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Dallas, Texas, United States

Monday, May 25, 2020

Weight Loss

For the last couple of months, I have been at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions.  Now that the "shelter at home" orders have been lifted, I finally got out of the house a couple of days ago to visit relatives at the family farm.  Since I have been wearing nothing but athletic shorts and t-shirts recently, it was a pleasant surprise when I put on my jeans and discovered that they were loose.

Over the last two-and-a-half months, I have lost twenty-two pounds.  I now weigh less than I have in more than seven very busy years.  I will explain how this serendipity became the silver lining in my coronavirus cloud.

It started in mid-March when I suddenly found that I had some unexpected free time on my hands due in part to the beginning of the pandemic.  To reduce stress, I converted that into treadmill time.  I was then able to achieve my daily goal of ten thousand (10k) steps per day on a consistent basis.

Shortly thereafter, my employer announced a step challenge for April with a gift card as a reward for each employee who reached a specified threshold.  Half-way through the month, my employer also announced that a matching amount would also go to a charity chosen by the participating employee.  That month I averaged 25k steps per day with a peak of 40k.

I have had a treadmill desk called a TrekDesk for five years but before April I had never really tried to use it while working from home.  Mostly I would just use it to walk while watching movies or playing multiplayer video games with my sons.  Because of the informal competition of seeing the recorded progress of other employees on a shared online spreadsheet, I decided to step up my game.

I was able to figure out a treadmill speed that was just fast enough that the pedometer on my mobile phone would consistently record a step while also still slow enough that I could continue to use the mouse and keyboard effectively.  I think this was only possible because I am a touch typist.  Once I was able to get into the zone while writing code, the time would slip away without me even noticing that I was also exercising.

I do the treading in two to four sessions per day.  I will tread for a bit, eat a meal, do some sit-down work for an hour or so while I digest, and then get back on the treadmill and repeat.  On some days when I am really motivated I will do my first treadmill session before I eat breakfast.

I think I have been losing weight by doing this for two reasons.  The first is that when I reach a certain excessive number of steps per day, I am going to lose weight no matter how much I eat.  Previously I have been able to lose weight by carefully counting my daily calories but this way just seems so much easier.

The second reason is that I am doing less snacking between meals.  I do not want to put food in my stomach if I know I am going back on the treadmill for another session soon.  I also do not want to snack at night when I am eagerly looking forward to weighing myself in the morning to see my progress.

I think getting good sleep is also an important factor in losing weight.  My extra free time lets me get to bed earlier which then makes it more likely that I will exercise more the next day.  To complete the virtuous circle, exercising more during the day helps me to fall asleep earlier at night.

There are a couple of reasons while I have persisted in continuing to walk daily since the step challenge ended almost a month ago.  The first is that now it has become a habit and I actually start to feel somewhat uncomfortable when I have not used the treadmill for awhile.  This corresponds with what I have heard about regular exercise becoming physically addictive.

This feels like some kind of cool mind hack like choosing video games that are both addictive and educational.  I am looking forward to the day when the virtual reality technology that lets you run while playing first-person multiplayer shooters becomes affordable for home use.  I think at that point the world-wide obesity epidemic will come to a screeching halt for the young male demographic.

Speaking of which, the other reason I am still striving to increase my average daily step count is that I know that "diabesity" is a major co-morbidity factor for COVID-19.  A couple of decades ago I was in bed for a month with pneumonia in which I constantly felt like I could not breathe.  I might say that for me personally there is a tinge of panic to this shared pandemic experience that has me "running" scared.