the other theo

There is no dark side of the moon really… as a matter of fact, it's all dark.

Category: Fitness

Turning the ship around

I am pleased to report that I’ve now lost about 5 pounds since I last wrote about my weight loss almost two months ago.  I managed to increase the intensity of my daily workouts, and working out feels very good right now.   I can feel a change in the muscle groups of my lower body — both in terms of their size and shape as well as how they respond to exercise.  I’ve also managed to get my eating and portion sizing under control without feeling like I’m denying myself much.   Most important from an emotional standpoint (and probably least important as a practical matter,) I’ve blown past a weight number where my weight loss traditionally stopped before last year.

My doctor ran a lipid panel and glucose tests on my blood a few weeks ago, and while the results aren’t as stellar those of 18 months ago, they look pretty good.   Some are just above what’s considered a healthy range, and some are in the range.   We’ll have to see what the numbers look like next year.

Weight loss during the last three months was slow at first.   The scale did not change much at all during in the 4-6 weeks before my last posting on the subject.   Some time in early-to-mid-July, I started to notice changes in how my clothes were fitting and the reading on the scale started to drop.   I am weighing myself before I exercise in the morning, but I’m not recording the values.   I keep thinking that the information would be useful to look at later… but I never get around to it.   Is there a fitness iPhone app for that?

This puts me about one third of the way toward my first fitness goal; losing another 5 pounds would be nice, and another 10 pounds is the target.  The second, and more important, fitness goal of keeping off that lost weight… I’m not sure where I am with that.

In any case, I feel like changing your level of fitness is like turning a large ship.   Even after you’ve started turning the wheel, it takes a while to see the course changing.   I think my change is under way.

Some days

“There comes a time in every man’s life, and I’ve had plenty of them.” – Casey Stengel

Some mornings when you wake up, you just want to stay in bed but decide to go to the gym and work out anyway.  It’s got to be that on those mornings, your workout burns a few more calories, right?

Let Down

Ok, I’m back again after a two month hiatus.    It turned out to be a pretty rough Spring, in some respects.   The Peanut brought home a cold in early April that got passed around to me by the end of the month, and ended in both sinus and ear infections.   Since then, my schedule at work has heated up.  Two week code development sprints became the rule of the day, starting in May.   Those sprints did a lot to end some work-related doldrums I experienced in the first quarter of the year; they forced me to travel more often to the office where the bulk of the team works, and I delivered key components of the new product we are creating.   I worked some long hours and burned myself out a bit, but my overall feeling is positive.

The main thing I want to write about right now is my weight.    The last year and a half have been both triumph and tragedy as far as my weight loss and fitness goals are concerned.   On January 1, 2014, I was hovering at about 24 pounds of weight loss from my peak weight almost 4 years ago.   That weight was a little higher than the 27-29 pounds of weight loss where I was  hovering for the previous two years.

So, I made a 2014 New Year’s resolution to lose some weight.  I checked some (seemingly credible) online sources, upped the amount of protein in my diet, cut out some carbs (but not completely), eliminated pretty much all between meal snacking, and pushed hard on my daily routine on the elliptical trainer.   The weight started coming off, and fairly quickly.   Soon, I was back down to 29 pounds of weight loss, and the weight kept coming off.    I dropped below my previous best weight since I turned 30, and crossed 37 pounds of weight loss — a key round number that I used to define my ultimate weight loss goal.  By early June 2014, I was hovering at around 46 pounds of weight loss.   That’s a huge number… the kind you see on weight loss ads on TV.   If I lost about 5 more pounds than that, I would cross another big round weight number that I never thought I would get close to again and weigh about what I did at age 19.

The Peanut, the Missus, and I had to travel to a family wedding in early July.   I was thrilled for everyone to see my “new” body, including wearing a nice wool suit that I bought sometime in the 1990’s.   It was, in some ways, the peak of a giddy climb.

It didn’t stay that way.   My resolve to let my body adjust to the “new” normal wavered.   I began to consume what I called “the fourth meal” in the evenings — snacks and alcohol, mostly.   There were lots of calories, and less nutritional value.  Some of it was a response to stress.   The Peanut started a new therapy regime in September,  and the first few weeks were tough.   It was a new routine for all of us, and he wasn’t a happy camper AT ALL for a while.    Then layoffs came at work in late October, followed by my assignment to a new team.  Some changes in my extended family also happened last Fall, and some of those added to already busy schedules.

By the end of the summer, I was hovering at about 42-43 pounds of weight loss and by December, it was hovering at about 38 pounds.

In December, my body failed.   I started experiencing pain in my right leg when it moved in certain ways.   This was especially problematic at night; sometimes I rolled over or my right foot got tangled in blankets in ways that caused shooting pains that woke me up.  I began to skip exercise days to try to rest my leg, if that was somehow aggravating the problem.   I saw the family doctor in February or March.   He determined that the problem was very likely not joint damage, and referred me for physical therapy.

The Peanut’s life also became more than a little chaotic from January through March.   He did not get along with his speech therapist, was evaluated for additional services, and then placed in a new preschool for kids with special needs.   This process had all of us just trying to roll with the changes.

The weight began to pile on: first 36 pounds of weight loss, then 34, and then… I stopped getting on the scale.

By the end of my physical therapy in April, we determined that the leg pain is very, very likely due to some kind of ergonomic issue at work.  Knowing that has helped me deal with the problem, but I still need to talk about it with human resources at work.   I need a better chair.    The physical therapy also helped me develop some muscle groups to combat the problem.

By May, I resolved to start working out more regularly again.   This was aided by the gym I belong to opening a new snazzy location much closer to our house.   The strength in my workouts has come back, and my resolve to eat better is returning. The scale says that I’m hovering it about 27 pounds of weight loss, about where I started on January 1, 2014.

I’m trying to take stock of the last 18 months.   Do I have the resolve to bear down and lose the weight again?  Can I do the same thing and repeat the result?    Did I lose the weight too fast for my body to adjust?   Did I just wear myself out in the process and increase the possibility of injury?

If I am a duality of body and spirit, I feel that each let the other down.   My spirit broke when I started eating and couldn’t stop.   My body broke when sleep and exercise became more difficult.  I reached for the brass ring, got it, and fell.   That’s a let down all the way around.

Speeding To The Unknown Shore

As I settle in to my first full week back in harness at work, a lot of people are asking each other “Well, how were your holidays?”

My answer is invariably “good”.   Too often at this time of year, things are rush, rush, rush.  Despite the fact that little business actually gets done at this time of year, someone in my management chain decides that a milestone must be met before the year ends.   That creates a scenario where all the rushing to complete the perfunctory tasks for Christmas at home must compete with a deadline at work that could often be more realistically set for mid-to-late January (when it often gets hit anyway.)

That did not happen this year.  The fact that I am transitioning between two projects coupled with the fact that I have not gotten feedback that is blocking progress on a couple issues means that stress and urgency levels at work were lower as Christmas and the New Year approached.  As a child, Christmas is a thing that happens to you.  You cannot help but take it in, and you often wish that it doesn’t happen to you fast enough.  Christmas is a process for adults, making it happen for others.  If you don’t have time to step back and observe that process, it just races past and is something to be survived, not enjoyed.   The extra space in my schedule this year allowed me some enjoyment.

The season was not without irritations.   I wrote at the beginning of December that my weight was up and that I would need to be dedicated through the end of the year.   My spirit did not fail me in that, but my body did.  I developed soreness in my hips, especially on my right, that was aggravated by the motion of the elliptical trainer I primarily used to work out.   It seemed obvious that exhaustion and repetition were straining, not training.  The equally obvious response was to rest, worries about additional holiday weight gain be damned.   Weeks on, that approach proved effective; I am not able to push myself to the high level I ideally want to burn calories, but I can work out (more moderately) without damaging myself and start the process of getting back in better shape.  I’m now probably about 8-9 pounds above my current weight loss target, but I feel like the worst is behind me.

A key system in the house also decided to fail just as the year ended.   I’ve noticed for the last 2 years or so that the thermostat would just not turn the heat on sometimes.  In the past, I usually was able to reset the thing or change the batteries and it would start working again with enough fiddling.  We keep the house cooler at night and the heat went off in the evening of December 30th.   It did not come back on the following morning, December 31st.  Fortunately, I got a replacement thermostat a year or two ago.  I put off installing it because I was generally able to get the old one working.  This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I was a grump for a little while until I got the new one installed and discovered that it worked.   After that, it was all good and I could relax.

Christmas itself followed our regular pattern: Mass on Christmas Eve and dinner with family on Christmas Day.  We went to church with the Missus’ Dad not far from the apartment where he lives, about 15 miles away.  They roll up the sidewalks at about 7pm up there on Christmas Eve, as we discovered last year when it was nigh on impossible to find a place to eat after Vigil Mass that starts at 6pm.   We took that lesson to heart and got a couple pizzas before Mass started, and reheated them at my father-in-law’s apartment.  As I said to the Missus as we drove home, it went very easy.

The Peanut cleaned up on Christmas morning.  He got 4-5 boxes full of stuff from Santa that were taller than he is when stood up on their longest sides.   He got a tricycle, another vehicle called a Plasma Car, a Little People car track, two different tee ball sets, and large, complicated-to-assemble marble track.   He was surprisingly easy going about all this loot.   The Missus’ Dad joined us for the Great Unwrapping, and didn’t arrive until after 9:30am.   The Peanut was perfectly fine about waiting to open gifts.  That fact that made the Missus somewhat question his maternity, for whom an unopened gift can be a taunt that repeatedly whispers “open me… open me… open me” as soon as it is seen.

Once the Great Unwrapping completed, I made brunch with buttermilk pancakes, bacon, sausage, and mimosas made with some prosecco.

Dinner on Christmas Day took Julia Child as its inspiration.   It was Steak Au Poivre, garlic mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and a salad, much of the recipes coming from Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.  It wasn’t tremendously high stakes cooking, but left me feeling fatigued at the end of the day anyway.   It all came out pretty well, even if I hadn’t made the steak or the potatoes in the better part of ten years.

We were joined by the Missus’ Cousin T. and her family for dinner.   We don’t get to see enough of the extended family at holiday times, and it was nice for them join us.   I did fail my guests in one small respect: the Missus recalled that T. had some food allergies, and believed that they were wheat-related.   That turned out be wrong.  T. has problems with dairy, and here I am cooking French-inflected food with tons of butter.   Oh well.  We still had a good time and T. found enough to eat.  Live and learn.

I spent the three days after Christmas not doing too much of anything in particular, except eating leftovers.  After that, went to work the first two days of the following week, and then was off until the first Monday of the New Year.

If Christmas was the holiday where I felt like I was rushing around to create the day for others, New Years was gloriously lazy.  I got some takeout Chinese food from a restaurant whose chief virtue is the short drive from our house and was in bed by 10:30pm on New Year’s Eve.  The following was fend for yourself breakfast, and a holiday party at the house of friends that afternoon.

I watched bits Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln over the break.  In it, Abraham Lincoln speaks of a dream where he is speeding on a ship toward an unknown shore.   I feel like I was on that ship for much of the year, what with the Peanut’s problems with talking, the associated issues with medical insurance, and the back and forth at work the culminated in some layoffs back in October and put the project I worked on for nearly two years in mothballs.   The speed of that ship began to slow as the holidays approached for reasons I mentioned above.  By that first weekend of 2015, that ship finally stopped and I felt centered in myself for the first time since I don’t know when.

I’ll take an end of year like that anytime.

ps.  For all my fretting about ornaments this year, we only damaged one and that was my fault.  I tried to reach behind the tree to clean a piece of dirty train track in the back and knocked this Santa loose from his hook.   He rolled over my shoulder, down my arm, and hit the floor just beyond the round area rug that generally protects our ornaments.

IMG_1614

 

Resolved

It was a tough Summer and Early Fall for my personal fitness and weight loss regime.   After a key breakthrough in early 2014 that dropped my weight between 15 and 20 lbs between January and May (down to the weight I had in my mid-20s), I fell off the proper diet wagon.   Especially in the evenings, I ate too much, and too much of the wrong stuff.

I almost made it to 47 pounds of weight loss at my lowest weight in 2014.  Within 6 weeks, I added on about 4 pounds and held there for about a month.   Two months later, I’d added another 4-5 pounds.

What I was eating felt so bad and so good at the same time.   I was clearly leaning on food for some kind of comfort or release.  At the same time, the sugar roller coaster was unnerving to ride.    Part of weight loss and better fitness is journey of growing repulsed at such extremes of feeling.

Finally, I had enough about 3 weeks ago.  I found the will to stop.   I’ve dropped a pound or two since then.

I am remembering a blogger friend who transformed her life and ran her first half marathon in 2014.   I need to hold the line through the holiday season.   I’m not sure where I want this to end up, but somewhere close to 45 pounds of weight loss sounds like a worthwhile goal, for now.