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I will be doing my first marathon in New York City later this year. I still remember how much I struggled mentally in my past 10K races, thinking thoughts like “why did I sign up for this”, “when will this ends”, and “is there a way to quit in the middle without embarrassing myself”. I think I felt that way because I didn’t train for them.

As I started training for the marathon and running 10K or more regularly, running the same distance seems to have become a much easier task. I struggle less and don’t think running 10K is a big deal anymore. During my training process, I’m becoming a slightly different person, physically and mentally becoming a person who can finish a marathon. And this is probably similar in many other endeavors, like becoming a professional musician, athlete, or CEO. We hone our skills and mental capacity to achieve things that wouldn’t be possible without those training and experience. Things that seem incredibly difficult at first become ordinary (and something else becomes the new challenge).

Goal seems to be a useful tool to change ourselves. When we strive for goals that stretch us, we need to become different from what we used to be to achieve those goals. Ideally we should also learn to enjoy the process when striving for those goals. For marathon it might mean enjoy eating healthy, staying active, and running regularly. When these activities turn into a lifestyle, it likely means we already become different selves. Dan Gilbert noted that we are always changing but tend to underestimate those changes (he called it “the end of history” illusion). Perhaps we could use goals to change ourselves more consciously.

I think training for a marathon is a great way to experience the power of training and discipline. It is a good challenge because most people can finish a marathon if they train for it, but at the same time it’s not an easy task. It’s also a good way to understand the importance of genes, as there are likely people who can run much faster than you no matter how hard you train.

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As I mentioned in the previous entry, I’m on a diet now (actually more a challenge/self-experiment). And just in case some friends might worry, it’s meant to be a healthy, sustainable diet. I’ve started the challenge for a week now, got some positive results (see below), and surprisingly find myself enjoying the process.

How it started

A friend told me if I could help her lose weight she’d treat me a meal. Since I also gained some weight over Valentine and Chinese New Year and feel like I’ve been eating excessive snacks/sweets lately, I came up with the competition plan to see who can successfully lose a certain amount of weight within a timeframe, and the loser have to treat the winner a meal.

The Goal

To lose 5 kg by the end of March (six weeks interval). Why 5kg? Because it’ll get me back to the weight I maintained at EIS (or first year at APU). I’d be interested to see if I could get rid of the facial fat (see EIS photo below)

Duration: Feb. 20 – March 31

Initial weight: 70.5 kg

Goal: 65 kg

Motivation

Where does my motivation come from if I’m just helping a friend? I’m no altruist, so what would keep me on the goal? Anyone would know that a meal’s not enough to sustain a person on diet. So here are few more reasons. 1) Being hungry might make you smarter (see here) 2) It is a challenge. If I could achieve this goal, I’d have more confidence in my ability to achieve anything I set my mind on, which would also act as a boost to my next upcoming goal of getting a distinction. 3) It’s fun. I’m enjoying the process of keeping detailed record on my dietary life and body condition, and it’d be interesting to see what’ll happen (See Seth’s blog for more on self-experimentation. There are useful dietary findings as well). Various bloggers have mentioned the simplicity of losing weight (here’s one). But most people seem to struggle with diet goal. Since I’ve never tried to diet seriously, it’d be interesting to see whether I can achieve it.

Strategy

Basically lower calorie-intake and continue doing exercise. Here’re the specifics:

1) Plan what I want to eat and keep record of what I eat.

2) No junk food and dessert (the term might be a bit vague here, but people who’re honest to themselves should have no problem in distinguishing food with high nutritional content from the junks). Since I do not want to miss out everything, I allow myself to ‘taste’ food if I want, which means I could try a dessert I’ve not eaten before but only limit to one piece (or a bite depending on the portion). Generally I won’t buy any and won’t eat them even if freely available.

3) No alcohol (wine, beer, etc.)

4) 5 liter of water per day. I started with 5L as that’s the amount that worked for Seth.

5) Not adding sauces and spices in cooking.

6) Eat smaller meal and spread them out.

7) Monitor progress, which include checking my action against these strategies and keeping track of weight weekly.

8) Adjust strategy if necessary. Since this is the first week, I haven’t changed anything yet. Other strategies to consider include using olive oil or fructose water to suppress hunger and Sushi! (see Seth’s paper for details).

Result 1st week:

Weight: 69. The weight tends to flutuate a bit depending on when and where I measure it. And because I don’t own a scale, I can’t consistently measure it. But since my goal’s to lose 5kg, there’d have no problem seeing substantial differences in the end.

It seems like my body has been getting use to eating less. I’m much less prone to feeling hungry and get full more easily. Not sure if this is due to my slowing metabolism, change in dietary habit, or just body adaptation. I suspect after this initial phase it’d be harder to lose more weight (since I gained some weight in the past weeks, so it’s likely now I’m just shifting back to my usual weight: roughly 67). But so far the result’s encouraging, and my mind does feel sharper.

I’m taking photo every week as well. Unfortunately I forgot to take one at the beginning. So I’ll post the most recent photo I took before the diet and one taken a bit earlier (near Christmas) as an approximation of my initial look. I won’t post my progress photo as I think it’d be more interesting to see them all at once in the end.

 
 
 
 

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