Roller Coaster of a Month on the Scale

Sorry, no pictures or graphics. When I don’t feel like I am making significant progress or I’m not happy with myself, I tend not to take selfies or screengrabs of the Nike Run Club app. I’m not inclined to make PicStitch collages. That doesn’t mean the past few weeks have been a wash. It just means I don’t understand what is going on.

I started February at 218 pounds and added almost half a pound overnight and hit 218.4 on February 2. A week or so later I had dropped three pounds and was down to 215. I thought I was on the right path. I have found that when I start to drop, the decline in my weight is steady. But the week after that, the roller coaster ride began. My weight fluctuated all the way back up to 218 and then I hit a new low of 214.8 on February 20. All last week I fluctuated between 214.8 and 215.2.

Well, this morning the scale read 213.8.

Yes, I know day to day weight fluctuations are normal. But the wild swings this month have been interesting to say the least. But it was nice to see a number under 214 this morning, I figure it is going to take another five to 10 pounds before I seen an appreciable difference in the mirror.

So, what does it all mean? It means in the month of February 2021, from a high of 218.4, I have lost roughly 4 1/2 pounds. They say 1-2 pounds per week is healthy, I am right on track with that. Of course, it’s not happening fast enough and if you look at where I started at the beginning of January, you might say I haven’t made much progress at all. But I choose to look at January as a wash and the beginning of February as the real launching point.

What’s next? I’m glad you asked. I have gotten off track a bit with MyFitnessPal and I need to get back to logging everything I eat every day without fail. Beyond that, I need to plow through some aches and pains and keep plugging away. I feel like I am on the right path and I hope to continue the downward trend on the scale in the coming days and weeks.

Fitness Progress Update

Sometimes when you reset or reboot your fitness goals and priorities you have a significant amount of damage to undo. The word “damage” here is a bit hyperbolic, but it’s the closest word I can think of to describe what you do to yourself if you back off and subsequently backslide. Throughout my working career I set a high bar, a high standard for myself. I was a grinder. This is starting to have negative connotations now as people seek work/life balance, even in these dark days of a global pandemic. But, I digress. The point is I had to be “on” all the time. Back off or delegate just for a day and everyone wants to know what’s wrong with you.

This applies to exercise and nutrition as well. You work hard and track caloric intake and all that and you lose the desired weight and you think you’ve arrived. You don’t try to figure out maintenance levels, you stop tracking and you start skipping – a set here, a set there, a whole exercise, a day of cardio, – and next thing you know you’ve put 10 pounds back on, 20, 30. There are myriad reasons for this.

Part of the problem in my case is that I hate managing my life. It’s contradictory to my creature of habit and routine nature. Routines are comforting, but tracking everything you eat and how much weight you can lift and how fast you can run is tedium I can do without. But the truth is I can’t do without it. I’ve only gotten to a true maintenance point once during this journey. When I lost 60 pounds from January 2013 – December 2014, I stayed at my goal weight of 180 pounds for quite awhile, well over a year. In February 2016, I wrote that my weight was hovering around 185 pounds. I looked as good as I have throughout this process, but this is where my weight started to climb. The yo-yo was beginning. I was still running regularly but I was confused and on information overload. I stopped writing about my weight.

In January 2017, I started writing about my weight again because I had ballooned up to 198 pounds. By the end of 2017 I had quit running regularly. By the end of 2018 I had practically stopped writing about exercise altogether. From 2017 to today, I went from 198 pounds down to 177, back up all the way to 220, down to 200 and finally back up to 218. Every time I have gotten down to my target weight, I have stopped keeping myself accountable. That’s the bottom line. I stopped weighing myself every day, I stopped tracking caloric intake, I stopped blogging about my fitness journey. When I have done all or even some of these things I enjoy success. When I wrote on February 1, that I was disgusted with myself, it wasn’t the first time I had done so.

I have learned so many harsh lessons the past eight years. The biggest one of all is that I cannot afford to stop tracking my calories this time. Once I get to my goal weight, I have to continue to do this religiously. If I do not, I am just going to repeat the same mistakes and I’ll never be able to get off this roller coaster of yo-yoing weight.

So, I promised a progress update. When I decided on a reboot on January 4, I weighed 215 pounds even. I stopped weighing myself every day and I was strict enough with food, so by February 2 I was up to 218.4. It was taken me nine days to undo that damage. I weighed in at 215 pounds even. I’ve also made some progress in a few other areas. I am exactly right back where I was on January 4. Had I kept going back in June, I’d probably be right where I want to be by now. But, I can be excused and excuse myself for losing my way considering everything that happened around that time last year.

The reason I have been able to lose three pounds in a week is because I am tracking. I am tracking my weight every day and I am tracking everything I put in my mouth. MyFitnessPal has made a nice upgrade to their app since the last time I used it. You can scan the barcode on a food package rather than typing in the search bar. I have no qualms about digging in the trash can to pull out a discarded package and scan the barcode. Judge me all you like.

Sometimes you have talk things out, think them out, and write them out to figure them out even if the answer is obvious. It is very difficult to reach a high level of effort and maintain it for a very long time. Even backing off a little can have far-reaching effects. So, the damage from the last couple of weeks of January have been undone and hopefully it’s all downhill from here.

Star Trek’s Predictions and Prophecies

Chief Engineer “Scotty” uses a handheld communicator, the precursor to the modern cell phone.

Good science fiction is both prophetic and cautionary and Star Trek: The Original Series was both. When it comes to technology, the show and its creator, Gene Roddenberry, were particularly prescient as well as influential. A quick Google search came back with several web sites detailing the technological advances the show predicted and even inspired. And I know I have watched at least one documentary about it. I could very well cite those sources here but I thought it would be more fun to try to detail the ones that have stood out to me. There are also a few ideological elements I’ll mention as well.

  1. Transporters: these devices seemingly disassemble people and objects, shoot them to a particular set of coordinates, and reassemble them on the spot. This is not a reality but it has been explored in other science fiction stories, most notably The Fly before and after Star Trek.
  2. Phasers: A type of laser weapon I’m still not sure of. Star Wars seemed to have cooler “pew pew” guns, but these ship-mounted or hand-held weapons were quite effective within the context of the show. Folks have been experimenting in this field for years, but nothing practical and effective has emerged.
  3. Communicators: The precursor of the flip phone sure seems to have influenced early cell phones. These person-to-person or person-to-ship devices “chirped” when they were flipped open and often worked like a walkie-talkie.
  4. Tricorder: This device had many functions, most of which you can find in today’s iPhone or iPad, especially in conjunction with say an Apple Watch or a FitBit.
  5. Bluetooth headsets: Lt. Uhura, the communications officer, wore one of these throughout the series run, it was big and bulky but it was a wireless headphone nonetheless.
  6. Diskettes: Throughout much of the Original Series, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise transferred data using what they called “data tapes,” but these colored squares were roughly the size of a 3.5″ diskette.
  7. Electronic Computer Assistants: The shipboard computer responded to voice commands and accessed information from “library tapes.” Today, several companies make voice responsive electronic assistants, and one is built into Apple products, that use the internet to relay requested information. Some of the consoles on the Enterprise sure look like my Amazon Alexa Echo Show.
  8. Medical scanners: Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy often uses a handheld medical scanner he passes over a patient’s body to ascertain their condition. Ultrasound devices sure look like a logical offshoot.
  9. Space Travel: The United States and the former Soviet Union were the pioneers on this frontier in the 1960s. We still haven’t reached the speed of light as Star Trek predicted but advances in space exploration are made every day.
  10. Artificial Intelligence: In “The Ultimate Computer,” an experimental shipboard computer is installed aboard the Enterprise with the goal of replacing the majority of the crew. Forms of AI are prevalent throughout our society today, especially in computer technology. Thankfully, nothing has achieved consciousness … yet.

One of the other things I thought I’d mention here is the show’s depiction of the fight against communists, fascists and other forms of authoritarian or war-like militaristic government. In “Patterns of Force,” the crew of the Enterprise has to deal with a society that patterned itself after Nazi Germany, in “The Omega Glory,” one faction is described as communist and with Asian characteristics reminiscent of Vietnam and China, and in “Bread and Circuses,” a Roman civilization has evolved all the way into a parallel of Earth’s 20th century. In “The Omega Glory,” American history is on display, literally, with an American flag and a copy of the Constitution inexplicably oh so many light years from Earth. Democracy, freedom, and free will are the over-arching themes of several episodes.

The 2011-12 Science Channel series Prophets of Science Fiction unfortunately didn’t cover Star Trek, but it did showcase others who successfully crafted cautionary tales and predicted future technology. I suggest you give it a watch if you can find it. According to IMDB, it’s available on Amazon Prime and a quick search of the “library tapes” says you can find it on the newly launched Discovery+.

Best Fitness Week of the Year By Far

Increasing my cardio and squinting at the sun.

When I set out on January 4 to get back on the weight loss tip I didn’t think it would be as hard as it has been. I spent a month spinning my wheels. After undoing almost all of the progress I achieved at the beginning of pandemic stay-at-home orders, and staring undoing all of the progress I’ve made the past eight years in the face, I took a long look at my nutrition and exercise. I don’t know why, but I always forget how strict and intense I have to be in order to lose weight. Even when I think I am maintaining, I’m not. After spending most of January hovering around 215 pounds I started this past week at 218 and ticked up to 218.4 on Tuesday. I weighed in at 215.6 this morning.

What changed?

Two things. I cranked up cardio. Thirty – 45 minutes is prescribed post-workout every day but this past week I did 20 minutes of fasted cardio on my Bowflex Treadclimber before breakfast, and then 45 minutes of cardio post-workout every day except Wednesday, which was a HIIT day. So, I recorded roughly 13.51 miles of walking around the neighborhood and on the machine. In January, I walked a grand total of 12.68 miles. For the life of me I can’t recall if I got on the Treadclimber or not. If I did, it wouldn’t have amounted too much more mileage-wise. So, essentially, I logged more miles in a week than I did the previous month. I continued with my weight and strength training as well, that’s constant in my life.

The second thing I did was download the MyFitnessPal app. I have used this off and on over the years. In fact, the last time I logged out of it, I weighed 177 pounds. What a difference two and a half years makes. Sugar and carbs have always been the devil for me. Now that I am tracking my food intake again I can see I was consuming too many calories, especially in the form of sugar and carbs. I set an attainable daily goal of 1,600 calories and I have been right around that every day. Not that long ago I had a 20-something try to tell me if you exercise you can eat more. Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids. I log my cardio in the app and it does add the supposed calories burned to the daily number of calories I can supposedly consume. But, considering there isn’t one goddamn thing on this planet that can accurately measure the number of calories any given individual burns during exercise or at any other time, I can’t use that as a guide. I just keep my food intake less than my goal and consider the calories I burn exercising as a bonus and this way I stay in a caloric deficit, which is conducive to weight loss.

The other experiment and discovery is my relationship with protein. Conventional wisdom and the fitness industry will tell you the more muscle the better. It helps burn fat, improves functional strength, all that. As I mentioned, I’ve had numerous people and articles tell me 1g of protein per pound of body fat every day is ideal. Um, no. Not in my case. I started using MyFitnessPal Tuesday and hit 156g, then 133g Wednesday, 96g Thursday, 66g Friday, and 67g yesterday. I also used a scoop of creatine in my post-workout shakes the first few days of the week, which I know causes water retention. I didn’t see any downward movement on the scale until Friday. So, 218, 218.4. 218.2, 218.4, 217.2, 217.2, 215.6 (today, Sunday). I was starting to get frustrated because whenever I make a drastic change, the effects on the scale are almost immediate.

I’ll count it as almost three pounds lost from a high of 218.4. I have no doubt that more protein is better than less. But for me, 1g per pound of body weight is way too much much when it comes to weight loss. I read somewhere a few years back that if you don’t use protein your body will store it as fat. I’m sure the creatine had something to do with it, but it’s funny that as soon as I dropped the protein intake to under 100g per day and stopped taking creatine, my weight started to drop. I probably didn’t give my body enough time to adjust but I am a results-oriented guy. After drastically changing the nutrition plan, I really needed to see some tangible results.

My favorite comedian is Lewis Black. And in one of Lewis’s stand-up rants he discussed how everyone’s individual health is different and that we don’t know a damn thing about health. I think I am living proof of this. We are the sum of experiences and our health is the sum of everything we have done to and put into out bodies up to this moment in time. Every ache, every pain, every labored breath, every injury – they all add up. In my case – every cigarette, every drop of alcohol, every chicken wing, every cheeseburger, plus knee surgery, back surgery, arthritis, and every sprained thumb, every sprained ankle and decades-long gaps in exercise all add up to an uphill battle against Father Time.

We can sit here and talk about BMI and body fat and what constitutes obesity and overweight and all that. My current BMI would tell you that I am obese but to look at me, you wouldn’t consider me obese, maybe a bit overweight. Hell, even my target weight of 180 pounds is considered overweight for my height. So, as I have mentioned before, I look at body fat rather than BMI. And if you want to tell me not to worry about the scale I’ll tell you my weight and body fat are directly proportional. All three things seem to go hand-in-hand though – body weight, body fat, and BMI.

As I was telling a dear friend earlier today, Father Time is undefeated and it feels like I am ice skating uphill. Every time I slip, it seems like clawing back gets harder, but if the alternative is giving up and shortening what time I have left, I’d rather keep fighting the good fight. I enjoy the grind, the challenge and the journey. I have run up to the edge of where I want to be a couple of times and fallen back, and then forgot what it took to get there. I am determined to smash through this time.

Star Trek’s Cavalier Relationship with Death

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Alien Rojan (left) holds two freeze-dried Enterprise crewmembers in By Any Other Name.

During my exploration of Star Trek: The Original Series, I have tried to pay attention to the details, big and small. It has become a running joke over the years that anyone wearing a red uniform, who wasn’t part of the recurring cast, was doomed to die a miserable death by episode’s end. Accepting this as a universal truth throughout the series, the crew’s rather cavalier attitude toward death, in particular Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), is one of those details that has stood out.

I am 23 episodes into Season 2, meaning I have watched 53 shows so far. I wish I had kept count of the red shirts who have died unceremoniously. According to, 25 redshirts died during the three seasons of The Original Series, which, considering the disproportionate number of crewmembers who wore that color, isn’t all that many by percentage. Forty-three Enterprise crewmembers died in all. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley) seems to be the only character overly concerned when a crewmember dies, regardless of the circumstances. The U.S.S. Enterprise seems to have an endless supply of expendable crewmembers. You hardly ever see them onboard anyone new and new crewmembers with speaking parts are never introduced in a meaningful way.

Rojan crushes Yeoman Leslie Thompson.

Perhaps the most disconcerting death came in “By Any Other Name,” where aliens kill a member of the Enterprise landing party, Yeoman Leslie Thompson played by Julie Cobb, after turning her into a geometric mass. The aliens proceed to take over the Enterprise turning the crew into these geometric shapes. Although they have the means to restore people, the head alien had crushed Thompson into dust. Eventually, Kirk convinces the aliens that the United Federation of Planets could help them, as friends. The alien leader, Rojan, played by Warren Stevens, murdered Yeoman Thompson, yet Kirk suggests the Federation could help the aliens find a new home. Never mind that the entire crew of the Enterprise had been effectively freeze-dried and we never see them restored. In fact, there’s no mention of Thompson ever again.

In numerous other episodes, an Enterprise crewmember dies in the line of duty, Kirk displays some sort of indignation or grief in the moment, and by the end of the episode that crewmember and his or her fate is completely forgotten. No memorial, no funeral, no notification of next of kin, no notification of Star Fleet, no burial in space (at sea). In fact, by the end of most episodes during which a crewmember has died, Kirk is quite pleased with himself at whatever resolution has been affected and orders the Enterprise off to another adventure. Many murderous characters face no justice.

Kirk often remarks about his concern for “his” ship and her crew. He mentions the more than 400 crewmembers aboard the Enterprise frequently whenever the ship might be in peril. And these crewmember deaths seem to affect him in the moment. But his remorse or grief is fleeting. And nobody seems to care how many deceased members of the Enterprise’s crew have been left scattered across the galaxy.

Maybe this improves in Season 3, but as far as I know, the only time any shipboard memorial services take place are in the theatrically released films.

Perhaps I am overthinking it, but I find it odd that this cavalier attitude towards death permeates a series concerned with the survival of alien races and humanity and is continually trying to define that humanity. So much of the show is about going where no one has gone before, but they forgot about those they left behind.

Disgusted with Myself

Throughout most of January, my weight remained steady at right around 215 pounds despite my efforts to drive it down. I set out on January 4 to start losing weight again. Well, after a month, I have gained three pounds. I stepped on the scale this morning and weighed in at 218 pounds even. I knew that I had put on a few pounds, I could see it in the mirror. When I get to a certain point on the way up I can see it in my face and my midsection. I also notice other symptoms. The extra weight stresses my cardio vascular and respiratory systems. When COVID hit I weighed 220 pounds and then I lost 20 pounds in three months. I have practically completely undone that progress.

During this eight-year journey I’ve had the tendency to forget how strict I need to be in order to shed pounds. When I lost 60 pounds from 2013-2015, I was counting calories and macros, I was weighing myself every day. After putting 20 back on, I lost that 20 in three months by weighing myself every day, taking pictures and measurements, and a strict daily nutrition plan with measured calories. People used to ask me for advice. I gave it freely, adamantly in many cases.

I really have no excuse. I no longer spend three hours per day in the car commuting, I don’t have the responsibilities and rigidity of a 9-to-5 job, I make my own hours these days. COVID has put the brakes on travel and dining out. When businesses do open when restrictions are eased temporarily the only thing I have taken advantage of is getting my hair cut professionally. I live in Northern California so the weather is rarely an issue when it comes to getting outside to walk or run or play ball.

So, what the hell is my problem? I’ve put a lot of thought into this. The mistake I commonly make when I do reach a weight I am comfortable with is thinking I’m finished, that I have arrived. The first thing that goes out the window when I reach these points is the strict nutrition. The other problem with that is not achieving the body composition transformation I desire, or muscle definition doesn’t develop. I run right up to it and either stop doing what I know works thinking it’s never going to happen, or I’m afraid of actually achieving my goals. Sounds dumb, I know. I think the fitness industry has similar issues when it comes to unrealistic body standards as the impossible beauty standards foisted on women. That’s a topic for another blog.

Since COVID hit, I have run at base level of anxiety every day. This was exacerbated when I lost my situation. I am normally not an anxious person, but with a raging global pandemic and uncertainty with my ability to make a living, my anxiety and stress have climbed to a level that, at a minimum, make it difficult for me to lose weight. The election and events thereafter haven’t helped any. I’m in a much better place with that, but I continue to watch TV news more than I have in years.

There is some good news. One of my goals is to get consistent with taking my supplements every day. I used to have a solid morning routine when I had that 9-to-5, I’d take my pills after breakfast right before I left the house. I’ve now come up with a new system to take them each day and I have done so for a solid eight days in a row after fits and starts.

I have a love/hate relationship with protein. I have discussed the proper protein intake with numerous professionals and it still always comes back to 1g of protein per pound of body weight (desired). So, for me, I should be consuming 180g of protein per day. If you try to get 180g of protein from just food alone, the calorie count goes through the roof. When I am on my game, I get my protein from a mix of high protein food like eggs and chicken, and whey protein shakes. I have one of those shakes, with added creatine immediately following a workout. I have been horribly inconsistent with my protein intake over the years.

I have to stop eyeballing things and trusting a flawed process. I know what works. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. Counting calories, getting enough protein, weighing myself every day, taking pictures and measuring … these things work. No more excuses. It’s time to take control of the situation. Conventional wisdom says you can eat more when you are an active exerciser because you’re burning more calories. My body doesn’t work that way. I must operate at a calorie deficit at all times.

So, after a month of fits and starts and growing disgusted with myself for my lack of discipline and sticktoitiveness, today, is Monday, February 1. It’s a good day to take stock and reset. Let’s just call January the warm up, the pregame.

Like I’ve become fond of saying, I’m not finished, I’m just getting started.