Saturday, September 27, 2008

BMI and its failings

I talk about my Body Mass Index quite a bit. In general, it forms a useful way to compare relative obesity for people of different heights. Of course there are several flaws in this mechanism.

However, people are talking about the failures of

From Malicious to Morbid

I had my monthly doctor's appointment yesterday and I now weigh 310 lbs. I am under 50 BMI. I'm now morbidly obese and not super obese. Yay.

Really, I'm happy though. That's a movement of 18 BMI from when I started about 14 months ago. I just don't want to celebrate yet; I still have a long way to go.

Originally I had set this as a very unrealistic 6-month goal. My much more realistic aim of losing 250 lbs in 3 years, putting me at 175lbs, is nearly 50% complete in about a third of the time. My doctor even offered to remove the skin tags on my neck for free if I could lose 200lbs.

All this makes me think back to why I started the diet in the first place: to prepare for a bariatric surgery. IN order to qualify my insurance required I complete a 6-month diet plan guided by a physician. Also, most surgeons fear operating on super-obese patients. Both those criteria are cleared, so, in theory, I am ready to go under the knife. However, surgery seems like a terrible idea right now. Why take the risk while the diet moves along well?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pissing it all away

What is the actual chemical pathway of weight-loss? I tried to think this through logically and managed to get about half the story. Talking with my doctor revealed the second half.

To explain my thoughts

1. I was fairly sure that the actual weight of the food contributed very little to my long term weight. For the most part, food simply traveled through the system and any useful energy or chemicals were pulled out by various enzymes and bacteria. Basically the weight of input food was fairly close to the weight out output feces including the various enzymes excreted to digest the food. The only inputs that mattered would be those things my body actually absorbed. Fats, sugars, proteins, and minerals would be taken in while fibers and the like would simply keep on going.

2. I also figured other excretions such as sweat would be offset by input water.

3. The only input that was easily show to be less than the output was breathing. The body disproportionately absorbs oxygen compared to what it exhales, the converse being true of CO2. So I would take in O2 and exhale CO2. Losing a carbon molecule many, many times over. Silly me though, I didn't seem to make the connection that this was of course part of cellular respiration, which has water as a product also. Combined, these two products would make up most of the weight-loss caused by proper diet and exercise.

Though this reminds me of a revelation which shook up my thoughts on the body when it came. The idea that the digestive system really didn't absorb your food and the excrete the waste back into the system for elimination. Of course, my thoughts on digestion were hardly systematic before and many things fell into place after such an understanding. The moment of "Eureka!" really sticks with me though. This is about the closest I get to a religious experience, the moment of clarity when you realize a fact about the world and suddenly so many separate facts which seem to contradict each other spin around and fit together. This is why I say science is more than simply practical knowledge. Science has enriched my life even if I never find a useful thing to do with any particular piece of knowledge.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cold Hands, Empty Stomach

The diet plan I set up for my time on Phentermine seems to be too much food. I find myself forgetting to eat for long stretches of time. Then, when I do eat, I only eat what I had planned to eat for the last meal. If I try to make up for lost calories, I feel as if I have eaten a feast. So, I'm not even hitting the 1400 calories on a daily basis.

This worries me. My hands, feet, and tip of my nose have started turning ice cold during these forgetful fasts. If I go too long, I suddenly lose all ability to focus on any task and must eat immediately. It's almost as if the narrator from Gauntlet is intoning "Your Hero needs food." over and over. Then I rush out, eat all of 360 calories and feel as if I am going to burst once the food hits my stomach 30 minutes later. If I try to use this 30 minute window to eat a respectable number of calories, then I feel nauseated later.

Though, I'm not really complaining so much as I am amazed. Still, I am looking forward to not worrying about my health as much.

Another worrisome development, I have developed periodic tingling and numbness/reduced sensitivity in my left hand ring and pinkie fingers. This radiates a bit downward into my hand, also.

The causes I can find in my research are diabetes and carpal tunnel. Diabetes has long been a worry, but is unlikely in this case. My urinalysis didn't contain sugar a few months back, so pancreas function probably wasn't decreasing. Plus, given the amount of time I spend typing about a computer in any given day, carpal tunnel seems the most likely cause. I have an appointment with my doctor on Friday of next week and will bring it up then.

Update: I realized that carpal tunnel syndrome affects fingers other than the pinkie. I found another source which suggest I have nerve compression and that I should splint my arm at night and take ibuprofen. Still going to talk to my doctor about it though.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Constitutional Federal Communism

I was thinking about China today. THe thoughts were inspired by recent stories of China blocking iTunes.

I know so very little about their manner of government. As best I know, they have a one-party ruling system. Still I wonder how much variation is tolerated in policy ideals within the party. They certainly wouldn't be as bad as during the Cultural Revolution. Of course, that doesn't say much about the state relative to Western-style democracies.

Anyway, I wondered if they have hard-line Mao followers conflicting with the more modern communists seeking out a relationship with Western businesses. In a lot of ways, this may end up with the same sorts of situations we find in U.S. two-party systems.

This thought leads to the idea of China having two (or more) Communist parties vying for power. So that two parties with different visions of communism try to convince the People of China to vote for them. However, I am so clueless on the politics of China that I don't even know if they vote for their leaders.

To get to the main point though. If the Communist party in China were to split into two groups, could the people successfully agitate for a more egalitarian form of government. Now, some of the urban Chinese have been making at least a little noise about having more autonomy as their quality of life and wealth rise. The rural Chinese have built up a fair amount of animosity though for what I've read. (sources later). If this division in party and people could be exploited, perhaps some people in China could successfully get a new social contract formed. Perhaps a system that allows for a far less centralized Communist structure, hence the title, Constitutional Federal Communism.

In theory, this would allow much more personal freedom and create a much more vigorous political culture in China. Still, this idea needs much more fleshing out and a lot more information. This idea could sound much more harebrained after research and deeper thought.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Code Is LAW!

I was unaware that building and electrical codes and the like were actually copyrighted material. I am flabergasted that any laws in the nation could be considered intellectual property.

A flickr web comic is agitating for distribution of codes and standards. "It ain't public if it ain't public."

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Oats of Diets Past, Present, and Future

Yes, yes, I like puns way too much. Aren't I clever?

I made up a Diet Plan table on Google Documents to show my past diet plan, the current plan, and I am working on getting the future one done.

I know this may sound odd, but I am not really at all sure how much food I will want to eat after I get back off the phentermine. A lot of the eating I was doing during my lull in diet loss wasn't so much to feed hunger, but because something was telling me I needed to eat.

The nice thing about the Phentermine is that it helps me get used to smaller amounts of food again. I'm eating half portions for 2 out of 3 meals. (This scares me though, so I will be adding some vitamins to my routine.)

Still, I have serious doubts that I will be able to maintain a 1350-1400 calorie diet and maintain the exercise routine I have managed to stick to for the last week and a half. I may have to revise the plan, but we'll see when the pills run out. I remember in college I was able to eat a similar number of calories but I had to use nicotine as a meal replacement to do so.

Though, this reminds me of another funny thing. In both cases a drug cost was mitigated by the lower cost of groceries. I am buying almost literally half the amount of groceries I was previously. The phentermine is only $45/month supply so the groceries completely offset the cost. (I remember food being so much cheaper when I was broke.) The cigarettes of course were more expensive than buying food and left me feeling terrible. I will ramble about quitting some other time, as this is already "Too long, didn't read".

Monday, August 25, 2008

Getting my due from the devil

I found a way to describe my feelings about phentermine.

Phentermine is the devil. If I'm going to make a deal with the devil, I want to get my due. This past month I did just that.

Went to the doctor today and I had lost 22 lbs since last month. Big, big swing.

If you look at the second tab on the chart (the one with the graph), you'll notice that I went from being 28 days behind schedule to being 37 days ahead of schedule.

Of course, only about 12 lbs of this is "real" weight-loss. The first 10lbs or so came off easily and so were most likely the water weight people always talk about. I had most likely gained that water weight back when I was eating out the month before last.

Also, I've managed to keep walking the past few days. I am still trying to make it into part of my daily habit. Just a morning walk everyday before work.

So today is good news, but it's hardly time to celebrate too much yet. I want to make the changes I am working on become habitual before the 3-months on phentermine is up.

I'm also adding a menu plan to the left hand side.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Crazy Crash Diet

Yesterday, Saturday, I ate about 950 calories. I cut my lunch, supper, and one snack by half and my planned calories per day is now at 1250. However, the first day I was trying this was Saturday. Instead of eating my planned 320 cal tortilla for supper, I fell asleep. That's crazy. I even woke up and took a walk today.

Even weirder, I didn't bother taking my phentermine until around 3 hours after I woke up. I wasn't hungry until my usual time.

Another thought I had. On saturday, I took the pill at 9AM because I was taking my brother to the airport (2 hours away). So, I was able to stave off cravings long after the pill should have worn off. As best I can tell from my reading, each dose is effective for 10-14 hours.

Of course, while I was figuring out my new menu plan, I realized that previously I was eating about 2150 calories per day and still losing weight. The slow down and backtracking didn't kick in until I stopped walking entirely and started eating out.

My scale at home is reading 325 and it's rather consistently measured 3 lbs heavier than the doctor's scale. Maybe tomorrow will bring big news.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tortured Definitions

From Andrew Sullivan:

In all the discussion of John McCain's recently recovered memory of a religious epiphany in Vietnam, one thing has been missing. The torture that was deployed against McCain emerges in all the various accounts. It involved sleep deprivation, the withholding of medical treatment, stress positions, long-time standing, and beating. Sound familiar?

According to the Bush administration's definition of torture, McCain was therefore not tortured.

I am not sure that I like this argument. It certainly has teeth but it has the same feel of the "Swift Boat" ads. Trivializing torture feels fundamentally wrong. However, Sullivan isn't so much questioning the suffering of McCain as he is pointing out the crazy situation the country has landed in.

Of course, this argument will be presented by the Right as proof of how fundamentally anti-American McCain's critics are. These same people who wore Purple Heart Band-Aids.

Really though, the best result would be for this question to spark a serious discussion. Perhaps this will help people stop and think "How did we get here?".

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Slowest Speed-freak ever.

Last month, I gained 13lbs due to poor discpline in my diet. In response, the doctor prescribed phentermine to help get back on track.

Taking a stimulant makes me worry due to the associated heart risks. I suppose due to a lowered cholestrol count (From 207 to 91) that my risk profile is much lower, but still I worry. Of course, I was joking with a friend that I am becoming paranoid about being paranoid (one of the possible side effects).

Another effect, is that I have cut out almost all soda. I made the mistake of drinking a cafeienated soda while on Phentermine only once. It would have been a very productive time, if not for the extreme restlessness the combination caused.

I am trying to use this time to re-establish an exercise routine. I did go out walking 4 days in a row. Then missed 7 in a row. I have also tried using the bike I have up on a trainer (makes a normal bike a stationary bike), but my heart-rate always goes out of control. I have trouble regulating my pulse when I don't see how fast I am going. Though, that may not be the problem either. My heart-rate was always faster on a bike.

Still trying to come up with a good strategy to get exercise back into my daily routine.

Tomorrow, I am going to try riding the bike at a measured pace.

Mike Phelps News Network: All Phelps, All the time.

For the nerds.

History repeats itself minus the 'stache.

More relevant to myself, Michael Phelps and his 12,000 Calorie diet.

This really means, I need to get out and exercise. Walking, biking, and maybe swimming. I love swimming, but a gym membership usually ends up going to waste. Also, the last time I swam with any regularity, I would get out of the pool and quickly eat as much food as I could. Swimming really drives my appetite.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A thousand words?

From Balloon Juice a silly photo:

While I agree that declining to support the president for this reason is silly, it does bring up an interesting point.

The flag is correctly displayed from Bush's point of view, but tellingly he seems to have neglected to consider any other point of view.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Survey on Evolution

I was linked to this survey by Pharyngula

I gave the following answers to the essay questions. (For my own vanity, I have edited some grammatical mistakes I found only after hitting submit.)

To the best of your understanding, and in your own words, please explain what “evolution” means

The theory of evolution is the common name for two theories: The theory of natural selection and the theory of common descent.

The theory of natural selection is the idea that from a large population of individuals in a species that those with beneficial variance will tend to reproduce more. This theory depended on the existence heredity for passing on traits to subsequent generations. The selected individuals would thus tend to pass on their traits more successfully and begin to alter the makeup of the population at large.

The theory of common descent is the idea that all living creatures are descended from an initial creature or population of creatures. This proposition is difficult to prove and much less intuitive. In order to prove it, a more robust theory of heredity needed to be provided.

If you accept the theory of evolution, please explain in your own words why; or if you do not accept the theory of evolution, please explain in your own words why not.

For what I understand, the theory of natural selection has become far more complicated and nuanced. So in a way I don't accept the theory of natural selection as originally proposed. I accept the refined, modern model of selection.

However, the theory of common descent has only become stronger with the gathering of more evidence. Personally though, I find the evidence that was most convincing was the evidence from animal husbandry among non-extinct species. This is the evidence that Darwin hammers upon most fervently in his Origin of Species. Try as they might, creationists, or less honestly intelligent design proponents, have little fulfilling explanation to counter the intuitiveness of arbitrary similarities.

Sure, they fall back on "Same designer, same design" but that hardly works to explain arbitrary similarities in disparate species while also accounting for independent evolution of similar structures fulfillingly.

Combine and Restart (again)

In an effort to keep trying to post on this blog, I am going to attempt to expand its subjects. I will do my best not to turn this into simply a journal, but to actually talk about things of interest.

I have moved some posts over from my previous attempt at blogging and will be publishing them here eventually.

So let me go ahead and blatantly layout some of my goals and thoughts.

1. I want to keep talking about my weight-loss both to chronicle the events and to desperately seek approval and support from random strangers on the internet. More accurately though, "friends" I cajole into subscribing. I use quotes because some of them may feel that way after reading.

2. I want to present Science not only as a practical system of understanding the world, but to present the understanding of Science as an enriching activity. Science offers such an expansive understanding of my immediate world and the larger world around it. I want to show that Science is fulfilling in the same way that the Arts are fulfilling.

The powerful emotions we associate with a wonderful piece of music or thought-provoking play can be also invoked by supposedly "left-brain" fields. In this, I follow in the footsteps of Carl Sagan. A high target, but that's where I need to be aiming.

3. I also which to house some of my snark here. The tone may end up being jarring compared to the previous 2. I may simply not include this here despite it being a key part of my personality.

Low Earth Orbit

I am posting this again from a previous blog. I have renamed the series but this is otherwise unedited from its original form.

Science drives my understanding of reality, from the nuts and bolts of the way matter interacts to the most intimate human relations. So often, people portray science as cold, hard facts and the scientists receive guilt by association. However, these studies require much more than simple logic and mathematics, without human creativity to lead it, our logical pathways soon peter out. Explaining our basic emotions in scientific terms will prove the fundamental humanity of this quest for knowledge.

Consider this the first in a series called "Science as Art".

We begin as an object hurtling through space. We feel no force and simply continue along our path. Eventually though, another object hovers into view and draws us in. The force of gravity pulls us closer to the object but our original velocity keeps us moving. In concert, these forces cause our path to curve. With a strong enough pull, we begin to circle the object of our attraction.
Each loops spirals us in and speeds us up. Our increased velocity threatens to pull us from the object of attraction but our proximity increases the strength of its pull. As these two forces fight we may settle into a pattern where our speed has balanced with gravity to create a stable loop.

However, another factor exerts a force in lower orbits. The thin air in low orbit slows down and heats up any object travelling through. This decrease in speed causes us to fall farther inward and actually speeds us up. At the same time, the thicker atmosphere slows us down faster, heats us up more, and causes us to fall farther in.

We are now in a dangerous situation. If we fall in too quickly, we will face increasingly thick air at a rate that will engulf us in flame and consume us. However, if we move tangentially too quickly, we will skip off the atmosphere, slightly burned, and race away from the object of our attraction.
We rocket forward in this perilous position paralyzed. Burned if we slow down too much and slip too far into the atmosphere. Skipping off the atmosphere, lightly burned and spurned by the gaseous shield. If only love equated to a variable, then we could solve for our trajectory. We would know just the right amount to push away so that we may easily glide in through the invisible wall surrounding the center of our attraction.

Sadly, though, most blind trajectories fail. Some of us luckily skim off the edge and skip onto a new target. Others, however, become too strongly entangled in the atmosphere and must spend their energy rocketing away to avoid being burned up and consumed.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Yogurt Follow-up

So I decided to go looking at yogurts again after my last post on them. I spent what felt like 20 minutes reading every label in the dairy section. The good news is that I may have found a vegetarian option. Surprisingly, it was in the store brand.

The ingredients list has the "natural flavorings" wording though, so I am not completely sure. This yogurt uses carrageenan in place of gelatin. So, I seem to have found a vegetarian option. Also, that I should probably read all the labels and not just assume the store brands went for the cheap solution.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Birthday Blowout

Tomorrow is my brithday. In celebration, I went out to dinner with my parents.

Bad News: I don't know how many calories I ate. For anyone familiar with dieting, this is really bad. If you have no idea, you probably ate way too many.

We went to Olive Garden, and had a communcal salad bowl. The dressing being olive oil and vinegar. Lovely, smooth, oily without that greasy feel. Also, pure fat. At least the dressing.

We also had artichoke and spinach dip. Not only high in fat, but saturated fat. (They use cream cheese). Also very tasty. I had about 6 or so little bread slices loaded up with the dip.

Then of course came the dinner. I should have gotten a nice simple noodle and sauce combo with some vegetables on the side. I suppose I did get that, except the vegetables were eggplant parmigiana. (I suck at cooking eggplant. I'm just terrible. I tried soaking them in salt walter, as I was told and failed miserably and had the worst sandwiches ever. Really, worst ever.) The chef did not have my same troubles and I had excellent and fattening breaded and fried eggplant doused in marinara, mozzarella and parmesan. On the side I had a serving of spaghetti and pomodoro sauce I believe.

Of course, all during this time I was eating breadsticks. I had three lovely little breadsticks coated with butter and salt.

Then to top it off, I had a slice of lemon cream cake and two of those little Andes mints.

Convservatively, I ate around 3000 calories in one meal by my estimates.

Oddly though, the scale this morning showed me down to around 326 from 334 on 5/23 when I went to the doctor last. I wonder what the lag time is on weight gain from eating like I did.

Still, I suppose the best lesson I could take from this is that sometimes you can cheat big and not completely obliterate your efforts. I just need to make sure this isn't a weekly or even monthly occurrence.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Don't flush where you drink

I've only worked one day since I decided to stop eating at my desk. One minor failure when my mother stopped by and gave me a muffin.

Normally a muffin, would be a major blow, but in this case it was a very small no-fat muffin that my father made. They make a dozen muffins using oatmeal they grind up in a food processor instead of flour. As best I can estimate it's about 15grams of carbs or less. Much better than typical muffins which are 400+ calories on the low end.

Anyway, that's not what inspired me to post. I have been using water to blunt my cravings between "scheduled" snacks and meals.

While filling up my bottle I noticed something stomach-turning.

The water fountains are right by the bathroom. Whenever someone flushes, the flow into my bottle drops off by a half or more. I know the water going into the bottle is clean (as clean as tap water) but I still get a twinge of disgust when it happens.