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

 

 

To Carb, or Not To Carb?

Into every post-surgery life, a little rain must fall. Apparently, it is my turn again, as my latest weigh-in has me up by 1.2 pounds. This would not be terribly significant if it were not for the fact that I am within spitting distance of my goal weight of 185. It seems a cruel joke by my metabolism, setting me back when I am under 5 pounds away.

What Do The Numbers Really Mean?

Now, first things first: gaining a pound when you weigh 188 (189, now) pounds is no reason to sound the alarms. So many different things can contribute to weight fluctuation. There is no way to determine if this is water weight, or “OMG I ate a cheesecake” weight gain.

For the record, I did not eat a cheesecake.

What I did do, though, is change a couple things in my workout habits. I have been hitting the workouts really hard. At the advice of our shared personal trainer, I have reversed my normal exercise routine. I am now doing weights first, then cardio-vascular exercise. This meant instant increases in all my weight levels for resistance exercise. It also means I am leaving the gym a heck of a lot more blown out than I was previously.

My trainer, Ian, also suggested that I look into HIIT exercise. High-Intensity Interval Training involves blasting out reps as hard as you can for a short time period (usually 30 or 60 seconds), then resting for a minute or two. It sounded interesting until I mentioned how low my current carb load is.

“Carbs are what your body uses for fuel,” Ian told me. “At your carb level, you are going to have nothing in the tank.”

Torn Between Two Experts

So, we have my Certified Personal Trainer, Ian, suggesting that my exercise level needs to be supported by increasing the carbs in my diet.

And we have my Certified Nutritionist, Patti, who insists that, for bariatric patients, carbs are the devil.

So, umm…yeah. Confused much?

Last week I made the judicious decision to increase my carb content by about 50% (to 90 grams a day.) I slept better, had more energy,  and got all the way through all my workouts.

And I gained 1.2 pounds.

Now, other factors have to be taken into consideration. Development of lean muscle mass means that, initially, weight will go up. This, in turn, will raise the Base Metabolic Rate, meaning that the body will burn more energy while resting. Which should, in theory, lead to overall weight loss.

Now, do I really think I added 1.2 pounds of muscle in a week?

Kinda doubt it.

Peering Into The Future

So, I am going to have to settle for looking down the road and deciding what my focus will be.

The fact of the matter is, I am not training for weight loss per se. I am training for functional muscle and endurance. Starting this weekend, I have some energy-burning activities on the radar.

On Sunday we will be participating in our first 5K.

Later this month we will be hauling ourselves up a 45-foot wall at Stone Age Climbing Gym.

We’ll be heading out every week on a different day hike into the Sandias.

And this will all culminate in the assault on the La Luz Trail, probably in August.

The theme here seems to be “energy-burning activities.” I am going to have to plan (and train) accordingly. This is going to mean enhanced carbohydrate intake. So I am going to have to be careful. Complex carbs, ancient grains, and regular food logging will be the order of the day. And, once the increased workout load stops, I will need to drop the carbs back to 60 grams or less a day.

Every time I start to panic, I can just reach into my closet and try on my beloved 501s. As long as the 36-inch waistline is comfortable, I won’t panic too much.

As of this morning, they are actually a little loose.

Now there’s some food for thought.

Are 34s On The Horizon?

Jeremy

 

The Big, Scary Gym

We’ve been at our gym for 6 months now. It has been an excellent place for us to take our first, faltering steps into fitness. It is a friendly environment and, most importantly, is within walking distance of our house.

However, the relaxed environment comes with a cost. It is very limited. Lor has been wanting to take some yoga classes. Not available at our facility. I have wanted to start incorporating a little more free weights into my workout routine. If it isn’t a dumbell weighing 50 pounds or less, it isn’t available at out gym. We have both wanted a pool to work out in.

Say it with me: not available.

(Silver) Sneaking In

The real problem for us, though, has been cost. Big gyms are expensive. Initiation fees, monthly costs, yearly contract renewals…it can work out to anywhere from 60 to several hundred dollars a month.

Right now we are paying 20 bucks a month. Tough to expect a whole lot of extras from your facility for that amount of scratch.

A call last week from my insurance company opened a potential door for us. Turns out that, being disabled, I am eligible for something called the Silver Sneakers program. Silver Sneakers is a program for, ahem, chronologically gifted folks. Turns out it also is available to those of us who are younger and disabled.

Silver Sneakers allows me to sign up with one of our flagship gym facilities here in the Q for free. Meaning we would just be on the hook for Lor’s dues and monthly fees. Suddenly, it looks just about doable, if we are willing to cut a couple other small items out of the budget and replace them with a gym membership.

Also, though not within easy walking distance, the new gym is only 15 minutes away by bike. Admittedly, our current bikes will leave us huffing and puffing like the Little Train That Could. But it is theoretically possible.

Stepping Across The Line

Armed with this knowledge, we took a drive up to the gym in question. We made sure to do this as soon as we left our current gym, so we would be appropriately attired and hopefully not stand out.

Why? Because last time I went into a big gym, I got totally dismissed and demeaned by the person working the front desk. I admit, years later I am still smarting from the embarrassment of that encounter. No matter how fit I ever become, in the back of my mind, I will always be the guy who was too fat to join that particular gym.

This memory may motivate me forever. I almost felt like a hypocrite interacting with the staff members like a normal human being. I wanted to grab someone by the shoulders and ask “Would you be treating me like this a year ago?”

Thank goodness for the other Silver Sneakers members.

This gym was overwhelmed by silver-haired ladies and gentlemen, all acting like (and being treated like) they belonged there. At least half of the members I saw there were over 60, not common for most gyms. Traditionally, older folks have been another marginalized population at gyms, made to feel unwelcome because they are not young and fit. Not where we were yesterday. The place was humming with the energy of older folks unwilling to stay home on the couch.

If this gym was taking care of these people with respect and great customer service, Lor and I would probably be OK as well.

Looking Before We Leap

I admit it: the new gym is awesome.

Lor found over 20 different yoga classes she could take. I spotted classes in pilates and extreme sports training. The pool was fabulous. If there were plenty of lycra-clad hardbodies, there were an equal number of octogenarians wearing sweats from K-Mart.

Today, when we return to our little gym around the corner, I am going to be asking myself some serious questions. Like, do we stay where I am comfortable, both financially and emotionally, and accept those limitations?

Or, do we push ourselves out beyond my financial and emotional comfort zone and become really small fish in a really big pond?

Lor is ready to make that leap. Me, I still have some reservations.

We’ll Keep You Posted,

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

 

 

Bariatric Surgery Misconceptions 3: This Is Never Going To Work

Wile E. Coyote property of Warner Bros. Inc.

The diet cycle experienced by those of us who are obese is a familiar one. We look in the mirror and sigh and/or cry. We read books, check out magazines, surf the internet. We find some new diet that looks like it might work. We try the diet. It works: for a while. Then, something happens. Maybe Real Life interferes. Perhaps we decide we can’t live on grapefruit and quinoa. It is even possible that we recognize the fact that obese bodies can not manage high-intensity interval training every day. But something interferes, the diet stops, and we gain all our weight back.

So, why would we expect bariatric surgery to be any different? And, let’s face some facts here: bariatric surgery is a heck of a lot more invasive and expensive than our usual diets.

Do we really want to invest so much if we are only going to gain the weight back anyway?

The Cold Equations

Here’s the truth: about 20% of bariatric patients eventually suffer some sort of regain.

Don’t get me wrong: that is a big number. For one in five people that go through bariatric surgery, the lowest weight they achieve after surgery will not be their stopping point. They will eventually creep back up to some other weight.

But notice what is not being said here: 20% of patients do not regain all their weight. They hit a low weight, then eventually add some weight back to that. The number of patients who end up regaining all their weight is so low that I can’t even find reliable numbers on the phenomenon.

Let’s say my desire for beer and Oreos finally takes me out back and roughs me up. As a consequence, I gain 50 pounds from my current 192. This leaves me, bruised and depressed, at 242 pounds.

In other words, I would still be 50 pounds lighter than where I started this process. And no doctor is ever going to tell you that a permanent weight loss of 50 pounds is bad for an obese person.

Heck, when I started this process, I was hoping to lose around 50 pounds.

The Hows And Whys

Regain is not an exact science. Some people decide they can’t live without certain elements of their old diet. There are those that determine they do not want to exercise. There are even a few people who lose too much (the mind boggles) and have to regain to be at a healthy weight.

The other thing to remember is that the process does not have to stop with regain. A person who regains still has the ability to identify the elements of their lifestyle that are not contributing to weight loss. You can always fight back.

Will it be at as easy as it was during the “honeymoon period” after surgery? Nope, not at all. But the fact is, the honeymoon ends for all of us. At some point, the “free” weight loss ends and the work of maintenance begins. That work is the same whether you have stayed at a stable weight or regained 20+ pounds.

Once again: bariatric surgery is a single tool to use in your fight against obesity. And any long-term weight loss is contributing to your overall health. If regain should happen, don’t give up. Just remind yourself that it could be (and has been) worse, and keep on fighting.

And put down the Oreos, for goodness sake.

Avoiding Oreo Alley and Beer Boulevard,

Jeremy