Diet is the new sin

Yes, diet seems like how Catholicism treated (and still does?) sex – the taboo we lie about, feel most guilty about. For me, what I eat and drink has been a source of existential exploration for four decades. I’ve previously posted that diet is NOT something my Big Year folly can tackle well, so why raise it now? Because I’m still groping. So here are words of wisdom from my friend Shane:

How much should one worry about this stuff? Maybe the most sensible approach is to hove to the basics: exercise, don’t smoke, pursue a whole foods, vegetarian/vegan diet

More from Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit”

I continue to re-examine this wonderfully written book – can it teach anything fresh? He writes:

How do habits change? There is, unfortunately, no specific set of steps guaranteed to work for every person. We know that a habit cannot be eradicated—it must, instead, be replaced. And we know that habits are most malleable when the Golden Rule of habit change is applied: If we keep the same cue and the same reward, a new routine can be inserted. But that’s not enough. For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. And most often, that belief only emerges with the help of a group.

I find this sobering but realistic. After skipping sections on the “habits” of organizations and societies, subjects of little interest to me right now, at the tail end of the book I focus on his  “advice” chapter, but even then he counsels:

The difficult thing about studying the science of habits is that most people, when they hear about this field of research, want to know the secret formula for quickly changing any habit. If scientists have discovered how these patterns work, then it stands to reason that they must have also found a recipe for rapid change, right?

I first read “The Power of Habit” two years ago with precisely that hope in mind. “If only it were that easy,” writes Duhigg. “It’s not that formulas don’t exist. The problem is that there isn’t one formula for changing habits. There are thousands.”

I remain hopeful . . . more to come . . .

My jogging segments: How fast?

Sometime ago, I felt I was running faster than a plod, so I picked up pace over a riverside section that might, I reckoned, be a Strava “segment.” A Strava segment is a user-created route that invites Strava users to measure themselves against others. Cyclists seem to use them a lot, with work commuters trying each day to beat others on short road sections.

At the end of that jog, I looked up my Strava performance and, sure enough, I had a new personal record on a 1.9-km segment called “Yarra Boulevard to Burnley.” I’d run it in 11 minutes, 33 seconds. Hmm, how well do I compare? It turns out my outing that day was ranked 2,294th out of 2,833. I was deflated but then looked up my 55-to-64 age bracket. Refreshingly, not many old runners tackle this segment, for I was ranked 25th out of 38. Yes, the fastest old runner had done it in 7:32 minutes, 50% faster than me, but I was not the slowest, not at all.

How wonderful the modern world of data!

Writing Big Year: Blerggggh

York’s two-and-a-half days of Chapter 5 drafting: the left image shows plot points covered, that is, three; the right image depicts plot points undrafted, i.e. heaps. Not a grand result, though part of it is due to collapsing a big 1953 tale into a short aside, something I’m glad I’ve done. An empty feeling . . . not because I “underachieved,” but because tomorrow we start a seventeen-day trek across England, the Coast To Coast, and right now all I wish is that I could sit back down to write more, but I cannot.

Cycle? Read this?

To you, the perennial non-cyclist, does cycling seem imbued with romanticism, the allure of effort, speed, ascent, ground covered, the world all around? It does to me. David Coventry’s The Invisible Mile fictionalises Australia’s participation (with one New Zealander) in the 1928 Tour de France. Our book group Novel Men struggled somewhat with the feverish eloquence of the author, but the novel sure does convey the risks and sacrifices of long-distance cycle touring!


Foer’s Eating Animals made a huge impression on me and now, after a decade, he’s back with a “big” novel a la Franzen, etc. I have a “big novel” in me also (doesn’t everybody), the hard part is getting to it (and doesn’t everybody say that?). 2019 is tentatively the Writing Big Year when I hunker down to draft it. In the meantime, I’ll buy Here I Am and swoon. (By the way, Alex Shepard’s GQ article is way neat.)

York work

Here I be. Home during daylight hours for half of Thursday and all of Friday and Saturday. The plan: speed-draft Chapter 5, based on plot cards. I don’t think I can do it. I think I can do it. I don’t believe I can. I believe I can.