October 8, 2007
Software developers aren't typically known for their superior levels of physical fitness. I'm not overweight, exactly, but I don't think I'll be pursuing that dream career in male modelling anytime soon. I charitably call myself an indoor enthusiast.
At the risk of generalizing-- yes, I know you happen to be the exceptionally fit software engineer that proves the rule-- being tethered to the machines we love so much often leads to a sedentary lifestyle for programmers, and a high occupational correlation with obesity.
But it doesn't have to be that way. If we can whip computer software and hardware into shape, we should be amply equipped to whip the body's software and hardware into shape, too. Consider the advice of John Walker:
I'm an engineer by training, a computer programmer by avocation, and an businessman through lack of alternatives. From grade school in the 1950's until 1988 I was fat--anywhere from 30 to 80 pounds overweight. This is a diet book by somebody who spent most of his life fat.
The absurdity of my situation finally struck home in 1987. "Look," I said to myself, "you founded one of the five biggest software companies in the world, Autodesk. You wrote large pieces of AutoCAD, the world standard for computer aided design. You've made in excess of fifty million dollars without dropping dead, going crazy, or winding up in jail. You've succeeded at some pretty difficult things, and you can't control your flippin' weight?''
Through all the years of struggling with my weight, the fad diets, the tedious and depressing history most fat people share, I had never, even once, approached controlling my weight the way I'd work on any other problem: a malfunctioning circuit, a buggy program, an ineffective department in my company.
John compiled his advice into something he calls The Hacker's Diet. According to John, all we need is:
- An eye firmly fixed on the goal.
- Will power.
- A high tolerance for pain.
In other words, we are so totally screwed. Jeremy Zawodny used the Hacker's Diet as a template, and came up with this kinder, gentler set of diet advice that's a bit less intimidating:
If you're seriously thinking about trying to lose weight, give this a shot. It's one of the easiest non-fad and non-gimmick plans you'll run across, mostly because the "plan" is very simple and tangible. It's not quite "the simplest thing that could possibly work" but it sure comes close:
- Small changes have a major impact on weight loss because they're compounded over time. It's just like saving for retirement. The sooner you start doing just a little bit every day, the better off you'll be.
- Anyone can do this. Anyone.
- The process is self-reinforcing once you start to see real results. That means you need to commit to a month--a very difficult month. After that first month, though, it's easy. And the more weight you have to lose, the easier it is.
- During that first month, you'll be developing three new habits. Only one of them is likely to conflict with an existing habit. The other two will consume maybe 5 minutes of your daily routine.
Like any proper geek diet program, Jeremy's is powered by a spreadsheet. In the end, it's basic math -- calories in minus calories out. Since programmers are legendarily obsessive, tracking everything we eat is a natural fit for us.
But reducing calorie intake through diet is only half of the equation. The other half is increasing calorie burn by exercising, or at least staying moderately physically active. A contributor to OmniNerd wore a heart rate monitor and measured exactly how many calories he burned during typical daily activities:
- 100 calories burned per hour sitting in a chair "working"
- 5 calories burned riding an elevator up twenty-seven flights
- 100 calories burned per hour watching TV or surfing the Internet at home
- 750 calories burned for eight hours of sleeping
- 220 calories burned in twenty minutes walking 11/4 miles downhill to my bus (+50 calories burned "cooling")
- 60 calories burned walking one New York City block (west-east) (+10 calories "cooling")
- 25 calories burned walking up five flights of stairs (+35 calories burned "cooling")
- 315 calories burned walking 11/4 miles uphill from my bus (+75 calories burned "cooling")
- 150 calories burned walking a dog for twenty minutes (Note: It was a slow walk, the dog is very old.)
- 660 calories burned in forty minutes of weightlifting
- 900+ calories burned in fifty minutes on an elliptical trainer
It's a reasonable set of advice: eat less, exercise more. We may do it more analytically than the average joe, but it's nothing you haven't heard a dozen times before. The problem is getting off our collective butts to do it. It's difficult to get motivated, particularly when exercise almost by definition draws you away from your obsession.
But what if we could combine our computing obsession with exercise?
Now we're talking.
The geek-a-cycle may look vaguely ridiculous. Still, I've often wondered if there was some way to combine all that time I spend sifting through content on the internet with some kind of physical exercise, instead of passively sitting in a chair. It's an interesting concept.
Greg used a similar recumbent trainer arrangement to lose weight while playing the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft.
Greg calls this "Warbiking". It's a clever symbiosis of carrot and stick that really worked for him.
One of the bad parts of Warcraft is it can really suck you in - I tend to lose track of time and get pretty unaware of anything but the game. It's addictive as hell! One of the bad parts of doing Cardio is that it is very boring, so I tend to be very aware of how much I'm not enjoying it and how slow time seems to get. And I hate doing it!
Warbiking is the best of both worlds. I get to do 2+ hours of cardio without being aware that I'm really doing it. And as I can only play Warcraft while doing cardio (that's a self imposed rule - no cardio, no Warcraft), it's self regulating. No way am I going to play for 6 hours; my legs wouldn't do it. I did hit 4.5 hours one insane Sunday afternoon, but I won't be doing that again any time soon.
If you're more of a console gamer, there's the Gamercize. You insert the device between your controller and your console. The device monitors your physical activity, and will disconnect your controller if you fail to sustain a certain minimum level of physical activity.
The gamercize is appealing because it's universal. It works with any game, but it's not exactly interactive.
Perhaps the best example of a game that integrates physical activity with actual gameplay is Dance Dance Revolution.
DDR is one of the few games my wife enjoys playing with me. It's available on every platform under the sun, and even has a free open source PC equivalent in StepMania. The songs have a wide selection of skill levels, from ultra-klutz to ninja. If you can get past the natural aversion most people have to making themselves look ridiculous while doing something approximating dancing, it's really quite entertaining. And it's definitely a workout.
You might argue that none of this is really necessary. Wouldn't it be easier to drop all the diet spreadsheets and electric exercise contraptions and cultivate a traditional physical activity as a hobby? Say, something like soccer, or tennis, or cycling?
Sure. It would be easier-- if don't you mind losing all your geek street cred in the process.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
i'm a huge ddr fan. ddrmax2 for the playstation 2 even has an exercise mode that keeps track of your calories burned (others probably do too). it's unfortunate that guitar hero has surpassed ddr in popularity. now people will be getting less exercise and more hand and/or finger problems.
Wii fit anyone?
Of course there's always the option to walk or cycle to work. Apart from being good for you it's also good for the environment.
I also get health advice from a Johnnie Walker. I typically get his advice straight from the bottle. I find that it lessens the pain that I feel around the time of deadlines.
Just like anyone would, I wrote a program to track weight changes. Includes a trend line and moving average.
from the web site above...
I try to run at least once a week, and play basketball, but I'm also a leg-jiggler! I wonder how many calories *that* takes up..
Tom, no my comments were not aimed at you. I agree with you that walking is better than nothing and that some people should actually walk vs. run in order to keep from getting injuries or having a heart attack. It defeats the purpose to go running and then end up dying prematurely. ;)
My comment was aimed at the folks who were saying that "exercise doesn't burn many calories" which implies that it isn't as important as what you eat. They are obviously both important and a well rounded program includes eating right and getting a good amount of exercise.
I'm just cautioning against looking at some numbers on the Internet and jumping to the conclusion that exercise isn't that beneficial. As I pointed out, caloric usage statistics are always short sighted in that they only measure what is done in the lab. They never make someone walk around with a monitor all week to see what the long term benefits are because it just isn't practical. And thus, falacies like "walking burns just as many calories as running" are born.
But again, walking is obviously better than sitting on your butt. And if you find yourself looking at the option of not eating a 200 calorie candy bar vs. doing 20 minutes on the stair machine, don't pick one or the other. Do both! Skip the candy bar for the short term calorie savings and do the stair machine for the long term calorie savings.
One size does not fit all with exercise. I've always achieved more at the gym (without a training partner) rather than with team sports - perhaps that it symptomatic of being a programmer.
I work in a moderate size office that just had a massive building expansion and renovation. We expanded into what use to be some warehouse space that I guess some of the guys use to play basketball in over lunch (this is before I started). The company was cool enough to put in a half court gym with a nice hoop/basket, something you'd see in high school or college. I joined the crew when the renovation was complete and have been playing basketball over lunch for a few months now. Excellent exercise, plus it's a great way to break up the day. I'm slimmer built guy to begin with (6'5" 200 lbs) but even I have managed to trim a a few pounds and have had to tighten the belt a notch or two sense playing. Helps offset all the beer and drinks at happy hour I figure.
I was active in my younger years but I haven't been doing much the past few years. I forgot how much better my whole body feels just getting a good workout. It would be tough for me to leave this job just on the lunchtime basketball alone.
This is one of my bug bears too. Been chained to a desk with my PC for the past 15 years and suffered the consequences. Some great advice in this post, in particular the "only eat when you're hungry".
However, this fixation with calories will only end in tears. C'mon, the diet industry's been telling us for 20 years to watch our calories and it ain't done any good - on the contrary.
I'm gonna be controversial and humbly suggest that it's not the quantity of food that's the issue. It's the quality. If you just eat less processed food instead of more, sorry but the outcome will merely be the same.
I could carry on ad nauseum, but this is a tedious subject. If you wanna find out more, see:
The first month is the hardest - commit to a month is good advice. There is no quick fix for fitness and weight loss, well none that will last.
You can use scales to keep track of your weight, but don't jump on them every day! Fitness is not a case of jumping on a device though.
I good way to measure fitness is to go mountain biking. Head out and come back when you've had enough. See how long you were out for, as you get fitter you'll be out longer and ride further. After that one month the 20 min round the block can soon turn into 3 hours exploring.
Nice article. Though I am not overweight but I still find exercising very helpful.
Exercising in the open makes me realize that there 'does' exist a real world and that I am not an automaton ;-)
Over the past year, I've watched a friend move from being solidly in the "fat" category to being thin enough that I've heard people describe him as "slightly built". It's been inspirational, and he's done it entirely by eating less and spending several hours a week walking.
There's obviously no one size fits all solution to weight loss, but I heartily encourage anyone trying to lose weight to consider walking. It's easy, mostly painless, requires no equipment or membership fees, and can work wonders. If you take podcasts or the like with you, it isn't even all that boring.
Here's a suggestion. Join the army for a year or two. Quaranteed to make you a better programmer and quaranteed to improve your physical appearance for the rest of your lives.
Jazz, I've never heard of a corpse writing good code (or looking good), but maybe your standards are lower than mine. Some of us also have ethical objections to things our armies do (the NZ army is slightly better than many but still not something I'd want to be associated with).
My technique is just to live at least 15 minutes bike ride from work, and ride to work whenever I can. But since I just had a vasectomy and I'm off my bike for a month as a result... let the fatness begin.
The Nintendo Wii is a good option. There's the Wii Fit which someone has mentioned already and Wii Boxing gets your heart-rate pumping (in fact most of the Wii Sports can get your heart beat up).
I'm sure you've all seen this too :-
Ok, maybe I am the exception but I work in a company full of the exception. We're a reasonably sized company for New Zealand being about 160 people, with roughly 90-100 of those in my office. We have 2 indoor football (soccer) teams , 2 touch rugby teams, a dragon boating team, many keen cyclists. I'd say that the rate of the overweght is less that 10% here, and it is much lower amongst the developers too.
I'm of the opinion that exercise should be fun, sure if you're not into sports then get into that recumbent cycle and play your war-crack. I'm a firm believer that workmates that play together, in _any_ way, will work together better. Heck we even have a group that play BF2 together!
I fell victim to the sedentary job + dropping metabolism due to age + good food trap and put on 30kg (~66lb) in an old job. I've since shed over 2/3 of that simply by playing sports again! I've not modified my diet as yet, but will be doing so to help shift the last of the excess.
Small changes in diet can also make a bit change too. Skimmed or Semi over full fat milk, small chocolate bars instead of 'king size', and so on.
Martial arts! Great fun, really helps to burn stress and calories, and greatly helps your concentration levels which feeds into your programming life.
I'd like to recommend the cycling option too, and there's no reason to lose your geek street cred as cycling, like all sports, has plenty of detail and stats for you to obsess over and geek out on.
From things like the geometry and gear ratios of your bike (I'm a singlespeed rider so spent plenty of time calculating the gear ratio to use on my recent a href="http://www.vurt.co.uk/2007/06/24/new_bike/"project bike/a), to distance, heart rate and cycle times it's a whole world of geekiness.
Heck, stick a gps unit and cycle computer on your bike and then every journey becomes an exercise in geekiness. Soon you'll be obsessing over the best route to work for given times of the day and weather...
While cycling to work and back I also try to better my previous best times or push harder on an uphill than before. A stopwatch and speedo works great for keeping track of times.
@Ian W: Thanks for the good link!
I discovered the Hacker's Diet just over a year ago, but it was really filled with things that I already knew. The key that turned me around were the "exercise doesn't burn many calories" numbers.
Short-term, I think that Walker's diet is an easy way to lose weight and a less wordy version could be made to work for nearly anyone. I'm down with your "eat good foods idea" and I can attest to the fact that carbs calories != protein calories.
However, I think that it's really important to classify "good foods" and I think that we have a limited capacity for that right now. Obviously, fresh is better, but what do we really know beyond that? People need very different intakes based on both lifestyle and genetics and we don't seem to have very good records in terms of the genetic influences (other than "family history"). What's more, I'm not yet convinced that DNA is "locked for life", so I think we're trying to hit a moving target.
So, to get back to the start, it's just finer granularity: eat less food, eat less food and less carbs, eat less food of higher quality... But the underneath it all, we're missing a lot of information about how the body processes food/nutrients. Your article is great, but it's just scratching the surface of the unknown :)
this is a pretty sappy blog entry. amazing how many people shared their "tips". since geeks are on the web all the time, they should know all this stuff, right?
In general the more physically fit and active you are the better computer programmer you will be...
'lights blue touch paper and steps back...'
My wife and I have been using a free program for about a year with success
The site allows you to track all of the calories in / out etc, with a lot of good advice and support
@Dave Green: Well yeah sure, if you are a naturally athletic and limber person to start with.
I'm not so sure I like the idea of pedalling on a mill while programming or designing. I mean, what kind of heart rate is optimal for weight loss, compared to concentration? Focus, flow, anyone?
Everyone has their own internal rhythm and balance of diet, types of exercise and sleep that suits them best.
Possibly the best thing I have learned from reading this blog is that I should care more about the posture of the 'effn chair that I'm sitting on than any programming language decision or abstract beautiful code like effects.
To lose weight:
1) Realize that it's not a diet -- it's a permanent lifestyle.
2) Portion control is the key -- what we think of as meal-sized is actually a day's-worth of food. Really. A couple of years ago, I added up the numbers for a meal at a restaurant (knowing it was big) and found out it was actually TWO days' worth of food. Recently, I was splurging on a salad at another restaurant. After a couple of visits, I added up the numbers and found that it was 2/3 of a day's worth of food.
3) Buy a food scale and weigh EVERY darn thing you eat or drink. When you make things from scratch, weigh every ingredient. Awareness of how much you're eating is key. Don't guess (see above).
4) Unless you enjoy a certain sport and have the time, just go for a 20-minute walk every day for exercise. Otherwise, you'll pre-empt it with something else and won't get any exercise at all.
Over the last (almost) four years, I've lost 61 pounds. I haven't seen this weight since my college days. Another four pounds and I'll have reached my goal. Ten pounds after that would be really nice (my weight when I was 18). After that, maintenance.
The best system, that actually works for (nearly) everyone is
Eat when you are hungry, Eat Slowly, Stop when you are not hungry anymore, drink more water, do moderate exercise at least 1/2 hour a day (this can be a simple as a brisk walk), eat a balanced diet
With this you can snack, program for hours on end and still be fit and healthy....
The eat slowly is important, the main difference between the typical French diet and the typical American diet is only the quantity of food and this is mainly due to culture Americans have a fast food culture the French have a slow food culture, the consequence is the French have a low level how obesity and heart disease....
I took up martial arts 10 years ago. As long as I am actively doing martial arts, I never gain weight. When I stop (say, due to sickness) my weight goes up.
I get bored out of my mind going to a gym. I only go if I haven't been able to go to martial arts for a while.
I've done Tae Kwon Do / Tang Soo Do, Judo, BJJ and some others, all very fun. And nothing beats the workout you get when fighting another person.
Here's what worked for me:
1) Join a running group that has other beginners at your pace. Commit to a race of some length.
2) Run with this group at least once a week. Meet NON-GEEKS as well as maybe a new geek or two (ymmv).
3) Learn that interacting with humans can sometimes be as exciting as interacting with your computer and/or blog.
4) Realize the power of GROUP activities.
5) Congratulations - you now have a LIFE!
I'm have a CS degree and 25 years in technology - but there are other things out there people! Turn off that computer and game console and get out there.
Does that gamercize thing come with those girls?
Hey Now Jeff,
Another great post. I'm forwarding this one to my pop's, hopefully it will help him.
Coding Horror Fan,
Geek gred? The wonderful part of bicycling to work is that, in these times of petrolium panic, you *gain* geek cred by showing off your bike commute.
You also arrive at work in a better mood: instead of lethargic from public transport or stressed from driving in traffic, your brain is pumped with the exercise and you're ready to hack at full speed.
Oh, and it burns off fat too, as a side effect.
I walk my two dogs at 5:30 in the morning every day and I ride BMX whenever I get a chance.
I also am a leg-jiggler...if that's what you call it.
I used to be in the army, and I had a very satisfying physical shape. I left the army 2 years ago, and now I've been working as a consultant for 1 year.
I realized this summer that I was not in shape any more... no cardio, starting to get a little belly... :S
So I started to run again, and do some simple exercises at home (push-ups, sit-ups, and biceps/shoulder with free weights). This already helped a lot. But running has ruined my back and my knees :S
I started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (well, in fact it's an ultimate fighting training, not just BJJ) two weeks ago, and I totally agree with Bill Kerney: nothing beats the workout you get when fighting another person. I fight for 5 minutes, and I'm way more tired than after a 35 minutes jogging.
I've been combining my exercise and my commute for three years. I ride my bike to work(6 miles each way). I get there in a fraction of the time with no frustration and I'm down 21lbs since June when I cut out my afternoon dessert.
I think this might be one of those stereotypes that no longer fits. Most of my programming coworkers over the years have been in pretty good shape. A couple of places I worked had basketball and football leagues that we participated in. Another place was all about hockey, so a couple times a week we would go to the ice rink for a long lunch. The place I am at now has a running circuit in the building along with basketball courts and a golf practice station (all the places I have worked have been big into golf). Ultimate Frisbee and Frisbee Golf are now pretty popular with the coworkers as well.
Personally I agree with the previous poster about the Martial Arts. I love it and train and teach three days a week! I still have to watch what I eat as I get older, but as long as I am being reasonable about it and working out my weight stays pretty consistent.
I'm impressed with those of you who cycle to work. I live in Louisiana, land of rain, steam and swamps... Fortunately, I have a 1200 sf office upstairs (that's exercise, right?)...
To seriously lose weight (65+ lbs over 5 years), I started bike riding. However, my wife banned me from road bikes after 3 wrecks in 9 months (and 25k+ in hospital bills, a month off work, etc.). I now ride a 'tadpole recumbent trike'. Though I'm much lower to the road than on a bike, cars ALWAYS see me. It's double the weight of my road bike, so, more benefit in less time. Though it's SLOW going uphill, nothing touches it downhill. I've been over 40 mph on a medium (hey- We're in Louisiana-- It's almost FLAT here) hill.
While I may not do the 'century' rides with some of my friends, 50 for my 50th birthday was FINE. (And I'm still losing weight.)
I have been programming for over 20 years now. I do no excersize (except for some canoe paddling and dog walking) and I still fit in the size 34 jeans I wore in high school. I find that keeping my waist size down involves three things:
1) Portion control. Seriously, you don't need three scoops of mashed taters or a whole big bowl of ice cream.
2) Eat the right food. Stay away from the over processed white flours and fatty, salty pre-packaged, pre-prepared foods. Eat lots of fiber from fruits and keep your protien levels up.
3) Don't snack. Eat three healthy meals a day and then keep your hands out of the damn goldfish box. No late night snacks, no mid-day snacks, no sugary sodas. Drink water, ice tea or coffee. (Moccachino is not coffee).
It's that easy. Aerobic excersize for me is trying to keep from being killed in Battlefield 2142.
I started with Tae Kwon Do in college and loved it. I was in the best shape of my life. Now, 10 years, 1 broken ankle and 2 knees that hurt with every step, I am not sure it was a good idea. The physical aspects of training are wonderful, but competition sparring and heavy bag work can ruin your body. Just take it easy.
That said, I am about to start teaching TKD and cardio kick boxing at a local gym. I am going to focus on forms and technique over sparring, but hopefully the classes will go well.
Keep your geek cred - ride a recumbent.
There are quite a lot of weird bikes available if you want to be all technical about it, right up to the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behemoth_(bicycle) that is more geek than thou. Or you could just get all freaky about some tiny aspect of the bike, or instrumenting it. Alex Wetmore (a geek) runs www.phred.org that has a few interesting lists on it (for bike geeks anyway), and there's the www.IHPVA.org for the less hardcore.
But for those that live in high-traffic areas that are not too bike-friendly, an upright bike with mudguards and racks is still the best way. Just ride the fricking thing.
I'd say that the rate of the overweght is less that 10%
Welcome to outside the United States of America. :)
In the United States, obesity is the most common chronic disease, affecting more than 1 in 4 of all Americans, including children, and its incidence has been steadily increasing for the past 20 years. In Europe, Australia/New Zealand, the Middle East, and the remaining portions of the Americas, the occurrence of obesity appears to be increasing and is now between 10 and 20 percent. The prevalence of obesity is still fairly low in China, Japan, and many countries in Africa.
If it's not worth driving to, we don't go there.
Some hackers discover that real women are better than net p#rn, this corrects the weight problem.
Can you imagine if the World of Warcraft players had to use some sort of treadmill to run around the WoW universe? I wonder how that would affect WoW subscription numbers. hehe.
Great post - I'm all for bringing health awareness to the geek community at large. One thing to consider though is that eat less/exercise more is not always the best solution. To summarize some points here, as well as adding a few of my own:
1.) Eat more (but smaller) meals throughout the day to keep the metabolism going.
2.) Drink lots of water throughout the day as well.
3.) Stay away from processed sugars. Use fruit to get your sugar intake.
4.) Green veggies are a must. Most people never get enough.
5.) The obvious - low-fat foods at every meal.
6.) Cardio should be mixed with strength exercises - either free weights, or muscle stress like in martial arts.
You might find that in measuring calories your intake is actually okay, and you simply need to modify what sort of foods you eat.
I'll go ahead and chime in as well. I've lost about 40 pounds of fat and gained about 10 pounds of muscle over the past year. I was going to give some tips but Brian gave all the rights one's above.
The only thing I'll add to what he said is that you need to run, not walk. Walking pretty much only burns calories while you are doing it. I know that you can find lots of articles on the web telling you that walking burns the same number of calories that running does. But they are wrong! Walking only burns the same number of calories as running does DURING the excercise. But like other muscle stress workouts, running continues to burn calories after you are done excercising. It is important to stress your muscles and push them to the point of needing "recovery". Your body burns many more calories during the recovery stage than it does during the actual excercise stage. Like the body builders say: "you don't grow in the gym". The same holds true for losing weight.
So work out hard and run hard. Walking is fine if you are just starting out or you need to just get out of the house. But for long term health and weight loss you need to actually exercise and walking is about as poor of an exercise as you can get.
I'm fat =( but I love food so much
I've been programming for 25 years, spent 10 years as an MMORPG addict. 6 years ago I looked at a picture of myself and thought, "who's that fat guy?" I was 35 then and I realized that things were only going to get worse fast if I didn't change my lifestyle. I started walking/running until I worked my way up to 3 miles a day 3 times a week with the occasional weekend 6-miler. After a few years, I added in a 30 minute workout at home using dumbbells. The key for me was committing to exercise as more important than work. Once you stick with it for awhile, you really become addicted to exercise. I feel out of sorts now if I go more than a day or two without working out. It feels like not brushing my teeth in the morning.
Living in Houston, I sub in an hour of DDR when it's too hot to run. I've found this is more than equivalent to running three miles.
Oh c'mon Jeff, I've managed to maintain my street cred and continue to play soccer, the one true sport. ;)
Here’s a good tip -
When you feel hungry, drink a glass of water instead. Thirst and hunger feel like the same thing initially, but we normally go for the snacks. Try it and see after 5 mins if you still feel hungry.
Obviously, you’ll still need to maintain the status symbol of a true programmer – the pyramid of soda cans on your desk proving you work later than everyone else…
I heard about someone that made a One Laptop Per Child computer run by the power of a bike. That would make for the exercise (I guess it might be a rumour but it's quite fun anyway)!
Imagine you are 2 person. One can use the computer for 30 minutes wile the other runs the bike and then you switch. It would be really fun!
Keep your geek street cred by taking up Geocahing. You get out and do stuff, explore your city, find parks you never knew about, go hiking and have an excuse to own and play with a GPS. Very geeky.
Great comments so far. Particularly from people who have instituted a geek diet/exercise program and seen results. It's encouraging to think that making a few small changes in your lifestyle (with discipline) can have fairly large effects.
The key that turned me around were the "exercise doesn't burn many calories" numbers.
This surprised me too. I found this corroborated a number of places, such as the NY Times:
Exercise is of course important for mental and physical health. But as a weight loss option, moderating your intake of calories is much more effective.
The tips regarding processed foods and regular, fun exercise are spot on.
I regularly train in ninjutsu 2/3 times a week, and if I don't do that I feel noticeably more tired and unfocussed.
With food, I suppose I was lucky to be raised by a mother who was pretty strict on food, so I'm used to eating lots of fruit and veg, and keeping sweets as a rarity.
The amount of sugary crap that a lot of people have without a second thought is astounding to me. One of my mates told me he used to go through 4L (~gallon for you non-metric types) of Coke every day. It'd be unusual for me to get through that amount of any soft drink in a month.
Also, for all you who think you don't have time to cook good, healthy meals, get a Thai cookbook. It's dead easy, quick, tasty, and healthy. As a bonus, Thai curries survive freezing very well, so you can cook in bulk, and have a few things in reserve.
I have to agree with the folks above who mentioned martial arts. I was never any good at team sports so I had to find a good solitary sport to enjoy. Well, the martial arts fit this better than anything else. I train in Tae Kwon Do for many years before switching to boxing and Muay Thai a few years ago. Let me tell you, these two (Muay Thai especially) are EXCELLENT workouts and a great deal of fun to do. I love the physical conditioning I get and I love the strategy involved in the fights. Winning a fight is 80% mental, afterall. I like to run through combinations and strategies in my mind while sparring and try them out on my opponent.
I did try lifting weights/running for awhile but found them very boring. Training in fight sports has been much better for me because I have a trainer who is pushing me more than I'd ever push myself if I were on my own.
I've just recently started (about 2.5 months back) getting "health serious". I've lost 15 pounds so far, putting me about 20 pounds over the max "ideal" weight range.
1. Use a good calorie tracker. Calorie trackers work, for many of us. My problem was I was making stupid decisions. For a 6'3" male of programmer's build (heh) to maintain 230 pounds static, you take in 2,800 calories every day. Anything less than that will cause you to lose weight. I set my target daily intake at 2000 calories, and have gone over that (although never over 2800) a few times in the past month or so.
2. Make sure you're getting the proper nutrition. The main hazard of "dieting" is that you don't take in enough nutrients. You do need fat and carbohydrates, despite popular diet myths; cut out the carbs and you will find your brain withering. One of my "hazard" nutrients is calcium: even at 2800 cals I was rarely getting enough in a day (and calcium needs to be spread out over the day as your body can only digest a certain amount of calcium and iron at a time). So, I pay particular attention to that nutrient. Getting the protein/carb/fat balance right is also critical (you should be getting a 50:30:20 mix of carb calories:protein cals:fat cals). To track nutrition you need to track more than calories or grams of fat or "weight watcher points". There's more than one or two dimensions which need to be tracked, at least at first in the "formative" stages of your diet change. YOU CAN LOSE A LOT OF WEIGHT AND END UP PERMANENTLY HARMING YOUR BODY. A lot of "fad" diets substitute nutrient-poor foods for nutrient-and-calorie-rich foods. These will bring your weight down, which is important if you are morbidly obese. It is not, however, worth permanently damaging your nervous system, heart, and lungs, to shed pounds a little faster.
3. Exercise! An hour of walking at a brisk pace burns about 400 calories. An hour of strolling burns over 250. You don't need equipment. You don't need preparation. Take your "decompression" time after the day while out walking and breathing in the smog ... er, fresh air. A nice side benefit is that you actually tend to see other people in your neighborhood! I am naturally quite exercise-averse. Still, I've found the walking routine has helped me in many ways. It's surprising how good it feels to complete a walk in record time or of record distance.
4. Weigh yourself at the SAME time of day on the same day of the week, weekly. Your weight will vary by a few pounds over the course of the day. Thus, if you weigh yourself in the morning one week and then the next week in the evening, you might see no improvement at all, while in reality you have made terrific improvement. Ideally, you'd weigh yourself multiple times during the day and take the minimum or average weight throughout the day as your weight that checkpoint. However, that takes time. Generally your lowest weight is in the morning, and so if you keep a schedule of weighing yourself in the morning then you should be able to track progress pretty well.
5. Remember that fat weighs less than muscle. If you find your weight not moving at all, but you are seeing improvement in your waistline, it is because you are gaining muscle faster than you are losing fat. That's good. Keep it up!
6. There are no "forbidden" foods. While tracking calories, you will find that you can't eat that huge slab of chocolate cake and make it through the rest of the day on the calories left in your budget. Still, you can allow yourself a portion of that cake if you "save" a little throughout the day (or week). Just like a household budget: never borrow forward, only pay forward. In other words, only eat that calorie-rich food *after* you've saved the equivalent calories from your day's or previous day's budget. Often, the key to staying within a healthy lifestyle is "giving in" to your cravings. If you cut out chocolate entirely, you're quite likely to backslide and binge on it a few days later. So, if choocolate is your thing, find a small-portion but satisfying source for it. Peanut butter is mine; I've found that Kraft's "South Beach" peanut butter cookies satisfy my craving for the flavor and keep me "on track" for the rest of the day.
7. Dietary change is hard. But, once you've made the change, keeping it is easier. Still, there are more days ahead of you than what you'll spend making the change, and slowly you will backslide if you don't keep periodic watch.
IMHO, all this is best done using a calorie tracker from a third party with a well-maintained database of foods. Yes, a "true" geek would build it themselves. But then, a "true" geek would probably spend a month getting their "system" up and running, have it "down" for maintenance every other week, and give up because it's all too much work two months in. You're already fighting inertia here. Don't give yourself another reason not to take control of your diet! It should take no more than 30 seconds to enter in the information on a meal, and you should be able to check on your overall nutrient consumption at any time.
I'm using "Calorie King", which is a pretty good program for tracking intake, exercise, and results. It has a rather exhaustive, well-maintained database, and cost $40 to register (only a one-week trial period, which IMHO is a bit insufficient). Every once in a while we'll eat something which isn't in the database, and it takes about a minute to enter a new food in. There are faults with the program (managing your own recipes is unintuitive and clunky, for instance), but, again: I'd rather spend my weeks making progress with a somewhat imperfect system than hold out for the perfect system.
Forgot to add: in order to make a 2000-calorie diet and remain satisfied, a large portion of your foods will necessarily become unprocessed and "healthy". Watching calories is not an alternative to eating "right"; it is a tool to get you to eat right without punishing your body and sending it into starvation mode.
I happen to be a cyclist and don't feel I've lost an iota of geek cred. I generally get an hour ride in during lunch 2 or 3 times a week and a longer ride on the weekends. It clears my mind for the afternoon segment and as a bonus you get to play with additional geek toys such as heart rate monitors, GPS devices, bike computers, and carbon fiber frames.
Again, the people who say that "exercise doesn't burn many calories" are simply wrong. All of these studies concentrate on how many calories are burnt DURING exercise. This is not the whole picture. When you stress your muscles to the point where recovery is needed you burn many times more calories AFTER exercise than you do during exercise.
This is why when you hear people say that walking burns as many calories as running you need to slap them upside the head. You walk, then you're done. You run, then you recover... for many days.
It's the same thing with weight lifting. Back in the 80's some so-called scientists determined that weight lifting had very little benefit for weight loss. They took a pure physics approach and measured the distance the weight was being moved times the number of reps and such. In the end they determined that in the gym you don't burn many calories. Many years later someone finally wized up and noticed that body builders were consuming 4000 calories a day and yet stayed thin (even in the off season). These guys should have been fatter than a house. So they went back and did the tests again and realized that from a single hard workout you can still be burning calories UP TO A WEEK LATER.
Recovering from exercise burns a LOT of calories! So get out there and work hard. Don't waste your time walking!
I should also point out that lifting weights and exercising hard increase your matabolism rate. Arnold Shmarzenegger burns more calories sitting on his butt than I do running a 7 minute per mile pace. So weight lifing and running do more than just burn calories.
Be careful when you say that exercise doesn't burn many calories. It may burn fewer calories DIRECTLY than you expect, but one thing it does do which is extremely important, is to raise your metabolism, so that the number of calories you burn at rest goes up. In other words, it helps to increase your weight loss efficiency.
Walking vs running: Those of us with bad joints need to choose the less jarring pace of walking over running. I'm not sure if your comments were aimed at me, but my point wasn't that walking is better than running or lifting weights or anything of the sort. My point is that walking is many times better than sitting on your butt. Like sitting on your butt: it requires no equipment. The only cost is the energy and commitment to getting up and moving.
If your time is too constrained, you can get just as much or more benefit from a half hour every other day of more strenuous activity. But, usually, then you are dealing with other expenses and hassles as well.
In any case, as that NY Times article shows, just adding exercise without monitoring (and, obviously, managing) your caloric intake is a fool's errand. Your body will naturally try to take in more energy to compensate for that which it expends. In that study, they saw a "statistically insignificant" 10% increase in caloric intake over the course of the exercise regimen; obviously that affects the effectiveness of the regimen!
As always, and moreso than most times, your mileage may vary. Every body responds differently to exercise. The only hard-and-fast rules are that you stick to a nutritionally sound program for more than a couple of months before trying something else, and that you avoid "cheating" the program. The program doesn't care if you cheat; you're only cheating yourself.
327th male, I cycle to work for about 20km (about 12.5 miles) every day. I enjoy the countryside and get my daily endorphine shot, thus making me more aware at work :-) and an healthy appetite without that guilty feeling when I go back home.
A good bike (Atala, Bianchi, Specialized, Giant, Trek, to name a few) is, IMHO, way less costly and immensely more enjoyable than some glorified joystick :-)
I'm a year round cyclist (even when it's -40C) I'm sure it's the only thing that's kept me from packing on pounds. The only other trick I've found to keep me from the junk food is that I leave my wallet behind. No money, no junk food. I love to do it with will power but I'm weak.
Setting your goal is key. For the people who love counting, the calorie counting idea is a good plan. For those who want to look good, just put all the geeky significance aside and get your body in shape with some exercise. People who are in good shape look good, and people who aren't don't. While you are trying to decide between cardio kick boxing and super slow free weights, take a walk or do some chores. Last time I checked, painting the house and taking out the trash counted as exercise too.
Wayne: good point about martial arts.
All older martial arts competitors I know have blown out knees, arthritis, broken necks, and other fun ailments. While I enjoy sparring, I avoid tournaments (I don't need to prove I'm the best or whatever) since I'm in this thing for the long run, and when you fight people for real, you will get hurt. Every time. Those injuries will accumulate, and you'll have a battered body in exchange for some trophies.
Even in-class sparring is inherently dangerous. In Judo, my ankle got bent so far backwards that it was pointing backwards. My hands are covered in small scars from other people's fingernails from Judo and BJJ. I had a minor tear of my achilles' in TKD. I've broken several small bones from stupid accidents. But nothing very serious, and I'd certainly do it all over again if I had the chance. I'm not on a cane like one of my friends.
Finally, don't pay any attention to BMI when you start working out. I'm 19% body fat -- I'm not skinny -- but I have a BMI of 32. BMI calculations are very flawed, especially with people who build muscle mass. Get your body fat tested instead. It takes only a couple minutes.
This is spot on, 1 donut a day for a year can add up to over 100,000 calories, how many pounds is that? A lot.
Well honestly this seems quite pathetic.
Want to exercise? Get to go to gym or run, or use bicycle. Don't stand in front of a display.
I play WoW but I go gym. And honestly going gym means to interact with other guys/girls and most of all train you whole body, not just legs...
Really I think we're losing the 'humanity' factor with this kind of stuff...if you're happy...
I must point out that the SCUBA divers' tan line is wrong... he should have a full body tan... Achieved by laying around semi-nude on the roof of the dive boat between dives.
Maybe northern hemisphere divers look like that... but what would I know, I live dive in the Pacific ;)
The biggest myth in this is diets ... the almost always don't work (mainly because the have no scientific basis) and even when they do they mostly work because of two factors
1) Loss of water retention - i.e. the weight you lose is mostly water
2) Any diet makes you eat less - if you eat less you will lose weight
The combination of eat only what your body needs - (eat when hungry, eat slowly, stop when you are not hungry), Don't eat (much) food that is bad for you (sugary, salty, fatty foods), eat more that is good for you (fruit, veg etc) - and get more exercise (no matter what, more is better, varied is better still) is the only diet that works
Detox diets don't work, odd/unbalanced food diets don't work, the only diet is one you eat for the rest of your life. Studies have been done on detox diets and most have no/little effect or are actually harmful, all unbalanced food diets are harmful by their nature...
I like boxing -- in the form of hitting a heavy bag and a speed bag.
Make sure you bounce/move around on the balls of your feet and that you don't just stand flat footed.
Do *NOT* hit the bag hard, at least not at first.
Go for 'quantity' over quality. As you slowly get used to the impact of your hands/wrists hitting the bag (and wear gloves), begin to hit it harder. No haymakers: that's a good way screw yourself up.
You'll be amazed at how tired you get and how much of a workout it is to keep your hands up and your body moving in such a manner.
Go in rounds. On for two minutes ... then stretch for a half minute. Do that 3 times.
The speed bag is an entirely different beast -- coordination, timing, concentration AND a physical workout. :)
I had "the revelation" about 3 months ago, when I couldn't find a pair of clean sweats. So I grabbed a pair of jeans, and found I couldn't button them.
I stopped inhaling Doritos and Mountain Dew. I started walking, then jogging. For rainy days, I have a shiny treadmill.
As stated by Jeremy Zawodny, that first month pretty much sucks. However, I can say that after that first month, things get better. Pretty soon, you'll notice that you are not winded walking to/from the bathroom.
Today, 40 pounds lighter, I can actually race my 10 year old around the block, me on foot, him on his bicycle. It feels good to be mobile again. I've found that I am more awake and alert during the day, and sleep better at night.
So in closing, I offer words of encouragement to my brethren. May you have the willpower and strength to get to your goal.
I actually used to work as a male model from time to time back when I was studying computer science (which is not too far back, only three years). However, actual work has kind of destroyed my shape real quick. When you're studying, it's easy to go to the lake in the afternoon and play a bit of volley or something, or go skateboarding, but when you're working, less so.
However, I've figured out that I can cheat myself into exercising given the right tools. As long as exercising is like playing video games, I'll do it. Things that really work for me: Nike+iPod (see my homepage), Wii Boxing (if you play it for the first time, you'll be wet from sweat within 10 minutes), Kinetic Combat (on the PS2), and probably Wii Fit (not yet out, but soon).
Oh, and listen to podcasts while jogging. An audiobook like Crescent or Seventh Son, or something from Sigler is great. Don't listen to it otherwise! That way, you'll have an incentive to go jogging and keep jogging, because otherwise, the story won't continue.
Trs bon post, mon avis la condition physique est associe la condition morale.
tre un programmeur agile c'est aussi se lever plus tt encore pour avoir le temps de se prparer un petit djeuner digne de ce nom, mais c'est aussi se coucher encore plus tard pour se laisser le temps de digrer avant d'aller dormir.
Premier conseil :
Si vous voulez maigrir, ne dormez plus.
Deuxime conseil :
Si vous voulez perdre du poids, oubliez votre job.
Troisime conseil :
Si vous voulez progresser dans votre travail, oubliez de manger.
From my experience, most exercise are great, it helps to throw in some Yoga (particularly the Iyengar\Hatha kind) to reduce the aches and pains of Repetitive Stress.
My solution was to take up swing dancing. I have a blast, I'm learning to be more social, and it's terrific exercise. The biggest problem is that in my area (Cleveland) there's usually only one big dance each weekend, and not so much during the week. :)
I sit on a physical therapy ball (75cm diameter for my 175cm height) instead of a chair. It forces me to move a bit and maintain good posture. It is probably only a tiny increment of extra calorie burning, but it makes me feel better.
If I need a break, I can do back strengthening exercises with my PT ball while I sit at the desk. The PT ball is cheap and it can be deflated for transport between work sites.
Occasionally, I reread D.B. Johnson's "Henry Hikes to Fitchburg" to remind myself of the value of walking. It informs my algorithm designs, too!
I agree with David Dawkins. I wonder how many calories I expend each day fidgeting at my desk and walking to the bathroom (coffee goes right thru me). I walk pretty briskly, faster on average than most. I walk as fast as some people jog.
I'm tall and slender and otherwise just as sedentary as any other developer, but my weight problem is that I can't gain, even when I tried body building a few years back (only 10 lbs in a year!).
While I may walk faster than everyone, I also eat slower than everyone. And I can only eat about half of what most men can before I'm full, let alone "not hungry". I believe this is because I chew my food.
I don't salt my food either; I use an acid instead like mustard, vinegar or Tabasco sauce. The average food items in regular grocery stores are far too salty/sugary/fatty than neccessary. Worse, we get used to it and think anything else is too bland. It isn't. Natural food tastes like, well, food an not salt/sugar/fat.
I recall the salting guideline I learned in the culinary biz: salt the food only until you can taste everything else.
I am an insulin-dependent diabetic. Messing with my food intake (which I try to keep as boringly constant as is practical) necessitates adjusting my insuline use. This adjustment process starts with a educated guess, followed by some rather unpleasant trial-and-error. Lucky for me, never the kind requiring hospitalisation, but on average, an 'unbalance' (hyper- or hypoglaecemic occurance) takes 1-2 full days to settle down. During those days, I feel like I have a medium-size hangover.
Point is: upping the exercise is by far the more accessible part of the equation: keep eating whatever you do now, maybe throwing in a low-fat/carb subsitute here or there (but do NOT increase it) and just exercise more.
Another point, wrt measuring weight loss using a scale: don't. Use a tape measure instead. Muscle tissue is much heavier than fat and most of your weight fluctuations over short periods of time are likely to be water.
Using the tape measure, you get a much more accurate picture of your progress.
In my experience, a lot of software developers are into extreme sports. I, myself, enjoy mountain biking, running and snowboarding. I need to do exercise to stay sane after 10 hours of coding.
Although I was not overweight to begin with (BMI of 24), through conscientious eating and exercise, my weight has dropped 15 pounds over the last year, while increasing muscular strength. This means muscle tissue has replaced fat, and thus I have actually lost more pounds strictly in terms of fat.
The weight calculus Jeff stated is simple and correct: weight_change = calories_in - calories_out. One pound of fat equals 3500 calories. To lose two pounds per week, your caloric balance must be -7000. So, while it is recommended the typical sedentary male consume 2000 calories, if he actually wants to lose weight, he should reduce that. Of course one should consult his doctor before making any drastic changes in diet or activity.
Controlling calories_in (diet):
There are nuances to that of course. Calories (actually kcal) come as protein (4 kcal/gram), carbs (4 kcal/gram), fat (9 kcal/gram) and alcohol (7 kcal/gram). Protein support muscle growth. Carbs break down slowly and can provide a steady energy supply. Contrary to popular belief, fats aren't all bad. There are different types of fat: saturated fats (promote harmful LDL cholesterol synthesis), poly- and mono-unsaturated fats (promote beneficial HDL cholesterol synthesis), and trans-unsaturated fats (promote harmful LDL cholesterol synthesis *and* inhibits HDL cholesterol synthesis). Studies indicate a correlation between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced coronary disease (CD).
Aside from caloric considerations, one must consider cholesterol consumption, sodium (can increase blood pressure, hypertension, CD), and dietary fiber (promotes digestive health, lowers risk of most types of cancer). Additionally, essential amino acids must be ingested (the various vitamins) and it's arguable whether supplements are as good as natural sources. Omega-3 and omega-6 promote mood and regulate energy, and bioflavinoids from colorful fruits and vegetables have various physiological benefits as well (e.g. beta-carotene promoting ocular health). See http://nutritiondata.com for more information.
Lastly one must consider for himself the merit of the claims that pesticides and artificial hormones are harmful.
Controlling calories_out (activity):
A trained/tone body burns more calories when at rest than an untrained one. And getting trained in a balanced way is as important as a balanced diet. Activity should address three concerns: strength, endurance, and flexibility. Basic strength training and stretching will lower your risk of injury in daily activities. Endurance training will improve cardiovascular function, which will lower heart rate and blood pressure, improve muscle efficiency, and increase metabolism. Far and away, http://exrx.net is the best resource on the web for exercise information. Training doesn't have to take hours a day. Search that site for "high-intensity interval training" and "low-volume training".
My number one recommendation is to recognize the immense value in your physical health. This alone will motivate you to research (either through books or a nutrition class at a community college or local university) and take control of your health. It's unfortunate that a healthy lifestyle can be so much more expensive than an unhealthy one. If you ask me, your health is one of the few truly important investments you can make. And don't stress, with a good diet and exercise routine, it is totally acceptable to eat "unhealthy" foods in moderation.
I remember seeing a piece on CNNHealth (or whatever it was called) by Dr. Sanjay Gupta while I was in the waiting room at the doctor's office for my allergy meds that a guy and designed a treadmill that fit around your workstation, allowing you to walk at a rate of up to 1.5 miles an hour while you did your work. Relatively cheap, but effective. Only concerns were that there may be some accuracy lost, but they were in the middle of a study that was trending to around a 70% to 90% increase as the user was in the process of working on the treadmill.
Boxing is a great exercise, works on your cardios as well as strength. Initially can be a lil tough on your hands but you will enjoy it more than anything else.
A co-worker at work is attempting to stop smoking, so he bought some gum. I realized this helped me as well. I began chewing gum when I wanted to snack. By so doing I reduced my cravings and kept something relatively low-calorie in my mouth.
What works for me is reading comic books while on an exercise bike. I can spend an hour without realizing it.
Add another one to the list of exceptions that prove that rule. I scored a "slightly dorky uber nerd" in the Nerd 2.0 test :), but I am a pretty fast runner who likes running marathons and am into racquetball as well. Now, try and catch me if you can (sorry, couldn't resist)...
My wife and I have been having fun with the Eye Toy for Playstation 2. Most of the titles: Play, Play2, Groove - have a lot of jerky arm movement which is rough on her RSI. But Antigrav. which we got just recently is not as jerky and still gives you a great workout.
John Walker's solution was so simple and obvious that it surprised me that I had not realized it would work: if you eat fewer calories, you will lose weight.
His process of weighing yourself every day and calculating the trend was a good motivating factor. Even if your weight remains at a plateau for several days, it is still rewarding to see that you are succeeding by remaining under your trend line.
Regarding eating better, I'd suggest that making one life changing habit is hard enough without making a multitude of them. There doesn't need to be an "all-or-nothing" approach to being healthy. By carefully tracking all my calories and ensuring that I saved for the times of day when I knew I'd most like to eat, I lost over 40 pounds eating things like hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza. Now that I have established a healthy weight, I am trying to focus on the eating better portion.
Also, I consider exercise an added bonus with regard to weight loss. It should never be done to allow the consumption of food beyond the set caloric goal, only as a supplement to allow faster weight loss.
If anyone is interested, John Walker has made the charting much easier since he now includes a program built into his website. Check out: https://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/HackDiet . If you are interested, my pseudonym there is Kappa Doppelmayer.
Man, I wish I had some of your ambition guys.
In late 1999/2000 I lost 70 pounds, which for me was an enormous goal but I did it the cheap and easy way, (Popping a few pills and not eating) and now i'm paying for it.
It would be nice for me to get on some kind of routine again where I could actually maintain this weight loss. It's been 7 years but it's getting harder and harder to resist not gorging any chance I get.