In Praise of OpenTable

Each Thursday, I have shared a web site that you that I find very useful, and this week is no exception.  Mrs. Spidey and I don’t eat out often, but when we do, more often than not we make reservations through OpenTable.

OpenTable has been around a while.  We first used it in 2006 on a trip to San Francisco to get a table at Sutro’s at Cliff House in Golden Gate Park.  For the average consumer, the application is very simple.  You choose your city, the time you want to eat, and the number of people joining you.  The site then shows you what restaurants are available at or near that time.  When it presents this list, it also give you a sense of how expensive each restaurant is and the type of cuisine that the restaurant serves.  When you find something you like,  you click on the specific time you want at the restaurant, and a reservation is confirmed.  It’s really that easy.

According to their website, OpenTable has over 14,000 restaurants in its database.  Its core business is restaurant management software, and it manages the reservations book for all or most of these 14,000 restaurants.  That’s why, when you make a reservation, it is instantly in the restaurant’s book.

Like similar sites, OpenTable also asks diners to rate their experience and provide comments.  The site includes more detail on the cuisine, menus, web site information, credit cards accepted, etc.  OpenTable also allows you to download your reservation into Outlook and send the invite to others.  It is a very robust site.  As an example, one restaurant not too far from us, but about 40 minutes outside downtown St. Louis, has 97 reviews.  Restaurants in larger cities will easily have hundreds of reviews.

OpenTable also allows you to make special requests.  At Sutro’s, for example, we requested a table by the windows overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Sure enough, the table was waiting when we got there, and we watched a beautiful sunset.

Tables by the Window at Sutro's Give You a Great View, Especially at Sunset

As a further incentive, OpenTable has a rewards program that nets users discounts of up to $100 based on points accumulated from making reservations.  If you are a restaurant goer and make reservations anyway, you might as well use OpenTable for the rewards.  Normally, reservations are worth 100 points, but OpenTable offers bonus points for specific restaurants or times.  Rewards start at 2,000 points (a $20  certificate), and sometimes there are 1,000 point bonus for a single reservation.

While we use the Web site, the most spectacular feature is the mobile accessibility of OpenTable.   It has applications for the Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Palm, and Nokia systems.  The big benefit is with GPS-enabled phones.  You can ask OpenTable to “find restaurants near you.”  That really narrows things down quickly.  I have an iPhone and have used the OpenTable application more than the web site itself.

Here are three true stories that have led me to be a big fan of OpenTable:

  1. One spring, we took the kids skiing in Park City.  As we waited for kids where the ski lifts converge mid-mountain (with a pitcher of Bud Light), Mrs. Spidey suggested the two of us go to dinner without the kids that night.  Sitting there, a gondola ride up the mountain from our hotel room, I pulled up the application, found a local restaurant called Chez Betty, showed Mrs. Spidey the menu and made reservations.  It took maybe five minutes to do all this.
  2. This summer, in Las Vegas, we were heading to the Palazzo to see Jersey Boys.  In the cab, Mrs. Spidey told me about, Dos Caminos, a Mexican restaurant she had seen in the Palazzo casino when she picked up the tickets earlier that day.  When the cab got to the Palazzo, I told the application to find restaurants near by.  The restaurant came up, and we made reservations to eat after the show as we passed by the restaurant heading to the theater.
  3. Just last weekend, we were deciding to go out, and we remembered a nearby restaurant that we had heard good things about but had never been to.  It was about 7:40pm or so.  I opened the application, told OpenTable to find restaurants nearby.  The restaurant we wanted, Villa Farotto, came up as available for 8:00pm.  I chose it, and we were off.  It ended up being a very good meal.

In short, I just don’t think you can beat OpenTable for volume of restaurants, for reviews, and, most importantly for ease of use.  Well done.

The Most Worthless Business Travel Article I’ve Read in a While

Here are a few phrases you won’t hear in our home:

  • Honey, next time we’re in Capri visiting our manufacturing plant can we get stay at that hotel where the bathrooms overlook the Faraglioni rocks?
  • Those circular soaking tubs at the Amanfayun Spa in Hangzhou, China were awesome, and I’m glad the client took us there.
  • Thank goodness they had clay tennis courts at my hotel in Marrakech, because cement courts would have been way too hot when Bob and I played between meetings.

This snarky intro is reflective of my reaction to an article in the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek.  The article, The Hotel Amenities Arms Race, describes amenities at various hotels across the globe with the kicker:  “Properties old and new are getting creative to lure business travelers.”

The Pool at the Qaryat Al Beri Hotel in Abu Dhabi

At first blush, it sounds interesting.  I have an international job, and I like to travel.  We love reading the articles, for example, in American Express’ Departures, even though we might never be able to go to some of those places.  But the article completely misses the mark by providing incredibly useless information about locations that don’t really attract their share of “business travelers.”

The article cites amenities in places which global travelers frequent, such as London, New York, Hong Kong, Sydney and Paris.  Sounds good.  But it also includes hotels in Hangzhou, Marrakech, Majorca, Capri, and Kathmandu.  These are certainly very interesting places, but are not prime business locations.

The article cites amenities such as the best points program (Starwood), business center (Park Hyatt Sydney), room service (Chambers Hotel, Manhattan), and gym (La Mamounia in Marrech) — things in which a business traveler is interested.  But, the “amenities” designed to “lure” the business traveler also include a spa, bathroom, wine list, sporting venue, and golf trip.  Just how is the Meydan Hotel in Dubai “luring” me there because it has a rooftop pool that allows me to swim and watch horse racing at the same time?

It’s possible people like Larry Ellison or Richard Branson would be “lured” to these places, but even they probably focus on business when they travel and certainly choose locations based on business, not based on amenities.

The Punta Tragara on Capri: Will Your Company Cover $2,300 per Night For This View?

The article, of course, doesn’t list prices.  No worries.  I looked a few of them up for you.  If you are like me, they exceed your company’s hotel expense policy maximums by quite a bit:

  • $2,300 per night at the Punta Tragara in Capri to get the same view shown at right.
  • $714 per night including breakfast at La Residencia on Majorca, where, according to the article, you can ride a donkey through a forest to have a picnic of homemade foods.
  • $580 per night for a basic room at the Amanfayun Resort in Hangzhou, where, apparently, the spa is to-die-for.
  • $510 per night for a basic room at the La Mamoudia in Marrakech.
  • $231 per night for a basic room at the Qaryat Al Beri in Abu Dabi, where you get a temperature-controlled, saltwater infinity pool (that’s the photo towards the top of this post).

So, in summary, thanks to Bloomberg Businessweek, I know about some intriguing amenities (that few have time for on business trips) at hotels (that my company won’t and shouldn’t pay for) in specific cities (many of which almost no one travels to for business).

Please don’t say “you’re welcome.”

The Hotel Amenities Arms Race

First Day of School – A Tale of Two Kids

Today is the first day of the 2010-2011 school year for my kids.  Back when I was their age, we didn’t start school until the Tuesday after Labor Day.  Then again, we didn’t get out until the middle of June.  My kids are normally done just before or just after Memorial Day.

Although both believe that summer vacation is entirely too short, my children took very different approaches as the first day of school neared.

One child got on Facebook to compare schedules with friends to see who is in which classes.  The other didn’t look at their schedule in detail until just yesterday and only grudgingly admitted knowing a few people who were in the same classes.

One child did extensive shopping with my wife to find the perfect backpack and the perfect school supplies.  The other was dragged to look for a backpack and then poked through a pile of school supplies on the kitchen counter before pronouncing that what was needed was there.

One child packed their backpack early yesterday evening without being asked to make sure they had everything ready to go.  The other child was prompted to pack their backpack after 10:00pm last night, gave us a blank stare, and then threw a few things in.

One child tried on multiple first-day-of-school outfits last night, asking both me and my wife which looked better, only to change to a different outfit this morning.  The other didn’t consider what to wear until they got out of the shower and then grabbed whatever was clean (or at least what looked clean to us).

One child popped out of bed this morning, got dressed early and waited for the bus.  The other got up on time but then lay down on the couch to get as much sleep as possible until the last possible minute they could leave for marching band practice.

One child is starting 7th grade.  The other is starting 10th grade.

One child is a girl, and the other child is a boy.

Both are excellent students and get good grades with many outside-of-school activities.  This stereotypical (yet true!) tale of two kids proves there is more than one way to get the same results.

Best wishes to parents and students for a successful school year.

Down 3 Pounds After 2 Weeks: Ahead of Pace, But Disappointing Nonetheless

The scale this morning read 194.4, which is three pounds less than I weighed two weeks ago.  Given my target pace of 1 pound per week, I’m actually ahead.  However, I’m not satisfied with my performance and need to do better.

I Should Have Eaten This - the KFC Grilled Chicken

I’ll chalk up last week as another ramp-up week.  I think I’ve got the exercise where it should be.  I exercised six out of seven days, including an extra long run yesterday afternoon.  Traditionally, when training for a marathon, you have one “long run” a week.  I want to try to keep this up for Sundays going forward.  With my weigh-in on Monday mornings, it will make a big difference.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have made my weigh-in on Monday mornings.  It’s tough to be good over the weekend.  When I lost 20 pounds at the beginning of 2009, my weigh-in day was Thursdays.  Since it’s easier to diet at work, Thursday weigh-ins were an advantage.  However, I’m not going to switch. I’ll take on the challenge.

The week was disappointing, because I made a few poor choices that could have pushed the weight loss lower:

  • I had a taco salad for lunch on Friday, because the salad bar at our company’s cafeteria didn’t look good.  Instead of the taco salad, I could have gotten a chicken breast from the grill or a turkey sandwich without cheese.  I also might have jumped in the car and drove 1 mile to the McDonald’s to get a salad.
  • I had a cheeseburger and nacho cheese Doritos for lunch at home Saturday afternoon.  Obviously, I might have avoided the cheese and the Doritos entirely.  However, up to that point in the day, I had eaten only a bowl of cereal.  I could afford the calories.  In retrospect, I should have poured some Doritos into a bowl and limited myself to that.  Instead, I ate right out of the bag.

    and Not This - KFC Original Recipe Chicken

  • Out for dinner on Saturday night with Mrs. Spidey, I ordered poorly.  I ordered a salad with a lot of cheese and some cheese tortellini.  I certainly could have ordered a salad with no cheese and dressing on the side and a healthier dish such as salmon.
  • At my in-laws Sunday afternoon to celebrate my father-in-laws birthday, I could have eaten grilled chicken instead of fried and should have begged off the cake.

The chicken decision on Sunday was particularly poor.  According to KFC’s own  nutritional information, A KFC original recipe chicken breast has 320 calories and 15 grams of fat.  A KFC grilled chicken breast has 210 calories and 8 grams of fat.  I am much happier eating fried chicken, but I could have made it through grilled chicken and filled up.  That’s just a no-brainer. I knew it, and I still made the wrong decision.

This week is a great example of how individual decisions can go a long way towards diet success.  I wrote about this earlier.

Onward and upward to week three.  Fingers crossed for good decisions.

$h*! The PGA Says

The disqualification of Dustin Johnson in the 2010 PGA Championship this evening is just ridiculous.  Just absurd and a darn shame.

I am sometimes golfer, and I understand the rules.  I understand how the rules were applied in this instance.  A player cannot (allow the club to touch the) ground in a sand trap.  If the player touches his club to the ground in a sand trap in any context, it is a two-shot penalty.

Does This Look Like a Sand Trap?

Spectators Standing Around the "Sand Trap"

Hmm. Aren't Bunkers Usually Raked?

My problem is the way this rule was applied this afternoon.  It was applied as black-and-white, with zero interpretation.  Mark Wilson, the gentleman from the PGA whom Peter Kostis of CBS interviewed, said, and I paraphrase, “We told all the players that there were a lot of bunkers out there that would be trampled and probably wouldn’t look like bunkers, but they are bunkers.  Dustin read the rules, and he should have known.”

Dustin Johnson really had no choice but to comply with the rules.  He said in an interview with David Feherty that he never once thought it was a bunker (and Feherty agreed).  And I don’t believe anyone watching did either.

There was no flexibility and no consideration of the reality of the situation.  That’s where I think the PGA is full of you-know-what.

Giving Johnson the two-shot penalty is similar to:

  • Giving someone a parking ticket when the “No Parking” sign is missing from the spot they parked.
  • Failing a student on a test for using a pen instead of a pencil, or vice versa, when it’s not a scantron, and the answers were legible.
  • Not allowing a high school player to play in a Friday night game when they did not meet the Friday school attendance requirement due to a family emergency.
  • Not giving someone a reduced sales price because they arrive an hour after the sale ended due to obvious weather conditions that limited driving.
  • Punishing a 14-year-old for driving, when it was the only option to get an injured person to the hospital.

The PGA should be embarrassed for its lack of flexibility.  “We warned you” is their answer.  I guess the county has warned me to watched out for No Parking zones, but it’s fair of me to expect those zones to be well marked.

Congrats to Martin Kaymer for his victory.  In the end, however, this tournament will be known for Johnson’s penalty and, I hope,  for a liberalization and newly applied flexibility of golf’s rules to square them up with reality.

Things About Work I Wish I Knew Earlier – Recap of Parts 1-6

I began this series of posts six Fridays ago, and each post that I have written has been part of a common theme:  Don’t put yourself on the radar at work.  Let others put you on the radar.

The essence of this idea is that your focus at work should be to get noticed for reasons that pertain to your career, not for any other reasons.  It is better to create no impression than to create a negative one.  This means that some things we have been taught to do or some behaviors that we may have picked up should be eliminated or never started.  I will have a few more thoughts along these lines later in the series, but this seems like a good place to pause.  To recap, parts #1 through #6 are:

#1 Don’t Complain or Make Waves
No doubt at your company or firm, it is common practice to complain about things that could be improved.  From my experience, that is relatively normal.  However, I wish I knew earlier to stay out of these conversations entirely.  You don’t want to be known as a complainer. Swallow your thoughts.  Tell your significant others or friends.  Just don’t talk about it in the office.  I’m not suggesting you be Pollyanna and talk about how wonderful things are.   I’m recommending that you keep all complaints to yourself.

#2 Don’t Talk Negatively About Anyone Behind Their Back
This is also extremely common.  Everyone talks about everyone else.  I recommend you avoid these conversations.  Don’t get sucked in to a session bashing your boss or anyone else.  You do not want to be known as someone who always talks about others when they aren’t around.  In fact, studies show that when you criticize someone, the quality about which you are being critical is reflected back on you.  If you say someone is a jerk, others think you are a jerk.  If you stay out of these conversations, this can’t happen.

#3 Don’t Ask Questions in Large Meetings
I think this piece of advice is easy to follow.  As I wrote in the post, the risks of asking questions far outweigh the benefits.  Let others take those risks.  Keep your arms folded at your seat.

#4 Don’t Offer Suggestions Unless You Are Asked
If you look at offering your help or suggestions proactively, there are only two reasons why:  the other person is doing something wrong or isn’t doing something all.  When you offer help or ideas, you are criticizing what they are doing, by definition.   People don’t like that.  I suggest you stay away and only help if asked.

#5 Volunteer, But Choose Wisely
Most volunteer opportunities are worthless and should be avoided.  When the boss asks for volunteers, it’s because she doesn’t care who does the specific activity.  Thus, the benefit of doing it is limited or zero.  In fact, there are risks if you do “it” wrong.

#6 Keep Your Mind on Your Own Job and Only Your Own Job
When you concern yourself with functions or actions outside your direct job and ask questions, you will be viewed suspiciously and considered to be butting in where you don’t belong.  It doesn’t matter what others are working on.  It only matters what you are working on.

In each of these six items, I’m recommending that you don’t do things to call attention to yourself, for I believe the risks outweigh the rewards.  It is better to have someone else call attention to you than to call attention to yourself.   It is much better when someone else puts you on the company radar than to put yourself on the company radar.

A few readers have understood my points but commented, “If I don’t put myself on the company radar, I won’t get on the company radar.”  What I think most of them are really saying is “If I don’t put myself on the company radar, I won’t get on the company radar as fast I want to be.”

We justify violating the above six recommendations because we add a time factor to the risk-reward equation.  For example, our thoughts might go something like this regarding point #3 above:

  1. I understand the risk of asking this question.
  2. However, no one knows me enough to even see what the quality of my work.
  3. While I know I’ll get on the radar eventually, if I ask a question, people will know who I am now.
  4. Because they know who I am, they’ll notice the quality of my work and other positive attributes.
  5. I’ll then move up faster.

As a result, the risk-reward equation flips.  Where as before, the risks today > rewards tomorrow, now the rewards today > risks today.  And, we stand up to ask a question and make, what I believe is a big career mistake.

In the next several posts, I’ll build on this and explain what I wish I knew earlier about the time frame for advancement and/or expansion of responsibilities.  Understanding this make it easier to follow parts #1 through #6.

In Praise of Seat Guru

Seat Guru is one of the most indispensable travel sites that I have seen, yet the premise is so simple.

Seat Guru has information about the seat configuration of all the planes for most airlines.  Whenever I make a travel reservation and am ready to get my seat assignment, I have Seat Guru open to the plane that I’m taking and look for the seats I want.

Seat Guru is owned by Trip Advisor, a site which certainly will get its own Thursday post at some point in the future.

You may think you don’t need Seat Guru because an aisle is an aisle, and a window is a window.  You may think you don’t need Seat Guru because the web site of your travel agency or airline already has a seat map.  You may think you don’t need Seat Guru because you are flying Southwest and can’t reserve a seat.

Seat Guru's Seat Map for the American Airlines 777

Wrong on all counts.  Seat Guru gives you information that really helps you make an informed seat decision, even if you are flying Southwest or any other airline that doesn’t provide pre-assigned seats.

The seats are colored yellow or red if there are potential problems from limited recline, to limited space under the seat, to a misaligned window and noise from the bathroom.  They are colored green if they are particularly nice for privacy or view or extra leg room.  Just by holding your mouse of the seat, you can learn what the plus or the minus is.

The seat maps also show where the galleys, bathrooms, and emergency exits are and where each cabin begins and ends.

The seat maps show the row number and letter number of each seat.  Airplanes routinely skip row numbers and skip letters in the seats from left to right.  I pulled up the seat map for an American Airlines 777 and added it to this post as a great example.  You will see that first class is rows 1-4, business class is rows 8-13, and coach is rows 20-44.  First class seats from left to right are A, D, G, J, and business class seats across are A, B, D, E, G, H, J.  You need the maps to know that in coach the aisles are C, D, G, and H, and to avoid E at all cost, as it is the middle of 5 seats.  You also need the maps to know that row 43 is the last row, has limited leg room and should be avoided.

Seat Guru also provides you other information about every airplane. Does it have a video or audio system?  Does it have electrical outlets at each seat, and do you need adapters to use the power?  How much does each seat recline?  How wide is each seat and what is the distance between rows (“the pitch”)?  If you are choosing between airlines and are looking for comfort, Seat Guru has a comparison table for each class of service, so you can see which seats are best.

As you peruse Seat Guru, you will learn that an aisle is definitely not an aisle.  Some aisles, such as the coach aisles on the American 777, have one person that would have to climb over you to get out.  Others on other planes have two.  When I’ve flown business class to Asia on a Continental 777, I make sure I get an aisle in the center of the plane, so no one has to climb over me when I’m sleeping.

You will learn that a window is not a window.  Some windows, in fact, have no window and are colored red on Seat Guru’s seat maps.

You will see that the seat maps on airline or travel agency web sites are not nearly as helpful, for they provide no extra commentary about the seats.

And, even you are flying Southwest, I recommend looking at the seat maps to know which seats are best and possibly make plans to go after specific rows.  For example, the maps show that seats in rows 1-3 are thinner have have less storage.  Row 10 doesn’t recline.  Seats 11D and 11E also don’t recline, but are two seats together in a row, and may seem nicer.    The exit row with extra space is row 11, but only on the right hand side as you walk back.  This is all information good to know before you board.

Bottom line is that this a great site.  Next time you travel, go to Seat Guru, enter your airline and flight number and make a good seat decision.

Hey! Steven Slater! Your 15 Minutes Are Up. Go Away!

By now most of you probably have read about Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who this past Monday, upon deciding he was fed up with his job, opened the door to the airplane he was on, pulled the emergency chute, slid down and drove away.  Oh – and he was arrested hours later at his home.  Oh – and he stopped on his way out of the plane to grab a beer.

Now, two days later, if you Google “Steven Slater,” you find an article on People.com and on TMZ.com.  The article at People.com is “in his own words” and says Slater has developed a “cult following.”  I guess this guy has made the big time, because TMZ has multiple articles and has a “separated at birth” comparison to the actor who played Gunther on Friends.  There is even a “Ballad of Steven Slater.” In one Twitter post I saw “Steven Slater” used as a verb, as in “I have to go all Steven Slater now.”  You’ve made it when your name becomes a verb, haven’t you?

Go Away! Please, Just Go Away!

Bobby – love the podcast since the very first one, love the blog, big supporter of flight attendants, but this post is just wrong.  Mr. Slater is really your hero?  We need to talk, and this is not a short conversation.

I have not celebrated this guy at all, and I wish he would just go away.  Each time I hear his name, a small amount of vomit appears in my mouth.

Here’s the thing.  Steven Slater is getting publicity for quitting his job, leaving his colleagues to pick up the pieces and, oh, – BREAKING THE LAW.  He is charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing.  And we are praising this guy and looking up to this guy?

There are probably very few people on the planet that can claim they’ve like their job every single day and have never considered just quitting on the spot and telling their boss off.  My guess is that many people do follow through, and many people did on Monday, just like Slater.  But, most people don’t, and most people that do don’t BREAK THE LAW, leave people stranded, and gleefully flee the scene.  As I see it, there’s no difference between this and a police officer or fireman or member of the military deserting their posts.  Would we celebrate any of them?  I think not.

I will offer a little sympathy to Slater, for I travel a lot and have seen absurdly rude passengers.  But, I’m not about to excuse him for what he did.  He chose his job.  He could have quit at any time and not endangered passengers and not BROKEN THE LAW.

So – now is the time for Steven Slater to slink back into his New Jersey home and just go away.  I don’t care, and I hope the American public quickly realizes that they shouldn’t care either.  (A New York Daily News poll suggests they recognize him for what he is.)

If Steven Slater is lucky, really lucky, he may become the answer to a trivia question some day.  In my eyes, that may be all he’s worth.

Welcome Home, Kids. See You Later.

Last Friday, my two kids came back from four weeks at sleep-away camp.  We picked them up around lunch time, went out for a quick bite at Moe’s, and then headed home.  It was probably around 2:00pm when we got back to the house.

By 2:30pm, the house was back to its pre-camp rhythms.  Both kids were on Facebook.  My son was simultaneously configuring iTunes to sync up his iPhone for the first time in a month.  Text messages were flying back and forth between them and their friends, and plans were being made for that evening.  Indeed, despite just a few hours sleep the night before, my son went out with his friends to see The Other Guys that night.

In reality, as other parents know, the Facebook and the texting started long before they got home.  My son received his iPhone back as the bus left camp to return to St. Louis and had been on Facebook ever since.  My daughter got her phone back at the bus, courtesy of my wife.  There had been little conversation with the kids during the ride from Moe’s to home, as their heads were buried in their phones.

Common Scene at Our House. But That's O.K.

(The only thing that seemed odd to me is that they were texting and communicating on Facebook with the very kids they were with the previous four weeks.  There are some things I won’t understand as a parent.)

Our family had quickly settled right back to where we were on July 11, the night before the kids left for camp.  It’s as if all was right back in place.  That meant that we had to say goodbye to our kids once again.

We say goodbye as they go off with their friends.  We say goodbye as their friends come over to our house, and they huddle in the basement playing video games (boys) or in the bathroom trying out make-up (girls).  We say goodbye as they head off to marching band practice, to ice hockey practice and to cheerleading practice, all of which have started before classes.  Next week, we will say goodbye as they head to school, and we head to work.

As parents, we want to say goodbye.  We know that being online, participating in activities and socializing are what being 12 and being 15 is about.  We know that family activities will happen more rarely as time goes on.  We know we need to plan those activities and family dinners well in advance.

So, as we move towards the start of another school year our kids are back, and they are gone.  Life is as it should be.

Observations After Losing 2.6 Pounds in Week One

I stuck to my guns this week and came through at 194.8 pounds this morning, down 2.6 pounds from a week ago.  Say what you want about losing water weight or about men losing weight faster than women.  I’ll take the loss.

I definitely viewed this week as a ramp up to future weeks.  As I got going on a diet that could last five months, I was reminded of a few things.

Logging what you eat does make a difference. I logged my food in Lose It only four days, choosing to skip the weekend and a vacation day.  I need to improve that.  I need to make the effort. When I did log, I was able to add a snack or two at the end of the day, knowing I had calories to spare.  Remember, Lose It calculates how much you need to lose based on your weight and weight loss goals.  In general, I leave about 50% of my calories for the evening.  Nutritionists will likely have a problem with that, but it works for me.

Repetition is important. Variety isn’t important to me.  Calories are.  As a result, I tend to eat the same things repeatedly from breakfast through lunch and an afternoon snack.  I’ve already calculated the calories in Lose It, which makes tracking easier.  I also really don’t mind eating the same thing, when I know calories are under control.

Taking exercise slow helps to create the habit. In my past, I have run four marathons, and a bunch of 1/2 marathons, 10K’s and 5K’s.  I know how to run.  As I start the diet, however, I want to make the exercise enjoyable.  Therefore, I’ve taken a step back, decreased speeds on the treadmill, and created a plan to increase speed over the course of the diet.  This has worked for me in the past.  This week, I exercised five of seven days, which isn’t terrible.  I want to get on a roll, where it’s seven of seven.  To do that, I’ll need to focus a bit more on Saturday and Sunday.  In reality, I’m more likely to get to six out of seven, giving myself one day off as a reward.

Losing one pound week is the only way to go. I generally made good decisions this week, but not always.  I have the luxury, if you will, of planning to lose only one pound a week.  That’s not that much, and it provides and opportunity for what some might call cheating.  Despite my knowledge of its unhealthy make-up, I ate popcorn at the movies.  I also had some Chinese food right after the popcorn.  The net for the week was good, but it could have been better.  I’m just not into so much self-denial.  One pound a week is plenty.

My theory of the diet hinging on a few decisions a day is correct. On a few occasions I made good choices that filled me up.  Today, in particular, I avoided the Caesar salad at lunch for a more healthy salad with oil & vinegar.  For dinner, despite being very hungry post-workout, I stuck to a six-inch sub at Subway, although I did treat myself to cheese with my turkey. Last night, I was able not to grab some Cool Ranch Doritos that were sitting on our kitchen counter, and I headed up to bed.  However, when Mrs. Spidey called me back to tell me something, I couldn’t resist.  Shame on me.

Your Choice: Eat This or Eat 11 Slices of Bacon - Same Fat Content.

One other thing I’ll mention.  On Saturday, I purchased one of those “Eat This, Not That” books.  I bought the Supermarket Survival Guide.  If you know how to read nutritional labels, you probably aren’t making some of the mistakes that the authors of the book point out.  The comparisons they make, however, show that many times there are better options.  In addition, when the compare foods that seem healthy to foods that you know aren’t, they really drive the point home.

I have eaten cereal 9 out of every 10 mornings since I was about 4.  Fortunately, I found that my cereal eating is generally good.  Honey Nut Cheerios is on the “Eat This” side.  On the “Not This” list are Life and Raisin Bran and, somewhat surprisingly, Multi-Bran Chex, which has as much sugar as a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  For that matter, a serving of Quaker Low Fat Granola with Raisins has more sugar than a pack of peanut M&M’s.  If you need sugar, eat Froot Loops or Apple Jacks before Cap’n Crunch or Lucky Charms.

I was also disappointed to learn that staples in our house like Reduced Fat Wheat Thins, Grey Poupon, David’s Sunflower Seeds, and Special K bars on the “Not This” side in their few groups.

I’ll leave you this week with some quick highlight comparisons from the book that will make you think twice:

  • 1 package of Twix has as much saturated fat as 11 strips of bacon!
  • 1/2 cups of Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice cream has as much fat as a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger!
  • 1 cup of Quaker Natural Granola, Oats, Honey & Raisins has the calorie equivalent of 8 chicken wings!