Challenge 2016 conclusion and 2017 Challenge

I started 2016 with a 1-year, self-imposed contract to improve my diet significantly. I needed something that could not fail, because I was desparate. And it worked. In 2016, I cut back 90% of sweets and snack foods (crackers, bread etc), and lost almost 25 pounds. Here is a screenshot of data I put in Monitor Your Weight app:
It was challenging, but in retrospect I nailed all the essential elements that were required so that I couldn’t fail and I couldn’t defeat myself: I identified the most important times and venues for my “bad eating habits”, I made a promise that would cost a lot to break, I made the promise to people close to me so that I wouldn’t have the nerve to sneak the bad stuff (it would mean lying to those people when I spoke to them next!); I gave myself some opportunities to enjoy treats once in a rare while, and minimized the impact on social interactions.
So in 2016, I had almost no bread, no crackers, no cereals (except oats), no “bread spreads” (jam, nutella, honey), no pancakes or french toast or cake or chocolate bars, the list goes on. I say “almost” because I did have some of these during family trips, meals out, birthdays, etc, but these were once every few weeks compared to several times a day for snack foods!
I replaced these with salads (I discovered how easy it is to make really yummy ones!), oats, eggs, cheese, peanut butter, nuts, dried fruit like figues, dates, prunes and raisins, cold cuts like salami and ham and turkey, canned fish like salmon and tuna, avocados, olives, bacon, bananas, apples, pears, melon, lemon, grapefruit, to name but a few.
So my “fast” sugar intake (ie. the sugar that can quickly be digested and causes spikes in your blood glucose levels) dropped dramatically. I noticed that my salt intake probably increased a bit (I didn’t measure this, just based on the foods I eat), but seems ok on average. I notice that I can eat vegetables that I didn’t previously like much: I started “tasting” non-sweet foods again!
I still have 5 lbs to go but mostly for 2017, I want to continue to eat more healthily. My contract will be similar but a little more relaxed. Just a little, I don’t want to go back to my pre-2016 eating habits, and I don’t want to loose more than 5 lbs.
So the contract this year is thus:

Healthier Eating 2017 for Oliver

I hereby make the following pledge to myself and to my SUPPORTERS:
  • I can only eat ADDICTION_FOODS in the following RARE SITUATIONS:
    • Festivity meals: birthday dinner, Christmas dinner or brunch, etc;
    • Social events: dinner get-togethers, restaurant with others, coffee with a colleague, cottage/vacation, etc;
      • LIMITATION: during events that span multiple meals (example: weekend at cottage), I can only eat ADDICTION_FOODS that are served to me.
    • One-time special events (example: my son’s first pancakes!);
    • When my weight is under 170 pounds and there has been more than 7 days since I consumed any ADDITION_FOODS;
      • LIMITATION: I am allowed one “portion”, about 300 cals.
    • When my weight is below 165 lbs.
  • ADDICTION_FOODS is any of the following:
    • breads and spreads: loaf, pita, naan, croissant, bagel, etc, nutella, jams, honey etc.
    • high-carb cereals (like Cheerios, Corn Flakes, Rice Crispies, etc; whole grain cereals like rolled or steel cut oats are ok; all bran/bran buds are ok, granola-type cereal as additive to other cereal are ok)
    • pancakes and crepes.
    • crackers and potatoe/cereal chips (tortilla, etc).
    • cookies, cake, pastries, struddels, etc.
    • chocolate bars, rochers, turtles, and similar assortments of junk food.
    • juice and beverages from cartons and jugs, even if they are 100% pure fruit; coconut water is ok.
  • SUPPORTERS are those listed below. Their name appearing here indicates they approve of this challenge and they will not try to sabotage it (this clarification is likely only important for my kids!):
    • Monique L.
    • Bobby and Elena
    • Mike F.
    • Donna E.
    • Karim A.
    • Melina S.
    • Jim N.
    • Wolf S., Gloria, Eddie, Nico and “Crispy” their wascally puddy cat
  • Whenever I consume ADDICTION_FOODS, I must log it to MY LOGBOOK, vieweable at anytime by my SUPPORTERS.
  • The PERIOD of this pledge is from Jan 3rd 2017 to Dec 31st 2017
  • PENALTY: In order to increase the odds of success of this excruciating challenge, I promise to give each SUPPORTER the sum of CAN$100 if I FAIL.
  • FAILURE to fulfill this pledge is defined as eating any ADDICTION_FOODS outside of the RARE SITUATIONS described above, within the PERIOD of this contract.

Thanks to all my supporters! Cheers,


p.s. A couple people have expressed concern that this is a zero carb diet. Quite the opposite! “Healthy carbs” are amazingly easy to get: vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and beans, and you only need around 200g per day!. I eat plenty of those every day; what else is there to eat, when ADDICTION_FOODS are eliminated! So no worries!

War on carbs addiction challenge 2016: creativity

Well, not being able to eat bread or cereal at home or office (see Stopping my carbs addiction challenge for 2016) sure has an impact on breakfast, lunches at work, and eating between meals. Forces you to be creative:

  • breakfast: pretty much the only two types of breakfast are:
    • Some form of eggs: boiled, scrambled, poached; with either some taboule, humus, cream cheese, tomatoes, etc, anything that can add a bit of variety and is not bad for you. I quite enjoy these actually. Certainly more variety than peanut butter and jam every morning.
    • Some form of porridge: i have developed an awesomely good porridge, with crushed nuts, raisins (the lowest sugar ones, which so far means sultana), dates, chia, flax, milk. This is the base anyways, can add frozen fruit too, yogurt. Using the 2 min cook-time oats is great, easy to prepare.
  • lunch: can’t do sandwiches, so:
    • cold cuts
    • taboule, humus, nuts
    • veggies like cucumber, tomatoes, celery, olives, avocado (which is actually a fruit!)
    • cheese
    • left-overs from dinner
    • salad based on any of the above
    • clementines, apples, bananas, kiwi, etc
  • between-mean snacks:
    • prunes, dates, raisins
    • nut mixes
    • clementines, apples, bananas, kiwi, etc
    • cold-cuts, cheese
    • peanut butter, alone or with apple or banana slices or celery

I heard on the radio that having to be creative is a good exercise for the mind. So this is an added benefit to this food regimen! And been loosing about 2 pounds per week for this 1st month.

War on sweets 2016

It is now 20 days that I have been following my “challenge”, adhering religiously to my “contract” described at  Stopping my carbs addiction: Challenge for 2016. The 1000$ consequence may seem silly but it is one of the reasons that this has worked 100%: there is no way I’m going to cheat 10 people of a $100 each by sneaking foods mentioned in that contract. So, 20 days, not one cheat. And actually, no regret, no bitterness about ignoring all those wonderfully yummy foods at home, store and office.

The only sweets I had were allowed per that page:

  • was at a ski chalet Jan 8 with my daughter, 1/3 of a chocolote bar shared with her
  • a cookie when i had lunch with my daughter during her saturday dance lunch break

I think that allowing for some strategically defined “breaks” is another big factor in this success: the breaks are not at home so that there is no ambiguity about whether it is ok; i.e., at home, office, and car, zero tolerance; when eating out with friends/colleagues, allowed. This way, when I have a craving, I can just remind myself that there will surely be an opportunity soon. I picked zero tolerance in the 3 most common places that I find myself eating addictive foods; there is no subjectivity in zero. Also, allowing myself to have sweets when eating out with others means I’m not a burden to others, and that may also seem silly, but over time being a burden to others decreases one’s resilience.

Now I just have to last till the 25 day mark as the first part of that challenge: lasting as long as the average duration of new-years resolutions!

War on carbs 2016: update

So, after two days of lower-carb-challenge-2016, I’m really happy , this is working so well: I have resisted without a problem to pancakes, various yummy loafs of bread we have at this time of year, muffins, cereal, marzipan covered chocolates, etc… even pizza! (although I deliberately did not put pizza on my list — I don’t have it often enough to worry about its impact on my health). Not one ADDICTION_FOODS item since the first minute of the year!

Although the thought of grabbing an item that I see on the counter or table has happened many, many times over the past 48 hours (again, it’s that time of year, yummy stuff lying around!), all I have to do is remind myself of the $1000 dollars I would have to pay to my group of supporters, and boom, thought gone, no regrets.

The next challenge is to keep this up for a couple of weeks, since 2 weeks is the average length of time that people hold their resolutions. The next one after that will be 2 months, since I have been able twice in the past to change my diet for a couple months (although not as completely as in this challenge). And final is to do it for the rest of the year.

So, only 8712 hrs to go! (just kidding, I’m not counting the hours like this).

Stopping my carbs addiction: Challenge for 2016

I hereby declare war on carbs!! I can’t control myself! I have tried many times but they keep coming back and haunting me! I keep gaining weight every year, clogging up my arteries, etc. I must try something different, something that will give me the necessary strength to resist: make it too expensive to fail. So:

I hereby make the following pledge to myself, and to those whose name appears below:

  • I will not eat ADDICTION_FOODS at home, in the car, or at work (together with sleep time, this covers 95% of my time)
  • I am allowed to eat ADDICTION_FOODS if I am eating out at a restaurant, as long as it is for a meal
    • Exception allowed: Group snack at restaurant, or snack alone if traveling, and GORP while hiking/snowshoeing/xc-skiing
  • I am allowed to eat  ADDICTION_FOODS at someone’s place
  • ADDICTION_FOODS is any of the following:
    • bread (sandwich, flat, croissant, etc)
    • boxed cereals (like Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Corn Flakes, Rice Crispies, etc)
    • nutella and jams
    • pancakes and crepes
    • crackers and chips
    • cookies, cake, pastries, struddels, etc
    • chocolate bars, rochers, turtles, and similar assortments of junk food
    • juice and beverages from cartons and jugs, even if they are 100% pure fruit
  • The period of this pledge is from Jan 1st 2016 to Dec 31st 2016 (but likely to be renewed each year for the rest of my life!)
  • Failure consists in the following:
    • Eating any of ADDICTION_FOODS in the conditions described above, during the year 2016
  • In order to increase the odds of success of this crazy yet wise endeavor, I promise to give each of the following people the sum of CAN$100 as soon as I fail to uphold this contract, in return for their moral support:
    • Bahanzai (Thanks dude for being the first official supporter!)
    • Jeremy
    • Madeleine
    • Bobby
    • Elena
    • Monique
    • Melina
    • Matt
    • Carolyn
    • 1 more TBD
  • Support by those listed implies the following:
    • By having their name on this list they pledge to act in good faith and to not intentionally sabotage my efforts! 🙂
  • If I fail, I will write a shameful post on this blog, you will receive the money within a few days, and this endeavor and contract ends. BTW this contract also ends if I keel over and die of any cause whatsoever, except if the autopsy determines without a doubt the cause of death to be the consumption of ADDICTION_FOODS!

Thanks to all my supporters! Cheers,



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Relocating a python 3.x virtual environment in Windows 7

I created a simple python virtual environment a year ago and today needed to move it to a different location on my laptop. Problem is that several files within the python virtual environment (VE) contain the path to the folder that contains the virtual environment. So if you just move the folder, various batch files, .py scripts, and *.pyc files contain the path hardcoded in them.

Oddly, I didn’t find much on google about relocating VE’s; mostly about how it can’t really be done.

So I tried the following, for Python 3.x virtual environments:

  1. From the Windows Explorer, navigated to the python VE (example: c:\oldfolder\py_34)
  2. Did a search (using the Search Box) for __pycache__
  3. Selected all the __pycache__ folders and deleted them: this is safe because if the cache folders don’t exist, python recreates them at next import of associated packages/modules
  4. In notepad++, did a search & replace of “c:\oldfolder” for “c:\newfolder” on all *.bat and *.py files under c:\oldfolder
  5. Verified by doing search for “c:\oldfolder” on all files (no filtering) in c:\oldfolder that no reference to oldfolder were left
  6. Move the oldfolder to new location

For Python 2.6 and 2.7 VE, instead of searching for __pycache__ I searched for *.pyc and deleted everything found. This is safe because *.pyc files are automatically regenerated next time imported, if they don’t already exist.

Seems to work so far: I can activate the VE, start python, and import some standard and 3rd party packages. If I find out over the next couple weeks that something more subtle broke, I will update this post.

Coax FM antenna 75 ohm unbal

We have a 1990’s stereo system that works great: amp/tuner with multiple inputs (CD, etc), CD player (used to have tape deck but don’t work). Needed antenna so could listen to radio: 75 ohm unbalanced, coax but not the standard TV coax:

I had an FM dipole “T” antenna for indoor use, but the connector is two little hooks:

Found out that I already had what I needed: a 75-300 ohms Transformer Adapter, like

Problem solved!