This is a weblog I'm keeping about my work on Debian and any other useful Debian related info I come across. It is not meant to compete with other news sources like Debian Weekly News or Debian Planet. Mostly it is just a way for me to classify and remember all the random bits of information that I have floating around me. I thought maybe by using a blog it could be of some use to others too. Btw. "I" refers to Jaldhar H. Vyas, Debian developer for over 8 years. If you want to know more about me, my home page is here.
The name? Debain is a very common misspelling of Debian and la salle de bains means bathroom in French.
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It all started last June when my son had his Janoi (Yagnopavita) ceremony -- the ritual by which a Brahmana boy becomes "twice-born" and eligible to study the Vedas. As well as a profound religious experience, it is also an important social occasion with a reception for as many friends and family as can attend. (I think our final guest total was ~250.) This meant new outfits for everyone which might be exciting for some people but not me. I still don't know why I couldn't just keep wearing the khes and pitambar from the puja but no, apparently that's a faux pas. So I relented and agreed to wear my "darbari" suit from my wedding. And it didn't fit. I knew I had gained some weight in the intermediate 17 years but the thing was sitcom levels of too small. I ended up having to purchase a new one, a snazzy (and shiny!) maroon number with gold stripes (or were they black stripes?) Problem having been solved, much was eaten, more weight was gained and then I forgot about the whole thing.
Tip 1: Actually Do Something.
I have over the years tried to improve my physical condition but it has never gotten very far. For instance I have a treadmill/coatrack and a couple of years ago I began using it in earnest. I got to the point where I actually ran a 10K race without dying. But I did not train systematically and I ended up in some pain which caused me to stop working out for a while and then I never got around to restarting. Diets have also failed because I don't have a clear idea of what and how much I am eating. All I know is that women go into the kitchen and when they come out they have food. By what eldritch process this occurs is a mystery, I just eat whats given to me thankful that the magic happens. Once I was moved to try and help but quickly fell afoul of the lack of well-defined algorithms in Gujarati home cooking.
"How much saffron should I add?"
"How much is this much in SI units?"
"You're annoying me. Get out."
Fast forward to March of this year. For my birthday, my wife got me a Fitbit fitness tracker. This is what I had needed all this time. It measure heart rate, distance travelled, time slept and several other pieces of info you can use to really plan a fitness regimen rationally. For example, I was chagrined to learn that sometimes when I'm at the computer, I am so immobile that the fitbit thought I was asleep. So I started planning to taken more frequent breaks. (A recent firmware upgrade has added the ability to nudge to walk atleast 250 paces each daytime hour which is handy for this.) Also by checking my heart rate I discovered that I went on the treadmill I ran too fast thereby stressing my body for little gain and ending up going too slow to get much aerobic effect. Now I can pace myself appropriately for maximum cardiac efficiency without ending up injuring myself and giving up. I also get a little more activity each day by simple changes such as taking the stairs instead of the lift and instead of getting off at the 14th street PATH I go all the way to 34th street and walk down.
Tip 2: You must have data in order to see what you did right or wrong and to plan what you need to do moving forward.
One caveat about these fitness trackers. They are not anywhere as accurate as a proper checkup from a doctor who specializes in such things. If you want to do any kind of pro or amateur athletics you probably should not rely on them but for the average shlub who just wants to avoid appearing on the news being winched off his sofa by the fire brigade they are good enough.
Another practice I began was keeping a food diary. It can be a real eye-opener to see how much you are actually eating. It is probably much more than you thought. I am fortunate that my diet is pretty good to begin with. Vegetarian, (not vegan, Hindus eat dairy products,) mostly home-cooked with fresh ingredients, not fried or processed, and I don't drink alcohol. However there were a few optimizations I could make. I drink a lot of soda; atleast two cans a day. I really ought to stop altogether but in lieu of that I have atleast switched from Coke to Coke Zero thereby saving a lot of empty calories. I now eat 4 rotlis with my dinner instead of six. We as a family eat more green vegetables instead of potatos, skim milk instead of whole fat, canola oil instead of corn oil, and less rice and don't slather ghee on everything quite so much.
One entirely new practice I've adopted that may seem faddish but works for me is intermittent fasting. The idea is to steadily train your body to need less food by eating all your days allowed amount pf calories during a 6-8 hour window and not eating at all during the remaining time. It's hard to get used to for many people but I fast atleast 2-3 times a month for religious reasons anyway so I adapted pretty quickly.
The fitbit tells me how many calories I am expending and how many I can eat to maintain a healthy level of weight loss but other than that I don't bother with "food groups" or specific diets such as paleo, or low-carb etc. As long as what you eat is reasonably balanced and you are burning more calories than you are adding, it should be enough for weight loss. Indeed from the end of March to now, I've lost 3 stones (20Kg) even with the occasional "cheat" day.
Tip 3: All published diets are bullshit without scientifically proven efficacy. Don't bother with them. Experiment instead and see what works for you and your metabolism. As long as you are getting all the proper nutrients (you shouldn't need a supplement unless you have an actual medical condition.) and you have a net calorie deficit, it's all good. If you eat food you enjoy, you are more likely to stick to your diet.
The proper amount of sleep is one area of a healthy lifestyle I am still doing poorly in and the reasons are not all raven-related. I have always had problems with insomnia and was once actually diagnosed with sleep apnea. Losing weight has helped a lot but the fitbit is still reporting that I toss and turn a lot during the night. And that's when I'm in bed in the first place. I stay up much too late which can also lead to subsidiary bad behaviours such as midnight snacking. It's something I need to work on.
Tip 4: Stop blogging at all hours of the night, It's not doing you any good.
So that's what I'm doing. Moving forward, I need to deal with the sleep thing and I would also like to start some program of strength-training, I'm doing ok in terms of aerobic exercise but from what I've read, you also have to build up muscles to keep weight loss permanent. The difficulty is that it would involve joining a gym and then actually going to that gym so I've put it off for now. The immediate threat is Diwali (and Thanksgiving and Christmas...) My wife bought 4 lbs of sweets today and I can feel their presence in the fridge calling to me.