Applied Nate Silver – fell off the wagon

Time to bore you again with statistics and graphs and my (seemingly) never-ended ordeal of weight loss. When I left you last time I predicted I’d hit 185 by 4Aug. Well, I’ve actually done better than that,


today. But that’s a bit of an illusion and not a true weight. So let’s use another graph to try to show what’s going on:


The red markers are my nice steady loss before going on my first vacation this year. I was really holding on calorie intake and grinding out calorie burn on exercise machines and thus had a very steady loss, over 25 weeks, of 2.18 lbs/week. Terrific, great success.

Then I had the first vacation and the huge spike up. But that spike was deceptive because I lost 15 of the 22lbs I gained in just a week. So I created the hypothesis that the weight gain was false and easy to recover. The second gain (the gap in the blue dots) was my vacation to Wyoming. Now there the gain was not so dramatic. Like my Natchez vacation I ate as I wished (a little restraint, but not much), but, unlike Natchez, I was getting lots of “real” exercise. So that blip up was not so extreme, nor as easy to reverse once I returned from vacation. But I slowly did grind down to new lows, as shown below:


And this is where I began to delude myself. Yes, the loss here is not as large as before the vacation, but it is relatively steady. I had started experimenting with the 5:2 diet as a potential long-term maintenance approach. But I’d also noticed that the daily volatility was significantly increasing. In short I was just beginning to binge and then starve rather than more steady and moderate intake every day.

So in the longer-term graph, week 37-41 you can see this effect. I’m bouncing all over the place. And in the space of less than 48 hours on a mini-vacation to Sioux Falls I managed to “gain” (not real) 8.2lbs. Since then I’ve had my most extreme swings day-to-day as this graph reveals:


The highlighted areas are where I just totally fell off the wagon and went on eating binges, often with little exercise. Two things are happening to me:

  1. This has been a long time on this weight loss plan and I’m sick of it and so it’s easier for me to fail, then I feel guilty the next day, then do the fast and sorta make up for the bad days
  2. I’m actually near my weight goal (180lbs) so being so near the end I tend to think, oh, just one last push and I’ll finally make it, so don’t worry about pigging out today.

These rationalizations have been toxic to me for two reasons:

  1. I was just bouncing up and down, not actually progressing to my final goal, esp. given all the statistical noise that I’ve discovered (which, btw, makes yet another bit of nutrition advice nonsense, and that is, don’t sweat daily changes, just weigh yourself once a week – fine advice if it weren’t for all the statistical noise which takes a little Nate Silver methodology to discover and so obviously too intelligent for nutrition “experts”)
  2. I was getting into a bad state of mind for maintenance, failing, but then using extreme measure (the 600 calories/day fasts) to get back on track (not downward, just undoing the bad day). The fasts got harder and harder to do and backsliding was getting easier and easier to do, so obviously not a steady-state.

So, fortunately I realized how much I was screwing up and regained my resolve, although thus far only briefly. I’ve now had three consecutive days of lowest level of calorie intake and high levels of exercise including a record day. And so I now have a new minimum and actually beat my prediction of the earlier post.

But what happens now? Can I hold it together? What new psychological torture will I go through?

The single biggest cause of my backsliding is some event, outside my control, that breaks my concentration. For instance, any kind of visit I crank up the grill and feed my guests and therefore me. One I go out with a crowd to a restaurant and in the presence of readily available food I can’t resist. Or like tomorrow, I have to go to a birthday party with lots of food available. Resisting food for me is simple – it cannot be available and then I don’t actually mind, that much, not eating. But when it’s readily available and the social construct is everyone else is eating, I simply don’t have the resolve to resist that. So, in short, I have to try to avoid those situations. Going to a party where everyone else is pigging out and having full restraint just isn’t possible for me.

So it’s like I’ve found with skipping breakfast, quite the opposite of what the nutrition nuts believe. They think skipping breakfast means you’ll snack and eat more through the day, probably true. But you really believe a tiny little 300 cal breakfast, even of their imagined wonder food, oatmeal, is going to prevent someone like me from getting hungry minutes after eating my five spoonfuls of breakfast. No, to my body, that’s just a teaser and I don’t wait hours or even minutes to eat something else, I chow down right away. OTOH, if I just say NO (as rightwingnuts believe) pretty soon my mind overrules my stomach and it realizes I’m determined not to give in and it gives up. I think about eating less the less I eat and the more I eat the more I think about eating more. It’s that first step that kills you.

And it’s the first bad day in the week that has been killing my recent weight loss.

Look again at the long-term graph (the first one). The regression line, with solid r^2, predicted I’d hit 180lbs in week 30. It’s now mid week 41 and I’m still at least two weeks (assuming I can maintain my discipline) away from that. So I’ve lost three months, basically, with this up-and-down nonsense. The only good thing I can say is that at least, after falling off the wagon, I got back on. But that bouncing up-and-down over short-term is just a forecast of how I will fail to keep this weight off long-term.

I’m not doing weight loss for vanity. I’m doing it because I don’t want to take drugs (with bad side-effects) for a condition I no longer believe in (i.e. diabetes, I literally do not believe it exists, as a disease, and this is not nonsense denialist stuff – there are issues with high glucose, but careful reading of the underlying biochemical mechanisms of metabolism plus recognizing some biases that are in the medical system it is clear this “disease” is mostly bogus. That said, however, blindness due to high plasma glucose is real and that is a nightmare scenario for me, so I’ll do what it takes to avoid that. And that gets back to drugs).

Reading about treatments for “diabetes” (a clinic test result, not an actual disease; it’s just like high cholesterol, which is merely a risk factor, not a disease in itself, just as prolonged hyperglycemia is just a risk fact, not a disease), I really don’t want these. All three biochemical mechanisms (types of drugs) have bad side effects and actually just treat the symptom, not the “disease” itself (which is really inflammation). I believe this kind decisively (in the abstract) as an intellectual “fact”. But what happens if my weight loss (as I have only 50-50 chance it will help) doesn’t work and a guy in a white coat tells me I have to take meds or face serious consequences. It’s one thing to debate an issue which it is intangible, it’s quite another when it applies to me! Do I trust my judgment or the medical establishment? Yes, I can see tons of flaws in what they say and do, but as flawed as they may be, my “expertise” is zilch, plus I have a sample size of one. If a doc is wrong some of the time a few patients die. If I am wrong, just once, I die. I don’t get the play the game of law of large numbers, I only get one roll of the dice. Thus it would be hard for me to decide to actually ignore medical advice.

But, OTOH, let’s say luck is with me and my HbA1c is now in normal range (a hugely ambiguous range, it’s amazing how lousy the objective data is in setting the range all the practitioners are told to follow). Now I am a prisoner of my weight loss. I bounce back in weight, like most people do, and I either go blind or die. Meds, ignoring the side-effects (which will kill me in the future, but probably about the time the Repugs kill me with poverty) at least work if you just keep taking them, easy. Staying at 180lbs – really, really hard.

This is why I’m so freaky about all this data collection and analysis – that is the tool I will have to use to maintain my discipline for a few more decades. It’s why I’m so hostile to the nutrition scolds – I need good, scientifically correct, and doable advice, not the nonsense they put out (no wonder people regain the weight they lose, they listen to these “nutrition” “experts” (aka opinionated ignorant idiots who, whether from good intentions or not, are charlatans).

This is a tough problem. And I want a good solution. What this last 13 weeks has demonstrated is even as determined as I’ve been, even as much as I’ve obsessed over statistics and graphs, it’s not enough. Once the pressure was off me (i.e. getting near my final goal) my urgency and intensity failed me. How do I survive the future with lifestyle changes that are so hard to maintain, yet for me, I must maintain in order to maintain active life or even any life.

Still trying to figure it out, so Nate, you’ll have to help me here (too bad you sold out to go to ESPN).


About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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