Noedig's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
Noedig
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Noedig's Journal

Post by Noedig » Wed Sep 24, 2014 10:41 pm

A journal seems like the right way to kick this off. Here are some facts about the situation, and then I will try to articulate why I am here. First the basic facts:

49 [feeling old!]
Married with 2 teen daughters: very much a Family Guy.
Live in London, with a modest terraced house, central enough to cycle everywhere
Work as a contract Business Analyst in finance, since college. Good money, long hours.
Wife works part time in community mental health - lots of responsibility but not much money

I am here as I have realized I want to quit working. That won't happen just by wishing, absent a visit from the Lottery Fairy, so some kind of plan is in order. I am here to learn from you all what has worked for you, what hasn't worked, and the kind of mindset for approaching the many decisions along the route.

As to why: It feels like I have spent all my life working - at school, before college, during college, ever since. Any chance I had to defer some gratification and do some work, I took that choice. Very likely in part because I felt a bit poor when growing up. As a result the financial situation is now good, but I have not spent enough time with the kids or doing fun stuff. I could get all emo and say I want now to 'develop as a person' but actually recreation is what truly comes to mind when I think about this - getting on my bike, travel, seeing more friends and family, just spending some more time with my daughters before they leave home... it's a long list.

The essential point about deferred gratification, I have come to feel, is that it is no good if you defer it forever or to the point when by the time you get it, the party is over, or to paraphrase Warren Buffet, to find you have waited until you are ninety for all the sex. I feel I have done enough deferring.

That's part of the reason why ERE appeals. Also because I am not a materialist, whatever that means when, ahem, I am to most practical effects a full member of the consumer society: I suppose I mean that though I have most of the trappings (house/car/iMAC etc), I am also the geeky guy that likes to cycle everywhere and spends hours fixing stuff (even when I should just buy a replacement), cooks home bakes and makes meals from leftovers. Also I honour the Thoreau-like minimal engagement mindset and a lot of what has come from that. So, I will claim to belong: challenge me if care to debate the point.

But, sigh, I can't retire just yet. The kids are in private school (which costs an absolute bomb - I can't believe how much.). My savings are in tax wrappers which means I can't get hold of them until I am 55 anyway. Also, I can add up all I have saved, and that seems like a lot. But then I take away all I must pay for (kids education, pay off house, likely some startup money for them after college, and to get married) and what's left is not enough to quit. So I must work for a few more years.

But I do have a target: pay off the house and have savings of enough to retire on at a much lower income level than now, but enough. I have a good start and can reach this goal in about five years, I figure.

My concern is to keep focused and to be smart about it, avoid mistakes, minimise my other costs in the meantime, and spend as much time not working as possible: otherwise I will have retired at the exact point when the kids are no longer around to have fun with. All these things to some extent trade off against each other, and I'm figuring it all out.

My interests are investing, cooking, biking, fixing stuff, musical theatre (plentiful hereabouts) and science fiction.

There we go... that wasn't so hard. Hello to you - whatever your situation - and if you have something to share, I'd be pleased to know.

Ydobon
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Ydobon » Thu Sep 25, 2014 2:00 am

Hello and welcome from a fellow Brit :)

I don't envy you trying to pay off a home in London these days, even a modest one. I assume you've lived there for a while? I spent 2 very happy years in London, would have stayed longer if I wasn't working in a field that paid naff all.

If you've any scope to re-mortgage there are some cracking deals available at the moment, including a 1.89%? 2 year fix (I think it was offered by N&P).

Noedig
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Noedig » Thu Sep 25, 2014 8:47 pm

Ydobon - thanks for the comment, also for still being a fellow Brit after last week. I am glad we are still countrymen.

My mortgage is at 0.08% above base. So I won't be changing! Bought just before the crunch. Was looking dodgy for a while but has worked out better than OK since.

London house prices are indeed bonkers, owing to several well-identified trends reinforcing each other: councils not building; London property becoming an asset class for the world's 1%, and the fact that half of the world seems to want to live here. I've done not brilliantly but OK, having lived here thirty years though renting for most of that. I was always risk averse, so missed out on the bulk of the boom, and just have a niceish 1910 house in a quiet street. I've no problem with that but I worry for my kids...and for the fact that I will have to work an extra year or two to give them a leg up onto the property ladder if they want to live in the same city.

I have fond memories of Scotland, as do most I imagine who have arrived overnight on the sleeper from London into Waverley station in Edinburgh. Also of hearing a strange fragmented chorus of singing drunks in Glasgow.

DutchGirl
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by DutchGirl » Sat Sep 27, 2014 7:18 am

Heyya, Noedig :-)
Noedig wrote:But then I take away all I must pay for (kids education, pay off house, likely some startup money for them after college, and to get married)
Are you sure you want to pay for your children getting married? By the time that you've paid for their entire education, shouldn't they be able to pay for their wedding by themselves?

My parents paid for my education, and I'm very grateful to them for that. They did NOT pay to set me up in my first apartment, I did that. They also didn't pay for my siblings' weddings... My siblings did that, themselves, and I decided to not get married anyway. We could fund our own life post-education precisely because they helped us pay for that education and we got the jobs that come with that kind of education. I'm not sure what is, or what should be, more valuable to your children: that you're around when they're teenagers, or that you pay for their wedding?

In all cases, I hope you will look at your life and really look at alternatives. You may have more options than you think you have. Good luck!!

Hankaroundtheworld
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Hankaroundtheworld » Sat Sep 27, 2014 3:08 pm

Hi, glad to see somebody of my age, and as it seems, a similar situation that after working hard for many years, you have reached a ceiling in work, and like to focus on what makes life more interesting. The only differences seem to be that I have no kids and no (expensive) house in London. May be it is our generation, our parents worked hard to get us to University, and told us (and society), get a good paid job, house, car and partner, and build up a career, only to hit mid-life with a feeling that there must be more in life, lol. I am now busy for a year to change this, and I will quit work mid-2015 and start exploring other routes in life (and it could still include some type of work, but that is not yet clear). If you like to exchange some more ideas how to make the change, feel free to add questions over here, or send a personal message. I am happy to support! One way or the other, have a great journey in transforming your life.

Noedig
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Noedig » Wed Oct 01, 2014 11:01 pm

Thanks for the greetings, all.

DutchGirl - it is true I am worried about paying for lots of things for my children that I was never given myself - paid college, deposit on an apartment, even weddings (I have two girls).

I could wash my hands of these things: they are not my automatic responsibility. Also, feather-bedding my children could be counter-productive: mean they do not try their best, struggle, become properly independent people.

But, that is not simple for me. The reasons are partly emotional: my father, growing up after the Second World War, had no luxuries and an austere childhood, also somewhat loveless. As a result he was independent, but scorned others comforts. Critical, unencouraging, remote:- It was not easy being his child, though I can now see he was only doing what he knew how and feared others judgements. In reaction perhaps, I really adore my own children when he plainly did not. Yet I also prize independence of mind, getting on with the job and being stoical: all traits of my father at his best.

So to me a large objective in life is to give my children a good start, excellent education, good experiences when growing up, and not having to put up with bad situations just because there is no safety net. For girls this is particularly important I think. For boys it is like "Go out into the world my son, carouse and fight and learn from your mistakes!" I don't feel exactly like that about my daughters: not all experiences are good ones. Sigh: I am a fond father. My approach is then to save for these things but not tell them!

On a different topic I was ill last week but still worked all the way through. It was hard but I feel like Hero Of Soviet Labour as a result.

Noedig
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Bad week on the markets - good one for pub theatre

Post by Noedig » Fri Oct 17, 2014 8:57 pm

I took a metaphorical and literal shower this week. My ER plans took a dive - 31K wiped out as markets tumbled. I bought into some trackers recently, so feel as though I walked out into ominous weather without a raincoat. Walking out in London in October without a means to keep dry is inherently risky, as I also just experienced. And should have known already. Fie!

Still, it has confirmed me in my recent love of trackers. For a slightly lateral reason, which goes something like this:

I hate to sell investments, being a "buy once, forever" sort of person. So, I have accumulated a portfolio of everything I have ever bought. This is not due to a love of mere variety, so much as that gradually accumulating dividends burn a hole in my pocket - I feel I must invest them after they reach 1 or 2 K. As a result I have perhaps seventy or so securities. The trouble with that is, they are hard to manage: any general decision to buy or sell would have to be executed fifty times. I just don't work like that. But I could do it a few times. For that to have any effect I need to concentrate my investments so that at times of impending crash or market bottom I can pile into or out of the market. These also need to be liquid with small spreads. Hence Vanguard trackers, I am thinking. Also for all the other usual reasons these investments are good.

Oh well, I will stoically onwards plod.

On the positive side, saw an excellent pub theatre performance of The Taming Of The Shrew at the Brockley Jack. The cast managed to make it seem not the usual homage to domestic feudalism, but something rather nastier and more satisfying. The younger sister Bianca and her suitors end up as self deluding simpering fools, resentful, or dead (and that's not usually in the plot!). Kate is not so much shrewish, as scarily angry. Reminds me why I like theatre in a tiny space- when it works, it is magic.

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Dragline
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Dragline » Fri Oct 17, 2014 9:26 pm

I'm convinced that the best thing to do with excess dividends is either keep them in cash or invest in something negatively correlated to the stock market, like long term government bonds. Wait for the market to crash and then reinvest those funds in the market at that time. Gotta be patient though -- this is a once every 7 years kind of thing.

Vanguard EDV is a prime example of such a parking place.

Noedig
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Noedig » Sat Oct 18, 2014 11:34 pm

Alas I am overweight as it happens in bonds as it is (they are the reason I have the problem of disposing of cash in the first place, though complaint would be unseemly)

Rather than wait for the seven years trough to announce itself, I am merely going to pile in with any remaining spare dough on Monday, of the unarguable if flimsy grounds that it is not going to be at a peak at least. There are so many global macroeconomic trends overlapping, I cannot guess market direction and will not try to second guess the timing.

I am thinking equal parts vanguard FTSE 250 VMID, global high yield VHYL.

The Canadian cousins have come to stay. Now to my duty show them round town.

Noedig
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Greyhound racing and risk

Post by Noedig » Sun Oct 19, 2014 2:45 am

A memory surfaces:

1988 was the trough of the worst UK recession in living memory. I was a student and somehow ended up in the Summer holidays working far from London at a greyhound racing stadium in Newcastle upon Tyne - the grim and exceedingly economically depressed North of the UK. I was writing a software racing simulator for the owner, who had gambling theories he wanted to test in simulation: I worked away in Pascal in a concrete bunker on the far side of the race track.

I hazarded but a single bet while I was there, and won enough to buy a bag of chips (French fries). Racing of dogs being somewhat unscientific ( when considered next to say, Poker, of which I also knew nothing) I retained for the next quarter century, at some level, the idea that gambling was silly. Perhaps because seeing crowds of people bet on dogs scampering after a bit of orange fluff (the rabbit : greyhounds have poor eyesight and to make up for it the lure was brightly day glo) made it seem so.

The above illustrates that I lack the tendency of the recreational gambler towards thrill. Conversely, I am somewhat of a timid and conflict/risk-avoiding soul. It's a limitation I work within.

But I digress. Lacking perspective or perhaps a sense of irony, I then shortly went to work in banking. Took me another twenty years to realise that the stock market was not dissimilar, and that money itself did not exist other than as a consensual hallucination. I Just checked - dog track is still there http://www.newcastledogs.com/index.php

On further reflection I trace this line of thought back to watching Guys and Dolls yesterday - which for those of you unacquainted, is a 50s musical about gambling, redolent with twangy Damon Runyonesque banter. Best moments:
The opening vocal fugue of hopeful gamblers - The Horse Paul Revere
Adelaides Lament - Sinatra will not tie the knot
Luck Be A Lady - Brando bets all in a sewer
The revelation of Nicely Nicely Johnson - Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat

Truly beautiful, equalled of its type only perhaps by West Side Story.

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Legthorn Brownboat
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Legthorn Brownboat » Mon Oct 20, 2014 4:44 pm

Noedig wrote: My approach is then to save for these things but not tell them!
Good call on the not telling them part. Have you read "The Millionaire Next Door"? It's a book surveying and discussing what makes people successful over the long-term. One chapter talks a bit about successful and unsuccessful ways that people talk to their children about money, and how/whether they leave any behind. Basically, you want them to have good tools (education), but the worst thing you could probably do to their ability to be independent and make their own self-respect is say "Don't worry about money, I got you covered!" Oddly enough, that seems to a common thing for doting fathers to say to their daughters.

Noedig
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Noedig » Sat Oct 25, 2014 10:44 am

This week I did a whole bunch of household maintenance tasks - a dozen and more waiting things that piled up awaiting the attention of the horn-handed son of toil that is myself.

In that way, while also acting as tour guide and facilitator for my wife's cousin's family staying with us, I have used up this last entire week of rare holiday from work. Which is OK: I often tell myself I just want to relax, but when actually faced with the opportunity, just find too many things to do. I buzz around like a blue-arsed fly,to borrow one of my dad's expressions.

All told I am OK with my mixed feelings - rather feel satisfied and tired, than bloated with idleness and fretful at things undone. I feel like this: Image
The German bureaucrat tossing in his sleep is being tormented by a goblin: "Undone tasks pursue you in your sleep. Don't leave them until tomorrow - do them now!"

Also the Canadian relatives staying, are nice practical warm people. Done nothing ERE except posting here and working out my taxes (oh brother!).

Noedig
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Wised Up Finally

Post by Noedig » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:44 pm

It's not a particularly helpful train of thought but it keeps coming back: Now I am 49, man oh man I do wish I had been aware earlier in my life, of FI. I just never thought of it as a specific identifiable goal, with a route to get there. Instead, from 30 to 46, I didn't really have goals other than to look after the family and carry on carrying on. I simply pissed away a whole river of wasted money, just through inattention (paid way too much avoidable tax) or boredom or for stupid reasons like buying what someone else had. Maybe less foolish consumption than many, but more than enough.

It's not so much the mistakes, it's that I wasn't *aware*. Back then, my friend J had a fancy watch - so I bought a fancy watch too. His broke and cost a mint to repair. Then broke again. So did mine. Nowadays, I can identify something like a luxury watch as obviously a sucker's proposition. One that even has a label in my mind : the "Broadband milk - pours faster than ordinary milk!" deal. In other words, creation of a meaningless variation on a commodity to turn it into a luxury, then convincing some sucker to buy it.

I had all the clues! I worked in banking for decades! I worked for the friggin' London Financial Times! [ as an aside, absolutely chokablok with ads and puffery for "Performance" products but also the home of some excellent journalism ]. Anyways, all the facts were in front of me, but I did not put them together until I came across the FI movement and then it was like ... "Doh!"<Homer slaps forehead>

On the positive side, did some calculations, all is going well, in three to five years at the outside, I will get to FI. But, what I dope I have been.

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Legthorn Brownboat
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Legthorn Brownboat » Fri Nov 14, 2014 1:37 am

Random note of optimism: You are in the best possible position to educate your children about personal finance going forwards. You're studying up on it now, pursuing FI, and have all the personal war stories to drive it home.

Also, you'll get to FI in 5 years, which is a typical length of time. 55 sounds a lot better than 65, which in turn sounds a lot better than never. You also have a connection with your consumer peers. Using the analogy of the cave, you stayed in there long enough that you still relate to the other prisoners. Perhaps after you reach FI and get bored, you can help others? Someone who screwed up for a long time but finally got it right is more relatable for most than someone who got it right from the get-go.

Noedig
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Noedig » Sat Nov 15, 2014 3:24 am

I am saving 1,150 GBP a week. Could be better.

Adrian
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Retiring to a cheaper country

Post by Adrian » Sat Nov 15, 2014 5:52 am

Did you consider retiring to a cheaper country?
For example, the living costs in Romania are a fraction.

With what you are saving in a week(1150 GBP) , a person could be living frugally
6 months in Romania in a medium sized town.

Noedig
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Noedig » Sun Nov 16, 2014 12:03 am

Romania? Lovely place no doubt. Ah, but I love living in London. Friends. & family. Theatre & Arts. Restaurants. All on my doorstep.

To make use of it though?. The old time/energy/money trade off:

I enjoyed London as a student - I had time and energy but no money.
In later adulthood - no time, energy spent on work and plenty of money spent on relationships.
Now - money not a problem but my time is for my family - bugger all energy left!
My FI goal is to have time, energy and money enough. The scarcest of these is Time: can't save it, can't make it.

Noedig
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Noedig » Thu Nov 27, 2014 5:26 pm

I've had a long tiring week. I feel old. I feel tired. I feel fat and disgusting. I hate the treadmill of my life.

On a more positive note, I am 8.44% up this year and will hit target in two years, Providence willing. If I don't drop dead of exhaustion or ennui first, whichever is the more deadly.

Excuse the whine. It's just been a hard week.

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Legthorn Brownboat
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Legthorn Brownboat » Thu Nov 27, 2014 6:12 pm

Good luck, stick in there! 2 years away is not too long*.

* If 2 years away is too long, you might be able to find something part-time or consultation based to cover part of your expenses while your portfolio grows. You could start tapering off your roles and responsibilities if possible in your current position - won't earn you any brownie points but you're slowing it down rather than an abrupt halt.

1taskaday
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by 1taskaday » Fri Nov 28, 2014 5:51 pm

Often a good cure for me when the dreaded "ennui" decends is as simple as a riveting book!

Noedig
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I just turned 50 and thought I was doing well....

Post by Noedig » Sat Jan 31, 2015 7:37 am

...and that everything was going to plan to achieve Escape Velocity of savings income in two years.

Sigh ... nothing disastrous has happened. But I have thought some more, and there is no way of getting around the truth, that I have made assumptions that were way too optimistic, and didn't factor in some big stuff. In retrospect, my plan was the kind of plan that works only when, you mentally squint, look at it from a particular POV, and cultivate a few blind spots. Then, well I could convince myself it would all come out the way I wanted. But no:

-Savings rate: will be nowhere near 1150 GBP a week. More like 800.
-Tax: any pension income is taxable. I hadn't factored that in: doh. Double doh.
-Growth rate of investments: doing well these last few years does not mean the future will deliver similar returns. Stick to 4%
-Kids college. Will have to pay for it unless I want them to start their working lives in debt (don't worry, I won't tell them that upfront).

Plug all that in to the GIMP (Grand Iterative Modelling Plan) and my freedom date is six years, not two. At a minimum. Somewhat of a bummer. Still, better to know than not. And I am resolved - the future will once again be mine!

Dave
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Dave » Sun Feb 01, 2015 12:19 pm

Hi Noedig,

I just read through your journal and a post that Jacob made on DutchGirl's journal struck me as relevant:

"@Dg - Seeing things from the other side, I think from the front side tends to see FI as a finishing line to be crossed. From the back side, that line is/will be meaningless. Granted, it's very nice not to have to worry about it anymore. However, practically, in retrospect, there has not been a single year after reaching FI where I have not enough money from some other venue. I have not touched my nest egg so far. That's almost 10 years going. So rather than labor on hard in a less meaningful life (I mean a way of life that's not optimal for happiness), put less emphasis on crossing some finishing life which in my(*) experiences was relatively immaterial to the life I was living anyway. Of course this is much easier when cost-of-living is low (because skills-of-living is high). It's easy to make 5-10k in evenings or weekends on a hobby basis. It's pretty hard to make 20k that way.

In conclusion: Lower expenses and look to cover that with a second income stream. If you can do this consistently, it becomes apparent that FI is just another way of doing it. Not a better one either."

I think many of us in the "accumulation" phase of our financial journey spend far too much time running calculations of required assets, expected returns, expected timeline, etc. We try to quantify and predict everything, as a way to feel we are in control. But it seems to be that this misses part of the message of ERE. As Jacob implied, it's not a race to be finished. When you think about it practically, there is no magical number that signifies you are FI. You're moving down a path that requires less and less wage income as your investment income increases, and the lower your expenses and the more income-producing skills you have, the less relevant the number is.

I can very much relate to your thoughts. Depending on how you plug numbers into your model, the outcome can vary wildly. In my case, am I for sure going to have kids? Will I want to do tax preparation part-time in my 30s? Will I want to own a home in a major US city, or am I willing to move to a cheaper country? These things move the needle a lot on my calculations, but really I think we are doing well if we stick to reducing expenses, gaining skills, and appreciating the journey along the way - in your case enjoying each day with your family!

Noedig
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The elephant in the room ... is me

Post by Noedig » Thu Apr 09, 2015 10:06 am

I am fifty and fat:- 120kg. It's been creeping up for years, mostly as a result of eating at night.

Easter is a feast, and having feasted, I finally decided to do something about my weight.

Like most things, I have been putting it off until I have more time. Shows I hadn't really thought it through.

Like, what's the point of ERE, if I'm likely to drop off my perch due to heart disease? Particularly as it runs in my family, along with Type2 Diabetes(2).

So, started the diet three days ago. Had my health check/blood test today (GP surgery doing health tests, so took advantage of being off work for a week to get it done as a baseline). Been to the gym. Cycled around town.

Don't wish me luck - I've been a no good greedy chubster and this is my attempt at getting some control back over that part of my life. There are a million reasons to do it, some particular to me, and I may braindump them in another post. Perhaps I am finally fed up of buying bigger and bigger trousers, just to pick one such reason at random.

Change of subject: Just took my first holiday time this year - a week at Easter. Blessed relief. This is what life would be like, if I had more time off.
-spending time with kids without being tired
-spending time with each daughter alone: cycling, or helping my eldest (as today) to file her history/philosophy notes, or just mooching
-cooking
-spending more time on my partner.
The plan is, for time to cease to be in short supply, when my contract ends in September. I will raise my rate by 25% - if I work it's ERE early, and if not I get time at home.

Final change of subject: it's a record high for the investments. On track to E-ish R in four years.

Dave
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Dave » Sat Apr 11, 2015 8:47 am

If you don't mind me asking, what is your strategy for weight loss?

Noedig
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Re: Noedig's Journal

Post by Noedig » Sun Apr 12, 2015 9:54 am

Good question. My tactics:

Having a calorie budget and tracking what I eat: Tap&Track on my iPhone is the App I use. There are many others. It helps that it knows about my country's supermarket products and measures. It does standard stuff to make it easy, like favourite foods, long term goal....

Buying ingredients that are healthy and palatable (is not martyrdom to eat): -soups, green beans, onions & garlic, nice salad stuff, sardines...

Not eating in the evenings or during the night if I wake. Or if I must eat, a carrot.

Going to the gym once a week and doing 800kcals burn on machines. Been doing this for a while. Now will try to use more of a variety of machines as my goal has shifted from cardiovascular maintenance (i.e. not dying of a heart attack like my dad) to using all my muscle groups, to lift my metabolism more.

None of the above will matter if I don't stick to the strategy.

I think, I am just fed up with this being a problem in my life. I don't like being fat. I have sorted out getting to financial ERE - but this will be a fat (!) lot of good if I am Early-Death-Extreme, healthwise. A million other reasons.

I am one week in. So far, OK, I have lost 1.9kg. At the beginning much of that will be fake loss due to fluid etc, but still!.

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