The Imaginary Battle

Photo Credit: superexerciseband via Compfight cc

Another glorious Monday morning. While the majority of the world is shaking off the weekend and heading off to work, here we are hyperventilating and preparing for our weekly meeting with the scale.

It probably hasn’t been a great week for weight loss. We were dealing with emotional trauma to begin with, then spent a couple days out of town and away from our normal food and fitness routine. Given that we also have a nutritionist visit to look forward to this week, it feels a bit grim looking forward to the weigh-in later this morning. The horror stories of those who gained weight during the pre-operative period and were then unable to have the surgery are never far from my mind.

Something is sure happening to my physiology, though – everything is headed down. My chest, my belly, the undersides of my arms – it is all collapsing, making me look like a fat scarecrow dressed in wet sheets. I hate this look quite a bit – maybe even more than I hated the “over-inflated beach ball” look I had for years. To combat this, over the weekend I bought myself a resistance band set, intending to start on some low-end strength training, and hopefully begin to firm this mush up. I opened up the box, inflated the ball, tested out the bands, and left them in position in the living room, ready to be used.

And there they still sit, 3 days later. I even thought to go hit them this morning before I began writing, but decided to just sit here and worry about my weigh-in instead. Many self-help gurus will tell you that imagination leads to actualization or something like that: visualizing yourself doing a thing helps to actually do it. Well, I have visualized till the cows came home then got up and left again for work the next day, and have still not done a single thing. For me, it is far easier to imagine doing something (and feel warm and fuzzy for my outstanding plan) than it is to actually do a new thing (and discover that this is not warm and fuzzy at all, but is, instead, work.)

I do realize that my own body is working against me here. The body seeks homeostasis – stability in all its operations. In the last few months, I have reduced my diet, increased my cardiovascular excercise, changed my sleep patterns, and replaced daily hours of sitting still with hours of some kind of activity. This does not represent stability, and my body is certainly not interested in adding yet another upset by attempting to rebuild muscle tissue on top of everything else. But I arrived at obesity by not seizing the reins of my body’s functions all those years ago, and need to continue to overcome stability and laziness every day.

Sigh. I am afraid I just argued myself into going to the living room and designing an exercise band workout routine. Think good thoughts for me as I am sure I will be quite disgusted with myself for not being able to handle a 3-pound resistance band workout.

Already Feeling The Burn,

– Hawkwind

PS – Thank you to everyone who responded to our loss of Frankie last week. We received literally hundreds of supportive messages, emails, and Facebook comments. Misdirected has the best readers in the world.

Frankie: A Tribute

It has been a dark couple of days here in Frankie’s former household. A kind of malaise has settled over me, reminiscent of some of my worst periods of depression years ago when I was first diagnosed with Epilepsy. Vixen, our other Chihuahua, has taken to lying on top of his blanket and not wanting to move. Only Lor seems to be able to function, speaking confidently about Frankie having moved to a better place and not suffering any longer. I can’t dispute these things. My motivation is entirely selfish: my dog is missing, and I wish him not to be.

The distant voice of logic, somewhere in the back of my mind,  tells me I am being foolish: he was a 21-year-old, 10-pound dog. Get over it. That voice is being firmly ignored right now. I have had relationships with many people that didn’t last as long as the 19 years I had with Frankie. My first marriage didn’t last 19 years.  And though my relationships with people are probably more complex and multi-layered, they are also filled with mistrust and doubt. Nobody likes and accepts me for who and what I am as well as my dog did.

This wasn’t always the case – he and I got off to a rocky start. Back in 1997, I came home from work one night to discover an 8-pound killing machine at the door, full of fire and fury, ready to tear me apart for entering his new domain. After Lor collected him, the truth came out – he had been found abandoned beneath a truck in a friend’s neighborhood. Our friend’s dog was a little too big and too rough to coexist with the refugee. Could we watch him for a couple of days while our friend found his owners?

The original owners were never identified, a “couple of days” turned into 19 years, and Frankie became a part of the household. I resented him because Lor had chosen to take him in without ever talking to me about it. He resented me because he thought of Lor as “his”, and was not happy that I would move into his turf whenever I pleased. But, eventually, we reached a rapprochement and settled into life at opposite ends of the same house.

This all changed several years after his arrival. Unexpectedly, he appeared and crawled into my lap. And then proceeded to urinate all over me. I stood up, furious, and prepared to throw him out into the backyard, until I noticed that his back was bent almost into a bow, with his head twisted off to one side, saliva dripping out of his mouth.

Frankie was having a seizure.

His development of seizures changed the entire characteristic of our relationship. He and I were no longer jealous pack members fighting over the same resources. He and I were now allies in a common cause, struggling together against an implacable enemy who could not be defeated, whose attacks could only be survived, never defended against. Oddly, he and I fell into sync – if I had a seizure, one was coming for him the same day, and vice-versa. I sought him out for comfort just as much as he did me. Though he was never trained as a “therapy dog”, that is precisely what he became.

In 2011, he slowed dramatically. Grey began to appear all through his muzzle, he became listless, and he stopped eating. We took him to the veterinarian, who pronounced that his teeth were all rotting out of his head and would have to be removed. He was delivered back to us after the procedure, tongue hanging out of his toothless mouth (a trait he would have for the rest of his life), and the vet took “the tone” – that special voice a medical professional uses when delivering really bad news. He was old, the vet told us. He would probably not ever fully recover from this. Just take him home, and make his last days comfortable. We solemnly agreed.

Within 48 hours Frankie was bouncing off the walls, running around the house chasing our new dog, and cleaning out his food bowl every night, then begging for more. He put on weight, topping out at a chunky 11 pounds. He acted like a dog half his age.

Thus began the saga of Frankie’s immortality. At least once a year thereafter he would slow down dramatically, show evidence of serious medical problems, be unwilling to eat or move. We would tell the family that he was on his way out. And, every year, within 48 hours he would return to normal, baffling us all. We started referring to him as “Amarante”, after the seemingly immortal old man in John Nichols’ “The Milagro Beanfield War”. My brother once made the comment that the human race really needed to put some thought into what kind of world we would be leaving behind for Frankie and Keith Richards to live in.

Unfortunately, no one can throw sevens forever, and Frankie’s trip to the table stopped on Tuesday. We were allowed to spend some time with him, to tell him how much we loved him and would miss him, and he was able to leave this world sleeping, within our embrace. The vet’s office offered to cremate him for us, to send him home in a box or an urn, but I refused. If I could not be the one to ease my dog’s suffering, then I at least would be the one who laid him to rest. I dug his grave with my own hands, not even letting Lor help me, and I put him beneath the soil where he used to bask in the sun in our backyard. At last, he is at peace, even if his loved ones are not.

Though there is not a shred of teaching in my religious beliefs for the immortal souls of dogs, I have to believe that no one with a personality and soul like Frankie’s would not be granted immediate access to the afterlife. Pam Brown said it best:

“If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them.”

Pam Brown

 

Sleep well, my friend. We’ll see you when we get there.

– Hawkwind

Adios, Amigo

Rest In Peace, Frankie Schofield
1995-2016

Today, there are no words.

– Hawkwind

The Broken Regulator

 

Credit: New York Times

 

In my wanderings across the Internet yesterday, I came across a very interesting article on the New York Times website. It seems a study was performed for the Obesity Society Research Journal involving the cast of Season 8 of The Biggest Loser to determine long-term effects of “crash” weight loss programs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, each of the contestants, even the winner, suffered from setbacks and weight regain. What is interesting is the apparent reason for these setbacks: in each case, the contestant’s resting metabolism shut way down, so their bodies were no longer burning the same amount of calories to lose weight as before their involvement with the show.

Now, the slowing of metabolism during high-speed weight loss is not a surprise to anyone: it is part of our defense mechanism against starvation. The interesting part is that these metabolisms never “re-regulated.” Their bodies, it seems, were fighting to be returned to what had been their previous maximum weights. The metabolic system never got a grip on the fact that they were no longer “starving”, and never came out of starvation self-defense mode.

Of course, this brought the whiners out of the woodwork across the ‘Net. “Of course, they are broken. They went on Biggest Loser.” was the main one I saw. Another favorite was “There is something wrong with this science. The Amount of Calories required by Body Weight – Amount of Calories Ingested = caloric excess or deficit. It is simple math.” Yes, but the whole point of the study is that the equation is no longer working for these people that have gone through massive weight loss – even years later. And if you want to call these doctors “bad scientists”: here is a link to the paper, published yesterday. Feel free to read it, then email me with whatever problems you found in their premise, methodology or conclusions.

This certainly would explain a phenomenon I have seen for years – I would go on a diet, work out, lose some weight. I would fall into bad habits and regain. But, the next time I tried to diet, reducing my caloric load no longer worked with the previous amount of calories. If I had once reduced to 1800, I now had to reduce to 1500 to see any results. And so on and so on. But, have one bad food day, and I would suddenly gain 5 pounds. It always felt like my body was working against me. According to the premise of this study, it totally was.

Now, buried in the details of the article is the following nugget: those of us who go through bariatric surgery seem to break this cycle – probably due to the radical revisions that take place when undergoing surgery. Here the body is no longer attempting to move the dial “up to 11” on hunger and metabolic function – instead, it is trying to make reduced demands due to the trauma of a large portion of our dietary tract being removed. However, once that healing process ends, it seems we get plugged right back into the same old “losing twice is 4 times as hard” cycle as the rest of the world. Falling back into bad habits post surgery could conceivably result in the ultimate regain of all our lost weight, even with the removal of 80% or more of our stomach. Danger, Will Robinson.

I strongly suggest you take a few minutes and go read the article. It can be a little discouraging, but it highlights one point that is super important to all of us: don’t allow yourself to fall back into bad habits, or revisiting the weight loss mountain will only grow more difficult with each ascent.

I Suppose The Weight Loss Mountain Is Really A “Descent”,

– Hawkwind

A Bittersweet Birthday

Normally what is happening over on Lor’s side of the journey to bariatric surgery is closed off from public view: as I have said before, it is not my story to tell. But, this last weekend was significant enough that I have asked for, and received, Lor’s blessing to talk a little bit about what I saw over Lor’s final pre-surgery birthday.

Lor’s journey to bariatric surgery is significantly different than mine. She is active. She is proud of her looks and her shape. She is a fabulous cook, and especially enjoys baking – bread, pies, cakes, you name it, she is the one that gets the call when someone in the family needs a dessert for a special occasion. She is nowhere close to where I am on the BMI scale and would be perfectly content to stay there. So, why, then, go through the huge life changes that surgery forces a person through? Why give up freedom to choose her own path, and instead be forced into the regimented lifestyle that she will live with for the rest of her life?

One word: Diabetes. It runs rampant in her family, it has killed several of her loved ones, and despite her youth, she has been struggling with it for years. She has taken the high road and chosen a more difficult lifestyle recommended by her doctors (and her family) so that she can remain healthy and vibrant for decades to come.

She was treated to two different birthday meals over the weekend, one by my parents, and another by her best friend. From my parents, she received a life-saving gift: a new digital scale for us to use in food prep. Our old postage scale had been returning suspicious results for quite a while, and verifying weights between the two demonstrated that we had been WAY off in many of our food measurements in daily prep. (2 oz of Kale does not fill a small child’s cereal bowl, for example. It overflows the bowl and creates piles on the counter.) Lunch was filled with encouragement and speculation as to how different her next birthday would be. Though she smiled and laughed, 25+ years of experience with her showed me the tension in her shoulders and her face – her surgery does not represent freedom like mine does.

Dinner was at a local sushi house and was a whole different experience. Her best friend also suffers from pretty severe dietary restrictions, and here the conversation was able to deal with fears and doubts realistically – with a pro who has been there and done that in having to make changes to her life that were forced upon her by health issues. I am sure the bottle of sake didn’t hurt the spirit of full disclosure much. Here, too, was another comforting thing: this was not the last time Lor would ever be able to eat at this particular restaurant. Though California rolls will vanish from the future menu, many other things (sashimi, for example) will not have to. For the first time in weeks, we were not having a “food funeral” at a restaurant. The difference in atmosphere was huge: here was a place we would be returning, not another thing we were waving goodbye to.

All weekend long she was deluged with messages from friends and calls from family members, all saying the same thing: we are proud of you and we support what you are doing for yourself. And, by the way, happy birthday. It was amazing to watch. I am always proud of her, but this weekend I was really proud of the community around her – admiring, encouraging, uplifting. You have made me very proud to also be a member of the “Loralia Fan Club.”

Wishing Everyone Had Friends And Family Like Lor’s,

– Hawkwind