Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Great Week Well Placed

It is always darkest before the dawn and, after a difficult time last week, this one’s been blessedly better.  I lost seven pounds in seven days and, at 302lbs, am knocking on the door of the 200’s!  It’s always a little easier to stay focused with goals within an earnest effort’s distance.  Breaking the Big 300 is a goal that has mustered my all into working hard and regularly, and by avoiding overeating by consistently making the right food choices.

I have been substituting proteins for the carb-y snacks that are oh-so tasty and cause me a heck of a time not eating too much.  With Mindy’s help I went from eating calorically-dense treats like Wheat Thins and Brownberry bread earlier in the year, to better choices, including the deliciously gluten-free Nut Thins and the super-food grain quinoa.  These foods are less processed, more nutritious, and—food addict that I am—aren’t diet wreckers when I’m weak willed and overindulge.

My go-to favorite proteins are Greek yogurt, reduced-fat string cheese, tuna, baked chicken breast, quinoa and another super-food, protein and fiber-rich edamame.  Protein makes me feel full longer and is the building material of the stronger muscles I’m spending so long at Five Seasons to develop. 

If diet was the first half of my success this week, exercise is the second.  I don’t know if it’s the depressions, but I sometimes forget the things that got me to the place I am.  From the beginning of the year, at my heaviest and most out of shape, Laurie worked me hard but smart, up to six days a week without becoming worn down or hurt.  But beginning right before the Color Run, I started babying myself.  It’s prudent to take it easy the day before a 5K, but I would psych myself out of gym for an additional day off, thinking I was sorer than I truly was.  If I don’t go to the Club in the morning I’ll brood and churn and end up finding reasons why not

The Glory goes to the man in the arena, and this week I’ve rediscovered and discovered how much stiffness and tightness goes away after the first five minutes and how much further I can push my new, fitter body.  There’s no shortcut to my ultimate weight goal and daily exercise adds the momentum that leaves bad habits in the past.  Here’s to not pumping the brakes this week!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Summer Blues

Just as things were getting better, the black dog has returned.  It’s unpleasant being depressed, unreasonable in its timing.  I have dealt with depression all my life.  I can remember at the age of five, standing at the kitchen table of my grandmother’s, waiting for the therapeutic administration of prune juice to relieve a terribly prolonged case of constipation.  I can recall the feeling of complete detachment, as though I were watching myself from an angelic perspective.   I recognized the feeling as markedly different and queer, that I lacked the vim and vigor I had had very recently.

As an adolescent I would notice that there would be times in which all my mental faculties seemed to slow to a crawl.  There’d be perceivable breaks in my line of speech as I . . . grasped the fogy recesses of my mind for a word.  I’d become taciturn and moody, and often weepy, especially in the mornings.  I’d get anxious, so intensely that I’d literally be sick, and would miss school.  A lot of school, so much that I’d need a doctor’s note with everyday out, so much that there had to have been an unsaid understanding with my teachers.

Conversely, I would feel the complete—nay I shouldn’t say—polar opposite, where I would have lightning-quick recall, drawing anything from my memory at will, like an SSD.  I’d be jolly and talkative and feel riotously hilarious.  On day in law class, we were going over the answers to a quiz. We only had before us our scantrons, with the series of pencil marks representing answers and the machine graded score; on mine, the machine scrawled in green, dotted font: 75/75 100%.  Despite only the teacher having the written questions, I knew not only what she was going to say, but also all the lettered answers both correct and wrong.  It felt surreal mouthing along with what she was saying, like I was lipsyncing to the worst lyrics every written.  This, I came to realize, is the wonderful top of Ferris wheel.  I was then above the world and it was great, but the tradeoff is that I have to spend time at the bottom as well.  It is cyclical in nature. 

My deepest depths of depression came when I was out of the structure of secondary schooling.  In high school I would have a little laugh about being immune to cabin fever if I didn’t go out of the house Saturday or Sunday.  Depressed in my gap year, I’d spend week without leaving the house.  If I didn’t go to the library or hang out with my true best friend (fraternal love forever DO’B!), I didn’t go out.  How mossy the stopped stone becomes. 

When I am depressed, as I am now, I am impervious to boredom.  This is a great time for studious analysis of dry cinema (I should put “Watch Lawrence of Arabia on my To-do List).   My brain chemistry must really change, as I can sleep for hours on end, getting up from a long nap only to go back for another—without getting the headachy, drowsy oversleep feeling I get when I’m not depressed.  Turning the AC down, pulling the curtains, and creating white noise with box fans makes for the best anytime sleep that is—bar none—the greatest, womb-like comfort I’ve ever felt.

But this isn’t a solution; it’s a momentum killer to life’s progress.  And it doesn’t guarantee that the depression won’t get worse, that I won’t feel the ennui, the despair and the utter loneliness that Robin Williams must have felt at the end.  Recognizing this, I have made an appointment with my psychiatrist to discuss my chemical therapy, and I am getting out to Five Seasons and giving myself, through exerce, regular brain baths of endorphins.  Today I got up at eight to do Laurie’s group at 9:30, and by eleven I felt energized, had over 1,000 calories deposited in the weight loss bank, and most importantly, I FELT HAPPY!  Everyone’s depression is as different as the therapies that help them, but I can tell you that my road to Wellville is paved with activity and exercise.  I guess all roads do lead to Five Seasons!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Quick Health Update

I got a new CPAP machine Monday.  I had my last one for nearly seven years, and the new generation of apnea fighting apparati (that’s not the plural of “apparatus”, but how cool does it sound?) are auto-titrating.  This means that the machine has a range of pressures preset by my doctor and adjusts throughout the night as needed.  This means, conceivable, that in the near future I could ride the machine down to zero, and it will tell me when it’s not required. 

My doctor, nurses, and equipment consultants have all tried to temper my expectations, telling me that losing weight around my neck may not be the only factor causing my obstructive sleep apnea; that crowding of the tonsils, adenoids, etc., in the throat, and weakening of throat structures as one ages may mean that I could always require some sort of apnea therapy.  But I’m holding out hope.  Regardless, after five days with my machine I am sleeping as soundly as I can remember!

On Tuesday I went to see an ENT.  After interpreting my symptoms and sticking an awful scope through my left nostril and down my throat to examine my voice box, he diagnosed me as having laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).  It’s basically when stomach acid come goes all the way up the esophagus to the voice box.  The voice box is far less tolerant of stomach acids than the esophagus, so regular, quick shot of digestive juices on the vocal cords that doesn’t stay around long enough to cause the irritation of the esophagus which causes heart burn, is what has been causing the vocal cord dysfunction, hoarseness, and coughing that I’d been experiencing especially for the past couple months.

The doctor put me on a proton-pump inhibitor, which reduces the production of gastric acid.  I feel a big difference already, and my symptoms are alleviating as my larynx heals.  This contributes to better, more restful sleep and I have had a wonderful bonus of energy to really attack my work outs.  I was surprised how light I felt on my feet  today in group and anticipate that I will have lost a bit of weight this week.  I hope my ever-intensify exercising and continued healthy eating will spur me on to another great run of weight loss.  Wish me luck!  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Battling Towards 299

I am within ten pounds of breaking 300.  Just ten pounds to go, but (Ugh!) I am currently on a plateau—my longest time in the doldrums yet.  It’s amazing how one’s body can retain weight; it’s baffling trying to understand what the body is doing.  It seems like a simple, calculable problem of thermodynamics—energy ingested minus energy exerted equals an expected weight loss—and in the long run it may end up that way but, as many dieters and exercisers can tell you, it often doesn’t turn out that way!

I think it must have to do with stress and hunger hormone, water retention, and the building of heavier lean body mass.  Whatever it be, when you’ve eaten a week’s full of 1,600 calorie days and worked out for six straight days, as I did, it’s literally stunning to see that familiar figure displayed on the bathroom scale.  There was I was, a stinging in my eyes when I read the number; and, in fact, I shed a silent, manly tear when I realized that all the work of the past week, if not for naught, didn’t add up to a subtraction in weight.

It’s like setting off on a long road trip in the dark:  you don’t know where you’re going, but you think you know the right direction; you are going full-out hard, because you’re trying to meet goals along the way.  You’re not reckless in how you proceed, trying to be safe as possible; but it’s dangerous by its very nature, and you risk bodily harm that could occur at any moment.  Finally, you pull off to the side of the road to stop and check how far down the road you are, only to find out that you’ve made a big circle and, making no progress.  You are where you started!—that’s how it feels.

Comparing our various “sorenesses” with a friend today after group, I made the connection between all the aches and tightness in my gluts and leg muscles to the tough new exercises that Laurie has incorporated into her circuit.  Where a couple of months ago I was swinging a 25lb kettle ball and doing seconds of speed squats, I’m now doing multiple minutes of speed squats throughout the session and am flipping up the big 45lb kettle ball!  It’s an increase in weight and duration that corresponds to an increase in my muscle mass and endurance. 

This week, instead of becoming blue due to not drawing closer to 300, I am taking solace in how much fitter I’m becoming.  Because this journey’s never been about getting skinny, it’s about becoming healthy, and healthy is how I shall continue!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Tickly Throat and the Color Run

It’s weird having a tickle in my throat that doesn't go away.  It’s most pronounced in the morning, and some nights I fall asleep thinking, maybe it’ll be gone in the morning.  But to greet me at first light is that scratching in the larynx which precedes the seizing of the vocal cords.  If I can think about it in time, I can force deep breaths down through my nose, and it tampers down the clenching and I can breathe unobstructed.  But there are times—while exercising, drinking water—when it’ll start and I have to stop what I’m doing, cough or otherwise clear the passageway before starting my breathing exercises. 

I think my nerves affect the fluttering of my vocal folds as well, and I sometimes experience difficulty or pain while talking.  My voice cracks as it did through puberty, and volume modulation sometimes gets away from me.  I wish I could say that the conditions seem transient, but I've had them long enough that I anticipate being able to show, rather than relate, the condition to the Otolaryngologist (ENT) when I see him the week after next.
It was packet pickup day Thursday for the Color Run Cincinnati.  Laurie organized a group of runners including herself, her daughter Mallory, fellow Five Seasoner Nadya, my sister Sarah, and yours truly.  Rather than making duplicate treks downtown, Sarah and I volunteered to pick up the groups’ packets at Great American Ballpark.  It was a beautiful day and gave up a great chance to stretch our legs in conditions similar to the race.  On the way back, with race bags hanging from all shoulders, we joined our father, who works right off Fountain Square, for our favorite lunch, Fusian Sushi.

At 7:40, on a bright and beautiful Saturday morn, we rendezvoused at our chosen meeting spot, and walked as a team to race central, the Longworth Hall parking lot.  The course was cleverly designed to have the starting gate and staging area on one end, the Party Zone concourse in the middle, and the finish line at the other end.  Every member had to use the restroom and we waited and waited in the lines for the Porta-Potties.  But the long queues for the bathroom were nothing in comparison to the massive column of participants lining up at the start.  Indeed, the Color Run sold out Friday and there were thousands and thousands of eagered runners ready to hit the 3.1 miles of the 5K course. 

It is a credit to the organizers of this fun run that though we waited through 55 minutes of staggered wave starts, the crowd was entertained by an awesome emcee and thumping music.  I was anticipatory rather than antsy, as we worked our way to the starting gate.  It felt like getting ready and then boarding a roller coaster, and when we heard the GO!, it was adrenaline that got me going. 

I felt great while running, my endurance strong.  I didn't stop jogging until entering the first coloring station, where I waited to a healthy spraying of red powder.  Feeling like a battle painted Native American warrior, I was energized coming out of the station and ran-ran-ran to the next powder station, Blue.  With these little respites every quarter of the race, water breaks every mile, and having to slow down due to bunching, I was able to keep a nice pace as I was healthily doused in purple and finally yellow.  As Sarah overtook me right at the finish, crossing tauntingly just ahead, we received powder bombs of orange. 

Laurie and Nadya finished a couple of minutes after us, at the time of 39 minutes so I unofficially finished in, say, 37 minutes taking nine minutes off my Flying Pig time and 15 minutes off my first 5K, the Heart Mini in March!  We said congratulations all around and, while enjoying snacks and drinks, admired each other as unique pieces of art.  We color bombed one another, and partied amongst our fellow fun runners in massive clouds of color.  What a great morning!