Electronic Lives That Live On

Many years ago during the 90’s I knew a very nice guy, a professional acquaintance named Michael Groh. He was the editor of an Microsoft Access magazine that competed with a Microsoft Access journal I edited but we got along just fine even if our publishers didn’t at the time.

We both moved on from the Microsoft Access world into other pursuits and I can’t frankly tell you precisely when we lost touch. However, several years ago, in November of 2011 to be precise, I heard from a few mutual friends that Mike had died from pancreatic cancer. I was saddened by the news as were many who knew Mike professionally and personally.

mikegroh2Fast forward two years and—I kid you not–I have started getting suggested LinkedIn invites to connect with Mike. Here’s one from today when I was perusing my profile.

Needless to say, this is kind of strangely morbid. Some would say even creepy. When this started a few months ago, I was busy and thought it would stop but it has continued so that I now see Mike as a suggested connection quite regularly.

I finally sent an email to LinkedIn today with a link to Mike’s obituary from over two years ago. I am hoping they will quickly act to verify the truth of my claim and suspend his account.

Of course, this brings up a good question: how will online communities deal sensitively and wisely with the death of their members? It doesn’t take a lot of thinking to realize that this sort of thing could be misused by those into identify theft and other less-than-positive pursuits.

Anyway, rest in peace, Mike. I am wishing you the best in the afterlife. And as for LinkedIn, I am hoping they will act soon to fix-up this rather macabre mix up.

I’ll update this post to let you know how what happens to my LinkedIn help ticket.

2013 is Coming into Focus

magnifying_glass_by_hillllallll-d59skm5Boy, I haven’t posted in a while. Sorry about that. Bet you’ve heard that one before. It’s funny how you can be so gung ho for a time period, posting like mad. Sometimes, even having to wait to space out your blog posts. While other times, you just get busy—like me for the past month or two—and don’t either have anything to say, or are too busy to say it in your blog. I guess the latter was true in my case. But here I am, with my laptop in bed late, deciding to hack together a post sometime after midnight on New Year’s Eve 2012.

Catching Up

Today is the beginning of the last day of 2012. So the good news is that I have been fairly consistently running and spinning and less consistently lifting weights. Additionally, while I am not currently logging my food intake into My Fitness Pal, I have maintained my weight at more or less where I want to be. I am currently 165 pounds, which is at the top of the range of where I want to be. Considering this is the pinnacle of bad eating season, I am pretty okay with that. In comparison, at this time last year, I weighed 185. Yes, 20 pounds more than I weigh today.

But weight is not everything. I am also pretty happy with my fitness level, although with the craziness of the holidays and my kids being in town, I managed to run only twice last week. However, during each of the weeks in December prior to last week, I ran at least 3 times. And I have started running on Saturdays with the Seattle Greenlake Running Group that I found on meetup.com.

In fact, I ran long runs of 9-10 miles with the group the past 3 out of 4 Saturdays.

Plans for Next Year

I have big plans for 2013 and have already signed up and paid my entry fee for three—count ‘em, three—races. They are:

1. Resolution Run

This run is tomorrow, January 1st at 10:30 AM. it’s a 5K followed by a jump-in-the-lake. (And in case you are wondering, it’s likely to be raining and very cold!) The trick, of course, is not to stay up too late New Year’s Eve and get too drunk. Otherwise, the race will be very painful. (It will be cold and wet, regardless, however.)

2. Lake Sammamish Half Marathon

This is the one I actually have to train for. 13.1 miles around Lake Sammamish in Redmond, Washington. The race is Saturday, March 9th which gives me about ten weeks to get ready. And while I can run 10 miles without too much trouble, I’d like to ramp up over the next ten weeks and use this race to really improve my fitness.

3. Pacific NW Spartan Sprint

Okay, now we are getting a little crazy. I have to say I have been intrigued with these so-called extreme obstacle course races since I first started hearing about them this past year. They include Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and the one I just signed up for a couple of days ago: the Spartan Race. The deal on Living Social was just to good to ignore so I nabbed it. The race is Sunday, August 4th in some town I have never heard of in Southern Washington state. Oh, and yes, as a matter of fact, I am crazy. ‘Nuf said (for now).

By the way, I am loving my new iPhone app for tracking runs: RunKeeper. The also have a version for Android phones. It’s free, addictive, and highly recommended. And for the most part, it makes GPS watches obsolete. Expect a post on this fabulous app sometime soon.

Oh, and we got a dog a couple of weeks ago…

PorterKidsXMas2012-1

So that’s my story. What about you? What do you have planned for 2013?

Maintenance Plan Meets Honeymoon

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So it’s been four weeks since we left for Italy to get married and honeymoon with a brief stop in New York on the way home.

The Plan

When we left, I had dropped 15 pounds and Zanna had lost 10.

Our plan for our trip was a noble one: ease up a bit but continue he to eat less and exercise more. You can read more about the planned maintenance plan in an earlier blog post.

How We Did

On the airplane ride to Italy, we continued to log our calories using the offline version of the wonderful MyFitnessPal.com program. We quickly realized once we landed in Europe, however, that without 3G on our phones and reliable and consistent access to wireless that we wouldn’t be able to use MyFitnessPal. So we ditched it.

Now, did I mention where we were spending our wedding and honeymoon? In Italy

IMG_1376You know…The land of food and wine. The land of amazing pasta, pizza, cheese, cannoli, gelato, and wine. Also, did I mention that we were getting married there and that some wedding cake and celebrating might be involved?

And the wedding cake we had was nothing short of spectacular, by the way. For those interested, it is called millefogile, and it’s to die for even though there was no chocolate involved!

Well, I won’t say we ate like pigs. But I have to say that we quickly dropped all pretense of being on strict diets and logging our calories. That said, we did generally try and eat smart. But let me confess it here: there was a lot of pizza, pasta, wine, and cheese involved in our diets in Italy. Furthermore, I am guessing that we ate gelato at least every other day. And we had cannoli and cake a few times too. Okay, so we were slightly refined pigs.

And once we got to NY, I’d like to say with 3G access on our phones and wireless access at my parents house, that we immediately jumped back on the diet bandwagon and MyFitnessPal. Well, I’d like to say that but it would be a lie to say that. We continued to eat pizza and even had some more cannoli at a small family reception Friday night.

The Results

_1010260After 2 1/2 weeks it Italy and 1/2 week at my parents house in Long Island, we arrived home late last Saturday night. The next morning we weighed in and were shocked to discover that Zanna lost an additional pound and I had gained one pound. Wow! IOW, for all practical purposes, we maintained our amazing weight losses.

We were astounded!

How Was This Possible?

In reality, I don’t know how this was possible and why we were so lucky. But I can speculate why. So here goes it.

  1. _1000936 - Version 3We were active. We were tourists for much of the three weeks. Lots of walking and climbing stairs. Lots of time on our feet. I think this is a big one!
  2. We ate mostly unprocessed and minimally-processed food.I think this was also key. Food in Italy is basic and, for the most part with a few exceptions, we didn’t have access to processed foods.FonziesOkay, one notable exception: Zanna fainted one day after a 4-hour hike in the hills of the Cinque Terre. So over the next few days, she drank some Powerade and one day bought a bag of Fonzies. Why Fonzies? The goal was to buy some potato chips to temporarily increase her salt intake but all the regular potato chip bags were huge and the bag of Fonzies was relatively small. Anyway, it was a minor infraction in the interest of health (oddly enough) and a great source for jokes thereafter. (Fonzies, by the way, we learned are a European version of the highly-processed Cheeto.)
  3. We didn’t snack. Other than the aforementioned Fonzie incident and the occasional dessert (also ignoring the every other day gelato habit), we didn’t snack. That is, one benefit of being on vacation was that we didn’t have access to snacks unless we went out to purchase them which was uncommon.
  4. We exercised. Besides constantly moving (see #1) as part of our tourist routine, we also managed to go on power walks and runs. While not every day, we probably did 30-45 minutes of exercise at least every third day.
  5. We were in love. Okay, this probably is unrelated to the excellent record in regards to weight maintenance, but it’s cute to say that.

Listen, I was expecting a weight gain on the order of 5-7 pounds for me. So again, I was quite shocked. Of course, at the same time, I did notice that my newly purchased 32 inch waist blue jeans continued to fit me throughout the trip so perhaps it wasn’t that bad. But one pound? Remarkable.

Post Script

So what has happened in the intervening week since we have made it home from our wonderful trip? Well to be totally honest, my weigh in today was 163.0. Up 1.5 pounds since we got home.

Not exactly where I want to be but within a reasonable margin of error. And this is after surviving Halloween week and the adjustment back home and back at work.

IMG_1311And I did manage to run twice and go to a spinning class once this week. Though with the constant rain and cold in Seattle, I have not ridden my bike to work since we have gotten home.

And we are both back on MyFitnessPal and I am reducing my caloric intake allowance a bit until I get back to 160 or 161 where I will move back into maintenance mode. Especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner.

Lance: The Time is Now to Be a Real Hero

Certainly, no one–after reading the current articles (like this NY Times piece) where cyclist after cyclist has come out to reveal how Lance (and many others) has been doping for years–can possibly believe that Lance Armstrong is still innocent.

Lance Armstrong is certainly an amazing athlete and a great spokesperson for cancer survivors. Furthermore, his foundation has truly done wondrous things (including funding research benefiting my employer, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center), but the time for denial, intimidation of ex-teammates, and cover up of years of wrongdoing is long past.

It’s time, Lance. Time to “man up” and realize that as much as it hurts to admit wrongdoing that you can do more for the sport, your foundation, and humanity by ending this charade and fessing up.

it’s time, Lance. But the window where you can get out with some semblance of dignity, honor, and a smidgeon of integrity is rapidly closing.

Lance, the time is now.

Maintenance Plan

Goal achieved!Okay, so you achieved your goal, now what? It’s time for a plan to maintain your good fortune. You certainly didn’t work your way down to your current amazing weight to rocket on back to your old weight.

I know I haven’t. Yes, my wedding is right around the corner (it’s this tomorrow, October 12) and I was still at my goal weight when I took off for our wedding on the 7th but that doesn’t mean come the day after tomorrow that I start pigging out (or sooner).

bmi-chart_thumbAlthough the wedding has presented itself as a great milestone for my diet plan, in actuality, I like to think of it as a means to help motivate me, not an end in itself. The true motivator for me was my gut. That is, my spare tire of a gut—my beer belly—told me I was overweight, corroborated by the unabashedly unbiased CDC BMI calculator.

cure-for-everything_thumbIn fact, I was overweight for far too long and I finally decided I was going to do something about it thanks in part to my fortuitous reading of Timothy Caulfield’s excellent The Cure for Everything: Untangling Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness, and Happiness.

Of course, I could always revise my goal downward and continue to try and lose weight until I was 155 or 150 pounds or lower but I have decided that, for me, at this point in my life, 160 pounds is a good compromise weight. It’s both several pounds under the high end of “normal” for my height (169 pounds), and, as important, I believe it’s also realistic. I think I have half a chance of being able to keep my weight here at 160, plus or minus 5 pounds. (If the truth is to be told, I really mean plus 5 pounds; the minus side of the equation is very unlikely!)

 

Shifting Myfitness Pal to Maintenance

So about two weeks ago, I achieved my goal and I have to say that it was hard for me to figure out what to do next. At first, I decided to continue on plan until we left for Italy for the wedding. At the same time, I started to crave extra calories and would at times convince myself it was time to “cheat” a little here and there.

Meanwhile I dipped down to a low of 158.8. At one point I looked at myself in the mirror and worried that perhaps I was getting carried away and maybe even looking a bit too thin.

Eventually, after a significant back and forth in my mind, I decided to shift into maintenance mode. So how did I actually accomplish this?

I went into the configuration settings for myfitness pal and changed the What is your goal? setting from “Lose 1 pound per week” to “Maintain my current weight” as shown here.

image

 

Shifting Me to Maintenance

Making that change to myfitness pal was the easy part of the deal. More difficult was the realization that, although I could increase my caloric intake, the change was not a recipe (pun intended) for open eating season. My change of my goal into maintenance mode increased my daily target intake from 1450 to 1920 calories, a net increase of 470 calories.

The thing to realize is that one can easily consume 470 calories with a small dessert, plate of pasta, etc. Even a latte and a couple of pieces of banana can put you close to 470 calories. The point I am trying to make is that while this is a welcome increase in calories, it’s not a huge change.

 

Staying Serious!

This is where it’s important to realize that if you are serious about maintaining your weight at a significantly lower weight than when you started you need to permanently shift your views on eating.

While I am still coming to terms with how this will sort out—and I have to do this while getting married and honeymooning for three weeks in the land of pasta, pizza, cheese, wine, gelato, and cannoli—I am committed to making the shift in thinking.

This means eating less. Let me repeat that sobering fact: this means eating less. We humans in the Western World eat way too much. Caulfield drives this home in his chapter on diet in The Cure for Everything.

But we are also not talking starvation either—or even skipping meals. Just eating at a rate and frequency much more akin to what our creator (or evolution) intended. It’s that simple.

 

Will Exercise for Calories

Pre_flightThere is little secret, however, that may help in the maintenance game. As I’ve written about previously, when I was on the diet, I tried—and sometimes it was very difficult—to not eat the extra calories that myfitness pal awarded me when I exercised. But in maintenance mode, I don’t plan on thumbing my nose those extra calories. Again, this is not an excuse for unbridled eating. And I will still do my best to avoid what Caulfield calls the poison foods, even when exercising.

Nonetheless, as long as I am exercising regularly (and hopefully vigorously) and successfully staying below 165 pounds, I will allow myself to eat the additional calories that my exercise burns.That’s my plan anyway. Wish me luck.


Postscript: It’s been a rough start to maintenance; four days into my trip. Not enough sleep or exercise, and too much stress, too much eating, and too much eating at restaurants. Plus, no scale in sight. I need to re-focus on my plan; but first the wedding.

From the Future Mrs. The Whole Geek…

I don’t think my story is unique; you workout you maintain a decent functioning body and then you meet someone, fall in love, and as I like to say, gain “10 pounds of love weight.” The phenomenon is not for women only: men seem to go through this too, so it’s no surprise that Paul and I both gained some weight during our courtship. One of the biggest challenges for women who live with men is the annoying realization that you can’t eat like he does and not expect to put on pounds.

The Whole Geek (Paul), Future Mrs. Whole Geek (Suzanna), Matron of Honor (Tammy), and Best Man (Peter) in front of Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

The Whole Geek (Paul), Future Mrs. The Whole Geek (Zanna),
Matron of Honor (Tammy), and Best Man (Peter) last weekend in front of Fisherman’s Wharf,
San Francisco

I have tried numerous times, sort of, to lose those 10 pounds but the reality is that I just didn’t care enough. I really didn’t want to put forth the effort, and I think in the back of my mind figured I couldn’t do it without drastic measures. Somehow the planets aligned and while Paul was reading Tim Caulfield’s book “The Cure for Everything…” and as we were planning our wedding, we decided it was time to give it another go.

I recommended we log our food using My Fitness Pal as I had used it in the past (and a myriad of other online tools) and found it to be the most user-friendly.

 

No Secrets

As Paul has posted before, there really is no secret to losing weight. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for many of us, myself included, that I cannot eat whatever I want in the quantities I want and maintain a healthy weight. I fight that every single day!

caloriesUltimately you have to cut calories. For me, unfortunately, cruelly, that means reducing my caloric intake to 1200 calories per day. THIS IS NOT EASY. In the beginning this seemed like a paltry amount of food and I struggled! I ended up starting at 1400 calories per day because I just struggled so much getting to 1200. While Paul was peeling off the pounds at a quick pace, I was sluggishly bouncing up and down the scale. I finally tired of the up and down and made a concerted effort to eat 1200 calories per day. I was bitter. He was losing weight I wasn’t. What a motivator!

oatamealThe secret to this you see (I thought there were no secrets?), is to get the most bang out of your calorie buck. Some foods become too “expensive” while others are easy to fit into your diet.

For us that meant oatmeal in the morning with fruit, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds (just a tablespoon full) with our latte. Lunch was salad or nonfat Greek yogurt and fruit and dinner was another salad, veggies, and maybe salmon. We have eaten in restaurants successfully and had wine many nights of the week (usually stopping at 4 ounces) and enjoying small bits of dark chocolate.

 

Surviving on Less

Once I figured out I could survive on 1200 calories per day, I did a pretty good job of staying at that number regularly. The results? I have successfully dropped those 10 pounds in about six weeks. Yes, I lagged behind Paul. Yes, I’m approaching menopause. Yes, I have a bum knee, a kidney transplant, take tons of drugs. Yes, I have excuses to use, but the reality is, that by eating less and moving more, I did it!

Beldar and Prymaat with Nan Schaefer coneheadsI am, what did they say about the economy “cautiously optimistic” about my ability to maintain this weight, which I’m happy to say, slides me into the healthy BMI category. However, I’m not stupid. I know that our upcoming trip to Italy could be a license to consume, as the Coneheads put it “mass quantities“, but then my pants won’t fit!

Will I enjoy gelato? Yes. Will I enjoy pasta? Yes. Will I enjoy my wedding cake, you bet. But, I won’t enjoy them all on the same day. I will balance out the indulgences with better food choices and relieve any wedding day stress by walking in the Italian countryside.

Paul and Suzanna WalkingIn conclusion, I share this story with all the 40-something women out there who think they can’t lose the weight, that it’s impossible during the hormonal firestorm, and with women who have health problems who can’t do intense exercise right now.  My message is, yes you can. If you want to, you can! It won’t be easy, but you will get used to eating less and you will enjoy the results.

Zanna

Goal Achieved! Now What?

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This morning I stepped on the scale and was overjoyed to see I had surpassed my goal with a weight of 159.0 as you can see. Wow.

This begs the question “Now what?” Well after hugging Zanna I answered this question by putting on my running shoes and banging out a hilly 4 mile run.

This is no time to rest on my laurels and break out the Ben & Jerry’s. Rather, my thoughts are to continue with my current diet & exercise plan until we take off for Florence on Sunday (yay!). At some point on our trip (did I mention we were getting married on the 12th?), I will shift into maintenance mode.

For me, maintenance mode means continuing to keep a food diary but with a higher daily calorie goal for maintaining weight rather than losing. Of course, this will likely be quite challenging since we will be traveling in Italy, celebrating our wedding, and eating every meal out.

I hoping, however, that I can continue to eat smart and exercise most days.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

Be Prepared!

The old Boy Scout refrain is quite apropos when it comes to staying on plan with weight loss and fitness. Yes, it means more planning, but that’s the small price to pay for the huge benefits you are bound to accrue for your efforts.

For example, I hauled the following to work today in one of my bike panniers…

 

Tower of containers for lunch and snacks

My tower of containers for Monday includes a green salad with veggies and 1.7 ounces of left over baked salmon (yes, I weighed it); 1 tablespoon balsamic & olive oil salad dressing; some cherry tomatoes for the salad (separated because I don’t like to refrigerate tomatoes); jicama, celery, and carrots; 2 tablespoons of hummus; half-cup of grapes; and a small Fuji apple.

What’s that you say? A lot of containers. Precisely, I answer. But this is how I stay on plan and how I don’t break the budgets (money and calories).