Sleep Deprivation, Health, Zombies, and B-Movies

“All persons who die during this crisis from whatever cause will come back to life to seek human victims, unless their bodies are first disposed of by cremation.” – Night of the Living Dead

test pattern

This is a test pattern, back from the days before Infomercials. Public Domain.

Sleep and I have always had a rough relationship.  As soon as I discovered Creepy Creature Feature movies on Saturday night (the movies STARTED at 11:30PM, after Star Trek reruns were over) I was hooked.  I was also in kindergarten, and it was the height of irresponsible behavior for my Grandparents to let me stay up that late, but as long as they could go to bed after Hee-Haw® and the weather forecast, they were happy.

On most Saturday nights when I was a wee Wilder, I would weasel my way to Grandma and Grandpa McWilder’s place because they were so fun to be with.  Grandma McWilder would cook me my favorite dinner, and give me money to buy comic books.  You’re thinking Archie® and Superman© and X-Men™, right?  Sure, I bought plenty of those.  But Grandma didn’t seem to care what a five-year-old bought, and the store didn’t seem to care, either.

To be clear, if I went to the store as a five-year-old and wanted to buy a carton of cigarettes they would have sold them to me.  I bought issues of National Lampoon in the 1970’s that had . . . NAKED WOMEN in them.  And you thought that all people were fully clothed all the time, before the Internet.  Not so.

They wouldn’t have sold me liquor, though.  That’s at least sixth grade.

So I bought:

Creepy and Eerie Magazines – the best in 1970’s black and white cartoon gore:

creepy cover

Nothing unusual here, just a woman holding a disembodied hand close to her chest.  Happens every day, most normal thing in the world.

Image owner likely Dark Horse, used under Fair Use (Criticism), but I’ll take it down if they ask.

And, even:

Off-brand magazines like Weird.  Which were not as good as Creepy, but made up for it with worse artwork:

weird magazine cover

No, that’s not “Wired” it’s “Weird.”  I’m pretty sure I had this issue, but sadly can’t remember a thing that went on in the comic – I’m sure there must be a reason purple-skull man and the werewolf are killing vampires.  Probably a zoning violation?

Image owner unknown and probably hiding, used under Fair Use (Criticism), but I’ll take it down if they ask.

Anyway, Grandma didn’t mind if I was up until 1:30 AM when the test pattern came on watching invisible atomic brain monsters (1958’s Fiend Without a Face) get shot and dissolve in a movie that five year old Johnny Wilder thought was really, really good (I give it five blankets over the head!).  But most of those movies were 1950’s B-movies that were so absurd that even my five-year-old brain could scoff at with ease.  Mostly, I’d just watch the giant spider fight the giant radiation enhanced cow and go to bed.

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Not a radiation enhanced cow. (Source, Wikimedia, fair use, criticism)

But then, one night they showed Night of the Living Dead.  Uncut.  Totally uncut, bare butts and all.  More importantly, all of the zombie human-eating was in the movie, too.  This was certainly the scariest movie I’d ever seen, and only one or two in the future would ever capture the utter dread that this movie brought, along with the calculation that Grandma’s house simply had TOO MANY WINDOWS to board up in the event of a Zombie apocalypse.  Plus, the entire concept was new to me – dead people craving human flesh and actually not going to McDonald’s drive-through, but hunting their own!

Night_of_the_Living_Dead_(1968)_theatrical_poster

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!  Zombies!

This one is, through an odd twist, likely Public Domain.  I’d certainly take it down if Mr. Romero asked me to.

It’s now 1:30AM.  Time to go to bed, but I don’t want to walk on the floor because it creaks.  That would certainly draw the zombies my direction.  I finally get up, and go to the spare bed that’s in Grandma’s bedroom where I normally sleep.

After watching zombies eat living humans my five-year-old brain processed certain facts:

  • Dead people might become zombies, and
  • Develop an insatiable desire to eat human flesh.

I then recalled:

  • Grandma was very old (like 70!), and
  • Old people died, and
  • She might become a zombie in the middle of the night, and
  • I was made of human flesh.

So, if you’ve ever had difficulty sleeping because you thought your wonderful, kindly Grandma might become a zombie and eat you while you were still alive, raise your hand.

Only me?

Anyhow, sleep and I have continued a dubious relationship, and during my life, whenever I could stay up late I certainly did.  But, when I was younger, I would never sleep more than eight or so hours at a stretch until going to wrestling camp in high school.  One of the other wrestlers would just sleep whenever he could.  This was a huge change of perspective for me:  I always avoided naps, and had since I was in head start, and would throw blocks at the other kids who were actually good and attempting to sleep like I was supposed to do.  Heck, even before they kicked me out of head start I knew that naps weren’t for closers.

So, I discovered naps.  What fun!  My sleep schedule became even more chaotic and drift even farther from normal, first a little, then finally my sophomore year of college I had no classes that started before noon.  But the work happened, 7AM start times, early morning sunlight.

The break of dawn.  Ewwww.

At times my sleep pattern has provided four hours of sleep a day during the week, followed by 12 hour weekend crashes.  And, I hear that’s not really good for me unless, that heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes are good things.  WebMD.com says that those things are really not good for me.  Web MD further states that it can lower my testosterone, make my skin wrinkle, make me gain weight, and (eek), make me die earlier.

That sounds negative, which makes me wonder how did Edison get by on a steady schedule of only four hours of sleep a night?  Well, apparently he did a lot of napping, which must not have counted.  But he really did get by on less sleep than 8 a night.  A lot less.  And a host of famous people have gotten by with less, even though WebMD says they’re all going to die next week.

I have been pushing it too much recently, though.  Since restarting the blog, I spend about nine to twelve hours a week on it, prepping, researching, writing, editing and publishing, and so far I’ve taken that time out of sleep, rather than other pursuits.

I’ve started graphing my sleep, and so far I’ve added about five hours a week back, during the weekdays, where I’d sometimes been getting less than four a night.

One thing I’ve noted when I go to bed early, is I wake up after that four hours, and sometimes have difficulty getting back to sleep – so I’ve begun taking a little melatonin prior to going to bed.  It’s literally a little, 1 milligram – The Mrs. takes about 10 milligrams, I think, and calls me a lightweight.

So, if you’re up too late and can’t sleep, here’s a copy of Fiend Without a Face, courtesy of YouTube – I hear a remake is coming, but you can enjoy the cheesy effects, especially about one hour and seven minutes into the movie . . .

Just make sure that you have a contingency plan in place to take care of Granny if she goes zombie on you . . .

Note:  JOHN WILDER IS NOT A DOCTOR.  Please don’t do anything unless you’ve talked it over with a large stable of professionals, like your actual doctor.

 

Will young blood keep me alive forever? or . . . Blood, Billionaires, and Mice

“Think about it. From vampirism to Catholicism, whether literally or symbolically, the reward for eating flesh is eternal life.” – The X Files

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The blood is fake, as is the snow . . . 

Blood.  There’s a lot of it coursing through The Boy’s veins . . .

Last August, I read an article that I found fascinating.  Eggheads performed a study in 2014 that showed when old mice were injected with the blood plasma from young mice that their ability to learn increased, and their memory increased as well.  I’m not sure if they gave the mice the verbal section of the SAT to test them (or, if they took expensive mouse SAT prep courses), but I’m pretty sure that they didn’t give the mice the essay section of the SAT, since all the mice would have had to write about would be how these giant humans keep sticking them with needles.  Oh, and the mice could write about Game of Thrones.  Mice love Game of Thrones.

It turns out that Peter Thiel, multi-billionaire tech investor, is very interested in the implications of those needle-shy mice.  Thiel has been aggressively working on life extension techniques and technology.  This makes sense, since if you’re a multi-billionaire, your checklist for must-haves includes:

  • Island Lair
  • Ownership of a Small South American Country
  • Asian Manservant
  • Low-Yield Nuclear Arsenal
  • Eternal Life

I kid.  Mr. Thiel appears to be six degrees of awesome:

  • He’s a multi-billionaire, but also
  • Chess Life Master
  • Co-Founder of Pay Pal
  • Bought 10% of Facebook for $500,000
  • Has a TV Character Based on Him

He also wants you to live forever, and is funding research to extend life for everybody.  This would change the math of retirement/Social Security, but would also allow people enough life to explore different professions, to change the dynamic of families by providing a coherent story that spanned hundreds of years, or to play endless video games and eat Nachos Bellgrande® forever.

Thiel looks to an optimistic future where people live and contribute to the fullest (though I suspect there’ll be a LOT of 800 year old stoners on basement couches).That where parabiosis comes in.

Parabiosis Etymology:

  • Para from Latin, meaning “Two,”
  • Bio from the Ancient Greek for “Story” and
  • Sis meaning “Sister,”
  • So, literally two stories about your sister – and they aren’t flattering.

Parabiosis as term initially described (and I am not making this up) experiments where two critters of the same species were surgically joined, especially their circulatory systems.  Besides being a bad B-movie plot, this practice was largely forgotten for over 70 years.  New experimenters, encouraged by Christopher Lee playing Dracula, picked the experiments up again.  Someone had the bright idea to stop stitching mice together, and just inject them.  The mice were very pleased, since now they could avoid the whole creepy “sewing two animals together thing” and just have their blood transferred back and forth via needle.  That takes all the fun out of it, but it did induce the mice to stop the strike.

Anyhow, the results showed that injecting old mice with “young” mouse blood plasma had the significant positive health impacts mentioned previously, making them “younger.”  Injecting young mice with “old” mouse plasma made them, in many measurable ways, “older” – they formed fewer brain cells, and tended to hike their pants up higher and reminisce about back in the day when they were baby mice.

Some studies have even been done with humans, and there appears to be significant benefits to us, as well.

Wow.

Given that it looks like the changes might be real, and might be long lasting, there is some pretty significant interest in parabiosis as a starter longevity treatment.

It’s not like we have a shortage of young people who have rich, sweet plasma that you could milk, er, drain, er, farm, er, whatever.  Is harvest politically correct?  And a fit 18 year old can generate 800ML (more than a wine bottle’s worth) of plasma a week safely.  Unlike kidneys, which have to be bought using blackmail or a cheap hotel room and a bathtub filled with ice, it’s totally legal in most places to BUY plasma from the donors – you don’t have to put on a cape or sneak into their room in the dark with fangs.  You can buy it for $40 or $50.

This treatment is totally not a standard FDA/AMA approved treatment.  There is, however, a completely legal way to get a treatment with the plasma, if you have $8,000.  Ambrosia LLC (LINK) is running a trial on the therapy, complete with an extensive (and expensive) panel of blood work to test the before condition and the after impacts of the therapy.  There are even rumors that several Silicon Valley tech titans have their own young and healthy donors on retainer (and, yes, this is legal – if you have $200,000 or so, you could probably wrangle this as well).

And, you might well ask – have you, John Wilder, considered doing this?  Certainly!  $8000 (plus travel to and from) is a bit pricey, and I thought of putting in a GoFundMe or Kickstarter for a “Blogger Looking For Blood” might even get me close to the asking price.  I could even make the argument it’s tax deductible, since I’m doing it for you, dear readers.

I even have my own prospective donor, The Boy, who is so healthy and strapping that he exudes wellness through his pores, along with sweat and teenage boy stink.

I wonder if there’s a BYOB (Bring Your Own Blood) discount?

Hot Tubs, Money and Health

“Oh, okay. So I guess you came here in a Hot Tub Time Machine, too.” – Hot Tub Time Machine 2

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A homemade cocoon for our first hot tub.  Notice the used insulation – true Alaska!

It was twenty years ago today . . . oh, wait, that’s Sergeant Pepper . . . in my case it was closer to nineteen years ago . . .

I had just been paid the biggest bonus that I’d ever gotten.  It had been a good year, and I managed a high profile project well – I’d saved the company several million dollars while bringing it in on time.  I had a great, supportive, guru boss (this is both good and bad) who had solid numbers to take to the higher-ups to support his case.  Awesome!

Also awesome was that, after taxes, the bonus could pay down approximately 1/3 of the credit card debt I had at that time.  I had been at the point in my life where I was trying to keep my head above water after a divorce, and credit cards had been a stop gap.  The Mrs. and I sat on the couch in the upstairs living room, as the Sun shined its last golden rays of the day into the room, providing a soft, mellow glow.  We argued about the merits of choosing to pay down the debt, versus other options.  We spent several hours discussing it.

So, The Mrs. and I sat, and made the momentous decision that . . . forget the debt, we’re getting a hot tub.

I know that this is probably not what your financial advisor would suggest you do, unless your financial planner was a twenty-eight year old with a short attention span who lived in his parent’s basement so he could save his money to buy even more weed.  It was a horrible, frivolous decision.  And it was one that I have never regretted.

Not only did we get a hot tub, we got the full-blown Sundance™ party hot tub – seats eight.  We even custom ordered it to match the same colors as our house.  When it arrived several weeks later we moved out of the house and into the tub.  I exaggerate.  We still went into the house for showers.

When we moved to Alaska, we took the hot tub with us.  I eventually encased it in an outer cocoon of plywood and insulation, so even when it was -55˚F outside, the tub didn’t freeze, and didn’t cause the meters at the power plant to spin at light speed.

Our house in Central Midwestia was a great place to hot tub, but if there’s a truly awesome place to hot tub, it’s Alaska.  The Mrs. and I would sit out in the tub for hours watching the aurora borealis write physics equations in the sky in particle, ions, and color.  The aurora would move and undulate, lasting (on a good night) hours as the rivers of light threaded through the sky.  We’ve had a hot tub at every house we’ve lived at, although we never used the one we had in Houston, since . . . it was Houston.

I think that buying that first hot tub was a good decision for two reasons:  we got out of debt, but we did it slowly, and with discipline.  That was good to teach us to live within our means and be frugal, unless I really, really needed those night-vision goggles.

But this isn’t a post about finance, that’s Wednesday’s topic.  Today’s is health . . . and, like apple cider vinegar, hot tubs appear to also be amazingly good for you under most circumstances:

Hot tubs appear to make the following things better:

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Aurora Viewing* (Offer Void Outside Alaska)
  • Stress (lowers it)
  • Sleep (makes it better)
  • Blood Pressure (lowers it)
  • Migraine Frequency and Intensity (lowers it – I’ve never had one – it’s working!)

I think the other nice thing is that nobody has a laptop or an iPad™ or a Palm Pilot© in the tub – we’re forced to spend time with . . . us.  And that’s good for overall family life.

On the flip side, people mentioned these negative health consequences:

  • Infections from unsanitary hot tubs (In my experience this would be hard to do.)
  • Birth defects (I’ll abstain when pregnant.)
  • Lower sperm count (No comments here.)
  • Heart issues (But, isn’t that every darn thing??)
  • Chlorine over-exposure (see below)

I have had personal experiences with the chlorine, especially early on nineteen years ago when learning how to chemically treat the tub.  At one point, my hot tub had nearly the same chlorine gas content as last seen during trench warfare in France.

Most recently The Mrs. bought a swimming-pool sized chlorinator for the hot tub because there might be 50 hot tubs within 20 miles, Wal-Mart doesn’t stock any hot-tub sized chlorinators.

This aircraft carrier sized chlorine-berg treats approximately 100 times the volume of water as the hot tub on its lowest setting.  The deceptive danger from this chlorinator is that as it sits and bobs in the tub, it’s releasing chlorine into the water, and not a whole lot comes out as gas, so the water doesn’t smell like chlorine.

I got into the tub for a bit after the chlorinator had been sitting in there for about 48 hours.  Pretty soon I felt like I was getting prickly heat (if you’ve never had it, it’s the feeling of pins and needles from when you go from cold to hot).  The way that you solve prickly heat is to . . . wait it out.  Seventeen minutes later, I determined it wasn’t prickly heat, but an actual chemical burn from the chlorine in the tub forming hydrochloric acid and eating my skin.  On the plus side?  I got a rad chemical peel of the type that New York women pay the big bucks for.

One website went as far as recommending no more than five minutes in a hot tub.  I regularly spend several hours in one, but not several hours at 104˚F.  More like 102˚F.  Meh.

So, a bad financial decision is sometimes a great life decision.  Maybe some Beatles in the tub tonight?

 

PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING YOU HOLD DEAR TALK TO SOMEONE SANE BEFORE FOLLOWING ANY ADVICE HERE.  Can’t you tell by the stories that I’m not to be trusted on certain topics?

Weight Loss Plateau, Exercise, Apple Cider Vinegar

“It gladdens me to know that Odin prepares for a feast.  Soon I shall be drinking ale from curved horns.  This hero that comes into Valhalla does not lament his death.  I shall not enter Odin’s hall with fear.  There I shall wait for my sons to join me.  And when they do, I will bask in their tales of triumph.  The Aesir will welcome me!  My death comes without apology! And I welcome the Valkyries to summon me home!” – Ragnar, Vikings

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Miley Cyrus after some bronzing and a bit of weight loss.

 

What’s the ugliest word in the English language to a person who is losing weight?

Plateau.

Plateau came from the French, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary (LINK), and first entered into the English language just a decade before when Napoleon was on his Russian Winter Vacation (hint: no land wars in Russia – Napoleon started with about 500,000 French troops on his joy ride to Moscow, and when he crossed back into France he was down to 27,000).

The first recorded use of plateau in the sense dieters dread (The stage at which no progress is apparent) was in 1897, the same year that John D. MacArthur, whose foundation gives out the MacArthur Genius Grant (HINT HINT!), was born.

Plateau comes from the Greek word “platys” which means “flat, wide, and broad.”  Wide and broad are the last adjectives a dieter wants to hear, since those are generally the adjectives that started the diet in the first place.  Taken together, “flat, wide, and broad” also describe my first girlfriend, but I digress.

Every time I’ve lost weight, I’ve ended up at a plateau (or two, or three) on my way down.  I don’t seem to have the plateau problem on the way up, or if I have, I’ve never managed to really notice it because the scale is covered in melted rocky-road ice cream dripping from my chin.  And, as plateaus go, this one isn’t horrible, I’m still pleased with the overall weight loss.  But it is a marked decrease when compared to the earlier rate, when pounds were dropping faster than Kathy Griffin supporters.

I credit some of the earlier losses to water.  One think I’ve noted about the Aktins/Primal lifestyle is that two days or so after I stop eating carbohydrates, my weight takes a significant bump downward, which I attribute either constant prayer to the Norse god Wåysfyärläëss (wears furs, has a wolf and a book containing the carbohydrate content of Norse cuisine) or, more than likely, a drop in pure water weight because I’m no longer digesting carbs.

The second place I lose water is working out, and they sure have noticed at the gym, since they’ve installed an intricate drainage system around the stair climber I normally use.  They also are building a vaguely ark-like think near the climber, and the staff runs for life preservers when I wring out my headband . . .

Emotionally, the early, big success helps you a lot.  It shows that your efforts really do pay off, that the sacrifice of time, sweat, and sweat chocolate ice cream is worth it.  But in the last few weeks I’ve lost the equivalent weight of clothing that Mylie Cyrus normally wears (like an ounce).  The change in Jupiter’s gravitational impact on me between night and day is more than that.

From XKCD, reminding me that little changes add up.

I’ve hit plateaus before, and used a variety of techniques to get through them, but hacking off limbs is painful and has a bit of an air of desperation about it.  I did some research, and there are some things I’ve started/going to try that I thought I’d share:

  1. Change Up My Cardio – I had been climbing more virtual stairs than the number of times that Stairway to Heaven was played in 1978, but at a constant, Clydesdale pace.

This week I’ve changed it up and am doing interval training, doing four minutes my Clydesdale pace, and one minute like a greyhound.  An old greyhound.  With hip problems.  But, this one change (four minutes medium and one fast, repeat 6+ times) has already increased my stair climbing number by 43% in terms of the number of floors climbed.  43%!  Now, I should be increasing my output and going up farther and faster, I weigh less, right?  But 43% is a lot.  And it feels good.

 

Verdict:  Yup.  This will help break the plateau, but the gym folks are now digging a sweat moat.

 

  1. More Sleep – Studies have shown that people who get less than six hours of sleep a night lose less weight on a diet than those who get eight hours of sleep.

I’ll never average more than 8 hours of sleep a night until I retire.  Never.  Work happens during the day, and my boss wants me there . . . in the morning.  Ugh.  My mind has different ideas, though, and I hit my creative peak in the evening.  I will put in an effort to get more sleep than the six hours I’m averaging now.  But life is really spelled T-I-M-E.  I just have all the time I want, even now.

True Wilder Story:

I went up to my friend, Madge, and said, “I’m so tired, I’m just wondering if something is wrong with me?”

Madge:  “What time did you go to bed?”

John Wilder:  “2AM.”

Madge then, after slugging me, patiently explained that sometimes tired is a symptom of “not sleeping enough,” whatever that is, and perhaps the ultimate cure was sleep.

Why sleep when there’s caffeine?  Silly Madge.

Verdict:  I’ll try, but . . . sleep is for the weak.

  1. Re-fanaticize About Calories – As time progresses, sometimes lifestyle changes start to slip a little backwards . . . I’m not talking about burying my face into a full box of donuts, but there is part of my mind that likes to pretend that Bud Light® and a single slice of pizza doesn’t have any carbs.

Verdict:  Back on it with a passion.

  1. Vitamin C – One website (one) that I reviewed thought that since vitamin C is an anti-oxidant that somehow it does something that might slow weight loss. It was boring, so I can’t remember.  Heck, maybe I slipped into a coma.

Verdict:  I’ll keep this one in my back pocket for now.  Maybe if the plateau doesn’t break in June . . .

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar – Wow. Not sure how I missed this one.  I could do an entire post about the supposed benefits of this stuff.  The websites mention that the apple cider vinegar should be unpasteurized, unfiltered, and unboxed.  Wait, the unboxed is a Sammy Hagar album.  I was a bit skeptical about the unboxed part, thinking it might come in a used one liter Miller beer bottle, but, no, Heinz sells the stuff, too, so it seems legit?  Some claims about Apple Cider Vinegar:
    1. Helps with upset stomach
    2. Cures hiccups
    3. Soothes a sore throat
    4. Kills cancer cells???? (everything does in a petri dish)
    5. In a 2006 study – Lowers Cholesterol
    6. Aids in weight loss by suppressing appetite and increasing metabolism
    7. Clears acne
    8. Controls blood sugar, especially in pre-diabetic patients
    9. Whitens teeth (SERIOUSLY – DON’T DO THIS! IT WILL DISSOLVE YOUR TEETH.)
    10. Prevents metabolizing starches (not all carbs, like sugars, but somehow slows down metabolizing of more complex carbs)

Verdict:  Wow.  E, F, H and J are amazing, if true.  D would be amazing, but sounds bogus to me.  I’ve started taking some of this morning and night and now kinda smell like a salad.  Doesn’t seem to be a downside except causing my teeth to turn into a crumbly calcium paste.  We’ll see?

I’m pretty sure that the weight loss dam will break in the next week or so, or else I’ll have to pull up the stone altar to Wåysfyärläëss that I put in the backyard and apologize to the neighbors about the wolf and the chanting and drinking of mead late into the night.

Wait, Mead doesn’t have calories, does it?

Nah.  On to Valhalla!

Okay, I’m reminding you again – I am NOT a medical doctor, though once the MacArthur Fellowship comes in I’m thinking of becoming a Podiatrist, because feet need love, too – SO DON’T CONSIDER THIS MEDICAL ADVICE OR DO ANYTHING WITHOUT DISCUSSING WITH YOUR OWN PHYSICIAN.

Diets Don’t Work, Systems Do

The goal is getting from Point A to Point B as creatively as possible, so, technically, they are doing parkour as long as Point A is “delusion” and Point B is “the hospital.” – The Office

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The view out of the back of Stately Wilder Manor. We’re horrible neighbors to those poor people. 

“Such as are your habitual thoughts, such will also be the character of our mind.” – Marcus Aurelius

I’ve been a person who has used goals as a motivator and scorecard all of my life, and then comes Dilbert creator Scott Adams to tell me I’m doing it all wrong.  Adams writes about systems, and how they’re preferable to goals, and I’ve written about him writing about systems before (LINK).

But, you’re thinking, “Friday is a day for Health topics, John Wilder, and you’re blathering on about systems versus goals.  Have you lost the plot, man?”

Well, no.  This week I read something that was pretty eye opening:

Most Diets Fail.

The data shows a stark wasteland:  somewhere between 65% and 95% of dieters regain all of their weight (and most get a bonus of an even higher weight rebound) within three years.  All of their weight.

Wow.

One researcher noted (LINK to Traci Mann) the reason that diets failed is because the entire biology of the person losing weight fights against them like a rabid Rottweiler tugging on a crate of Slim Jims®.  The body responds with things like a slower metabolism, and significantly higher hunger pangs, since after you start losing weight, your body starts fighting back with more signals that you’re starving, even as you are still 20 pounds more than you weighed in college.

And that makes sense.  Your body is made to survive.  All of the people who were losing chunks of body weight and thought, “Oh, this is fine,” died.  No kids.  And those most likely to live through a famine?  People who can slow their metabolism and get really focused on finding chow.

So, you’re hungry, and your metabolism slows.  You need willpower to fight, right, and you’ll win?

Seriously, do you think Oprah Winfrey, a self-made billionaire and likely one of the smartest 0.001% of Americans, is lacking in willpower?

No, she isn’t.

Further, the willpower of dieters is subject to distraction in ways that non-dieters can’t imagine.  Somebody brings donuts to work?  You don’t have to just resist them the first time someone says, “Hey, John Wilder, would you love a nearly perfect mixture of fats and sugars, covered in powdered sugar and filled with lemon pudding?”

YES I DO!

But I say no.

And when the donuts go onto the counter in the break room near the precious, precious coffee?  I have to sit and deal with their lemon-stares all day long.

To successfully resist, I have to say “no” the first time, and again, “no” every time the temptation is available.

(Once coping method I use to reduce desire for the wonderful thing that is donuts?  I imagine someone was picking their nose and then putting their sweaty fingers on all of the donuts.  Then they don’t look so pretty anymore.)

Again, unless I say “no” every single time that temptation raises its pretty donut face, I lose, but I also understand that, regardless of all of the physical facts associated with hormones, metabolism, and hunger, the person holding the fork is still . . . me.

Some dieters succeed.  Why?

We previously talked about change (LINK) the emotions that drive it, but changing a lifestyle is like changing a habit.

The successful dieters transition from diets being a goal, and making it a system or a value and no longer a goal.  Let’s say your goal is to weigh 120 pounds.  And you get there.  Now what?  Eat whatever you want?  That’s what caused the problem in the first place.

To win, you have to have a system.

And that’s why I hate cheat days.  I mean I hate them because they destroy entirely the results that I’m looking for in a diet.  It undermines the habit I’m creating by saying, “Hey, John Wilder, it’s cool if you want to put a gallon of pudding in your armpits, and eat another gallon.  It’s a cheat day.”

For me, a cheat meal on Saturday turned into a cheat meal plus a cheat lunch, plus a cheat lunch on Sunday, and, well, why not a cheat Sunday dinner.  It legitimized the concept that I could eat ANYTHING at that time and, well, another meal couldn’t hurt that much more, right?

No, a cheat meal is a planned failure for a system, because it idolizes the exact habits you’re trying to eradicate.  Moderation is not my fried, and, looking at the people who actually have lost and kept the weight off?  There’s nothing moderate about them.  They’re fanatical, and driven by the burning desire to change.

So they develop a system, or at least the winners do.  For the rest of us?  Pudding, anyone?

Good Work, Significance, and First Break All the Rules

“We’re put on this earth to do a job.  And each of us gets the time we get to do it.  And when this life is over and you stand in front of the Lord . . . well, you try tellin’ him it was all some Frenchman’s joke.” – Fargo (Series) 

DSC03481The Boy on his day job, attacking dragons, lions, and the French.  He’s pretty good with that, since we haven’t seen any of those around here recently.

Nothing has a greater influence on the well-being of a man than the work he does and how significant it is.  Studies have shown that doing good, significant work increases testosterone levels, decreases anxiety, decreases depression, and increases the likelihood of developing super powers, like fingernails that grow on command, or advanced control of nostril hair.  I’m just kidding – decreased anxiety, how ludicrous!

I know you’re thinking, “John Wilder, how can you make such an outrageous claim!” but I assure you, thousands of scientists have been working for decades just to prove me right.  Oh, and Gallup, Incorporated® did an actual study that proved exactly what I’m saying.

Their study came out in the book, First Break All The Rules.  You can buy it (and I do recommend this book) here .  (Full disclosure, at some point I might get around to monetizing these links, but as of the date of this posting, not yet.)

The authors, Buckingham and Coffman (like many business book authors) manage to pack a decent five pages worth of material into the current edition’s 368 pages.  Also, other folks (consultants) glom on to it with, I’m sure, tests, powerpoints, websites, charts, and four day training courses in Orlando in the off season, complete with a coffee bar and a buffet lunch with an added spousal event where the spouses go and tour Epcot, get to take a photo with Walt Disney’s frozen corpse, and drink mojitos all day long.

But back to the book . . .

The book is based on 1.5+ million hours of interviews with over 80,000 managers over the span of years.  Gallup then looked at which of these businesses were highly productive and profitable, and, rather than come up with a theory, just looked at what the data said about these high-performing organizations.  What came out of it were 12 questions that determined employee engagement.  Crazy idea – if employees are engaged at work, the place gets profitable?

What sort of sorcery is this?

Here are the 12 questions, and it’s important to note that they are in order.  The first question matters more than question 12.  I know that there are those of you who say all questions should be equal, and they are.  Some are just more equal than others.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work? This one is top of the list. 

I’ve had managers who give you a desk and say, go do it.  What is “it”?  Nope, the only thing you see is a contrail as they head away from your desk at nearly lightspeed.  Then you’re left guessing at what “it” is.  This turns work into an eternal game of “warmer”/”colder”, assuming that your boss even gives you that kind of feedback.

I’ve also had bosses who say – “go fix the thing – I don’t care what you do, just don’t break the law or spend more than $10,000,000.”  Those are actually really clear expectations.  I like bosses like that.  And they like me.

  1. Do I have the material and equipment to do my work right?

If you know that you’re in charge of the Canadian space program (Is it called CASA?) and they expect you to create a manned space expedition to Mars within ten years, eh, you certainly have clear expectations.  But if they only give you two dog teams, some moosehides, and the retired Mounties from Saskatchewan, well, you’re going to be as frustrated and conflicted as a vegan poodle in a butcher shop.

  1. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

 I can recall finishing a project (it took 45 straight 12 to 16 hour days) and watching as the last piece went into place.  What I did in those 45 days was what I do best – and it was wonderful, and I was in the zone.  I saved my company tens of millions of dollars.

But I’ve also been in the job where I was tasked with correctly folding up manufacturing drawings.  Yay!  More folding!  But, within two months I was doing research for the company (and, accidently recreated Soviet research into the perfect railroad tie).  It got better.

However, there are places where you’ll never get to do what you do best.  Imagine Seth Rogan teaching physics to high school students?  Yeah, that probably isn’t where he’d be best used, unless the class was really titled: “The Physics of Marijuana, Dude.”  At some point, if the company can’t use what you do best, you’ve gotta hit the rip cord and bail out of there (the preceding does not constitute parachuting advice nor parachute training).

These first three form a triad – they speak to having clear purpose, tools, talent and using them all to create value.  This is food for the soul of the deepest level.  If you have these three elements at work, you are happy at work, and generally also happy at home.

The other elements are also important, but decrease in importance as we go:

  1. In the last seven days, have I received praise or recognition for good work?

Most of us are people (technically The Boy isn’t, since he is an android sent from the future to destroy the popularity of Justin Beiber by bombarding Beiber’s brain with dank Twitter memes) and people like to have their good points brought up.  Funny, huh?

  1. Does my supervisor or someone at work care about me as a person?

Ditto.  I like to work with people that want me to keep breathing.  It’s nice when you walk in and have a cup of coffee with a coworker and they genuinely pretend to being interested in my boring life.  Your mileage may vary, but still not as important as doing important work well, though it can be a partial substitute if your employer is slowly eating your soul.

  1. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

I think that no matter our age, we all want to improve, do better, and want the advice of people we respect to help us grow, because those are people that can become our mentors.  Not Mentos™.  Mentors.  They are different things, though both can be minty.

  1. At work, do my opinions count?

I’m sorry – I wasn’t listening?  Did you say something?

  1. Does the mission or purpose of my company make me feel that my job is important?

Let’s pretend that all the questions above this are answered with YES!  In that case, you’re probably happy, unless your job requires you to grind kittens into Kitten Chow™.

That’s how it’s made, right?

  1. Are my coworkers committed to quality work?

If the people you work with do bad work, goof off, or are in some other way not contributing, I know you don’t like it, because if you’re reading this, you’re smarter and have great character and probably don’t need deodorant because your body gives off a faint scent of sandlewood whenever you sweat.  But if your coworkers are trolls from the reject pile that do work like poo flinging monkeys?  Yeah, takes a bit out of your pride of doing work.

On the plus side?  You’d think you’d get a good performance review, unless your boss is threatened by you and your genius and natural sandlewood smell.  Then you’ll get a review that says you don’t fling enough poo.

An aside at an appropriate place:  Pugsley just told me, “For a writer, you’re a pretty good typist.”  Thanks, pal.

  1. Do I have a best friend at work?

Not a killer if you don’t, but really nice if you do.  When you go home, explaining to your spouse the poo flinging monkeys that you have to deal with at work is like explaining to Albanian lawyers (who have offices in a strip mall) how a photocopier works.  Frustrating at best.  Amusing when the Albanian Strip Mall Lawyers go at the copier with pliers and some Allen wrenches left over from an Ikea© bookcase assembly.  (Spoiler alert: the NEVER ACTUALLY FIX it, but they go at it with gusto!)

Is it just me, or did anyone else ever assemble an Ikea bookcase and end up with a functional hovercraft?

Oops – big digression.  Having a friend at work makes you want to stay there.  Duh.

  1. In the last six months, has someone talked to me about my progress?

Getting toward the end (keep in mind, less important as we go down) – this is a variation on point 6 – the concept that humans want to be more effective and to have someone they respect tell them how well they’re doing.  Honestly, that’s what we want – someone to tell us how awesome we are.  It is a rare person who wants actual truth.

And, as a manager, after a long time doing it?  I gave ‘em both barrels in annual reviews.  Full on truth.  But HR was getting none of that truth – HR exists to justify why you fire employees and reduce their benefits to those of a typical Botswanan goatherd, so when you ding an employee on a review, they start circling like high school students around a dank meme.

Don’t give them that dank meme!  (Also, would someone please tell me what a dank meme is?)

Urban Dictionary says:

“Dank Memes” is an ironic expression used to mock online viral media and in-jokes that have exhausted their comedic value to the point of being trite or cliché. In this context, the word “dank,” originally coined as a term for high quality marijuana, is satirically used as a synonym for “cool.”

So, now you know.

  1. In the last year, have I had the opportunity to work and grow?

I have had that opportunity!  Most of the growth, unfortunately, was due to Pop Tarts©.  So, Pop Tarts™ were introduced in 1964.  Winston Churchill® died in 1965.  Coincidence?  No.  The carby goodness of Pop Tarts© was created to kill world leaders.  Avoid the trap!  Especially the strawberry ones.

As a set of questions for leaders to gauge the environment they create?  Priceless.  These 12 questions are wonderful in that respect.  Every leader should strive to create an environment where they get the most out of their employees, not only because it benefits the business, it also benefits the employee.

Whew.

I have at least two more topics that are directly related to this, and I’m over 1900 words on this post right now.

Okay.  I give up.

This is my first unanticipated two or more part post.  In the near future?  IQ and the workplace of the future.  Not that this will be an important topic to anyone.  Or, really, everyone.

Okay, really, it is everyone who will be impacted by this, we’re on to a trend that will determine all of future life for humans in Western civilization for at least the next 80 years.  But that’s too scary to think about right now.

So now?  I’m just going to make my fingernails grow like crazy!

 

You Can’t Cheat the Scale

“Dad, before you blame the dryer, have you ever considered stepping on the bathroom scale?” – Frasier

DSC04272

Pugsley, after a particularly bad binge a decade or so ago . . .

One of the things that I do to keep myself motivated while exercising is to watch Youtube videos about people who’ve done amazing things.  I do this while I climb endless stairs to nowhere at the gym while the sweat runs down me like money through a government agency.

Now, keep in mind, there’s a component of survivor bias associated with these videos.  I have yet to see a video put together by someone who said:

“I started this diet at 245 pounds, and finished at 260 pounds plus now Nutrasystem® owns my spleen and just sold it to a Chinese billionaire to pay for all of the food I ate – I’m an utter failure.  Oh, and my wife left me for Mickey Rourke.”

No, those videos don’t get made.  And is it just me that I think that Mickey Rourke might smell like dried leather and day-old potato salad?  Unrefrigerated potato salad.

So, I watch these videos.  At ten weeks in, sometimes motivation is about as high as a Baptist teetotaler on temperance Tuesday, especially after having climbed over nine vertical miles.  A quote from one of the videos struck me – it was Penn Jillette (I’ve talked about him earlier, here) talking about his weight loss.  And his comment wasn’t the point he was trying to make, it was just an aside:  “I don’t know how much I weighed.  No one weighs themselves at their heaviest.”  This really made me pay attention.  And think.  Wow.  That is a really profound truth.

Why is that so profound?

My theory is that our brains create reality distortion fields that allow us to ignore certain things, or mark them as insignificant.  Then it hit me.  I can ignore or get used to the way I might look in a mirror, but I cannot ignore the actual weight shown on the scale.  I can’t hide from it, I can’t explain it away.

The second data point was that Penn posted his weight to his friends as he, quite single mindedly, proceeded to lose the weight equivalent of a fifth grader.  Penn posts to his friends, I post to Batman.

I wrestled when I was in high school, and one of the rituals was weighing in.  To be able to compete, you have to be at or under the weight that you’re planning on wrestling at.  They weighed us in on a balance scale, like you used to see in the doctor’s office.  If the weights balanced, you passed.  One of the junior varsity wrestlers (I’ll call him “Steve,” because his name is “Steve”) was just barely over on the weight, as close as I’d ever seen.  One of the other wrestlers noticed that Steve was chewing gum (helps you spit, so you can lose weight that way, too).

“Hey, Steve, take out your gum.”  Steve took out his gum and stepped back on the scale.  With the gum still in his hand.

Some kind soul convinced Steve that perhaps the gum weighed just as much in his hand as in his mouth, and he threw it away . . . and made weight.

Numbers on a scale can’t be cheated.  They’re objective.  They’re real.  And saying “The extra weight is really muscle” only works if you’re Vin Diesel.  Or Chad Kerosene.

My weight is a fact, and as a fact, it’s the number one way to destroy the pretty little lies that my brain cooks up to tell me everything’s fine the way it is.  John Wilder’s Brain:  “You don’t want to be hungry.  You don’t want to work hard.  You like pie.”  Mostly true.  I rather enjoy working hard, but really do like pie.

Eliminating Variation

I’ve tried to pick a day and time to minimize fluctuations and also the opportunity for me to tell myself more lies.  In past weight loss iterations, I’ve picked the low weight of the week, and just recorded that in my spreadsheet, but now, I’m all about first thing Friday morning.

I’ve noticed the following things make my weight vary.  By vary, of course, I mean be higher:

  1. Carb Intake. I’ve noticed that the amount of carbohydrates that I eat impact how much I weigh.  I’m certain that ties back directly to the amount of water my body can get rid of if I’m not trying to digest carbohydrates.
  2. Work Outs. If I’ve not been able to work out, again, there’s a lot of water that remains in the system.
  3. Recent Food Intake.  Duh.
  4. Phase of the Moon. Sometimes you step up on the scale and . . . huh?  How did that happen?  This (for me) is a pleasant surprise about half the time.

And how are things going?  Pretty well.  I’ve (consciously) varied from diet and exercise during Spring Break (wooo, party!) and for Pugsley’s birthday party.  That really points out the impact of carbs on my system.  They have no real positive effect, and I find my energy, motivation, and even mood are better when I’ve been avoiding carbs.  As part of a systems approach (more on that soon!) carbs are something I’m leaving out.

Every Thursday, I have the folks at the gym take a picture.  I’m planning on having The Boy stitch them together to a time-lapse when I’m where I want to be.  As it is, the improvement is noticeable.  And it has to be.

I’m thinking that Mickey Rourke is sniffing around The Mrs.

But she’s sure to smell him first.