, Health, Hobbit Walk, Software Development | Comments Off on Project “Hobbit Walk”: The Teaser
November 21

The Fight of My Life

There was this guy.  I used to hang out with him.  He was big, fat, lazy, and stubborn.

He was the guy that always told me that I couldn’t do it.  That I couldn’t go to the gym.  I couldn’t work out anymore, I couldn’t keep up  He was the guy that shoved that nasty, greasy “fast” food in my mouth every morning, telling me it was good and that it was normal and that what we were doing was normal, because everybody else was doing it.

He was the guy that taught me the secret of not being ashamed of how much I ordered: just order for two.  If I made it seem like I was ordering for myself and another person, I didn’t have to be ashamed at how much I plowed down.  Two thousand calories in a sitting wasn’t that much.  Just toss that second 32-ounce pop… unless you want it in place of a refill.

Today I beat the hell out of that bastard.  I smashed his head between the bars of the butterfly machine sixty times.  I dropped my feet on his head after every pull-up, all sixty of them.  I kicked, screamed, grunted, and groaned that nasty bastard out of my life.

I told him that two thousand calories wasn’t even as much as I should eat in a day, let alone one sitting.  I told him that I don’t really like those nasty hash browns from Burger King, or those ridiculously sweet cinnamon things, or those soggy sandwiches.  I told him I was done with that shit, that I’d had it and I was moving on  I pushed him away and told him to never come back.

Who was that guy, you ask?  If you haven’t figured it out by now, that guy was me.  It was the me of 2013.  It was the me that almost killed me.

Toward the end of 2013, I was in a death spiral  My blood sugar was out of control, with my “lows” barely hitting what should have been the upper limits of OK.  I was taking mood stabilizers to combat the roller coaster of emotions that I was wreaking upon myself, medicine that ended up destroying my memory.

I was laying in bed with my wife.  And I started crying.  Just to myself, praying she would hear me, hoping she wouldn’t.  She asked me what was wrong, and I told her I couldn’t remember.

I’d had a blow-up that night while playing a board game that involved remembering things and trying to guess who answered what: I tried writing it down, but I couldn’t remember the answers long enough to get them to the paper, so I’d write it down wrong.  And when someone joked that I couldn’t remember shit, I flew off the handle.  He was my best friend, but that sudden burst of adrenaline nearly blocked that out.  And the sad part was that this friend knew how to handle himself… if he’d gotten hurt, it would have been because he didn’t believe I’d do something like that.  And if I’d gotten hurt, it would probably have broken his heart.

So we sat there in bed, my wife and I, going over the events of the night.  She had to fill in a lot of gaps, which upset me even more.  Then we started piecing things together, figuring out what had brought this on, and realized it was my medication.  We looked at the side-effects, and one of them was memory loss… in fact, in the long list of side-effects, there was only one or two that hadn’t affected me.  I stopped taking them altogether, and got an appointment with my doctor right away.

Now, my doctor is an awesome guy.  He’s been our family doctor since I can remember… I think he’s been my doctor for at least two decades now.  Anyway, we explained the problem, and told him that we thought the problem was actually from my blood sugar being all out of whack.  And he agreed.  He told me a bunch of things that I didn’t want to hear, but needed to.

I decided I was going to change my life.  Not “right then and there,” but over the course of a few days, or maybe weeks, I’m not sure.  I got a membership to the YMCA, and started going on a regular basis with one of my best friends.  I decided I wasn’t going to live to eat anymore, but that I was going to eat to live.

Toward the beginning of the journey, I stumbled across a website called “Nerd Fitness,” which talked about this “Paleo Diet” and how to get in better shape.  I kept reading the articles, trying to find that punchline, thinking to myself, “jeez, at some point, he’s gotta hold something back for whatever he’s trying to sell me.”  But that never came.  Good old Steve Kamb wasn’t trying to sell me anything at all.  This website, all these articles, these PDF’s, these videos, they were all there to help people like me learn how to get into shape on their own.

I paid to join the “academy” there on my birthday.  It’s funny how excited I was about it: a year prior, I’d have thought something like that was worse than getting ugly/non-fitting socks.

In fact, it’s kinda bizarre that I was having so much fun getting into shape.  I played racquetball weekly.  I went to the gym three times a week, lifting weights and riding a stationary bike, and walking.

So here I am today, just freshly having beaten the crap out of the old version of me.  I’ve logged more than 100 visits to the gym, despite not having logged much of anything for the first few months.

When I started, I couldn’t do a single proper push-up, even on my knees; now I can do ten in a row.  I couldn’t do a pull-up, even with over 100 lbs of assistance; now I can do them unassisted (not very many, but still).  I used to worry about not fitting in at the gym, now I help friends to fit in.  Now I move an order of magnitude more than when I started, and I have fun breaking a sweat.

Whatever you do, do something.  Just start moving.  Don’t sweat the small stuff, but make sure you sweat.  Don’t worry about what other people think.  Just do what you do.  Be the change you want to see in others.

Category: Health, Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Fight of My Life
May 1

Lessons Learned

Stop Being Lazy.

That was probably the biggest lesson I could learn.

Sure, I’ve heard people say it to me and others for a long time.  And it made complete sense.  How could one be both healthy and lazy?  That’s a difficult one, with different answers for different people, but for me the answer was that I absolutely could not be lazy and be healthy.

But being lazy is a much more complex thing than you might think.  Instead of putting something off, do it now: later never comes.  Having to do something at the last minute is frustrating, it causes a lot of unnecessary stress, and is completely unnecessary.

Just Do Something.

Working out was the “something” for me.

I wanted to work out, but I just didn’t know how.  I’d use that as an excuse to avoid it altogether.  “I don’t know how to lift weights.”  “It hurts when I ride an exercise bike.”  “My knees are bad.”  “My back hurts when I walk too far.”

Amazing things happened when I just started doing something.  Walking, working out at the gym, playing outdoor/physical games, etc were all things that helped push me in the right direction.  And they made me realize that I’m actually quite fond of exercise.

Stop Making Excuses.

Excuses are like belly buttons: everybody has one, and nobody wants to hear about it.  They are invalid reasons to avoid doing something: if they were valid, they’d be reasons.

I used to convince myself that I couldn’t work out because my knees were bad.

Or because my lower back would tighten up instantly when I walked.

Or my hip hurt because it was malformed.

Or that my face would feel like it’s on fire because of my Rosacea.

Lo and behold, these problems started going away when I started working out.  My knees hurt less.  My back didn’t tighten up anymore just from walking a little.  My hip stopped hurting all the time.  Using a cold wet rag on my neck (and keeping very hydrated) keeps my Rosacea from flaring.

Don’t Lie To Yourself.

As I’ve become more introspective, I’ve found that I haven’t been honest with myself.

Like the reasons why I avoided walking.  Why?  Because I didn’t want to breath hard.  WTF.  I realized that I made a concerted effort all the time to avoid breathing hard.  Because breathing hard meant that I wasn’t in shape.  And I didn’t want anybody to know that I was out of shape.  What.  The.  Fuck.

Like the reasons I avoided lifting weights.  Why?  Because I didn’t want to look like a wuss.  I knew that I had to start somewhere, but somehow my brain didn’t let me see that I had to start somewhere to get past that “wuss” stage and into the “strong” stage (which, by the way, is where I’m at now).

Stop Trying to Look Cool.

This was a big one.  I felt like I had to look “cool” all the time.  Sweating, breathing hard, showing any pain or weakness of any kind wasn’t cool.

Not that I thought I was cool.  Like, ever.

When I went to the gym, I would do things to avoid sweating.  Sweating was bad.  It was gross, smelly, and turned the girls off.  Then I “heard” myself say that… why do I care what they think?  I’m married to the love of my life, I don’t give two shits (let alone one) whether or not the girls think I’m hot.  They could think I was transparent, translucent, transpiring, or transsexual, it just doesn’t matter.

How I Roll Now.

Now I go to the gym three or more times a week.  Even when I don’t feel like doing anything.   The only thing that stops me is if I’m deathly ill.

When I go there, I work out hard enough that my shirt is soaked.  Soaked so much that going home before showering simply isn’t an option.

I wear a cold wet cloth around my neck to avoid overheating.  And I nod at those jerks that give me that look like, “oh, he’s cheating, trying to make himself look like he’s working harder than he is.”  And then I work even harder, just to spite them.

I take ibuprofen or acetaminophen beforehand to avoid stopping because of my hips or knees or whatever.  Not heavy painkillers that mask pain, because pain means that I’m pushing too much.

I lift as much as I can as many times as I can, even if it’s a lot less than the last person that used that machine.  And now I smile when I sit down after that guy that I thought was so much stronger than me and add 100 pounds (and pull it more times than he did).

When one of my friends asks me to go outside and do something, I try to do whatever I can to make that happen.  Disc golfing even in high winds.  Walking even when it’s colder than I’d like.  Moving around even when I’m really focused on that video game.

Remember Nobody Is Perfect.

I find myself breaking the rules all the time.  It’s part of being human.

But I try to do the right thing more often than the wrong thing.  I try to eat healthy more often than eating garbage, even after I ate nearly an entire pizza by myself yesterday.

Category: Health | Comments Off on Lessons Learned