Friday, February 19, 2016

(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!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Education Reform that Might Actually Work!

There is quite a bit of attention put on the Federal government when it comes to education reform. It is a hot topic for every Presidential and Congressional debate, yet less than 10% of education funding that reaches the schools actually comes from the Federal government.

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The highest contributor to public education is the state government, which provides anywhere between 48% and 70%, depending on who is doing the arithmetic. Next is the local government, which gives between 20% and 40%. The biggest sources for state funding are sales and income taxes. Local governments derive their funding from property tax.

The more money that the citizens in a state make, the more they are paying in income and sales tax and the more money the local governments get from their property tax (assuming that people with more money buy nicer houses). The problem is that education is a catalyst for future income. If schools have low performance, their local citizens will likely grow up and have lower-income jobs. This means that they will not pay as much in income tax and will likely not be able to afford to buy a mansion, adding to local property tax revenue. Thus, it is all an endless cycle of education success or education failure, which is directly tied to the local community and culture (if you want to dig that deep). This is why education should be of great concern to everyone.

Although the Federal and local governments have their hands tied in approaches to education reform, the state governments are in perfect position to effect positive change. The biggest driver in the system I am proposing is standardized test scores. Before I get a stream of public outcry over standardized tests, hear me out. Standardized test scores should not be used to determine who gets the money in a particular state, or how much. Instead, all state money should be divided equally between schools and test scores should be used as a tool to determine where the bulk of that money will go. In other words, if an elementary school has substandard test scores for reading, they should be required to prove that a good portion of their annual budget goes directly into the English department.

If schools want to purchase a new gymnasium, auditorium, or other “niceties”, they have to make sure that their test scores stay above the minimum for all areas of study.

What do you guys think?

Monday, April 28, 2014

New Blog

Hello there, followers!

I am starting a new blog that focuses more on information security. Please check it out!

I have also migrated to @stevehigdon for Twitter and +SteveHigdon for Google+. Please update your contacts lists.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

4 Ways to Sell Security Expenses to Business Executives

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One of the most challenging parts of being a security administrator is asking for more money, especially when it appears as though everything is working fine. The old adage comes to mind, "If it's not broken, don't fix it."

Unfortunately, this philosophy can be disastrous in the security world. New technology acquisition is often much easier for the CIO than for the CISO for one simple reason: business executives like new, shiny toys. They don't however, like to invest in technology that they are unable to see and play with.

For this reason, you must always address new security capability procurements in business terms that executive management understands. In other words, you have to show them the money. The following are 4 ways of getting business minded people to see the benefit of making security expenses that they do not fully understand.

1. Create a "What If" Scenario: This suggestion is often the easiest, especially since the most of the associated research is has already been performed if you are an active and aware security professional. Compile a list of the most recent vulnerabilities and exploits, whether they pertain to your organization or not. Then, take the data from your business continuity and disaster recovery plans (hopefully they are up to date and accurate) to calculate the amount of money lost each day when information and information assets are not available. Many times this kind of scare is enough to continue the conversation.

2. Capitalize on Competition: Business executives are always trying to compare their business with similar organizations because they do not want to be driven out of the market. On that same note, they often enjoy a good story about their competition's shortfalls. Find some similar organizations around the world that have suffered from security incidents, especially those that have lost a considerable amount of money. When you give this presentation and provide a solution, it can easily be seen as a win/win. Not only does it look like you are a better security professional than what the "other guys" have because it did not happen to your organization, but it also gives the executives an opportunity to make a decision that will give them a leg up on other members of the industry. Business people like to think that their company is an industry leader. All you have to do is give them an opportunity.

To put a cherry on top, it might be a good idea to reference the same profit loss data as in the previous suggestion when comparing against the competition.

3. Do Your Research: Nothing turns business people off more than speaking with someone who has no business sense. If you are unable to show a positive return on investment (ROI) for the procurement, they can feel like you have wasted their time. For this, make sure that you don't just research solution capabilities, but also the associated costs. Another tip is to only suggest solutions that fulfill the current need, along with projected organizational growth and near-term future requirements. It is fine to go up a size or two when buying a winter coat for your child, but it might be a waste of money to splurge on an adult large that they will never grow into.

Make sure you do research and find the best return on investment

4. Role Identification: When all else fails and you are sure you are absolutely right, it might be a good idea to remind your executives that ultimately they are the information owners. You are doing your job by identifying the problems and presenting solutions, but it is their responsibility to approve or disapprove the security measures. It is also their responsibility to protect their information. If a security incident occurs that would have been avoided if they chose to approve your suggested investments, it won't be your picture on the front page of the newspaper.

This is a bold step, but it has the possibility getting your recommendation funded AND changing the way they look at the security of their organization's information.

These 4 ways to sell security expenses to business executives could help you make your organization more secure, avoid security incidents, and ultimately keep your job. If you have any suggestions or additional tips for performing this task, please let me know in the comments section down below and I might add them to the list.

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