Month: January 2022

Breaking News: I’m A Houseplant

Have you ever been out for a walk in a forest and see a tree with a weird bend and crazy lean angle? Most of the time that’s a tree desperately trying to reach the sun. Your houseplants will turn and orient themselves towards the light. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this… but I am basically a houseplant.

Much to my dermatologist’s dismay, I like the sun. If I didn’t like the mountains and skiing so much, I could see moving to a tropical environment. Shorts, flip-flops, and sitting with the warm sun in your face is just energizing. What I didn’t fully realize is that not only do I enjoy the sun, but I actually require it.

The start of this winter was a bit rough. Late fall turned gray and rainy. The trails turned to muck and there was a constant cloud cover. As fall turned over to winter, nothing changed except it got cold. Just as despair set in, we finally got snow. And then more snow. And some more. Oh, happy days, we were out of the mud season and ready to start winter fun!

I’m too lazy to go back and research the actual weather, but I suspect I’d find that virtually all of December saw no sun. Just gray clouds and snow. As we drifted to the first week of January, there was more snow. Wind and snow for days that prevented even going out and skiing. So, I was left sitting around twiddling my thumbs with limited outside opportunities. As each day wore on, I felt my motivation to do anything disappear. My mood turned south. Not exactly grumpy, but close. By the end of that week I had zero energy. I was literally out of breath climbing the stairs. Mrs Troutdog wondered if I’d caught the ‘omicron. I think I slept much of the day on Thursday. I can honestly say it was the worst feeling of malaise I’ve ever had. I didn’t understand why I felt so completely drained.

Friday morning dawned without a cloud in the sky. There was sun! Just seeing that out the windows put a little pep in my step. I grabbed the hound and went out for a long cross-country ski. At one point I think I stopped in a forest clearing, motionless, with my face turned up to the sun for at least ten minutes. I could feel my mood elevating every minute I was out there. By the time I got home I was happy and blasting ‘tunes at a ludicrous volume.

So there it is. While I always knew I got a little “down” when it’s gray out for an extended period, I’d never experienced it to this extent. I clearly suffer from some degree of S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It caught me a bit by surprise. I’m not sure if my need for sun is more pronounced now that I’m older, or this was simply the longest period of no sun I’ve seen?

Regardless, I am officially a houseplant. I crave the sun. I need it. Deprive me of it and I’ll wither and die. Mrs Troutdog helpfully suggested I get one of those U.V. lamps to sit under. That reminds me of those polar bear exhibits at the zoo with the white painted concrete. I’m pretty sure the bears know that isn’t really snow. I am not going to let myself turn into a sad zoo exhibit sitting under a U.V. box. No dammit, I need real sun. Outside.

Next year will be different, unless the global warming prophecies suddenly kick in and we experience the end of winter. Next year there will be several planned desert golf outings or tropical beach trips scheduled around the early winter period. Just enough to keep the batteries topped off and make to the late winter and bluebird ski days.

Like an alcoholic at an AA meeting – Hi, my name is Troutdog and I am a houseplant. I denied it for years, but I have a problem handling the overcast days. I need the sun to survive.

How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!

John Muir

Diet Secret Unlocked: Stay Busy

I should probably put this on my wildly successful, subscription substack – but because I like you guys, I’ll give you this tip for free. I don’t know why it didn’t dawn on me until recently, but I’m a little slow sometimes. Anyway, here goes. Are you ready? The secret to losing weight – stay busy. That’s it. It’s that simple. Let me explain…

I don’t have a problem working out. I don’t have a problem committing to a particular eating plan. I don’t have a problem tracking macros, calories, or a hundred other stats. What I do have a problem with is stringing those things together for more than a few days. The difference between the times I’ve been successful with weight loss and, ahem, now? Constant activity.

My last go-round with fitness happened when I was still working full-time. I was so crazy busy at work it was easy to fast all day (I ate one meal a day, when I got home). There simply wasn’t time to eat and no time to think about being hungry. So that was three days a week of at least a 1000 calorie deficit per day. (hospital work is three twelve-hour shifts) I was left with a compressed week to fit all my activities in. So even though I probably exceeded my calorie goal many of those remaining days, I was active enough to balance it out. And the weight melted off. About 30 pounds in four months. Activity fosters more activity. As I started losing weight it motivated me to work out even harder and watch my diet even closer. It’s a positive self-reinforcing cycle. Eight months later I came close to hitting my high school weight.

And then at the end of that summer, after summiting the highest peak in the lower 48, I “took a break”. It was only going to be for a short time. After all, I’d earned it. During that break period, I went part-time at work. Then the pandemic hit. Sloth set in and my activity level plummeted. Suddenly I had more time on my hands than I knew what to do with. I spent too many hours just surfing the web and watching non-stop YouTube. And what happens when you have idle hands? Grazing in the pantry and fridge every two hours.

Even though I’d “restart” the diet each morning with a vow to be strict… by 3pm I’d have already hit my calorie budget. Sitting around so much just made me tired and my motivation to be active simply faded more and more each day. This a negative self-reinforcing cycle. And the pounds came back with a vengeance.

With a new year, we’re here at reset #432. Two weeks in and doing good so far. Back in ketosis. No alcohol since the New Year. Winter finally gave us a ski season, so I’m back outside again. The scale is slowly moving in the right direction.

But I still have plenty of time on my hands. And I find myself standing in front of the fridge far too often. I’m not actually hungry. Keto is great for limiting choices and calories, and the daily blood checks keep me honest… but I can still blow my food budget by consuming 400 calories in nuts and stay in ketosis. Right now, I’m on that razor edge of continued success or falling off the wagon again.

Having time on your hands is dangerous in so many ways. It saps productivity. It’s a conduit for a ridiculous amount of screen-time. It’s a recipe for sloth. I’ve written before about wanting to find more purpose, to focus on my hobbies and actually get good at something, to make plans and follow through with them. All things worth focusing on. But more than anything – I need to keep myself occupied so I’m not thinking about food and finding myself standing in front of the refrigerator a dozen times a day. Oh, how I envy the apathetic eaters who simply don’t care about food.

So, the secret to losing weight? Keep yourself so busy you don’t have time to food graze. And the bonus reward is going to bed each night tired and fulfilled with a day full of productivity towards something. Its’ a win-win.

Of course, the other option is to completely empty out the pantry and fridge of all food. Restock them with only the EXACT number of calories allotted for each day. Heck, you could go so far as to partition all your shelves and label them Mon, Tues, Wed, etc… Trust me, I’ve thought about it.

While I’m getting desperate enough for that degree of obsessiveness, I’m not quite ready for that level of extreme. For now, it’s time to ramp up the daily activities to ludicrous levels. So, if you start seeing three posts a day about mountain biking to a lake to go ice fishing, followed by running the dog and then walking downtown to take photographs, and then evening workout sessions… just know it’s not my overachieving, Ritalin fueled personality – I’m desperately trying to distract myself from standing in front of the fridge.

Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.

Benjaman Franklin

The End Of A Blog?

Years ago (2007, 2008?) I stumbled upon a blog. I was heavily into cycling and my never-ending campaign to lose weight and get in shape. The blog was called FatCyclist. It was the first time I’d ever become invested in a total stranger’s life. He wrote about everything – weight loss, riding bikes, cancer, grief, funny stories, race reports, tech, etc… I’d find myself checking every day to see if there was a new post from fatty. He lost his wife to cancer and wrote extensively about the experience, his grieving, and starting up life again as a relatively young guy (30’s at that point I think).

The cancer experience led him to fundraising for causes he believed in and ultimately a minor association with Lance Armstrong and his Livestrong cancer foundation. This was the peak Lance period, so I was all-in. I gobbled up everything he wrote like an excited fan-boy. It was weird. I felt like I was part of a community. I read all the comments on each blog post and started recognizing the frequent commenters.

At one point he had a crazy idea for a fundraiser – a race that went nowhere. For some random reason he’d decided to ride a century (100 miles) on his stationary trainer and then blogged about it. That spawned the idea of the 100 Miles of Nowhere race. You’d sign up, ride 100 miles in the shortest space possible, submit a picture of your trip computer and get a box of prizes. The proceeds went to Livestrong and cancer research. A good cause and the resulting race reports were great reading. Of course, I had to do it. I did my 100 miles riding a mind-numbing quarter mile circle around my block, got my t-shirt and bragging rights. I can’t fathom what my neighbors must have thought watching me ride in circles for an entire day.

I can honestly say that his blog really inspired my early attempts at writing anything. I loved his style and ability to make the mundane aspects of life interesting. He managed to capture a large audience, writing about nothing more than random things like getting lost one day looking for a new bike trail. He was very self-deprecating and downplayed how good a cyclist he probably was for an average 9-5 working tech guy. It just resonated with me.

Eventually the posts started becoming less frequent. They evolved into long, multi-part, complicated race reports from the various events he’d compete in, which didn’t interest me as much. I stopped reading, other than the occasional check-in from time-to-time when I remembered about his blog. And then the posts dried up completely and I forgot all about him.

And then yesterday the FatCyclist sent out a tweet (I’d forgotten I even followed him on Twitter) saying that while it realistically had been done for a long time, he was officially ending the blog. He wrote a final post reminiscing about the experience, thanking everyone who’d helped him raise money for the various fundraisers, and so on. He’s moved on to podcasting. And then the final statement – …besides, blogging is dead.

Gasp! A blow to frustrated blog writers everywhere. He’s probably right. The world has moved on to the 140-character format, Tik Tok, YouTube, and podcasts. There are a few journalistic types who are having some success on substack, but other than that who reads blogs anymore? Especially some random stranger’s blog?

I think it’s time to evaluate my writing. For the most part I write for two main reasons. The first is that I think it’s important to be able to string words together in a semi-coherent way. It’s a perishable skill. The second is that it makes me think about things I watch/read/experience and then try to formulate that collection of random thoughts into something more structured. Forcing myself to try and articulate my thinking is a good thing. Also a perishable skill.

And let’s be honest, who doesn’t secretly want a large audience consuming your writing, photos, videos, tweets, podcasts, or whatever? As a creator, I think you’d be lying if you said you didn’t care. If you scroll back through my stuff, you can clearly see I’ve tried many different approaches. Dry humor, lists, purely political rants, thoughts of the day, running commentary on buying motorcycles… none of it has really resonated. For the most part, I don’t really care. I’m writing for myself more than anything. But when you post something you think is particularly witty and it gets zero views, a small part of you feels like… why do I bother? Yes, I recognize that if I actually wanted to build an “audience” I need to actively promote whatever I write and visit and engage with other blogs. To this point, that’s just not an effort I’ve been interested in committing to. At the moment the only people who read anything I write do so because they were looking for DYI plans on building kitchen spice racks, and some odd post I’d written two years ago came up in a WordPress search.

I need to wander off to the top of a mountain and meditate on this for a while. But my sense is that it’s time to end the blog in its current form. Maybe I’ll change my mind. I don’t think I’ll stop writing completely. I do enjoy it. I suspect it’s more a matter of finding a way to focus whatever writing I do so that it’s more productive.

Maybe I try my hand at a book or screenplay? Perhaps I should put the effort in to create actual opinion pieces and try to get something published somewhere? Or do I take the approach of becoming single topic focused and try to build an audience around that? As in, actually put the effort in to be an “expert” on something and to promote it.

But then again, why? I don’t need a career and I certainly don’t need another “hobby”. It may simply be time to put this out to pasture. We’ll see. Like I said, I need to do me ‘sum think’n on it. Maybe Fatty is right – blogs are dead?