(UPDATE) It Worked for Me: 20 Pounds in a Month

Hey folks, I want to share with you something that I have been doing since the first week of this year. First though, I want to start by saying that I am not trying to sell anything. Likewise, I am not gaining any affiliate advertisement profits or anything like that from this post. The technique that I am sharing for rapid weight loss is free, easily accessible, and doesn’t involve a personal trainer, gym membership, or supplements. 
Each year, my company puts on a fitness competition. They allow employees to weigh in during the first week of the year and put $50 into the fitness challenge pot. They then have until the first week of April to lose 10% of their weight. If an employee is successful in this goal, they get their money back and an additional $50 from the CEO. If they do not lose 10% of their weight, they get nothing. Additionally, the person who loses the highest percentage of their weight gets the remainder of the money that is left in the pot after prizes have been distributed. This year, the pot was up to almost $1200.
On January 6th, I weighed in at 202.9 pounds – the most I have ever weighed. In order to get my money back, I would have to lose 20.2 pounds by April 8th. The challenge was on.
To start, I want to mention that this technique was discovered almost entirely by accident. I decided that I was going to do some sort of cardio three days per week, and the easiest form of cardio for me is running. Okay, I was going to run on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. 
Now, I didn’t know how far I was going to run, and my schedule was tight in the mornings. For that reason, I chose to run for 20, 25, or 30 minutes, depending on when I was able to start. I followed this routine religiously and without failure. Again, I focused on time alone, and not distance.
In addition to the running, I read somewhere that you should walk 10,000 steps per day. While my commute from the bus to the office each day is fairly significant, I knew that I would have to do a little bit extra in order to reach that number on my non-run days. For that, I decided to eat lunch at my desk and take a 20-30 minute walk afterward. Bingo – that put me over the daily 10,000 step requirement.
Next, I knew that I needed to change my eating habits. I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app for free, as I had used it before and I liked having the ability to update my stats from my work computer, where I don’t have access to my phone. I plugged in my goal weight and it projected that I needed to have a caloric balance of around 1400 calories per day. Since I was serious about losing the weight and getting started, I lowered that to 1250 calories, which is just over the minimum that MyFitnessPal considers to be safe.
A caloric balance is fairly simple, and just represents the amount of calories you are taking in each day (to include beverages), minus the amount of calories you burn through exercise. MyFitnessPal did all the math for me, since it automatically kept track of my exercise and all I had to do was plug in everything I was eating and drinking. (As an added note, the app even has the capability to create nutritional information for homemade meals. All you have to do is enter the ingredients.)
Finally, and this might have been the most important part, I decided to try something very new. I like to watch Survivor, and I have often looked into something called the Survivor diet. In this diet, you are only allowed to have a certain amount of rice and/or beans for 39 days. To mix it up, you are allowed to eat anything that you can either catch or gather for yourself. This primarily consists of fish and “yard greens”.
While that was not an option for me, it started me in the direction that I ended up taking. Have you ever searched YouTube for a video that was strictly functional (like how to repair something in your house) and 30 minutes later, you cant figure out how you ended up on Chinese dancing cat videos? A similar thing happened, here. I started reading different experiences on the Survivor diet and found that many people partake in brown rice fasts. These can range from one day to two weeks, and participants have seen significant changes in their physical and mental health. Two weeks sounded crazy to me, but maybe one or two days wouldn’t be so bad.
Bam! Now I had something to occupy my Tuesdays and Thursdays, since I wasn’t doing cardio on those weekdays. I had a cup of cooked brown rice for breakfast, a cup and a half for lunch, and a cup for dinner. Sometimes I would add a pinch (less than a quarter teaspoon) of butter to my morning portion, which actually made a huge difference in taste. (Note that only eating 3.5 cups of brown rice in a day is less than 900 calories and MyFitnessPal will be mad at you on those days.)
On the weekends, I didn’t necessarily do anything special, except maintain my caloric balance. Shoveling snow (repeatedly) on two of the weekends really helped the balance.
To summarize, below is a brief reminder of all the steps in this program:
  1. Run for 20-30 minutes three days per week
  2. Walk for 20-30 minutes after lunch every day
  3. Maintain a caloric balance every day that is lower than what is required for your goals 
  4. Eat nothing but cooked brown rice two days per week
At exactly one month (February 6th), I weighed in at 183.9 pounds, which is a difference of exactly 19 pounds. I weighed myself the next day and was at 182.1 pounds. I achieved my 4-month goal in just one month.
What am I doing now? Well I am no longer doing the brown rice. I told myself all along that I would cut that portion of my program as soon as I made my goal weight. Instead, I now do 15-20 minutes of swimming on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but other than that nothing has changed. This morning I weighed in at 180.4 pounds and I am still going. In the near future, I will likely switch to other ways to improve my fitness, such as weight training and high-intensity workouts.
Good luck with your journey to goal achievement. I know you can do it, because I did it. Just keep with the program (whatever that ends up being) at all costs. Let me know how it turns out!

UPDATE: Results

Hello, everyone! Well, the competition is over and I managed to pull ahead of the other participants. I “weighed out” last Friday (8 April), and after 12 weeks I lost a total of 34.7lbs. That came out to just over 17% of my body weight. I ended up getting back on the brown rice plan for the last two weeks of the competition, after being sidelined for a week due to an elective surgery that kept me out of the gym (or doing much of anything, really).

Now for the big question – now what? I have continued to go to the gym and run this week, but that is probably due to the habit I have built and a deep fear of breaking it. I have a fitness test next week for the Army Reserves, so right now I am working on my push-ups and sit-ups. After that, who knows.

The big thing I have come to realize though, is that I need a goal in order to keep going. I just haven’t figured out what it is yet.

Finally, thank you for reading. I just hope that you can take away a little bit of my accidental method and apply it to your own fitness goals. Even if you are not as regimented as I have been, they key is to continuously make small steps forward. “Baby steps to better” has become my mantra, as I have come to realize that absolutely nothing worth while happens in a day.

Keep going and good luck!

The Early Bus

DISCLAIMER: This post has absolutely nothing to do about information security. If that is the only reason you are here, please check out some of my other posts, which will likely have a greater impact on your interests.
image source: mcswhispers.wordpress.com
I take the bus to work. I actually like it that way, since it affords me extra time to read and catch up on the various podcasts that I listen to (yes, podcasts are still a thing and are still awesome). One thing I have changed recently is that I now go to the gym before the office each morning. In order to do that, I have to catch the first bus out of my neighborhood at 5:45AM.
The first bus has a very different culture than the subsequent ones. First, the bus itself arrives and opens its doors about 15 minutes before departure, in order to let riders take their seats and settle. None of the other buses do this, but that may have something to do with the fact that for them, nobody shows up early. Those buses frequently have to wait an extra minute before leaving in order to allow a late arrival to jog over and board.
On the later buses, everyone seems tired and wears a mask of dread for having to go into work. That simply isn’t the case for the first bus, even though it is significantly earlier than the others. Each rider is alert and ready to tackle the day. They are on that bus for a reason, one which is not completely comprised of necessity. Being on the first bus, that early, is a choice that THEY have made – not their employer.
I think I have found my people and it is both inspiring and uplifting to be among them. Be early, my friends. There is so much more to it than simply having more time to get things done.
Happy Friday, everyone!
Have a good day.

Steve P. Higdon has been working in the information security field for over ten years, providing support and consultancy to several public and private sector organizations. Steve holds several industry certifications and can be reached via email at infosec@stephenhigdon.com and on Twitter at @SteveHigdon.

NYT Breaks News on Planned Iran Cyber Attack… To What End?

While my other articles can certainly be viewed as opinion pieces, depending on the reader, this editorial is in direct response to the New York Times article about an apparent planned cyber-attack against Iran if last year’s nuclear discussions did not end favorably. The source for the story is a documentary that has not yet been released. In other words, this information was just about to get out anyway, but NYT wanted a part of the action in order to sell papers and gain online advertisement profits. The only parties that could actually confirm the story, White House staffers, Pentagon officials, and the Office of the Director of National Security, declined to comment. Then again, why would they?

What benefit do the American tax players gain with this information? If nothing actually happened aside from a contingency plan, why does it matter? Don’t we expect our elected officials to have such plans with the best interest of the American citizens at heart? If they didn’t and the nuclear talks went south, would Sanger and Mazzetti instead be writing a piece on administrative incompetence?

I might be just letting my own personal experience and political bias influence my opinion on this one, but I fail to see what value was added by globally publicizing a new military strategy and apparent future offensive capability for the sake of being the first to break the news (a single day before the work of the real investigators release their findings). I would love to see the impact this has on foreign relations, since it will go much further and deeper than the recent agreements between the United States and Iran.

But hey, you heard it there first.

Steve P. Higdon has been working in the information security field for over ten years, providing support and consultancy to several public and private sector organizations. Steve holds several industry certifications and can be reached via email at infosec@stephenhigdon.com and on Twitter at @SteveHigdon.