What Does Fitness Mean To You?

 

What Does Fitness Mean To You? We talk quite a bit about obesity here on Misdirected. It is a blog with a slant towards bariatric surgery, after all. But the point behind bariatric surgery is not actually mitigating or minimizing obesity. The point is about taking pretty drastic measures in order to restore fitness.

But…what does that mean, exactly?

A Little Less Fat

I remember the years before I even considered surgery as an option.  I would tell myself things like “If I could get down to 240, I would feel pretty good.” Or, maybe, “I think my ideal weight is actually 225 pounds. That BMI chart is ridiculous.”

The point is that I was so heavy and so uncomfortable that I didn’t fantasize about being functional again. I just dreamed about being a little less fat.

I didn’t dare dream about returning to something close to a normal weight, you see. The idea was too big, too overwhelming. What I really wanted was to have a normal life again. And how can a person who is 150 pounds (or more) overweight think that is an achievable goal?

Sure, we all see the wonderful testimonials of the person who looks in the mirror and says “No more!” Then they change their diet, then start walking, then start jogging, and next thing you know they are running the Boston Marathon.

Just between you and me, those stories didn’t use to inspire me. Mainly, they made me tired just thinking about the work involved. And, in a nation where over 60% of us are overweight, and over 30% are obese, I don’t get the impression that these success stories are thick on the ground.

So, instead, I settled on the dream of being “less fat.” And, as it turned out, I couldn’t even do that on my own.

The Post-Surgical Solution

I have previously documented here what I thought about Dr. Tyner when I first met him. I thought he was out of his mind. His off-hand suggestion to me that I would be under 200 pounds when he was done with me was the stuff of science fiction. Bad science fiction. The kind not based on science at all.

And it turned out he was right and I was wrong. Big surprise – he has a medical degree and thousands of surgeries to his credit. But I literally could not wrap my head around the idea that surgery could almost cut my weight in half.

To this day I am still surprised when I look in the mirror.

So, a person that gets a year out from surgery (as I am), and embraces their new lifestyle (as I have) is left looking in the mirror, scratching their head and wondering “Now what?”

Once the weight is gone, what should I do now? I want to make sure that I become “fit”, right? So, what does that mean, exactly?

So, I went in search of the answer to that question.

The Fitness Gauge

From a certain perspective, I have already arrived at “fit.”

My blood pressure now regularly sits below 120/80. I used to be hypertensive.

My standing pulse rate is around 55 beats per minute. It used to be 80+. So that is a win as well.

My BMI (28.2) claims that I am still overweight, but BMI is a cruel and capricious deity at best. To get to what BMI considers “normal” I would have to weigh in at 154 pounds. I am not sure where another 21 pounds of weight loss would come from at this point.

According to the American Heart Association’s waist circumference test, I pass as well. At my BMI, I need a waistline of 40 inches or less. Earlier this morning I was at 33 inches and some change. (For the record, the passing grade used to be 38 inches.)

So, I am fit, right? Pat myself on the back and have a seat on the couch! Surely I feel fit now, right?

Well, no. Not really.

Functional Fitness

Here’s where things get funky. Is fitness about what your measurements are, or about what you can do?

Here’s an example. Who is more fit: a nominally “overweight” person who just ran a 10K, or Bob from Accounting who only weighs 130 pounds despite the fact that he mainlines Doritos and Mountain Dew and never moves except to go to the bathroom and back?

I know what my answer to that question is.

My journey has given me the belief that size means nothing unless it is combined with motion. You will never convince me that a sedentary person with a BMI in the “normal” range is fit. The University of Cambridge agrees, with a recent study suggesting that twice as many deaths every year were due to inactivity than to obesity.

If you’ve just gone through bariatric surgery and are wondering “what’s next?”, the answer is clear: start moving.

And, if you are apparently healthy but spend your days in front of the monitor at work and your nights in front of the television, you aren’t as healthy as you believe you are. Start moving.

30 minutes a day, every day. It is as simple as that. Surely you can just cross your least favorite TV show off your list every day and spend that time walking around the neighborhood. Maybe doing yoga. Or even going to the gym, if you are that motivated.

But, for heaven’s sake, do something.  Trust me. You’ll thank me later.

An Idle Body Is Entropy’s Workshop,

Jeremy

 

Mission: Accomplished

Well, now, THAT was exciting. In a “drop at the beginning of a roller coaster” kind of way.

It has dominated my days and interrupted my sleep for nearly seven months now. I have missed deadlines, dropped projects, and skipped family gatherings because of it. The voice of Misdirected has grown fainter with every week as it approached, an inexorable monster that threatened to swallow me whole.

I am referring, of course, to the final exam for the ACE Fitness Personal Trainer certification.

Which happened yesterday.

We Don’t Need No Education

My relationship with education has been weird throughout my life. I didn’t go to college out of high school. I got married and started waiting tables instead. Who needs that education stuff, right?

My professional career as a database developer and project manager all came from books and week-long seminars. My success derived from an unusual talent: I was the person who was willing to Read The Flipping Manual. But I also had the ability to remember what I read. This didn’t seem unusual to me. I just thought everyone else was lazy.

Then my disability struck, and suddenly I was unable to remember my own name for long stretches of time. By the time my treatment stabilized, I could do a pretty good impression of a thinking person, but the memory was gone. I literally can forget what I am doing in the midst of doing it nowadays. I made a couple of abortive attempts at college in my thirties, but couldn’t ever keep up.

And that is where I thought my relationship with education would end.

Where Obesity and Literacy Meet

Fast forward a decade or so.  My upcoming bariatric surgery met my gaming blog, and the current version of Misdirected was born.

Suddenly, I was fielding questions I didn’t know the answers to. I went to various sources for information: my nutritionist, WebMD, my wife the massage therapist, my brother the personal trainer. The deeper into the process I got, the further down the rabbit hole I fell. In January of this year, I was suddenly 100 pounds lighter and writing a book about bariatric surgery, for goodness sake.

Then, in February, I happened to mention to my family that I was looking into getting some education about muscular retraining, weight loss, and lifestyle changes. Maybe, I said, at some point in the distant future, I would look into getting my personal training certification.

Later that week I was presented with a gift: my family had sprung for the ACE course materials for their personal trainer certification. Just one little detail: I only had 180 days from the time they ordered the course to take my certification exam.

Opening The Box of Pandoras

I suspected I was in trouble when the box of course materials arrived. Inside were anatomy charts, nutritional guides, exercise CD-ROMs, and over 1,000 pages of textbooks.

I confirmed I was in trouble after I completed the first “class”, took the final exam, and was presented with a grade of 40%.

Oh, man. What did I just get myself into?

I remember confessing to Lor that I would never be able to do this. There were twenty-two individual course segments I had to pass, for goodness sake! By the time I got to the end of a chapter, I had already forgotten everything I just read. And I had no previous experience with any of this: no frame of reference. What the heck was adenosine triphosphate? I never took chemistry! What was a muscular attachment point? I flunked biology in high school!

Twice, in fact.

I had apparently thrown myself off the deep end of reality, into the swampy morass of human physiology.

The Struggle Is Real

For months I studied, and quizzed, and attempted to memorize. My fiction writing slowed to a crawl. My posts to Misdirected became ever more sporadic, the closer I got to the date of my final exam. I stopped sleeping normally, waking up in the middle of the night to go study.

Everyone in my family was tremendously supportive, all patting me on the back with various versions of “You can do it!” I remained unconvinced. The time pressure was the real killer here. I was sure I could do this, given enough time. Say, 2 or 3 years. But not 6 months.

I finished the course materials, then threw myself back in again from the beginning. Then a third time. Each time revealed new weaknesses. Finally, after my 3rd time through, I took the practice exams with a week left before my final.

I managed a 76%.

I was crushed. Yes, it was a passing grade, but…a “C”? That was the best I could do?

Lor disagreed. “You worked harder for that C than I ever saw you work for anything in your life” was her take on it.

I would have to settle for it: I was out of time.

Test Day

Yesterday morning dawned early. Real early in my case. I was up at 2 AM, in a complete panic about the exam coming up at 8:30.

There was nothing else I could do. I resolved that I would not rush, that I would go through the exam multiple times, that I would read each question several times before answering. Breakfast was out of the question. My stomach dipped and rolled frantically as Lor drove me to the testing center.

150 questions. 3 hours. This is what the last 6 months of work had finally come down to.

After my meticulous progress through the exam, it was time to press the “Submit” button to have the test graded. I probably sat there for 5 minutes, willing myself to click the button. Only the fact that I was convinced I would throw up if I waited any longer forced me to move.

The spinning wheel rolled for a moment as the PC thought, then I was presented with a “You Passed!” message.

My final score? 77%

I have never been prouder of a C in my life.

Jeremy Schofield, ACE Certified Personal Trainer

 

The 1-Year Follow-up

The 1-Year Follow Up - The results of Bariatric Surgery

You may wonder where I’ve been the last couple days. I spent Monday meeting with my surgeon, finishing up the VNS procedure, and got cleared to start using both arms again. This seems like it would have been the perfect opportunity to publish my next Misdirected post, right?

But I had something else big coming down the road, so decided to wait for the update.

Because yesterday was my 1-year appointment with the folks at DaVita Bariatrics. One year ago yesterday I went under the knife and changed my life forever.

So, how did I do?

The Numbers Don’t Lie

So, let’s review. On July 25, 2016, I weighed 248 pounds. (Down from my all-time high of 302 pounds in February of 2016.) My blood pressure was 145/102. My resting pulse rate was 86. I was on a cocktail of 5 different medications. I slept with a C-PAP every night.

Yesterday I weighed in at 177 pounds. (Up 3 pounds from my previous low of 174.) My blood pressure came in at 118/70. My resting heart rate was 60 beats per minute. I am down to 2 medications (both anti-seizure meds) and stopped using the C-PAP months ago.

Other significant numbers?

In 2016 I had a 50-inch waistline. Today I am at 35 inches and still shrinking.

Last year I could barely manage walking half a mile. Today I can walk at least eight, or run two. (Though still can’t run a full 5K, darn it.)

Last year my BMI topped out at 47.3 (also known as “morbidly obese.”) As of yesterday, I was at 27.7. (“Overweight”, according to the BMI chart.) Given that I would have to get all the way down to 159 pounds to be considered normal by BMI, I think I am just going to settle for “overweight”, thank you very much.

Now, Gimme The Bad News

All of this has had a downside, of course.

As of yesterday, I was diagnosed with both anemia and a B12 deficiency. Neither is as dangerous as the health issues accompanying obesity, but both are going to have to be dealt with nonetheless. Both are potential side effects of the massive dietary changes that go along with bariatric surgery.

I keep shrinking. This may sound like it should be on the “good” side of the equation, but it is a real downer to keep having to buy clothes at thrift stores. Also, I am already down to Men’s Small in shirts. Where the heck do I go from here? Do I start shopping in the kids’ section?

Speaking of my body, I am still dealing with my new covering of loose skin with the texture and consistency of Play-Doh. It is a constant hassle to deal with and has even resulted in me having unexpected surgery for early VNS replacement.  Surgery to have the excess skin removed may or may not be an option. For one thing, it has to be deemed “medically necessary.” For another, I am getting a little tired of surgery at this point.

I am actually more of a slave to my stomach now than I was when I was obese. I have to eat constantly – every 3 hours or so. And everything still needs to be measured, and weighed, and parcelled out. Eating is no longer easy.

And man, do I miss beer.

The Final Verdict

So, considering everything, would I still have the surgery?

Absolutely. I wish I had done it years earlier.

While jogging(!) yesterday, Lor and I were discussing the concept of being in better shape now at 40-ish than at 20-something. In my case, I have never been athletic. I am, quite frankly, in the best physical condition I have ever been in, period. I don’t say “best shape” because, you know, parts of me aren’t great to look at. Aesthetics aside, though, this is certainly the healthiest I have been since developing Epilepsy. By a significant margin.

Bariatric surgery still isn’t a magic pill. It doesn’t change everything for you without effort.

But it certainly gave me the freedom to make (and sustain) changes.

If you are suffering from obesity, and nothing you have tried has worked, consider talking to your loved ones and your doctor about bariatric surgery. It is far from easy. But, in my case, it has allowed me to actually go experience life, rather than sitting on the couch and watching it go by.

And if I can do it, so can you.

Looking Forward To Next Year’s Appointment,

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

(Almost) Hawk Watch Trail

First, thanks for all the support and encouragement from last Friday’s post! There has been quite a bit of positive feedback, for which I thank you all. On Friday itself, I literally had to walk a bit around the neighborhood before bed in order to drag myself across the 8,000 step line for the day. I silently committed to myself that I would do better on Saturday as I fell asleep that night.

Except, I didn’t. Saturday, as it turns out, was full of stuff. The kind of stuff that totally ruins exercise planning. I spent hours visiting with my family across town. Then, even more hours hanging out in a marathon online gaming session with my brother. By the time bedtime rolled around I had managed only 5,000 steps for the day, with no reasonable way to recover.

Well, I thought, there’s always tomorrow…

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Sunday is supposed to be our “free day” for the week. You know, we relax our dietary restrictions a bit, don’t hit the gym, give ourselves time to recover from the previous week.

Well, my recovery had been performed the previous day, so Sunday was going to have to be spent picking up the slack. I began to plan our assault on the wilderness as soon as I woke up Sunday morning.

I have probably failed to mention, but we’ve begun to amass a collection of “day hiking” gear since our last foray. In a previous post I mentioned the items that I thought we needed for future day hikes. Since then, we have been getting buried in donated gear. Not one but two hydration packs. A GPS unit. An emergency locator for when I get lost in the woods. Even a pack size first-aid kit. Other than shoes, we now have just about everything we need for day hiking trips.

But we hadn’t had a chance to try out all this nifty new gear yet. I woke up Sunday morning and began prepping all our cool new stuff. When Lor got up a few hours later, she was also ready to head out the door and into the woods. We gathered up our stuff, patted Vixen on the head, and locked the door behind us, then drove over to the Tijeras Canyon.

What Is Your Definition Of “Moderate?”

Again, I used the Sandia Mountain Hiking Guide to pick our destination. I selected “Hawk Watch Trail” for our day’s excursion. Hawk Watch Trail is an offshoot of Three Guns Trail, which winds through the Southern end of the Sandias from the Tijeras Canyon until it meets the  Embudo Trail in the foothills above central Albuquerque. Hawk Watch sounded interesting, terminating at a point where researchers studied raptors in the area. It was listed at 4 miles in length and “Moderate” in difficulty.

Someday, I need to meet the person that writes the Hiking Guide. As it turns out, their definition of “moderate” involves steep switchbacks ascending 1,500 feet from the base of the canyon to a plateau 7,400 feet in elevation, overlooking the Tijeras Canyon and the plains South of Albuquequrque. Visibility was pretty awesome, though – we were able to see all the way to the Polvadera Mountain near Socorro:

“Moderate” difficulty notwithstanding, we were not up to the task of making it all the way to the top. We should have started our hike much earlier in the day. Two miles up the trail we were sun-blasted, drenched, and wobbling. We were finally forced to admit that one of us was going to wind up plunging downhill into a cactus if we kept this up. Being stubborn, we didn’t return back down the trail. Instead, we followed an unmarked trail that sort-of looked like it would wind up back at the trailhead.

Two hours later we finally made it back to the car.

The After-Action Report

The bad news, of course, is that we didn’t finish the trail. The whole canyon area is very dry, with almost no cover, and by mid-day it gets totally sun-blasted. We may need to consider moving our hikes further up into the Sandias, past the tree line.

That or hike indoors, which sort of defeats the purpose.

The good news was that, by the time we had hit the bottom of the trail,  I had already dinged over my 8,000 step goal for the day.  The GPS unit worked great, the hydration packs were a life-saver, and I didn’t have to use the emergency beacon or the first aid kit. So, overall, a win for our little expedition.

But I have some serious doubts now about tackling any of the Sandia Hiking Guide trails that are listed as “Difficult”.

My Quads Are Feeling It Today,

Jeremy