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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Category Archives: Health and Fitness
I happened to notice today that the oldest data in my fitness file is from March 1, 2003, or a decade old. Like many of you who’ve joined the Fitbit universe, I track key data about myself. Unlike many of you, I started doing it long before tools like Fitbit existed (although I must admit, I joined that universe around the start of the year). Over ten years, I’ve tracked over 1600 data records about myself. This has been useful, but became a habit I needed to keep once I became diabetic, and over time, I’ve gone back through my files and added all of the older data I could find.
Now having successfully buried the lede, it turns out that a decade ago I weighed 367. Today I weighed in at 398.4. That means over the last decade I’ve gained a net 31.4 pounds, which translates do 3.14 pounds a year (Mmmm…. Pi!), or a mere 1/4 of a pound a month (sorry about that pi joke. No, I honestly did not set up the numbers for that). If you take a simplistic view that a pound of body fat is about 3500 calories, that means my net “excess” is about 900 calories a month, or about one burger and fries at In-n-out. Or to break it down even further, about 30 calories a day. Remember that a standard can of sugared Coke is about 140 calories. That is, depending on how you want to play with the numbers, about ten minutes of walking a day.
A really tiny disconnect between calories in and calories burned ends up making a really big (in this case, literally) difference. Half a can of Coke a day, for a decade….
This brings to mind the old George Carlin joke:
Saliva causes cancer, but only if swallowed in small amounts over a long period of time.
Something to think about as you reach for that next Oreo.
(Now, having said all that, the whole “all calories are equal” and “just eat less” and all of this is way, way too simplistic a view of this. If it really were that easy, we wouldn’t have this obesity epidemic. But it is an interesting exercise (oh, sorry. I didn’t plan this one, either) to see how small things stack up over time).
On the other, other hand I am back under 400 (finally) and moving in the right direction (slowly). But if there’s one thing more boring than listening to someone talk about losing weight, it’s listening to someone talk about thinking abut losing weight… So we’ll put this topic back on the shelf until there’s something interesting to talk about….
A couple of things I’d like to see in IOS 7
I want to see Apple release a simple password wallet and an API for apps to use to pull data from it. Something like 1Password’s baby brother. And with the API, a way for those of us who use more powerful tools (like 1Password) to connect to those via that API instead of the default App. (I would, in fact, like Apple to get in the habit of allowing us to replace their default tools with more powerful versions as a general practice. I’m not holding my breath).
And then I would like to see Apple make “secure your freaking passwords” a focus of the release and their marketing.
Remember ICE? (In Case of Emergency)?. Everyone should do some form of this on your mobile devices. Do you?
But there’s a problem. Everyone should ALSO pin-lock your mobile devices. Do you?
And if you do, how would an emergency responder get access to it? It’s behind a PIN.
So here’s my suggestion…
With IOS, when a device is pin-locked and you activate it, it brings up the Enter Passcode screen. If the device is a phone, that screen has an Emergency Call button to allow you to dial 911. I suggest Apple add another button for ICE. By default it would bring up your ID information out of the address book based on the card you’ve defined as being you.
But Apple could build a basic ICE app that if you fill out with information, and if you configure the system to use it, hitting that button would fire up that app instead. That would allow you the option of making available other information, such as insurance or drug allergies or information on existing conditions (I, for instance, don’t do well with codeine. The last time I took it, I had an extended conversation in which I solved the Middle East situation — with my wall clock; my medical record now suggests I not be given codeine).
If this interface allows the user to define ANY compatible app as the ICE app, this creates a third party opportunity; while it’d be a nice market, there would be some options here for developers to create some interesting solutions.
It would also create an opening for developers to create apps that use this capabilities for non-ICE capabilities. Some might see that as an problem because we’re circumventing the pin-code. I see it as an opportunity, since use of it is purely optional, and Apple actually set a precedent to allow that with both the emergency call button and the “quick camera” capability they added to the lock screen.
I originally suggested this around the building at Palm for webOS before the first phone shipped, and it went nowhere. I found that the younger you were, the less likely you’d see why someone might want it. Curious, that.
There are some privacy issues to putting ICE information out beyond the pin-lock, obviously, because f someone gets ahold of your device they can access it and find out some things about you. On the other hand, in a medical emergency having that info might mean the difference between getting timely treatment — or not. Or the difference between having your family contacted if you run into trouble — or not. And that ICE info might make it easier for a well-intentioned person to return a lost phone that they found. Every person would have to decide which info to make available, and as long as the ICE program itself is a voluntary choice, why shouldn’t it exist?
It seems like a simple thing to make happen. Hopefully you’d never need to have it used. But if you end up in a situation where an emergency responder is trying to figure out who you are, it seems to me you don’t want your PIN standing in the way. I wonder how many IOS users don’t turn on their pinlock because they don’t want their contact info locked up in case of an emergency?
you might find it surprising that in the debate about processed meat treated with anhydrous ammonia (aka Pink Slime) I come down on the side of pink. This product has been defamed by a hysteria driven media campaign that presupposes this food product (and that’s what it is, a product) is unsafe in the absence of evidence suggesting safety issues, and fails to address the substantive issues of how society provides a food supply to a large population.
This is a core problem with fashionable foodies and other well-intentioned people who on even days declare we should let science be a defining force while on odd days rejecting science because it can’t prove the negative. The science is overwhelming, pink slime is nutrient providing but critics are demanding the impossible, which is to prove that it is not unsafe.
A good analysis of this entire farce. Suffice it to say, I agree with him (including not being particularly interested in eating the stuff, but then, i don’t eat spam, either. much).
It is another sad example of the “emotions over science” that seems trendy in society today; this made about as much sense, and had as much science behind it, as the “vaccines cause autism” farce. And please, don’t even both commenting on that…
At first glance, the title sounds a bit hyperbolic, but don’t let that stop you. Taubes has been writing about this stuff for a long time and has a lot of heavy research behind his opinions. When I was previously talking about some of the things I’ve been chasing in restructuring my lifestyle, a friend of mine suggested I read Taubes’ books on the subject, which I have.
I read Why We Get Fat, and then I went off into a corner to think about it for a while. I knew I wanted to talk about it, but I wasn’t sure how. Many things he says struck home, they sync up well with how I have come to feel given the research I’ve been doing.
But the thing is, I can’t point to this book and say “he’s right”. He’s going against standard medical advice. Frankly, I’m not qualified to look at his data and say “believe him instead”, and the universe is full of people who have the real answers that the “establishment’ wants suppressed, so any time someone bucks the establishment, you need to be careful and understand the issues before buying into it.
So having told you to be skeptical — and that includes being skeptical of me — I do encourage you to read this book and consider what he has to say. His opinions struck home to me, and align well with what my study independent of him was making me think; his opinions are well backed up by studies, and those studies he’s using seem to be well-designed and well-implemented, their results seem consistent, and they come from reliable institutions. And he’s not selling a product (ALWAYS be extra skeptical when there’s a product involved); this isn’t a framework of studies based on 12 teenage girls from Cleveland looked at for four weeks.
His research and data frankly impresses the hell out of me, and he reaches back into the past to unravel how we got here and how the medical establishment ended up recommending the current dietary protocols and why he thinks they’re wrong.
The basic underpinning of Taubes work is that the medical establishment made a leap of faith in deciding that fat was bad for humans and therefore, carbohydrates are good; that this dogma was established through a few key researchers that politically others weren’t willing to challenge, and that unfortunately, there’s basically no medical studies that can be found that prove they’re right, and a growing body of evidence that the current idea of “fat bad” is flawed.
There are a growing number of people who are starting to take up this concept. It was recently written up on the Huffington Post by Kristin Wartman and she quotes a number of folks from Martha Rose Shulman (NY Times food writer) to Dr. Frank Hu (Harvard) with opinions that encourage moving away from the “low fat” movement.
I encourage you to read the Taubes piece and the Wartman piece, and if they seem to make sense to you, grab a copy of Taubes book and read it and consider his arguments for yourself. I am not saying “he’s right, do this”; but I do believe it is in your best interest to consider his arguments and make up your own mind.
Having been chewing on this (sorry!) for a few weeks, here’s my view of this. As a survivor of the 70′s “pasta and bagel” diet mentality, I’ve long felt that the blind view that fat is bad for you so eat carbs instead was flawed. My personal reaction to the 70′s diet was weight gain and a tendency towards blood sugar crashes because the carbs hit harder and fade faster. I’ve always tried to trend towards a more protein heavy diet over a classic “mediterranean” diet, and this whole “one size fits all” mentality for dietary regimes has always seemed over simplistic to me. My genetic background (northern germanic) is one not well attuned to the mediterranean diet, and I’ve never really reacted well to it when I’ve tried, so even without all of the research that’s been coming out the last few years, I’ve had personal reason to believe the dogma around dietary practices had flaws, if only because it doesn’t take into consideration basic things like ethnic and regional genetic differences — but then, it wasn’t that long ago that drug testing was done almost exclusively on white males and the reality that drugs responded differently to blacks or women or other ethnics was kind of ignored. It’s only been in the last couple of years that we’ve seen the first drugs come out specifically for blacks that take into consideration the genetic differences in how drugs are processed, and this is still a new part of the medical field.
If you stop to think about it, this medical dogma has been eroding for decades. In the 70′s, cholesterol was bad and to be avoided. Now, there are HDLs and LDLs and Triglycerides and some of these actually help the heart, and instead of tracking to a low total cholesterol number, you’re encouraged to do things to raise HDL while lowering LDL, and so we’ve figured out reality is a lot more complicated than they told us. Eggs have even been brought back from exile.
Ditto fat. Used to be, fat was bad. Now, the still yell FAT IS BAD, and then whisper “but monounsaturated fats are maybe kinda less bad”; sometimes they even admit that the poster child of the anti-fat establishment, that box of lard, is actually about 50% monounsaturated fats and maybe not as bad for you (in moderation) as they said. Especially if you swap it out for something that uses trans-fats.
And yes, there are really three kinds of fats in our world today — unsaturated fats, saturated fats, and trans-fats. The latter are manufactured by the food industry and increasingly, we seem to be finding out those are the least healthy of them all.
(interlude: interestingly enough,, where a high fat, low carb diet seems to protect and repair kidney damage in diabetics. By shifting to a ketogenic diet, it seems to give the body a chance to repair the kidneys in mice. Whcih is interesting, because one thing the Atkins diet was criticized for was that it puts the kidneys into ketosis and that was considered bad for the kidneys. Except if you read Taube’s book, one thing he talks about is a study of existing aboriginal hunter/gatherer societies like the australian aborigines and the Inuit, and if you study their traditional diets, they are heavy in protein and fat, not carbs, and are generally ketogenic — and that the belief that the classic “historical” diet of our genetic predecessors as being carb-centric is wrong, and part of the evidence against our current dietary programs.. it’s definitely worth reading Taube’s take on this, but this study seems to reinforce this idea)
Carbs are no longer carbs. Carbs are now complex carbs and simple carbs, and simple carbs include sugars, and a subset of sugars are the fructoses, which include high yield corn fructose, another manufactured product that’s been heavily adopted by the food industries. And even the medical establishment is telling people to eat complex carbs more than simple ones.
So the reality is, even though the high level position of the medical industry hasn’t changed, if you listen to the details, you can see how it’s eroded over the years: Cholesterol is bad (well, some kinds of cholersterol); carbs are good (well, some kinds; other kinds aren’t), and fat is bad (well, except for the kinds of fat that aren’t bad for you). And more and more of the medical researchers are starting to question and poke holes in the standard dogma.
Here’s a quick thought on the question “Is it really possible that all of the experts on health and nutrition in medicine are wrong?” — consider this. Look at the sheer numbers involved in the obesity and diabetes epidemics confronting us; they’re estimating as many as in 3 americans will be diabetic in 20 years. Ask yourself “is it really possible that this large a percentage of the worldwide population is unable to follow the instructions for eating healthy?” (which is, really, what the medical establishment and the media that echoes their messaging basically tells us; it’s our fault) — or is it possible that the information being given to these folks is wrong? And if it really is societies inability to follow these directions, what changed in the last 40 years, because up until that point, we had hundreds (maybe thousands) of years where we could. Obesity and diabetes are fairly new epidemics, and, coincidentally enough (or not) coincide with the “low fat” healthy diet teachings that led to the “bagel and pasta” diets of the 70′s and up to today. It also coincides nicely with the switch to more refined/industrial foods and the growth of high yield fructose over natural sugar, as well as the massive increase in intake of sugar as a percentage of diet.
Now, to circle back to Taube’s article on sugar for a bit: I think he’s mostly right on, but with a caveat. I disagree with his premise that sugar is toxic in two aspects. First is he lumps in “real” sugar (which is typically about 50% glucose and 50% fructose) as being as bad for you as high-yield corn syrup (which is typically 45% glucose and 55% glucose) is going to be proven wrong. There are studies coming out that show that we don’t process glucose and fructose the same, and that the human body is genetically tuned to process sugars — when that ratio is thrown off and there’s extra fructose in the mix, the body doesn’t adapt and things get out of balance. This is going to be the defining reason why the high yield stuff is going to be shown to be more damaging and more fattening than “real sugar”, that ratio change is significant in how the human body processes and reacts to the food. So they aren’t going to be equally damaging, high yield corn syrup is worse for the body than sugar is — I believe. it’s not proven, but the studies are coming out, and I believe it’s a matter of time.
The second aspect I don’t agree with him on is the emotionally charged word “toxic” — he is right, but only if the substance is abused. Right now, sugar seems to be going through the same demonization phase that alcohol went through. SUGAR IS BAD. Well…
Yes, it is, if you eat too much of it. And just like eggs were demonized over cholesterol and have been returned from exile, and alcohol was demonized and has been sort of returned from exile (much of the medical establishment seems incomfortable admitting that moderate amounts of alcohol seems to be actually helpful, because they seem unwilling to admit that we all won’t end up abusing it and going alcoholic; but small amounts of alcohol and certain types — like red wine — seem to be healthful in many ways), we’re doing the same to sugar.
My view is different; I think these things IN MODERATION are going to be fine. The key is doing things in moderation. In the last 40 years or so, the typical american has gone from eating 40 pounds of sugar a year to over 90 pounds, and a chunk of that 90 pounds is the high yield stuff. There’s a very close correlation on this increase in sugars in our diet and the growth of diabetes and obesity in the culture. The link isn’t proven, but I’m convinced it will be. When we ate moderate amounts of this stuff within our diets, we didn’t get fat, we didn’t get diabetic. Now we eat way more than we should, and we do.
So I’m uncomfortable promoting the “sugar is toxic” concept. I don’t believe it is. I believe that abuse of sugars is bad for your health, and chronic abuse leads to chronic health issues. But eating a healthy diet in a healthy lifestyle (there we go, away from simple answers to complex solutions. sorry!) with this stuff in moderation within it is how to make this all work.
What does that mean for how I’m trying to do this in my own life?
I think the manufactured foods are evil; I try to minimize both trans-fats and high yield fructose corn syrup. That’s difficult to remove 100% from an american diet without extreme changes (please don’t suggest vegetarian, not gonna happen) but I steer away from them, and they play very small parts in my diet and I try to remove them where I find them and can.
I try to aim FOR healthy fats and complex carbs and AWAY from saturated fats and simple carbs. Which is tougher than it sounds, because white flours are a simple carb and you have to be careful even with “whole wheat” and how that term is used. I am not banning lard, or white sugar, or white flour from my life. But I am also not pulling out the tub of lard and a spoon. I believe if you use margarine instead of butter you’re being foolish (and research is showing I’m probably right), but I try to be rational about how much butter I use.
I try to be moderate about all this stuff. My goal diet is 40% protein, 30% carbs, 30% fat. I try to steer towards healthy stuff; the more processed foods are, the less you should eat them. But I still drink alcohol (once or twice a week), I still eat sugar (I just don’t bathe in it), I still eat breads (but I lean towards whole wheats and lower carb versions where I can); I still eat cheese (a lot, actually). I’m still not where I want the diet to be — I’m more 35% protein, 40-45% carbs and the rest fat, and unfortunately, as a diabetic, I feel that’s too high on carbs. But if I weren’t diabetic, I’d feel comfortable taking my diet to any dietician in the universe. Which says a lot, given that five years ago, I was a burger-and-fries guy five or six times a week. Now? maybe once a month — except I rarely eat more than a few fries, because I find them rather grainy and salty (I’m convinced most fast food fries are eaten by habit, not because they remotely taste good; I’m happy to say I’ve lost my taste for them).
And having said my diet is 95% of where i want it to be, that last 5% is proving to be a terror. but I keep working on it. that’s a discussion for later, though.
So read Taubes’ article, and think about getting and reading his book. See if you agree with his arguments, and what that means for your lifestyle and diet. And then we’ll talk. This is a big, hairy, complex thing; if there’s a real sin the medical establishment has committed,it’s that they simplified this into something unintelligible, and then tried to solve all of the complex wrinkles off in the footnotes. Get yourself out of the footnotes and get informed and start figuring it out for yourself — and Taubes is a good place to start.
It’s interesting, and sad. We’re in a massive obesity epidemic; overall, about 1 in 4 adults in the US are considered obese, and that number is growing. About one in ten are diabetic, and the numbers there are staggering, with an expectation that half of Americans will be diabetic by 2020, and there are estimates that in the next couple of decades, that could rise to one in three.
And yet, do you have any idea how often someone suggests to me all I need to do is put less on my plate? eat less? exercise more? Simple concepts, which, in fact, fail miserably and have for years for wide swaths of humanity.
Here’s a hint: if it was that simple, I’d have probably figured it out by now and done it. (yes, I’m back on the “it’s complicated” meme again. sorry. but it IS).
This is just the latest facet of the damned Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” mentality, where simple platitudes make you feel like you’re accomplishing something, when in fact, you aren’t. Just say no doesn’t work for drugs, it doesn’t work for teenage sex, it doesn’t work for alcohol or smoking or eating. Real life isn’t that simple. If it was, you wouldn’t need to keep running around yelling “just say no” to people, they’d figure it out on their own. But I guess it makes people feel better. Too bad they don’t actually see if it works before building it into government policy…
Okay, enough ranting. well, maybe. I wanted to share some stuff I’ve run into that may help you understand just how complicated this is. Right now, we’re spending billions of dollars on research into obesity between government programs and medical/pharma industry (because they know if they can figure this out, there’s a goldmine on the other end that’ll make Viagra look like a generic pill). The fact is, obesity is winning, because there are no simple cures. And researchers are seeing this in their research.
I’ve been doing some research into what they’re learning and what’s going on out there, and I’m finding a lot of this fascinating. Hope you do, too.
For instance, there’s good data that at least some obesity might be happening because of a virus. So you might have caught a bug, and it’s decided it wants its host fat and happy, and it doesn’t care what you think.
One of my pet peeves is High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Don’t get me started. (too late). The food industry keeps telling us it’s okay, there’s nothing to worry about. They so believe in the product they’re trying to change the name (so they can maybe hide from the increasingly bad news about it) for a few more years. But some studies have shown a correlation between the growth in diabetes and insulin dependence tracks on a line that matches the growth in the use of HFCS, and more and more research is calling it into question. For instance, an interesting rat study at Princeton showed that rats gained more weight on Corn Syrup than they did on sugar, even when they were fed the same number of calories (now, you have to be careful translating animal studies to human, they rarely are perfect analogs, and you have to be careful about dosage issues and whether the uses are rational for comparing in humans — if it would take 30 pounds of sugar a day in humans, there are bigger problems…). By the way, these rats showed classic signs of metabolic syndrome (a precursor to diabetes) and increased tryglycerides. Another study out of Florida showed the same issues using fructose instead of sucrose (fruit sugars). And the bottom line? Well, according to the folks at Harvard, here it is: The combined findings demonstrated a 26% higher risk of developing diabetes type 2 and a 20% higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome among people who consumed 1 to 2 sugary drinks per day, compared to individuals whose monthly maximum was just one such drink. Even daily consumption of just one 12-ounce sugary drink raised diabetes type 2 risk by approximately 15%.
Still want that Coke or Pepsi? If so, make it a diet.
Other things impact obesity and weight loss. Feeling depressed? Are you getting enough sleep? Urban living, where you run into pollution, seems to be a factor. And there’s growing evident that, in some cases, your do it to you. So can , although what I believe they’re really seeing here is sleep apnea, for which severe snoring is a key symptom.
Fortunately, progress is being made. One thing that seems to make a difference is to move from refined carbs back to complex ones. So look at your carb sources, and work to shift back to whole grains. There’s also research showing that helps. Remember my note yesterday about shifting more to turkey and a higher percentage of protein? Guess why?
Science is starting to understand that diets don’t work; that it’s about lifestyle change (hmm, didn’t I say that recently?) A hot trend is forcing restaurants to display nutritional information (hey! just say no!) — too bad it doesn’t seem to work. wish they’d studied it before implementing those laws, but heck, they probably feel better because they did something.
There’s good news out there, too. A little bit of alcohol helps fight metabolic diseases. If you get rid of sweetened breakfast cereals and go with unsweetened ones, your kids will likely go for the fruit to sweeten it, not sugar (so no more count chocula!) And, of course, getting up and moving around is a good idea. Diet alone isn’t enough, you need to add in the fitness aspect. grumpy knees or no.
What do I take out of all of this?
Well, here’s my “I am not a lawyer” thing: I’m a layman. I’m studying this so I can better understand how to fix my own situation. I’m sharing this so you don’t need to put the time in to find this stuff on your own. But — I’m a layman. So talk to your doctor about this stuff, and have them help you figure out what it means for your situation, because your situation is different than mine. And — believe it or not — I might be wrong here.
But… having said that…
As many changes as I’ve made in my life in the last few years, I still have a ways to go. and what this research gives me some hints on things that are useful options.
I gave up most corn syrup years ago; it’s empty, wasted calories. If you haven’t — stop. Now. I love unsweetened iced tea, fortunately, and in fact over the last few years I’ve done a good job of retraining myself away from a nasty sweet tooth in general. But HFCS sweetened fluids are the first thing my doctor told me to nuke, and he was right. There’s an amazing amount of calories there, and it adds nothing to your diet BUT calories. I’m not someone who is in the “no tolerance” camp for corn syrup, because in american society it’s practically impossible and I’m not going Vegan any time soon (heck, with my allergies, I don’t think I CAN, honestly, even if I wanted to), but whenever I have a choice, I choose away from fructose in general, and high yield corn syrup as much as possible.
After that, where I can, I’m trying to eat whole grains over refined grains. I’m trying to eat more lean protein and less fat and a managed set of carbs. Where I eat carbs, I’m trying to eat complex ones over simple ones (that’s a whole different discussion for later). I avoid trans-fats and processed fats in favor of natural ones (butter rules). And yes, Laurie and I still enjoy a bottle of wine here and there, and I am still known to drink an occasional single malt. But my alcohol usage is probably averaging about 1/3 glass a day or less over a period of a week. AND I’m trying to build up the exercise program.
So in my grand scheme of “fix one thing at a time, and fix it permanently” school of building up a new set of healthier lifestyle habits, the first one I recomment to you is to learn to like unsweetened beverages. Or at the very least, diet — if you tolerate aspartame okay. (I don’t, but I don’t mind using splenda).
One goal I set for myself, and I’ve found it to be a useful one, is to work to make every calorie be worth it — we tend to eat a lot of crap that frankly doesn’t taste that good, merely because it’s there. And a lot of that crap is bad for you. And yes, the occasional In-N-Out burger is “worth it” and so it the occasional Kit-Kat Bar, at least in my universe. but the key word there is occasional, and if you stop and think through what you eat, you’ll probably find a lot of stuff going into the mouth not because it’s tasty or good, but because it’s there. And that’s a good place to start your thinking (well, after you nuke the sugared sodas). And for that, the food diary is king, because it forces you to be conscious of what you’re eating, and once you get conscious of what you’re eating, you’ll probably start thinking to yourself “why the hell am I eating THIS?”
And that starts you down the path to eating better….
okay, I’ve probably ranted about this enough for you all for now, so time to shift to something else. but we’re not done here, are we?
Nah. didn’t think so…
update: This article on diabetes just came out. 26 Million people in the U.S. are diabetic, and another 79 Million are pre-diabetic. 8% of America is Diabetic, and a third of the U.S. adult population is pre-diabetic now. wow. (for comparison, the population of the state of California is roughly 37 million, so we’re talking about 3X that impacted here).
My plan to get the weight off is off to a slow start, thanks to the grumpy knees. It’s hard to get an exercise program going when you can’t walk, and for a couple of weeks around Christmas, I wasn’t doing much more than hobbling and hiding under a heating pad. It’s been about two years since I was diagnosed with arthritis in the knees, and so I was due for a few bad days. I just wish I knew what triggered it — I have no idea why the knee got inflamed, and the only thing that seemed to knock the inflammation down was time, rest and heat.
It took a couple of weeks after the holiday for things to settle down, but last week, I felt it was time to get moving and see what happened. Half a mile walk, and that evening, things felt pretty good, so the next day, I did it again. It still felt pretty good, so the day after that, I spent some time doing some cleanup and hauling stuff around in the garage. That left things pretty sore, so I spent a day just sitting and resting — and now it feels pretty good again. Not 100%, but probably 95%.
One of the interesting challenges of arthritis is that one of the best methods to keep it in check is to exercise the affected joint, but if you cause inflammation, you make it worse. So there’s this set of lines you travel through and try to navigate between too little and too much, and when you’re just starting out, “too much” might not be a lot. One of the best ways to impact arthritis is to get off excess weight, but if you can’t exercise, getting the weight off is an interesting challenge. so it all twists into itself and it’s this slow, careful process to get the knotted tangle cleaned up and everything moving forward smoothly.
One of the lessons I’m learning — the hard way, repeatedly — is that this is something you can’t out-stubborn. I have to learn when to back off, when to shut it down and use rest as a therapy. I’m getting better at that, but honestly, my personality is to just bulldog through everything that gets in the way, but some things win, and it’s not always easy to realize you need to go around and try a different strategy…
The answer: just keep trying. Learn to listen to the body, pull back when it tells you to, push forward when you can. It’s a balancing act. And not get frustrated when it’s not right the first time, and not focus too hard on results too quickly in ways that cause serious regressions or major downtime by injury. It took many years to get to this point — it won’t fix itself overnight any more than a baseball player can score five runs with a single swing. Baseball players know this — and yet sometimes they still try. they’re wired that way.
And so part of the trick here is to rewire yourself.
When I started talking to my doctor about these issues, that was one of the things he emphasized. It’s not so much about weight loss, it’s about restructuring your lifestyle, and with it, the health changes will come. If you don’t fix the lifestyle issues — even if you lose weight, changes are, it’ll come back.
That’s something the diet industry doesn’t want to talk about — diets don’t work. Even if you lose weight, most people gain it back. Many people gain back more than they lost — and there’s growing evidence that yo-yo weight loss is more harmful to your health than doing nothing.
The plan my doctor and I talked over years ago was to understand what the root causes of the weight were and deal with the lifestyle and diet issues, to get everything under control and moving forward. Remember that in 2004-05, when this process started, I was living on the burger and fry diet five or six times a week (at least), so to say my diet was a disaster is understating it.
All of these things are habits — and habits are tough to change. It takes about six weeks to rewire a habit, and even after that, can take longer before it feels natural. If you break the cycle of rewiring along the way, you tend to fall back on the old habit again and then have to start over. That falling back can be caused by many things, but a prime cause is stress, so stress is one of those things you need to learn to manage and reducing stress in your life is an important aspect of all of this.
I also found what worked best for me was to keep it simple; one of the worst things you can do is change everything at once — because you’re dealing with so many habits that you’re going to lose out on some of them, and once you do, they cascade and you tend to lose everything. What worked for me was picking some pieces I felt I could change and doing them.
Over time, I went from bad fat-laden, calorie heavy breakfasts, fast-food lunches and generally eating way beyond my metabolism, and eating really crap stuff.
Today? Well, before christmas I spent two weeks logging my food.
(digression: the first and best weapon in getting your diet under control is the food diary. I’ve used a number of tools, including pure manual paper logging, but today, I like Livestrong.com as a place to manage that information. Food diaries, if you’ve never done them, mean you take a period of time and you log everything you eat. EVERYTHING. When, how much. what. and then you work out what the nutriional aspects of that food is. I’ll probably talk about food diaries in more detail later, but suffice it to say, it is a great tool for showing you the food you’re eating that you don’t realize you’re eating by forcing you to be aware of it, but it also gives you a baseline for understanding where your diet now, so you, or a nutritionist, can figure out what you can change to improve it, one dietary problem at a time. this presumes you don’t lie to yourself, of course, and that’s sometimes the hardest part of using a food diary, because deep down inside, you know you’re screwing up and hate to force yourself to admit it. And sometimes, doing that alone makes a big difference…)
What I found was pretty much what I expected to find. My diet breakdown was about 35% calories from fat, anywhere from 30-50% calories from from carbohydrate, and the rest from protein. My goal has been a balanced, 30-30-40 diet, so these numbers are things I could take to a nutritionist and feel happy with. It’s a huge change from when I started (when I was probably 50% or more fat in the diet, much of it saturated), and it affirmed to me I was eating pretty much at maintenance (finally) although not losing.
The problem? That’s a gerat diet for a normal person, but for a diabetic, the carbs are too high, and that’s contributed to the weight I’ve gained since I started treatment, since one of the drugs managing the blood sugar does so by reducing insulin dependence and encouraging moving carbs into the fat cells. Which I need to better manage by reducing carbs so they aren’t there to sequester, which… (like I keep saying, it’s complicated….)
So I need to get those rations to around 35% fat, 30% carbohydrate, 35% protein. I don’t want to raise the fat percentage to reduce carbs, that’s for sure. And I’ve already pulled a few hundred calories a day out of the diet, but I need to pull out another 500 or so to make sure the weight loss gets going on on the downward slope, but I’ve found I have to be careful how I do that, or there are side effects. So I know what I need to do, but finding the right combination of changes that work for me has been — a bit of a challenge.
The big problem spot in the diet is mid-day, when I’m running around and at work. At home, I have my stock of stuff and on weekends things tend to work pretty well. But the weekdays are fighting back. See, carbs are portable. I can stuff Clif bars in my backpack and haul them around (and I do, for those times when my body starts doing the “you need carbs” dance or I end up in a meeting that spans a normal mealtime). Protein? You can’t just stuff a turkey breast in a backpack and not expect bad things to happen if you haul it around for a while — this all requires more planning and care. Most proteins need refrigeration, where carbs tend not to; so I’m having to figure out how best to change all of that around, and yes, that means “carry your lunch”, and using blue ice bricks and stuff. and that means changing out some habits, and…
And in my case, this is more complicated than usual, because of some food allergies. One common protein you can use that doesn’t require refrigeration is nuts, and so peanut butter is a common item in all of this. And guess what? I have a nut allergy, so that’s off the list.
Fortunately, I do in fact like turkey and it’s now a staple. The current goal is to move to a much lighter carb load during the day, and swap in some turkey, add in a regular salad and include a couple of pieces of fruit for morning and afternoon snacks to help regulate the blood sugar across the day, and see what happens.
So we’ll see. It’s been working on weekends, so it seems time to shift it to the weekdays. I’ve picked up the lunch sack. I know how I have to change my shopping (and laurie’s a huge help here, also). The grumpy knees have made me, honestly, not really feel like screwing around with other stuff so much, but now they seem to be cooperating again (mostly). So know we see how it goes, I guess.
And if it doesn’t work, we’ll learn from it and try something else…
The weather was wonderful here in the Bay Area today, so I went out for a walk. Not a huge one — a total of half a mile, but just before christmas, one of my knees decided to secede from the Union and I’ve been working to bring it back into the fold since.
I think I need a bit of a digression for that to make sense. Back in late 2007, I was out birding and walking, and while out, took a step back and landed in a gopher hole, twisting my knee and doing the “hop around on one leg cussing like a sailor” thing. So I got myself home and got ice on it and gave it a couple of weeks to recover.
It didn’t get better. So I resigned myself to having it checked and went to my doctor, and told him I’d torn the meniscus. So he sent me off to the orthopede and we took xrays of the knees, and he sat me down and said “see this? you’ve torn your meniscus”.
And so I asked him if we needed to go in and clean it up. His response wasn’t what I was expecting, it was “no, we’re trying to delay your knee replacements as long as possible”. And then he showed me the arthritis. Which today I realize shouldn’t have surprised me, since there’s a family history — and since i tore the meniscus of one knee back in high school (long before arthroscopic surgery was invented), grumpy knees the predict the weather isn’t exactly a new thing.
But I do have to admit hearing that I should expect knee replacements at some point didn’t exactly make my day. But we talked over various options and ways to manage it when it flared up, and thanks in large part to 500mg of Relafin twice a day, the last three years have been almost painless (literally), beyond the usual weather predicting grumpiness and the occasional twinge.
This wasn’t a twinge, however. For reasons I don’t know (I have no idea what caused the flareup), the other knee, not the one I messed up in 2007, but the one that’s been grumping at me for 30 years, decided to have a major argument; swelled up, stiffened up, lots of pain and general “don’t you know it’s the freaking holiday, why now?” kind of thing. So for the last month, I’ve been living mostly on the couch under a heating pad. There were a couple of weeks where I should have used crutches, but I’m too damn stubborn some days…
This is the kind of thing where it just takes time to get the inflammation down, although I was starting to think I might need to get my dosage raised or consider a switch to a different drug (but the Relafin works well, I tolerate it nicely, and honestly, I really don’t want to load up on larger doses of NSAIDs unless I absolutely have to…). Fortunately, while it flared up a second time during the trip to SoCal (the main reason we cut the christmas trip short and cancelled our plans for Salton Sea….), it’s been slowly getting better and the last week or so has finally been getting almost back to normal.
So when I say I went out for a walk, given how things were two weeks ago, that’s awesome. Not pain free, but now it’s time to start the dance down the thin line of getting exercise onto the joint without so much exercise that it flares up again. The nice thing is, 30 minutes under a heating pad after lunch at work and the stiffness and pain was all gone, which is what I was hoping for. Shows that we’re almost back to normal.
But this has complicated some of my plans for the last few weeks; I couldn’t implement the exercise program because I couldn’t exercise, and I’ve been doing a lot of sitting on the couch with the iPad consuming stuff rather than at the laptop creating stuff, but that’s also a nice break; I don’t do that enough, honestly, and it gave me a chance to catch up on some reading, which I’ll try to do reviews on soon — that’s been on the todo list for a while.
Being limited to what birding I can do from the car has been annoying, so it was nice to get out to EEC in Alviso and wander a bit. And the downtime has given me a chance to put some research time in on some issues, and you’ll hopefully see the results soon.
And I get to keep my own knees for a while longer, even if they occasionally behave like spoiled teenagers and pout when the weather’s bad…
Here is my life in a microcosm. 32 pounds (at least) since my peak in November, 18 pounds in the last month, 10 pounds in the last two weeks.
That spike happened while we were dealing with dad’s illness, his death, and the estate. We closed out the estate work in October and I finally was able to stop doing the I-5 tango to LA and start dealing with my own issues again.
The numbers I’m happy about is that right now, I weigh about 10 pounds less than my stable weight going back to 2005. I sat at 375 for a good while; in 2004, I made an attempt to get some weight off and got down to about 345, and as soon as the stress at worked kicked in, it all came back. Except for those few months in 2004, I’ve weighed around 375 going back into 2003, and 360+ since the millenium.
Think about this a bit. Go to a bowling alley. Pick up the lightest ball in the racks; that’s what I’ve lost two weeks; strap the ball to your belly and try to maintain a normal life. Or pick up the heaviest ball in the alley, and that’s what has gone away in the last month. In the last 2 months, I’ve taken 5″ off of my waist.
And this is all, for me, a beginning. I’ve got to take that 30 pounds off four more times before I can start to think about a goal weight — but in reality, I’m guessing a goal weight around 240-250 — about 30 pounds less than I weighed when I was 30 — is a reasonable place to shoot for.
And for what it’s worth, I’m not dieting. Diets fail, and they suck. This isn’t a diet, but the end result of three years of work with my doctor and others, and a lot of research and self-study understanding what triggers the eating and fighting to figure out how to remove or mitigate or circumvent those triggers.
(quick digression: if I had a dollar for every time someone suggested I just eat less, or not put as much on my plate, or any of the other “easy” solutions, I could retire — and drink Starbucks Frappucinos every day the rest of my life. “Just say no” works about as well in obesity as it did for Nancy with teenage sex. Reality is that this is all pretty damn complicated — or we probably wouldn’t have this worldwide “obesity crisis”, no? Well-meaning, yes. useful? not so).
Everyone’s triggers are different, but there are a few things that seem to be pretty universal. Here are some things that have worked for me — so far.
First, it’s not a diet. it’s a healthy lifestyle. Fix the lifestyle, the weight will get fixed with it. That doesn’t mean you don’t plan on losing weight, it means that you make changes to fix the problems that are triggering the weight; obesity is most of the time a symptom of other issues. Lose the weight without solving those other issues — and it’ll come back. (in my case, I could name a bunch of triggers: stress, low self-esteem, stress, bad eating habits, a slow satiety response, and, well, stress).
Sweetened sodas: First thing my doctor told me, they’re gone. He’s right. absolutely wastelands for calories. “Diet” sweetened sodas aren’t much better, because they seem to trigger insulin into the blood which causes hunger, which causes snacking. So your best bet is — water. Or unsweetened iced tea, my personal favorite. Bonus evil points for high-yield fructose sweeteners (corny syrup) as the research keeps showing more and more that it’s nasty and evil (and probably contributing to diabetes and insulin resistance and weight gains). So drink lots of fluids, but teach yourself to drink stuff that isn’t sugary, whether it’s sweetened with sugar, corn syrup, or something artificial. That said, it’s hard to do, because so few things available these days are both portable AND unsweetened, and if you’re out and need something to drink and didn’t bring anything, you can have problems; I still buy a lot of bottled fluids for portability’s sake, but I’m experimenting with a 2 liter insulated flask so I can fill it with ice and water from the Pur filter. I’ll probably do a 1 liter version as well. When I’m out in the Real World, it seems better to buy bottled water than the toher stuff, but sometimes, a little flavor is nice. My preferences are: water (plain, or the crystal geyser unsweetened carbonated), unsweetened tea (lipton makes a bottled one that’s drinkable, so does tejava); stuff sweetened with Splenda. Maybe once a month do I drink something with corn syrup, as much as anything for a change of pace, or because it’s all I can get. I’ll drink something sweetened with corn syrup before drinking something with Aspartame in it, and something with Splenda in it ahead of those, and unsweetened stuff when I can.
Food diaries: When you’re trying to figure out what’s wrong, your best friend is probably the food diary. you write down whatever you eat, when you eat it, without cheating. It’s also useful to write down whether you’re hungry or not, and what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. Without cheating. First, you’ll find out how hard it is to not cheat — because you’ll have to admit to yourself how often you lie to yourself about what you eat. Second, you’ll find out how much you eat without thinking; the cookie the admin brought in, grabbing a Coke before staff meeting (sugared), etc. non-meal, non-planned, mostly habitual food. And finally, with the hunger and mood annotations, you’ll start getting a fix on the various things that cause you to eat. You’ll start seeing patterns (habits!) and you’ll probably find some of the fascinating, and others frightening. Eat when you’re sad? stressed? angry? How often do you eat when you’re hungry, as opposed to when it’s 6PM (dinnertime!). Once you understand your eating habits, good and bad, you can start fixing them. Diaries are the map to doing this.
Fix your habits — one habit at a time. Massive lifestyle changes fail pretty reliably. If you change everything at once, it’ll fall apart. Choose something you know you need to fix, and practice fixing it. Keep working at it until you realize you’re no longer having to work at it. It could take days, it’ll probably take weeks, but at some point, you’ll realize you no longer have to think about or convince yourself to do “the right thing”; the right thing becomes the habitual thing. Then go choose another thing to fix and start fixing it. Lots of little steps, each one do-able, leads to success. Jumping off the cliff into your new healthy lifestyle? well, jumping off a cliff rarely ends well. climb down that cliff in manageable steps. As long as you don’t have a crisis health problem, a bit at a time will be a much less risky change.
Learn to eat slow. Some interesting new research this week: how fast a society eats meals, on average, correlates nicely with how obese that society is. I used to be a sprinter; I’ve been practicing slowing down. There are two feedback cycles involved in eating: hunger encourages you to eat. Satiety encourages you to stop. That is not the same as fullness (or “stuffed”); Sateity is the feeling of no longer being hungry, more or less. In my reality, it’s rather slow to react, so I have a tendency to blow right past it; eating more slowly allows this all to sort itself out. This is a work in progress for me, but I’m getting there. Besides when you eat so fast, you don’t taste the food. For a lot of the crap we stuff ourselves with, this is a feature — so if you learn to slow down, and you find you don’t enjoy what you’re eating, learn to eat something else (this advice will scare the crap out of fast food outlets)
Think about your food. Part of the food diary process: every time I pick up a piece of food, I ask myself two questions: Am I hungry? Do I want to eat this? If the answer to either is yes, I eat it. If not, I put it down. The first question helps you understand how often you eat something because it’s handy, not because you’re hunry. The second question helps you understand how often you eat something because, well, it’s food, not necessarily because you want to eat it. Pop quiz: how often do you leave a mexican restaurant with chips in the chip bowl? I know my answer, and it’s pretty brutal. Second pop quiz: were those chips store bought in bags or made by the restaurant? If your answer is “I didn’t notice…..” then you have homework to think over, right?
Don’t deprive yourself: a good way for this to all fail is to hate doing it. I admit it: I still eat fast food — but instead of eating it 5-6 lunches a week, like I did the last year I was at Apple, I eat it occasionally. Like once every ten days or so. And when I eat it, I look at what I’m eating; you don’t have to supersize (or better yet, Wendy’s does a decent baked potato instead of fries — or learn to toss the fries after you’ve enjoyed the taste of them, if you do). Be really wary of fast food salads. they are generally not your friend. A common reason people get into the fast food habit (raises hand) is “fast”; don’t even have to get out of the frigging car. A way to start breaking this habit: find the fast food that’s just far enough away to be a hassle, and go eat there. Break the “this is convenient, I have to be ready for that next meeting” faux-convenience. Beyond that? I still eat ice cream; it’s a personal, favorite vice. But I do it within the larger plan, and I do it consciously. I can (and do) live without fries. I don’t particularly want to live without ice cream — so I don’t. But work it into your dietary plan and lifestyle, and when you choose to do that, figure out what things you won’t do so that it fits into the plan. Then it’s no longer a “treat”, it’s part of your diet, and your “diet” isn’t something you hate. Which means you’ll stay on it better.
That Kit-Kat bar may be your friend. The diet nazis tend to get really uppity about some things — like fast food, ice cream, candy. All the stuff you like. But you may well find out that candy bar can save your ass; god help me, most “energy bars” (like Powerbar, etc) take like crap. I find Clif bars both tolerable and almost edible, and they have a selection that doesn’t trigger my alergies (no nuts, no peanuts, no peanut butter; with many brands, I’m screwed). I, personally, have sworn that I will sell my soul to the devil before eating another freaking rice cake. I’d rather go to the woodshop and chow down on sawdust, you know? But when that mid-afternoon between meeting “my god, my blood sugar is crashing, I’m starving” snack urge hits (and it will, if you reduce calories to lose weight. plan for it) then you may well find that the best thing in the vending machine is the candy bar — and you’ll like it. Just make sure it gets fitted into the plan. What’s probably worst? I’d bet the pop-tarts, speaking of going to the woodshop for sawdust… And fighting that urge and ignoring the energy crash and blood sugar level jumping off a cliff? you’re just asking for a binge eat along the way. A planned retreat is much preferred over attempting to out-macho your appetite. If you find you have this fight regularly, then plan a snack into the day to circumvent it. Like a Clif bar, if you can eat them every day and not want to kill yourself. Or fruit. Or… maybe a kit-kat bar. Just don’t lie to yourself about the calories.
Know your body: the 70′s idea that everyone does best on a “mediterranean” higher-carb diet (as opposed to the “high carb” diet fiascos) is bogus. we all have different genetic backgrounds with different dietary realities. If your background is mediterranean, then be my guest. Me? my genetic background is germanic (northern europe white guy) — and my body does better powered by protein, but I need to manage the fat that normally ocmes with that, so I tend to eat a lot of turkey and ham. Figure out what works for your body, and don’t be suprised if it’s not what “everyones says you should do”. and if someone tries telling you that the answer is the old Pasta and Bagel diet, stuff them down a toilet.
Stay hydrated. Going to the bathroom is not a sin. honest. Surprisingly large percentages of americans don’t drink enough fluid. I tend to dehydrate easily, especially in summer (I’m well insulated. good for annoying people by walking around without a jacket in winter, bad in summer….). Increasing your fluid intake not only reduces dehydration and the symptoms it causes (for me, low energy and headaches) — it’s an interesting appetite suppressant. If you’re slowly adding water to the system, you’ll spend less time feeling empty and hungry. Try it. It’s amazing. You’ll learn over time what level makes you feel best, but I’ll bet it’s likely more than you’re actually drinking now.
And that’s probably enough of that for now. But one more thing. A couple of people have noted to me recently that it’s hard to find a photo of me online. Guilty as charged. In all honesty, I like TAKING pictures, not sitting for them. But professionally, I need to get over it and do some mug shots, so I set that as a personal project, to find out how to take my own portrait and do some publicity images for myself. I’ve hated every attempt so far, but it was only a week ago that I realized why.
Every time I see a picture of myself, I don’t actually SEE ME. I see this:
Which is what I feel like when I weight almost 400 pounds. On the other hand, looking in the mirror, I can see significnt changes even with the weight lost so far. There’s hope for me yet; I can see a significant reduction to the jowls already. But I still have this nasty urge to grab a guitar and start plucking…
I hit a milestone today that I’m rather happy with — finally. My weight today was under 370; 368.5 in fact.
That’s still a lot, way too freaking much, but to put it in perspective, my weight was stable between 375 and 379 from early 2005 until late 2007, I wasn’t getting it off, but I’d finally stopped the gains. Then as 2008 started, dad got sick, went into the hospital, and then in June he died and we had the burial and wake, and then there was the lawyer stuff and helping mom get back on her feet and get the estate settled, and all of the stress and crap that goes with that.
I’ve literally lost count of how many trips to SoCal I took in 2008, but it included about 27 days in hotels, 12,000 miles on the Subaru just going up and down I-5 and highway 101.
To make life even more fun, in November while out birding and trying to get some walking in, I stepped in a gopher hole and twisted my knee, badly. I rehabbed it, but it didn’t get better, so I finally went to an Orthoped, who told me something I already knew (torn meniscus) and something I didn’t: arthritis. What I was hoping was an easy scope job moved quickly into “inoperable, we are trying to delay knee replacement as long as possible”. This was made even more fun when, because I was compensating for the knee, my achilles tendon froze and I ended up with a nasty case of tendonitis, which my doctor told me would probably take a year to fully rehab (so far, he’s been right on; sigh). So for most of the time dealing with mom and dad, I was doing it one-legged. it’s the right leg, so you can imagine the fun of 6 hours in the car with your foot on the pedal (thank god for cruise control).
So a good chunk of 2008 involved running around LA during the day, running around the laptop at night (I did in fact have a job, after all, and they were very supportive and cooperative, but stuff had to get done) with the knee AND ankle in ice wraps trying to get the cramping and swelling down so I could spend the next day running around dealing with mom and dad and all that other fun stuff — because it all had to be done, and nobody else was going to do it.
Did I mention I’m a stress eater? And that life in 2008 was a bit stressful? So I ballooned; the highest weight I documented was 394 in September, about the time we finished up with the lawyers and estate. I think my final high weight was higher, but all weighing myself did was piss me off and add to the stress, so I stopped.
2008 couldn’t disappear fast enough for me, as you might imagine. Not a demo reel year. I did finally decide I was sick and tired of being what I was; and having added another 20 pounds just reinforced to me I had to stop making my weight a “one of these days” priority. The only way to solve the weight was to solve the stress equation and retrain my habits. I got a big boost moving to Palm here — not that it’s a stress free environment, but the reduced commute makes life a lot more tolerable, and the stress here isn’t so nasty to me because I enjoy my work and co-workers so much.
Mostly, though, my stress reduction program involved finding the stress I was piling on myself — artificial deadlines and things that really didn’t need to worry about, whether it was blogging, setting up my photography business, redesigning the blog, etc, etc. Lots of “deadlines” that only meant something to me, and — in reality — nobody would die if I ignored them.
It’s very easy — trust me — to get into the mindset of “I really need to get this weight off — and I will, as soon as I finish painting the bathroom!” I finally stopped kidding myself that (a) someone else would magically make the stress go away, that it was up to me to figure out how to make it go away, or manage it. So I did, and put as much on hold as I could — I still am, actually — and stopped spending the evenings multitasking doing things like watching TV while working on stuff, and I stopped worrying about setting up the photo blogging or the image store, and in fact I started turning off the computer and instead I just watched TV (instead of sort of watching while doing something useful), or I read, or I started using the Xbox more.
Over time, my attitude started improving and I started moving past the negatives that piled up in 2008; Over time, I started relaxing and thinking more positively about things — and the weight started coming off. I was able to focus on stopping the stress-driven snacking, and I started seeing the weight drop. It took me from September until late April to get ten pounds off, and then it finally clicked, and I’ve dropped another ten in the last three weeks.
That weight loss meant 3 inches off the waist so far. If you want to try to imagine what it’s like being this heavy, go find a bowling ball and strap it against your belly button. Then reach down and put on your shoes. Or reach forward and grab something off the table.
Still plenty of work to do. I have up to ten more of those bowling balls to do away with. It’s one of those things where you don’t look too hard at the long-term goal, because it can be so intimidating — but the next ten pounds? If I can lose another 20 pounds, I’ll weigh less than at any time in this century. That’s a good next goal. Ultimately, I need to get somewhere south of 300, and then we can figure out what a goal weight might be.
This isn’t about dieting; it’s about habits and triggers and responses. My response to stress was to chew. My focus the last few months has been to rewire that response. There’s lots of good research that it takes weeks to rewire a habit to the point where you can override the habit, and it takes a good six months until the habit is actually changed. That CLICK happened about three weeks ago, and since then, the weight’s been dropping — over ten pounds in the last month.
It doesn’t mean the urge to grab a snack is gone; instead, it’s merely something I can recognize and dismiss. The habit is changed, and now it’s about reinforcing that change and making the new habits feel more natural. The period where I have to consciously push myself to behave is gone, now, it feels natural, which means I can start adding things into life again and start looking at moving some of the projects forward.
I think you’ll start seeing more blogging again, and I’ll start working on moving the blog and photo projects again, and we’ll see how it goes.
Of course, I just got a copy of Fable II for the Xbox….
Chuqui 3.0: (Wheeze) Luke (Wheeze) I AM your father…. (love me, love my CPAP):
Yesterday, I got the results of the apnea study, and it wasn’t pretty. I also got my CPAP machine, which I’m lovingly modelling above. The details of the study were a lot worse than I expected — averaging 50 events an hour, with a worst-case O2 drop to 58% (the O2 scale runs from 50-100, with 90-100 being normal).
And — results are very, very early, but I was up a bit late, and we had to set the alarm earlier than normal (5:30), so I’m running on around 6 hours instead of 7-7:30 today, and despite that, I feel more energetic and rested than I have in weeks. It’s a subjective feeling, and after one day, way too early to tell, but — it sure seems like a noticable and huge change for the better.
I’ve been wearing the CPAP for a few weeks now; I adapted to sleeping with it fairly well, it seems — according to the nurses I talked to, a lot of folks struggle with getting to sleep with the beast. In my case, that part wasn’t a problem. On the other hand, the change in quality of rest threw my sleep cycle for a loop, and that first weekend I got up at 4:30 AM to take the Point Reyes birding trip and did way more walking than I was really up for, and then that night was daylight savings. And the combination of the three just seemed to confuse the hell out of my sleep patterns — imagine being jet lagged to hell, and you get the feeling. Took about ten days to start settling down, and most evenings, I was happily zombied on the couch, hence part of the reason for relative lack of blogging.
These days, I’m generally crashing between 11:30 and midnight, and sleeping fairly quickly; the alarm is set for 6AM, but I’m normally waking up sometime between 5 and 6. This has worried me a bit, because I haven’t been convinced that’s enough sleep, but I haven’t succeeded in going back to sleep waiting for the alarm, either, and I haven’t felt particularly tired in the afternoons or evenings, so something positive is going on. That is, in general over an hour less sleep than I needed before the CPAP, while at the same time, I’m much more rested. Imagine getting a “free” 30 hours a month back to do things in….
The one worry I’ve had is that this new energy level and reduced sleep requirement is temporary, and aspect of the change in my sleeping habits. It’s been going on long enough that I’m comfortable it’s “real” — and I’ve had a couple of times where I’ve pushed it even harder, and found myself getting tired, but in a normal way. So that makes me feel this is how it’s going to be moving forward.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I’ve never been a morning person. When I moved to Strongmail, to make the commute more rational, I shifted into the early drive. Now, going on six months later (has it really been that long? wow), I find I am really enjoying it. I’ve seen a lot of really awesome sunrises and fantastic bay area weather, I have a chance to enjoy my evenings — and now that we have the apnea diagnosed and under control — my energy levels are way up, and not only do I have that extra few hours a week from sleeping less, I feel up to using them for more than just sitting at the computer or vegging out.
It’s funny, in a sad way — when I talked to the pulmonary nurses that were working with us on the apnea, they noted most folks fought accepting the machines (and many don’t use them or lie about using them, they say) — me, I saw this as an attempt to make my life better, and in fact, it’d made a huge difference (I see no advantage in asking an expert to help, and then arguing with or ignoring them; don’t bother asking, or pay attention).
My one hope is that when I get this weight off, it reduces the apnea enough I don’t need the machine again. we’ll see. if not, not. I certainly don’t want to go back to the “tired me”, that’s for sure. Or see my blood pressure go up again; that, alone, tells me how much the apnea was affecting things — in a scary way.
And besides, I’d hate to miss all of those sunrises. Do you have any idea how beautiful the drive is up 280 when the sun is coming up and the fog is swirling across Crystal Springs? Probably not — from what I can see, most people on the freeway are far too busy being in a hurry to notice.
Their loss… but God, this area’s beautiful, if you slow down and look.
The latest in geek fashion:
A couple of weeks ago, I said this:
Chuqui 3.0: About Me:
And we’ve been chasing something that’s popped up since I left Apple — I’ve been having some intermitted periods where I simply don’t have any energy. It’s not tired or fatigue, it’s just sudden drop-outs of my energy levels. Because of this, I’m going to be doing an apnea sleep study next week, although I don’t believe that’s “it”, with my weight, it’s a logical next step to check and (hopefully) eliminate (or deal with).
Yesterday, I got the results of the apnea study, and it wasn’t pretty. I also got my CPAP machine, which I’m lovingly modelling above. The details of the study were a lot worse than I expected — averaging 50 events an hour, with a worst-case O2 drop to 58% (the O2 scale runs from 50-100, with 90-100 being normal).
The reason I felt that apnea wasn’t the problem was that — from my point of view — none of the most obvious symptoms of apnea have been present; I’m not waking up during the night, I’m not doing the “active dreaming” (because you can never get into deep REM sleep), I wasn’t waking up tired or fighting the alarm, and in fact, was doing pretty well on 7 hours a night; and a while back, all of that WAS true, before we worked on clearing out the nasal congestion (Allegra for the cats, sudafed for what the allegra doesn’t clear out, and breathe-rights to open the passages; breathe-rights rock, by the way — if you snore, try them…). given that I STILL had what’s clearly a severe case of apnea, one can only wonder how bad it was before we “fixed” it.
That, of course, is why you don’t guess about these things, and in retrospect, I should have taken the test a few years ago.
So, for those who are wondering — what’s Sleep Apnea? Apnea is a condition where your airway closes down, and your ability to breath stops. You can sugar coat it with lots of medical terms adn conditions, but effectively, its as if a cat keeps crawling onto your face and going to sleep. As the sleeper, of course, you end up moving around and starting to wake up to clear the airway (and shoo away the cat), all the while your blood oxygen drops. Apnea can lead to all sorts of fun things, from exhaustion (and more fun things like falling asleep randomly, like when driving), or raised blood pressure, or stroke.
Some apnea stats: current estimates are that 1 in 5 Americans have some form of apnea at least some of the time. The testing/results/training classes I went to started with about 60 people, and they ended up handing off 45 CPAP machines (now, as they noted, you don’t end up IN that class until you’re far enough down the road that the diagnosis is pretty clear… but still); while being overweight and being older don’t help, it’s not a “fat” disease or an “old” disease. the class I was in ranged from a girl in her mid-20′s to a man in his 80′s; and the girl, if he had 10 pounds of extra ‘her’ hanging around, hid it awfully well. So to speak. Not that I was looking; I am married, of course.
The tube of the CPAP wanders off to what can only be described as an aquarium air pump on steroids. The idea is to flow air into the nose to pressurize the system to keep things open. If that sounds, well, funky, well, I can tell you that going to sleep that way the first time was weird — you essentially have this small, localized windstorm going up your nose. Some folks adapt to wearing a CPAP well, some take a couple of weeks. In my case, I had about 20 seconds of claustrophobic panic the first time I put the thing on — and then last night, fell asleep right away, and as far as I can tell, stayed asleep all night. Seems like it’s not going to be a hassle for me.
And — results are very, very early, but I was up a bit late, and we had to set the alarm earlier than normal (5:30), so I’m running on around 6 hours instead of 7-7:30 today, and despite that, I feel more energetic and rested than I have in weeks. It’s a subjective feeling, and after one day, way too early to tell, but — it sure seems like a noticable and huge change for the better.
And I mention it because — maybe, it’ll trigger something with some of you out there, and convince you to go talk to your doctor about it. If you sleep but don’t feel rested. IF you have a tendency (like I did ) to sit down somewhere and “go nappies”, if you’re a heavy snorer — you should at least have the talk.
Although I fully realize that doing the Darth Vader thing is not necessarily going to make your evening if you’re single and bring a friend home, if you fall asleep on the barstool (or at the wheel), she might never come with you in the first place…
Now, off to go study up on CPAP equipment and technology, because if I can guarantee one thing, it’s the the one Kaiser will pay for as part of the coverage is a perfectly decent unit, but not the best on the market, or the one I’ll likely want to stick with.