Saturday, July 31, 2021

going home

I reached Guksu Station, only 10 km from my destination, another 2 hours' walk, and decided to throw in the towel. I was tired and dizzy for much of the walk, a probable sign of incipient heatstroke. Despite loading up on fluids when I hit Yangsu Station, I still felt tired and dizzy. 

So with discretion being the better part of valor, I made the command decision to pack it in. And thus endeth Week 7 of the Newcastle Diet, with almost 39,000 steps and a caloric deficit of only 1342, according to MyFitnessPal. I'll update my previous entry with the new numbers once I'm back at my place. 

At least I won't be spending W50,000 on a motel room.

Some final pictures:

some pics from the road

I'm sitting at Yangsu Station, 15 km out from Hanam and 20 km from my destination. Light is fading, and it's finally cooler. 

I've done this route and photographed it so many times that the following pics might be boring, but here they are, anyway:

And there we are. 

I forgot to take my pain meds. Feet are hurting; they'll be screaming by the time I'm at my motel. More later. 


I've decided to do the Yangpyeong walk today, which means I'm leaving in two hours. More later once I'm on the road.

BP, BS stats redux

I took my blood-pressure and blood-sugar readings this morning. My BP machine also takes my pulse, so I've got that reading as well.

BP: 138/81

Pulse: 63 

BS: 78 (fasting glucose)

I'm wowed by the pulse and blood-sugar numbers, but not so wowed by the blood-pressure numbers, which are still stubbornly high, despite the weight loss, stair work, and meds. A blood-sugar reading of 78 arguably puts me in the non-diabetic range, a sign that the Newcastle Diet is doing what it advertises. But it could also simply be a result of the metformin I took last night (I take it twice daily: before bed and after waking; metformin reduces blood sugar). Metformin notwithstanding, I take my numbers to be, overall, a good sign that things are headed in the right direction. Perhaps this time next year, I'll be able to boast even better numbers. We'll see.

not today, but next week: a walk to Yangpyeong

It's time to try the 35K walk.

So next week, I'm going to attempt the 35K walk from Hanam City to Yangpyeong. The walk will be 8 or 9 hours long, and to avoid as much daylight as possible, I'll be starting around 3 p.m., which means leaving my place about 2 p.m. and training out to Hanam City Hall Station (Line 5, for those in the know). From there, it's a 35.2-km walk to Yangpyeong Station. By starting at 3, I'll be beginning my trek during the last part of the worst part of the day, but by 5 p.m., things ought to get better as the sun gets lower in the sky. By 6 p.m., the air will be a lot cooler (or at least much less hot), and I'll be walking into the nighttime, arriving in Yangpyeong around midnight, at which point I'll shack up in a motel and not eat until Sunday morning or early afternoon, whenever I get back to Seoul.

With the heat the way it's been, and with August traditionally being as hot as July, I expect the first part of the walk to be fairly brutal. I'll have my hat and my toshi (sleevelets) with me, plus plenty of water (and I can get more water along the way if needed). It'll be tempting to go off-program and eat sweets and other carbs while doing such a long walk, but I shall remain pure. I expect the walk to help me shed yet more pounds, including the water weight from all the water I'll be drinking. Water weight or not, weighing myself the following Sunday morning (or whenever I get home) will be revelatory.

The beginning part of the Yangpyeong walk features a series of tunnels that keep you out of the shade for a few hundred meters per tunnel. The insides of those tunnels are also very cool, which is nice. So even though I'll be starting the hike in horrible conditions (assuming sun and not rain), the tunnels will provide some measure of coolness and protection.

So that's the plan—Yangpyeong walk next week, rain or shine. If I was able to do 26K in the wind and rain a couple weeks ago, I can walk 35K to Yangpyeong, I think. I won't be inviting JW because I'll be arriving in Yangpyeong around midnight, which means JW would have to shack up in a motel as well (the subways and trains won't be running), and I don't think he can do that. He occasionally has to spend his weekends on Geoje Island because of work, anyway, so there's no guarantee he could even do this walk.

Friday, July 30, 2021

calorie deficits, Weeks 1-7 of the Newcastle Diet

Some stats below. If a number appears in parentheses, then like in accounting, it signifies a negative. That said, here are my day-by-day calorie deficits for the first seven weeks of the Newcastle Diet, along with my basal metabolic rates for each week. 

You'll note that my BMR number doesn't go down for several weeks. That's because I didn't start updating my weight on MyFitnessPal until late. All this time, I have tried to be honest and dutiful in recording the food I have eaten and the exercise I have done. I plug in the numbers, and MyFitnessPal uses the CICO paradigm (calories in, calories out) to make its calculations. To its credit, MyFitnessPal also tracks your macros, which is what keto folks concentrate on more than calories.

Week 1 (6/12-6/19, 8 days)

BMR = 2510
6/12 (Sat.): 3104
6/13 (Sun.): 1651
6/14 (Mon.): 2164
6/15 (Tue.): 1821
6/16 (Wed.): 2094
6/17 (Thu.): 1837
6/18 (Fri.): 2054
6/19 (Sat.): 3023

Total deficit for the week: 17,748

Week 2 (6/20-6/26)

BMR = 2510
6/20 (Sun.): 1605
6/21 (Mon.): 2115
6/22 (Tue.): 2006
6/23 (Wed.): 2196
6/24 (Thu.): 1957
6/25 (Fri.): 2424
6/26 (Sat.): 3201

Total deficit for the week: 15,504

Week 3 (6/27-7/3)

BMR = 2510
6/27 (Sun.): 2015
6/28 (Mon.): 1710
6/29 (Tue.): 1668
6/30 (Wed.): 1914
7/1 (Thu.): 1698
7/2 (Fri.): 1563
7/3 (Sat.): 3478

Total deficit for the week: 14,046

Week 4 (7/4-7/10)

BMR = 2248
7/4 (Sun.): (1142)—wrote this day off
7/5 (Mon.): 1933
7/6 (Tue.): 1723
7/7 (Wed.): 2340
7/8 (Thu.): 1644
7/9 (Fri.): (1124)—wrote this day off, too
7/10 (Sat.): 3035

Total deficit for the week: 8409

Week 5 (7/11-7/17)

BMR = 2248
7/11 (Sun.): 1388
7/12 (Mon.): 2019
7/13 (Tue.): 1649
7/14 (Wed.): 1727
7/15 (Thu.): 1606
7/16 (Fri.): 1733
7/17 (Sat.): 2586

Total deficit for the week: 12,708

Week 6 (7/18-7/24)

BMR = 2248
7/18 (Sun.): (93)—another day to write off... can't remember what I snacked on
7/19 (Mon.): 2107
7/20 (Tue.): 1743
7/21 (Wed.): 1691
7/22 (Thu.): 1508
7/23 (Fri.): 2122
7/24 (Sat.): 1934 (a day walking with JW, plus 2 hrs.' walking afterward)

Total deficit for the week: 11,012

Week 7 (7/25-now, not yet complete)

BMR = 2042
7/25 (Sun.): 64 (yikes)
7/26 (Mon.): 1251
7/27 (Tue.): 1206
7/28 (Wed.): 1642
7/29 (Thu.): 1367
7/30 (Fri.): 1217
7/31 (Sat.): 1342

Total deficit for the week: 8089

You may have noticed some patterns. First, the BMR has been going down as weight has gone down, so I no longer need as many calories to get through the day. Second, the calorie deficits have been getting generally smaller as the BMR has gone down, and I have also had several days on which I misbehaved, leading to negative numbers in the deficits, i.e., calorie surpluses for the day. My policy is to just shrug, forgive myself, and move on. I'm not on any doctor's schedule; I chose to do the Newcastle Diet of my own free will, and it has indeed led to massive weight loss—fifty pounds in two months—although not yet to a 10-point reduction in BMI. That'll happen after I'm done with Newcastle. Third, my Saturdays are where I have the largest caloric deficits, and that's obviously because I'm doing my long walks on Saturday, 18K or over, and I'm generally not having more than a morning shake and a few nuts.

Now, here's a demonstration of why CICO doesn't work as mathematically as all that. If you add up the above deficit totals (including the negatives), you get a total of 87,516 calories. Divide that by 3500 (a pound of fat is said to be equivalent to 3500 calories), and that should mean 25 pounds of fat lost (honestly, I was expecting a much higher total loss). Let's say we add the standard ten pounds of water weight that's lost at the beginning of most diets. That's now 35 pounds lost, and that still doesn't equal what I've actually lost, which is over 50 pounds at this point. Now, when I started running these numbers, I thought the MyFitnessPal calculation would lead to a much higher figure, and that I'd be telling you that MyFitnessPal was being exceedingly generous. If anything, it seems MFP is being rather conservative in its estimation of my weight loss because I'm losing more weight than it's saying, by a factor of two if we don't consider water weight. Anyway, it still means that CICO isn't an accurate way to reckon with health and weight loss (and we have to factor probable inaccuracies in the calorie measurements of the food I'm consuming, plus my own human error). 

This leads me to another insight, or maybe a theory, as to why my actual weight loss is greater than that projected by MyFitnessPal. Exercise is more important than the nutritionists say it is. Most nutritionists will tell you that diet has far more influence on your weight than exercise does. I'm discovering that, at least for me, exercise is proving to be just as important as diet. The old, commonsense notion that you need to move around more even as you diet is perfectly sound advice, and while I'm no nutritionist, nor am I any kind of personal trainer, I'd highly recommend that anyone thinking of losing weight—at whatever speed—should incorporate physical activity into his or her schedule. The body was designed to move around, not sit there getting fatter and fatter. 

As Dr. Ekberg says, fat is a symptom, not the central problem. Whatever weight-loss strategy you go with, it has to deal with the central problems that are keeping you fat: too many carbs and too little physical activity. Get out there and walk a bit. Don't start hard—just go a few minutes a day at first if you're not used to walking. And while you're out walking, think of it as a way to get to know your neighborhood, and as you gradually start walking farther and farther, mentally expand your definition of "neighborhood." If you're reading this in America, where it's sometimes hard to find a decent nearby walking path, think about driving to a nearby path, or don't be afraid to find a local high school and walk laps around the track. Or swim. Or bike. Whatever gets you moving. You were created to be kinetic, not to be a bump on a log. Believe me, even as I preach this, I'm talking to myself, too, and wishing I hadn't had to undergo a stroke to figure all this out. Get out there before something bad happens to you.

Anyway, back to CICO. CICO works in the abstract, and there's no denying that radically cutting calories leads to weight loss—I'm living proof. But in the end, you're going to have to count your macros more than count your calories. Watch the daily carbs. In my case, I plan to keep the daily carb count under 50 grams. If I start regaining weight on that regimen, I'll switch to the classic 20 grams of carbs per day, although I'll keep my cheat days to stay sane.

I hope the above was helpful to anyone thinking of losing weight. I'm learning as I go, and I'm passing a bit of that knowledge on to you. Good luck to you if you are making an effort. Some people never bother, and many of those people pay a literal price in medical bills because of their indolence.* It's not instant karma, but it's karma nonetheless.


*Some people have reasons for being fat that have nothing to do with indolence. I'm not addressing those people. But the harsh fact is that most fat people are fat because of their indolence, and they just don't want to admit it. Having said all that, don't let my attitude pressure you in any way. Live your life however you want. If you're fine being fat, then stay fat for all I care. (This is why I can never become a personal trainer.)


After writing all that stuff about fasting and cravings and hunger yesterday, I ended up eating a handful of nuts and the last of my dried blueberries last night. Having ruined my blood sugar with the blueberries (dried fruit = carb bomb, which is why keto-heads generally avoid them), I decided not to test my BS this morning. I'll do it tomorrow. I'm morbidly curious as to how last night's indulgence—if you can call it that—will affect this week's weight loss. I still had an over-1000-calorie deficit for yesterday, and it'll still be over 1000 calories for today, so hopefully, I'm still on track to lose weight for Week 7.

Second night of walking up the stairs to the 14th floor went well yesterday. Two more weeks of doing that, then I move the goal up to the 20th floor. We're getting close to 26.

As I've lost weight, I've had to update MyFitnessPal, and with each bit of weight loss, MFP has recalculated my basal metabolic rate. I've gone from a high of needing over 2500 calories a day to now needing just above 2000 calories. I hope that puts a 1000-calorie deficit in perspective. It means I need 2000 calories to maintain weight, but I'm expending 3000 calories over the course of the day, thereby dropping me into a deficit of 1000 calories. So my deficit is 50% of my BMR (1000 calories versus 2000 calories). I also now have the honor of being exactly average when people talk about how "the average man needs about 2000 calories per day to maintain weight."

My BMR will go lower as I continue to lose. It may get to a point where my BMR gets lower than the number of daily calories I will allow myself, and the only reason why that'll be okay is that I'll be fasting every other day. The two-day average will be around 1000 calories, not much higher than how things are on the Newcastle Diet.

Anyway, I felt motivated to post a mea culpa, but I was hungry. What can I say?

seen this video?

Ouch—Joe Biden in 1991 making the case for why son Hunter should go to jail:

Thursday, July 29, 2021

another from #3 Ajumma

I really like this one. 

already the end of July

Hard to believe July is almost over, and my birth month is now upon us. It's been two-and-a-half months since my stroke, and while I still have some balance issues and am still not 100% (I don't think I'll ever be quite 100% ever again), I'm doing a hell of a lot better than I'd been doing before and during the stroke. I can actually see the weight loss happening when I look in the mirror or at my shadow these days; I continue to marvel at the fact that I have a neck, something I haven't had since, oh, college. That said, I'm still plenty fat; the rolls and bulges are still there, along with the double chin, and I have a long way to go.

I'm reconciled to the idea that I won't make my goal weight of 90 kg by the end of the Newcastle diet, but once I switch over to the T Diet and keto, the weight loss ought to continue, albeit more slowly. And once my shoulder heals, whenever that might be, I can start building up my upper body again. In the meantime, I have full use of my legs, so the stair work will continue to ratchet up, and on some future weekends, I'll do 30K and 35K walks—probably starting in the afternoon and going on into the night.

I got the idea that I should take a blood-sugar reading in the morning before breakfast to get a better idea of where things are, so I might do that tomorrow morning. Sunday morning might give me a better reading, but that'll be because of the long walk done on Saturday, so the reading might be artificially depressed since Saturday is the only day of the week on which I do a long walk. So tomorrow it is for the blood sugar. More news on that as it happens.

T Diet and keto will represent a lifestyle change. This will be my life until I die. I can already tell you that I have a new appreciation for food, which I already loved, but sort-of took for granted. Random snacking, which was a reflex for me before the stroke, is gone. It is now extremely rare for me to break a fast by grabbing a slice of cheese or a handful of nuts. When it does happen, I don't punish myself for it; I simply move on and try not to backslide like that again. For the most part, that method works. But the result of this new discipline is that I now really look forward to good meals, and I no longer think those meals need to be the bad-for-you kind. I am, however, interested in meals with bulk to them.

I've been composing a list of eateries I'd like to visit on cheat days. There are videos on YouTube by what I assume are Korean vloggers who simply point their cameras at various restaurants and show the food being made, served, and sometimes even eaten. The establishing shot usually shows the resto's name, and sometimes the signs also show a phone number. Most are in Seoul; some are in places like Incheon and Jeonju. The idea of taking a field trip out to get some eats is appealing to me, but I have to figure out how I'll be doing long walks if I leave Seoul over the weekend. Very likely, I'll walk on site wherever I am (in Incheon, in Jeonju); I'm sure there are parks and trails I can hit no matter where I go. Korea is a great country for walkers. Trails and paths are everywhere.

So August 19 is the official end of the Newcastle Diet for me. Ten weeks. (I may have said August 16 before; that was a mistake.) I'm currently in Week 7 of the diet, so I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. I do plan on meeting up with my buddy Charles and pigging out; that day will be a cheat day. We're scheduled for Friday the 20th, which will also be an office-party day. My coworker's pro-chef wife will be prepping the food for that day, so I'll get to enjoy a nice lunch as well as a decent, rib-sticking dinner. Two cheat days in one.

I know I've already said this repeatedly, but it'll be nice to eat more or less normally again. I haven't had a full stomach in nearly two months, and while I've generally been able to endure this, there are moments when, if I think too hard about my situation, I start to go a little nuts. Just breathe, right? We're getting close to the end.

unusually high stats (but not today)

Over the past few days, I've had some unusually high blog traffic, but not today. Today is shaping up to be a more normal day; I doubt I'll break 1000. But for the past few days, I've been in the low 2000s for unique visits, which is not normal for this blog. These sorts of days seem to be occurring with greater frequency, however; I'd like to think this means I'm poised on the brink of some sort of popularity breakthrough, but knowing my luck, that's not going to happen. So I'll just keep plugging away in relative obscurity, writing for the benefit of my five dedicated readers. Lurkers and occasional visitors can come and go as they please.

some via Bill


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

cancel culture takes down another one

Professor Dave Porter was fired from his job—tenure revoked (tenure is something of a joke these days; it stopped guaranteeing job security years ago) and no investigation made—after a single student complained about a survey he'd conducted. Read more here. And watch this video (recommended to watch at 1.75X speed because the prof speaks so slowly):

David Goggins, the beast

David Goggins is an absolute beast of a man, a former Navy SEAL who preaches the gospel of physical fitness and the warrior mindset for daily living. Some see him as an inspiration; others, perhaps terrified of him, fear and hate his mindset. I recently watched a video in which Goggins explained that he lost 106 pounds (about 48 kg) in three months. He didn't do keto, and he didn't do moderate distance walking. No: this man, starting at around 300 pounds, wanted to join the SEALs so badly that he would minimize his daily caloric intake ("a banana every morning") while doing an insane number of reps of exercises that he knew he could do. He also ran like the dickens every day. The training was extremely intense, but the man had focus. And thus it was that, in three months, Goggins dropped 106 pounds, taking him to about 194 pounds, in the space of only three months. He went on to become a Navy SEAL.

Now, I've lost 50 pounds in two months, and while I'm fairly proud of that achievement, I won't be coming anywhere close to Goggins's three-month achievement, and I'm not going to end up anywhere near as muscular as he is. But I respect and admire his accomplishment, which serves as an inspiration for those of us trying to get down from stratospheric weight to something more reasonable. If I get light enough, maybe I'll take up jogging again, although I think my poor knees might have something to say about that. I have a bike, but I'm worried about balance issues, so if I do get on the bike, it'll be halting and tentative at first. More on that if it happens. In the meantime, I'll just chug along, doing what I'm doing.

Watch Will Tennyson attempt David Goggins's workout:

will you be doing this at age 66?


The pride in the son's voice is touching. Wish I could feel that way about my dad.

BP and BS

I just checked my blood sugar; the last meal I'd eaten was lunch, and I took my metformin more than an hour ago (metformin reduces blood sugar, but it's of dubious benefit, as Dr. Jason Fung points out*). Despite my current diet, today's fasting since lunch, and the metformin, my BS was still high at 120, so lest there be any doubt, I'm still diabetic. (A non-diabetic person should have a number under 70. If you're in the 80s or 90s, you're probably pre-diabetic, so you need to watch out.)

I also took my blood pressure just a few minutes ago. Result: 132/82, with a pulse rate of 69. While 132 is still high, that's not bad news, and it may mean that the weight loss is having an effect. A pulse of 69 is certainly better than where my pulse used to be, i.e., up around the 80s and 90s. I take this to mean my heart is getting stronger as I continue the stair work.

According to my BS graph, my blood sugar ought to be around 130 right now, so I may be a bit ahead of schedule. (When the hospital measured my blood sugar, their number was at least 10 points higher than my number, which makes me wonder how accurate my BS monitor is.) Once I stop the Newcastle Diet, I'll reduce my consumption of SlimFast so that I'm using it only on Saturday mornings, with Saturday being the day I do my long walks. Any shakes I make post-Newcastle (except for those Saturday ones) will use unsweetened cocoa powder plus a keto-sanctioned sweetener like erythritol, monkfruit, or Stevia. My hope is that, once I'm mostly weaned off SlimFast, my BS levels will drop significantly. And once I've used up all my SlimFast, I won't be ordering any more: life will have entered the post-SlimFast era, and I'll have gone full-on keto, except for my cheat days.

My heart-rate graph says I should be around 87 beats per minute by now, so I'm definitely ahead of schedule on that score. And my BP graph says I should be around 140/92, so I'm ahead of the curve on that score as well, although my numbers are by no means satisfactory. Dropping SlimFast is going to be crucial moving forward. That's going to be the only way to truly embrace keto and continue to shed more pounds. Wish me luck.


*As I noted in a comment, according to Dr. Fung, metformin lowers your blood sugar, but the sugar doesn't just disappear: it leaves your bloodstream and goes into your surrounding organs, which is what happens with untreated diabetes, anyway, and it's why severe diabetes leads to eye problems, kidney problems, liver and pancreas problems, poor circulation, frequent urination, neuropathy, and everything else. So metformin provides the illusion of health, but in truth, it's merely abetting one's diabetes. Hence the need to get off these drugs ASAP. Along with quitting SlimFast. There's still much to do.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

made it

Fourteen floors seemed a bit daunting at first; not sure why, but I made it despite the daunt. Back in healthier days, a few years ago, I was able to climb the entire staircase from B1 to 26 three times. I'm now trying to get back to that level. Anyway, today was the first day of the next ratcheting-up, and I'll be climbing up to the 14th floor over the next three weeks. After that, the goal is the 20th floor, then the 26th. A full staircase. After three weeks at that level, it's a big jump to 1.5 staircases, and there I'll be when it comes time for my hospital appointment on September 16. The timing of the appointment couldn't be better: I go on my long walk later that same month, and the walk will take me to about mid- or late October. Meanwhile, I just need to take things one floor at a time.

a post-midterm review of where I am with my goals

By mid-July, I was supposed to be up to 10 pushups. That's on hold as my shoulder heals.

By mid-July, I was supposed to be up to 20 seconds per side with my planks. I can't do side planks thanks to my shoulder, though. And I'm still following Hampton's program, very slowly, which means I'm still doing leg raises. No actual planking yet.

By mid-July, I was supposed to be halfway to my initial goal of a single pullup, but as with pushups and planks, I've had to delay because of my shoulder. Now that I have a pullup bar, though, I might risk trying to do some negatives. We'll see how that goes.

Let's just say I'm way ahead of schedule. I quickly got to where I could walk 18K, and I've done 26K as well. I may do a 30K or 35K walk one of these weekends, perhaps starting in Hanam and walking out to Yangpyeong. Given the heat, I'd start in the late afternoon and arrive at a motel in Yangpyeong at night. What the hell would I eat while in Yangpyeong, though? Everything's carby, and I'm out of cheat days. I'd have to look for a place that served something low-carb like kimchi-jjigae, then forgo the rice. But if I arrive at night, nothing but the convenience stores will be open. I guess I could buy carbonated water at a convenience store, wait until the next day, find a place that served low-carb Korean food, eat a meal, then train back to Seoul. That might work. When I do my big walk later this year, though, I plan to be more permissive with myself because I know how low my blood sugar goes when I walk all day, day after day. I won't sugar up every day, but I won't say no to the occasional snack.

I am right on schedule for mid-July: halfway up the staircase. By the time I go for my hospital appointment in mid-September, I'll be doing 1.5 full staircases (B1 to 26, then B1 to 12*).

Way ahead of schedule. When I plotted out the original graph, I posited that I'd weigh 113.5 kg by now. Ha! I'm down to 105.5 already.

blood sugar (fasting glucose):
I'll have to get back to you on this. I expect that my blood sugar is still somewhat high, despite all the exercise and the caloric reduction, because I drink sugary SlimFast every morning, and there's also something called a "morning effect" in which your body preps you for the day by producing more blood sugar, causing you to have high BS readings at that time of day.

resting heart rate:
I think it's around 60-something when I'm lying on my back at home, relaxed, but when I checked it just now, I got 72. The stair work is probably responsible for the lower heart rate. My original graph put me at about 85 for right now, so again, I'm ahead of schedule.

blood pressure:
I haven't checked this in a while, so I'll have to get back to you with this, too. I suspect it's still going to be a bit high; there's a lot of work yet to be done. Maybe I'll check my BP tonight.


*Why not to 13? This is because, from B1 to the 5th floor, several of the floors are double-sized, comprising four flights of stairs instead of the usual two. After the 5th floor, everything is just two flights of stairs—18 steps total, 9 steps per flight per floor. So technically, going to 13 would be beyond the actual halfway point. Even by stopping at the 12th floor, I'm still going beyond the halfway point, but I don't want to get too lazy. The actual halfway point is somewhere around the 10th floor.

immediate goal 90 kg; long-term goal 80 kg

If, according to the Newcastle Diet, I'm supposed to bring my BMI down by ten points in two months—taking me from a high of 34 to a more reasonable 24 (which is the uppermost end of normal; 25 is overweight)—then for my frame, according to the charts, I have to get down to 80 kg. Part of me believes this is unfair and unreasonable because I think stopping at 90 kg ought to be enough. That's what I weighed by the time I left Switzerland, and I looked quite trim at the time, if not exactly ripped. But part of me thinks I've become so flabby since college that, if I really want to tighten things up, I need to lose as much fat as possible. That means setting 80 kg (176.4 lbs.) as my ultimate goal. I imagine I'd be skinny as a rail at that weight, perhaps reminiscent of Alton Brown when he lost all of his weight and reappeared on the Food Network as a terrifying, deeply wrinkled, hollow-cheeked, animated skeleton—a mere echo of the Alton Brown he used to be. I can't even remember when I might have weighed 80 kg; perhaps back in high school, given how much weight I gained in college.

Despite having lost 50 pounds in two months, I'm still hamster-cheeked, double-chinned, man-boobed, and fat-assed, so I probably do have another 20 kg to go. A further 20-kg loss would put me at 85.5 kg—close to 80 kg, but not enough to bump me down into the "normal BMI" category. I'd still have to go another 5.5 kg. Well, if I need to lose another 25.5 kg, then I guess, so be it. But I'll celebrate when I hit 90 kg all the same. Switzerland weight!

Pepple on BLM

Dr. Pepple has choice words about BLM. Read here. An excerpt:

Some BLM group in Dallas (called Dallas Justice Now) sent a message to whites living in a wealthy part of that area telling them not to send their kids to elite schools. Heh. This is so perfect I can’t help but think it is really from some [white-supremacist] group or a [white-supremacist] infiltrator. This is because[,] so far[,] the BLM activities have not really impacted elite whites very much. Sure, they have to pretend that George Floyd’s death really matters, that Derek Chauvin wasn’t railroaded, that statues being pulled down don’t really matter, and that crazy and hateful ideas being taught in our schools will have no effect, but that doesn’t seem to bother them. What mattered was getting Trump out of office and oppressing the deplorables. But not being allowed to have their children go to elite schools when they have been planning for this right from the time their child was born? Uh-oh. How does that hurt the Trump supporters?

Well, BLM did say they wanted to burn down everything. Maybe the elites didn’t take this seriously, but a cynical observer (like me) heard that pronouncement and immediately began thinking of things they were not going to burn down. Basketball arenas? No way. The welfare office? No way. Elite schools? No way. But it seems that even though elite schools won’t be burned down literally, they will be burned down figuratively. They will be taken over by those who resent the wealthy whites who send their kids there, even if those whites are Democrats.

Monday, July 26, 2021

this guy is about where I am

He's where I am in terms of his headspace, I mean:

"Nomadland": review

"Nomadland" made the news when it won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress earlier this year. Directed by Chloé Zhao and starring Frances McDormand, the movie follows Fern (McDormand) after she loses her husband, and the local sheetrock business goes belly-up. Fern becomes a vandweller, living inside her van—houseless but not homeless, as she puts it. The film has little plot, but is mostly a pastiche of scenes in which Fern encounters (and often re-encounters) people as she lives her nomadic life, starting in Nevada and moving around to other states, working temporary jobs here and there to have the money to sustain herself, and occasionally encountering difficulties (like a flat tire when she has no spare) that she masters with the help of the people she meets. Fern is something of a liminal figure, always at the edge of this or that community, but never quite plunging in. Since the death of her husband, she seems interested in friendships that don't run too deep, but not in any sort of commitment to anyone or anything.

The closest Fern gets to a real community is the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous run by Bob Wells, an old, Santa-Claus-looking YouTuber and advocate of the nomadic, minimalist lifestyle. The Rendezvous meets once a year in Quarzite, Arizona, where Wells acts as an inspirational keynote speaker decrying the ill effects of capitalism and preaching a kind of independence from "the grid." It should be noted that Bob Wells is a real person, and he plays himself in the film. In fact, many of the characters we see on screen are real-life nomads who play fictionalized versions of themselves. Like reviewer Chris Stuckmann, I have no idea how much of the dialogue we hear has been scripted, and how much is just a natural outflow from these real-life people, with McDormand perhaps improvising her acting to go with the flow of the dialogues she finds herself participating in. And some of these non-actors give incredible monologues, often focused on the inevitability of death and the importance of personal connections. It's an open question as to how much Fern internalizes that last thing; she seems pretty committed to non-commitment, although she does make one or two very good friends.

The movie does have actual actors in it as well. David Strathairn, whom I've always found to be as likable as Frances McDormand herself, keeps popping up in a series of almost Dickensian non-coincidences, and he serves as a not-quite love interest for the commitment-hating Fern. She sees him as a friend, but it's obvious he's looking for more, yet he knows not to pressure Fern. It's interesting to watch the interplay between these two characters. 

And yet, because it's easy to tell who's a non-actor and who's an actor, the difference in interactions can sometimes feel jarring and unnatural. Actors act, and it's often so obvious that they're acting that the acting seems almost self-conscious when you contrast their performance with the more naturalistic performance given by non-actors. Normally, a bunch of actors doing their thing wouldn't bother me because the collective effect is to get me to suspend my disbelief, plunge into the world of the movie, and just go with the flow of the story. When you mix actors and non-actors, though, there's a chance you can be taken out of the film, and while I wouldn't say I was completely jarred out of the world of "Nomadland," I did feel the weird contrast between those who were faking it and those who were simply being themselves in front of the camera.

And that's my one big complaint about "Nomadland." I mean, I've seen naturalistic performances before, like that of Gary Poulter in "Joe," starring Nicolas Cage. But Poulter was just one man; "Nomadland" features a whole cast of non-actors. Aside from that, I didn't mind the movie's slow pacing or general lack of a plot. It was more a character study than a plot-driven film, portraying one woman's attempt to deal with grief and loss while she follows her instinct to gravitate toward the new, the foreign, the marginal, and the strange. In the end, is Fern a lost soul, or has she found her home by remaining on the road, forever moving? McDormand's performance is good enough to leave us with deep philosophical questions. Maybe some of us are trees, and some of us are tumbleweeds.

"Nomadland" is a quiet, thoughtful film. I was a bit worried, at first, that Bob Wells would turn out to be some sort of raving leftist out to bash capitalism, but he instead comes across as tired and sad, fed up with capitalism's dark underbelly, but not offering Marxism as a solution. Rather, the path he offers is a fairly radicalized independence, and how many of us would be brave enough to leave most of civilization behind to follow such a path? "Nomadland" gets my recommendation, but it's not for everyone.

my suspicion

With my weight now back where it was sophomore and senior years of college, I suspect I'm about to hit that weight-loss wall and start plateauing. So far, I've lost weight every single week of the Newcastle Diet, but I can feel that it's getting harder to do so. As I mentioned in previous posts, I'll be ratcheting up my stair work starting tomorrow (up to the 14th floor, then staying at that level for three weeks), so that might help my stubbornly slow metabolism out a bit. Stair work is part cardio, part strength training, after all, so developing my leg muscles and glutes and part of my core will, I hope, continue to increase my metabolism. The intensity of stair-climbing will also produce HIIT-like beneficial effects that last throughout the day for several hours after the stair work is done, taking me past midnight since I don't do my stair work until after I'm home from work.

I've been wondering, though, whether I should really tighten the screws these final four weeks by starting the Fung Paradigm (I'm calling it the "T Diet") now. That would mean eating only 800-ish calories on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday while fasting on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I'm not sure whether to do this because, frankly, I'm unsure of the psychological realities. I think doing the T Diet after Newcastle, as originally planned, will be bearable: I'll be eating bigger meals on the days I do eat, and I've got two cheat days a month to look forward to. But doing the T Diet now would mean eating at near-starvation level and also practicing a rigorous, 24-hour version of intermittent fasting. That could rapidly become depressing and maybe even prompt me to give up the diet. Or not. It might make me grind my teeth in determination and finish out Newcastle in a super-austere way. What to do?

Thinking out loud now... if I'm to start the T Diet this week, then I have to start tomorrow. I'm really not sure I'm ready to do that. I think it may be better to hold off, see how this week goes with the ratcheted-up stair work, then decide from there. So yeah, that's probably what I'll do. No T Diet this week. More later.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

don't listen to the muscle guys

I've tried to keep an open mind about diet and exercise as I continue this weird journey I'm on. Among the people whose videos I've watched are the muscleheads—people like Greg Doucette (Canadian bodybuilder and shill for his own products and cookbooks) and Ryan Humiston (much the same, but funnier). And the tentative conclusion I've come to is that you shouldn't listen to these guys. They offer generally bad nutritional advice with overly simple explanations, and they don't seem to have the clearest notion of cause and effect. I just watched a Ryan Humiston video in which he peddled the thoroughly debunked myth that dietary fat relates to body fat. It does not. You get fat because of carbs. (Humiston's example was olive oil, beloved of the keto crowd.) Doucette is a huge advocate of the CICO model of weight loss, which as I've argued isn't entirely incorrect (remember my starvation example?), but by over-emphasizing CICO, Doucette fails to consider the merits of the CIM model (carbohydrate-insulin), which is what so many recent diets are based on.

Muscular people like Doucette and Humiston can afford to spout bullshit about dieting because they are exercising at such a ferocious, self-disciplined level that they could probably eat anything and still remain muscular. (We'll see how they're doing in twenty years, though.) These guys have veins, not brains. They may talk a good game (and Humiston is honestly a laugh riot), but in my humble opinion, they are not to be listened to when it comes to what to eat. Sure, feel free to take their advice on building muscle through resistance training, but keep in mind that they're not nutritionists.

So the solution is to listen to experts who actually have degrees and licenses related to nutrition and weight loss. Plenty exist on YouTube, and right now, the four experts I gravitate toward are Dr. Sten Ekberg (holistic medicine and nutrition), Autumn Bates (licensed nutritionist), Dr. Becky Gillaspy (wellness and nutrition), and Dr. Ken Berry (weight-loss specialist). Their channels are easy to find on YouTube. Note: these experts' advice can occasionally be contradictory, but on the whole, there's way more overlap than conflict, and when experts from very different backgrounds confirm each other regarding the larger themes of weight loss, that gives me the confidence to move forward with a certain program. I've learned a lot from these folks, whereas the muscleheads seem to be preaching a rather militaristic gospel of fitness that's largely outdated and possibly even dangerous. 

I'm no expert on any of this myself; these are only my opinions. You might watch a Doucette video, start following his advice, and lose a ton of weight. Who knows? Everyone's body is different. All I can say is that, with the experts I named above, so much of the advice dovetails that I suspect they're closer to the truth than the Doucettes and Humistons of the world—at least when it comes to nutrition. As always, do your own homework and caveat emptor.


I'm now down to 105.5 kilograms (232.6 lbs.), according to my scale. That's very good news. This puts me officially at pre- and post-Switzerland weights when I was in college (sophomore and senior years). Now, if I could get down to my Switzerland weight of 90 kg (about 200 lbs., junior year abroad), that would be sweet. Can I do that by the end of the Newcastle Diet? Unsure. But I'll give it a try. 90 kg is the official goal weight, but 80 kg lurks in the background as a possible revised weight, just to be sure I've dropped 10 BMI points from where I started pre-stroke, from 34 to 24, on the heavy side of "normal" weight.

This coming week, I ratchet up the stair work to climb to the 14th floor, so that ought to help me continue to lose weight. I'll stay at that level for three weeks before ratcheting up again, this time to the 20th floor. We're getting close to 26 floors, which is about as high as I can go inside my building. (Technically, I could start at the B5 level and walk up to the 28th floor, but the 26th floor is the last habitable floor, and everything below B1 is parking garages, so for whatever reason, I tend not to count these as floors. Maybe I should.) I'm calling the B1 to 26 climb a "full staircase." After that, I'll be doing 1.5 staircases, then 2, then 2.5, then 3 full staircases, which will involve 30-some minutes of intense cardio. Once I hit three staircases, there shouldn't be any questions any longer about the strength of my heart.

It took me a year, while living in Switzerland, to go from 230-ish pounds to 200 pounds. I expect that getting down to 90 kg, or even to 80 kg, will take me about that long once I'm off the Newcastle Diet and eating a bit more normally on the days I do eat (recall that I'll be fasting three days of the week).

I'm happy that I'm continuing to lose weight, but I can see the process is becoming more difficult as my body continues to resist weight loss. I watched an interesting video by a professional physical trainer who says that "starvation mode" is a myth, and what actually happens in the body is more properly termed "metabolic adaptation." I think the point is a semantic one: whatever you call it, the body slows metabolism once it realizes it's no longer getting as many calories as it used to, making further weight loss difficult.

Ultimately, I'll be switching to a gentle keto. There'll be less focus on calories and more focus on macros. I doubt I can reach the insane levels of fat that the keto diet requires, but a greater focus on proteins and vegetables can't be bad, right? Plus: keto burgers and pizza and pasta! Weight loss once I'm off Newcastle will doubtless slow down, but by this time next year, I might be down as far as 80 kg. Fingers and tentacles crossed.

Saturday's "walk"

So, Saturday afternoon, I went out with JW to the Hantan River. JW had found a park right next to the Sky Bridge that I had mentioned in an earlier post. He swung by my place in his car and picked me up around 5 p.m., and we arrived at our destination at a little after 6:30 p.m. As I feared, JW hadn't really thought through this plan, and also as I'd feared, the trail we ended up walking proved to be hard, sweaty, and borderline dangerous for stroke victims with balance issues on stairs, both up and down. We ended up walking no more than 1.5 hours, and when we hit an actual road that seemed to be part of the trail, we eventually gave up and turned back to the parking lot, with JW declaring the day a failure. Somewhat depressed, he kicked himself for not planning out the day.

Now unlike JW, who rubbed it in after my stroke by saying a rather uncompassionate "I told you so" to me, I didn't rub it in with him, despite my fears going into this that it was going to be a shit-show. I mean, one look at the spread of photos on Google was enough to set off alarm bells about the Hantan River trail. I could see right away that the photos all showed landscapes, but they didn't show the trail itself. This was enough to make me think the trail wouldn't be flat like most bike trails. The other indicator about the terrain was the presence of those bridges. They were beautiful (and we ended up crossing the Sky Bridge), but the fact that the bridges were so high up meant that, if the trail dipped down to the level of the river, there would be a lot of ups and downs. When I expressed this fear to JW while we were driving to the site, he dismissed my fear by declaring, "No, it's not like that." Well, it turned out to be very much like that. Also, JW had originally wanted to meet at 1 p.m., but he belatedly realized how hot the day was going to be, so he delayed our meet-up until 5 p.m., thus allowing us to start hiking when the sun was down at a low angle.

As I said above, the hike itself was harsh and miserable. It was a McCrareyish hike if ever there was one—a real Korean trail, rugged and hilly, and not the milquetoast stuff I'm used to. I took photos along the way, and I made sure to show the path itself along with some landscape shots. You'll see the pics below. I'll give JW credit, though, with making some wise command decisions during the hike, including the decision to call it quits and turn back. The trail we initially followed went through the woods for about a kilometer, during which time we encountered three or four steep hills with steps cut into them. Eventually, though, we came to a clearing and had the option of following the trail along a paved road, which we did with relief, both of us sweating buckets. (We were assaulted by flying insects the entire time as well—an unpleasant combination of flies and mosquitoes.)

JW spent a lot of time berating himself about what he saw as a major failure. I didn't need to spell out for him that lack of planning was the cause of our problems; he figured this out on his own, and as I said, I didn't rub it in. In fact, I told him the experience of the difficult trail had been educational, and that he shouldn't beat himself up about it. I also explained my usual method for plotting a route: first chart it on Naver Maps and take a look at the contour lines to get an idea of what the terrain's going to be like, then walk the route myself to see whether it'll be worthwhile to do with a partner.

So the day had been something of a shit-show, but it had also been educational (I don't think I'll try tackling this trail in the summer ever again, but the fall might work, assuming I'm in better physical condition to tackle such a rough trail). I also learned (well, I had my suspicions confirmed) that just because a trail is by a river doesn't mean it's going to be level, like most of the bike trails I know.

We drove back to my place (JW joked it had been more of a driving day than a walking day), and once I got out of the car and bid adieu to JW, I walked some neighborhood creekside paths (the Yangjae and Tan Creeks) for two hours to get my steps in for the day, from roughly 9:50 to 11:50 p.m. 3.5 hours of walking is less than I had expected to do on Saturday, but that's roughly the time and distance for a typical Bundang walk, so the extra two hours at the end were enough, as far as I was concerned.

Right, so here are a slew of pictures taken during the walk, which started optimistically enough before descending into nightmare territory. We began in an ecological park:

It called itself a "geopark":

The park walk was placid enough:

Everything seems well manicured:

We were excited to see an indication for an overlook to view some falls:

JW suggested I take a photo of this map, which we didn't use to navigate:

A familiar sight: a certification booth such as you'd see on the Four Rivers trail:

More signage:

An exhibit about the geological features of the riverbed:

The falls, which were small and disappointing:

But there was a nice vista, which was also worrying for what it implied about terrain:

A slightly different angle:

Bird sculptures:

Another grand view from the observation deck for the falls:

The beginning part of the trail that would lead us into misery:

We're working our way toward Sky Bridge:

Sky Bridge, first look:

More maps along the way:

The path up to the bridge was a spiral:

With the sun in the west, getting a bridge shot from this angle was hard:

Sky Bridge, Pocheon Hantan River:

Again doing what I can to block out the sun and get the shot:

The bridge had clear glass sections to let you see the drop:

A backwards look at the bridge after crossing most of it:

Below: JW almost all the way across. I discovered that the bridge's shaking (it's designed to shake a bit under the weight of people's steps) petrified my friend. He was a mess as we crossed the bridge, constantly talking about how he didn't like the shaking, and how he didn't trust the bridge's designers. I told him he could close his eyes and put his hands on my back, but JW braved the crossing unaided.

A view of the Hantan from the bridge:

Another backwards look:

A map on the other side:

Decisions, decisions. We chose... and it cost us:

If the trail goes down, then (1) you know it's going to have to go up again at some point, and (2) if we were to turn around, we'd eventually have to go back up the way we descended. Luckily, neither of these things happened. You'll see why in a moment:

More hilliness:

Almost the same shot:

And here's the first of several hells. I had trouble, without my trekking pole, making it up these stairs, and we ended up going up several sets of stairs like this, all within the first kilometer or two of the trail:

A rare level spot:

Up a tiny, steep hill, right before we reached a paved roadway:

We had the choice to continue left along something that looked like a trail (or someone's private property), or to turn toward the road and mosey on from there. We chose the latter, which was probably a good thing because as JW noted later, it would have been bad to be caught in the woods when it got dark (so, John Mac, you were right to worry about lighting; there was none in the wooded part of the trail we had done). JW elected to go left along the road, away from where we'd parked the car:

Roadway now:

Some sort of farm-experience event was being aggressively advertised along this road. Signs like the one shown below were everywhere:

Sky Village, it says:

Walking this section felt a bit like walking the Saejae path on the Four Rivers trail:

A shot down the road:

The experience of walking through a rural neighborhood is never complete unless you face a barking farm dog, which we did. Luckily, it was chained up:

A wider shot:

We didn't walk far down the road before JW decided we should turn around and go back to the car. I had made some remark about how the downhill we were on would be a long uphill on the way back, and he may have found the remark discouraging enough to influence his decision to turn around. I don't know. Anyway, we turned around, passed the farm dog again, then crossed a bridge, which is when I took the following picture:

JW on the bridge:

Another shot of the river from the other side of the bridge. There were very few cars, so we had the bridge mostly to ourselves. Behold:

Almost the same shot. My finger may have stuttered on my phone camera:

A military-style paintball range (the Hantan is near the DMZ):

Same range, different sky:

JW marveled at the evening sky and bade me take this pic:

A look down the road as we headed back to the parking lot:

Another evening-sky shot:

JW insisted on a closeup of the clouds, which is how I learned how to do the "zoom" feature on my camera. I hadn't figured that out until JW showed me how to place two fingers on the screen and spread them to zoom:

And the above photo is the last one from our walk. It rapidly got dark after that, and we drove home. As I said above, I got out of the car and went for a two-hour walk in my neighborhood to get the rest of my steps in, and since it seemed there was a full moon out, I tried to get some shots of it. I was more successful with this cell phone than with my previous one. Here are two shots, and that's how I'll finish this photo essay:

So the day was a bit of a disaster, but not horrible, all in all—just very tiring for those painful 90 minutes. I enjoyed the Sky Bridge even if JW didn't, and while I'm not sure I'll be back this way again, I'll chalk this Saturday up to a learning experience for both me and JW.