Geeking your Diet (and other stuff)

So, about that road trip to Washington…

Remember that trip I was planning to Washington and the Olympic Peninsula? Well… Never mind…

I woke up the morning after writing about it realizing I had no enthusiasm for the trip and that I really wasn’t interested in all that driving and being on the road that long. Seems silly to do something you aren’t looking forward to, so I sat on it for most of a day, then I sat down and cancelled all of the hotels, and instead reserved a room for a few days in Morro Bay. I’ll hang out down there for a few days doing some birding and chasing the otters for photos, eating seafood and maybe take in a whale watching tour since the humpbacks are evidently still common out beyond the harbor mouth. Quiet, low key, and hopefully relaxing.

Sometimes you want an adventure, but sometimes, going someplace that’s comfortable like a pair of favorite slippers is even better, and for me, that’s Morro Bay.

Upgrading the home network

sonic speedtestI just switched ISPs; I’d used Sonic as an ISP for a long time, but because of the network configuration around our neighborhood, the best we could do with them was a 5/1.5 DSL line, and because at Cisco I was doing so much video conferencing with the team, that ultimately just wasn’t cutting it and I switched to Comcast using the Cisco national account, which got me 25/5 instead, which was awesome. Since I’ve left Cisco, I figured I should convert that to my own account before someone yelled at me about it, but before I did, I did some checking, and to my happy surprise, Sonic has upgraded it’s network around here (tying into the ATT fiber to the pole) and I was able to get a 50/5 network with them for what I was paying Comcast. So today that was installed.

Much to my surprise, everything worked first time for both myself and the installed, and so next week, I’ll call Comcast and disconnect the old network. And not only am I getting twice the download bandwidth (with no caps, a reason I like Sonic) it’s at the same price as I’m currently paying. Amusing to me is that for the first time ever, my WAN is no longer the slowest part of my network, since I’m finding that I can reliably get that 50/5 when wired in over ethernet, but over WiFI through the Airport, I’m maxing out around 25/5. Which for 99.9% of what I do, is more than enough…

Geeking your diet

I’ve started digging in and getting serious about tweaking the diet and ramping the exercise and trying to get the weight off. First step in this is always to understand where you are and what you need to change. The Apple Watch is very helpful with that in terms of activity, so I needed to start evaluating my diet. First step is a food diary, where you capture everything you eat and log it so you can figure out calorie counts and nutrition breakdowns, and once you see what you’re doing you can understand how it needs to change.

I just finished some research into what the thinking is on what a good diet is (will write about that soon) to update my brain on where the research is leading us as we start to understand that this whole “low fat, high carb” thing that’s become a national disaster. I’ve never been a fan of the extreme diets, so you can put me firmly not in the camp of either Ornish or Atkins, but firmly in the middle. Instead, I want to eat to a balanced sustainable diet, but what that means is hard to define.

Sustainable to me implies I’m not going on a diet but instead eating the kind of food I’ll be eating the rest of my life; the adjustable aspect being portion sizes. What balanced means will require a longer discussion later, but was that I wanted to limit my carbs to under 35% of calories and get protein between 25% and 30%, which means the fat calories will be between 40% and 45%. As a diabetic (well-controlled without insulin) carbs are something I have to keep limited and I’ve been consciously learning to do away with them, but still, I’ve felt I’ve had a tendency to splurge at times, so I was worried about how that would come out.

As it turns out, the first two days of my logs my carbs were 20% and 26% of calories; 20% is in fact lower than I want it to be. I made a decision to add a second slice of toast to breakfast to balance it better and because I was having a tendency to get hungry and sometimes grab a snack before lunch — bad habit, better to make it part of a structured meal. Having made that adjustment, my daily carbs are still at or under 30%, except for the one day I headed off to Peet’s for a chat with someone and allowed myself a scone as a treat.

So after adjusting for the extra toast, my weekly breakdown is 33% carbs (including the scone), 24% protein, and 43% fat. About 45% of the fat calories are saturated (lots more to say about that later). I’d love the protein number to be higher, but… The normal recommendations to add protein to a diet involve nuts, whether peanut (or peanut butter) or walnuts or almonds. And I’m allergic to both peanuts and tree nuts, and they are off the table. And when you go researching high profile snacks and foods, and then you remove the ones involving nuts, you’re left with… Hummus, and Greek Yogurt, and Cottage Cheese. Fortunately I like hummus and tolerate yogurt, but it means swapping around dietary pieces to raise your protein is challenging.

But overall those numbers are pretty reasonable (I also realize the Ornish, the Atkins and the Paleo fans are all going to yell at me now, but that’s fine). The diet, to my surprise (a bit, after all, I’ve been working on this a while) was in fact right about spot on, even allowing for a weekly run off for a pastry and dessert a couple of times a week.

The other piece is total calories. Again, this gets complicated. I’m using an app called Lose It, because it has a solid food database for getting counts and breakdowns (the UI is okay but not great, and the reporting is a bit chaotic but usable). If I plug in the numbers (my age, my weight, my activity levels) it tells me my calorie goal should be 3,000 calories, which is too high for my metabolism. They do allow me to adjust that out, so I’ve reset it down to 2 for now while I figure out where my maintenance point is — that’ll take another week or so to see if I’m weight stable or losing at my current eating plan. This is one of those hard numbers you get from tools like this you should never believe (we can get into whether calorie has any real meaning some other time, in reality, it’s a pretty weak measure) but because I was curious I went and found a half dozen other sites and tools that will tell me what my calorie count ought to be; the number varied from 2100 to 3300 depending on the site, all plugging in the same numbers. So literally, your mileage will vary here.

When I’m done plugging numbers in, it looks like I’m eating on average 2400-2500 calories a day, including the scone. The low end days are around 2100, the high was scone day at about 2850. Even without ramping up the exercise, I think I’ll lose some weight at this rate, even including the scone, but I can see having to shift to a sugar-free latte over my mocha on the horizon. I guess. And maybe the scone monthly, not weekly. (And yes, I can hear people out there yelling again, but the key to a sustainable diet is one that you can actually live with; I will say honestly that the number of people I know who’ve gone off and eaten Ornish or Atkins or Paleo is a lot larger than the ones that have stuck to them, and the number that actually claim to like the diets is much smaller than that)

So the first week of studying this shows me that the starting point is in a pretty good place. That puts me much further down the path than most people trying to lose weight and restructure their diets; on the other hand, I have a few years head start from the time I realized I needed to get away from burgers and fries and fix things or it’d (literally) kill me. Now that I know what I’m doing, if I can pull 200 calories a week and add in a 10% gain in exercise, I can find myself speeding up weight loss by around 5 pounds a month. Right now I’m about 3 pounds up from where I was six months ago, and right around where I was at the start of 2015.

It’s a start, there’s a lot to do, but at least it’s a good start. I’ll take any good news I can get some days..

A few weeks into the new web site

Since it’s been live a few weeks, I can take a look back at the changes I’ve made to this site and whether things are working the way I’d hoped. The good news is the answer is mostly yes. You always worry that the updates are going to screw up something that’s working, or piss off the Google Gods and all of your organic search clicks are going to disappear.

None of that happened; overall things seem to be pretty close to what the sites were doing before the merge and redesign, and that’s good to know.

One big change I made in this site: The ads in the sidebars are gone. Why? Because from my study of the analytics, as far as I could tell, nobody every clicked on one. Not once. Wasted real estate. So they’re gone. And my analysis was right: the number of clicks I’m seeing through to the Amazon affiliate ads is about the same as it was before, and (what really matters) the fees they’re earning is right where it was on the old site, which means the site will continue to pay for its hosting fees every month and a couple of coffees or the occasional geek toy off the wish list. So thank you all for that…