Remission: Backsliding

Big guy and big burger

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At the end of April, I had achieved a weight of 255 pounds, down from 274. My blood sugar was negligible. For the first time in years, my doctor did not scold me about angry liver. I felt I was on the verge of getting rid of the Darth Vader mask at night.

And then my birthday came. Hey, we have a new casino with a Jimmy Buffet’s inside. So I wasted away again at Margaritaville. (And they learned how to make Nita Ritas that day. They learned fast.) Then came Mother’s Day, and, well, AJ and I needed to spoil Nita. Then came AJ’s birthday.

And I had two full semester classes during the week.

And I finished the new version of Holland Bay.

Excuses, excuses. The result is that I lost most of the ground I covered by the end of July. My weight stays in the high 260’s (which kills some of the urgency to get it back off), but occasionally strays back into the 270’s, land of diabetes, angry liver, and high blood pressure.

This is my fault. Summer was when I was going to be able to run five miles easy. September was when I would find and run my first 5K race since 1983. Next spring meant 10K’s while 2015 was the Mini-Marathon. 2015 is still on, but I’m going to have to work a lot harder.

With class off, and no homework for a couple of weeks, I’m out of excuses. And next semester does not promise any new excuses. I have one weekday class and an accelerated weekend class that ends in October. Guess who has two thumbs and needs to start running again and needs to work back up to the Insanity workout he bought last spring.

This guy!

Remission: The Numbers Are In!

I went to the doctor a couple weeks ago for bloodwork. I get this done three or four times a year, checking for cholesterol, blood sugar, and liver emzymes, the three numbers that have given me the most trouble.

A week went by. No phone call. Two weeks. Nothing. Did I owe something on my bill?

I called.

“Oh, the doctor didn’t think he needed to call you. Your numbers were all good.”

“Well, I’m kind of keeping track.”

They read them off. Cholesterol? Well… They took a wait-and-see approach.

Liver emzymes, a sign your liver is not happy with you for either excessive weight or excessive drinking or both? Down for the first time in three years.

And the biggie, A1C hemoglobin, a cumulative measure of blood sugar over the previous 90 days?

5.9.

Diabetic is 6.1. Yes, kids, I’m off all but two medications now. Even when my weight spikes, my blood pressure and sugar stays down now. Of course, I have to be careful. A weekend of fun can throw me off or a day where everyone brings in the latest sweets or a box of donuts can really throw everything out of whack.

Remission: How I Measure Weight Loss

There are two ways to measure weight. One is to weigh oneself once a week, usually on a Monday. The other is to do it daily. Weekly gives you a consistent number to work with and only causes anxiety that first morning. Daily can be nerve-wracking, but it does give you an idea of how certain foods and activities will impact your body. Just don’t be shocked when that long night of beer, wings, and mozzarella sticks add 3-5 pounds that don’t go away by the next morning.

I do daily, but there’s a caveat. If I jump on the scale one morning and see a number that’s a goal weight (this week, 255 pounds), I don’t automatically assume I’ve met my goal. This was once a source of frustration that derailed previous attempts to lose weight and get in shape. You can have a day where you eat little, drink lots of fluids, and are physically active, resulting in a very nice reading on the scale the next morning. The problem is you have a perfectly normal day the next day. Or you have a business lunch or are so busy the only food you get is a Whopper and fries. Then the scale is not so nice.

I do my weight daily because it gives me a trend. I also have to check blood sugar and blood pressure daily, so my weight gives me an additional health factor to gauge how I’m doing. I get up, do what it is we do when we first roll out of bed, then hit the scale. This is when you’re at your lightest. Everything after that is added weight that hasn’t been absorbed yet.  If I’m at or under my target weight, it’s a good morning. But it doesn’t count as meeting my goal. Not until I’ve had 7 consecutive readings at or below my target weight. After that, it’s pretty obvious the target weight is the new normal, and I can move on.

How’s it worked? I talked recently about stopping several medications. I am now about to stop using a CPAP machine to sleep. This is a milestone. Plus, I’d like to be able to travel over night with nothing but my laptop and an overnight bag.

I am writing this on Sunday morning, which now marks 3 days under 255 pounds. My original goal for 2013 was 250 pounds. If those numbers hold by the time you read this, I will be less than 5 pounds away from my goal for the year.

Remission: And Now I Start Running For Real

Running cartoonIn January, I started a program to ramp up running. I started by power walking a 6-minute interval followed by one minute of running, repeating two more times. Gradually, the power walk was reduced to a minute while the running is up to nine minutes. I did have to stop halfway through the most recent one because my hips got too tight. It happens.

This week, I start running for real: Twenty minutes straight. Next week, 30 minutes. Then up to a nearby park and back, adding a lap around the park each week until the end of April. There will be a 90-day (or one-week, depending on how badly I hurt myself) break while I do P90X, but the goal here is to do a 3-5 mile run three times a week.

I haven’t run since 1984. Ronald Reagan was president. Gas was $1 a gallon. MTV still showed videos. The Internet was this super-secret computer thingie that Matthew Broderick hacked in War Games. I also turned 18 that year.

I turn 47 this year, and the body is not as resilient as it once was. For some reason, my threshold of pain is higher, probably life kicking someone around for an extra three decades, but there are more aches. I have the knees of my mother’s family, which tend to be stiff and get stiffer with age. I have a toe that may or may not have arthritis in it. I have a small toe on the other foot that I broke two years ago. It went completely numb after that.

But since starting this, I’ve plateaued at 14 pounds lighter than I was on New Year’s Day. Granted, diet has a lot to do with it, but the running has helped considerably. In the middle of this final phase of the ramp up, I’m also going to start biking the Little Miami Trail (more on that next week). What’s really helped, though, is that I now have decent running shoes. In high school, we was broke. My mom bought me the cheap shoes at K-Mart, and they had to be my walking around shoes and my running shoes and my gym shoes. No cleats or special New Balances for this boy. Oh, and they had to last until spring. Now? I can afford to go to Bob Ronker’s Running Spot and spend some decent money on a pair of shoes that can handle the punishment I dole out on my heels, support my weak arches, and generally let me forget about my feet while I’m out there sucking wind and wondering why I keep torturing my knees.

I do feel better since I started this. Hopefully by the end of the year, I can get a couple of 5K or 10K races in. My goal?

The Pig at 50!

Believe in it!

Remission: Medication

I spent most of last year maintaining a weight between 275 and 280. I wasn’t gaining, but my numbers weren’t improving either. In fact, they were getting worse.

Late last year, my doctor took my blood and dropped the “I” word on me: Insulin. I looked at the reading he had from my previous checkup. The numbers were going down. But they were not good. I had gone from an A1C hemoglobin – a cumulative measure of blood sugar over the past 90 days – of 10.2 to 8.1. 6 is the threshold for diabetes. Soooo… Did I need insulin?

I balked. Insulin is produced in the pancreas, and I clearly was still making insulin. Type 1 diabetics have to have insulin shots. That’s the very definition of Type 1. The body no longer produces any insulin. I had a friend who had this. She described the horrific week she had when she was 11, when they discovered her condition. I have Type 2. There are many causes, but essentially, the body simply becomes resistant to insulin, leaving a lot of sugar in the bloodstream that can’t be absorbed. In my case, it’s because I packed on over 50 pounds from 1997 to 2004, maxing out at 305 pounds. And I don’t show all the weight I gain. That kind of weight makes the fat cells expand, which makes it hard for insulin to deposit sugar.

In short, being a fat ass was killing me. Hence, this feature on the blog.

I balked on the insulin partly from fear and partly from some well-founded reasons. The fear comes from my mother. Very obese when she died, she spent the last decade of her life shooting insulin after every meal. In the back of my mind, that was the start of the downward spiral. Now, my mother had back problems and heart problems that kept her from exercising properly, which might have extended her life another 10-15 years. That’s probably irrational, but there it is. In reality, I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of injecting myself with something my body was not only producing, but that my resistance to it was on the decline.

But being the lazy bastard that I am, I hadn’t been pricking my finger twice a day. You want a blood sugar number between 70 and 120. I was regularly waking up with numbers as high as 180 and coming home from work to 130, 140, even 150. So I started running. And I decided I would do P90X in the spring. And I would not neglect my annual tradition of biking the Little Miami Trail section by section this summer. And I would start counting calories.

This was not a New Year’s resolution. This was a decision to stick around for a long time. My wife bugged me several times, telling me to at least have my life insurance paid up if I didn’t want to stick around. Nita is not the type to want to “change a man.” So if she was bugging me about it, I had to get off my ass. First, I found the right cocktail to swallow twice a day. My doctor started with metformin (which I already took) and a drug called Tradjenta. I added a supplement called Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) that’s been suggested as a means of lowering blood sugar.  The numbers dropped, along with my weight, but not low enough. I was still waking up with high blood sugar. I added chromium supplements, which helped a little, but still didn’t do the trick. So we brought back an early drug called glimiperide.

Boom. Numbers went into the normal range, and, unless I decided to drink a lot, stayed there. (No one wakes up the morning after heavy drinking with normal blood sugar, but usually, that’s the least of your problems by then. I recommend lots of water and scrambled eggs for the hangover.)

After the first of the year, I ramped up my exercise, which I’ll talk about here soon. Coupled with keeping the calories under a set number everyday, I’ve managed to dump 14 pounds from my New Year’s Day weight of 274. The result?

I quit taking Tradjenta (which doesn’t seem to work anyway) and am about to stop metformin altogether. I may even drop a blood pressure medication.

Medications are expensive, especially Tradjenta, which I rely on samples to get. Also, I’ve never been a fan of pumping chemicals in my body, not even for recreation. Caffeine remains my addiction of choice, and alcohol is less and less appealing as I get older. If I can reduce my intake to a mutlivitamin every morning, I’ll be happy.

I’m not done yet. 260 pounds for my age and height is still overweight, but now I’m moderately overweight instead of severely. But I need to keep going.

Besides, I have a goal of running the Pig at 50.

Remission: At The Six-Week Mark

  • Under 265 pounds, threatening to dip into the 250’s. This is significant because the last time I did not need a Darth Vader mask for sleep apnea, I weighed between 245 and 255 pounds.
  • I almost don’t need to count calories. Almost. When I go over 2400 too many days in a row, I see it on the scale the next morning.
  • I am about to lose more medication. Finally. Blood sugar seems to be the most responsive to weight loss and exercise. I’ll take it, though I’m not going to miss that damn cholesterol tablet if I can get rid of it.
  • Up to almost a half hour running solid. I know this is slow going, but going out and running a mile straight without building up to it, especially at my age and weight in my condition, is risky. That said, I’m still going to run the Pig at 50.
  • P90X looms on my horizon. I suppose I better break out the DVD’s and figure out what equipment I need.

Remission: So Far

As January enters its, one might think I’ve given up on my fitness New Year’s resolution. Not so. This was not a resolution. If we didn’t have a holiday season in December, I would have started this right after Thanksgiving. That said, I’ve actually made some progress.

  • I started the year at 274 pounds. Right now, I’m hovering around 265 pounds. My goal was to hit that mark by February 14 and be nice and svelte for Nita when we go out for the fifth anniversary of our first date. No stopping now. I intend to be down to 260 by spring break in March.
  • I’m running intervals, this past weekend 3 two-minute intervals in a 30-minute walk. This coming weekend, it’ll be four-minute intervals. Next week, I’ll pretty much be running most of the workout, working up to a solid 30-40 minutes.
  • Blood sugar: NORMAL! It takes diet, medication, and a couple of supplements, but it’s one monkey off my back.
  • I have more energy.
  • I’m less irritable. My wife is overjoyed.

By mid-March, I will be running 1-2 miles three days a week. In April, I dive into P90X despite taking summer classes. (Remember when I said I wasn’t going to do that? It’s doable.) And on Easter, I begin my annual Sunday rides along the Little Miami Trail. By the end of summer, I plan to start training for my first 5K races since high school.

Hopefully, this will result in an emptier medicine cabinet, sleep without a Darth Vader mask, and a lighter touch on the scale.

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Remission: Spitting In The Devil’s Face

A couple of weeks ago, I got into a discussion about Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s ban on 20-ounce sodas in New York. I said that next time I went to Manhattan, I would buy a 2-liter of Coke and drink it on the steps of Gracie Mansion (the mayor’s residence). “It’ll put me in a diabetic coma, but it’ll be worth it.”

Someone took offense at that. “If you had diabetes, you wouldn’t think that was funny.”

I responded that I had Type II and was well aware what the risks were. Oops.

What some people don’t understand is when you have a condition like that, you have two options: Cry “Woe is me!” or laugh at it. If I had cancer, I’d be making jokes about it. The trouble is some people squirm when you do that. Much of it is political correctness. People assume that you can only make jokes about something like that if you have that particular condition, and people who have that condition don’t think it’s funny.

Well, no, it’s not funny, but I reject your attempts to deprive me of fighting back with humor. It does no good to sit around and be somber about it. Besides, my condition is one that is quite likely reversible. Why should I not joke about it? Much of the humor is at my own expense. There are those who suggest I might not be taking things seriously enough. However, I’ve learned that taking things too seriously has worse side effects than most medications.

Remission: Little Brown Bottles

Last year, when I dropped 20 pounds in six weeks, I also managed to lose one of my medications. Now?

I need to really start watching my intake more closely. I’ve maintained my weight, but that hasn’t translated into maintaining my numbers as well. Where, last year, I was convinced I’d be losing all my blood sugar medication and reducing my blood pressure medication by half, I’m now up to two BP meds and two sugar meds. I suppose my addiction to Reese’s Pieces has played a role. Now, however, I’m also on a cholesterol med.

Part of my motivation to have 10-15 pounds gone by the end of the year is those little brown bottles. When you’re on HSA, they’re expensive. And it seems every time I go to the doctor, they keep adding more.

I have an additional inducement. Since 2000, I’ve used a CPAP machine, which is what keeps me from snoring myself to death. Assuming I don’t choke on a collapsed airway, my wife would be forced to smother me for the sake of her own nerves. Unfortunately, to get supplies, I now have to visit an aggressive sleep disorder specialist who likes to lecture me on the evils of caffeine, sleeping with the television on, and not coming in every three months for him to tell me to give up caffeine and quit sleeping with the TV on. “Dude, I just want a new hose and facemask. I know I snore already.”

I know I won’t get rid of the Darth Vader mask by the end of the year. I’d need to lose about twenty pounds for that. But I do want a couple of bottles off my shelf. Three of them, in fact. I’m not a big fan of better living through chemistry.