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.

Read More

Achieving A Personal Goal That Took One Year And 5 Million+ Steps

When I was overweight (by more than 100 pounds) I made it a goal to go a full year walking at least 10,000 steps every day. Started in August, so with the heat in Florida I had to wake up early before sunrise. Previous according to my phone, I walked anywhere between 300 steps (!!!!) to 2000 in a typical day (I work from home, from a desk and still do).

That goal was recently met and I wanted to document it. Also what I had to do: 98% of the time I walked outside… so I walked in rain (only once did I walk in a mall during a tropical storm), cold near-frozen mornings, horrible exercise rooms at hotels while attending conferences out of town, at corporate retreats… and never missed a day. Sometimes I had to walk circles in hotel rooms to get that last few hundred steps before midnight. 🌗

Fast forward a year, I can do 10,000 steps in a morning (instead of the whole day) without too much effort. I typically get up at around 4:30am every morning (whether I wanted too or not, and which meant i was falling asleep at networking parties and meetups around 9pm).

I want to thank my wife and children for dealing with a dad that didn’t stay up most nights, woke up making noise early in the morning, and acting a little crazy when the days was almost over and i didn’t get 10k steps in yet. My wife especially was extremely supportive.

I will continue to keep walking at least 10k steps, probably aim for 12k every day outside of special days. Switching to bike riding might also allow burning more calories in less time. Stats according to my iPhone (so technically I walked more than this, but this is my official numbers):

August 18, 2018 – August 18, 2019

Miles Walked: 2,397.4
Flights Climbed: 2,599
Steps: 5,217,566
Average steps: 14,200 Per Day

Because i’m a nerd, here’s a google doc with all the data.

Note: Walking a lot more… say 20,000 steps a day… didn’t do anything noticeable in terms of weight loss so after a while I didn’t stress it. Takes a little over an hour for me to walk 10k steps so I couldn’t afford the time for 20k with very little or no returns. This post isn’t about weight loss, exercise, diet or anything like that. For me personally it’s about setting a goal. For the record during the time I did lose over 100 pounds (but the walking was only a small part of that). I wanted to document one of the longest most proud personal goals of my life – and i encourage my daughters and others that it’s doable.

Read More

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.

Read More