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Aug. 17th, 2016

sad merlin

July 15, 2015 -- 13 months ago, I posted my milestone chart. I think about the milestones a lot, they're part of my motivation. So I'm reposting the table with 2 very slight edits.



308 0 Starting weight. Ugh.
300 -8 Where I was the last time I started one of these.
290 -18 Where I was when I started Weight Watchers, 2005
285 -23 Where I was on Jul 15, 2015 when I posted this chart.
276 -32 25% of goal
270 -38 Approximate weight on my wedding day.
263 -45 The amount of weight I lost on WW, my best attempt so far (though I did well on low carb, too)
260 -48 Approximate weight when I started low carb, 1998
245 -63 Approximate weight when I fell off weight watchers, 2006
244 -64 50% of goal
242 -66 Where I am Aug 17, 2016.
230 -78 Approximate weight when I moved to CA, 1996
225 -83 Approximate weight when I fell off low-carb, 1998
220 -88 Approximate weight when I moved to NYC
212 -96 75% of goal
180 -128 Goal weight

It feels good to know that I have more milestones behind me than I have ahead of me. Though it also makes me impatient to get to the next milestone, which is quite some ways away. 2 months at least, and that's if I maintain solid discipline. I usually go in spurts and then lose focus for a bit and have to find it again.

Aug. 16th, 2016

sad merlin

It didn't work the day it was released it I tried it again and it let me log in.

It makes LJ almost competitive with Facebook except that most of my friends have already abandoned it.

Aug. 4th, 2016

sad merlin

For much of the first year of this, I tried to post regularly on Wednesdays. Near the end of the year that kind of fell off; right now those posts would be a lot of "keep on keepin' on". But every now and then I'll have something interesting to post.

So first the minutiae: I'm off running for a bit to let my calf heal up. I tested it out this week and it's feeling pretty good, but since I'm going on vacation for a week starting Saturday, I'm not going to bother going on just one run and then going on a vacation that will include a lot of walking. I was doing some regular alt exercises, but that fell off this week due to soreness in my shoulders and some work stress. I'll get back to it after vacation.

The important part of this post, though, is that this morning's weigh-in was 245.8 -- and 245 was a key milestone on my chart and one that has me very excited. There are two milestones that converge here:

1) When I fell off weight watchers, I was right around 245. (Sadly the original data is gone so I don't know PRECISELY where I was, but it was within a couple pounds of it). That's a big deal, because I'm in a mode right now where I'm going well and I hope to sail right past this milestone over the next couple of months.

2) 244 is the halfway point to my original goal of 180. Now, I've revised my goal to 210 based on body fat percentages, but those numbers aren't reliable; so really it's 210 and then see how I feel and how I look about whether I need to continue. But still, that revision was recent; for a year I was seeing 244 as halfway.

For me, halfway points have always been super important. When I'm running, the halfway point means that all I have to do is repeat what I just did, and mentally, that's big. I've already done it once, so I should be able to do it again, right? The same is true when I'm building something.

The next major milestone is at 230 -- that's the weight I was at when I moved to California.

Jul. 17th, 2016

sad merlin

One interesting thing about this whole journey has been watching the data I've compiled from my scale, which measures weight and automatically uploads it (really, this is a fantastic thing, even if sometimes it makes mistakes as it tries to auto detect WHO it's weighing) but also attempts to measure body fat percentage.

Now, I know these electrical body fat percentage things are pretty inaccurate, so I don't put a lot of stock into it. But knowing this, it IS a data point and it's an interesting one: With the exception of a period where it went crazy and started giving obviously out of whack numbers for a couple of months (it had my body fat percentage dropping unreasonably -- and Lynette's too) it's actually been telling me pretty consistently for several months that I have around 180 pounds of lean mass, and while I've been on this diet, I haven't lost any lean mass (nor have I gained any).

So someone of relatively average weight at my height would be expected to have more like 145 pounds of lean mass. And I do know that I run on the muscular side. So despite knowing that the measurements are not truly accurate, it doesn't seem that far off. It's probably running a little high, but for the sake of argument, let's go with that number.

If that's true, the next thing to know is that for a male of my age, 17% body fat is considered a good, healthy number for someone who is fit and active.

180 * 1.17 is 210.6 -- meaning if that number holds up, and I retain all of my existing (theoretical) lean mass, my target weight should be 210 pounds.

That's something to think about and continue to evaluate as I get down there.

Unrelated to this, but possibly why I posted on a weekend: I got my first sub-250 weigh in today.
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Jul. 14th, 2016

sad merlin

I've been loathe to post a 'regular' update, but I just want to put a quick one out there because I am pleased. For the last few months it has been a bit frustrating because I'd basically plateaued. The main reason for the plateau was getting sloppy with my caloric intake. At first I had stopped logging when I ate something that was simply impossible to even guess at very well, such as eating out or any number of reasons for being sloppy. Then I kind of stopped logging dinner at all. Then lunches and if I wasn't logging that there wasn't much point in logging breakfast.

And since I wasn't logging, I slowly paid less attention to what I was actually eating. Looking back, I'd guess I ended up around 2700 calories a day. Which at my current weight and exercise level, appears to be a pretty good maintenance level -- both according to a pretty good set of BMR calculators and the fact that I stayed pretty static the whole time.

But I don't want this to be the end point. I've tried a few times to get back into the logging habit, but I keep going "oh what the hell" at dinner/snack time and then doing something to go way over and then being frustrated later. But I've kept trying.

This week I finally found the discipline to stop. Which isn't to say I've totally stopped; I've actually had ice cream nearly every day this week, but they've been small portions and I've carefully kept enough calories available for it so I can have my indulgence.

So I'm shooting for 2,000 calories a day. If I'm maintaining at 2700, then that should lose me about a pound and a half a week. That's a lower pace than I'd been on, but I think 2,000 calories can be fairly comfortable.

But I'm remembering the extra hunger I tended to feel right before lunch, and the 3pm snack time. Right now I'm filling those with a piece of fruit. Envy apples are in season right now, that'd been a great, reasonable snack to fill that gap.

Anyway, I've kept on track since Sunday and it's starting to get easier again, which is how I remember it going the first time. I generally have to break through that really hard 2-3 first days and then I feel better about it.

So hopefully over the next few weeks I'll stay good and I'll start to see results on the scale again.

Jul. 9th, 2016

sad merlin

First update: My food discipline is crap right now. Despite working out pretty regularly I'm actually a bit up from my last post. I need to find discipline but I've not yet managed it. That said, I've run quite a lot (until this week) and so I'm keeping the exercise going.

According to Walkmeter, I did my first Couch 2 5K run on July 12 of last year. I know I did a couple with at least 2 other apps before I realized Walkmeter (an app I had already been USING) had a 5K program built in (and one that was way better than apps that cost money).

So I'm going to say July 9 is probably really darn close to the 1 year anniversary. Close enough. So let's say a year.

So one year ago, I started a process that included running 7 one minute intervals with 90 seconds of walking in between and ended 10 theoretical weeks later by running a continuous 5K. It was more than 10 weeks for me because of a knee injury and a tonsillectomy, but if you've been reading my blog you already know I did eventually complete that.

Today I just finished a run that started with a .75 mile warmup walk, then 4 miles of continuous running, another quarter mile rest walk, a kind of agonizing 1 mile follow up run, and then another third of a mile walking (basically until I got home). I haven't quite managed a full 10K of running in one session yet, but if I keep on the trend I'm on, I'll be able to get there sooner or later. I'm not really concerned with when, honestly if I just keep up what I'm doing right now I'm getting plenty of good work.

While running, mostly I've just put my iPhone music on shuffle, but today I decided to try and focus on music that fills me with energy as a way to help me get through the "I don't wannas" I inevitably start getting in the last couple of miles. The theory being that I can stop thinking about how much I have left to do and try to zone out and listen to the music and get me through it. I'm not sure it really works, but whatever, it's energizing music nonetheless.

Also, I'm kind of old. Everything on here is very much from my generation.

Manic Monday Bangles
Greensleeves Blackmore's Night
Blister In The Sun Violent Femmes
Godzilla Blue Oyster Cult
Rasputin Boiled In Lead
Tubthumping Chumbawamba
Alegria Cirque Du Soleil Alegria
Beautiful World Colin Hay
Istanbul (Not Constantinople) They Might Be Giants
Shout Tears For Fears
Rio Duran Duran
Invisible Touch Genesis Invisible Touch
Doctorin' The Tardis Timelords
Birdhouse In Your Soul They Might Be Giants
Under Pressure David Bowie & Queen
Main Title-The Ice Planet Hoth John Williams
Lola The Kinks
Lightning Crashes Live
Kyrie Mr. Mister
Rock You Like A Hurricane Scorpions
All for you Sister Hazel
Storybook Love Mark Knopfler
Never Gonna Give You UpRick Astley YES THIS IS A RICK RUN
True Faith-94 New Order
Bury My Lovely October Project

I think the Beautiful World doesn't quite work, it's a bit too mellow. And while Storybook Love is mellow it inspires me a lot so will probably stay. And yeah, my taste in music is probably a bit weird. It's also leaving out some obvious stuff for no reason other than this was enough to ensure it covered my runs with a little extra.

I've tried to make sure no artist gets more than 1 track, except for TMBG because their songs are very short so they get two.

May. 25th, 2016

sad merlin

So tomorrow, according to MyFitnessPal, is the 365 day mark.

One year. I guess that means it’s time to look back and contemplate how it’s gone. I haven’t updated in awhile, but I haven’t gone off the plan entirely. But I haven’t been on the plan entirely until recently again.

One year. It’s certainly been a year of ups and downs on this plan. Highlights after the cut!
Read more...Collapse )
So yeah. It’s been a year on this plan. The first half of the year was an amazing success, the second half year was not much of a success but I maintained. Maintaining is important. Keeping up with it and hoping I can get back to actually losing.

If the second year is equally successful, then by next summer I could be down into a range that I’d be fairly comfortable with. Wouldn’t that be something?
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Mar. 16th, 2016

sad merlin

Things have been extra stressful at work for the last few weeks, as there was a departmental reorg, I got a lot more responsibility and a WHOLE lot of uncertainty that I've been dealing with. The anxiety has been building up, bit by bit, and it's been wearing at me.

As a result I've been awful. On the plus side, the weight remains stable. I actually thought it'd be going up, but I weighed in at 257 this morning, so there's that. I really have to not use this as an excuse, but so far that's not working. Regroup, refocus. Somehow.

At least be happy it's stable and in the worst case, maintain that.
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Feb. 24th, 2016

sad merlin

At least I assume it's progress again.

The scale bounced up and down, hovering around 260 for the first half of the week. But on Sunday it dipped down to 258 and didn't come back up. This morning it said 256 and some change. And indeed, the pants feel a bit looser again so I think this one is for real. That said, it's been difficult to keep good food discipline. In part, this is because I feel like with the extra exercise, I should get some latitude. In theory, 1800 calories per day should mean I lose ~1.5 lb per week. When I run I add about 1600 calories per week in exercise, so I should be able to eat another 250 or so every day and still lose that weight. And I think that's right, but the first week I was going over that too. This week I've hewn to it better, I think.

The running is going well; I have some mild soreness in my right hip again, that showed up after I did my 5K again, and it's lingering but mild. I'm going to give it awhile because it doesn't seem to worsen when I run but also, well, lingers. But it's not really getting in the way and it is a very mild pain. (Maybe the back pain has changed what I consider serious?) But if it doesn't really hamper my ability to walk or run, I don't think I'm worried about it unless it worsens.

I've said I want to find something to exercise in off-days but nothing has stuck. I briefly tried pushups but then I took the break; I ought to try that again, but I need to make sure I don't do it half-heartedly when I do.

Charlotte has now gone out three times for runs with me. She likes running outdoors WAY better than the treadmill, and her stamina is up enough that while it's a slow run for me, I still get a pretty good run out of it. Yesterday this wasn't quite true; she got a stitch right away and it wasn't a great run for me. Enough so that after we got back, I went and added another mile at my normal speed just to feel like I'd done something. It got me a lot of steps, though, and while it wasn't a great run I still got 2 miles of very slow running which is more active than just walking.

My waist is still bigger than it was when I suspended the plan in December, and I'm hopeful that will come back to where it was over the course of the next couple of weeks.

So anyway, scale has me back below the 50 pound mark again! Progress is good, and if I can have a good, productive spring maybe I can get down into the 240s in a month or two!

Feb. 17th, 2016

sad merlin

This week's been really really good for running. On Sunday I went out with my 8 year old daughter, and we ran together. She liked it so much, she said she wants to do it again; so I'm hoping we'll make that a regular thing.

My distance isn't want it was before I went on break, so I've been working on getting my stamina back up and today I got back up to doing a 5K. I have some soreness that I hope doesn't turn into anything, but for now I think it's just cranky muscles. Also, when I run outdoors, it's very important I don't forget the inhaler. Partly due to air quality, and partly because the terrain around here is fairly hilly and it's really easy to push myself too hard on the hill and once I pass a certain point, my lungs complain the rest of the trip. I don't really have that problem on the treadmill because of the steady pace, but outdoors I have to keep a close eye on that.

I've been less successful at curtailing my eating. Not completely unsuccessful, but work is extra stressful right now, and that's actually good for the running (I've gone on at least one run JUST to work off some stress) but really bad for the eating. When I'm cranky and grumpy I quickly go "screw it" and eat badly, because it feels good.

So as a result, the scale is steady, though it feels like the belt is a smidge looser. I guess I'll take that. In the end, my hope is that the physical activity is what makes this go long term, so I'm more focused on keeping that up anyway. I'll take it and keep working.

Feb. 10th, 2016

sad merlin

So the back isn't back to where it's been best, but it's down to simply being a minor discomfort most of the time, one that reminds me often that I shouldn't sit like that or stand like that. But each day seems to be a little better than the last so hopefully it reverts to the happy days from before. For now I'm assuming it will, so long as I take care of it.

As such, on Friday I decided to go for a run, to see what it felt like. It felt good. I managed to run 20 minutes -- 5 minutes longer than I'd intended -- and came out of it okay. It was nice to get the heart pumping again, and with the extra stress I've been under from work, that was helpful. On Monday I went again, this time running 22 minutes -- 3 minutes less than intended, but not sweating not quite making it all the way. Stamina's a bit down from basically 2 months off. It'll come back. I went again yesterday, too, but this time outdoors. Walked a mile, ran a mile, walked another mile, ran the 4th mile, then walked for a bit less than half a mile. Back held up super well and giving me less trouble than my quads.

So with the exercise getting back on track, that means it's time to go back to ye olde calorie counting. So that started today. So far so good, but since the surgery I've struggled more with this part. I'm trying not to go at it too hard. I figure 300 calories for breakfast, which I can stick to pretty easily, then 700 for lunch and 800 for dinner. I can do that if I stay vigilant, basically, which I haven't handled entirely well. But this is a new year and I really want to get back on track.

My weight was 259.6 again this morning. I'm guessing a bit of water loss from the workout yesterday, as I just don't believe I've lost 2 pounds this week, not with just a little exercise but no curtailing of my diet. But either way, it's a nice start to the week. The first goal is to get back to the 50 pounds loss mark, which is at 258.6 so that's only a pound away.

After that, I guess I just angle for the 240s, and getting that belt to get looser again.

Feb. 3rd, 2016

sad merlin

The astute of you will notice that this is my first post this year, and that it's been 5 weeks since I've posted. Bad me.

So I had my two week break over the Feast season, and that went okay. But after the amazing festivities of New Year's Day, I succumbed pretty hard to my regular bouts of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I completely turtled. I went back to running briefly, but my hips were still sore so I only made it 3 sessions before I decided to give it another break; it felt like I'd made some progress on them and I just didn't give them enough time. So I wasn't too fussed about that.

Then a couple weeks after that, my lower back injury acted up. Ironically, unconnected to the running. Or maybe unironically it was because I'd been taking a break? It's certainly possible. In the past, the single best therapy for my back had been the long walks, but between feeling completely out of sorts, the rain, the weather and the soreness in my hips, my physical activity really dropped.

The back is starting to feel better, but 7 weeks of letting myself go are adding up. I'm up 3-4 pounds, and my belt's a bit tighter than it was in mid-December. I'm sort of slowly working back to paying attention to what I eat again, trying to take small steps. I'm feeling less depressed than I had been, now that there's more sunlight and longer days again. The back injury is a concern--it's still very uncomfortable at night--but this week is still showing steady improvement, so right now patience and care are the order of the day. At the very least I hope to stem the weight gain, and work myself back up to exercising and better eating and go back to weight loss.

I'm still logging into MyFitnessPal every day, even if I'm not logging what i eat. It's a reminder that I need to get back to it. I'm feeling more capable of it again, but perhaps not until next week. I got a decent walk in yesterday, will do another this afternoon, and that felt good.

In the meantime, Charlotte has progressed a long way through her 5K plan, through a couple of pauses for various reasons, and her stamina has noticeably improved. Oddly not as quickly as mine did, which surprises me. At her age I'd expect her body to react quickly to that kind of practice, but either way, she IS responding and moving forward on it.

So I guess in summary, hanging in there, keeping the coals smoldering but no fire going right now, so to speak. Keeping my mind on it so that I don't just drop it completely. I still have goals to meet.

Dec. 30th, 2015

sad merlin

Realistically, 'french bread' should be a baguette. That's pretty much THE bread in France. But because we're Americans and we always get this stuff wrong, it's not. Instead, French Bread is more or less the same bread, but in the shape of a batard, or a torpedo.

French bread is a lean bread, meaning it doesn't use oil, nor sugar. I put a little sugar in to get the yeast going, because I have a big container of active dry yeast, whereas most recipes for home cooks call for instant yeast. I'm pretty sure by the time it gets to the bread, there's little to no sugar left. That's what the yeasties ate.

To get the shape of a batard seems to require two things: A properly rolled dough that has been pinched and sealed to create surface tension so that it rises upward, not outward. It also requires being baked on a stone (or in a french loaf pan, but I don't have one nor do I think it's necessary). The stone provides even heat radiating from the bottom which seems to help create that perfect crust.

The last trick I have for french bread is to put about half a cup of water into a small metal pan at the bottom of the stove, which is situated to the side (so the steam can more easily travel upward). This steamy environment helps provide that perfect crust which is essential to a proper french bread.

The ingredients here are super simple:

  • 4 cups bread flour (or as I use, 4 cups AP flour and 1 tablespoon of Vital Wheat Gluten)

  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (I go for right around 110 degrees)

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (many recipes call for less, it's possible I'm using too much but it seems to work for me)

  • 3/4 tablespoon kosher salt (many recipes just call for salt; I use kosher salt which has lower volume due to ragged crystals, so I have to increase the amount by 50% to be correct).

  • 1 tablespoon sugar.

First, add the sugar and the yeast to the lukewarm water and stir to combine. Set aside until the yeast is ready, which means the water has a nice thick head of foam on it, like a really serious beer might.

In the meantime, whisk together the flour, gluten if using it, and the salt. Place in a stand mixer and put in the dough hook.

When the yeasts are bubblin' and troublin', pour the water in, and turn the standmixer on one of the lower settings until combined. Because the density of flour changes considerably due to many factors, you may have to add a little flour or a little water to get to the right consistency. For me, that consistency means that there's a little bit of stickiness to the bottom of the bowl, but it doesn't stick to the sides. Once combined, allow the dough hook to knead it for 3 minutes.

Take it out of the mixer, remove the dough hook, cover the bowl with a cloth and let sit for 20 minutes. This phase is called the autolyse phase, and it allows the gluten to hydrate which will give a better structure to the bread later. My experiments show this phase definitely matters.

In 20 minutes or so, take your lump of dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough by flattening out with your knuckles and palms, then fold it in half, rotate a quarter turn and repeat. I find it takes 10-12 rotations to get the dough ready. You can tell it's done kneading when you push a knuckle into it and it springs back most of the way fairly quickly, and the rest of the way after a short time. When it's fully kneaded, pull the corners down and pinch them together so you have a nice, tight little dough ball. Place in an oiled bowl, oil the top, cover and place in the refrigerator for an overnight rise.

I like the overnight rise a lot. This gives the yeast time to do their thing, which is to eat up the rest of the sugar and some of the starch and provide flavor. In the refrigerator it slows things down a little. The No Knead bread did its thing on the countertop, and the flavor from that was fantastic. As an experiment I want to try to let this rise on the countertop once and see if it's different. Maybe I'll do a batch, split it into two and let one rise on the counter and the other in the refrigerator to see what happens. Anyway, I digress.

The next day, pull your dough out of the refrigerator. Give it an hour or two to warm up; I find that the chilled dough is hard to work with at first, so warming it up makes things easier. Punch the dough down and flatten it into a rectangle. Cut the rectangle in half.

I'm not fully there on all the experiments I can try with rolling the dough, but what's working for me right now is this one: wet the top of the dough just a little bit, then fold one side of the dough so the edge is about halfway. Use the palm of your hand and smash this down so it forms a nice little seal. Wet and fold this side again so that it's now about 2/3s of the way across, and then pinch and punch that down to seal it. Finally, wet and fold the remaining third across and seal it all the way down. Fold the end just a little bit and pinch that closed.

Place the dough, seam side down onto a cookie sheet, oil the top, cover with a towel and set aside to rise for 30-60 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat your oven and baking stone to 450 degrees. Give this one a good long time to heat to make sure that the baking stone is fully hot. Place a pan at the bottom of your oven (or you can just throw the water on the bottom of the oven, but the one time i tried that I didn't think the results were great. With that much surface area it evaporates very fast).

Once the dough has risen, take a good sharp knife and make several diagonal slashes across the top of the loaf. These slashes allow the bread to continue to expand while cooking; without them it'll crack (and even with them I've had a couple loaves crack along the sides, so perhaps I need to make longer slashes). I find that if I oil my knife a bit first, I get slashes without tearing the dough. Otherwise the dough likes to stick to the knife and will drag a bit.

I put the cookie sheet directly onto the baking stone. It's a lot easier than transferring the dough and potentially deflating it, and the cookie sheet should conduct the heat just fine. It seems to work great for me! Make sure the sheet is to one side so the pan has a clear path for steam to get up above the bread; it wont' do any good if it's all trapped underneath. Pour 1/2 cup of water into your nice hot pan, which should shoot steam up at you so be a bit careful.

Bake for 20-25 minutes (i'm finding 24 is the right number for my oven) and remove. Allow to cool a bit. If you can. I never can, because hot fresh bread.
sad merlin

So on Christmas, I was going to make buttermilk rolls, a thing I found on Thanksgiving that I really adored.

I've had a lot of misfires in the past with bread. At its core, bread is simple and easy, but there's so many variables that I don't understand that I've had trouble controlling to get to the attributes I want. I also want something different from a sandwich bread that I want from a crusty batard that I want from a nice soft dinner roll or a sandwich roll.

So in general, I've always been disappointed with the bread I made.

Until I made the accidental french bread. You see, what happened was that I was making pizza dough, something I've had a lot of success with. And I got all the way to the end of the process, and I had the dough all set out ready to be balled up and stuck in the fridge for the overnight rise, and I noticed I forgot to put the oil into the dough.

For a pizza dough, I was pretty sure I was going to want that oil. I make a butter based crust, which is a bit richer and that oil makes it a bit sturdier so that it holds up against all the toppings. There was no way that was going to be right. I was just going to have to redo it.

So I did, I made a NEW batch of pizza dough, this time with the correct ingredients.

But what to do with the old batch? It'd be a shame to throw it away, right? So I gave it an overnight rise, shaped it into loaves and I baked it the next morning. After all, if I bake it and it sucks, and THEN I throw it away, all I've lost is the time and energy spent on the oven, but I have a chance to gain a bread. If I was lucky, I figured, it'd be edible.

The shape turned out terrible, it went very flat. But the flavor was remarkable, and I'd managed to get the crusty exterior and the soft and dense and chewy with a small crumb (that's the holes inside the bread) that I really want in that kind of bread. It was so good I way overate of it (and have been all week, but that's part of why I'm taking 2 weeks off, so I can do these experiments with no guilt).

And so I ended up serving that bread at Christmas. There were no leftovers.

Afterward, I was still thinking about the deliciousness of that bread, and I went researching, and then I went experimenting. Since that experiment, I've now made 5 different batches of bread (each making two loaves) and supervised Charlotte through a loaf. I made another french loaf, a multi-grain, a half-whole-wheat (i.e, half white flour, half whole wheat flour), a stout rye (made with oatmeal stout) and a chocolate rye (made with chocolate powder).

Ostensibly this is all prep for New Year's Eve. I need lots of good, tasty fresh bread for dipping into cheese, and I'm going a bit extra to make sure the bread is all safe for a guest with a severe soy allergy. But also, it's kind of fun and I'm learning a few things.

So I'm no expert on bread by any means yet, but I want to record and share the things that I think led to success:

  • For each recipe, I've modified the recipe back to the proportions I used on the basic french loaf to try and minimize the number of new things I'm trying. This makes it easier to compare what the differences are. As I expand, I will change one or two things on a loaf and see what the differences are.

  • The overnight rise has been absolutely key to that yeasty flavor in the bread. The french loaf I did without the rise was just a touch on the bland side in comparison. So everything I've done is doing the overnight rise, despite what the recipe called for. (The no-knead bread actually sat out for 20ish hours and took on a bit of a sourdough flavor because of it).

  • Using a pan with water in the bottom of the oven and cooking between a pair of preheated baking stones helped ensure the correct texture. The even radiant heat coming from above and below is, I think, an important aspect.

  • I spent some time experimenting with ways to roll the bread up. The one I'm using currently has proven to be a little phallic so I'm going to try to fix that, and I've also had some issues making sure my pinch gets a tight seal, but I've dealt with that by adding some water to the pinched area. I think this is because I like my dough on the dry side, as it's easier to work with, so the pinch won't seal without some wet.

  • I don't keep bread flour around, but I do buy AP flour in 25 pound bags. But I can add vital wheat gluten to my AP flour and bam, it's bread flour. This is even more important when working with other flours such as whole wheat and rye in order to get that texture to hold up right.

As I get to it, I'll follow up with some recipes and where my inspiration has come from. For now, everything I've done has been in the shape of the french batard (torpedo) and they're all lean breads (with no oil and only a little bit of sugar to get the yeast going). Everything else has been to swap out some of flour for a different ingredient. I haven't yet tried a full whole wheat bread, for example, or a full rye, but I'll give that a shot.

So far, my absolute favorite has been the multi-grain, so I think I'm going to experiment with variations on that and see what sticks.
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sad merlin

I didn't post last week, and this week is a short post.

Because I've continued to have some discomfort, I'm taking a 2 week break from the running, and it's the end of the year with the feasting season, I decided to take a 2 week break from the whole thing. I'll be back to my regularly scheduled postings next week.

Instead, this week I will be talking about bread, assuming I actually write down the thoughts I have in my head.

Dec. 16th, 2015

sad merlin

When looking at my weight loss status, the month of November looks like a plateau. It's no wonder I was getting a little down on myself. In part, the plateau was almost certainly my own doing, because I think I was expecting the running to make up a bit for being a touch more slack in my portions and counting and logging.

Well, December has been back on track! I clocked in both today and yesterday at 256.9, which is another 1.5 lb drop off from last week. This puts me right on schedule to get below 255 by the end of the year, and maybe a bit lower if I can stay really good, though 250 is almost certainly out of reach in the next 2 weeks.

This is showing up nicely in other places too. The 40" jeans that I bought last month have gone from being a little tight to a little loose in the thighs. In part they've stretched, but in part I've lost a little bit of girth there. It's hard to tell how much is which without getting a new pair. And in terms of measurements, another quarter inch has come off the waist.

When I look in the mirror, depending on the day I see two different things. On good days, I see the smaller me and I am pleased with my progress. On less good days, I see that I'm not quite halfway to my goal, and I see just how far I have to go. On the plus side, I have all this success behind me, and I can use that as motivation. I've done this before, I can do this again. It's been a mantra at times, to help keep me on track.

On the running, I'm keeping it up well. I missed last Friday's workout to let my hip rest, which had a bit of lingering soreness. That cleared up over the weekend, so I went back to it on Monday.

Right now, the plan I've created for myself for the next few weeks includes 2 sessions of running for 30 minutes, alternating between speeds that are a bit above my target pace, and at or below my regular pace to catch up. The 3rd session will add a little time at a lower pace, trying to add 5% to 10% each week until I can run 60 continuous minutes at my slow pace.

The idea here to be able to improve my general pace time, as well as my endurance, and to make sure I don't fall into any ruts of doing the same workout every day. I'm not working on any ground-breaking speed, but I do have three goals here, including the 60 minute run.

The first goal is to be able to complete a 5K in 30 minutes, which means running 6.2mph or just under a 10 minute per mile pace. My second goal is to be able to do a single 8 minute mile. The first goal I think I can manage in 3-4 weeks. The second goal I suspect will take a bit longer, as I'm not even to the point of trying that speed and I'm not being too aggressive getting there. Plus, I think that'll happen fairly naturally as I continue to lose weight and I naturally expend less energy while running. Still, it's a goal that I think is achievable and I want to work on. The 60 minute run will take even longer, since I'm only adding 3-5 minutes per week -- that's probably 8-10 weeks to get there. It's fine, it's a good thing to work toward.

In a month or two, I intend to change it up a little more and switch one of the interval runs to do inclines. So in 3 workouts, it'll be one intervals, one that does some incline and one long run. But I'm not ready to throw the incline in yet, so we'll keep that in the hip pocket for a bit.

I went ahead and bought new shoes, to see if better running shoes would help out the hips. I've only used them twice so far, so the jury's still out. Will take a few more sessions. They're definitely a lot squishier than the sandals, and I think that may be nicer on the hip, but they're a bit harder on my feet than the sandals, as I would expect, because I have sensitive skin and I blister pretty easily. I've got a couple of painful spots right now, but my runs are short and only every other day, so hopefully they'll turn into callouses and not blisters and I'll be okay. These shoes were marked Extra Wide, and while they ARE pretty wide compared to most running shoes I've tried, they're not quite wide enough. I may have to actually talk to a specialist to get properly fitted for my next pair, but I'll try to at least put 50 miles on these (and that's only 15 or so sessions) before I make any further decisions on them. Unless they cause real problems, but so far not yet.

The last bit is that I used my employee discount to pick up apple watches for esmerel and I, in part because the watch seems pretty useful exercising. It turns out it's not all that exciting on the treadmill, but when I went for an outdoor walk it's really nice to be able to flick my wrist and see my stats. However, I do have the problem that, being farsighted, while I'm outdoors and wearing my sunglasses, it's kind of hard to see. So a bit less useful there than I'd hoped. On the plus side, the main reason I've been avoiding one -- my experience hating watchbands -- seems to have been less of an issue. I picked the smallest, lightest one and a very light band, and that seems to have helped. All the watches I wore as a kid were much heavier than this, and that seems to make a real difference in my comfort level with it.

Unrelated to the exercise, it IS really cool to be able to text with it using Siri while otherwise occupied. Yay hands-free! Plus the heart rate monitor has been useful (and has also told me that I need to go very slow in pushing up my pace, as I'm pretty close to my theoretical target heart rate maximum while running at the faster pace). So it'll take me some time to push the pace up past 6.5 mph.

Dec. 9th, 2015

sad merlin

This is one of my favorite checkins ever.

So last week I posted on Wednesday that I was sick and gave a super short update.

Naturally, I followed that up on Thursday by:

  • Making up for the missed Wednesday run by completing my first 5K
  • Getting a weigh in that marked 50 pounds of weight loss!
  • Running another 5K on Saturday
  • Starting speed training on Monday, which includes 30 minutes of running at different speeds in faster/slower intervals. These don't add up to quite 5K but are very close.

I assumed that I probably was a bit dehydrated from the cold, but NO. Until today, I remained down in the 258-259 range (258.6 is the exact 50 pound mark, so I've fluctuated right around it within a pound the whole week). Today I weighted in at 260.1 but I felt hoopty and had some drinks last night, so I think I'm currently a bit hydrated and in the process of flushing a bunch of liquid out. So probably still around 259 realistically.

Mentally speaking, the 250s are really important. 250 is the midpoint in the whole 200s, and 260 is a weight I remember from 1997 to 1998. It's the weight I was when I went on my first real diet plan. So being below that by a good margin matters to me. There's also just something about the shape of the number. It LOOKS a lot lighter than the 260s. I know, it's weird, but it's true.

I don't have any real milestones WITHIN the 250s. Other than 250 itself, the next real milestone is 245, which is how much I weighed when I fell off Weight Watchers and 244, which is the precise halfway point against my goal to get down to 180.

Speaking of that goal, I've spent a little time thinking about that goal. As I've mentioned, that goal is based on two things: 1) I've been at that weight, though I was 19 and I was literally starving at the time as I had no money and thus no food. 2) It's the very top of the BMI chart.

But the BMI chart is known to be problematic for people with significant muscle mass. I've read some sources that say that doesn't matter, that the statistics say being outside the normal weight range on BMI is associated with higher risks, regardless of whether that weight is muscle or fat. Other sources say that the real things that are risk factors are waist-to-height ratio and waist-to-hip ratio. According to those, for a male, you want the waist-to-height ratio to be about .44-.49, so with my 72" height I want my waist to be in the 32-36 inch range. For waist-to-hip ratio, you just want it to be a bit under 1.0. Which would probably put me in the lower part of that same range.

So all things considered, the weight goal is amorphous, but I have to pick a number for all my tools. I'm going to stick with 180. But that isn't necessarily my real goal. My real goal is, I think, going to be to get my waist size to 32-34 inches. When I was 180, I was actually able to wear a 30, though I recall having to squeeze into it pretty hard. The thing about that is, I've got 20+ years of stretched skin on my belly. Some of that will just never go away, because, yay, biology. I may not physically be able to get to a 32 inch waist. But I think that's what I want to set the goal for. If it turns out I can't make it, I can be satisfied with a 34 inch waist.

For the record, when I measure my waist right now it's either 42.5" or 40.75 inches depending on how loose I let the tape go. I've been cinching it fairly tight because if I don't I seem to have trouble getting a consistent measurement, but I'm pretty sure that cinching isn't a valid reading. I also think as my waist shrinks that fudge factor will start to disappear so I'm not going to worry about it, and I fit comfortably into 40" jeans. Thus I'm going with the 40.75" measurement, knowing it's a bit compressed. So that's right around 11" to go. Or 12". And

That's pretty close to what I've already lost. When I started measuring I was at 53".

And I want to finish with this: Nothing succeeds like success.

Somehow, seeing the scale dip down to 259 kicked my motivation a bit. Other than indulging in some alcohol last night, I've been especially good and motivated, because I made this milestone and I don't want to lose it. I've been keeping my portions down a bit better, choosing particularly good foods calorically, and allowing myself to remain hungry a little longer before reaching for the snacks to stave it off. Motivation is weird, but I'm going to take it while I have it. I've lost fifty pounds in just a bit over six months. How long will it take me to lose the next 50? Can I lose 100 before May 29, when I reach the one year point? I don't know. It doesn't seem all that realistic, but why not shoot for it? Could I really be 208 by summer? Nobody would recognize me at that weight. Heck I might have to shave off the beard again, just for effect.

Dec. 3rd, 2015

sad merlin

I decided to do a little dumpster diving of my LiveJournal. Part of this is because I got into the 250s today, and I was a bit curious where I was on some of these other plans. For example, I started Low Carb at around 265, so I've just breached the beginning of that one; but I started (officially) Weight Watchers at around 290, and ended that plan around 245. So I still have a little ways to go to get to the actual weight I was at, but I've already lost (slightly) more than I did on that plan.

So anyway, while looking for more data, I happened across a tag named "return to the wagon" which I clicked on. It's the relatively short account of one of my several weight loss attempts. I vaguely remembered that one, but it was so short I couldn't remember when it had happened or how long it had lasted, or what I had even accomplished.

After reading it, I started looking for the others that I knew about. My LiveJournal currently has four catalogued, and there's one major one I've done that isn't catalogued because I wasn't blogging in 1999. Not too many people were yet.

So, I decided to go through and add tags to all the posts so I can easily find them. If anyone wants to read me whine throughout history (seriously, the number of posts I wrote that have lead paragraphs starting with "Despite..." -- clearly I need to do that less) and see the trials and tribulations I've had in the past, feel free. Note that in 2005 I actually used friend locking, because LJ was so busy I was happy to put posts that many people wouldn't be interested in into groups so that they wouldn't have to see them. 10 years later that's laughable, LJ is pretty much the Radiator Springs of the blogging world. Still here, but it's the same 15 people, only older and rustier.

  • 1999 -- the Low Carb Diet. I lost about 40 pounds on this one. Details are only from my memory and therefore sketchy, but I was down to 225 pounds, and then I met Lynette.

  • 2005 -- Weight Watchers -- also includes the brief 2007 one because it has the same WW tag because it's also WW. But I don't feel like renaming it. I lost 45 pounds, and changing life circumstances caused me to lose focus and eventually drop it. If you actually want to read about this one you need to be on my friends list and in my ww group. I don't expect anyone will, but if you aren't already (honestly most people who've been reading these and responding ARE, but there's a few folks from FaceBook that weren't around me in 2005) just let me know. Obviously you'll need a LiveJournal account for that to work. I could go back and unlock them all but it's too much work when I doubt anyone but me really wants to go back and read them.

  • 2007 -- Return to the Wagon A fairly lame attempt to get back on WW. It only lasted about 6 weeks, and I clearly wasn't committed. I was particularly remembering this one when I was worried about how I'd do if I wasn't fully committed.

  • 2011 -- The Moderation Diet An experiment that started off with good results, but did not succeed in staying on it. My theories on my failure are a combination of lack of accountability, and an inability to cope with the pain of the back injury and the stress of going freelance contributed to an inability to remain focus. I lost 25 pounds over the course of it, and parts of it were very successful.

  • 2012 -- Moderation Diet Redux. I didn't blog about this aborted attempt, but I do have some weight checkins i took from a 3 month period in the summer. I only lost about 10 pounds and I think lack of success prompted me to give up.

  • 2014 -- Mixed Low Carb Experiment. This is another one I never blogged about, but Lynette and I together tried an experimental not quite low carb but lower carb balanced diet, and that experience ultimately failed but it things I learned on it did inform this year's attempt. (One thing I learned is that I *hate* those kinds of restrictions).

  • 2015 -- Weight Loss VIII The current one that you've been reading about. 6 months on, not quite 50 pounds lost (but OH so close if I'm good this week I can make it). I'm stumbling a little bit, right now, but I've been pretty positive about the whole thing. It's certainly had a few downs, but oh so many more ups than any previous experience. I think I need to work on refocusing a bit soon, because I don't want to just trail off and throw away all the great progress I've made. But I don't feel like I'm in real danger of that as long as I keep myself accountable.

Interestingly, I was guessing when I named this one Weight Loss VII, but it turns out, it really is attempt #7.

There are two really important competing aphorisms here:

If at first you don't succeed, try try again.


The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Finally, I've collected every single one of them that I could find under the dieting tag.

Also. I can make 50 pounds this week if I'm really good. And the scale wasn't giving me a big fat lie today. Let's think on it positively and say YES I WILL.
Tags: ,

Dec. 2nd, 2015

sad merlin

I have a cold. Therefore not much updates.

Had a great run on Monday. Had no run today. Maybe will make it up tomorrow, and push Friday's run to Saturday. We'll see.

Weight and waist both stable right now.

Nov. 27th, 2015

sad merlin

This week's update is a couple days late due to the trip and the holiday. Summary: Stable.

I dinged 180 day streak on MyFitnessPal, and week 26 means I've been Doin' This Thing for half a year now. I think I've lost a bit of focus in terms of doig a good job of accurately tracking what I eat. I take a lot of shortcuts and guesses and I think the guesses are getting further and further off. With the holiday season fully in swing that probably won't get a lot better in December, but if progress remains slow this month I will try to redouble my efforts for the new year.

As one might expect, there's been no real progress this week. Running was put on hold for the trip, though I did get a whole lot of walking in. Plus, Disneyland tends to come with a fair bit of eating. I didn't really snack a lot, but many of the meals were fairly big. That said, I feel like I *should* have been a bit negative in the net; it doesn't show in the scale yet, but we will see when everything settles back into the pattern.

While I was there I did get a 260.5 weigh in, but every other weigh in was 261-263. This morning's was somewhere in the 261 range.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. I didn't record what I ate at all; I had a fairly big breakfast (I made potatoes, bacon and eggs for family and visiting cousins). I managed to only eat one plate full of food, and I didn't overfill it; but I also had little bits to eat here and there while cooking, so it was a fair bit. Also samples of 3 different pies and cheesecake which probably added up to about a piece and a half of pie in normal size.

I didn't actually eat a third meal yesterday, which might've offset things a bit, but I did have a fair bit to drink which is pretty calorific. So all in all I feel like I did pretty well but not as well as I could have. That's fine, it's the holidays.

Today I got back on the horse, er, treadmill, and picked up another run. If I didn't have to stop to go to the bathroom (too much coffee) it would've been 25 continuous minutes of running. So pretty good on the restart; Monday I'll go back to week 9, I think, which is a 22 minute run, followed by a 26 minute on Weds and a 30 minute run on Friday.

In an ideal world I'll start seeing some 259 weigh ins sometime next week. I'll try to be extra good this weekend to make it happen. 258 will let me claim 50 pounds, and I'd like to make that milestone.

Nov. 18th, 2015

sad merlin

Okay actually I'm going to Disneyland day after tomorrow. So there.

Have had a good week; weight is down in the 261 range, and I'm eyeing the 250s, but I haven't dipped down into them yet. Every group of 10s is an important number; at this point, each one is going back a little further into my own history.

This weekend I decided I needed to buy a couple pairs of jeans; my waistline has been going down at a decent pace, and I now fit a bit snugly into a 40" waist. I do have some 40" pants but they're all khakis and I generally find jeans more comfortable between the way they're cut and the way the material feels. I thought I was buying them "for later" but after a little bit of stretching they actually fit really well. I'm also now down to the last notch on this belt. I have another belt that I can transition smoothly to, so that's another thing to look forward to.

Of course, I'm about to go to Disneyland. I'm more or less taking the next week 'off', which isn't quite true. I'm merely relaxing restrictions and trying not to go too crazy, but allowing myself more or less whatever until after the Thanksgiving holiday is done. I'm a bit torn on this because there's already some mild frustrating with the pace slowing, and this making it even slower...but if I do okay at Disneyland I should continue to lose. But I've put a pause on the running until I get back.

The funny thing here is that there's some real progress being made. When I get to 258, I'll officially have lost 50 pounds. I'm already 11" down on the waistline. I can see the difference in the mirror. But with a 128 pound goal, it's only a bit more than a third of my total. The progress has been great, but there is still a long, long row to hoe here. Noting the slowdown in progress, calculating things out I'm now probably not reaching my goal for another year. Which isn't terrible when I step back and think about it, particularly since the plan I'm on doesn't really change much when I do reach my goal. I still have to ensure I eat a reasonable number of calories for my weight, and I still need to make sure I continue exercising. So there isn't a "so I can stop" when I reach the goal. It's just a general bit of impatience.

Nov. 11th, 2015

sad merlin

This is a short one today. Weight's fairly stable at 263. I posted a chart a few days ago that suggests the trend is going down at a faster pace than I thought, though still slower than before the surgery. Running is going well still, but I'm not getting a ton of steps outside of running. Haven't gotten enough sleep the last couple of weeks and that's been impacting my tendency to binge. So still truckin' along.

Nov. 6th, 2015

sad merlin

I think maybe I'm reading the numbers wrong, because I've been looking at the troughs a lot, and I was discounting that I'd gained a couple pounds back in weeks 2-4 after the surgery where I really struggled the most.

But this chart suggests that the pace of loss is right on where I should expect, and the trendline says that the current rate of loss puts me right around 250 by the end of the year. This is behind where I had hoped, but is a reasonable goal and one I will shoot for. Clearly I have just been impatient after the surgery.

Edit: LiveJournal's image uploader cropped the damned image and it cut off the dates. That's 9/29 (the day I got back on track) to today, and the trend line is projected out to 1/1/16.

Edit 2: Or not, having text after the image got rid of the cropping. Weird.

Nov. 5th, 2015

sad merlin

Hey all!

Every year I hold an Orphan's Thanksgiving; in the beginning, when I really was an orphan, it was so I'd have someone to do Thanksgiving with. Over time I've accumulated some family, and some close friends I think of as family. So it's less Orphans lately, but the idea is still the same. Friends and acquaintances who can't or won't go home are welcome to attend.

As usual it's pseudo potluck, which is to say I've got the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, corn and pies covered; all other items are brought by guests. (There's usually a green bean casserole and a cranberry sauce and then other items vary on whims).

We usually eat around 2 or 3, but people are welcome to show up at any point in the day to be social, watch football, play with the kids. Speaking of playing with the kids this year I think I might push to have a couple of simple boardgames going because C will play them endlessly, but that's really up to whomever is willing to play.

Nov. 4th, 2015

sad merlin

Let's do the timewarp again! It turns out, when I was looking through my history on this that I discovered I had doubled up Week 14 and so I've been off by a week ever since. Whoops. So like they did with the calendar when they switched to the Gregorian, we're going to skip a week. Like the spoon, there is no week 22.

Progress: Waistline down again, weight down but at a much slower pace than prior to the surgery, and the running program is going well. Current weight 263, loss 45 pounds.
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sad merlin

August 2016



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