NaBlogWriMo 9: The Seven Minute Solution

So, after yesterday’s kinda depressing admission that I am no longer working out, I found myself motivated. Even if I can’t talk myself into going to the gym, surely there is something I could do here, right? I began hunting around the internet and the App Store, searching for a solution.

Zen Labs To The Rescue?

I found one that looked kind of intriguing.: The “7-minute workout” by Zen Labs. You know, the company that produces the C25K program that got me prepped for my very first 5k back in May of 2017.

Now, I was going into this with a healthy amount of skepticism. Any personal trainer will tell you that you really need at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, 5 days a week, to stay healthy.

However, I also know that ANY minutes are better than NO minutes. Accordingly, I downloaded it on my iPad from the App Store. While I waited, I put on some gym shoes and busted out the yoga mat.

The program seems to have several different varieties. Some were for core work, others were listed as “advanced”, etc. I decided to go straight to “original.” It looked like 12 exercises I was already familiar with. My skepticism returned. How the heck were you going to get any kind of benefit out of 12 exercises in 7 minutes? Doubtful but hopeful, I pressed the “Start” button.

  1. Jumping Jacks. Well, the graphics are nice, anyway. You get a 10-second countdown, then 30 seconds to perform jumping jacks. I managed 29. I checked my Fitbit: heart rate at 76.
  2. Wall Sit. After a 10-second rest break, next up was the Wall Sit. The first challenge: finding a clear wall to use. There is exactly zero wall space available in my living room, so I was forced to head into the adjoining hallway. Once that was sorted out, I launched the counter. I knew I was paying the price for my time off when, with 20 seconds remaining on the counter, my quadriceps began quivering like Jello. Uh-oh.
  3. Push-ups. Well, shit. Literally my all-time least favorite exercise. I hated them in gym class in Junior High, and I still hate them now. I managed to wobble my way through 15, with very poor form, and arrived at the next 10 second rest period.
  4. Abdominal Crunch. Oh, good. From my least favorite to one of my favorites. What I didn’t anticipate was that this would be the point where I got some “help”. Our dachshund, Delilah, just couldn’t stand the idea that Dad was lying on the floor without licking him on the nose. Repeatedly. I struggled through 22 reps while fending off the dog without using the hands that were clasped behind my head. Heart Rate: 83.
  5. Chair steps. Somewhere in the depths of my garage, there is a full set of aerobic steps. Rather than interrupt my workout for 20 minutes to locate them, I just grabbed a handy step stool. 30 seconds of alternating steps finally got the heart moving a little, with my heart rate hitting 90.
  6. Squats. Simple body weight squats here. I focused on form and inhaling/exhaling and made it through 11. 
  7. Triceps Dip. The program recommends a kitchen chair for their triceps dip. Moving all this gear into the living room was turning into a workout in and of itself. Triceps dips are actually very tricky to keep good form through. It is so easy to start incorporating your back or your shoulders instead of the targeted muscles. I went slowly, making sure my triceps wobbled with every rep and got through 12. Unfortunately, my focus dropped my heart rate all the way back down to 60. 
  8. Plank. Yet another exercise where my form was victimized by fending off doggie kisses. I probably only held the plank position for a total of 20 seconds out of the 30 the program called for. 
  9. High knees running in place. I think I might have mentioned that I write in the morning. Usually still in my pajamas. I might have also mentioned that the “beach ball” of fat that used to sit on my abdomen is now a collection of rolls of deflated skin. To combat the movement of all this skin I normally wear compression underwear and tight exercise gear, to keep it all in place while I move. In pajamas…not so much. I wound up having to hold my abdomen in place with one hand while running to avoid injuring myself. At least my heart rate got back up to 91. 
  10. Lunges. I swear, I must be the only person on the planet who keeps falling off the floor when doing lunges. My lunge form has always been something that instructors have tried to help me with. The corrections have never helped. The heel of my back foot comes up off the floor, and I tip over like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. 22 reps, but at least I didn’t fall all the way over and wake Lor up.
  11. Push-up with rotation. What, more push-ups? Really? Sigh. These incorporate a lovely side plank yoga movement at the end of each rep, so at least there is some variety. Also, my aforementioned balance isn’t good enough for “perfect” form where you actually lie one foot on top of the other at the end of the movement. Baby steps, I suppose. 
  12. Side planks. Another one that many people have trouble with, but doesn’t bother me much. And, a minor quibble here: you should do side planks on both sides. The timer only runs you through one side, then pronounces your workout as “Complete.” I flipped over, counted slowly to 30, and pronounced myself done.

An Incomplete Solution

So, my final analysis?

Well…it was OK.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. Doing anything is better than doing nothing. And I’ve been doing nothing for a couple months now, so this was a vast improvement over somnolence.

But…(and it is a BIG but), is this something that I would recommend to a normally active person who was crunched for time? Probably not.

The problem, for me, lies in the heart rate. The entire premise behind the 7-minute workout is that it is supposed to be a HIIT workout – High-Intensity Interval Training. You need to get your heart pumping over a certain plateau in order to be realizing the “Intensity” part of the exercise. And even a fairly healthy beginner should have been doing better than 91 beats a minute. A male my age should be somewhere between 105 to 140 beats per minute to be getting an “Intermediate” workout.

Now, who would I recommend this for?

Me, two and a half years ago, as I was getting prepped for bariatric surgery. This would have been a godsend for me during the months immediately before and after surgery, as I was trying to learn how to move again.

Now, there are a host of other “7-minute” programs out there, including a highly recommended one produced by Johnson and Johnson, so I may give that one a whirl. It supposedly incorporates exercises and intensities for those of us who aren’t totally new to exercise but need to get some work in during a time crunch.

I am crossing my fingers in hopes of finding a solution that doesn’t force me out into the cold, cold world. Wish me luck.

Catch You All Tomorrow,

  • Jeremy

NaBlogWriMo 8: Cold Snap

We are in the middle of our first cold snap of the 2018 – 2019 winter here in Albuquerque. Yesterday’s high was 40 whole degrees, with overnight lows in the 20s. Lor and I are dressed in multiple thermal layers, huddled around the space heaters, praying for Spring to come and save us.

I was chatting with a guy from Cincinnati yesterday who I was saying it is currently warmer back home than it is here. “I thought Albuquerque was warmer than this!” he exclaimed. “If it is like this in November, how bad is it in January?”

Just for the heck of it, I looked up Cincinnati’s weather this morning. In icy Ohio, it is currently 37 degrees Fahrenheit. Here in the desert Southwest, it is currently 24 degrees.

I never thought I would want to move North for the winter.

That Icy Feeling

Apparently, that frozen feeling is just going around these days. We are also in the middle of a “cold” period in our daily exercise routine. To wit, we no longer have one.

It has been weeks since we darkened the door of our local gym. Right at the worst time of year to stop going, I should add. Winter is when the metabolism starts slowing down and trying extra hard to store fat. It is also the time when you are less likely to actually go places and do things, preferring to stay home bundled under blankets.

So, what happened? Why did we gradually peter out on our religious exercise routine?

Well, you know. Life happened. Schedules got compressed. Depression struck. You name it, it sure happened.

I am now at the point where I can’t even think about exercising without cringing – partially in shame, partially in exhaustion. And I am supposedly a fitness expert. I have letters to put after my name and everything.

The Movement Condundrum

As it is, only my Fitbit is currently keeping me mobile at all. Once an hour, every hour, it buzzes on my arm, and I force myself to do something. Take out the trash. Pick up after the dog. Fold some laundry. Anything that will convince the evil spirit that lives on my wrist that I am really doing its bidding.

But, the last time I really exercised? That was last month. The dog was going stir crazy, running around the house, so I took her for a walk. She was so hyper that she kept straining on the leash, rushing ahead of me. In order to keep up with her, the walk turned into a run.

We wound up running about two miles.

And darned if it didn’t feel good. Just to be moving again. I promptly committed to myself that I would start doing this every day again.

And I promptly broke my promise to myself the next day, of course.

Even talking about it today makes me uncomfortable. There is nothing really stopping me from heading to the gym today. But Lor has a cold, and I have a ton of editing to do on C. Charel Kunz’ novel Reborn (available now on Storyshop, coming soon to Amazon!), and it is too damn cold anyway.

So, yeah. My motivational skills are lacking when I can’t even talk myself into doing something.

Structure Is The Key To Success

So, how am I going to get past this?

Structure. It is really the only solution.

After all, I can still run two miles. I still only weigh 178 pounds. The time to act is now, before entropy sets in. I would hate to face Spring of 2019 weighing over 200 pounds and gasping when I walk around the block.

So I need to institute structure around my workout routine. Telling myself all day long that I will go work out “in a while” obviously isn’t working.

Because I know a little secret about myself: I am a born procrastinator. There used to be a Mark Twain quote on my desk at work: “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day AFTER tomorrow.”

I am even the same way with writing, an activity I love. It is still very easy to get up first thing in the morning and look at my iPad with distaste. Maybe I could just look at Facebook or ESPN for a while? Or just play a couple rounds of XCOM or BattleTech on the PC?

And, next thing I know, it is noon, and my most productive writing hours are gone.

So, instead, I use the carrot and stick approach.

I absolutely do not allow myself to touch a video game or other interest until I have either A) written 500 words, or B) edited 1,000 words. The 500-word mark comes from needing to produce a 10,000-word episode every month for Fiction Vortex – 5 days a week x 4 weeks a month = 20 days to produce 10,000 words. Do the maths, and I have to create 500 words a day just to stay afloat.

This month, for NaBlogWriMo, I have committed to working on the daily blog post instead of the usual requirements, but you get the picture. (I actually got a full episode ahead of schedule on Executor just so I could write something different this month.)

There Is No Carrot, There Is Only Stick

The trick now is to figure out where to fit in the commitment to exercise. After all, I already know that exercise has an endorphin reward built right in. And that hasn’t been enough to get me moving. So, where the heck is my “Carrot?” My only motivation, therefore, has to be “Stick.”

There has to be a block of time, every day, specifically dedicated to fitness. Has to. I’ve given that advice to dozens of people going through bariatric surgery.

However, I am not willing to give up my most productive writing hours, early morning, in order to work out. And the rest of the time our daily schedules are so fluid that I have no idea where to fit in a dedicated block of time.

It is a pretty problem, to be sure.

I deal with forgetting to take my cocktail of daily anti-seizure meds with alarms throughout the day. I deal with lack of motivation to write by getting started immediately upon waking up before I am fully aware of what I am doing.

So, in a perfect world, I would exercise in the evening.

But I have so much trouble talking myself into leaving the house after 6 pm that I am pretty sure that idea is doomed to failure. Hell, I have trouble talking myself into leaving the house pretty much any time of day. So I will wrestle with it and let you all know what I come up with.

Sigh. At least my mind is getting a daily workout these days.

Catch you all tomorrow,

– Jeremy Schofield, CPT

(Told you there were letters after my name)

Making the Bed (And Other Victories)

Making The Bed And Other Victories

For the last week, I’ve been trying to share a meaningful personal victory over depression, and have met with limited success.

I told a friend. They didn’t get it. “Doesn’t everyone?”, they asked me.

I told my brother. He didn’t get it. “Is that a…good…thing?” he inquired, hesitation in his voice.

So, I told my mother, but her encouragement is a given. I could tell her that I eviscerated a live chipmunk and she would metaphorically pat me on the head for what a good boy I have been. Right before she called a mental health professional on my behalf.

It seems that announcing “I made the bed three days in a row!” is not quite the watershed moment for the rest of the world that it is for me.

Rainbows and Unicorns

Last week, I admitted to you all that I have yet to get a therapist/counselor to work through my depression with. This is still true. I have gotten a referral to what I hope is a person able to deal with my idiosyncrasies and will be calling them for an appointment later today.

However, what has happened is apparently the Prozac has begun to kick in.

I will admit, I was expecting a more…dramatic result from the Prozac. I sort of had it in my head that there would be a period where my body got used to the medication. Then, one amazing morning, I would wake up and step into glorious sunshine, surrounded by rainbows and unicorns.

After all, that’s what happens to normal people every day, right?

Instead, I find that I’ve grown a little more stable. I am not yelling at Lor at the drop of a hat. Going outdoors is not causing me to burst into flame spontaneously. I wash the dishes without being prompted a half-dozen times.

And, oh yes, there is the subject of the bed…

The Bed, Unmade

Let me explain how depression works.

A normally adjusted person takes a look at an unmade bed and thinks: “I need to make the bed.” Maybe they get it done, maybe they don’t, depending on how late they are for work, etc. But the acknowledgment is there.

A depressed person takes a look at the unmade bed and thinks: “Why should I even bother to make that bed? I am just going to screw it up in a few hours anyway. Just like I screw everything else up. So what’s the point? In fact, I might as well just go back to my unmade bed and lie there…”

So, yes, the fact that I have been making the bed for a few days in a row is actually significant, though it probably doesn’t look like it to the untrained eye.

To me, a made bed is a victory. A small one, yes, but a victory nonetheless. It also represents potential. “If I can do this,” I think, “maybe I can do something else too!”

In the past week, I’ve completed a few things around the house, managed to get my professional life back off the ground, and even spent some time with my extended family.

All on the strength of making the bed in the first place.

Filling The Spaces

Of course, this is only the beginning of rebuilding a functional life after my depression derailment.

I still need to get back to regular posting here on Misdirected. Today will represent the first time I have posted in back to back weeks in a few months, so we will tentatively chalk that one up as “progress.”

But there are so many other things that I am going to have to start over on. it is literally tiring to think about. I haven’t been to a gym in weeks. I haven’t run over a mile in who knows how long. My personal trainer certificate hangs on the wall gathering dust, as the works I had intended to build around it remain unstarted.

And don’t even get me started on the subject of my fiction writing. I have probably not come up with an original idea since the beginning of the year.

So much remains undone, in fact, that I can actually feel the weight of them bearing down on me. There is so much, in fact, that I can feel the beginnings of a panic attack fluttering in my chest, just trying to comprehend how I am ever going to get it all done.

I just have to sit back for a minute and breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth, practicing mindfulness, all the things the self-help gurus tell you to do that you are secretly sure aren’t really working. I am just going to have to remind myself that change happens incrementally, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that all I can do is all I can do.

So, I’ll just wait with one ear listening for the sound of Lor getting out of bed. Then I can go collect my early-morning hug and kiss, and reassurance that someone loves me and believes in me, even if I don’t believe in myself.

And then, I’ll make the bed.

Not Looking Forward To My First Day Back At The Gym,

– Jeremy

PS: Five days left to go on my Epilepsy Birthday Fundraiser over on Facebook. Please consider it if you are looking for an important cause to support!

Zen and the Art of Circuit Training

The Art of Circuit Training
At first, it seems so easy.

You join a gym, full of fire and determination. This time is going to be different, you say. You will stay the course, spend hours in the gym every week, and by Summer you will have a physique that will make the Greek Gods weep with envy.

Two months later, you are looking at the clock, comparing it to your day’s schedule, and wincing. Maybe you don’t really have time to go to the gym today…

Thus begins the slow slide into skipped gym visits, dietary shortcuts, and growing malaise. By Memorial Day, you have gained ten pounds and refuse to take your shirt off poolside.

What went wrong? You over-committed and underdelivered. The oldest story in the history of mankind.

So, how about a different approach? It is only April, after all – there is still time to rescue yourself from Summer Body Failure.

Consider, instead, circuit training.

Defining the Circle

Long looked down on by weight-lifting purists, circuit training is slowly gaining a positive reputation. The idea that you can do something positive for yourself with only half an hour invested each day seems too good to be true, yes?

Let me clue you in on a little secret: spending half an hour at the gym (or in any kind of exercise) consistently beats multi-hour workouts that you fail to work into your schedule. Every single time. The #1 key to movement is to keep moving. It is as simple as that.

So, just ignore the powerlifters and the marathon runners for now. All we are trying to do here is build a foundation. Especially us bariatric patients: we have no real idea how to go from being glued to a couch 18 hours a day to spending 18 hours a week at a gym, right? Circuit training is a great step into regular exercise that can actually produce comprehensive results.

So, what the heck is circuit training, anyway?

Performing The Circuit

So, first: there are several kinds of circuit training, including ones that involve working out in your home or office using only your own body weight as resistance. We won’t be tackling those here, but are instead focusing on in-gym, machine-based circuit training. Why? Because bariatric patients (like myself) usually need some additional assistance getting started. This requires a gym membership. Ask your current gym (Or the gyms you are evaluating) about their circuit training availability.

At its most basic level, circuit training (at a gym) involves hitting a series of weight machines in a row, one after another. Between time spent on each machine is a brief rest period, followed by a short period of cardio exercise. The circuit will involve 10 machines, 10 cardio periods, and 20 30-second “rest” periods. When you’ve arrived back at the first machine, you have completed a single “circuit”, in 30 minutes or so.

And, let’s face facts: the person who states they cant carve 60 minutes out of their day (factoring in half an hour getting to and from the gym) to exercise is either lying or needs schedule prioritization help beyond the scope of this article. Cut one hour of television viewing out of your schedule a day and you instantly have enough time to get this done. Surely you can live without viewing the latest reboot of Lost In Space in the name of your health, yes?

So, denials aside, you jump into the “circuit” at an open machine, then follow the circle around for half an hour. Then you grab your gym bag and go home. Do this 2-3 times a week and you’ll see noticeable results within a month. Guaranteed.

So, what’s the catch? (Because there is always a catch.) There are a few ways to sabotage yourself, even with something as simple as following a pre-defined progression.  Let’s look a little deeper, then, into the mechanics of circuit training…

Introduction to Circuit Training

1. Whole Body Focus:

The secret to circuit training is that the “circuit” hits every single major muscle group in your body. The one I currently use (And yes, I do circuit training when pressed for time) goes through the following progression: Seated Leg Press, Leg Extension, Leg Curl, Seated Bench Press, Lat Pulldown, Seated Row, Shoulder Press, Bicep Curl, Tricep Extension, and *Crunch. (More on Crunches later.) This group of exercises touches every major muscle group in your body.

2. Cardio:

Between each machine is a set of steps, designed to keep the heart rate up. There are roughly Umpty-bajillion different ways you could use these steps to maintain a cardio workout. I tend to do a double set of five exercises:

1. Step up then back;

2.Step up, down the other side, then back to my starting position;

3. Step sideways up, down the other side and back to starting position;

4. Step up with one leg, bring opposite knee to chest, then reverse the process starting with the alternate leg;

5. and, finally, calf raises.

There are gyms that, for whatever reason, do not have a set of steps near their circuit training machines. You could substitute cardio exercises like running in place, jumping jacks, good mornings, etc. However, even the most basic of gyms tends to have free-standing cardio steps somewhere. I would recommend grabbing one and setting it up nearby for use while you travel from machine to machine.

3. Rest periods:

Between each machine and step, I get a 30-second rest period. I use this time to drink (Hydrate or die), wipe down the equipment I have been using, and get myself set up for the next exercise.

4. Development:

As with any new exercise, it is important to take your time and get it right. Get a staff member at your gym to walk you through the whole process, on every machine – and get them to help you set your “maximum” weight levels. You’ll be starting your circuit workouts at about 50% of your max, to ensure that you are getting the maximum bang for your buck in the weight vs. reps area.

5. Intensity:

It is important to not spend your time on circuit training simply going through the motions. Instead, be focused during your time on the machines and steps. You should not be struggling with the weights you have selected. You should move each weight outward with a fluid motion, taking about a second to reach nearly full extension. (Full extension can lead to over-stressing ligaments and joints.) At the “top” of your push, squeeze the muscles you are working. Then, slowly lower the weight to the starting position, taking twice as long to lower the weight as you did lifting it. Each rep should take about 3 seconds: a one-second push, a squeeze, then a 2-second return to start. If you find you are unable to finish your minute moving your current weight, drop down to the next weight on your machine. You are wanting to reach the end of your 20-ish reps feeling like resistance is gradually building against your muscles. If you finish your minute easily, make a note, and next time start at the next higher weight – and expect to have to make an adjustment down during your workout.

So, there’s always a downside, right? Here are a few things to watch out for on the negative side of time-saving workouts.

Welcome To The Downside

1. Stabilizers:

The one major negative to working with machines is the very thing that makes them safer to exercise with. An awful lot of the benefit of free weight exercise comes not from the muscle groups being targetted, but instead from the work on the secondary or “stabilizer” muscles that also get engaged just from trying to maintain balance and equilibrium while pushing free weights. The incorporation of these stabilizer muscles is missing from machine-assisted lifting.

2. Intensity:

The fact that circuit training takes place in a closed loop means that much of the thought and planning that would go into a free weight program is missing. This can make it very easy to place your workout on cruise control and simply mail it in. While any movement is still preferable to no movement, your development will be dramatically hindered by not pursuing challenge and development during circuit training.

3. Safety:

Free weight exercise requires constant attention and focus. Circuit training can be perceived as “Easy mode”. Accordingly, it can be very easy to inadvertently injure yourself by simply being inattentive. I have watched people at my local gym use bad form on machines, slip while performing cardio steps, even fall over because they were attempting to talk on the phone or watch streaming video while working out. Circuit training is not the place for these activities.

4. Twerps:

The closest I have come to getting into a fight in a gym since 7th grade P.E. is in and around circuit training equipment. Why? Because so many people insist on using circuit training machines as their own personal playground. Rather than participating in the “circuit” portion of circuit training, many times individuals will camp out on a circuit training machine for their own personal workout routines, rather than using freely available machines elsewhere in the gym. Asking them (politely) to move along so that you can take your turn rarely produces positive results. Instead, bypass their position for now, and come back to it at the end of your routine. Multiple and/or habitual offenders need to be reported to gym management. You are not being paid to enforce the rules of the road in circuit training. Don’t engage testosterone-flooded exercisers yourself. The results can be…less than ideal. Ahem.

5. Crunch Time:

Usually, the final machine in any circuit training circuit is some form of ab-training machine, usually a contraption with straps and weights that ball you up like a device created by the Marquis de Sade. Seriously – crunch machines are a back injury waiting to happen. Skip the ab machine in a circuit entirely, and spend your 60 seconds on a hanging leg lift or (even better) working on Planks. Think you can hold a full Plank for 60 seconds? It is not as easy as it looks. It is also one of the absolute best exercises you can do for your core and abs.

Joining The Circuit

There you have it – the secrets of the Circuit Training section of your local gym. Stop wasting your gym membership money by staying home and watching Roseanne instead of hitting the gym. Get in, push yourself through the circuit, and head back home 3 times a week. Make sure you are taking at least a day off between sessions, mind you.

Once you’ve mastered the Circuit, cough up the funds for an initial appointment with a certified Personal Trainer to keep on moving down the personal fitness road. Just remember: movement is key to success. Even 30 minutes on the Circuit at your nearby gym beats spending an hour on the couch eating Cheetos.

Chasing Myself In A Circle,

Jeremy

18 Months and Counting (A Post-Surgery Progress Report)

A Post-Surgical Progress Report

They say that time flies ever more quickly the older that you get. Even knowing this, I was still startled to look at my calendar and discover that this week will be the 18-month anniversary of my Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. It is tough to believe that I am already a year and a half out from that amazing life-changing decision.

The changes are still overwhelming: everything from my waistline to my plate size has shrunk. Meanwhile, my stamina, physical activity, and interest in life all have grown by leaps and bounds. I hear on a weekly basis how I am “not the same person” that I was two years ago, and I can only nod in agreement. The version of me that sat around the house exclusively eating and gaming is no longer a part of my life.

The Tech Support Trap

Now, I (still) spend quite a bit of time online, mainly following up on interactions with those who are either considering or struggling with bariatric surgery. And I am noticing a trend towards “horror stories” – people reporting all the terrible things that happened to them as a result of bariatric surgery.

Let me say upfront: bariatric surgery is a scary thing. Things can (and sometimes do) go wrong. It is not a shortcut to weight loss by any means. It is a last-ditch, dramatic solution to chronic obesity.

But, it also must be said: it also is not automatically a disaster waiting to happen. As someone who used to work in tech support, I can tell you this: the vast majority of people posting on forums and in chat rooms are those that something went wrong for. When things work, we rarely feel a need to draw attention to them.

So, allow me to shed a little light on what happens when bariatric surgery goes right.

Shiny, Happy Patient

My personal experience with surgery was almost unblemished. (Other than that unfortunate incident of trying to eat sourdough immediately post-surgery.) I obeyed my nutritional guidelines, paid attention to my surgical team, and embraced my new pre-and post-surgical diet. After all, I figured, I was getting ready to have 3/4 of a major organ lopped off…no point in going forward with that if I wasn’t willing to make all the attendant changes that went along with it, right?

And it worked! Waiting in the pre-surgical area, my surgeon, Dr. Tyner, did not recognize me thanks to the weight loss I had already experienced thanks to the pre-surgical diet. (I had already dropped from 302 pounds to 248 pounds pre-surgery.) The weight loss after the surgery was consistent, and I actually beat my personal goal of weighing less than 200 pounds. By August of 2017, I had lost all the way to 175 pounds: nearly 130 pounds of weight loss.

Not only did I lose weight, but there were other, less visible results. I was able to head back to the gym. We began hiking at least once a week, sometimes more. We walked/ran in the Albuquerque “Run For The Zoo” 5K in May of 2017 – an actual “bucket list” item of mine for decades.

For every negative associated with the surgery (loose skin, yuck!), there has been at least one positive (a 34-inch waistline, like I had in my 20s!) And there have been several positives with no negative whatsoever: for example,  I can now hike 8 miles. And not collapse for days afterward.  This from a guy who, only 2 years ago, could barely walk the dog four-tenths of a mile.

Tough to see the downside to that.

Regular Maintenance Pays Off

So, coming up on two years out, this is where the shine is supposed to start coming off. Many patients complain about creeping weight gain returning at this point in their bariatric journey.

So, just to be sure, I checked this morning: I am currently at 176.3 pounds.

Let me run that by you again: for 6 months now, I have been within a pound or so of 175 pounds. Once a week, every week.

My secret?

Regular maintenance.

You see, this is also the point where many bariatric patients start investigating “When can I…?” As in, “When can I start drinking soft drinks again?” Or “When can I start eating Oreos and Girl Scout Cookies again?” Or, worse yet, “When can I stop working out all the time?”

See, that is the problem with bariatric surgery. Many folks don’t realize that there is no traditional recovery period from bariatric surgery. All the surgery does is “reset” your weight and metabolism so that you can NOW develop the habits you never did before.

If you are wondering about when you can start embracing negative habits again, the correct answer is: you can’t.

Not if you want to maintain your health and your weight loss, anyway.

I know people who have regained about half of the weight they lost after surgery. Because of this, many claim that surgery was a wasted effort for them.

Now, anything that allows you to lose half of your excess weight can’t be a bad thing, in my book. If you lost 100 pounds then regained 50, you’re still 50 pounds healthier by my calculations.

But I personally would rather maintain the lifestyle I learned pre- and post- surgery, and not have to deal with buyer’s remorse.

As the kids on the Internet like to say: Your Mileage May Vary.

A (Small) Example

Yesterday we got together with Lor’s family for a dinner and birthday party for my niece. As we all gathered at the dining room table, I had a chance to reflect on what our lifestyle changes meant.

For dinner, Lor and I spilt a 6-ounce steak. I also added an ounce or so of shredded beef, and 6 or 7 mushroom slices. Since I was feeling saucy, I even added a tablespoon of mashed potatoes in lieu of fresh corn on the cob.

My nephew, seated next to me, took one look at my plate, and asked: “Uncle, how can you live on that?”

I looked past him to the family portrait on my Mother-In-Law’s wall. Taken last Christmas, it featured Lor’s entire half of the family. Standing front and center in the group, I stood. Smiling.

The same person who, until 2 years ago, made every effort to avoid being photographed for any reason whatsoever.

How can I live on it? A heck of a lot better than I used to live on obesity and shame.

Bariatric surgery: it isn’t for everyone, but it sure as heck has done the job for me.

Though I Do Still Miss Girl Scout Cookies,

  • Jeremy