Confessions of a PhDumpling

Have any of you had success with weight loss while eating the elephant? Are there any secrets, or is it month after month of chipping away? Please share your experience in the comments section!

Over my tenure in graduate school, I have put on weight steadily. Each new circle of ghoulish hell has marked itself on me, and clothed me, out of necessity, in fat.

I wasn’t always fat. I always was heavy, certainly, but martial arts as a child and wrestling as a teenager kept me fit. I wallowed along for six post-wrestling years until two things happened. I broke my coccyx and slipped a couple of discs in my back in an accident, and I nearly blinded a friend playing racquetball. These two events convinced me that sports–racquetball, at least–were no longer options.

I have looked, once again, into tracking and logging “health and fitness” data[1]. While food is practically fixed by circumstance, exercise and sleep are not. I would like to change these health contributors I can, and be aware of those I cannot. Yet this is problematic. When I start tracking food, I historically get very anxious and end up eating between 800 and 1200 calories a day; not nearly enough. Because of this, and because this time the foods from which I may choose are largely out of my hands, a technically mediated solution to increase exercise is in order.

Academia has shifted my thinking over the years, shifted it from pull-the-trigger-and-barrel-onward to decision-by-committee. However, this is cumbersome, this is lengthy, this is seldom a happy event for all involved. Therefore, rather than wait for the perfect set-up, I am leaning toward starting as soon as possible. Simplify. There are two sides to this equation: input (food I shove into my face) and output (food I metabolically burn off). I will track eating via self-report, but technology can help me report activity.

I seek to do a couple of things:

  1. “Gamify” lumbering around more and plodding up stairs;
  2. Having an external force–in this case, both a display and a human besides myself–prod me to lumber and plod more.

It probably won’t be graceful. It probably won’t be glamorous. But hopefully this can serve as a reminder that little things, done often and routinely, yield big results.

On the technology side of the fence, here is my proposed setup:

With either the Fitbit Aria WiFi scale or the Withings WiFi Body scale (or the next revision, the Withings Body Analyzer scale), my interaction with all this data consists only of tracking food, exercise, and water[2] via the MyFitnessPal phone app. As it can recognize bar-codes, food entry is simple. I already track my daily water consumption, and I don’t plan on getting back into extensive weight-training[3], so the technical side of this transition should be simple enough.

If I am in a good place in the Fall (which means I’m seeing progress in both weight loss and academic status), I’ll probably buy the upcoming Core 2 armband (more details from their press release) for my birthday.

[1] What spurred this latest bout of activity was seeing my girlfriend’s incredible success with The Primal Diet, and my desire to buy her something fantastic for her birthday. This thing (Der Wunderbox!) would track her steps taken and stairs climbed, and evolve into our shared interest in the Fitbit One. And, of course, outliving graduate school.
[2] As described here, this is the supported way to integrate Fitbit and MyFitnessPal.
[3] Extensive here meaning working hard with weights over 5-7 days a week. I do, however, plan to work to muscle failure 3 times a week. If I can actually do this twice a week, it would be beneficial, as it would raise my BMR. Good question from a friend of mine.

One thought on “Confessions of a PhDumpling

  1. Pingback: In the Beginning… | Slug No More

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