The Fully Transparent, Completely Public Diet. Please Watch.

After all the posts here about tools to use to diet, I’ve decided to take the plunge.  My daughter’s bat mitzvah is in early February, and I like to take some weight off to look good in the family photos.  Unfortunately, I’ve hovered around the same weight for the past few months and need to find something else to help.

The bat mitzvah is roughly 14 weeks away.  So, I’ve decided to lose 13 pounds in the next 13 weeks – to go from 193.2 to 180.2.  I’m going to use all the tools I’ve cited on this blog, and I’m going to make everything public.

  • I am exercising often and, when I run, I’m tweeting and Facebooking my results using the Nike+ GPS app on the iPhone 4.  If you want more info, you can register at NikeOnline and “friend” me there to see my results.

So – a fully transparent diet.  Please watch. (For folks that follow me @STLSpidey, note that I’m using a different Twitter account for this – @AndyMayer13.)

Tell me how you are doing on your program and what works for you through comments or twitter responses.  Offer advice to others who follow me, and I’ll retweet them out.

We’ll see how it goes.  Next stop is 192.2 by next Thursday.

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The Dog

Since I started this blog back in December, I haven’t written much about our dog.  Seems to me like a very glaring omission, no?  I mean, he is a member of our family.  Really.  Keep reading.

Our dog is named Lucky.  Actually, his name is Lucky Ace, because apparently dogs have to have two names when they are registered.

Our Dog Lucky

He’s a cockapoo, which means his mom is a cocker spaniel and his dad is a poodle.  He’s the color of a cocker spaniel, but three feet long and about a foot off the ground.  He had his tail removed as a puppy (common with cockapoos), so his butt shakes when he is happy.

When we decided to get a dog five years ago, I was the last holdout.  I really wasn’t sure that I wanted a smelly, drooly “thing” running around our house, chewing up things and creating havoc.  Now I can’t imagine being without him.  In fact, a lot is going on that I wouldn’t have imagined and some that may make you say “ewwwwww:”

  • We refer to ourselves as Lucky’s mom, dad, brother and sister.
  • Every year, Lucky is on our holiday cards.
  • Every year, each of us receives a birthday card from Lucky.  (Well, they aren’t really from Lucky.  Oh.  You figured that out.)
  • Every year, we celebrate Lucky’s birthday, sometimes with neighborhood dogs as guests.
  • Lucky is a licker.  He loves to lick our faces incessantly and will lick sweat as well after we work out.  (Yes – he licks that too.  Get your mind out of the gutter.)
  • Lucky sleeps at the end of our bed every night without fail.  No crate.

Lucky is awfully lazy.  He barks at the door, even when he knows who is there.  Lucky is sometimes too licky, not knowing when to stop, and sometimes he limits my space on the bed, by plopping himself down in the right/wrong spot.

Lucky is a mama’s boy, and follows Mrs. Spidey around when she’s home.  In fact, often he pays no attention to anyone until Mrs. Spidey comes home.

Lucky stands by my son’s chair at most meals, knowing that is the place from which food is most likely to fall.  He loves fish, eggs, and popcorn.

So now you know about the fifth member of the Spidey family.  I never thought I would admit that I have a dog as a  “son,” but here I am.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

192.8 Pounds; Readying for a Public Diet

This morning I weighed 192.8 pounds on my new scale.  More about the scale below.  I haven’t gained much over the past few weeks, which is good, considering I just spent a week in Beijing for what I hope is really, finally, my last trip.

Instead of maintaining weight, I’d like to be losing weight.  Starting this Thursday, I’m going to begin to force myself to do just that by going completely public.  I’ll be the most recent in a reasonably long line of people to do this, but, I figure, why not.  Come back here on Thursday to learn more.

Onto my new scale.

Last week, I took the plunge, and I purchased the Withings scale that I wrote about here on September 28. I’ll give Withings credit.  The scale was very easy to connect to my home wireless network.  I also downloaded the Withings applications for my iPhone and my iPad.  Now, when I step on the scale, my weight, lean mass and fat mass are instantly transported to the web and the two Apple devices for tracking.  The wow factor is huge.

To see what the graph looks like, click here.  I’d like to embed the graph on my blog, but, unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t yet support iframe embeds.

The Withings scale also allows for easy automatic tweeting of your weight and posting on Facebook.  I haven’t tweeted yet, but that’s in the plans.  Ian Ayres, the author of Carrots and Sticks does tweet his weight every day, so you can see what that looks like here – @ianweight.  I have installed the application on my Facebook page, but it doesn’t do much for me.  It isn’t just a simple posting, but is more like a game and a graph.  Honestly, it doesn’t really work well.  If it did, the concept (around Guessing Someone’s Weight) is actually pretty cool.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work.

That’s it for now.  192.8.  Just the start.  Time to go public.

Taking Stock of Life on My Birthday

A few years back, I called my Dad (who will be 69 in December) on his birthday.  I asked him if he was having a good day.  He responded, more philosophically than normal, “Any day that your feet hit the floor is a good day.”

Even though no one, no matter how old, ever wants to admit that their parents are right about anything, I’ll grant my Dad this one.  His thought helps to put the difficulties of everyday life into perspective.  Since then, I have responded with his answer when people ask me how my day is going.

As I turn 44 today, as I do on each birthday, I’m taking stock of my life as it stands today.  I passed my Dad’s hurdle at 4:45am this morning when I got out of bed to hit the treadmill.  That makes today a good day.

So – let’s start with positives:   Loving wife.  Two great kids.  Everyone is healthy.  Best dog ever.  A good job.  Money in the bank.  Saving for college (a ways to go!).  Saving for retirement (more than a ways to go!).  Awesome vacations and global travel.  A home theater to watch my Capitals, Yankees and Redskins (love that DirecTV!).

On the downside:  Way too much stress at work that has, from time to time, bled into our home.  Can’t stop biting my nails.  Need to lose 10 to 20 pounds.  Spend too much money than I would like, but can’t seem to stop.  House is 8 years old, and things are beginning to go.  Wish I could see my sisters and parents and nieces and nephews more often.  Wish I was more involved in some community activities.  Wish I could help my wife out more at home.  Wish I could cook like the men and women on Top Chef.

That was easy and leads to an easy conclusion:  I think I’ll take my life.  Doing this puts everything into clear perspective.  The little picture may be dire from time to time, but the big picture is fantastic.

I can only hope the next 56 years are just as good.  And by the way, 56 more years is just a minimum, not a maximum.

Back Down to 192.6. It’s Time to Begin Cooking

My weight has held steady over the past few weeks, which is good and bad.  It’s good, because I haven’t gained.  It’s bad, because I would like to see it decline.

My exercise has been very good.  I ran over 4 miles yesterday and am gradually increasing my speed.  I also downloaded the new Nike+ GPS application for my iPhone.  If you have an iPhone 4 and are a runner, I suggest you pay the $1.99 to get it.  The app measures speed and distance without the sensor you needed before.  With the exception of heart rate, it functions very similar to a Garmin “watch” I bought a few years back for $299.

As I’ve written before, my dieting challenges occur on the weekends and on weekday evenings.  I’m good from breakfast up to dinner on work days.  Perhaps the solution lies in preparing more food in advance?

As Mrs. Spidey can tell you, I’ve started watching a lot of cooking shows on TV:  Top Chef, Top Chef Just Desserts, The Next Iron Chef, Master Chef, and Hell’s Kitchen, just to name a few.  I know I can’t come close to these guys, but I’ve wondered whether I can cook beyond punching numbers on a microwave.

I trudged out to Border’s today and looked at cookbooks.  It was overwhelming.  (I smartly ate lunch just before going!)  I looked at Gordon Ramsey and at Rachel Ray and others.  While they made the processes simple, none of them listed out serving sizes or calories.  I ended up buying two cookbooks, including one from the American Heart Association, which listed out the serving sizes and nutritional values for each recipe.

So, I told Mrs. Spidey I was going to cook tonight.  And, as soon as I finish this post, I’m off to the kitchen.  I’m making Tex-Mex Mac ‘n’ Cheese, which is on page 113 of the American Heart Association’s book “Healthy Family Meals.”  I know it’s not gourmet, but I have to start somewhere.  (The other book I bought is the Cooking Light Complete Cookbook, although I didn’t get the one with the DVD.)

I will post next week to give an update as to how my cooking is going and whether my family is surviving.

Ian Ayres Hits Home with “Carrots and Sticks”

Back in July, I posted about the website Stickk.com.  Stickk.com uses the concept of commitment bonds to help people achieve goals.  Commitment bonds are an agreement to pay a fine if we don’t achieve a goal, such as weight loss or exercise or even walking the dog.  Commitment bonds rely on the premise of “loss aversion:”  people fill the sting of losses more than the elation of an identical gain.

I used Stickk.com in early 2009 to lose one pound a week for twenty weeks.  I agreed on Stickk.com to pay $75 to charity, if I didn’t stay on my pace of one pound per week.  Thus, for the 20 weeks timeframe, I put $1,500 at risk.  In the end, I achieved my weight loss goal and paid out only $75 over the course of the week.

After I lost the weight, I had an opportunity to talk with Ian Ayres, a professor at Yale Law School, and one of the founders of Stickk.com.  Now, 14 months later, my weight loss experience with Stickk.com is described in his new book Carrots and Sticks. The book is an expansion of his theories around commitments and how people make them and achieve them.

I’m proud to be an example of how commitment bonds can work.  But, as Ian describes in the book, making the commitment bond itself wasn’t enough for me.  I took the commitment one step further, and I told my parents, sisters, in-laws and co-workers about the commitment.  I invited all of them to register at Stickk.com and watch my weight loss.  Telling them was a lot harder than putting the $1,500 at risk.  Ian talks about this social aspect a bit in the book (see page 183), but I can’t underscore it enough.  Getting fined and getting embarrassed socially for missing a commitment is a powerful one-two combo.

My commitment actually took one step more than Ian documents in the book.  About three weeks into the diet, I presented on loss aversion and other aspects of behavioral economics at a meeting of my company’s top 120 executives.  During the Q&A session after the presentation, a colleague publicly “outed” me and my commitment in front of all these folks as an example.  In retrospect, I couldn’t have asked for a better incentive.

Ian writes in the book about how I was likely to gain back half the weight after a year, due to my unwillingness to enter into a “maintenance contract,” in which I would commit to keep my weight within a band or have to pay out a sum to charity.  After struggling to get through those last few pounds, I just had no energy to enter into a maintenance contract.  I remember telling Ian that I needed a few weeks off, that I was just too tired.  Ian accurately describes our conversation in the book.

Unfortunately, the good professor is correct on pages 105 and 106 of his book that I should have entered into that maintenance contract.  The 20th pound came off in May, 2009.  Now, in October, 2010, I have indeed gained back half the weight, exactly what Ian predicted.  And, you know what? I’m struggling to get the weight back off without making a commitment bond.

If I had a do-over, I would have entered into the maintenance contract.  I’ve gone from the shining example of how commitment bonds can be helpful to the example of how not using them can hurt.  Bummer.

I think that adding a commitment bond to weight loss goals is likely the answer for people who already have the social embarrassment, but still aren’t achieving their goals.  Many people use on-line communities, blogs, or support groups to help them.  I’ve written how Brian Stelter posts his eating diary and weight on Twitter with regularity and, just last week, about a scale that will tweet your weight every day.  Is publicity of your success or failure really enough incentive?  I’ve actually been posting about my diet once a week for nine weeks.  I wanted to lose one pound per week, but after nine weeks, I’m down only 4.4 pounds.

I’m glad that Stickk.com is a success, and I urge others to use it.  I wish Ian best wishes with his book.  It’s an honor to be cited in the book, for better and for worse.

With our daughter’s bat mitzvah coming up in early February, there could be another commitment bond on Stickk.com in my future.  I’m sure Ian would recommend it.

The Apprentice is Now Too Far from “Reality”

The Spidey family has always watched reality television competitions.  We watch American Idol, Amazing Race, Design Star, Top Chef, and Hell’s Kitchen.  So, when The Apprentice returned this season with a non-celebrity version, I jumped right back in.

I remember The Apprentice back when Bill, Kelly, Kendra and Randall won.  I remember when it moved to Los Angeles, and the losing teams each week had to sleep in tents, while the winners stayed in a cushy house.  As I recall, those seasons past were a business skills and leadership competition, like Top Chef being a cooking competition or Design Star being a decorating competition.  Just as we can watch Top Chef and learn a bit about cooking, I felt that Apprentice provided some interesting lessons about project management and about how to be successful as a member of a team.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the 2010 season.  This season, the Apprentice is incredibly unappealing.  The hour-long shows focus more on the backstabbing and intrigue between contestants than on the business tasks themselves.  Apprentice 2010 is now like Big Brother or Survivor, in which defeating other opponents by undermining and deceiving them is the way to go.  It seems like Mr. Trump isn’t looking to hire the most talented person, but instead the person who “outwits, outplays, and outlasts” the other competitors.

As James Speaks, David is Being "David:" Boorish, Loud, Arrogant and Insubordinate.

If I was learning from the Apprentice’s first three episodes this season, this is what I would do to get ahead:

  1. I would undermine by boss aggressively and openly, without remorse.
  2. Knowing others followed #1, I would never volunteer for any leadership position.
  3. I would focus first on moving my team members out of my path to the top and second on generating the business results we needed.
  4. To accomplish #3, I would be risk averse and would not speak up to our boss, even when others acted unprofessionally and unethically.
  5. If I was asked by our boss about others, I would follow the lead of my more aggressive colleagues and criticize they people they are criticizing.

As someone who has been in and out of corporate America and respects success stories, I am embarrassed that Trump is sending these messages.  I am incredulous that he allows contestants like Mahsa and David to continue on the show when he would never ever hire them in real life.  They are both rude and callous bullies that would have no role in most companies.  They would last less than a week where I work now, if even that long.

This is Mahsa. Please Leave. Please Get Fired. Please.

(While I’m writing about Mahsa, I think it’s fair to ask why she’s even on this show.  This season is billed as helping those who have been impacted by the economy.  She, however, according to her official bio, “works as an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn, New York, and is the host of two web shows on the side.”  It really doesn’t sound like she’s hurting.)

Mr. Trump, if you’re reading, I urge you to change course.  Focus more on the tasks and how results are achieved.  Make firing decisions based on what you know needs to be done, not based on what you are told makes good television.  Survivor does well when producers have no control over the voting.  You can choose who gets to stay and who goes.  I urge you to make better decisions.

Come back to “reality” please.