Fighting Off The Food Coma

Fighting Off The Food Coma

The time has come, the season has arrived: The Holidays are here. And along with the family gatherings, football games, and presents will come a whole lot of opportunities to do Bad Things to your diet and your physique.

How bad? Well, the average person will gain 3 to 7 pounds over the 40-day period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Do that ten years in a row, and congratulations: you’ve added around 50 pounds of body mass from holiday eating alone. Never mind aging, injury, or other dietary hiccups that might arise.

So, yeah – this presents a problem.

What are you going to do about it?

Watch Your Drinks

If you want to help yourself avoid the potential for damage, first give yourself the ability to succeed. The great majority of the caloric damage at these gatherings doesn’t come from stuffing or Pineapple-Upside-Down Cake.

No, the majority of the empty calories will come from what you drink.

Think about it: how many Cokes will you consume over the course of a holiday gathering? Because each and every one will set you back 140 calories. Worse yet, that 140 calories has ZERO nutritional value to you. No vitamins, no minerals, no protein. Nothing but processed sugar that will go straight to the “Store me as fat, please” list.

Beer isn’t much better. A can of the most popular “Light” beer, Bud Light, works out to 110 calories. Only a few less than a Coke. And the problem with beer is simple: the alcohol impairs your judgement. The more beers you have, the more you think it is OK to have. You could get yourself outside of a six-pack of beer (and the accompanying 660 calories) before you even meet the temptations around the dinner table.

Stick to water, if you can. If not, coffee or unsweetened tea are OK as well. But give yourself the opportunity to succeed. Because you haven’t even gotten to the hard stuff yet.

Rein In The Impulses

I know what you are thinking. “But Jeremy,” you say, “everything is soooo good during the holidays. How can I resist it all?”

Simple. You can’t.

The theoretical person exists that can surround themselves with holiday goodies and not indulge. In the same sense that theoretical alien life exists: it may be out there somewhere, but in the meantime just hand me another slice of that double-chocolate Pecan Pie.

So, if the cornucopia is too much to resist, don’t resist. Direct the flood that you can’t contain.

Instead, try everything in very small doses.

Do you really need a pound of everything on your plate? No, not really. Get a tablespoon-full, or a small slice, or a single item of whatever. Then, as you eat, focus on the folks around you. You probably only see them once or twice a year, right? Take a bite of your small serving of food “A”. Chew thoroughly. Put down your fork and turn to the person to your right and chat about whatever for a moment. Return to your plate. Take a bite of your small serving of food”B”. Chew thoroughly. Put down your fork and turn to the person on your left and chat for a moment.

Repeat this process until you’ve tried everything on your plate. Still hungry? Start around your plate a second time, this time focusing on the items you found particularly yummy.

By the time your stomach tells you “Stop! I’m full!”, you’ll have had a fraction of what everyone else around you did. And you’ll have had some valuable time catching up with friends and family members.

 

A Call To Action

No joke – this technique really works. The reason it works is because your stomach is slow to report to your brain about when it has reached capacity. If you start with a huge pile of food and rush through it, you will reach capacity and pass right through it and not know about it – until you are uncomfortably bloated and nodding off on the couch, wondering how you could have possibly eaten so much. Again. Just like last year.

So, just dodge that bullet. And give yourself some extra tools to use to fight the “Holiday Bloats.”

Another thing you can do to help out? Stay active.

Now, I am not inviting you and your family outside for some brisk snow-field volleyball. (Though if you live in Florida, or California – heck, why not?)  But, seriously, how much fun are you having sitting on the couch watching football? Listening to everyone’s digestive processes?

So, move around instead! Go grab some photo albums and look through them. Volunteer to wash the dishes. Play with the kids or the grand-kids. Even just wandering around the yard (if one is available), or throwing around a football (rather than watching one being thrown.)

Also, is this gathering taking place at Mom and Dad’s? Or Grandma and Grandpa’s? I will bet a significant amount that if this is taking place at the home of an older family member, there are some things lying around the place that could be done. Rake some leaves. Repair a squeaky door. Help organize a library, or a craft room, or a garage. Every minute you spend moving is a minute your body is using fuel, not adding it to long-term storage.

And if you can contribute to a family member at the same time, well: isn’t that what the holidays are all about, really?

Making The Holidays (Not) Count,

Jeremy

PS: I recently had the opportunity to create a guest blog post for the folks at Prairie Sage Wellness Center. Feel free to check it out here!

When The Cold Arrives

When The Cold Arrives

Right on schedule, Winter has shown up.

Oh, there are still leaves on some of the trees. Days here in Albuquerque are still getting up into the 60s. But the malaise that accompanies shorter days and lower temperatures is fully in effect.

The purists might say that it is still Autumn, Winter doesn’t start until December 21, etc. But we know it in our bones: Winter Isn’t Coming. Winter Is Here. November is no more Autumn than March is Winter.

Even our local homeless population are now all holding signs asking for money for bus tickets to Houston. Winter is no fun.

Winter: Obesity’s Secret Weapon

The big secret about Winter and physical fitness? They don’t go together.

Winter brings us our most celebrated gluttonous holidays, all within a 90-day span. Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Super Bowl are always used as excuses for over-eating. (And over-drinking, in the case of the SB.) At the same time, there is no useful offset to balance these binge-eating, diet-destroying occasions. Who eats two pounds of mashed potatoes and half a pecan pie then goes out and runs a few miles to work it off?

No one, that’s who.

Winter conspires against us, I tell you. Colder temperatures mean lower energy levels. Darker days mean a sense of malaise – energy-sucking black holes that park us on the couch huddled in a blanket binge-watching Stranger Things rather than doing anything active. And short days mean that we don’t have any time to go do anything anyway, even if we were so inclined.

So, we sit on the couch. We drink beer. Every once in a while we look out the window and shiver, then turn up the thermostat. And we shake our heads at those lycra-clad crazy people jogging or riding through our neighborhoods. Who the heck works out during this time of year?

Everyone who doesn’t want to arrive at March and burst into tears when nothing but sweats fit anymore, that’s who.

Turning The Volume Up (When The Thermometer Goes Down)

I will not go all Richard Simmons on you and proclaim that keeping fit during the winter is “fun.” It isn’t. You are fighting against your depressed metabolism, your body’s desire to conserve energy via fat storage (hibernation), and your own desire to stay warm.

So, when getting to the gym just seems like too much to bear, here are a few other things you can try.

YouTube: Did you know there are a TON of useful exercise resources on YouTube? There are weight-lifting routines. Body-weight resistance plans. Yoga and Aerobics and Tai-Chi galore. Many folks get worried about the expertise of those on YouTube, but the easiest way to locate something reputable is to dig into your favorite health/fitness magazine, find some articles that you like, then go looking for the author’s YouTube channel. That’s how I located B.J. Gaddour’s StreamFitTV, for example. If you can’t bear to leave the house, bring the gym to your living room.

AceFitness: Yes, I am an Ace Fitness Personal Trainer, and I am biased. But you can actually gain a ton of exercise advice (including demonstrations) for free from the Ace Fitness Exercise library. Need to learn how to do a plank? Check it out here. Need to tackle body-weight squats? Visit this page. Oh, have zero equipment in your house or apartment and want to use that as an excuse? Nope: ACE Fitness has 100+ exercises you can do without a single resistance band or dumbell.

The Step: Some of us are lucky enough to live in homes with stairs: multi-story homes, apartment buildings, etc. If you do, you can do a great aerobic routine just by doing stair interval training. However, if you don’t have a staircase handy, there is a secret weapon I will share with you: The simple aerobic step. Though pricing can go all the way up to well over $100, there are plenty available for less than the cost of a single month’s gym membership. (Here’s one for around $30, for example.) Park your step in front of your television. Step up and down for the duration of your favorite home remodeling show. Or travel show. Or reality show. You get the idea.

(Food Network not recommended.)

Dodging The Ice-Cold Missiles

Of course, lack of physical activity isn’t the only danger that accompanies wintertime. Illness and binge-eating tend to skyrocket over the turn of the year. What can we do to fight back?

Staying healthy during winter can be a major challenge. Every sniffle, cough, and sneeze brings instant paranoia about what malady might be invading. (Well, it makes ME paranoid at least.) During winter it is so important to take some common sense steps. Up your vitamin intake. Get a flu shot. Stay hydrated. Losing days or weeks of activity to illness will wreck your fitness just as surely as overdoing it at Grandma’s house on Thanksgiving. Do everything you can to fight off microbial invaders. Be especially diligent at work – your unhealthy co-workers will be more than happy to contaminate you with their illnesses. I am a big believer in mega-doses of hand sanitizer while in places that are being regularly contacted by less diligent human beings.

Avoiding binge eating can be a trial to any of us. All the best stuff gets trotted out over the holidays, and it seems impossible to not try everything! But, rather than looking around a kitchen in despair at all the stuff you shouldn’t eat, make sure that you have come prepared with something that is diet friendly. Bring your own lean protein, or vegetable platter, or salad. That way, if nothing else works, you have something to fall back on. Fill your plate with your healthy selection, then try a few small bites of the items you can’t resist.

For example, I am especially bad about “sampling” desserts. So, Lor started preparing protein-filled cupcakes she calls protein brownie bites that we now take everywhere where there are likely to be tempting sugar-bomb desserts.

And, wouldn’t you know it, they are so popular that they now get requested at every single get-together we attend. Who says healthy can’t taste good? (As an aside I highly recommend The Big Man’s World for recipes – I literally have yet to find a recipe there that I didn’t like.)

The Coldness of the Mind

Lastly, and most importantly, during the winter months, depression and suicide attempts drastically increase. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) can be a more serious problem than any amount of binge-eating or couch-planting. The disorder isn’t very well understood, but a few things can help to keep it at bay.

First, try to stay plugged in. Our natural tendency during winter is to “turtle” – to stay in our homes, huddled around ourselves. Instead, do your best to get plugged into some social circle – anything that will keep you in contact with other people. A bible study, a knitting circle, a weekly role-playing game: just about anything that keeps you interacting with humanity is a great way to keep these feelings of isolation at bay.

Secondly, stay physically active. We all know that exercise increases brain function and releases “feel-good” hormones into the bloodstream. If you can’t make it to the gym or Crossfit, at least try one of the ideas above.

Lastly, if you aren’t getting better – get help. Talk to a family member, a friend, a pastor, a counselor – let SOMEONE know what you are going through. The worst thing you can do is to assume that no one else understands how you feel. Trust me – I also struggle with depression and know first-hand how isolating it feels. But you have TONS of value, even if you can’t see it right now. Someone else can help remind you.

Turn Your Attention To 2018!

Let’s all help one another get through to next year! Do your best to stay true to yourself, keep the blood flowing, and know that, eventually, this too shall thaw.

Spring Is Coming,

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

This Is Your Brain…

An Illustration of "Broken Brain"

It had been a great series of days. The Run For The Zoo 5K was checked off on my bucket list. I made my goal weight, only 10 months after my bariatric surgery. Finishing the entire first draft of my novel Inheritance was just about done.  I felt as if I was riding a great wave of momentum.

Which, of course, is when my “condition” chose to rear its ugly, unwelcome head.

Still No Cure For Epilepsy

8 AM yesterday I was chatting with my father about our plans for Mother’s Day. At 9 AM I was collaborating with the Ash Falls team about upcoming releases. All seemed right with the world.

At 10 AM, my left arm started twitching. I stopped what I was doing (As I always do anytime my body starts doing something unusual), and told Lor I was going to need my magnet.

My what, you ask? Those of us with a Vagus Nerve Stimulator implanted in our chest can run a kitchen magnet over the site of the implant to trigger it, hoping to forestall an oncoming seizure.

Unfortunately, we were too late.

By the time Lor got back, it was a full-blown seizure. A bad one. Seizures, as you may or may not know, come in varieties. Normally my seizures involve lapses in consciousness, called absence seizures. My eyes are open, I remain upright, I can even be steered around, but no higher brain function is present. I can’t communicate or make self-directed movements. As they say, “the lights are on, but no one is home.”

Afterward, I rarely can remember what has occurred. This is why having a full-time caregiver is a necessity – the number of ways you can injure yourself during a seizure is mind boggling.

And yesterday’s interruption was no absence seizure.

The Involuntary Workout

By the time Lor was back from the kitchen, it was too late to hold off the seizure.

She gave me a swipe anyway, hoping to shorten its length. I was in no position to say thanks. My head was tilted to the left, and I could feel a trickle of drool running out over my lip and down my face. Most alarmingly, my left arm was now extended straight in front of me, solid as a rock, the muscles in my forearms visibly jumping and twitching. It felt like the most intense isometric exercise I had ever performed.

See, the “felt like” part is what really freaked me out. Normally, I am not conscious of my seizures. While my seizures are taking place and freaking out everyone around me, my mind has usually been turned off. Not yesterday. Yesterday, I got to sit and watch as my body just took off without me.

In subjective time, it felt like I was trapped in that position for hours. In “real time”, it was all over in less than 5 minutes. But 5 minutes of non-stop, full-blown muscular contraction is enough to fatigue just about anyone. There is a reason that HIIT training only goes for intervals of 30 to 60 seconds with rest breaks in between. Anything more is not normally possible.

At least, not while there is someone at the controls.

The Calm After The Storm

Once we thought that the storm had passed, Lor directed me to the shower. She got to babysit me and direct me to use soap, wash everything, brush my teeth, etc. Why? Because after a seizure I don’t always remember, and will sometimes stand under the water until she turns it off.

She then got the lovely task of taking my clothing and the seat cushion I had been sitting on to the washer. Oh, did I forget to mention that “involuntary muscular movements” frequently means incontinence as well?

Next time you see a caregiver for a disabled person, give them a hug. Take them to lunch. Buy them a fruit basket. If you haven’t been one, you have no idea what a miserable, thankless job it can be. How Lor does it with a smile I will never know.

The rest of my day – originally slated for production of fiction – got spent napping and staring at the television. Seizures leave me in an addled state for much longer than it takes me to recover the ability to speak. Lor started watching the second episode in a series we have been watching, and after the first two minutes, I made her stop. Not only was I not remembering the first episode, I was confusing the series (Amazon Prime’s Bosch, highly recommended) with the movie Mullholland Drive. I probably should’ve stuck with cartoons.

An entire day of productivity, flushed down the drain thanks to misfiring brain cells.

How Raw is Too Raw?

I get asked frequently why I write about the things I do. Isn’t it uncomfortable, just laying it all out there for the whole world to see?

Well, yes. It bothers me to know that the audience of Misdirected knows that I am not always in control of my own brain. Just like it bothered me to confess that my eating was so out of control that I had topped 300 pounds.

But, that is sort of the point. The longer things like Obesity and Epilepsy remain forbidden subjects, too embarrassing to talk about, the longer it will take us to address them.

I have hope for those of us with these forbidden conditions and disabilities. Once upon a time, breast cancer was a subject no one talked about. Today it is a trendy subject. Pink ribbons blossom everywhere to fund research and support for those suffering from the disease. It is possible to drag these things out into the light and begin working on them.

But only if someone starts talking about these conditions first.

As for me? Back to the gym today. I refuse to fall back into gloom and despondency just because I have had a setback. I may only feel safe doing cardio today, but, by God, I am going to do what I can.

As for you? Hug your Mom on Mother’s Day this Sunday. Do something nice for a caregiver. Drop a buck into the pot at the Epilepsy Foundation or the Obesity Action Coalition or the National Fibromyalgia Association and support those who are suffering from one of these “hidden” diseases.

And I will just keep on dragging this stuff out into the light, and make people a little uncomfortable when they read about it.

Deal?

Deal.

Raw Like Yesterday’s Road Rash,

Jeremy

 

The Difference Between Boys And Girls

Body Image Perceptions Between the Sexes

I am frequently writing about how baffled I am that more men are not taking advantage of bariatric surgery. As I might have mentioned before, the most recent numbers I have suggest that over 80% of bariatric surgery patients are female. Obesity, though, is not related to sex: it is pretty evenly divided across the spectrum. However, two conversations I’ve had in recent history have given me some new perspective on the whole issue…

The Feminine Outlook

I had a conversation with a woman recently who is concerned about her current weight. Two years out from bariatric surgery, she feels like she just isn’t succeeding. She remains 15 pounds away from her goal weight and “nothing is working.” Whenever she looks in the mirror she sees nothing but fat. She has no familial support, and what she feels more than anything is alone.

Her weight loss sin? She has “only” lost 95 pounds and kept it off for two years.

Give that a moment to sink in. This woman dropped 100 pounds and kept it off for two years, and considers herself a failure.

Needless to say, I encouraged her and told her the truth: she’s doing great. Goal weights are tools, nothing is set in stone, etc. But, all the while, I couldn’t help thinking about how I will feel if I successfully keep 100 pounds of weight off for two years.

Hint: I won’t be disappointed.

The Male Perspective

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a man whose wife reads Misdirected. She was “on his ass” about weight loss, and he wanted to share his opinions with me.

Just looking at him it was obvious that there was a problem here. This guy was, at a minimum, 70 pounds overweight. In fact, his build was almost identical to mine a year ago. Climbing a few steps from his entryway into his house left him winded. However, once he and I got settled in his man cave, he had a few things to say about the subject of his health.

Men in his family have always been heavy, he told me. He was active – he didn’t need to go to a gym! He could maybe stand to lose a few pounds, but surgery was just a stupid idea. No offense to me, of course.

All this while he worked his way through 4 beers in less than an hour. (I politely declined.) At lunch, he annihilated a plate twice the size of his wife’s in a couple minutes then began picking off her plate. Shortly thereafter I thanked him for his time and opinions and went on my way.

Somehow he remained blissfully ignorant that there might be a problem or two that needed to be addressed here. And I couldn’t help but think: This is me before last February, isn’t it?

The Can Gap

The sociology of why women believe they are overweight and men believe they are fit is beyond the scope of Misdirected. Many very intelligent people have looked into the issue and even they can’t arrive at a consensus.

But, the fact remains: we, as a species, are not seeing ourselves realistically. Women who have gone through lifestyle changes including bariatric surgery are thinking they have not done enough. Men who have given up wearing anything but 3x sweatpants are still flexing in front of mirrors.

So, instead of tackling this from a “body awareness” standpoint, or pulling out BMI charts, I want you to ask yourself a simple question.

Does your body allow you to do everything you want to do?

If the answer is no, you have a problem that should be met head-on. Stop making excuses and start making changes. Go talk to your doctor. Make an appointment with a nutritionist. Sign up for a session with a personal trainer. But do something that will point you towards what you really wish you could be doing.

If the answer is yes: Go do it. Stop looking in the mirror, stop worrying about sizes, stop obsessing over what people might think. Instead, go do the things you want to. Go sign up for dance lessons, climb that mountain, take that vacation. There is no “perfect body”. There are only bodies that can, or that can’t.

Make sure you are in the “Can” line.

Still Working On Moving Into The Can-Can Line,

Jeremy