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

 

“Skinny Is A Side Effect” Redux

Happy Independence Day to all our American readers. If you are celebrating the 4th of July, hug or shake the hand of a veteran. Your preference.

I have been reviewing my publication history for Misdirected while outlining my next book. In doing so, I have discovered some…changes in my outlook from last year to this year. My former annoyance with my obesity still rings true. The combined fear and hopefulness regarding the potential outcome of the surgery still feels real to me.

But what is different is my absolute conviction, a year ago, that my physical appearance wasn’t going to matter at the end of the process. Looking at my recent posts, I can see that turned out to not be true at all. Which makes me wonder:

Exactly when did I get so vain?

Mirror, Mirror

Now, understand what vanity means here.

I do not gaze in the mirror every morning and think “Damn, I’m hot.”

No, actually, exactly the opposite.

I look at sagging skin. I fixate on scrawny arms and legs. I stare jealously at big, muscular guys at the gym and can only think that I won’t ever look like them.

I have become a body nazi, sitting in judgment upon a population of one: me.

This after I swore up and down that all I cared about was Non-Scale Victories. That I was “Not Waiting To Turn Into Brad Pitt.”

Sigh.

Taking A Step Back

So, let’s take a look at what has happened instead.

For years I suffered from sleep apnea.

Today I can’t remember the last time I used a C-PAP.

A year ago my resting blood pressure was about 140/100 with medication.

Today it is sitting at 112/75, and I haven’t taken a blood pressure med for literally a year.

Once upon a time, I could barely walk to the end of my block and back.

Last week I walked 6 miles in one day and could have done more.

So, why the sudden concern about my looks, for goodness sake?

You Can’t Miss What You Never Had

So, here’s where things get weird. Being obese never bothered me from the perspective of my self-esteem. I have always looked at myself as being…umm…less than attractive. So, being overweight didn’t really impact me very much, in that regard.

But nowadays I keep seeing these amazing before and after photos of my fellow bariatric patients. And the “after” shots seem to always look like supermodels.

Hell, I am living with a supermodel nowadays.

And I am…well, I am back to looking normal. Just with a whole lot of extra skin.

I know it shouldn’t be important to me. I ran a 5K. I will be climbing Sandia Peak later this summer. I am out being active almost every single day – doing things I couldn’t do while I was obese. The way I look while I am doing these things should not matter.

But, somehow, it suddenly does.

Pushing Beyond The External

If I was advising someone in my position, I would tell them that they were already beautiful. I would say that true beauty comes from within. That the world should not judge a person on the basis of their physical appearance.

I now know that person would be thinking that I was full of shit.

Despite that, I need to make the effort to get over my sudden onset of self-esteem anxiety.

A few months back I made the commitment that I would stop using the term “fat” here on Misdirected. I have been largely successful, and I think that Misdirected is better because of it.

So, I will start doing the same thing with myself.

Every time I have a negative thought about my appearance, I resolve to match it with a positive self-affirmation.

I may look in the mirror and think “my arms look terrible.” I will match that with “Yes, but my hands now write a blog that speaks to hundreds of people.”

The thought may cross my mind that I am covered in loose skin. I must learn to match that with something like “The skin is empty because I have extended my lifespan by losing the fat that used to fill it.”

Every time I wish I looked different, I should immediately go do something that I used to wish I could do, but could not due to my obesity. I should still make personal wishes come true. Just different ones.

I will have to teach myself to start being focused on being healthy, and stop being obsessed with being skinny.

After all, skinny is (only) a side effect.

Glad I Can Air This Out,

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

 

 

Check The Bucket List

Run for the Zoo 2017 Artwork
Artist: Sean Wells

Well, the day is almost here. Barring getting eaten by a grizzly bear or something, on Sunday we will be participating in the 2017 Run For The Zoo.

The next time you visit Misdirected, I will have crossed one of the final items off of my bucket list. I am going to have to come up with some new goals.

Why A 5K, Anyway?

To an outsider, it may look like not such a big deal. A 5K race works out to 3.1 miles. In context, someone trying to keep up with their Fitbit’s demands for 10,000 steps a day will be walking 8 kilometers a day. (Around 5 miles.) And Lor and I have already gone out on hikes that equal or exceed this amount. So, why all the hoopla?

Mainly because, for a very long time, I couldn’t even walk 1 kilometer, much less race 5. My epilepsy, my weight, and my depression all contributed to an anchor around my neck. It was much easier to just sit around the house and wait for seizures or obesity to finally kill me.

But, a rebellious spark still remained alight inside me. Every Spring I would look at the billboards around town and think “Man, if I could just run the RFTZ – that would mean I had accomplished something.”

Thanks to bariatric surgery, I’ve been given a second lease on life. And since surgery last year, I have kept focused on this goal. 2017 was going to be the year.

Let me put it another way. A runner may be able to run 26.2 miles. And they should be proud of that fact. But only a select few can say they have run the Boston Marathon.

The Run For The Zoo is my Boston Marathon.

To Run, Or Not To Run?

A minor hiccup in the whole proceedings is that I won’t actually be running the event. Even at my current weight, I am still a hair over my goal weight. There is still another 15 or 20 pounds of excess skin hanging in folds all over my body. And my poor, arthritic knees are just not able to support all that mass while running for half an hour straight yet.

So, we have already resigned ourselves to not “running” the race this year. We enrolled in the untimed fitness walk section of the race. But, Lor has pointed out that there is no reason we can’t treat it like our current C25K training. So, we will walk for a few minutes, run for a few. We won’t run the whole thing, but we won’t be solely walking either. It seems like a decent compromise.

We’ll still get to enjoy the ambiance of the Albuquerque bosque in spring. We will have confederates – a bunch of other people who also didn’t feel comfortable registering for the timed event. And we will still be supporting the Albuquerque Bio Park.

Even if it isn’t exactly a race, it still feels like a win.

I’ll Wear The T-Shirt Proudly

We get to go pick up our pre-registration packets tomorrow morning. I don’t know if those of us who aren’t competing in a timed event get a bib with a number on it, but both Lor and I will both get swell t-shirts.

And, though it isn’t a timed event, I am going to have Lor time us on her Fitbit. (Mine died last month.) I really want to know how long this takes us. Lor is hyper-competitive, and I am beginning to follow her example. Being surrounded by a ton of other walkers is sure to trigger our “Faster, Faster!” switches. And, I can also use our completion time for my own nefarious purposes.

It will give me a target time for completing a 5K.

The Run For The Zoo isn’t the only 5K available, after all. My sister-in-law and her family set the awesome example of running a different 5K every month last year. While I don’t imagine that Lor and I will be that motivated, wouldn’t it be cool to try again in, say, 6 months? See if maybe we could shave some minutes of our time from this event?

I know, it is like a drug. You take that first step and next thing you know you are working towards getting that “13.1” sticker on your rear windshield.

First things first, though. Let’s get through Sunday and then see how it goes.

Looking Both Ways For Grizzly Bears,

Jeremy