Weight loss for geeks: 10 lbs in 6 weeks, woot! So in addition to having six doctor's appointments and two surgical tests between now and the middle of next month, just to add insult to injury I'm on a pretty stiff cholesterol-lowering and exercise-increasing diet thanks to some liver complications that mean (a) I can't take painkillers (which when you're having the internal surgeries to figure out exactly why you have so many bleeding problems every month is NOT an enjoyable experience) and (b) I can't take the standard cholesterol-lowering medications.
(By the way, if you can avoid it, I strongly recommend avoiding the "surgical explorations, liver problems, and no painkillers" method of getting oneself put on a medically supervised diet.)
What with Mom still getting over her surgery and going through chemo and the rest of the stress in my life, though, spending hours and hours every day calculating up exactly how many calories of what type I've eaten was just not on the agenda.
So I needed a complete no-brainer. Writing things down on scraps of paper didn't work because I lost the scraps of paper. Writing things down in Google Docs didn't work because it meant I could only eat when I had Internet access. Trying a combination of the two TOTALLY didn't work, because I forgot what I'd written where when.
What I needed, I told myself, was a portable abacus. I wanted something I could wear around and could use to count things with, and not have to remember what I'd had for breakfast or for lunch because the numbers would be right there looking at me. So... I made some counting bracelets.
The charm parts are on necklace clips so that I can move them around -- one charm's the target and the other's the counter. So I can set my target at 1400 calories (14 beads) or 15 grams of fat (15 beads) or whatever it is I want to count with that bracelet, and then the counter gets moved when I eat things. And then I don't put anything in my mouth unless I know how many calories of what it's got in it. (If something's got like 260 calories in it, I add an apple and round to 300/3 beads.)
The hilarious part is that I've essentially stopped cooking for myself and going to small independent restaurants, because microwave dinners and big-chain restaurant food have already done all the math, and I don't have time to spend an hour cooking followed by three hours of online research of every ingredient involved, integrating calculations by mass and by volume, dividing by portions, and so forth. (The hours of calculating version is what my dad does with his diabetes-management diet, but Dad is (a) retired and (b) not what I would call sane.)
So the counting bracelet keeps me honest, and I've learned a lot about the things that do and don't fit into 1400 calories a day (hint: chicken and fish are good, because they make you feel like you're not hungry a lot better than just about anything else that isn't oil or fat).
Then we get to part 2: exercise. I'm busy, stressed, and don't have either the time or the desire to pull yet more hours out of my day doing boring and repetitive things that I don't want to be doing and yet should be doing for the rest of my life.
Biking back and forth to work was great over the summer, but now it's dark way too early and I have no particular desire to die on the road in the interest of exercise that was supposed to have extended a life I don't plan to cut short due to being on the bad side of the mass/velocity equation that means the one on the bike always loses out to the one on the car. I live in a university town where several walkers and bikers die every year due either to drunk students hitting them or due to being a drunk student who walks out in front of something. So, no biking after dark.
What I want, I tell myself, is something that fits exercise into the stuff I'm already doing.
What I really want, I tell myself, is something that lets me work on my computer or watch the news or so forth while I'm exercising away. But it has to be small and portable because I have a tiny living room with a fireplace and three extremely inconveniently placed doors I can't block since they're the only way to get to the rest of the house. A proper full-scale exercise bike would mean I'd have to kick my sofa to the curb because there's no other wall it could go on. I have a little set of pedals to exercise with, but I can't exercise with my laptop on my lap while my knees are going up and down, and my TV tray is way too low, so I'm both knocking my laptop around and bruising my knees when I try it.
Enter the Geekcycle:
1) Already-existing chair (acquired for $5 at a rummage sale years ago) 2) Already-existing exercise cycle ($30) 3) A laptop cart with its support post off to the side and an adjustable height mechanism so I can push it high enough and tilt its top enough to not bang my knees while pedalling. The particular one I found was $35 at the local Wal-mart, which normally I avoid like the spawn of Satan, but the shipping fees would've been insane and none of our marginally-friendlier big-box stores had one with its support leg off to the side for less than $150, sigh.
(note the absence of cat on the cat stand in the background? That's because he's decided that whenever I'm pedalling away on my geekcycle, he needs lap time RIGHT THEN, and then stalks off in a huff if I keep pedalling even after he's jumped into my lap. ...Cats. XD)
Upshot: I've lost 10 lbs since the end of September between the counting-bracelet and a minimum of half an hour a day on the geekcycle. And a lot of the times when I get into the geekcycle, I look up and find three or four hours have gone by while I was pedalling-and-doing-everything-else.
It doesn't get me wheezing, it probably isn't doing anything for my aerobic capacity due to not getting me wheezing (I'm asthmatic so I have an odd relationship with aerobic-"improvement" exercises), but I don't care if it's not doing anything for my aerobic capacity as long as I can look the doctor in the eye and go "yes I spent 15 hours working out this week" and I didn't actually mind.
For me, the two big lessons I've learned that I'd never quite mastered before are:
1) My internal mental math isn't reliable enough; trying to sum up "200 calories from a bowl of cereal plus an apple plus a lunch bar -- or was that yesterday? -- leaves me with how much for dinner?" just doesn't work for me. I forget something I ate earlier, or forget which day I had what, and ended up thinking I had more leeway than I actually did. But the bracelet just works painlessly: it's always right there and never gets lost and never depends on network access.
2) I just don't like exercise for its own sake. Exercise to get me somewhere isn't so bad; it doesn't set off my "frustrated waste of time I could've been spending more enjoyably" triggers the way sports and DVDs and so forth do. But if it's not to get somewhere, I do best when exercise is something I can do in the background while occupying my brain with something else that I'm much more interested in. I almost feel guilty about the fact that I'm not miserable while I'm pedalling away on my bike, because for the rest of my life, between the asthma and the blood sugar crashes, exercise was pretty much defined as ritualized penance that you had to suffer with or you weren't doing it right.
With the geekcycle, I may not be doing it right enough, but I'm doing it, and it's something I can do with no interruption to the rest of my life, and it's awesome. :)