Saturday, November 29, 2008

Misty Mountains

Out on a little walk in the late afternoon.

Kauai Vacation '09

For the next week we are vacationing at our timeshare on the island of Kauai. I will be updating the blog with pictures and videos as well as posting pictures to TwitPic. I also brought my TRX along and will post pictures and thoughts about taking the system traveling with me.

Our first day is turning out to be gray and chilly, but that's ok. Kevin is excited about getting to spend the day indoors watching TV :). He also likes playing in the rain:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hanalei Bay

I think Kevin and I will try surfing here this week.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Today is Thanksgiving and I'm doing what I do many holidays - sitting in a (mostly) empty office covering the phones so others can enjoy their holiday with their families. Many of you may think that is strange because I have a family and I should be enjoying my day off with them. However one of the things with which I am blessed is a spouse with a strong work ethic who understands when I want to cover six hours in a quiet office to get two free comp days in compensation.

I've been having some problems today. You see, as I was growing up my mom raised me to be fairly independent. Over the years we stayed in contact but it could easily be months between phone calls. I generally tried to call on the holidays, like today, but if I was a day or two late it was no big deal. Until this year.

You see I got a call late last week from mom's husband that in a recent physical they found a mass in her lung and given some of the other things going on with her health, they are certain it is malignant. Due to other health complications, mom isn't strong enough to survive either surgery or chemotherapy. They give her between three and six months to live.

So I thought today might be a good time to reflect on the things I'm thankful for about my mother:

  • I am thankful for that independence she gave me. I have friends for whom the feeling of familial obligation is an absolutely crushing load. I, on the other hand, was able to break free of that fairly early in my adulthood.
  • I am thankful for the sensitivity my mother recognized in me and especially thankful for her teaching that it is OK to be a male and to be sensitive and sympathetic while still being "manly."
  • I am thankful for the long talks we had as I was growing up. For much of my childhood she was practically bed-ridden with migraine headaches and depression and I would spend hours talking with her or listening to music. We would talk about everything from books and TV to sex and drugs.
  • I am thankful for the empathy I learned, watching someone I love being in so much physical and emotional pain constantly.
  • I am thankful for the critical thinking my mother taught me. Through those long talks mom taught me how to read a book and analyze what it was saying. She taught me to read newspaper and magazine articles and find the slant. She taught me to listen to others and hear what was behind the words.
  • But mostly, I am thankful for having a mother that loved me and supported me and always told me I could do whatever I wanted to do in life.
I hope I can do half as well as a parent to my son as she did with me.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


A few days ago I explained where daily caloric expenditure comes from:

BMR + TEF + TEA + NEAT = Daily Caloric Expenditure.

As I was researching that formula one thing I noticed is that NEAT is highly variable from day to day and person to person. That means the amount of calories burned is variable as well!

Let's take an example - say we have a 200 pound, 30 year old man with 15% body fat. We would expect that guy to have a BMR around 2000 calories a day. I hope it is fairly obvious that this guy would burn more calories working heavy construction than sitting at a computer all day. Most daily calorie requirement calculators try to capture this with a "lifestyle" modifier of sedentary through highly active.

As a matter of fact NEAT can account for 15% to 50% of daily calorie expenditure! What does that mean in real numbers? Our sedentary computer jockey would need an extra 300 calories a day to maintain his weight. The construction worker, on the other hand, could need as much as 1000. This is all through the virtue of how much they move in normal day-to-day life, before exercise is calculated.

What does that mean? GET UP AND MOVE! Park your car in the farthest space from the front door. Take the stairs, at least part-way. If you are a cube dweller like I am, get one work surface set at standing-height and give your butt a break. Try replacing your office chair with a stability ball - not only will it help strengthen your core and improve your posture, it can burn an extra 100 calories a day - just for sitting! How about doing some exercise during the commercials as you watch TV at night?

If you could raise your NEAT just 100 calories a day, that is burning an extra one pound per month (OK, 35 days) which equates to 10.5 pounds per year. 10 pounds just for taking the stairs and walking farther to the front door - not a bad trade, eh?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Tools of the Trade

In the software engineering world we throw around a phrase, "You can't improve a process you can't measure" and in NLP we say "If you don't know where you are going, how do you know when you've gotten there?"

Leigh Peele of "The Fat Loss Troubleshooter" posted a fantastic article entitled "The Reality of Calories" which included a video that very graphically illustrates the point:

So what tools do I use to measure and keep track of my processes? As the video showed, a digital scale is essential. If you spend any time whatsoever logging food, you will notice that there is very little consistency in how portions are measured, if you are trying to use the English system. However almost every food label will show the serving size in grams, which is more accurate anyway. Spending a week or two measuring portions to the gram can be a very educational experience.

As far as software/online tools go, I have 3 sites I consider indispensable:

Physics Diet

Regular readers have seen me talk about this site before so I won't go into a lot of detail. Essentially, you enter a weight (and optionally other data like body fat, exercise calories, etc.) and it shows you over time what your weight is doing as well as averages your weight to help smooth out the panic over those day-to-day fluctuations we all have. The site will also use this data to show surplus or deficit calories for a given time period. This is an extremely important function because all intake and expenditure numbers are estimates and one never knows how accurate the estimates are until they have a few weeks of data.


TheDailyPlate is a nutrition tracking site. If you read my post on figuring nutritional requirements, you understand how important it is to track the macro nutrients as well as calories. TheDailyPlate makes this process easy by having a very extensive database of foods, including the ability to search other user-contributed foods. Users also have the ability to create "meals" - a combination of foods eaten regularly such as bacon and eggs for breakfast.

TheDailyPlate will also track calories burned from exercise and automatically subtract those from amount consumed. It includes the ability to set calorie goals and track weight over time as well.

One very nice feature is the pie graph showing calories consumed that day. For those of us that are strongly visual-oriented it is a great way to see at a glance how the intake has been so far.


I was looking around for an easy to use workout log to take with me to the gym and happened to see this site mentioned for online logging on a bodybuilding forum. Aside from a well-designed printable log, the site has some nice features. When designing a workout, one has the ability to choose from a decent array of exercises, either cardio or strength, with the strength broken down by body part. There is the option to completely create your own workout or you can "join" workouts created by others. I saw a decent mix of upper/lower splits, Rippetoe's beginner workouts, 5x5s, etc.

Each exercise is either described well or has a video and as you progress you can look at total reps performed over time, total weight lifted or max weight lifted as a measure of checking progress from workout to workout.

Both TheDailyPlate and Gyminee have a lot of "social networking" options such as chats, blogs, forums, etc. Gyminee also will track weight and nutrition however I have not tried the nutrition feature yet.

As the diet and fitness industry continues to take greater advantage of the internet and online interaction, more and more tools become available to help us in our quest to ride that century or push the iron. I hope some of you will take advantage of these tools to realize your own goals.