The Week That Got Away

The Week That Got Away

A few of you sent tentative questions wanting to know what happened last Friday. Was I on vacation? Had Misdirected switched to a weekly publication schedule when you weren’t looking? Had some other mysterious event befallen me?

In truth, it was a series of events…strap in and I will bring you up to speed.

Puppy Gymnastics

First, meet our new exercise program:

The ghosts of Samson and Frankie watching over her little doggie bed…

Her name is Delilah. She is a 6-month old Chi-Weenie, and no I didn’t come up with that breed name. On the 9th through the 11th of June, our local Albuquerque Humane Society ran an event where they were attempting to “empty the city shelters” by adopting pets for only $5. We visited, and Delilah was the result.

At six months old, she came to us very confused about life in general, and about house rules like potty-training in particular. So she has completely destroyed our daily schedules, including gym attendance.

However, she herself is a profound exercise generator. A few weeks ago I was speculating about how to get over 10,000 steps a day consistently. We have found the answer. Socializing and playing with a new puppy has kept us above our daily step goal every day, with one marathon of a day putting us at nearly 14,000 steps. She hasn’t been great for our weight-lifting routines, but boy is she good for the heart. In more ways than one.

The Inheritance Marathon

Inheritance Book Cover

Speaking of long-term exercise, my longest-ever writing exercise is over. I finished writing Inheritance last week. It has now been handed off to my editorial review team. Who will undoubtedly find so many issues with it that I will effectively have to re-write it. I couldn’t care less.

This is a big one for me, folks. When I started writing Misdirected all those years ago, it was a daily journal of my gaming activities. I had no idea that it would begin a chain of events that would lead to me completing an entire novel. But, it has done just that, and I couldn’t be happier. Even if I never sell more than two copies (I have two parents, remember), I will be able to go through the rest of my life knowing that I actually sat down and wrote an entire novel. This is huge for someone who couldn’t put a sentence together ten years ago.

Once again, if you too are suffering from a disability, keep pushing those boundaries. You never know how far you will get until you try.

The ACE Fitness Iron-Man

I also finished my course of study for the ACE Fitness Personal Trainer course last week. I got myself revved up, sat down for the practice exam…

And flunked it.

I even got a consolation note from the ACE Fitness on-line study system: “That’s why we call it a practice exam!”

So, yeah. I now have just over 30 days to get my real exam scheduled and to take another practice exam, this time (hopefully) passing.

Needless to say, I am glad I already finished Inheritance. I won’t be doing any fiction writing of any kind in the next month. I am going to be busy.

Studying for this certification may be the hardest thing I have ever done. I have never been an athlete. I have never had any aptitude for biology. I always watched bodyworkers like Lor with a certain mixture of awe and jealousy.

Becoming professionally certified as a personal trainer could not be further out of my comfort zone.

But, if Misdirected has taught me anything, it is that there are a bunch of people out there looking for support and advice. And the ACE PT certification is my first step toward feeling comfortable providing advice from a professional background, rather than just shooting from the hip. Personal experience and internet research can only take you so far.

So, yeah. Here we are. Wish me luck as I study constantly for the next month. I have a feeling I am going to need all the luck I can get.

Hitting The Books Like I Used To Hit The Girl Scout Cookies,

Jeremy

The Weight Train Starts Rolling Again

My weigh-in this weekend presented an unexpected surprise. I have been very consistently maintaining somewhere between 182 and 184 pounds for weeks now. So imagine my surprise when I stepped on the scale yesterday and saw “180.0” blinking at me. This represents a 3-pound loss since my last weeks weigh in. I had sorta thought my extreme weight loss days were behind me now. Maybe not.

The Fitbit Badge Experience

Along with me being surprised came my Fitbit’s excitement about the whole situation. Apparently, when I began using the Fitbit back in November I was at 211 pounds. Now that I suddenly reached 180 I have earned a 30-pound weight loss “badge”. These virtual pats on the back seem to exist mainly to have something to share with friends on Twitter and Facebook, rather than having any real use in the Fitbit app.

 

Earning this badge didn’t really strike me as important initially. I had already earned my “Weight Loss Goal” badge a few weeks back when I hit 185 pounds, after all. When one has lost over 120 pounds, 30 of that total doesn’t seem like a whole lot.

 

But, on the further reflection, 30 pounds is actually quite a bit. For a “normal” person, 30 pounds might represent their entire weight loss goal! After all, 30 pounds might represent a decade and a half of creeping weight gain. Gain two pounds a year for 15 years, and suddenly you are 30 pounds overweight. 30 pounds lost, to that person, might represent returning to their previously healthy weight.

 

For a different example, another 30 pounds of weight loss would move me from “overweight” to “normal” in the eyes of the evil overlord of weight loss: the BMI chart.

The Terrible Tyranny of BMI

 

Now, let me be clear: I have no real interest in dropping another 30 pounds at this point.

 

I am already down to size Medium tops and a 36-inch waistline. For someone who started at XXLs and a 50-inch circumference, this seems like a pretty good place to be.

 

Also, in one of the more annoying side effects of bariatric surgery, the more I lose, the worse I look. I am already swimming in a sack of empty skin. Dropping another 30 pounds would only make that situation worse. Every day I look in the mirror and contemplate the possibility of another round of surgery. It would take four different surgical procedures just to remove all this flopping skin hanging off my body everywhere.

 

But, still, the temptation remains. The fact that I hate the BMI chart does not change the fact that, deep down, I want to defeat it. It has denigrated me my entire adult life. Why wouldn’t I want to strike back against it?

Watchful Weight-ing

 

So, what am I going to do about weight loss moving forward?

 

Nothing much that I am not doing already.

 

I am already exercising 6 days a week, especially since I have renewed my love/hate relationship with the Fitbit. I did fail to log activity last week on Friday and Saturday, but that is due to my involvement with our new puppy. The steps are accumulating, let me tell you.

 

I am already eating 1,000 – 1,200 calories a day on a low-carb diet. I have no intention of trying to reduce that amount any more. That way lies madness. Not to mention potential malnutrition.

 

And, the simple fact is that I am about as healthy as I have ever been at this point. I can do things today, at almost 47 years old, that I couldn’t do at 17. Run two miles, for instance. I will probably never be a power-lifter again, but I am much more interested in functional muscle development at this point anyway. I would rather be able to hike for 4 – 6 hours, rather than bench press 250 pounds.

 

So, if more weight loss comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I intend to just keep doing what I am doing and see what comes of it.

 

I am tired of constantly replacing clothing anyway.

 

Chasing Puppies Is High-Intensity Aerobic Exercise,

Jeremy

15,000 (And Counting)

A couple of days ago I mentioned to someone that I sort of missed my Fitbit Flex. You may remember that, back in March, it stopped recharging, needing to be slapped onto the charger every hour or so. The person I was chatting with recommended that I contact Fitbit support. I was hesitant, given that the unit is three years old and I am the third owner. However, I took the plunge, figuring that all I had to lose was time.

Two hours later, my Fitbit was back up and running, thanks to a patient tech, a system reboot, and an alcohol swab. I was delighted.

That is, until I checked out my numbers for the last few days.

Not Exactly What I Expected

The numbers were…discouraging, to say the least. At no point since the Fitbit sprang back to life have I hit my step goal for the day.

I thought I was actually maintaining a high level of activity. We haven’t managed regular gym attendance for two weeks now, thanks to scheduling conflicts and Real Life. But I was under the impression that I was getting my activity in via daily activities like walking the dog, working around the house, etc. That impression has now gone the way of all fantasies – vanished in a puff of rainbow-colored smoke.

Instead, I have been managing a mere 6,000 or so steps a day.  Before the Fitbit died I would hit my step goal of 8,000 regularly. Now, I am coming in 25% short every single day.

For the sake of reference, a 5K race like the one we completed a month ago is a little over 4,000 steps. We did that in less than an hour. And now, I suddenly can’t make 8,000 steps in an entire day.

That was discouraging enough. Then I received my most recent copy of Men’s Health and got a real eye-opener.

15K or Bust

Turns out the magic number for improving health in men is not a mere 8,000 steps a day.

No, the International Journal of Obesity (referenced by Men’s Health) states that the number of daily steps taken by men with zero reported metabolic issues is…15,000.

The number I should be aiming for is almost twice my current step goal for the day (8,000 steps.)

Which, as I mentioned, I am no longer hitting. The 3-month absence of the coach on my wrist has brought my daily activity down by 25%.

So, now what?

Eyes on The Prize

It isn’t as though I have retired to a life of indolent luxury. I am not lying around the house in a toga, power-eating carbohydrates.

The things I have been doing are important. Working on my novel. Dealing with issues from my other disability. Communicating with Senators and Representatives about potential changes to SSDI. Studying for my Personal Trainer certification test (now only 45 days away.)

But, none of that is really going to matter if I backslide into bad eating habits and low activity. The fact that we got through the 5K has created a certain lassitude in me. My current physical goals are not as pressing as the 5K was.

Apparently, I need to address that.

First things first: I need to get back over my minimum required activity level for the day.

So, here is what I am going to do:

For 6 out of the next 7 days, I will post on Facebook when I get over my 8,000 steps for the day. (Sunday will not count, as I give myself one day off a week.)

Feel free to call me out if I do not post for the day. Facebook messages, Tweets, emails, whatever.

Once I get back on track…well, then we will start talking about that 15K number.

Inviting You To Hold My Feet To The Fire,

Jeremy

The Failure Cycle

This started out as a very different post.

Initially, I was exercising my self-flagellation skills. I had a lousy week last week and wanted everyone to know it.

Then, about 250 words in, I realized something: No one wants to read this.

So I started over.

The Life Reset Button

You must understand, starting over represents a moral victory, for me.

My usual reaction to failure is not a healthy one: I get frustrated, decide that I can’t succeed, and quit.

I am not a good forward thinker. I am forever second-guessing my past decisions instead of planning new approaches. Lor refers to this phenomenon as “getting stuck.” I mentally chase my tail, trying to figure out what I did wrong, afraid to act again for fear of a second failure. So I end up not doing anything.

Well, that isn’t really the whole story. Actually, I used to think about my failure while over-eating comfort food and drinking beer. But, that isn’t really an option anymore, is it? Due to the whole “6-ounce stomach pouch” thing.

The hardest thing I am having to learn post-surgery is to let failures go.

If I have already blown it, I am no longer in a position to retrieve my failure. I have to accept it, try to learn from it, and do better next time. Just mash down that “reset” button, and head back the way I came, trying to figure out just where I went off the rails.

C.S Lewis said it best: “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road.”

Moving Forward

So, what can I do in response to a week where I didn’t write, barely went to the gym, and made some pretty shaky dietary choices?

Nothing. Nada. Not a darn thing.

But, today is Monday. And today I can write my blog post, cook a healthy set of meals, and head back to the gym. And then I can set my sights on Tuesday.

It seems simplistic, but analyzing failure will only take you so far. At some point, you actually have to put yourself back in traffic and start doing again.

So, that is what I am going to do. No clever observations, no folksy words of wisdom today. Just get back on that horse and wait until the next time it throws me off. All I can hope for is that I go a little further before the next time I come crashing to the ground.

Our nutritionist, Patti, said it like this: “You are going to have good days and bad days. Just make sure that your good days outnumber the bad ones.”

Guess I need to start stringing together some good days, then. I am in a bit of a bad day deficit.

At Least I Lost A Pound Last Week,

Jeremy

 

 

The Loneliest Job Of All

Though the image references Alzheimer’s, the message applies to all caretakers.

First, thanks for the emails, Tweets, and Facebook posts. Last week’s major seizure was totally unexpected, and I appreciate everyone’s concern and encouragement.

What was most interesting to me, though, was the amount of support Lor received. Messages ranged from “You go, girl!” to “EWWWWW! Do you really have to…?”

The short answer is yes, she does. Lor does periodically get to essentially change the diapers on her middle-aged husband.

Let’s talk about the role of a caregiver for a moment, shall we?

The Anchor Below The Surface

I might not be writing this today without the help of my caretakers over the years.

Seriously. As a person who has dealt with not one but two disabilities (epilepsy and morbid obesity), I have a certain perspective on this. And I simply could not enjoy the life I do without people willing to make my life possible.

Without Lor’s assistance, my ongoing recovery from obesity would not have been half as successful. She has acted as a fitness coach, a cheerleader, and a drill sergeant.  Meals have been prepped. Visits to the gym and to the doctor have been scheduled. Dire threats have been issued about the potential results of bad food choices. Lor has alternately led the way, stood beside me, and gotten behind me to power me over obstacles.

Anytime I have begun to drift away from new lifestyle practices, Lor has kept me in place – an invisible anchor below the surface of the stormy seas of my waxing and waning enthusiasm.

My success in beginning to overcome obesity is entirely due to her help. But even that pales when compared to what caretakers have done for my other disability.

The Never-Ending Struggle

It is one thing to work in concert with someone as you help them overcome an obstacle. You can encourage success and share the pain of failure as you work toward a common goal. At the end, you can look back and congratulate yourself on helping someone reach what they could not do on their own.

It is something else entirely to be acting as the caregiver for someone who is never going to “get there.”

Those caring for loved ones with degenerative conditions have the loneliest jobs of all. The only thing you can do is to try to improve the quality of life within the constraints imposed by illness.

These are the people who get to turn over bed-ridden parents regularly. Who have to schedule their lives around patients who can’t be left unattended. They might end up watching as a loved one withers away from cancer or Parkinson’s. Some are no longer recognized due to the effects of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

And, yes, these are the folks who get to clean up after seizures and other humiliating losses of bodily control.

Caring for someone with a degenerative condition is no joke. Though Lor shoulders the majority of the burden for my care, it requires assistance from a whole lot of other people. A team of caregivers, if you will.

And, in the end, what does all this effort result in, anyway?

Return on Investment

Well, Misdirected, for one thing.

If not for the assistance (and insistence) of my Mom back in 2008, I would never have received my Vagus Nerve Stimulator. The VNS has been the single most effective treatment for my seizures to date. Before the VNS I had clusters of seizures every single day.

If not for the support of my best friends I would not have gotten over my depression and suicidal urges.

Without the encouragement of my Father, I would have been afraid to try to “increase the size of the box” of my limitations.

Without Lor’s constant, daily work to facilitate my life, I would be sitting in a corner, staring at a television.

Instead, I don’t have enough hours in a given day to keep up with my projects. When I am not working on my novel, I am studying for my PT certification. I spend time working in advocacy and support for those with epilepsy and those going through bariatric surgery.

And, of course, I write the words you are reading right now. About 100,000 of them every year, in fact – on Misdirected alone.

None of this would happen without caregivers.

If you are a caregiver, sincerely, thank you. You are shedding light into very dark corners. And, on behalf of those of us whose conditions make us unable to communicate any appreciation to you, let me say this:

You are single-handedly changing someone’s world for the better.

How many other jobs give you that opportunity?

Stay Strong,

Jeremy