Monthly Archives: December 2007

More 191.6…

I posted my weight loss post late last night, and I realized that there are several things that I forgot to mention.

Inspirations – My program was inspired by The No S Diet, which I discovered a couple of years ago, and by Mark Forster’s adaptation thereof. The inspiration from No S is that I really like the idea of doing simple things to reduce your calorie consumption. But, the No S rules don’t really work for me. First, the no snack rule is a complete disaster for me. If I don’t eat a snack, particularly between lunch and dinner, then I am starving and gorge myself at dinner, which is not good for the program. So, a sensible snack is a must for me. The whole no sweets and except on weekends doesn’t quite work for me, either. While I’m willing to deny myself sweets in the service of the cause, I find that waiting a whole week to eat any sweets just leads me to eat more on the weekend. And, in general, giving myself complete free reign on the weekend, just because it’s the weekend, also leads to overindulgence.

The thing I like about Forster’s adaptation is the idea of tying your behavior to making progress. But, Forster sets things up so that the goal is to lose 1 lb per week. While this is a very sensible weight loss rate, it seems a little too prescriptive to me. I’d rather go at my body’s own pace, as long as we keep moving in the right direction.

Water – I have been drinking lots of water. While much has been made of the fact that “8 glasses of water a day” is a “myth,” I’m still of the opinion that it probably wasn’t bad advice. The evidence now suggests that most people don’t actually need that much to stay hydrated, but there is no evidence that this level of water consumption causes any harm. And I think flushing all that water through your system, taking various toxins with it, can’t be a bad thing. Also, water largely takes the place of soda for me now, and cutting soda out of my life was probably the best thing I could have done for this weight loss program.

Portion Size – This has been huge for me in terms of paying attention. The portion sizes that we are offered are insane. So, I’ve been trying to eat a sensible amount and then stop. I was in a habit of eating about 4 pieces of pizza — no matter how large the pizza. If it was a large pizza, I usually felt stuffed. So, the last time we got pizza, I stopped after 3. And much as I love Moe’s burritos, they are quite a substantial lunch. I think I’m going to try a taco instead and see if that satiates. And we get takeout Chinese from this place with insane portions. Next time, I’m going to put half in tupperware before I start eating and see if that is sufficient. Part of the secret here is being aware of the fact that there is a time delay (about 20 minutes, as I understand it) between eating and feeling satisfied. So, if I’m not sure if I’ve had enough, I try waiting a little while. Then, if I’m still hungry, I eat some more.

Exercise – I guess I should mention that exercise isn’t really a key component of this plan. Restarting my running regime is high on the agenda for the new year, but trying to lose weight by exercising it away is a pretty tough way to go. It’s quite a bit simpler to keep those calories out in the first place than to get rid of them later.

Anyway, all simple stuff, but it seems to be working for me so far.


So, I’ve started a weight loss program.  (I won’t call it a diet because it’s not a diet and I don’t believe in diets.)  I started a few weeks ago, though, so it can’t properly be called a New Year’s Resolution.  But that’s just as well, anyway, since everyone breaks those.

When I started this thing, I weighted 191.6 pounds, although I actually peaked above 192 a couple of days after starting.  I’d like to be around 170, which is what I was when I started college. (According to my BMI, even 170 is a hair above my “normal weight.” But the BMI has been widely criticized lately, and I’ve always been kindof big boned, even when I was skinny.) I’ve made half-hearted efforts to lose weight a few times, but it hasn’t amounted to much. I’ve been around 190 for the last couple of years, at least. But, I think I’ve devised a plan that might work for me, even though it isn’t much of a plan at all.

The plan, in short, is to weigh myself every morning and pay attention to what I eat.  If I’m at a new low then I declare success for the day — I can be a bit lax, if the occasion arises.  If not, though, then I need to be more careful about what I eat.  The longer I go without achieving a new low, the more tightly I’ll restrict my diet.  Note well, though, that I’m not imposing any specific rules about the restrictions that I will employ — just declaring that I will pay attention to my weight and to what I put in my mouth.

So far, this actually seems to be working.  I was down to 187.0 this morning, nearly 5 lbs off my starting point.  It’s the same weight as two days ago, so not a new low, but not bad considering that yesterday jumped back up to 188.0.  I tend to be a mindless eater, and just paying attention to what I eat has been a big help.  Frankly, a 24 hour virus in which I thoroughly emptied my stomach and then didn’t consume anything but ginger ale and one handful of pretzels for more than 24 hours didn’t hurt, either.

I am fully aware that (1) my scale is not as accurate as the digit after the decimal point would indicate and (2) under all circumstances my weight will fluctuate from day to day, anyway.  Those things don’t really matter, though, under this plan.  All that matters is establishing a long term downward trend.

In any case, most updates will appear in my Twitter feed (see sidebar) and not on the main site, but I wanted to say something about what I’m up to.

Hilton Family Reviews

So, an aside from a friend about getting hot chocolate chip cookies at a Doubletree got me thinking about my substantial Hilton Family experience. And I thought that I might be able to do a useful community service by quickly running down the major brands in the Hilton Family. So, hopefully this is useful to someone, somewhere.

I have never stayed at a Conrad Hotel or a Waldorf Astoria Collection property, which (not coincidentally) are at the very top end of the Hilton line. I also haven’t stayed at a Hilton Grand Vacations property (which are available for hotel stays, in addition to the whole crazy timeshare concept). But I’ve stayed in several incarnations of each of the other brands.

It started, actually, when we had a free subscription to Money Magazine. They had a mini-article once about the best travel reward cards, and they recommended the American Express Hilton HHonors card. At the time, we had a Citibank AAdvantage card, but we had just moved to Blacksburg, our second city in a row without American Airlines service at our primary airport. So, it was time to move on. (In a perfect world, I think American might be my preferred airline. But not serving the airports I use is a pesky detail.) Plus, the HHonors card had no annual fee. We got the card and started using it as our main credit card. Around the same time, we (almost coincidentally) noticed that the Hampton Inn chain seemed to be the sweet spot for us in terms of cost/comfort when traveling. When I suddenly realized a couple years ago that we had accumulated over a quarter million HHonors points, I decided that I wouldn’t stay anywhere other than a Hilton Family property (when reasonable, of course). And we started using those points for free stays. (I haven’t paid for a non-business stay in a hotel since, actually. We haven’t traveled that much or taken a real vacation, but still.)

Anyway, here they are in rough order of preference. I’m rating them basically on how comfortable they are for me as a traveler. Your milage may vary.

Homewood Suites (4.5 stars) – Even I’m quite surprised that this came out on top for me. But when I started shuffling things around, I realized that I have really enjoyed every one of my visits to Homewood Suites. Technically, they cater to people on longer stays, but all of my visits have been single nights. They have lots of free stuff, which is important to me, apparently. Free high speed internet, free breakfast, and even free dinner. (It’s a light dinner and only available on weeknights, but still! Free dinner!) We really like having a suite when Charlie comes along for the ride, too — the other alternatives are to go to bed at 8 p.m. or sit in the hall. My only complaint is that all of the Homewood Suites that I have stayed in have been a bit off the beaten path — in the suburbs or whatever — but I’m not sure if this is characteristic or just coincidence. I wouldn’t much care for that if I was in a city without a car, but so far my visits to Homewood have always been in smallish towns where a car was pretty much de rigueur, anyway.

Hilton Garden Inn (4 stars) – I have found myself at HGI quite a bit lately, it seems. Usually, their rates are pretty competitive, and they are often located in the thick of things. Like their older sibling the Hilton, they don’t offer much free by default. But as a Hilton HHonors Gold VIP I get free breakfast, which is nice. And the rooms are very comfortable and well apportioned for the reasonable price.

Hampton Inn (3.5 stars) – The Hampton Inn is still a favorite of mine — they have free internet and free breakfast, after all, and the lowest price in the Hilton Family. But the rooms are more basic than the HGI, and some of the Hampton Inns are starting to show their age. And while we haven’t had any real problems at Hampton Inn, I have seen some signs of less-than-stellar management at some of their rural locations. (In this sense, I’m sortof comparing apples and oranges here. In many places where I stay at Hampton Inn, it’s the only real choice!)

Embassy Suites (3.5 stars) – I have always found Embassy Suites extremely relaxing and comfortable. They seem to work very hard to create an open, laid back feeling in their hotels. Sometimes, they push it a little too hard, though, into the realm of the tragically hip. Like with live music in the atrium when I’m trying to sleep. (Really, is loud live music in the atrium of a hotel late into the night ever a good idea? Remember, your customers are paying for a place to sleep.) Oh, but don’t forget the free breakfast. I should mention that this is probably the Hilton Brand at which I have spent the least time, though, so perhaps my comments are off base.

Doubletree (3 stars) – I really want to like Doubletree. The hot cookies on check-in are definitely a nice touch. Otherwise, though, they tend towards the high-price with no perks category.

Hilton (2 stars) – My least favorite of the bunch is the plain old Hilton. It is also the most expensive (generally) and supposedly the best. My problem with it is the same as my problem with all hotels at this level: For the price, which is high, almost nothing is included. No internet, no breakfast, no nothing. I sometimes get free breakfast as an HHonors Gold VIP, but even those perks vary from hotel to hotel and are sometimes lame. (The VIP perks are standardized for most of the other brands.) And some of the hotels are really old and in desperate need of refurbishment. I’m looking at you, Hilton Washington, although the same could be said of many Hiltons in which I have stayed.

Cell Phone Woes

Our cell phones are dying.  The screen on Becky’s phone went kaput a few weeks ago.  You can still make and receive calls, but it’s not exactly a full featured experience.  And now my phone’s battery seems to be crapping out.  This is probably mostly my fault since I have become so inconsistent with charging it.  But still.  We have a year left on our contract with Verizon, and then we’re headed to AT&T so that I can get my iPhone fix.  But, at the current rate, we may be making the switch sooner, rather than later.

Shout Out to The Roanoke Times

I called on Friday to drop our Roanoke Times subscription from daily to Sunday only.  We’ve never really gotten that much out of getting the paper every day, although I have enjoyed it from time to time.  Since Charlie was born, though, we hardly even look at it.  And we’re left with nagging guilt every time we haul another stack of unread papers to the curb for recycling.  But we wanted to keep the Sunday paper for those occasional quiet afternoons — plus Becky usually grabs enough coupons to more than pay for our subscription.

In any case, I’ve been putting off and dreading this call for weeks, because companies have made canceling any service by telephone such a dreadful experience.  And my past experience with the Roanoke Times customer service department had been less than stellar.  But this time it was different.  Great, really.  I said, “I’d like to change my subscription to Sunday only.”  She said, “Sure.”  She took my account information and by Saturday morning there was no paper.  Just like that.  Maybe it’s because I called at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and she just wanted to go home.  But still, it was a pleasant surprise.

Unfortunately, their website still stinks.  Sigh.

Terrific John Gruber…

John Gruber’s Daring Fireball is my favorite Apple blog.  He provides excellent links and short commentary multiple times a day, with an occasional thoughtful longer piece.  Today, he dissects a piece of drivel about Apple which is masquerading as journalism as the cover story in the December issue of Fast Company.  If you read Gruber’s piece closely, I think it shines a clear light on the story lines the media is constantly parroting with regards to Apple.

Moreover, Gruber’s piece could be viewed as a broader commentary on the way our media treats every story.  It’s all about fitting each story into a narrative that has be collectively constructed over a period of months or years — with no regard for truth.