Sunday, August 28, 2011

Moden science is giving us bigger cans

I have been meaning to rename the blog from "Our Daily Blab" to "Our Bi-Monthly Rambling About Diet And Exercise". Soon.

But I guess we tend to talk or write about whatever in life is currently holding our interest. Some people collect thousands of stamps or comics. Or maybe just dozens of cats or failed relationships. I just happen to presently be having fun trying to get healthier and I'm feeling a lot better doing it.

This Day 1 of Week 3 of my 2nd time through P90X. I am making a lot more progress than the first time, partly because I am in better shape this time. I make it through the hour and 20 minute workout with energy to spare now, versus being half unconscious by minute 57.

I had to buy a new set of dumbbells today, which was a mixed blessing. The good news is I could do 45s with each arm on 4 of my sets instead of 35s (since these new ones go from 5 to 65 lbs) and the bad news in I had to tell Amy how much they cost.

You know that thing where people close their eyes and rub their forehead with both hands, then pinch the bridge of their nose next to their eyes and let out a really long sigh and you know it is just so they'll barely keep in a scream? Yeah.

But the workouts have only been the smaller part of my progress as the change in diet has had a much bigger impact.

In the last 3 weeks I have lost another 4 pounds and another 2 percent body fat. Measuring inches and body fat loss is a much better gauge than just pounds, because poor diet and overexercising can actually make you lose lean muscle, which is counterproductive.

Decades ago, back when I was young and indestructible (stupid), I used to treat my body more like a garbage can than a temple and I could easily empty an entire can of squeeze cheeze in a night.

Let me let you in on a little secret. We eradicated polio and were able to put a man on the moon, but our greatest scientists have not yet invented a way to put real cheese in a spray can.

But they got the FDA to let them legally call it "cheeze" with a "Z", since they weren't selling many of them labeled, "cheese flavored margarine-N-caulking".

I have been eating a lot of things for either the first time or for the first time in a long time. Lots of fat free cottage cheese, fresh vegetables, sweet potatoes, greek yogurt, plain oatmeal with no sugar, turkey, chicken breast, etc.

The above might sound bland to some, but since I'm not blasting my taste buds with chemical flavored cheeze squeezins, I have gotten a lot more ability to appreciate subtlety in flavors again.

Sure, after a while the protein shakes are starting to remind me of the unshakeable odor of spit up baby formula, which I thought I was free of 18 years ago.

But this week I also thought cauliflower dipped in hummus was one of the best things I ever tasted.

Now if we could just take that flavor and cram it into an aerosol can.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I think I ripped my pants

Since I started to get old and decrepit a few years back, I began judging everything in century to partial-century increments.

For example, in just 7 years, I will be a half century old.

That is old. That is so old, that they will not even sell you color balloons at the store anymore to celebrate it. They only have black ones that say "Over The Hill", taunting and chastising you for being so stupid and careless as to let yourself age.

Another benchmark just came up as I went out with Brittany to buy direly needed new pants tonight.

I now fit into a waist size I haven't worn since I was 18.

To give you a sobering perspective, that was a QUARTER CENTURY ago.

My firstborn, who carefully and wisely guided me away from the acid washed jeans that were still in style way back then, was not even born when I fit into them last.

I admit that P90X has done absolutely nothing to change back the white in my beard or put that sorely missed hair back atop my head, but I will take what I can get.

Today is Day 4 of the second run through P90X.

My three main reasons for starting and restarting it were 1) get more energy to get more done at work and home, 2) combat my pain condition and 3) stave off the guaranteed increased health problems awaiting me when I do turn a half century and then three quarters of a century, if I did not start doing so.

I will probably make an easier, custom workout at the end of this set of 90 days that is only 3 to 5 days a week, which will seem like a vacation from this 6 days a week.

In the meantime, I am hoping to draw out this sized waist just a little longer.

Maybe long enough for acid washed to come back in style. And maybe feathered hair on girls. I really loved that.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bad Seasons, Good Seasons (Part Two)

(Part One is here)

Since I started working out about 3 or 4 months ago, I have gotten a lot of enthusiastic feedback from friends and family, with everything from, "good job!" to "please just shut up" and "oh god, why won't he shut up?".

Luckily for me, I am a little deranged and both types of responses just encourage me even more.

But I do get a little discouraged that some other people have reacted to their own friends and family who are trying to get fit with snide comments about their being proud and arrogant about it (which someone said to a friend of mine who was excited about gains and improvements they were making).

I myself have desperately wanted to focus on changing my diet and exercise for many years now, but I simply could not do it with my health problems being so incredibly out of control.

I saw fitness as just one part of an overall plan to improve my health and alleviate a severe nerve pain condition, which I talked about in detail in Part One of this writeup, which is essentially a 2-part finale about my first time finishing P90X (the 90 day fitness program).

Every time I would read over the years about someone else who was focusing more on improving diet and exercise, I would mentally file that away as encouragement to set the same goals for myself. I never considered it a competition.

I deliberately chose to never sabotage myself by begrudging or resenting them for their working on getting healthier.

So, for the last 90 days, I kept a semi-regular "diary" online of my chronicle through this first time of doing P90X. I tried to make it silly, sarcastic and amusing, so it would be more than just one paragraph of me repeatedly saying "I worked out this month too - still chubby".

I wanted a journal to look back on and track my progress, make one or two people laugh with me (or laugh AT me, either way is fine) and maybe even spur someone else into focusing on improving their diet and exercise as well.

Barely over 4 months ago, I ran 2 times around the track at the college near my house (1/2 mile) before I felt like I was going to die. It took between 5 and 10 minutes.

A few minutes ago, I ran my first 5K (5.2K or 3.22 miles) which was 13 times around the track. I did it in exactly 28:00 and I actually feel great.

As you can see, I am still conscious and can even write mostly coherent sentences.

That does not mean I was smiling the whole way around the track just now. Or smiling during those hour a day, 6 days a week workouts for the last 90 days. It is work. Hard work.

But it is SO worth it.

Most of my waking hours, I feel much better than I did 4 months ago, with more energy, better moods and even greater mental focus for work.

But the best part of it all was something I secretly had hoped for, yet was still unexpected enough that it sneaked up and surprised me.

About 3 or 4 weeks ago, my doctor ran down a huge list of questions about my pain condition, number of weekly headaches, migraines, etc. I did not realize that for a full month, they had improved dramatically. I forgot they had not bothered me enough for me to pay as close attention to them for several weeks straight. I also had gone a whole month without having to renew my migraine Rx for the first time in years.

I am still in pain. All day. Every day. But it is less.

That fact alone is worth swearing off of doughnuts.

I just have to do the math. I am awake and thus in some level of pain for 16 hours a day. Sometimes more, as it wakes me up during the night.

But the pleasure of the sugar of a doughnut only lasts for a few seconds to a minute and then drags you down for hours and then over the years adds pounds, increased health problems etc.

It's simply a poor investment with miserable returns.

And over time of cutting them out, you begin to remember that fruits and vegetables actually taste AMAZING.

And they also make you feel better for the whole 15 hours, 59 minutes of the day that you are not eating the doughnut. And you'll probably live longer.

I am going to go through the P90X one more time, starting in a few days. I actually ate incredibly better than I ever had this first time, cutting out all junk food, etc. but only followed the specifics of their diet plan about 50 to 75% of the time.

I will follow the diet more closely this time. It's a great investment.

Right before I ordered the DVDs, I made a vow to myself to not miss one single day, unless it was absolutely impossible or injurious to not miss it. I worked for a whole week with a minor injury three separate times. I worked with a burning fever and sickness for a whole week and a half.

The very first day, I finished the hour workout by running to the bathroom and throwing up (good lord, they will NEVER pay me to promote their product...).

But I kept pressing play. Every. Single. Day. Unless it was literally impossible.

Now that I can make it through all of of the P90X videos and even have energy to spare afterwards (which only started happening in the 3rd month), I believe I will benefit from the program even much more by going a second time through.

With cancer, strokes and heart disease having struck both my parents (and their parents) and knowing that I have those genetic predispositions, let alone my own pain condition of over 10 years, I hope to keep this fitness ball rolling and stave off the ill effects of aging, even if it means having an apple instead of a doughnut from now on.

And if I encourage even one person to try out improving their diet and exercise and then they get even a little healthier, feel better and they get to live a slightly longer, better quality life with their loved ones... then I think all my daily blabbing has been worth it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bad Seasons, Good Seasons (Part One)

90 days is not a long time. It may seem like it, if you're in a hurry and anxiously waiting for something, but overall it is a relatively small measure of time, compared to say, a decade or two.

It is three months, a fourth of a year, a season.

You can either get a whole lot or remarkably little done in that amount of time, if you set your mind to it. Then again, many squander whole years, not realizing they have an actual finite number, while some seize the day.

Ironically, trying to improve my time management and getting more done at work and in my personal life was a big impetus for looking for a diet and exercise program, which led me to P90X.

I had wanted to start some fitness program for a long time, but I simply could not, because of health problems.

I lost years. Enough to really make me angry. Some of you know that I have a fairly severe chronic nerve pain condition and have had it for over 10 years. And the serious health problems that led into that... migraines, a heart arrhythmia, hearing loss, severe tinnitus, TMJ, etc. started 15 years ago, right after a back surgery in 1996.

My quality of life plummeted sharply and quickly and I was pretty unhappy to come to grips in my late 20s that I was not invincible and there was even a chance that I might not in fact live forever, as I had previously planned.

I was a carpet installer for 10 years and owned my own business for the last 5 of them. I was used to throwing 100 pound rolls on my back and walking them up 3 flights of stairs for 14 hour days.

As the last few years of working in floor-covering became much worse, at the end of each day, I had to crawl to a doorjamb or counter and pull myself up with my arms, because I couldn't stand up by myself. I knew I had to change careers and started working on computers, right after my last big contract.

But even then, finally working at a desk, my chronic pain and other health problems became even much worse between 2000 and 2008.

And yet the doctors finally came to the rescue and only with the combined knowledge of all of mankind and countless years of advancement in science and technology, they offered me enough pain medicine to stun a rhino.

For literally thousands of years, long before doctors even discovered anesthesia or washed their hands before surgery, we simply called it "opium" and you didn't have to go to college to learn how to dispense it for $300K a year.

To be fair, they actually never gave me more than enough to just manage the pain and I never once craved it or abused it. I always took as little as possible to manage the pain and be able to gain improved functionality, just as they taught us in a 2 month pain clinic I went up to Washington to attend.

The problem is that I have a naturally high tolerance and over time that increased even more. I never became "addicted" which is psychological, as I hated the stuff, but built a physical dependance. (Most non-pain sufferers do not remotely know the difference between dependence and addiction.)

And add to that another problem, where your liver constantly "learns" to better process pain medicine over time and they have to switch you from one narcotic to the next every year or so. It is called opiate rotation.

Unfortunately, the perfect storm came to a head. My HMO was more than happy to not check up on my condition for years at a time and I gradually learned to suffer in silence. My condition and their narcotic treatment of it had to worsen so bad I literally had to reach bottom and become tired of living before it occurred to me that maybe something was really wrong.

I was getting violently sick every 72 hours as the timed-release medicine would be processed faster and faster by my liver, and it was fully flushed out of my system a whole day before it was time for the next dose. I had several trips to the ER from withdrawal sickness.

This went on for almost a year and as I got more and more depressed, it slowly hit me that it was the super high dosage (but now completely ineffective) of medicine they were giving me that was causing it.

I may be slow, but I eventually get stuff.

By then I was super angry at everything. Angry at the doctors, angry at missing almost all the extra-curricular activities of my kids high school years, angry at barely having the strength to work 50 hour weeks just to get 40 hours of work done and coming home and collapsing without an ounce of strength left for myself or my family, and even angry at God for putting me through this for more years than I could remember, with absolutely no end in sight.

The prospect of living in that much pain, that depressed, that violently sick every few days, for the rest of my life, was enough to make me not want to live anymore.

Fortunately I had and have a wonderful wife and kids and would never, ever hurt them by purposely hurting myself, because if I did not have them, I'd hate to think what I would have done.

Instead of realizing the medicine they were giving me was making me sick, the doctors actually gave me more. Then they gave me another one on top of that, which made me much more sick and depressed.

After being sick from the pain medicine for over a year and my finally realizing that was actually the real cause (before the doctors figured it out), I went back in to see the pain specialists.

For the first time, I was so desperate, I realized I had no choice but to take a completely hopeless, uncontrollable situation and still try to actually take charge of it.

Did you know YOU can take charge of your health and treatment and not naively leave it to the doctors and "specialists"? Ultimately, you are supposed to be the one in charge of your health and how it is managed, not them.

I went in again to see the doctors and told them there was a new plan (i.e. an actual friggen plan).

I told them that they were going to temporarily rotate me onto another Rx to get the pain and sickness under control and that then a year after that, they were taking me off of all pain medicine altogether.

The new pain specialist I saw was great. He took me off of the two medicines making me sick and rotated me to a different pain Rx, even though it still had to be at a super high dose.

But he also told me that I developed so high a tolerance to pain Rx, that most people who tried to go all the way off of that much, after that many years, were unable to do so. I told him I would see him in a year and he was taking me off, period.

The result of coming off of the medicine was brutal. I started to get violently sick again, on several occasions was awake for more than two days at a time, even with taking literally TWENTY times the regular amount of OTC sleeping pills for weeks at a time, and went through raging mood swings.

I remember locking myself in the bedroom one day and texting Amy: "I have locked myself in the bedroom for a few hours to protect all of you from the Abominable Asshole."

I'm not joking. And I wasn't joking. My body was really pissed at what I was doing and making me feel perpetually pissed as a result. I wouldn't get "upset". I would be hit with unexpected bursts of euphoria and then blind rage as my chemical balances were trying to readjust after so many years.

That hell lasted probably 4 months, because the doctor said I could actually die if they tried tapering off any faster.

But once I was completely off of it... HOORAY! I was in horrible pain again! Yay!

But that's OK.

I also told the doctor before we ever started that I knew full well that would happen.

And yet I also said before we started that severe pain would still be a better quality of life than with the medicine.

And he agreed, that with my natural high tolerance and the nature of my nerve pain, that narcotic Rx would only help for short periods and then gradually become a much worse problem than the pain. I wish I had talked to HIM those 10 years earlier.

After being off of the medicine for a little over a year, I was able to start making plans for something I had wanted to do for years, but simply had no strength for, which was improving my diet and exercise.

Today is day 90, the last day of my P90X program. I still suffer with nerve pain, all day, every day. But I am also happier and healthier than I have been in almost two decades.

Next time: Finishing The P90X Program.

(Part Two is here)