From the Mailbag 2

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How’s It Going? And, By the Way, What’s a Blog?
The other day, my neighbor asked me: “How’s it going, now that you’re a quarter of the way through?” He was, of course, asking about my resolution not to drink alcohol this year. “Aren’t you following my blog?” I asked in return. “What’s a blog?” he replied.

If you knew my neighbor, you wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that he didn’t know what a blog was.  After all, his pickup truck is vintage 1980s.  What was surprising, however, was that I had trouble coherently and succinctly summing up how I feel about my resolution thus far. What stumped me is that I didn’t have any expectations going into this. I had made the decision to do it on extremely short notice and just jumped in head first with the resolution and the blog, all at once.

After not making sense for a few seconds, I went into the details about my weight loss so far, my running goals, and so on.  My neighbor interrupted and offered: “So, it’s been positive?” I had no hesitation, saying: “Yes. Yes. Absolutely. It’s very positive. I’m at the point where I’m not sure I will drink again when 2015 rolls around.”

Wow. I didn’t see that coming. Did you?  So, for the curious who’ve asked, here are some other Q’s and A’s related to this project:

How Much Was the Weight Loss From Not Drinking vs. Other Reasons?
The first 8 pounds I lost was solely from not drinking. In the beginning, I purposefully did not want to change anything else, including my diet or exercise routine. Without a purposeful diet, I would not have lost any additional weight.

I lost another 8 pounds (and counting) by sticking maniacally to a daily calorie goal that I track in an app called MyFitnessPal. My daily goal of 1,200 calories allows me to lose 1-1.5 pounds per week.  I input everything I eat into the app. When I exercise, I also input that into that app and earn more calories for that day. If I eat too much, I exercise more.  It’s that simple.  Despite the simplicity, it can be very difficult to be completely honest with yourself about how much you have eaten. But if you honestly use the app every day, it will work.

Not drinking is the single-most important factor in my weight loss, for several reasons. Taking those empty calories off the table has made a tremendous difference. In the past, one glass of wine could lead to another glass and that could lead to eating things I didn’t need to eat. Also, I am now able to exercise at night, something I never could have done after drinking wine at dinner.

What Are the Unexpected Benefits From Not Drinking?
This is a great question.  From a general health standpoint, what I noticed within days is that I was getting better quality sleep and was sleeping through the night much more often than before.  Over time, I also started to feel more mentally alert and more confident. Because not drinking has led to losing weight and allowed more time for reading and writing, I also feel happier and more balanced.

Have You Experienced Clearer Thinking?
Yes. Definitely. It is particularly acute when I am around other people who are drinking. It’s a strange sensation of being very present and keenly aware of what is going on.

What’s Up With that Ideal Weight Calculator?
In my last post, I talked about so-called “ideal weight” and used this calculator to confirm that my weight loss goal was realistic. I received feedback from several guys, all of whom felt the calculator was off for them and seem to be reporting unrealistically low weights. One of them even said it reported his weight from 8th grade as ideal! A few of these guys are very muscular. Therefore, I’d like to recommend that they focus on percentage of body fat, rather than weight. Here’s info from Livestrong about that and here’s a body fat calculator.

Also, I want to caution that research indicates women tend to under-estimate their ideal weight, while men tend to over-estimate it.

Regular followers of my blog may recall that my first “From the Mailbag” post answered several other questions back in late February, including “why did you really start this blog?” Check it out if you haven’t already.

And, please keep the questions coming. I promise to answer each and every one.

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From the Mailbag

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Since the idea of my New Year’s resolution and this blog came to me rather suddenly over the holidays, I didn’t have time to develop any expectations. It took me completely by surprise that 100 people would actually “follow” me and that dozens would take time to comment here or privately. These messages range from support for my journey, to thanks for offering an inspiring example, to challenges to my assumptions and opinions. Increasingly, folks are asking thoughtful questions about me and this experiment. This “From the Mailbag” post addresses three of the most thought-provoking responses from this past month.

Why did you really start this blog?

My sister-in-law, Martha, asked me to expound upon the other reasons, besides losing weight and running faster, that led to my decision to start this blog.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about how saving money was my #9 of 9 reasons for this project. In fact, I have journal entry in my “Dry Year” diary that was written on January 7th titled “Top 5 reasons why I’m not drinking.” The list ran longer than 5, but didn’t quite reach 10. The order below is exactly as written, and may or may not reflect the order of priority.

1. I fear becoming an alcohol abuser, because of family history.
2. I’ve recently done a lot of personal research for my memoir and the theme of alcohol over-consumption is one that is difficult to ignore.
3. I want to see if I can do it.
4. I’ve tried with moderate effort and no success to cut back consumption in the past.
5. I thought it would help me lose weight.
6. I thought I would free up time for more important things.
7. I thought it would be a very interesting topic for a blog and I need one to promote my upcoming memoir.
8. I thought it might make me a faster runner.
9. To save money.

Is it common for someone to quit drinking for just a year?

This question comes from fellow blogger, Terry McCarthy. As he put it: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anybody quitting for a year. As they say in AA, take one DAY at a time.”

Many more people have written about quitting drinking for a month or even 100 days. And, although I didn’t know this when I started this project, I have found a few people who also tried this for a year and wrote about it, including this guy and this woman. My true goal regarding alcohol is moderation, so I didn’t go into this thinking that I would quit drinking forever. I felt alcohol was preventing some of my other goals, so I wanted to take alcohol out of my life for a significant length of time. On one level, this resolution is a social experiment.

If you achieve your goals during your “dry year,” why bother drinking again?

This comes from my friend Rose, who is a teetotaler herself: “I love reading about your journey and I’m rooting for you! Are you thinking of quitting for good? I mean, after you succeed in losing the weight, and you will, and running so hard that you get your PR, why go back to it? Just a thought.”

This is similar to Terry’s question, but is more direct. Of all the comments I have received, I have thought about this one the most. It is much easier for me to think about this as a one year “project.” Once I’m further down the road, I will have a better idea of what the ideal future should be. No one knows what the end of this year will bring. As I get deeper into this journey, I may come back to this question several more times.

I hope that you’ll keep the comments and questions coming. If so, I’ll do a “From the Mailbag” post every month.