Confessions of a Middle Aged Grinch

December 9th, 2013 Comments off

Yesterday afternoon, on ice day three, after helping a neighbor by de-icing walk and car, and providing much needed eggs for stalled brownies, we settled into our living room and watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Not the classic Chuck Jones (of Tom and Jerry fame) animated one where Boris Karlof narrates and Thurl Ravenscroft crooned the wonderful song, but instead the Ron “Opie” Howard directed, live action, Jim Carrey aped modern version. Also, a classic in my opinion. Because, as my daughter puts it, character development.

The script gives us some insight as to what made the Grinch sooooo grinchy. Why Cindi Lou Who was so forgiving. The rest of the screenplay is a great critique of the over all consumerishness that is over taking our holiday season, but I’ll let the viewer comment on this. I need to use this space to comment about me.

I’m a grinch. The holiday season is not a time of cheer for me. It has it’s moments, we focus on family and friends around my house, and look forward to times where all of us reside in the same room for more than a few moments at a time. Our Christmas traditions have largely morphed into a strange electronic sharing of time, because we live so separated from our families. Meh. It is what it is.

I’ve often wondered the root of my grinchiness. Why can I not feel the joy of the yule season.

It started, I guess, when I was 10. That was the new normal.

A Christmas where my father moved out.

A stretch of Christmases where they were spent on a stretch of highway, instead of cozied up near a warm fire.

Split families, split siblings, split time. Christmas cut down the middle, evenly split, evenly divided, evenly served.

Family that was family… and will always be family.

My parents didn’t divorce on the holidays, but they split up and the house divided and a father walked away in the yule tide season.

I love my parents, I love my step-parents. I HATE… the division, the split.

My father and mother, my step-mother and a few years later step-father worked hard to try to make it an addition, rather than a subtraction. Inclusive for everyone one exclusive to one family. They were valiant in trying to make lasting memories, to heal the wounds of separation. My grinchiness is not their fault.

This past year, we’ve lost two of my children’s grandfathers. Two funerals, two memorials to fathers that did their very best for their children and their grandchildren. Two men who worked hard to show love, even if they themselves were broken in very normal, human ways.

In years past, my grandfathers died (as I remember) during the winter between the months of November and February. Winter is the season for dying, I suppose, the trees lose their leaves, the world grows cold. It seems to surround me, and invade my thoughts, this darkness. I look forward to Christmas, I do. I know, as a believer, that it marks the time to celebrate the Advent. To celebrate the birth of Christ (not the birth day of Christ… for he was even before the beginning) the incarnation of the God as man, a time to remember and give us hope … in his Grace, of his Mercy, reveling in his Unconditional Love. This is truly what I look forward to in Christmas.

Not the trees.

Not the lights.

Not the decorations.

The season isn’t warm for me,  and this past year won’t make this time of year any better. It is a season of loss, and the gifts under the tree? I’d trade them all. They are temporary… As Jim Carrey spake in the remake of the Grinch:

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? That’s what it’s always been *about*. Gifts, gifts… gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts! You wanna know what happens to your gifts? They all come to me. In your garbage. You see what I’m saying? In your *garbage*. I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties I found at the dump. And the avarice…

The avarice never ends! “I want golf clubs. I want diamonds. I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored and sell it to make glue.” Look, I don’t wanna make waves, but this *whole* Christmas season is…

…stupid, stupid, stupid!

And later, Lou Lou Who, tries in a valiant attempt to save the message of Christmas.

I’m glad he took our presents. You can’t hurt Christmas, Mr. Mayor, beacuse it isn’t about the… the gifts or the contest or the fancy lights. That’s what Cindy’s been trying to tell everyone… and me. I don’t need anything more for Christmas than this right here: my family.

To which my true grinchy heart both swells and deflates, in some morbid rhythm that keeps it from growing three-sizes too big.

Because, my family died over Christmas. Figuratively, Literally… potaytoh, potahtoh.

My life rebooted when I was 10 years old. The previous 10 years seem like a dream, that I can never re-live.

When my father passed away, my siblings scoured the photo albums and posted photos of my father from all periods of his life, including those early years, where I didn’t really know what I had, until it was gone. The people, they are still in my life; my mother, my sisters, my brother – They are still here. Thankfully.

I can rage at many things that happened this past year. Unfair! Uncharitable! Unwanted!

I can regret my own insular personality that withdrew from anyone and everyone when I was hurting. Like a turtle inside his shell, trying to not be poked by a stick.

But then… in my hardheartedness, I remember.

A story.

A family, that was barely a family.

A husband, leading his new wife, carrying a baby that was not his.

A baby that would be… is…  a gift to the world.

To tear down the curtain, to rend the very fabric of the universe, to take what is holy, separate, divine and enter the mundane existence of grinch-like hearts like mine. And to rejoin us with our TRUE father.

My heart softens, and grows.

This season, these dark days of winter… need to have the light of Christmas.

I need to have the hope of a savior, to see me through these dark days called – life.

I hate the holidays, I can’t help it. I love my family, but they aren’t enough. I NEED Christ-mas.



Categories: Faith, Life Tags:

So, lets talk about schools and learning…

September 26th, 2013 Comments off

Let’s start with this little piece of inanity:

LAUSD halts home use of iPads for students after devices hacked

Following news that students at a Los Angeles high school had hacked district-issued iPads and were using them for personal use, district officials have halted home use of the Apple tablets until further notice.

It took exactly one week for nearly 300 students at Theodore Roosevelt High School to hack through security so they could surf the Web on their new school-issued iPads, raising new concerns about a plan to distribute the devices to all students in the district.

“Outside of the district’s network … a user is free to download content and applications and browse the Internet without restriction,” two senior administrators said in a memo to the Board of education and L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy. “As student safety is of paramount concern, breach of the … system must not occur.”

Okay, so the district spent a good portion of the education budget on new technology. Then assumedly more money on trying to add security to the devices for … safety … from downloadable content from the internet.

While I agree that there are dark places on the internet that should be avoided and worried about, it seems that locking down a school distributed device only keeps them from doing that on a tax-payer supported device. Because none of these kids has internet at home. Surely.

The problem, as I see it, isn’t that the technology is being circumvented, but that the administration has no idea about how to use the technology in the first place, or no real plan beyond, “hey! let’s give the kids iPads!” Because I can think of several ways to enhance the learning of the students using wide open and unobtrusive internet technology. Indeed, it seems that at least 300 students learned how to circumvent the security of the device without any intervention from the administration.

How completely unacceptable! Kids (teenagers, not elementary school kids) have access to a device (probably much like the phones in their pockets, or the pockets of their friends) and want to use it like they normally would, to get onto social networks (Hey! I though Facebook was for the old parent like people, not teenagers, teenages use Tumblr!) and interact with their friends. And when the technology is clearly capable of that, but is disabled… they’ll get a bit frustrated and either a) not use the device at all or b) go geek and fix the bug that is keeping them from using the device as it is intended!

So, instead of putting on the breaks, why not adjust the curriculum, teaching styles etc… to USE this newfangled technology and embrace social networking and collaboration?

Okay, now it’s your turn, scream back at me.

Categories: Gadgets, Politics (ugh) Tags:

Customer Service–It matters

July 11th, 2012 1 comment

This is purely anecdotal, but I think it makes a good point. But first I need to preface it with some background information.

Last year, I lost my job in the middle of August, but maintained Health Insurance through the end of the month, because I’d already paid the premium through the end of the month. The day before the end of the month, I got a robo-call from Apria Healthcare soliciting me to procure replacement supplies for my sleep apnea durable medical equipment. Knowing that I was covered at that time, and with full knowledge that in two days I’d face an unknown amount of time that I wouldn’t be covered.  Additionally I knew that my lapsing insurance policy provided full coverage for the supplies, I made an order, and received the replacement supplies, and have used my durable medical equipment every day since then.

At Christmas I received an Jawbone Up activity monitoring bracelet as a gift, really nifty device that helps generally track how much I move, how well I sleep, and how what I eat effect how I feel. I enjoyed using the band very much, until after about three weeks the band wouldn’t hold a charge, and died.  Jawbone, to it’s credit admitted that their bands were faulty, and have published a no-questions-asked guarantee, where I was able to file for a refund (even though I got this as a gift) and receive the purchase price of the band in cash.  But Jawbone went beyond that and also said they’d support purchased bands for the entire warranty period, even if you claimed the refund.  So I also have received 5 bands (the 6th is on the way) as I’ve used the band continuously until they fail and then ask for a new replacement.

This week I received, out of the blue, an invoice from Apria for the supplies I’d ordered while under coverage from my insurance company. It appears that, after talking to the first level support person on the phone (who was very helpful) that while I did call and order the supplies before the end of the month, the supplies didn’t ship till after the end of the month, and the insurance rules state that the charge is made on shipment, not order. Had I known this at the time, I wouldn’t have ordered the supplies.  Instead, the very helpful first level support person passed me on to billing. The billing department person wasn’t very helpful, immediately, upon hearing my story, said he could do nothing about it and gave me the number for the local branch that filled my order.  The next day I called the local branch manager, and related that story to him, he said two very telling things:

  1. That he didn’t appreciate the corporate bean counters (e.g. Billing) passing on the decision and therefore cost of this issue down to him.
  2. That he couldn’t do anything to aid me in the dilemma without either: a) receiving the unused supplies, or b) committing insurance fraud by re-stating the order.

He didn’t offer to just cancel the order and eat the cost, but did allow me to pay the minimum for as long as I needed, but that I was still responsible for the full amount.

This morning, I hit that time where my Jawbone UP band has died it’s normal death, and hit the technical support chat line while I was doing my daily work.  The representative, Alyssa, was helpful and went above and beyond what was required.  She even appreciated my jokes, while weaving them into common support dialog. For example:

Alyssa: Hi, my name is Alyssa. How may I help you?
 Jon : My Up band, 5th one, stopped responding, and won’t hold a charge.
 Alyssa: Hello Jon, I’m sorry to hear that your UP is not holding a charge.
 Alyssa: I’ll be happy to help you in any way that I can.
 Jon : the last few days the battery level dropped more quickly and didn’t hold a charge, woke up this morning to a dead band, and no charge after removing from the charging adapter.  I think it’s time for another replacement band.
 Alyssa: Oh no, I certainly know how disappointing that can be. I had that happen to my original UP band.
 Jon : I’m going to make a necklace with all my replacement bands, if only they were gold. 😉
 Alyssa: I think that will be very flattering on you, Jon. If you get tired of the necklace, you can always just take them to electronic recycling.
 Alyssa: That is mainly because we are currently not requiring our customers to send the UP bands back to us.
 Jon : ah, that’s a good point, when I tire from having the trophy case, off to electronic recycling they will go.
 Alyssa: I think that is a great way of looking at the situation.

After the frustration of yesterday, this was a welcome joy.

So let me sum up:

Apria Healthcare: Reliable products, crappy customer service. If I have an option of who I’ll order my durable medical supplies I’ll ensure that it WON’T be Apria Healthcare.

Jawbone: Unreliable product, responsive and engaging customer service. Might not invest in a new version of the Up band, since the market for these is competitive (FitBit, Nike, etc) but I haven’t completely ruled that out.

Cost to Apria: They’ll be sending me paper invoices for the next 6 years, in paper costs alone (figuring $.25 for paper, envelope) $13.75 (not including the FTE for people to process my order and bookkeep) to collect the ~$270 I owe them for the supplies.

Cost to Jawbone: 6 bands at $99 per band retail price = $594

Future business to Apria Healthcare: $0 (if it were my decision)

Future business to Jawbone: unknown, it depends on the market and my needs.

Shake and Fold

July 11th, 2012 1 comment

I saw this a few months back, and for a simple concept it’s genius in its execution. Take five minutes and watch:

First the speaker, Joe Smith, has a very simple goal, reduce the amount of paper towels people use.  The execution in it is taking that large goal and distilling it into a simple, easy to learn concept.  It boils down to two steps.

1. Shake

2. Fold

After he demonstrates the using of one paper towel he repeats the process over and over. The idea and his method infects your brain.  Since I’ve watched this I haven’t used a washroom without thinking of this video, and have adopted the method in how I dry my hands.

This simple lesson also points to some important reminders about making presentations.  People tend to retain things they see, hear and perform at a higher rate than that which they only read. People will retain something that is repeated – six times seems to be the optimum when it comes to repetition – during a learning session. People tend to remember the first Shake+Fold Flyerthing and the last thing in a list – so a two item list (while not really legal for a bulleted list, unless you institute a “There is no number 2” rule) – helps with retention. Finally, people tend to remember things that are linked to something they already know, everybody washes their hands, and using the number 12 in context cements the “how many times?” concept pretty easily.

The follow on lesson is we also tend to remember things when we can teach it back to someone else. That small 5 minute talk inspired someone to make a handy graphic, that they’ve used to spread the knowledge along.  While the handy flyer isn’t as effective as the 5 minute presentation it makes the same point, and helps to pass on the knowledge to people that haven’t seen the nifty TED talk.

Categories: Learning, Life, Work Tags: , ,

It’s ok, you can let go…

May 23rd, 2012 Comments off

Two years ago I watched the last episode of LOST, having spent the previous year re-watching, tweeting, blogging and just about inhaling the series on an almost daily basis. I walked to my bed that night, satisfied with the ending. Not just satisfied, but joyful over the way it ended, and brought the story of LOST full circle with the closing of the same eye that opened the 6 years of enthralling television.

The show met me in the time of my life where I had many successes and lots of regrets. The stage of my life that I lived in the summer of 2009 was an uproar of my own making, a plane wreck if we want to speak metaphorically. I was trying to fix myself, I my life had become unmanageable because of an addiction, and at that time I was white knuckling the withdrawals and trying to fix myself. In a way, the reason LOST finale resonated so well with me, is between the end of season 5 and the beginning of season 6 I had reached the end of myself, and started seeking the help of a recovery community. There, in that community of messed up souls, I found a connection with fellow strugglers, that resonated many large themes of LOST. It very well may be that seeing LOST through the lens of that experience I’m reading my own struggle into that work of fiction, and I’ll admit it. Because face it, we all do that.

As a confessing Christian, I also viewed LOST through those glasses, and the themes of forgiveness, loyalty, redemption, sacrifice and community certainly made those facets of the show more vivid to me. The symbols of light and dark, water and fire triggered many things I’ve learned from the scriptures, and helped me to form a tighter understanding of my own faith.

I’ve used LOST scenes to teach some of tenets of recovery, the need to come to grips with our past, what ever happened, what I did, sort through them, then let them go. The reason the finale of LOST resonated with me, is I saw all of the characters I loved pass through that as they remembered the island and the important things that happened to them. Those characters and their shared experience (both the good times and the bad times) are what saved them. Not from the smoke monster and his quest to extinguish the light, but from themselves and their willingness to ignore the light.

When Hurley drank the water Jack offered as a rite, and became like Jack is, I knew the Island is in the best of hands. It will continue to be a place where messed up people like me can find other people to hold on to, to struggle with, and to over come. We all need a place like the island, a place where we can be together.

I can let go of lots of things in my life, I need to let go of a lot more, but the lessons I learned through LOST about love, life, forgiveness and endurance… Those, I’ll hold onto.

Categories: Faith, Television Tags: ,

Hunger Games – Character Thoughts

March 23rd, 2012 Comments off

I went with two of my kids to watch The Hunger Games for the midnight showing. I think I came across the books from reading tweets of my LOST friends, and determining to give them a read on my Kindle. Then I found out that both my daughters had read the book, and my son was trying to get through it. I ended up getting engrossed with the story, and soon devoured Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and really enjoyed the story and the characters. Taking a good book story and making it a good movie story is a difficult task, but something I think the producers, director and cast of The Hunger Games did extraordinarily well. At least well enough to get me to write a blog post, which lately has seemed monumentally difficult.

I write this book as a reader and a movie goer, and while I won’t spoil the movie, I can’t really discuss the characters without getting into some plot points, so if you haven’t at least read the books stop before the fold. I hope this post helps you enjoy the movie as much as my kids and I did.

The story of The Hunger Games is told through the eyes of Katniss Everdeen and her experiences after growing up in the severely impoverished District 12 of Panem. Panem is set in a future North America where all the power and riches have been consolidated in the Capitol, which were victors in a savage battle for power. To keep it’s boot on the neck of the Districts, the Captiol requires an annual reaping, the selection of one boy and one girl from each of twelve Districts to enter a game where there is only one survivor. That is the setup of for the story of Katniss Everdeen, the older of two sisters, whose father died in a mining accident. Katniss is forced to provide for her family after his death in part because her mother checked out emotionally when her husband was killed. Katniss learned to hunt at her father’s knee, and her skill with a bow has been the only thing that has put food on their table. I think knowing how disparately hungry the Everdeen’s are is key to understanding the story, and something that I think wasn’t played up enough in the first few scenes of the movie. With that let’s get to the characters. Caution ahead if you haven’t seen the movie.
Read more…

Categories: books, Movies Tags: , , , ,

Santa wants to make sure I keep on running!

December 28th, 2011 Comments off

Santa brought me some nifty new gadgets for Christmas which will totally support my running habit, though of late it’s been hard to call it a habit. 

First up, a new heart rate monitor (HRM) with a footpod to track cadence, and give the treadmill runs a bit more data to analyze.  The Garmin FR60 doesn’t have GPS, but I don’t really need all that horse-power.  My new job (I need to blog about that… someday) came with an in building gym and locker rooms with three treadmills, so I have a great facility to continue my drills, so at least until it warms up enough to run comfortably outside, I can use the treadmill and my FR60 to give me the data.  I’m still working out the kinks, but here’s an example of a run event Daily Mile by jon.stueve at Garmin Connect – Details.

Categories: /dev/null Tags:

Oh July! Starting the Half-Mary Training…

August 1st, 2011 1 comment

image I ended last month’s post with a list of things to come for July. I ended up accomplishing most of the items, the one I missed was not joining in with the Do Life tour. Too darn hot to run a 5k in the evening! Ben finished his tour and celebrated with a full ironman that he finished in under 15 hours… that’s just crazy!

Aside from the week of vacation in Galveston, my diet and weight loss was consistent.  Sitting in the car for 8 hours twice in one week just isn’t as active as I’m used to, I guess.  But I did get in one 5k run along the seawall in Galveston, which fulfilled the second run of the Jeff Galloway Half-Marathon training class I started on RunKeeper.

What I like about this training class is the run-walk interval focus, that’s what I’m most comfortable with, and the 4-1 normal run intervals are just right for where I’m at fitness wise.  The longer runs are becoming a bit daunting, but increase only 1.5 miles every other week.  The alternating weeks are 800m intervals with an emphasis on meeting a goal 2:20 half-marathon.  That time is unreachable for me, so I have to be careful that I find a goal pace that stretches me a bit, but won’t lead to injury.  I’ll just take it week by week.

Running the longer distances (which brings with it longer times out on the pavement), has made something apparent in my weight-loss measurements. Here… I’ll show you a chart!!


The blue lines are my run distances, with the first 5 mile run on July 9th and lasted 71 minutes.  The next two runs of 6 miles (July 16 – 99 minutes) and 8 miles (July 30 – 117 minutes) are associated with a large apparent weight gain.  A note on my weights: With the heat of this summer, I’ve been getting up and running before breakfast, and weighing in after my run, so my weigh-ins on run days are in a dehydrated and depleted state.  That said, the longer runs (>90 minutes) seem to have a lot more of recovery time to get back to a normal weight than my normal 45 minute runs.  I’m going to be watching this as my distances increase to see if my body gets better at recovering, and also be more careful about what I eat as I recover.

What is good about that chart is that in the last two weeks of the month I pretty much weighed in less that 280 (which was at the point where my loss stalled in May).  So I think I’m back on a good sustainable downward slope.  I’ve adjusted my calories to be at the pound and a half loss per week, and I’m eating back my exercise calories and staying above my LoseIt! Computed BMR.

For the month of August, my goals are to be consistent with my weekly runs, and seeing how a hard interval run can do with my pace.  The longer runs are daunting, 9.5 and 11 coming up in August, and then 11, 13 and 15 in September.  It’s a little scary, but at the same time a bit of a confidence booster to face my fears and accomplish the goals, a little bit at a time.

Quote of the Month: Comes from Shawshank Redemption (Thanks AMC for the re-airing and the pop-up video thingies!)

Red narrating:

… That’s all it takes really, pressure, and time. …

That’s in the middle of a really long narration where Red is describing Andy’s escape from Shawshank prison.  The end of that phrase discusses how Andy crawled to freedom through a sewer pipe for 500 yards, or about 5 football fields.  That is also a help at the end of a run, to remember that running, largely, smells better than crawling through a sewer pipe.

Have a great August!

Categories: Life, Losing It Tags:

Well … that is one explanation.

July 1st, 2011 Comments off

If you’ve caught up on my last two blog posts you’ll know that I had a challenging May, and switched things up in June to help push my weight numbers back in the right direction.  May was such an up and down month, that when I went to put the tape to my body for measurements I was discouraged and didn’t record them. It just wasn’t very encouraging to watch the numbers rise and erase what I thought was good progress.

The end of May, I went up in how many calories I was eating to “maintenance” (or what I should eat to stay at my current weight) then in June I started a more modest calorie reduction that was aimed at staying above my BMR while consuming at least some of the exercise calories that I’d burned.

image The result was a steady downward trend in weight, right in line with my target goal of a pound per week.  This was while eating about 300-500 calories more than what I usually was eating prior to switching things up after my dismal May.

My exercise totals were about the same as normal for the month of June, thanks to starting to bike commute to work periodically, and continue to train for longer running distances.  I don’t do a lot of strength training, except to help promote knee strength to support my running, and that is mostly just body weight training.

So at the end of June (last night), I braved the tape and took my measurements again.  I had resolved to take what the numbers told me, and just like June was a re-start month, this would be a new re-start.  So after taking all the measurements, in total I didn’t lose any inches since April.  That, however is not the whole story.  It’s where I lost inches and where I gain inches that give a different story.  Waist and chest measurements went down an inch each.  Calf and thigh gained an inch and collectively, and my hips gained an inch all by themselves.  My total weight was down by a pound since April (3.5 since the end of May).

Those numbers are entering arguments for the Military Body Fat Percentage calculation that I keep after each measurement.  End of April I was at 31.1% body fat (BF%), which when applied to my total weight gave me a Mean Body Mass (LBM) of 193.9 pounds. [NOTE: Lean Body Mass /= muscle, just non-fat body parts, including bones, water, undigested food, etc…] After June, the calculation gave me a BF% or 29.7% which leads to a LBM of 196.7 pounds. Or a gain of almost three pounds of LBM.

This is good news, because at least some of that 3 pounds is in muscle, which is the fat burning machine we all have that needs fuel while we are at rest, and is burning calories all day long.  I think I can contribute the gain in LBM to eating and fueling my body more consistently (though I do admit not every single calorie I eat is the best type of food) so my body can repair and generate what it needs to support my activity level.  So YAY!

Now on to the weird stuff.  I’ve realized that losing an additional 108 pounds after my initial 42 pound loss is just not going to happen.  I really think it’s best to not lose significant LBM during a prolonged diet, and for me to reach a sub-200 pound weight goal (and what the silly BMI calculators say I should weigh for my height) I’d have to scavenge from my LBM to get there, or be at such a ridiculously low body fat percentage that is unattainable.  So I have to modify my goals, and frankly … mentally that sucks.  Intellectually, I get it, I’m on board.  Emotionally, I’m a bit bummed.  I know I shouldn’t because the  108 was just a number that I pulled out of a rather obsessive LOST addiction, but it does. 

At any rate, I’m processing that.  A good goal is still 108 in total, which puts my goal weight at around 234, which would put me in the middle of a healthy BF% range of 11-22%.  BMI will still tell me I’m slightly obese to largely overweight.  But I’ve chosen to not believe in BMI, therefore it doesn’t exist. 😀

Some things coming up in July:

Categories: Life, Losing It Tags: , , ,

Smart Dieting – how to not sabotage your goals.

June 23rd, 2011 Comments off

I’m not saying that I have everything figured out, a good review of my blog posts on the matter should prove that fairly well. 😀

But I had a light-bulb moment this week, and when I shared it on the Lose-It! forums and on my friends feed it got a lot of comments and questions.  So I think it’s probably worth reciting on the ol’ blog too.

Besides the wonderful LoseIt! forums, there is another website I’ve been visiting and listening to that advocates a smart form of dieting.  It’s Fat2Fit Radio which has a weekly podcast that discusses the progress of one of the hosts, entertains letters from their fans, and dissects a ‘weight-loss’ fad just about each and every week.  Their philosophy is a bit upside down from LoseIt!, so it was initially a bit confusing trying to reconcile the two worlds.  My light-blub moment prompted me to make the following YouTube video (live with my voice!)


If you can’t sit through a boring 3 minute lecture, let me sum up.  Fat2Fit asks you what you current weight is and what your weight-loss goal is, and then give your a page with your current BMR, and a table of calories of what you should be eating at your goal weight for a variety of activities.  Fat2Fit’s philosophy is to eat today like you are at your current weight, and by doing that you end up eating like your a thin person for your weight-loss duration, and you just keep eating that way “for the rest of your life”.

LoseIt’s philosophy is to find your current BMR, apply a standard activity level and deduct your weight-loss plan from that to get your daily calorie goal.  So as you lose weight your calorie goal decreases and you slowly adapt to eating less and less.  When you reach your goal weight, you move to Maintenance mode and that includes a jump in calories that can be quite large.  The other issue is LoseIt!’s formula is just an arithmetic problem, and doesn’t account for the possibility that you might be eating below what is healthy for your body.

What I’ve done (and many other people that come to LoseIt!! as well) is start up with the maximum amount of weight to lose, and just keep it there.  Progress is usually good at the beginning then begins to slow down.  After a while weight-loss stalls and people get frustrated.  My theory is that many people (not ALL) have driven the equation below their BMR and are in the middle of starvation mode.  The quick fix is paradoxically, to eat more.  The problem is LoseIt! has no tools to help you determine this on your own, so the forums are filled with the same frustrating question: “Why am I stalled??!?!” and the answer usually is “Eat more!” and the response is usually… WHAT?!?!? you’ve got to be KIDDING ME?! I’m trying to lose weight!

So we need a tool to help us understand what might be happening with this “starvation mode” or more properly eating below your BMR for an extended period of time. This is where Fat2Fit’s information is helpful, but also confusing because they have a different philosophy to how to eat than LoseIt!

The number we want to keep an eye on is our BMR (another issue is that they both use a slightly different formula to compute BMR so the numbers don’t match exactly).  We want to eat above our BMR and below our Activity Level adjustment.  The confusion is that LoseIt! doesn’t display our current BMR, and that Fat2Fit’s calorie recommendations aren’t associated with our current BMR, but with our goal BMR.

So, lets get into the math.

Here’s my current LoseIt! goals:

Weight: 282
Weekly Plan: 1 lb/week
Calorie Goal: 2734 calories

To get my BMR I need to add back my weekly plan goals, and reverse LoseIt!’s Activity Level Adjustment.

2734 + 500 = 3234 / 1.45 = 2230 calories per day.

So my calorie goal is good, I’m above my BMR and below my Activity level of 3234.  So I should lose about 1/lb week if I hit those numbers.

If we look at Fat2Fit, we get a slightly different number (because they use a different mathematical formula to calculate BMR.  We plug in our numbers and they give us the following:

BMR: 2464 (see it’s a bit higher)

But then they give us a table with the following:

Activity Level Daily Calories
Sedentary 2591
Lightly Active 2969
Moderately Active 3346
Very Active 3724
Extremely Active 4102

First time I read that, and I was just as confused as anyone, because I didn’t read the fine print.

Based on how much activity you do on an average day, the calories in the right column will be the number of calories that you will be able to eat at your goal weight. If you start eating those calories right now (eating like the thinner you), you will eventually become that thinner person. As you get closer to your goal weight, your weight loss will start to slow down. It is OK to eat a few hundred calories less per day (200-300) to speed up your weight loss at this point.

So the numbers they’re giving us are a good range of numbers to eat.  But what should we make our LoseIt! calorie goal?

This is what I’ve determined. The Lightly Active Activity Level is what LoseIt! applies to everyone as a standard (and it’s fairly accurate in the tests they’ve done with volunteers).  So what I’ve decided to do is first set my Lose It! goal so that it comes close to the Lightly Active – Daily Calories goal (I’m actually under that by 200 which about the margin of error induced by the different equations).  Then I plan to eat my exercise calories (which would correct for the additional activity I add by my running training and bicycle commuting).

I’ve done this for the month of June, and my numbers end up right on goal.  So I’ll continue to track this and blog more as I continue fiddling with the controls.