Measurements and New Goals

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:01 pm

Alex and Peter and I went this morning and each got a ‘bioscan’: a measurement of body fat, muscle, hydration and so on. It’s done by standing on scales with electrodes under your feet and holding electrodes with your thumbs, and the resistance of your body to electric currents yields a lot of information.

I was 87 kg on the scales at home this morning – second milestone, and 20kg down from where I started – and 86.5 on the (presumably more accurate) scales on the bioscan, so it looks like our home scales are accurate enough for our purposes.

Very pleased with this milestone: it’s 5 kg lighter than I’ve been at least since returning from Canada in 2006. Still, though, the weight you want to lose is the last to go – my arms and legs are noticeably thinner but I still have too large a waist-hip ratio and ‘love handles’ and a smaller-but-still-there beer gut.

The machine suggested that my goal weight should be 75 kg, so another 12 kg down from here, and that makes sense to me. It said my lean body mass (bone+muscle+organs+water) is 64 kg, and therefore 75 is about 15% body fat. If I wanted to go for 12% it would be more like 72-73 kg.

75 is a sensible next milestone. Given I’ve already lost 20, 12 more should be a doddle! I’d assume it wouldn’t continue at a kilo a week right to the target, and will get tougher and therefore slower as I get close, but still I should be there by midyear if I simply keep doing what I’m doing.

My ‘visceral fat’ (fat around the organs) was 10 when the top of the healthy range is 9, so I can stand to lose more of that too, but of course losing fat in general will also lose that. That’s most likely the result of ‘yoyo dieting’, and in particular the fast gain from 92 a couple of years ago back to 107. It’s some of the unhealthiest and nastiest fat, so it’ll be good to get rid of that.

At 107 kg I would have had 40% body fat, so the current 26% is definitely a big improvement, but with some way to go.

Other encouraging findings were that I’m more muscular than the average (like, out the top of the average range) and that my bone density is also high: no osteoporosis here. Weirdly my left arm is more muscular than my right, although I’m right-handed. Legs are equally balanced despite the old injury and the slight limp, which is excellent. Hydration level was good.

On the whole, I’m a hell of a lot healthier than I was, and on the road to being even healthier.


Beyond Conspiracy Theories on MH370

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:23 am

Lots and lots of nonsense being talked, much of it racist or groundlessly anti-Muslim. To me, until better evidence becomes available, this is the most plausible explanation: https://plus.google.com/106271056358366282907/posts/GoeVjHJaGBz

It’s consistent with the available evidence and with what increasingly certainly looks like the final location of the wreckage. It is also the result of catastrophic failure of aircraft systems, rather than of human malice. Perhaps it’s just my humanism talking, that makes me prefer this explanation, but I don’t think so… as I say, this seems to fit the available evidence better than alternative explanations.

I guess if the ‘black boxes’ are ever recovered, or enough of the wreckage to forensically reconstruct what happened, this theory will be tested – as it should be.

The image of a ‘ghost plane’ with everyone aboard unconscious flying on for hours on autopilot over the ocean is a spooky one, but arguably less disturbing for the grieving families than an ending of hijacking and terror. And that has happened before.


El Nino – Am I A Prophet?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:00 pm

I’m putting this on the blog rather than on Facebook (though it will get mirrored) because Facebook is too ephemeral. I want to be able to come back and find it if I’m right. And if I’m wrong, I want to be accountable in that others can come back and find it.

We’re hearing a number of reports that this might be a strong El Nino year. Here’s one of the more recent, more Australian-focused ones: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/weather/droughtthreatening-el-nino-event-increasingly-likely-bureau-says-20140325-35fua.html

It’s by no means certain that it will, yet, but here’s my prediction: if there is a strong El Nino, this year will be the hottest global year on record. Hotter than 1997 – the year of the last strong El Nino. It will be hotter by some distance.

Why do I say that? The apparent ‘pause’ in global warming, based on surface temperatures, hasn’t been a pause at all. The heat has still been accumulating, it has just been accumulating deep in the ocean. The El Nino phenomenon occurs because the currents are such that heat from deep in the ocean is released into the atmosphere… and there’s more there than ever before.

This is a simple, testable prediction, based on understanding what is going on with global climate. Note the included ‘if’ statement: *if* there is a strong El Nino, this will be a record hot year. If not, all bets are off.

Let’s see what happens…


How a Scientist’s Mind Works

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:55 am

Alex, Peter and I were walking our dog, Buffy, yesterday. She likes to run to places where there are dogs on the other side of the fence, and then run with them, greet them or start a fight. She’s not allowed, and she’s being trained out of it, but – although we walk miles in all directions on a wide range of routes – she remembers every such fence, and starts sneaking away from us and toward it, well ahead of time.

I said to Alex and Peter “She must have amazing spatial memory, because even on walks she’s only been on once, she remembers where all the ‘dog fences’ are”. I didn’t say anything to them at the time, but did think to myself “Either that, or perhaps she smells something from the dogs as we get close…”

Later in the same walk – 2-3 km later – she also ran toward a path that we needed to take, that she had only been along once, and in the opposite direction. She did this before we knew where the start of the path was.

There’s no scent clue from a dog for the path, so that challenges the ‘smell’ hypothesis and supports the ‘spatial memory’ hypothesis. Her spatial memory may, of course, include a lot more scent clues, rather than being almost exclusively visual like ours…

So, automatically creating and testing hypotheses and seeking confirming and disconfirming evidence, even when just taking the dog for a walk. It’s how a scientist rolls.


Where the Danger Lies

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:46 am

The news media in Queensland has been full of the trial of Brett Peter Cowan for the abduction and murder of thirteen-year-old Daniel Morcombe. It’s a horrifying case, and since it’s now in the sentencing phase it has come out that Cowan had prior convictions for abducting and raping boys.

Parents are holding their children closer and thinking about how to protect them, which is appropriate, but as I reminded one such thread on Facebook:

It’s very important, in the context of thinking about this case, to remember that incidents like this, while horrific, are very rare. *By far* the greatest risks to children are from people they know, not ‘stranger danger’. By all means protect them from strangers, but find ways to protect them from partners and family friends too… and also find ways to let them grow and develop without a climate of fear that oppresses them. Find ways to keep them safe that involve *your* watchfulness, not theirs, and that they don’t know about.



Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:20 am

I think something our society has got quite bad at is being comfortable with hunger. Realising it is normal and OK, and not an emergency in need of immediate remediation1. Being comfortable with being hungry, in an environment where we know we can obtain food easily anytime, is actually an important part of being healthy. Without it, the tendency is to overeat, because we confuse the sensation of ‘not being full’ with the sensation of hunger.

Obviously, if you’re hungry enough that you get dizzy or suffer some other kind of impairment, or if you have blood sugar regulation issues that need managing, the story is different. But for most of us, most of the time, it’s OK to be a little hungry.

I mean, we’re often sleepy at work or when there are other tasks to be done, but we soldier on. We might resolve to sleep better tonight, or to change some habits and get more sleep, or whatever, but we don’t (usually) immediately rush to crush that feeling with a massive sleep. I won’t talk about it in too-great detail here, but we’re often horny at work as well… 😉

One ‘hunger’ we probably should be on top of is thirst – but water is even easier to get than food. The trick is just to choose water, not wait for something else.

Alex and I have been doing 2 fast days a week, for health reasons (not weight loss). We either fast for a full day, or just miss breakfast and lunch, and have dinner, so that it’s effectively 24 hours since the previous day’s dinner. That involves being hungry… and learning good strategies for dealing with being hungry… which may in fact be one of the main benefits of fasting in the first place.

Again, it’s not about asceticism and self-denial and punishing the body – it’s about better enjoying the pleasures of food, because it tastes better when you’re really hungry than when it’s just food time.

  1. In all this, I’m talking about developed Western society, of course, not the much larger proportion of the world’s population for whom hunger is the daily reality, and is an emergency in need of immediate remediation


Recovering Lost Ground/Breaking New Ground

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:34 am

In late January I posted that I had three milestones in mind: 92 kg (lowest I’ve been in recent memory), 87 kg (20 kg down from where I started) and whatever weight corresponds to 12% body fat for me – probably somewhere between 82 and 77 kg.

I hit 92 today, and it’s gratifying, but at the same time feels like just a start, because I’ve been this weight twice since we returned to Australia about 8 years ago, and lost it both times to end up larger again. The past 3 months have been great, but in a sense they’ve just got me back to where I started. I’ve regained some lost ground.

It feels like the real adventure starts here, in a way. Next week or the week after I’ll be 91, and within the month I’ll be in the 80s. My birthday is about 5 weeks away, and the next milestone – 87 kg – is 5 kg away. I’ll go close to, if not actually hitting, the two milestones together.

At that point I’ll get the body scan done to determine my body fat percentage, which in turn will determine the third and final weight milestone. After that it’s about (a) maintaining a healthy body fat ratio, (b) building muscle (which will mean the actual weight goes up) and (c) getting aerobically fitter.

At that point I’ll also go to the doctor for a major 50th birthday checkup: see whether my blood pressure has come down and the fat on my liver dropped, and that I’m healthy in general to carry on enjoying life as long as possible.

Thanks to all the many friends who have been unfailingly supportive throughout the process. I suspect I sometimes get boring with the level of detail, or annoying to those who are struggling to lose weight or get fit and not seeing the progress they’d like. My hope is that my journey is encouraging in the sense that it shows what’s possible.

And, of course, keeping the weight off and going further with it is a crucial part of that. I won’t be, as one friend suggested, pragmatically keeping my ‘fat clothes’ just in case. That seems like mentally setting up for failure. There’ll be challenges – more work, winter. But I’ve already made it through Christmas and kept losing weight, and this week is the start of teaching.