Losing Over 100 Pounds – What Worked For Me

I lost 110+ pounds in about a year. Although I spend most of my time indoors and my social life pales in comparison to a platypus this didn’t escape notice from some. Although I don’t like particularly talking about my past diet or my health in general, I do realize I wondered how some people in my industry did it. I watched some health talks (some at tech conferences, so that trend has effected me directly) – and the speakers sharing what worked for them, why they did what they did… that helped inspired my changes.

So instead of repeating myself, I wanted to write this quick blog post and point people to it although i’m more than happy to be someone’s source of inspiration or point someone in the right direction.

Warning I shouldn’t have to give: i’m not a doctor or anyone even close to knowing medical things… your doctor should be the one who gives you real advice. In fact, this isn’t advice i’m giving but just things that worked for me. Everybody’s body is different.

Changing My Diet

Before: I was basically consuming half a take-out pizza, some fast food (I wasn’t big on fast food but it was good on the road), bread, pasta, and anything with carbs. On the brighter side: I wasn’t big on deserts or soda. I drank mostly water. I never smoked and was not a heavy or even a moderate drinker. This didn’t keep my weight down however BUT likely saved my body some additional damage.

After: Diet was I think maybe 80% of the reason why I changed and how fast I did it.

  • Stage One: Immediately go low-carb and no processed sugar. I initially still had bananas but eventually worked those out of my diet (natural sugar was still sugar). Made sure I ate some sort of veggies, even if it was a salad, every day. I did this for about five months.
  • Stage Two: Kept going but I gradually lowered my fat intake, ate more veggies. In the end though I discovered the right kind of fat in the right kind of amounts WAS good, so I just made sure if i was taking in fat it was from meat and sources that were “healthy” (coconut butter or oil, steaks or burgers that I cook myself vs getting something at a fast food place).
  • Stage Three: Basically trying to get as close to Keto as possible and tracking myself on an app. This means you eat a certain ratio of fats, proteins, and carbs. 30-50 carbs per day I think is the requirement. For Stage three I was keeping it at 20 or below each day.

For me, I couldn’t either find good pre-made food for Keto or most of it was too expensive. I couldn’t rely on anyone to cook for me, so I was kinda forced to try some Keto recipes for myself. I never cooked much in my life but in my early 40s i’m doing it now. Pizza, cinnamon rolls, brownies, and almond flour bread (which can be made into hamburger buns, etc.) are my favorites. I don’t think I would be as happy or even stayed on my diet if i didn’t learn to cook some dishes. Oh and fat bombs are great. It is amazing what can be made without real sugar and be low carb (sadly things won’t taste like Papa Johns or Wendys, but over time you will actually forget what they tasted like and my desire for them is a memory now).

Exercise

Before: I had a desk job as a computer programmer. I didn’t do any sports and wasn’t active at all. My phone wouldn’t record more than maybe 500 – 1000 steps on a GOOD day for me.

After: I thought I could exercise more and stay low carb (stage one, see above) but I wasn’t losing weight fast enough. I made a goal of 10k steps per day for a year, which i recently accomplished. I did some cardo but it was basically going from no activity to being active. I think that maybe was 10% of the total plan. That’s not alot – diet is the biggest factor for me, but just to be ACTIVE I think improved my mental attitude as well. Still want to regularly work out at a gym someday but time hasn’t allowed me that luxury. But i’m still getting in 10k-12k steps every day, even if i’m still waking up at 5am to do it.

Personally if you were eating as crappy as I was and NOT being active, you might not have to go all “gym and exercise” nuts so don’t let that scare you. Diet is the biggest thing but I never did more than walking (although I did every day).

Fasting

Before: I would literally eat any time I wanted.

After: Once I got maybe six months into my “diet” I was slowing down and then I heard about fasting. I wasn’t a big breakfast eater anyway so I gave it a try. At first it was hard – I wasn’t hungry most days (because by then my body was using my stored fat as energy thanks to Keto) but it was just a mental thing. I *should* be eating. In any case, you work yourself from eating at 2pm and 6pm to eating at 3pm and 5pm… and I got to a point where I ate one meal a day. It takes me about an hour or two to eat, but technically i’m fasting most days now 22 hours on average. Today i’m not fasting as much to lose weight but as much as trying to maintain my weight. And I’ll stop fasting for conferences or special occasions – and as long as i stay on my diet and don’t eat something stupid then I have no withdrawals when i resume fasting. Fasting was 10% of the total plan but it was an important 10%. It really helped push me over the line into “no longer obese” land.

Important to note that there’s little chance of getting all your nutrients on “one meal per day” so I started making sure I took daily vitamins and started using nutritional yeast.

Below is a screenshot of the app I use to track my fasts – Zero.

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Why It Doesn’t Take A Big Retreat To Make A Big Impact

You’ve heard about corporate retreats or maybe even been on one. They are popular especially with companies that have a majority of remote workers – where the general idea is that every so often (say once a year) everyone gets together physically for various reasons.

Often when you tend to hear about these retreats, you usually hear about the places they go, how large they companies have gotten, or perhaps about something outrageous. Very commonly it seems like the “big” companies are the ones talking about (and if it’s a small group, it’s an “exclusive” group). Can a smaller company have an effective retreat or is it really just only effective and a good return for investment for larger WordPress companies?

I’ve been to several retreats of various sizes. I recently attended one for Envira Gallery and I can say it was one of the best I’ve had. In a nutshell this retreat was:

– Five People (including myself)
– Located in Denver, Colorado (nice city, but nothing exotic)
– Six days (two of those mostly travel)

Here are some tips I would pass along to smaller companies (say, maybe a team of half a dozen that might include developers, support, managers, and CEOs) thinking about how to get the most out of a “small” retreat:

1. It’s Still Business

Chief support officer of Envira Gallery making a presentation in a living room of our retreat house.

As much as some might think it’s a vacation, don’t let the casual clothing and “i can sleep in a little” fool you – this is still business time. Small companies usually can’t afford more than a business week, so it’s important to set a GOAL for the retreat. This is NOT an agenda – that comes AFTER a goal. For example, are you planning to build a new product? Preparing to launch a product? What are some clear and tangible goals you hope to achieve when the retreat is over? Hopefully you are timing the retreat to coninside with a need for having employees physically in the same room with each other.

Next comes an agenda, planned weeks before the actual retreat. Daily agendas help setup expectations for a particular day and help set the tone for

2. Plan Unstructured Time and Team Building

Went to an old school arcade one evening during a week retreat. Simple but fun experience.

As much as it’s important to be productive with the rate opportunity to have people in the same room, it’s also a unique opportunity to take time to strengthen the team. Yes, although “team building” activities is a bit of a meme it’s important to have some measure of time devoted to having team members interacting with

Also it’s important to plan unstructured time for people to decide what they want to do with themselves – some people are NOT social creatures and the retreat (a forced event to interact as far as they are concerned) is draining. Give people the chance to chill out in a private place (like their hotel room or bedroom at the AirBnB), or the freedom to explore the area (with safety concerns in place).

3. Pick A Retreat Location With As Less Distractions As Possible

A beautiful sunset from a recent retreat location from Envira Gallery.

As much as it’s tempting to pick an exotic location or tourist city to be home base for the retreat, consider a different approach – to minimize distractions and stress trying to do the “cool things to see” in the location… perhaps pick a more “out of the way” spot.

Got only a few people? Don’t book a mansion but an affordable straightforward AirBnb. Order food in instead of trying to find and decide on a fancy or unique restaurant nearby.

You don’t have to pick a cabin out in the woods (unless that’s your thing) but a small city with sufficient restaurants, delivery services (DoorDash even) and things to do (like escape rooms, nature trails, and movie/theaters) can do just fine. Pick a particular day out of the retreat to do something with the team and make sure that’s in the agenda. Structured time for team activities helps make sure things go off without a hitch.

Pick a place with good wifi though. That’s one distraction you don’t need. Have a plan B in case wifi doesn’t perform (like bring a hotspot or find an alt. location nearby).

4. Code of Conduct

Finally, it’s important that just like a conference or place of work – a clear code of conduct should be written, shared, and signed (agreed upon) by all those involved. That includes the president of the company down to every employee. If there is a problem with conduct, make sure there is a clear system of reporting that fair and approachable to anyone that might be involved. Depending on the size of the retreat, assign multiple people as possible people to follow up instantly on a reported violation. Have different methods of reporting a violation as well, so someone is as comfortable as possible reporting it.

Many retreats often have their employees and those attending sign a waver (liability) and a physical signature for acknowledging a read Code of Conduct isn’t a bad idea either.

5. What makes a good retreat? A great experience.

envira team 2019
Envira Gallery Team 2019

At the end of the retreat, what is best is if your team walks away feeling REFRESHED and ENERGIZED and not just simply checking off boxes in Asana or Basecamp. A good experience means changing the agenda to fit last minute input from the team or making sure you are providing a fun yet safe environment for your employees. Being productive and taking advantage of people physically in the same space is great, but you want to end the retreat on a positive note that will carry your employees when they head back to their homes and resume their remote schedules.

Every company and every retreat is different, so providing the best retreat to fit your team might take a little time. I’m willing to bet though the team doesn’t have big needs so when in doubt keep things simple. Keep the entertainment, team building (board games are about as simple as team building can get), agendas, and end goals simple and straight forward. Don’t overdue on fancy houses, hotels, catering, and distractions.

In the end, the last retreat I was on was memorable because it was the first time I got to see real snow and I also got to see baby birds hatch from eggs at our house (I admit the first item was planned, the second was just a happy consequence). This plus just hanging out with employees, setting a great work agenda for the rest of 2019, and enjoying some good food – really proves that you don’t have to all BIG to have a retreat that has a big impact.

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When Nobody Shows Up To My Conference Talk

Update: Apparently this exploded briefly on Hacker News. Feel free to head over there for some commentary and poking fun at my $5 DigitalOcean hosting server crashing under the load of traffic.

Me speaking at WordCamp Atlanta 2019. I was the last talk of the last day. Only about a dozen people attended that talk.

You’ve spent weeks (or likely months) preparing for your conference talk. It took late nights and time sacrificed to get those slides or code examples JUST right. You want to make a good impression. You want to wow the crowd. You want to stand out – or at the very least be on par – with other talks (as the talks that came prior to yours or are happening at the same time at the multi-track conference).

A few minutes before you are about to speak, you get a little nervous and run through a mental checklist of things to do. But you can’t help but make an observation as you are being introduced…

…only a few seats were filled in a room that could have held a lot more. In fact, you think you could have given the talk in a large broom closet to not waste space.

If you give talks at conferences and meetups often enough, you’ll find that you won’t always fill up a room. You might have never come close to filling up a room. For some people this can way on them and add to (among other things) imposter syndrome.

Don’t let it. As a speaker, there are certain things within your control and things not in your control. Never let either category get you down, as I have attended talks from VERY experienced and VERY “pro level” speakers that have been (and find themselves experiencing again) the same boat.

Here’s a few things that might go through your mind:

  • Your time slot: Regardless of what some may say, I can tell you the day and time you speak often can have some impact on your audience. Typically if someone comments on a small turnout I bet they were either the last speaking on a particular day or the talk that follows lunch (depending on the conference). 80% I am right. While conference organizers should try to give enough time for attendances to return to sessions after lunch or social breaks, attendees ultimately control their own destinies. For WordCamps, unless you are a keynote speaker these time slots might yield fewer attendees on average.

    But in the end SOMEONE needs to fill that slot – and speaker organizers felt the best person might be you! You were likely thought to be a positive, high energy speaker that can put an end-cap to a great conference day.

    Regardless realize that not all speakers get equal share of attendees especially at certain times of the day (those attending at WordCamps in my experience tend to peak mid-morning through mid-afternoon with a dip after lunch).

  • Your subject material: The easiest conclusion to draw is that “my talk wasn’t interesting enough” or that you picked the wrong topic. This isn’t positive or accurate thinking. If that was actually the case you (all things being equal) wouldn’t be giving the talk at all. Have confidence in the fact that you have a passion about speaking about a subject and conference organizers felt that you and your message deserved to be heard.
  • Other things happening: Not just other speakers, but sometimes I’ve given talks when there happens to be giveaways from sponsors happening and that draws some people away. Again, nothing against you and not in your control.

And here are three things to keep in mind:

“Think in terms of who you can impact….The biggest positive impacts to the WordPress community I’ve found start at the smallest of scales.”

  • Quality And Not Quantity: Don’t think in terms of how many people see your talk, but how much impact you bring to those who did decide to show up. What would you rather have – a room full of 100 people that are physically there but mentally but wasn’t emotionally inspired or invested in what you said OR 20 people that had their professional or personal lives blown away but the material you presented (and maybe another few that will realize in a few months how much your talk effected their new way of doing or thinking about something)?

    Think in terms of who you can impact.

    The biggest positive impacts to the WordPress community I’ve found start at the smallest of scales.

  • You Got Your Message Out: If you are truly passionate about your message, take comfort that your subject was heard. Also realize that many WordCamps and conferences record talks and those are usually available to the public web, where many others can discover and view them. You’ll be able to use this as a stepping stone to further discussing the subject online and even for future conferences.
  • Better Discussions Happen In Smaller Groups: I’ve found the best questions and discussions during the Q&A time happen when the audience is smaller than average. The fewer number of people means the more potential for a more intimate setting for those in the audience to ask questions normally they wouldn’t feel comfortable asking (especially for talks related to personal and emotional subjects).

    To be frank, don’t let this be about just you. Instead think of the potential to reach out and connect to your audience.

But sure… positive thinking and logic can be great…

…but it’s hard to come to grips with the time, energy, and cost it took to present. What can you do moving forward?

  • Post-Talk Feedback: Wait a few days to get organic feedback from social media or others, and then ping the organizers to get any insight on WHY they picked your talk. This can positively reinforce why you were there in the first place. See if you can determine who came to your talk and ask them (1) why they came (2) what they found most interesting about your talk and (3) have they seen anyone else cover the material differently, perhaps additional ways for you to potentially cover the same material in the future?
  • Pre-Talk Checklist: Be aware of your target audience (remember most WordCamps are primarily based on the needs of the LOCAL community – so don’t assume a talk that worked and connected with many in Miami will be the same for Atlanta). Approach organizers far enough ahead in time to get their take so you can customize your talk and market yourself (see next point).
  • Market yourself: Use feedback and past experiences from previous talks to try to build up some momentum for your next talk. Tease your talk in public whenever you are given the all clear from the organizers. Organizers should be doing their part to make the potential audience know about your talk sure, but you are the best promotor of yourself.

I won’t lie, often times we tend to judge ourselves as speakers based on how many ears are in the room just like how many judge a blog post by how many page views it gets. “Standing room only” and “sold out” are phrases we want to hear about our talks. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but realize that:

  • Certain things are not in our control.
  • Realize the opportunities you have – about getting a message out and connecting with people.
  • Use this as an opportunity for yourself for the future.
  • Above all – don’t let this add a single brick to thinking poorly of yourself. Imposter syndrome doesn’t suit you.

I’m David Bisset, and if you ever want to talk about your talk with me… i’m all 👂🏻.

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