Thursday, May 01, 2003

The Hacker's Diet

This is absolutely required reading for overweight computer nerds.

Health and diet is something I've never been particularly interested in, but the Hacker's Diet has done a pretty good job of breaking through my wall of boredom and getting me recognize why I should care. Even though I had two years of college physics, I never really understood this relation between calories and weight. I exercise, but it's sporadic at best. What John Walker did is take the complicated stuff at make it really simple and quantifiable. I love the rubber bag analogy. And I get it now that total calories =~ total weight, so eating x-y calories instead of x calories will cause a loss of a measurable number of pounds over time.

All this must be trivially, stupidly obvious to anyone who's ever thought about it, but I never have. The idea that you can actually quantify it and put numbers on your eating habits that directly correlate to weight movement is interesting. It's an important principle for investors too -- the idea of measuring your progress and making yourself accountable to a bottom line.

I'll admit, I balked when I read that you have to plan your meals. But then I read about the feedback loop, and I relaxed. Why, if I have a good feedback loop, then I don't have to perfectly measure the number of calories I eat. I'll learn to eyeball the right amount of food, and then if I am consistently overestimating how much I can eat, the chart will tell me within a week. All I have to do is pay attention to the number of calories in the kinds of things I eat, until I can get an intuitive feeling for how much is the right amount.

16 days ago, I downloaded the Palm Pilot tools with the intention of measuring my weight. I had a wildly inaccurate scale that gave nearly random readings, so I went and bought a decent one. At first I didn't change my eating much, but as I saw the little calorie readings on my graph, I started treating it like a game (how many big negative numbers can you generate?) and action followed naturally.

I don't know for sure if it's working yet. When I bought my scale, it moved my average weight down by a few pounds, so my previous readings are all wrong. But I DO know that I'm eating less. Just paying attention to what goes in makes a huge difference. I mean, geez, did you know that a double cheeseburger, fries, and a drink is nearly 2/3 of what I should eat all DAY? Even though the book says you don't need to stop eating the kind of foods you're used to, I'm gaining an appreciation for eating healthier. After all, if I eat food with fewer calories, I can eat more of it and feel full while still knowing I won't increase my weight. Not only that, but it's cheaper. If I bring light lunches from home instead of buying fast food most days, I get to keep more of my weekly pocket money to buy gadgets. Who doesn't want that?

I also finally started the exercise ladder. I've been doing it reliably for four days. Moved up to level two yesterday. I plan to go up pretty quickly, since I'm not in such terrible shape right now.

This morning, my wife suggested that maybe I should read another book on health, which she's been trying to make me read for years. She said "I think that it's a great step you've taken by eating fewer calories, but maybe the idea that it doesn't matter what kind of food you eat is a little more simplisitic than it should be."

To my surprise, I said "Okay." See? All of a sudden, I'm interested.

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