Splitting Hairs

going deeper

My Bouncy Weight

This is the story of my bouncy weight graph over the past 11 years. The latest bounce? During this current two-month pandemic shelter-in-place period, I’ve dropped about 16 pounds in weight thus far.

Around 2008, I was getting concerned about my weight ballooning up to 200lb. By comparison, in my senior year of high school, I had weighed 175lb; in college (at the end of the basketball season), about 180-185lb.

At 200lb, my wife tells me I look better — not so emaciated. I’m 6’4″, so I didn’t exactly look fat at 200lb. But I felt fat — especially around my waist.

1. Ogbono

Around 2008, I was reading a health magazine and came across an article about the “magical” health properties of ogbono — the nut of an African mango tree that grows near the equator.

So in 2008, I started taking ogbono — first as a supplement, then as part of my diet. Almost immediately, my weight started dropping. That caught my attention, and motivated me to buy a Withings scale.

Before I bought that “smart” scale, I had been weighing myself with an old retro scale, and writing down my morning weight by hand on a sheet that I later transcribed to Excel.

The image of this blog is a chart of my Withings data. The chart begins with my first Withings recording of 188.6lb on Jan 16, 2009. That date is about 2-3 months after I started taking ogbono and my fat began to melt.

Now 188.6lb is already about 11 pounds down from 200lb, and as the chart shows in circle #1, the weight loss didn’t stop until it reached 172lb — lower than my senior year high school weight.

2. Healthy Eating

The purple circle labeled #2 on that chart is a fairly steady pattern that lasted for almost the entire decade of the 2010s. During that period, my body’s consistent “set point” seemed to be firmly located within the 175-180lb range. Again, somewhere between high school and college for me.

During this time, I was learning about what it meant to eat healthy, and also about the critical importance of copious sleep. I put this learning into practice during this time.

3. Barefoot Runnin’

The only exception to that steady 175-180lb set point of the 2010s was a brief period of about one year, give or take, around 2013. That period is labeled #3 in the graph, and as you can see, during that time, my weight dropped all the way down to 165lb.

I hadn’t seen “165” on the scale since the 10th or 11th grade. It had been a loooong time. What was going on? Cancer? A mysterious muscle wasting disease?

Nope. Just some barefoot runnin’. Like many, I had read the book Born to Run, and got the hankering to get running again. Basketball in my youth had long ago chewed up the cartilage in my knees, making running impossible.

Correction — making heel-strike running impossible. The method described in the Born to Run book involves running on our forefeet. This is the way we humans naturally run in our bare feet. We do so for a simple reason — heel striking on a sharp object like a stone in our bare feet causes extreme pain that doesn’t go away anytime soon. But doing the same on our forefoot causes much less discomfort.

Running that way took the impact off my knees — for the most part. By the end of that period labeled #3 on the graph, I was doing runs in Castle Rock state park in my actual bare feet — i.e. not even wearing my “barefoot” shoes.

It was only a 3-4 mile run. But man, I loved it. I felt like an animal running through the hilly forest in my bare feet. I could have been the predator or the prey on those runs. But either way, it felt awesome.

Until it didn’t.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking; “Oh, the idiot probably stepped on a piece of broken glass, ripping his feet, sending him to the hospital.”

I wish it was only that. No, my knees started complaining. Really complaining. It took a year, but they finally  said to me: “Stop this running, you idiot, or you’re not going to be walking again.”

So I stopped running, and as soon as I did, my set point came right back up to the 175-180lb range, and stayed there until …

4. Caltrain-ing to San Francisco

In mid 2017, I began taking Caltrain up to San Francisco once a week to work at the startup Tonal. That one day a week soon turned into two.

And then in early 2019, I started working out of the San Francisco offices of Elroy Air as well.

So by March of this year, three days per week — Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays — I was taking Caltrain from San Jose to San Francisco in the morning, and heading back the other way with the commuters in the early evenings.

On the chart, this period is labeled #4 in red. As you can see, during these past three years, my weight ballooned from its 175-180lb set point, all the way up to near 200lb by March of this year.

During this period, as I watched my weight balloon, I was telling myself that that was due to me engaging in strength training on the Tonal machines at the Tonal offices. i.e. I was getting “swole”.

In retrospect, that was just a lie. What that weight gain was really about was that I was eating the junk food found in the kitchens of those companies, and sometimes coming back home late at night and scarfing my daughter’s potato chips.

Why was I doing that? I knew better than that.

I dunno. Probably the stress of the commute.

5. Shelter-at-Home Pandemic

In April, two months ago, my work with Tonal ended, and my work with Elroy Air was reduced to serving as a remote company advisor. So no more Caltrain trips during the week now or even in the post-pandemic future.

Like everyone else, I’ve been stuck at home for two months — save for some periodic hikes with friends.

Just look at that green #5 drop in weight in the chart! Compared to the previous two green weight drops in the chart (#1 and #3), this most recent one makes it look like my weight readings committed suicide … in April, they just jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. “Goodbye, cruel fat world.”

What happened? In two words: intermittent fasting. Since April, I’ve been eating breakfast at 10am, lunch after 2pm, and that’s it for my eating for the whole day.

I got the idea watching a Joe Rogan interview of researcher David Sinclair who was discussing the science of this approach. He said, memorably, that it’s good for us to feel hungry.

These days, I certainly feel a strong sense of hunger at 10am (caused by the hormone ghrelin). Moreover, the full signal that reaches my brain after eating (caused by the hormone leptin) is now loud and clear and unmistakable.

Also, given these eating times are sharply restricted, I now find myself highly motivated to “eat the right way” — the way that I learned during my extended 175-180lb set point period in the 2010s.

Here in June of 2020, it’s looking like my body is finding its way (in a hurry!) back to my set point range of 175-180lb.

What a crazy, bouncy dance.

2 comments on “My Bouncy Weight

  1. Matt
    June 17, 2020

    This article makes me feel hungry.


    • peter
      June 17, 2020

      Lucky you. Who needs intermittent fasting when we can get the same effect sitting on our asses browsing the web?


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This entry was posted on June 16, 2020 by in health.



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