Monthly Archives: October 2015

Relationship Goals

The past couple years, I’ve made New Years resolutions related to advancing my career. I’ve already started thinking about plans for next year. These goals have helped me focus on making some serious improvements. While I haven’t met every goal, they’ve been very effective in upping my game.

While I’m pretty happy with where my career is going, there are other parts of my life that could also stand some improvement. I’ve recently been focusing on my weight. I’m down 16 pounds, with another 9 to go; and I’ll probably see if I can extend the weight loss by another 10 or 20 pounds.

My relationship with my wife has suffered a little over the past few years. She’d been busy with school the past 4 years. Earlier this year, I had spread myself too thin with my involvement in local user groups, volunteering, and conference presentations. I realize that we have to work on our relationship in order for it to stay strong and healthy. I’m not really good at knowing how to do that. But I’m going to try setting some goals that will have a positive effect on my relationship.

Finishing Things

I always have a lot of things going on at once. I seem to thrive on multi-tasking. But one down-side is that I leave a lot of things hanging. This happens with many of my side projects, as well as chores around the house. One example is when I do laundry. It often takes me days to fold the laundry, and then sometimes a couple more days to put the laundry away.

So I’m going to start making an effort to be better at finishing things. I’ll put the clothes away as soon as I fold them. I’ll put my dirty dishes in the dishwasher when I’m done eating.

Putting Things In Their Place

This is related to the previous item. It drives my wife crazy when I leave the door to the new pantry open. And it drives her crazy when I leave shoes and clothes (and lots of other things) around the house. While I think she goes overboard in her need for order, I know that it helps her focus on other things when she doesn’t have to worry about the house being cluttered.

It should only take a little bit of effort to meet her half way. I’ll focus on keeping the house less cluttered — or at least confined to my own spaces. I’m sure it’ll have a positive impact on me as well.

Being More Conscious of My Time

When I over-extended myself earlier this year, I had more extracurricular activities than I had time for. I didn’t do a very good job of planning my activities around each other. I had to give up one of my major activities (being involved with the UNIX and GNU/Linux user groups). Even with that, time for my relationship suffered.

I’ll need to plan my time better, so that I’m not stressing out with all the things that I need and want to do. I also need to procrastinate less. Being mindful that it’s affecting my relationship will hopefully help a little.

Family Retrospectives

I’ve had this idea for a little while. I’d like to do a family retrospective. I’m a little less sure about this one. I’m not sure I could do a good job of running a family retrospective myself. But I occasionally go to the therapist with my wife. I’d like to do that more, so we can focus on our relationship in that setting. But I’d also like to do some of the things that teams do in Agile retrospectives. Like check in on how we’re progressing on our goals. And brainstorming ideas on things to try to improve things. Perhaps this list will give us a starting point of things we can talk about.

Focus on the Relationship

Probably the biggest thing I need to do is to set aside time just to spend with my wife. Quality time. Date night. Spending time with my wife always makes us both feel better.

Using a Shared Calendar

As a practical matter, we really need to start using a shared calendar. Well, actually, we already do. But it’s a paper calendar on the wall at home. That makes it hard to use when we’re not at home. Finding an electronic calendar that we can both see would be helpful in planning my time and planning date nights.

As my wife always tells me: happy wife, happy life.

Losing Weight

I’ve lost 15 pounds over the past several months. I’m hoping to lose at least another 10 pounds over the next few months; hopefully more like 20 or 30. This is only the 3rd time in my life that I’ve lost weight. The first was when my mouth was wired shut due to jaw surgery. The 2nd was when a doctor told me to lose 12 pounds to get back to 200. This time was also instigated by a doctor, telling me to lose 25 pounds to get back to 200.

So now I’m going to tell you how you can lose weight. But you’re not going to like the answers.

Stop Drinking Alcohol

The first time a doctor told me to lose weight, I did it without even trying. I had also stopped drinking for a few months. I hadn’t connected those 2 things, until I mentioned them both to my aunt.

I only drink maybe 2 drinks a week. That isn’t really enough calories to make that much of an impact. The only thing I can figure is that alcohol has a big impact on my metabolism.

So when the doctor told me to lose 25 pounds, giving up alcohol was an obvious first step. I knew it would have an impact.

Don’t Go on a Diet

Going “on a diet” is a terrible idea. After you’re done dieting, you’ll go back to the same old habits as before. You’ll go back to eating the same things, consuming the same number of calories. If you consume the same number of calories as before, you’ll end up reaching an equilibrium at the same weight you were at before.

Instead, you need to change your diet — for the long term. Create new habits. You can’t think “I only have to do this for a few months”. Instead you have to find changes you can make permanently.

Maybe you’ll work a little harder until you reach your ideal weight, then let off the gas a bit. But you really have to go in with the mentality that you’re making permanent changes. Otherwise, you’ll end up gaining back the weight.

Learn to be Hungry

As an American in the 21st century, I have easy access to an abundance of food. Much of it is empty calories — sugar, fat, grease, carbs — junk food.

So when I get a little hungry, I find something to eat. I’m a terrible snacker. I love donuts and cookies and cakes and pastries. One thing I had to learn is to not just go and get some food at the first sign of hunger. Or just because I’m bored.

And when I do eat when I’m hungry, I need to choose better options. Low-fat food doesn’t work; it’s got added sugar. Low-sugar food doesn’t work; it’s got added fat.

The doctor recommended high-protein shakes. They’re low in calories, relatively filling, and usually have sucralose or stevia instead of sugar. I’ve used the shakes to varying degrees. They do help lower the calories I consume in a day, while quenching my hunger pretty well.

Get Really Sick

My weight loss started to slow down after a couple months. I went a few weeks without making any progress. Then I got a really bad flu. It only lasted a day, but I couldn’t keep anything down. My entire gastro-intestinal system was completely emptied out. I lost 7 pounds in a day or 2.

On the bright side, I was able to keep 5 of those pounds off permanently. I don’t know if I’d recommend this, but it definitely kick-started another round of weight loss for me.

Stop Drinking Soda

This was the hardest thing for me to change in my diet. When the doctor told me some things to do to lose weight, I told him that giving up soda wasn’t likely to happen easily. It was several months in before I made a significant dent in my soda consumption.

My a-ha moment came during lunch at Panda Express. I ordered a Pepsi like usual, along with my orange chicken and SweetFire chicken. My co-worker had a water. Then it occurred to me, why did I need a sweet drink to go with this sweet food? Since then, I’ve been more judicious at deciding when to have a soda, and when to have water instead. If you need to, try some zero-calorie water flavorings, like Mio.

A 12-ounce can of soda is about 150 calories. I typically drank about 2 cans a day, perhaps a bit more. Now I’m drinking probably about 1 can per day.

If you take the standard advice that 3500 calories will lead you to lose 1 pound, and you drink 3 sodas a day, that’s 1 pound per week. Things aren’t really that simple in real life, of course. But cutting back on soda can make a significant dent in your caloric intake.

I’ve seen some reports that say that Americans’ increase in soda consumption is responsible for almost all of the weight gain in American society over the past 40 years.

Exercise

This is the one area I need to improve on most. I haven’t made much of a change to my exercise level yet.

Losing weight really is about inputs versus outputs. Just sitting on the couch, someone my size burns about 2000 calories a day. If I eat 3000 calories (which isn’t really that difficult), then I have to burn an extra 1000 calories. To burn 1000 calories, I’d have to do about 90 minutes of strenuous activity, or walk 10 miles.

I just have a hard time finding the time to exercise. I do enjoy doing some yard work, but that’s only a couple hours a week, and not year-round. I’ve tried reading while walking on the treadmill, but that makes me a bit dizzy.

Some sort of fitness tracker is helpful. I’ve got a FitBit. It does help me walk a bit more. I try to walk to lunch most days. But that’s only a couple thousand steps.

I need to find a way to add more exercise to my life, both to help maintain a better weight, and to improve my health in general.

Commitment

I think the real key is making a commitment to make changes in your life. I’d like to not have a beer belly. I’d like to be healthier. But the real impetus to change came from my doctor. He asked me to make a commitment to lose the weight. That commitment made a big difference.

So that’s how I’ve been able to do it. But everyone’s different. Maybe some of those things won’t work for you. Maybe you’re not able to make some of those changes. You have to find what works for you. But if it’s something you need to do or want to do, make a commitment to change your life long-term.