I had 15 minutes of fame from my “before/after” photo from my first year of running.
It was featured in a story about me in the parkrun Australia newsletter.
The photo garnered an article in The Telegraph, UK.
It had 1,400+ likes on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Group One Year of Running.
My Imgur photo made “Viral” status and had nearly 200,000 views
It was posted on Reddit and had 10,000 points and 381 comments.
I lost 36 kg (80 lb) between April 2015 and April 2016 by eating whatever I felt like (in moderation) within my calorie limit, using the free My Fitness Pal app.
I had started feeling better and better after quitting smoking cigarettes cold turkey in May 2014 and have just kept going. In 2015 I started walking a bit more every day.
On 22 September 2015 I suddenly felt the urge to run for the first time in 30 years. 2 weeks later, I started doing parkrun on Saturdays when it started in my town and I have only missed parkrun 3 times since then. #loveparkrun
I ran 50 km in 6 hours on 10 June 2018.
Along the way, these are the goals I’ve made and completed:
Raise money for cerebral palsy and walk 10,000 steps a day for Steptember 2015.
Run 5 km. 5 December 2015.
Run 10 km. 6 March 2016.
Run 15 km by end of June 2016. 27 March 2016.
Run 5 km in under 30 minutes. 9 April 2016.
30 Day Planking Challenge. May 2016.
Run a half marathon. 26 June 2016.
Run 100 miles in August 2016. Done by 22 August 2016.
Run 1,000 km in 2016. Done by 27 August 2016.
Walk 35 km on 23 October 2016.
Run 100 miles in October 2016.
Run 10 km in under 55 minutes. 8 Jan 2017.
Run 30 km. Done 24 March 2017.
Walk 50 km on 6 May 2017.
Hike 80 km in 2 days. 10-11 June 2017.
Run my first marathon in my year of turning 50. Sunday 27 August 2017.
Run my 100th parkrun. 17 February 2018.
Run a half marathon run (or further) every month for a year. July 2017 to June 2018.
Run a 50 km run in 2018. Sunday 10 June 2018.
Hold a handstand for 10 seconds. 17 June 2018.
Draw every day for Inktober 2018.
No-Spend November, 2018.
Get onto the parkrun Australia Most Events List by running a parkrun at 20 different locations without driving or ever having gone for my licence. December 2018.
See how far I could walk on Boxing Day 2018. 51km!
Ran 2019 km in 2019.
1 year alcohol-free January 31, 2019.
Ran at least one 21.1 km run (or longer) every month for 2 years. 28 June 2019.
Writing all this is a reminder to myself that goals are achieved by making a little effort every day.
Don’t wait around for motivation. Just do it.
Challenge your thoughts.
Don’t believe everything you think.
Zenmode.org was started 20 June 2018.
“About Me” updated 15 September 2019.
Addition for a more complete picture:
- I was founder, owner, and administrator of The Australasian Skeptics Forum.
- I’ve studied at The University of Melbourne, and Deakin University.
- I studied painting and drawing under Howard Arkley and Christine Johnston.
- I’ve worked for local, state, and federal government in Arts, Environment, and Law.
- I’ve managed bookshops and currently work in finance.
- Zenmode post “Less Alcohol” was featured in an Australian Department of Health newsletter in April 2019.
Crash dieting leads to a crash and burn.
Crash dieting fucks up your Leptin (satiety hormone) and Ghrelin (hunger hormone) for years. There’s lots of good science about this now. Leptin and Ghrelin are parts of our metabolism. (Fast weight loss also affects other elements of your metabolism, but these are the main ones and are simplest to explain.)
When your satiety (fullness) signals and your hunger signals are out of whack, that is when people can’t control their eating and binge and yo-yo.
All those “serial starters” crash diet, overeat, rinse and repeat.
Fast weight loss causes yo-yo weight gain
There’s no point doing a crazy diet you hate then going right back to eating the way you used to. Hello yo-yo!
And that’s assuming you can even stick to the crazy diet long enough to lose any weight!
Please talk to a doctor and/or dietitian about your health and dietary requirements regularly.
People seem to think “eating healthy” or “losing weight” means punishing yourself.
Kale, steamed chicken, and 6 hours in the gym a week… Sound familiar?
The endless hype about motivation is your weight loss worst enemy.
The idea is to learn how to eat sustainably for the rest of your life.
You don’t even need to “eat less and move more” (a saying which causes a lot of extremism). You could just do one or the other.
Eat back your exercise calories!
If you’re already eating less food overall every day, if you fuel the exercise you do, it’s still going to mean you will lose weight.
If you don’t eat exercise calories back, that’s when you lose muscle, get weaker, move less, get really hungry, and can end up with an eating disorder, or crashing and burning and failing to reach goal weight.
Then when you fail, you go back to your bad habits and gain more weight back than you lost because your hormones and your perception of food can’t regulate your hunger.
You don’t have to count calories to lose weight, but you need an understanding of the body’s general “Energy Equation”. (A calorie is a unit of energy.)
- Small men less than 15 lb overweight should eat at least 1500 calories a day when dieting, plus what they burn in exercise;
- Small women less than 15 lb overweight should eat a minimum of 1200 calories, plus what they burn in exercise.
If you’re taller and/or heavier, you need to eat more because you need more energy to move yourself around.
These calorie figures are the bare minimum you need to function normally while still losing weight.
There are a couple of other general guidelines about weight loss rates.
One is not to lose more than 1% of your body weight a week.
If you are around 10 kg or 20 lb overweight:
- To lose 1 kg = 28,000 kilojoule deficit: Should not take less than 4 weeks. E.g. 1000 kj or one Mars bar less a day than if you’re maintaining.
- To lose 1 lb = 3,500 calorie deficit: Should not take less than 2 weeks. E.g. 250 kcal a day less.
If you try to lose it faster, you’ll gain it back fast!
I’ve seen this too:
If you have 75+ lbs to lose 2 lbs/week is ideal (1,000 calorie daily deficit)
If you have 40-75 lbs to lose 1.5 lbs/week is ideal (750 calorie daily deficit)
If you have 25-40 lbs to lose 1 lbs/week is ideal (500 calorie daily deficit)
If you have 15 -25 lbs to lose 0.5 to 1.0 lbs/week is ideal (250-500 calorie daily deficit)
If you have less than 15 lbs to lose 0.5 lbs/week is ideal (250 calorie daily deficit)
Crash dieting causes people to crash and burn and regain more than they lost. They get weak and lose muscle mass and hence get a slower metabolism (lower Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)) and lose perspective on how much they need to maintain weight.
Losing muscle and feeling weak means less non-exercise activity thermogenesis (N.E.A.T.), so it lowers total daily energy expenditure. You feel lethargic so you don’t do as many little walks or jobs at home or work.
To keep losing weight they eat even less, and so it spirals downward towards hormone disruption & bingeing it back, and/or developing an eating disorder.
The massive and aggressive competition in the diet industry is a huge cause of so much yo-yo dieting, obesity, and eating disorders.
The diet industry feeds itself on the harmful goal of fast weight loss, offering fad diets, diet scams, quick fixes, and crash diets.
Cutting out all fat, carbohydrates, vegetables, or sugar, can lead to deprivation that is unsustainable.
Fast weight loss is bad.
Extreme diets are bad.
All those “Biggest Loser” contestants gaining all the weight back weren’t learning anything about weight maintenance being on the show.
Sustainable eating does not mean punishing yourself.
It takes quite a while to think this through.
It can be very hard to switch to having a mindset of sustainable eating when all around are advertisements offering fast and extremist solutions.
Once you notice this you see it everywhere.
We can’t change our mind about this easily, especially when society, family, and media teach us this mindset. Also genetics, biology and evolution.
Eat what sustains you as long as possible.
Here’s what’s sustaining me:
- Volume Eating. Fruit and veg have fibre which makes you feel full, and they bulk up the size of your meal and add very few calories.
- Protein and fat (and fibre) can make you feel fuller.
- My macronutrients are usually around 50% carbohydrates, 30% fat, 20% protein, and that keeps me very healthy, active, and happy.
- Most days lately, I love eating Greek yoghurt, cereal biscuits, fruit, vegetable and pasta Napolitano, vegetable protein/seafood/chicken with rice/noodles/potato, more veg, and dessert or chocolate depending on my day’s exercise.
- Some days (after a big sweat, perhaps), I need some salty chips, and maybe a chocolate protein drink.
- Some days, I like pizza (which can have all the micro and macronutrients you need AND not have too many calories).
If I deprived myself of things I love, I would never have lasted the distance.
What sustains you?
Again, see a doctor and/or dietitian about your health and dietary requirements regularly.
When you are maintaining your weight and tracking calorie intake, you can’t get the maths exactly right. Some days your intake will be higher than your energy intake.
I go by my weekly calorie limit, and make sure I stick to it, and also track my weight daily so I get data for the weight trend. If you can tweak smaller fluctuations, you don’t need to make larger changes.
Having a higher calorie day here and there balances out over the week if you have some lower calorie days. That’s how Intermittent Fasting works, in all its varying personas.
You can also gauge your calorie deficit by your weight loss via the scale and tweak that way.
Just don’t be a “Biggest Loser” wannabe because they gained it all back!
The slower you lose as you get close to your goal, the higher the chances of having hormones and habits that mean you can handle maintaining your goal weight for longer. This process is also aided by regular week-long diet breaks / refeeds of eating at maintenance calories, which let your hunger hormones settle down.
People set a weight loss goal deadline, and starve themselves to get there, not realising that they want to get there so quickly because starving themselves is so awful. A snake eating its tail.
Someone had to tell me something similar after I’d been using My Fitness Pal to track calorie intake for about 6 months and not eating my exercise calories back. A hard lesson to learn. But I really appreciate what he said now so much.
If you enjoy the process you can stick to the process.
“Whole of Life” list of cool things I’m enjoying doing and exploring.
1. Circular economy.
2. Recycling industry boom.
3. Local recycling collection points.
4. Did a CPR course.
5. 2 Day hiking event in the mountains last weekend. Superlatives are lacking.
6. Not getting distracted by other subjects when I go to look up something online.
8. Been making and bringing my lunches to work for months like I’m a proper grown-up.
9. Running regularly for joy not kudos.
10. Researching before buying things.
11. Tax planning.
12. Using Scholl Eulactol balm twice daily which has fixed my heels after they became dry and cracked from wearing Birkenstocks all summer.
13. Not replying in anger when someone makes an extremist comment.
14. Not checking the news outlets as often to avoid joining angry mobs or giving extremist clickbait articles any ad revenue.
15. Duolingo Greek lesson daily for 263 days so far.
16. Drawing daily for 10 months now.
17. Sewing pockets on things.
Also, some thoughts I haven’t had time to put into a separate blog post:
A. Fear of guilt or regret as a driver for action can help with:
B. Caterpillars in the stomach that people get when faced with doing something new.
C. People’s cognitive dissonance between:
Guilt about being unfit and overweight; and
Wanting to feel fit and healthy.
D. A can help us by being able to recognise when we’re doing B and C.
What’s got you thinking lately?
“A review of 38 studies concluded protein is more satiating than carbs and fats in the 10-20% of energy intake range but not above that, indicating the average satiety sweet spot is a protein intake of 20% of energy intake, corresponding to about 1.2 g/kg/d for non-strength training individuals. The effect was far stronger for self-reported satiety than actual eating behavior: ad libitum energy intake didn’t reliably decrease even at lower protein intakes. The optimum protein intake for satiety was closely in line with the optimal protein intake for body recomposition and health (1.2 – 1.6 g/kg/d).”
Haha, that fascinating article pretty much sums my protein percentage up!
I have no medical conditions.
Please see a dietitian if you require advice on eating to assist management of illness.
I’ve been logging everything in My Fitness Pal over 4 years, (lost 35 kg and have maintained 3 years) and never really pay any attention to trying to achieve any particular macronutrient percentage.
My macros have consistently been an average of 20% protein, 30% fat, 50% carbs the whole time. This seems to coincide with the general recommendation from most national health departments.
I love how I was about to say through most of Henselman’s article, but what about fibre? Yep, at the end, he says how fruit and veg are good at filling you up.
You can use them to bulk up your plate and stomach with volume for very few calories.
And I find now that a 300 kilojoule piece of fruit is satiating and lets me stop eating whereas an 800 kilojoule biscuit/cookie makes me want another.
Sometimes, of course, I’m happy to use my calorie limit on a couple of biscuits. That’s a form of satiation too.
Other days, too, I’ll have a 400 kilojoule choc protein bar if I can feel I need it.
I learned a good word last week:
“Research has begun to explore how our [lack of] awareness and perception of our body signals (known as interoception) contribute to disordered eating. Interoception includes perceiving various internal sensations from the body. It means noticing things like how quickly your heart is beating, how heavily you are breathing, how hot or cold you are, and whether you are feeling hungry or full.”
It’s risky just following the “intuitive eating” idea if you’re trying to watch your weight – but I’ve found it helps if you have some understanding of yourself and the caloric content of food you can choose to eat.
Had two terrible nights sleep earlier in the week and was struggling a lot at work. Felt like people were demanding every minute of my time and I had too many responsibilities outside of work.
At 5:30 am I went for an angry, 80-minute run and thought of logical kick-arse ways to reduce a lot of time spent on administration, and implemented them when I got back.
This helped not just me but also others to have a limit set now on what we feel we can do.
I made it through the day without needing any sort of medication or self-medication, and only realised this when it was all over and it hadn’t even occurred to me to use any. Nearly 400 days alcohol-free. Not even any caffeine for over 4 months.
Instead of freaking out with anxiety I’d been proactive.
Proud of myself for not pulling out of any volunteer responsibilities completely, since I’m proud of what I’m involved in.
Thursday 28 February I realised I’d rather use the money I’ve saved for flights and accommodation (to do a marathon in April) on a faster computer for myself.
This will improve my quality of life immensely and reduce a lot of frustrations.
I also decided to build a stronger 30 km run base rather than max out my resources for 2 months yet again on a marathon that would mean my glute/piriformis pain would worsen just when it’s been a lot better.
This will mean regular, consistent running to look forward to and enjoy.
Feeling like I’ve actually won a marathon now!
Set out for my run at 5:10 am and it was 24C / 75F in the pre-dawn half-light. I was running gently to take in the scenery and so I didn’t trash myself in the “Feels like 31C” (89F) heat and 88% humidity which had made me quite unwell running 13 km quite hard 4 days earlier.
Four years ago when we were in Noosa, I was 35 kg overweight and barely walking a few thousand steps a day. But that was also when I was slowly trying to increase my activity.
A year ago I had aimed to run 4 km to Noosa then explore the National Park headland trail. But both times I ran there, only I got about 1 km into the park before having The Fear that if I didn’t start running back I’d need a toilet before I had found one.
This run was a victory venturing into the unknown (where there were loads of other people)!
I’d found a map showing toilets a few hundred metres past where I’d got before. I also brought my Camelbak containing chilled water, and was much more Zenned-out and calm, and able to enjoy every moment.
When I stopped drinking about a year ago, I started to lose my anxiety. That, and no fear of a toilet emergency were some of the reasons I enjoyed this.
On top of all this, the scenery was incredible, and I started to feel quite euphoric!
I paused a lot to take photos, and I’m happy with these ones.
I’d made a connection in the morning that each fairly typical glass of wine I used to drink had the same number of calories as two slices of bread.
Three glasses of wine a day (or a beer and two wines) plus the usual meals and snacks and no purposeful exercise for 5 years meant the weight steadily crept up and up, till I discovered how to count calories easily for free and started to move more.
Last year’s holiday began during my first month without drinking and I had been so proud to stick to not drinking during it, and happily surprised I found it so enjoyable.
This year, the distances walked and run seemed much shorter and I felt very light-hearted.
I am an ever-changing bundle of elements, emotions, thoughts, and experiences.
In 2011, Julian Baggini wrote about the problematic concept of true self in “The Ego Trick”.
He talked with Jnanamitra, who has lived as a man and a woman: “I feel like I’ve lived several lifetimes these days. It’s very weird to look back at my childhood and have a sense of that being me.”
Baggini showed how Neuroscience and Psychology have studied humans and brains, and brains with injuries, dementia, mental or physical illness, and there is no part of the brain, body, or body chemistry which is the essential or controlling section.
The world’s religions have never shown definitive proof of a “soul” nor have never agreed on where it is before birth, during life, on life support, or after death.
“For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure, colour or sound, etc. I never catch myself, distinct from some such perception.”
– David Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, Book 1, Part 4, Section 6.
Nothing is permanent, be it identity or biology.
Fashions and hairstyles change, beliefs change, relationships change, information changes. People do things like have cosmetic surgery, and can then later have their breast implants removed.
This morning I read about a new book in which 30 transgendered people voice their regrets on their transitioning.
That book appears to have a political and/or religious agenda, but the fact remains that people exist who regret making such changes.
I support those who want to change.
I support those who regret changing.
How much of “you” is “you”? Or are you a cliché?
Are you a geek, Goth, hippy, punk, leftie, conservative, clean-eater, Christian, alternative, party girl, introvert, runner, backpacker, dissociated, wine mom, meat-lover, foodie, or muso?
Do you even feel lost because you’re not any kind of social stereotype?
I am an ever-changing bundle of elements, emotions, thoughts, and experiences.
Social group pressure has something to do with desire to change and not change in any direction. We have a survival instinct to want to be part of a tribe for protection. Doubts also arise that are affect the flux of self/identity and feeling of belonging within a tribe. Religion, politics, fashion, family, health.
In 2019, James Fell writes about “The Willpower Myth: How Identity and Values are the True Regulators of Behavior”. In his new book on health and fitness, he explains that the alleged concept of Ego Depletion caused by a supposed draining of “willpower” has now been discredited by science.
I have issues with the concept of having a “true self”, but I like how James Fell brings up “identity change”.
Change definitely happens by questioning your thoughts, attitudes, and values, and turning small efforts into positive habits.
“Challenge your thoughts. Don’t believe everything you think.”
By making some sort of change every day, I quit smoking, lost 35 kg (80 lbs) and have maintained my goal weight nearly 3 years, gone from couch to running 3 marathons, and have been alcohol free 11 months.
In 2019 I’m hoping to keep changing, learning, adapting to new information, and thriving.
Turning small efforts into daily habits results in beautiful things.
NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) is the term for activity other than purposeful exercise. E.g. Walking, cleaning, trips to the fridge, playing with your kids, etc.
NEAT accounts for a higher percentage of your daily energy expenditure than intentional exercise even if you work out 5-6 hours a week.
Increasing your NEAT can make a huge difference to your health and environment.
- Wear comfortable shoes: You’re not in pain or grumpy; better relationships; better posture; you can walk around without hindrance; more NEAT.
- Bring your lunch to work: Saves money eating out, and you can spend the rest of your lunch hour walking / doing errands.
- Wear a backpack rather than carry a shoulder bag: You’re more inclined to go for a walk; you walk more easily and quickly; you don’t hunch one shoulder to keep a bag on it (my physiotherapist pointed this out and now I see people with lopsided shoulders everywhere).
- Bringing lunch and drinks to work means more trips to the office kitchen: Saves money; more NEAT.
- Put dishes away one at a time: NEAT; and it also doesn’t increase power bills.
- Put laundry away one item at a time: NEAT!
- Walk your office mail to admin on another floor instead of putting it in your floor’s mail-out tray: Saves admin staff having to carry it or forget it, and I get more floors climbed.
- Walk to the shops when you need something (rather than waiting till you have a long list then drive).
One of my realisations was to just stop whining to others to do tasks and just get off my butt and do them myself. No arguments; better relationships!
More NEAT meant decluttering, and more space!
All this NEAT led to feeling better, doing more purposeful exercise, eating according to my calorie limit, losing weight, running, feeling better, round and round…
An adaptive spiral.
Today I was thinking that NEAT is sort of like doing the “right” thing:
- You walk to the bin instead of leaving rubbish on the table – more calories burned; tidy house.
- I just walked two sides of a triangle along the path instead of taking the short cut across a carpark – safer; more calories burned.
- I walk the long way to & from work – less carbon emissions; save money; more calories burned.
Doing the “right” thing has so many benefits!
Losing 80 lb / 35 kg using My Fitness Pal (easy calorie-counting app), running, and participating in community discussions led me to not having drunk alcohol since January 31 2018.
Not drinking meant not needing as much time in bed trying to sleep. Now I sleep more soundly and don’t wake as often, which means I have more time to do nice things.
On Thursday after my run, study, and drawing, I still had lots of time to spare before my last day of work for the year:
- I put away some things I’d left in the hall after doing some rearranging around the house.
- I walked to the hardware shop and bought some picture hooks and hung prints of my son’s artwork properly in my yoga room (his room when he comes home).
- I tidied my room and wiped down all the surfaces free of dust.
And when I came home, it all looked lovely and I was facing 12 days holiday!
As each day passes, we can make appropriate and sustainable growth, change, and habits that beautify the overall picture.
An adaptive spiral.
I drank 2-3 large drinks a day pretty much every day for many years. At the start of 2018, I had 3 of my running friends do alcohol-free months which made me start to think I should really take on a new challenge.
Then another friend wrote about “Being kind to Tomorrow You”. He made me realise that not drinking is a lovely, sympathetic gesture towards the person we are now, and whom we will wake up as.
I don’t look at a day without alcohol as a punishment for drinking too much. A night off is a treat for Tomorrow You. You’ll wake up without guilt about last night’s drinking, and without a headache or hangover. A night off will be an achievement you can be proud of all day.
On February 1 I decided I’d take it one day at a time and see how I went. One day led to the next, and soon it was my birthday. Instead of celebrating with a drink, I felt it would be a more significant occasion if I didn’t drink on my birthday for the first time in 30 years.
I also celebrated other milestones (decluttering my room; running my first 50 km run) without drinking. I found I was enjoying my “streak” and my natural highs much more than a couple of hours “buzz” then many hours feeling crap.
I’ve now passed the 9 months alcohol-free mark.
I always felt “fine” as a daily drinker, but I didn’t know how much better I could actually feel!
- No guilt, fear, or foreboding about what the drinking is doing to me.
- Sleeping soundly.
- Better memory.
- Huge boost in creativity.
- No mood swings.
- Better relationships.
- More money!
I have an app set up, “Nomo”, which tells me I’ve already saved over $1,600 by not spending the $40 per week I used to spend on alcohol.
I read this yesterday, by an alcohol-free woman who has made and is making big changes.
“From school, to uni, and at work, at sports and weddings, funerals or even community events – it’s always been a prolific and revered part of any social connections.”
“Somehow, I made it. The odds were overwhelmingly against me – as I kept reading and being told. Some fanatics declared ‘once an alcoholic always an alcoholic’ and I realised that was why so many people cannot beat the stigmas and are overwhelmed before they even start.” Hello Sunday Morning
Sure, it can be helpful discussing not drinking with like-minded others. I wouldn’t have got this far without discussing how to think differently about alcohol with others online.
But many people find the idea of attending AA meetings too confronting, though they do help many others.
To me, thinking you’ll always be fighting a permanent part of your being (“I’m an alcoholic”) seems very unhelpful and defeatist.
I choose to think that alcohol is a form of chemistry that can be fun… for a while, but it has side-effects that snowball with consumption, and increased consumption is one of those side-effects.
Don’t blame it on yourself. Blame the alcohol chemistry.
Once you’re free of the alcohol, you’re free to be whatever you want to be.
I found it easier to quit rather than to moderate, or have regular days off, with a disclaimer. The way I “quit” was by thinking I’m not quitting forever. I can drink whenever I want. I choose not to for now. I felt that the occasional drink is how I became a daily drinker. It’s too hard to drink then quit, repeatedly, considering how hard I found it to quit for one day for all those years.
Thanks for reading.
Edited 20 March 2019 to include something about my participation in discussions online. That was a huge part of what helped, along with reading articles such as those in the Hello Sunday Morning newsletter.