How fitness helps you become a better developer (Magnus Nordlander)

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SymfonyCon 2019 Amsterdam presentation by Magnus Nordlander.

We often think of technical skills as the way to level up as developers, but we're not (yet) brains-in-a-vat. Our body and physical health are crucial to be able to work well as developers.

In this talk I speak both about the science behind fitness and nutrition, and my personal journey of losing over 70 kgs, starting to go to the gym, how it affected me as a developer, as well as the shocking secret behind what happened to the Sound of Symfony podcast.

So welcome everyone. Um, I'm here to talk about how fitness makes you a better developer. And just before we start, there are going to be some sensitive topics discussed in this talk. Um, mental health, specifically depression and anxiety. Uh, there's also going to be a talk of obesity and I'm telling you so that if you feel you need to brace yourself mentally, you can do that. Or if this is not something that you're comfortable with, I won't be judging you if you leaving this talk, besides both the talk that Nicholas has and the talk that Matthias has seems awesome. So I can't really blame you if you do. Um, but, uh, my name is Magnus Norlander. I've been a Symfony developer since about 2007 and I run a small consultancy in Stockholm. I'm mostly focusing on Symfony. This is not my first SymfonyCon. I've actually been to all of them except for one.

Uh, for example, in Paris in December 15, I, uh, gave a presentation. Um, I was also in Berlin and back in December, 2016 I didn't talk at that conference, but I had a great time. Uh, back in 2017 I wasn't that SymfonyCon that was the one that I missed. Uh, but I did manage to go to SymfonyLive in San Francisco. This picture isn't from the conference. It's from, we recorded an episode of sound of Symfony there, uh, the now pretty much defunct podcast. Um, and yeah, I mean, clearly something happened. There's a pattern in those pictures. So let's take a closer look at, uh, to one of them and, and a more recent picture to compare. As you can see, I got a new haircut. Um, Joke, jokes aside

I, uh, I, I lost a bunch of weight. Um, and um, I also want to add a couple of, you know, caveats to this presentation. I'm not a physician. I'm not a nutritionist. I'm not a neuroscientist or a personal trainer. Um, it's just lost a bunch of weight. I'm a developer. So, uh, if you need to consult somebody, someone professional, I'm not that person. Uh, but speaking of neuroscience, we're gonna put a pin in my journey and start somewhere else. The brain. Um, since I assume most of us here are programmers and even if you're not, the brain is a pretty important tool to everyone. Um, and I don't know about you, but I like learning about how the tools that I use work. So that's what we're going to do here today. This is a picture of a brain. Um, and like I said, I'm not a neuroscientist.

Parts of the Brain that effect fitness (Hippocampus, Amygdala & Frontal Lobe)

I can't go into every detail about every part of the brain, but we're going to take a closer look at a few interesting parts, um, that has to do with fitness. So I'm going to focus on three different parts. The hippocampus, the amygdala, and the frontal lobe. The hippocampus is a fairly small, or actually there's two, because you have one in each half of the brain, but it's a, it's a part of the, um, um, of, of the temporal lobe. Um, and it plays an important role and consolidating short term memories into longterm memories as well as spatial memory and emotional regulation. And it's named for the seahorse shape it has. Um, the next part would be the amygdala. It's there. I didn't find as nice a picture of that one, but, uh, it plays an important role in memory processing, or actually there's two of that one, again, like I said, two parts of the brain.

Uh, it's also located in the, uh, in the temporal lobe. It's about the size of an almond. And, uh, it plays a primary role in processing and memory decision making and emotional responses like anxiety or fear or aggression. And for lack of a better term, it's one of the more primitive parts of the brain. Uh, and by that I mean that it's a part of the brain that's, that evolved pretty early on, around 200 million years ago. And it's shared not only with all mammals, it's also shared with reptiles. And fear is an important part of the brain. So that's why we've kept this around, uh, because fear keeps us from doing recklessly dangerous things that could kill us, which would be bad. Um, next up, the frontal lobe, which as you can see from this picture, is a pretty big part of the brain. Um, and in contrast to the amygdala, it's a relatively recent addition to the mammalian brain.

It's also, it's very large. It has many functions because it's such a large part of the brain, but most of the functions are, are higher functions like logical and abstract thinking or executive functions, which is stuff like planning for the future, judgment, decision-making, attention span or inhibition. And something interesting about the frontal lobe is that it can modify the emotions derived from the amygdala, whereas the amygdala gives us the, you know, the, the fear anxiety, those sorts of emotions. They're modulated by the frontal lobe to be expressed in a more socially acceptable way. Like perhaps if you're giving a ah, a presentation, you don't run away because it's, it's scary to be on stage. Um, and this balancing act with regulating the, the brain parts, the keep regulating each other is something that I want to talk about that people here watch. 'em Chernobyl, the TV show.

There was a great scene in there where I'm with Dr. Legasov of explains how an RBMK nuclear reactor balances the different parts of the reaction in order to create a stable one and just like a nuclear reactor, the different parts of the brain to balance each other in order to keep us functioning emotionally and unlike a nuclear reactor, the a in the brain, this happens through hormones and signaling substances. And we're going to talk about some of those two. First up, there's a substance called serotonin and all of these substances have complex, multifaceted roles, but very simplistically, serotonin contributes to a feeling of calm and inner strength. Uh, there's also dopamine, which is part of the reward system of the brain and it plays a key part in motivation. It's also strongly connected to addiction. Um, there's GABA or gamma aminobutyric acid, um, which reduces neural excitability, which means basically that it gets in between the neurons, slowing down their reactions and that calms us.

There's another substance called BDNF or brain derived neurotrophic factor, which is a protein that supports the survival of existing neurons and encourages growth of new neurons or Synopsys. Um, there's endorphins or actually endorphin as a contraction of endogenous morphine, uh, which is because it's a morphine like substance, but it's produced in the body that's endogenous. Uh, and just like the regular kind of morphine, um, it inhibits pain and it can induce a feeling of euphoria. Uh, endorphins is if you've heard of the runners high, that's, that's endorphins. Um, and finally there's a cortisol, which is a hormone that's associated with stress. Cortisol increases our heart rate. It also increases our blood pressure and generally it makes us ready to act on some sort of perceived danger. Uh, and we're going to look a little bit closer at that. Um, specifically cortisol and stress. Cortisol is regulated through a system called the HPA axis.

HPA is an abbreviation of hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal gland. And whenever you're in a situation where the brain perceives danger, the amygdala starts signaling the hypothalamus, which in turn, um, through a hormone signals to pituitary, which in turn signals the adrenal gland to start releasing cortisol into your, your bloodstream, which again, like it raises your heart rate and your blood pressure and everything. Something that's kind of interesting is that the amygdala itself actually responds to cortisol, um, by activating it even more. So if it was just the amygdala and the HPA axis there was involved, you would spin out of control into pure panic pretty, pretty quickly. Um, luckily the amygdala is balanced by the hippocampus and by the frontal lobe. Um, and

the, the HPA axis and the, the activation from the amygdala can sometimes misfire in the, in the modern world. Like if you're giving a presentation and you're going to, you're going to start being stressed. That's, that's a natural thing. Uh, and you're going to start releasing cortisol and making you ready to, to run away or to fight, which is perfect. That's just what I need right now. Uh, not necessarily useful. Um, so a big part of this presentation is, is going to be where these things, uh, stress. For example, humans have always had stressors, but over the last century, the characteristics of those kinds of stressors have been changing a lot from how am I gonna get food today? Or how am I going to run away from this bear, uh, to, uh, how am I gonna meet this deadline coming up in six weeks? Or, uh, what if the interest rates go up?

Um, we've gone from a lot of acute stressors to longterm stressors and that's not particularly good. Um, because like I said, stress reactions are caused by cortisol. Cortisol inhibits the hippocampus and the frontal lobe making. And like I said, hippocampus is responsible for memory formation. So, uh, longterm stress makes memories more difficult to form and it also starts affecting our emotional stability, [cough] excuse me. Um, it, um, it sort of gives the amygdala the sort of upper hand and this emotional balancing act and longterm elevated cortisol levels are actually toxic to the hippocampus, making it shrink and breaking it down physically. Um, exercise on the other hand is a good way to combat this because exercise stimulates the frontal cortex, a part of the frontal lobe and adds connections between the frontal cortex and the amygdala sort of strengthening the control over this, this balanced reaction and from, um, from, from the, uh, the frontal lobe.

It also increases resiliency, against stress, uh, basically making it so that in, if you're in a stressful situation, it takes more of it for you to sort of get into that fight or flight mode. Um, and it also makes your brain better at lowering cortisol levels once the threat is gone. Um, and um, stress is also deeply connected to anxiety and whereas stress is acute, uh, short term anxiety is basically what happens over the longterm. Uh, when you have stressors, both are controlled through the same mechanism, the HPA axis and um, it's been shown in scientific studies, uh, that people with anxiety has overactive amygdala, overly active amygdalas and sort of, it would sort of make sense then that strengthening this connection that the giving the frontal lobe more control of our stress reactions, uh, would help with anxiety as well. But that's not the only way that exercise helps against anxiety.

Um, because when things happen in the brain at the same time, um, those, there's a saying called neurons that fire together wire together. So things that happen simultaneously in the brain are going to be wiring together so that if one of them happens, both of them will happen. The a typical a situation where you, where you could see something like this as PTSD, where if, say you've been in a war zone and that's an that that's definitely an acutely stressful situation and you hear, um, sounds of like loud exploding type type sounds, uh, your brain is going to start associating those sounds with anxiety so that if you start hearing those sounds, even if it's not an stressful situation, you're going to be getting stressed. Um, what happens with exercise though is, and this happens, uh, because stress increases your heart rate and blood pressure, um, that gets associated with stressful situations, but there's also other situations which increases your, your heart rate and your blood pressure and that's exercise.

So by giving, uh, like a second way of having those, those experiences, you start to unwire those, um, uh, those connections. So that getting a high heart rate is probably not going to be asked anxiety inducing. Next up mood specifically depression. Um, this is also connected to stress and anxiety, but it's not directly affected by the HPA axis. I mean, it's all connected, but it's not the same mechanism. Uh, we know that mood disorders like depression are linked with lowered levels of serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. Um, and if you're looking at calling mood stabilizing medications like SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, um, those work by longterm racing the levels of, um, and of those signaling substances in the cases of an of SSRI, it's serotonin. And, um, there is something else that also raises your, your serotonin levels longterm. And that is exercise. Uh, and some studies have shown that for mild depression, exercise is as effective as, uh, as mood stabilizing medications. And unlike mood, stabilizing medications and exercise habits will actually give you longterm resiliency against mood disorders. Okay.

Memory also important for developing things. Like I said earlier, cortisol is toxic to the hippocampus and a good way to balance this is exercise because exercise stimulates BDNF production, which helps protect or even grow the hippocampus, allowing longterm memories to be more easily formed. And it's more difficult for them to get broken down.

Cardio Experiment

And if we have the time, which I believe we do a, I'm going to tell a short story about a scientific experiment on scientists in the U S took 120 people. They measured their hippocampus size via MRI, MRI machines, and then they split them into two groups. So group A regularly did cardio and group B did calmer activities like stretching. And after a year, uh, of this, uh, they measured again for group B, the results was pretty much what you would be expecting. The hippocampus had shrunk by about 1%. That's entirely normal. The hippocampus typically shrinks by about 1% per year. Um, but for group a, the one that had done cardio, that was not the case. The hippocampus had actually grown by about 2%. And, um, this isn't the only study of its kind. There's been other studies that have correlated exercise with better memories. Um, but the, uh, the protection and growing of the hippocampus is the likely mechanic. Why that actually works.

Focus is strongly connected to the reward system of the brain. Uh, basically you'll only stay focused as long as the brain considers remaining focused to be the most rewarding behavior. Uh, and this is signaled with dopamine. The brain wants dopamine and if it thinks that you're going to get more dopamine by checking your phone than by keeping doing a presentation on fitness, you're going to have a hard time focusing on the presentation. Um, dopamine also helps tuning out the background. So if you take a moment to listen around, there's an air conditioning system or something running in here. Uh, I'm sure you didn't notice that before I pointed it out because that's basically being filtered. Uh, that's being done in the thalamus and other part of the brain. And this filtering of the, the, the, the function of the thalamus is caused by dopamine because that noise is not important, you didn't notice it.

Um, so the thalamus acts as a filter for the unnecessary information that your brain has access to, but you don't really need. And having a well functioning thalamus allows you to focus better. Um, Oh, and did I mention that dopamine is is increased over long time by exercise? It is. Um, it's also key for creativity because having a finely tuned dopamine level keeps not only the noise out, but it also lets convergent and divergent thinking, which is basically what creativity is. So it makes sure you're not listening to unnecessary stuff, but you're getting just the right amount of new ideas to actually be creative. And creativity is less understood than for example, focus. But it's been well tested. Uh, studies show that exercise correlates strongly with increased creativity.

Cardio

So which physical activity should you be doing? Well, I mean you can basically, basically you can split up any physical activity into two kinds, uh, or probably more. But in this presentation I'm going to be focusing on two kinds, either cardio, which is basically anything that gets your heart rate up. Uh, ideally you would looking at something like 70% of your max heart rate, uh, or above that would be considered cardio. This could be running. Uh, if you're out of shape, walking is definitely going to do this too. It certainly did for me. Um, it could be biking or like those cardio machines that you have at the gym or it could be something more advanced like high intensity interval training and cardio is what's going to be driving most of the changes to the neurology of your brain. Um, so it is important if you want to have these sort of um, these sort of advantages conferred upon you.

So how often? Well, at least two times a week, preferably three to four, uh, and for at least 20 minutes per time, preferably 30 to 40 minutes. And it's important to keep at it because while you are going to be seeing some, some positive effects well actually a lot of positive effects immediately, there's going to be a fair number of them that's going to take a few months before they start like before you start noticing them.

Lifting

So in addition to cardio, there's also resistance training or lifting, which is something that I enjoy very much. Resistance training is basically what builds muscle and it shapes your physique. It's not as important for the brain, but it's not unimportant. Because see, muscle muscle tissue actually helps your body filter cortisol. So that again contributes to cortisol control and yeah, you should totally still do it. Um, so for resistance training, the important part to focus on, at least if you want to build muscle mass, is progressive overload.

That is making sure you increase in some way, either by how much weight you're lifting or how many reps you're doing, um, or even just slowing down and doing slower reps, uh, yes to, to make sure you're continuously challenging your muscles. Because with resistance training, you're basically breaking down your muscles and then the body repairs them, but it repairs them in a way that they're stronger. So you want to keep breaking them down. If you're just doing whatever you're able to, you're not going to be breaking down any muscle tissue. Uh, you want to go at least twice a week. Uh, if you're doing, if you're doing twice a week, you'll be doing full body workouts and I would recommend, uh, learning to use free weights because they're safer. Uh, you could totally do like body weight exercises as long as that's still a progressive overload.

Um, but machines are more prone to injury even though they might seem easier to use. Um, so it's definitely worth the time and to, to learn how to do the, to use free weights and to do like the big compound movements. So what about some other stuff? I mean, exercise is great, right? But what are the options? Uh, medication. So I want to be perfectly clear. Medication works and if you need it, you totally should use it. Physical activity doesn't replace medication. And if, for example, you're depressed, it could be difficult to find the motivation to start exercising. But that being said, if you are able to start exercising studies show that combining medication with physical exercise tends to give better results and it tends to give better longterm results. Um, because medication and physical exercise, uses some of the same pathways in the brain.

Mindfulness

Um, so yeah, also mindfulness, that's a fun thing. And I wish I could talk more about it, but I don't have the time. Uh, it works too. Uh, it's not as effective as exercise. It works basically because you, it's gonna help you like rewire your brain so that you're not getting as many. You're not getting as anxious over stuff that you shouldn't be getting anxious about. Um, and if you're more interested in, if you're interested in mindfulness, ask me after the talking, I'll be happy to talk to you about it. Um, what about diet and because we're now, now I'm done talking about exercise. Really I wanted to take this opportunity to talk a little bit more about diet because while it's not exactly fitness, it does affect your abilities as a programmer. Uh, but there is a connection, which is how I'm making this totally smooth SIG segue.

Diet

So, so, um, yeah, so smooth. Um, poor diet increases cortisol levels, uh, and excessive food intake in relation to your activity, uh, causes obesity. And I just wanted to give us insight. That's a subject near and dear to my heart. Uh, wanted side note on that, obesity is an epidemic. It's affecting 16% of adults in 2016 globally. It's even higher in industrialized nations. Um, the prevalence of obesity has tripled between 1975 and 2016. It's definitely not without problems. It causes cardiovascular diseases. It, um, it's a major cause of diabetes type two or metabolic syndrome. Um, it also causes osteoarthritis. Um, it keeps you chronically inflamed and it multiplies your risk for certain types of cancers by a lot. It's also important to note that adipose tissue, which is fat tissue, is an endocrine organ. It actually affects your hormones. Um, and um, like I said, it correlates with increased cortisol levels.

It's also super easy for obesity to start causing sleep disturbances. For example, I, I was never diagnosed with anything, but I'm very sure I had sleep apnea. I didn't realize until after I'd lost weight how poorly I slept. Uh, there's other ways of doing that and you can have sleep apnea without being obese, but it's, if you can avoid having sleep apnea, that's a good thing. Don't, don't have that. It's, It's not good. Um, and obesity doesn't just stress the joints and cardiovascular system. Like, I don't know why I've mentioned this three, three times now. It increases cortisol levels in the stressing the brain, which can totally turn into a vicious cycle because cortisol also increases fat storage. And if you happen to be someone who tends to eat their feelings, which I am, that's not a good combination because if you're eating your feelings, you're going to be more obese, which increases, which, which, which keeps you producing more cortisol, which means you eat more of your feelings, which means you gain a lot of weight.

So I'm not sure how many of you sort of know because I know I certainly didn't really understand how this worked before I started, um, before I started losing weight. Um, how the energy balance of the body sort of works. Eating food provides you with nutritional energy and the body uses energy to do like stuff walking around or talking or even just existing. It uses, it uses energy because your heart is pumping and your thinking and your body is generating heat. And if you take in more energy than is used, it's going to be stored somehow. And if you use more energy than you've taken in, that energy has to come from somewhere. It doesn't come out of thin air. It comes from that storage. The body can store energy in several different ways. It can store it in as blood glucose. That is the fastest, most accessible way of having energy stored.

It can store it as glycogen in the liver or glycogen in the muscles, uh, which is also pretty accessible or it could store it as adipose tissue or body fat. It can also use the energy to build stuff like muscle, which it can technically break down later to, to use for energy. But that's not something that the body really wants to do. Um, and to maintain weight, you should eat as much energy as you use to gain weight. If that is a problem, you should eat more than you use, uh, or to lose weight. You should eat less than you use. So how do you know how much to eat? Well, basically there's three ways and the first kinds, sort of the, the, uh, the, the obvious one following from how energy balance works. If you're maintaining your weight, whatever you're eating is how much energy you're using, otherwise you would be either losing or gaining weight.

Bench Marks

So if you log what you're eating and regularly weighing yourself, you can calculate what's known as your daily and your total daily energy expenditure by just summing it up and averaging out. And there's apps to do that. I'm going to be talking a little bit more about that later. Um, that takes a while though because you have to log what you're eating over a longer time. I wouldn't recommend doing it for less than a month. Um, faster but less exact way is to use a formula like the Mifflin St Jeor formula to estimate what's known as your basal metabolic rate. Uh, that formula takes your age, your gender, your height, and your weight, I believe, um, to to estimate how much energy your body is using to just exist. Um, then you can take, uh, what's known as a physical activity factor and multiply that by your basal metabolic rates to get your total daily energy expenditure.

Um, the, the physical activity factor is just basically based on how active you are. You get a number that you multiply the BMR with to get the TDEE. The third option is measuring it, which sounds really good, but it's, it has practical problems. The, there are tools that are super exact for measuring your basal metabolic rate, like a metabolic chamber. Uh, but you probably don't have access to those. There's not a lot of them, um, in the entire world. And the tools that you do have access to aren't actually measuring your metabolic rate. They're just estimating at using a formula like the Mifflin St Jeor formula activity bands like an Apple watch or a Fitbit or whatever. Um, they do measure your activity so they can get a decent estimate of your physical activity and physical activity factor. But the error margin, those are not great. And like I said, they're still using a formula for your basal metabolic rate. Uh, if you have the time, actually logging in weighing is super good, but you might want to get a ballpark estimate using a formula.

Dieting

So are calories, everything that matters? Uh, well no, there's also macronutrients which you've probably heard of. It's fats, carbohydrates and protein, and we all need fats and protein. Um, carbs aren't strictly necessary, but it's good if you want to be able to perform physically. And I could totally go very in depth about macro distribution and what, which macro distribution is good for what. And if you're interested in that, come talk to me afterwards or ping me on Twitter. But I, until then, I just want to say a couple of things. So the normal diet that's recommended by stuff like the, uh, well, sort of any nutrition agency is going to be about 50% energy from carbohydrates, about 30% from fats and about 20% from protein. And that's a good start. Um, if you're looking to build muscle or if you're losing weight and I want to maintain the muscle mass that you have, you probably want to add more protein to that or actually rebalance it so that you, uh, you eat some more protein than that.

Um, and there's a bunch of exclusion diets. I'm sure everyone here has heard of keto, which is basically that you eat barely any carbohydrates and that kicks you into ketosis. Um, but for weight loss, what really matters is how many calories you're eating versus how many calories you're using. Even if you're in ketosis, that is that you're using fats instead of carbohydrates as your main energy source, unless you're actually at a caloric deficit. There's too much energy already coming into your system from your diet. So that doesn't, it's not necessary to take it from, from your fat stores. Um, but what I would just recommend is to find a way of eating that that works for you, that you feel that you can sustain. And if that is eating, eating a low carbohydrate diet, that's, that's fine. Um, but it's not something like that. The important thing is energy balance.

And now, now we have everything, right. You have the energy and we have the macronutrient nutrients. Well, no, we also have micronutrients, uh, which is pretty much vitamins and minerals. Um, so what do you eat? Well you can get, you can get a long way with just common sense, like mostly cook your own food, eat plenty of vegetables. You all know this. Don't eat too much of the things that everyone knows aren't good for you, like deep fried foods or sweets or excessively fatty foods. Um, that takes you a long way. Um, you just have to actually do it. That's the difficult part. It's simple but not easy. Um, if you're, if that isn't accomplishing your goals, it's super useful to log your food intake and there are apps to help you do this. Like my fitness pal or Lifesum, uh, where you just, you have, you can basically search for food items and you add them to your daily log and you weigh them and that makes it easier.

Um, but it's also important to remember that what's important isn't what you're doing once a month or once a year. Or like if, if you're at a conference, that's not what's important. It's important what you're doing every day. So like not caring, particularly what you're eating at, say, new year's eve. Totally fine. Not caring, particularly what you eat every other day. That's probably not gonna fly. Um, and, um, I sort of just want to talk a little bit about my story and, uh, there's caveats for this one too. You are not me. I hope. Um, not everyone needs to lose weight. Um, I, I did, not everyone does. Not everyone is two meters tall, surprisingly, because I thought that's such a nice and round number that that should probably be the average. It turns out it isn't. Um, also, I didn't exactly do everything right either. So, um, uh, yes, do as I say, not as I do.

Magnus' Journey

Um, I was always pretty big. I didn't become obese until my twenties when I started moving away from home. Um, and I was never very active. Um, possibly because I have exercise induced asthma, which I only found out about like a year ago. Uh, getting medication for that super helpful, super helpful. Um, but when I started starting attending a university, uh, stress from school where I suddenly had to apply myself, that's super weird. Uh, and the reduced social control of what I'm eating because I was living alone or I was living in a, in a, a, you know, a student housing thing, but I'm pretty much living alone. That caused me to eat more because I tend to eat my emotions. And when I was stressed, I ate to feel good. Um, I wasn't happy. I was especially not happy with my body and I had a lot of anxieties about my body and my health.

Um, thinking about that or doing anything about that would make it feel more real and um, that would trigger more anxiety, not, not great. And I never really had a single rock bottom moment, but I, I, I'd like say I had three, three pivotal moments, which I would like to talk a little bit about here. So in the summer of 2017, I joined Mensa and it's not important that it is Mensa, uh, but it's a social Mensa. Basically. It's a social organization. It's meetups and drinkups. And yeah, I made a lot of new friends, became more social and that sort of became, it sort of made me a happier person. Um, I, I was never diagnosed with anything. I was likely depressed before, but I never went to see a doctor because going to see a doctor would be anxiety inducing and I did not want to do that.

Um, but occasionally I did like challenge my anxiety somewhat. In December, 2017 I read an article about insulin and diabetes and that article, I don't like to actually link to it because it turns out that's probably not a correct article. But the take that I was getting from it is that if I started eating less carbs, maybe that would prevent me from getting diabetes. That getting diabetes was a major, major fear of mine. It was pretty justified to be honest. But, um, because I had some of the symptoms of pre-diabetes, um, but I thought this is something that I can do. Like eating less carbs is not difficult. I like eating vegetables. I don't need to drink lots of sugar drinks. Um, I can do this. And so I did, I started changing my diet, uh, eating less carbs, um, incidentally eating less calories overall and I started losing inches off my waist and that sort of kicked in the realization that I actually could lose weight.

Initially. I didn't think I could. Um, I thought that weight loss is not something that was understood, which is easy. It's easy to get that sort of a, that sort of impression from seeing all of these weird like pineapple diets and these crash diets where you're supposed to eat nothing at all and then you gain the weight back. And like, I thought that people didn't, people didn't know how to lose weight. It's no one knew. But by doing this, I sort of started understanding that actually maybe I could lose all that weight, which was very motivating. So by spring of 2018 I started exercising more specifically. I started going more for walks. I started closing the rings on my Apple watch. That's pretty motivational. Um, and I bought a scale that I couldn't use. Um, because at that time I, I still don't know what I weighed.

I know it's over 180 kilos because that's the maximum weight for that scale and I was over that. Um, so surprisingly enough I took that in good, good stride because, um, I just thought that, well maybe if not now, at least I'm still losing weight, obviously. Um, I'll be able to use it sometime. By summer of 2018, I set a calorie goal and I started sticking to that and by August I was under 180 kilos and actually started to be able to use my scale. In September I got a gym membership mostly because Sweden is a cold country, so I don't want to be out walking or running in the winter. Um, so I wanted to be able to do cardio in doors, but as I started going to the gym, I also started lifting. Uh, which I found was fun. Uh, cardio was not something that I thought was really fun initially.

Um, but uh, lifting was, that was fun from the beginning. So I also increased my calorie goal because going to the gym surprisingly uses energy. Uh, and in April, 2019, I hit my goal weight of 115 kilos, which is when I started switching over to maintenance. That was not as smooth as it could have been. I would not recommend like going from a steep deficit directly to maintenance. It's probably better to like taper that out so that you're used to how you're supposed to be eating at a higher calorie limit. Also some kind of fun stuff. I was in an article on men's health. I did not expect I would be in an article above Jason Mamoa. That's a, that was pretty cool. Um, so all in all I went from about, I'm guessing 190 to 200 kilos to 110. Um, which is pretty much, I didn't weigh myself today, but that's pretty much where I'm at.

Uh, I'm eating a lot better. I'm now working out every day. That's a relative. You don't need to be working out every day. Um, but that's a, that's a relatively new thing. I do that because I enjoy lifting. Um, I sleep better. I have normal blood blood pressure now. I did not, when I was overweight, I had very high blood pressure. Not good at all. My resting heart rate is around 50 beats per minute, which is pretty good and I'm also happier and less stressed. Um, I'm going to go ahead and add another, um, another before and after picture. Um, and something that I want to leave you with is this, I'm not special. Like you can do this. If you need to lose weight, you can do it. It's simple, not easy, but um, what you should do is you should focus on sustainability both through exercise or diet.

Lessons Learned

This, this particular slide applies to regardless of if you need to lose weight and you start exercising, focus on a sustainable habit both for exercise and diet. Don't go all in because it's so easy to like go all in and I'm going to exercise twice a day. And then you do that for half a week and then you stop, like start small and scale it up over time as you feel like you can find an activity that you like. For me that was lifting and later running running initially was sort of the least objectionable form of cardio to me. Um, but I actually found, I sort of started enjoying that. Um, and routine is super powerful specifically for weight loss. I would like to add that it's not a race. You don't need to do this fast. You should plan for maintenance. Also for me specifically, I'm a volume eater so I need to go for foods with a low calorie density that is like need a lot of it with not too much calories.

But drinking your calories is not, that's not a good idea for anyone. Don't do that too often. Also weighing yourself is good if you want to lose weight, but you should not be looking at like the day to day value. It's better to look at moving averages because your weight tends to fluctuate based on water or how much salt you had the day before or whatnot. Um, also in the, in the description for this talk, I promise to reveal the dark secret about what happened with the sound of symfony podcast. I just didn't have time. I started going to the gym. I mean, that's more important, and that's pretty much the end of this presentation. If you have any questions, we don't have time to take them now, but you should talk, you can talk to me at the conference, or you can contact me on Twitter or the symfony Slack and, uh, yeah, that's, uh, that's it. Uh, thank you everyone.

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