To Climb The Impossible Climb

I had mentioned I married a sadist, yes?

Over the weekend, Lor had a dream. Inspired by our recent hike out in “the real world”, she decided that we should head out to one of the better trail heads here – the ones maintained by the city – and climb up into the foothills. Accordingly,  I gathered up a walking stick, some water, and a Chihuahua, and we drove up to the base of the Embudo Trail, about 4 miles from our house. Once there, Lor spotted our goal for the day. (See picture above.)

 

All she wanted to do was climb to the top of that thing. Up the Embudo Trail, a mere 1.5 miles each way, to the Embudo Springs and back. Only 2,000 feet of elevation change over sandy terrain, certain to be filled with coyotes and rattlesnakes. What could go wrong?

 

I shouldn’t have worried about the coyotes and the snakes – they sat along the sides of the trail and laughed as I passed by, huffing and puffing all the way. Ten minutes in I felt like I had been walking for days – thighs quivering, calves burning, ready to lay down and quit, and maybe die while I was at it. I have religiously walked our dog every day around our neighborhood for months, refusing to reduce my mobility anymore, so I thought I could deal with a little hike up into the mountains. Let me tell you – it is a whole different thing walking uphill through sand than it is walking on pavement through a mostly level neighborhood.

 

Lor and Vixen were patient, but maybe a third of the way up the trail, I was done. I collapsed on the side of the trail, where Lor unmercifully took this motivational shot of me:

 

Didn’t know they had whales in the desert.

 

From now on, all I have to do when I don’t want to exercise is look at this picture. I may make it the background on my phone. I look truly, truly hideous. My earlier article, filled with platitudes about how feeling good is more important than looking good? Still valid, but looking this bad makes me feel bad. I want to ask “What happened to me?”, but I know damn well what happened to me. Take 10 years of Shiner Bock, add 1 year of Depakote, then layer on 12 years of fear that exercise will cause seizures. Stir briskly, drink it down, and you, too, can look like this!

 

On the way back down my legs were quivering piles of jelly, no longer really working correctly. I got to the car safely nonetheless, and pulled out my phone to see exactly what I had done for the day:

 

 

 

Please note – we completely missed the trail. We’ll do better next time.

 

 

1 mile, straight up and straight down, in 52 minutes. I can’t remember the last time I walked a mile in the mountains. I can’t remember the last time I exercised for 52 minutes.  Maybe there is something to this outdoor hiking thing after all. I just have to tell myself I will do better next time.

 

Oh, yes – there will be a next time. The background photo on my phone tells me so.

 

Still Recovering,

– Hawkwind

Food Porn

 

Happy April Fools Day! And no, sadly, nothing in this article is an April Fools joke.

I had another one of “those” dreams last night. I looked around to see if anyone I knew was watching, then opened the door and hurried inside. I paid the girl at the front, trying not to look her in the eye, afraid of the pity or disgust I might see there. Taking a deep breath, I went around the corner…

…and grabbed a plate and joined the line at the Golden Corral buffet.

And then woke up, gasping, in a cold sweat.

Seriously, is anyone else having this problem? Because for sure no one else is talking about it. But I am seriously starting to fantasize about food. There’s the usual kind of stuff – drive by McDonald’s with Lor and talk about how much we miss french fries and all that. But I seem to be having some more serious issues. For instance;

  • In the grocery store, I find myself lingering in the bakery section, looking over donuts, cakes, and pies. Even the ones I would not have been interested in before I started this process!
  • On those occasions when we are allowing ourselves “forbidden foods” (one meal a week currently), if I have been sent to get them without Lor, I strongly consider if I should get an extra item and eat it before I get home.
  • I now watch cooking shows – something I rarely did before we started the pre-surgical process. I am not watching to learn how to cook. I am watching so that I can see the forbidden foods that are being prepared.
  • I am having the most bizarre cravings. On the way home from a workout earlier this week, I was craving toast. Toast!

Seriously, folks – this is addict behavior. I thought I ate too much because I was bored – my disability and impaired mobility left me with nothing to do, so I would eat. Right? Apparently wrong. All this time I have been blaming boredom and the fattening effects of my anti-seizure medications for my obesity, but apparently there was another factor: I seem to be a food junkie. Who knew?

Well, yes, ok – probably every significant person in my life knew this about me, but the important thing is that I didn’t know. I literally had no idea that addictive behavior was a part of the problem. And now, I begin to have some serious doubts about the Gastric Sleeve – is this going to be enough to overcome these impulses and urges? I know that the Sleeve procedure removes the majority of the stomach, the parts that produce Ghrelin – the hunger-causing hormone in our body. But is a lack of hunger from the stomach going to do anything to deal with this hunger that I know is coming from my mind?

It makes me wonder, what kind of person fantasizes about food? Am I the only one on the planet with this condition? Because it certainly isn’t anything I have heard of or read about before. Binge eating? Sure, that one is talked about on a daily basis. Fantasizing about binge eating? That’s a new one to me.

Staring Into The Fridge, Waiting For Chocolate To Appear,

– Hawkwind

Do the Math

My mind is on numbers this morning. Since I am a poor mathematician, this can only lead to ruin and despair, but that is what I am thinking about nonetheless. Whether calculating percentage of weight loss from my highest point (5.5%, last time I checked), how much money is in the bank account ($26, last time I checked), or how many wins the Diamondbacks are going to need to capture the West this year (I am thinking 94, the division has gotten a whole lot tougher), an endless parade of numbers, equations and statistics are marching across my brain this morning. So, since that is where we are at, let’s use it, shall we?

The first post on Misdirected took place back on July 7, 2010. (I refer to the blog as being 3 years old because there were two massive breaks in there, each lasting over a year) In that time, we have had 16,300 page views. So far, so good, right? Well, dig this number: a full 1,449 of those page views have happened within the last 31 days. Basically, since we stopped talking about games and started talking about the upcoming Gastric Sleeve surgeries. Almost 10% of our total activity, over three-ish years of posts, has taken place in the last month. I am amazed and humbled that so many people are so interested in what Lor and I are doing here to get ourselves healthy, joining us on our “weight-loss journey” as they like to call it. Thank you for your interest and your support!

Some other numbers: Yesterday Lor dragged Vixen and I up into the foothills above Albuquerque for a hike. We managed a half hour hike, covering just under 1 mile, dodging cactus and coyote poop all the way. But, it was exactly what we needed – here in the American Southwest we are surrounded by gorgeous landscape just waiting to be explored, and instead I have been daily walking the dog around the blocks of our neighborhood. Very flat, very stable, very boring. As an additional “benefit”, today I feel like I was doing a legs day at the gym yesterday – very sore every way I move my lower body. Hiking up and down elevation engages all those stabilizer muscles and unused muscle groups that the trainers at the gym love to talk about. We need to add this to our regular schedule at least once a week, at least until we can afford to get mountain bikes. Then things are really going to change!

One last number I’ve been thinking about is a weight-loss goal number. At my initial meeting with my surgeon, I was so stunned to hear that I should be under 200 pounds again after the post-surgical weight loss that I forgot to ask how far under I should expect. Are we talking 199? Or more like 180?I have every intention of beginning weight lifting again as soon as I am physically able and am very curious what kind of “build” I should expect. I mean, are we talking Dustin Pedroia from the Red Sox? Or more like Maurice Jones-Drew from the Jacksonville Jaguars/Oakland Raiders? ‘Cause enquiring minds want to know, and all that.

I had better give this subject a rest before I start counting fingers and toes and Chihuahuas. Thanks again to the readers of Misdirected – nothing has made me happier than sharing these experiences with you all.

10 and 10 and 2, In Case You Were Wondering,

– Hawkwind

Good Morning, Guinea Pig

Photo Credit: Albert Vuvu Konde via Compfight cc

One of the negatives of getting up as early as I do is the lack of distractions. Don’t get me wrong, the lack of distraction makes a perfect environment in which to concentrate on writing, but it also means that negative thoughts can get stuck in the brain, whirling around and around like a ride at the State Fair – the one that makes you throw up and leaves you with a headache for a week. And this morning’s whirling ride is this: I can’t seem to find any evidence, anywhere online, of a person who has epilepsy and a Vagus Nerve Stimulator having any kind of weight loss surgery.

Finding folks just with epilepsy who have had the surgery is tough enough. I found a very poignant forum post on an Australian message board from 2008: “Surely I can’t be the only morbidly obese person with seizures in the whole country!” Apparently he was – not a single person responded to his post. A very small number of folks report developing seizures out of the blue after having a gastric sleeve or gastric bypass, but those that chose to report back after evaluation almost always reported some kind of vitamin or mineral deficiency as being the cause of their seizures. I’ve only ever found two people who reported successful treatment of both their seizures and their obesity. I may not be the first to cross the Sahara, but there sure aren’t any paths or footprints to follow here.

When you consider that I also have a Vagus Nerve Stimulator installed in my chest (very similar to a pacemaker in size and location of placement), the Internet goes totally dark. There is just no information at all out there about the effect of WSL on someone with this device implanted. Heck, during my surgical consult I had to show my surgeon the location of the implant on my body and briefly discuss what it does – he had never heard of it. He waved off the importance of it after determining that it would not interfere with the laparoscopic incisions required for the Sleeve, but now I am beginning to wonder – are there risk factors here that no one has considered because no one in my position has ever done this before?

Ten years ago when I enquired about Weight Loss Surgery, my doctor gave me a flat “No” – it was not appropriate for someone in my condition. I have since learned that the issue there was the concern for malabsorption due to the way the Gastric Bypass operates, but still – we’ve only got a few years of reliable history on the Sleeve at this point. Who is ultimately right, my current surgeon, who says the whole thing is no big deal, or my neurologist from a decade ago who insisted that the whole procedure should never be considered by someone like me? These are some frightening points to be considering at 5 AM, spinning around on the Hurricane of Doubt.

My father has made the suggestion that I should present the whole thing to my surgeon as an opportunity for him to publish a paper in the Journal of American Medicine or some similar publication. The more I think about it, the more I think he might be right – it may be a very good idea to give my surgeon some other motivation to do some extra research for my procedure. He can be the one who boldly goes where no surgeon has gone before. All I want is to come out of this process healthier than I went into it.

Spinning Rides Make Me Dizzy,

– Hawkwind

Not Statistically Significant

Sad to think I am hitting 285 pounds on the way DOWN.

 

Despite my dislike for “pounds lost” as the only factor of interest to many people who are going through the Gastric Sleeve, weekly logging is a required part of the whole process. And there was a whole lot of interest in what my numbers were for yesterday’s weigh-in after my disaster of a week last week. But the numbers don’t lie – yesterday I was at 285 again, representing a loss of 1.6 pounds from the previous week.

The Facts Are In The Numbers

The odd thing is, I was at 285 and some change three weeks ago, too. Last week’s weigh-in (without any major dietary disasters preceding it) I had gained a pound, and was up to 286! I was very disgusted with myself and happened to mention it to my father. Wise retired biologist that he is, he told me to dismiss the week’s weight gain entirely: “Starting from over 300 pounds, son, 1 pound is about a third of a percent. It is not statistically significant.”

I knew I should’ve paid more attention in biology class back in high school.

So, another not statistically significant weight loss for this week, then. Even my total weight loss since the start of this process is just on the edge of “real”, with our diet changes having resulted in just over a 5% change in my weight since we started (285/302 = .943). Now, 17 pounds is nothing to sneeze at, admittedly – I have basically reduced the load on my body by the weight of a bowling ball or so. But my body still hurts, it is still really easy to re-injure my bad knee (they are both bad, but the one I had surgery on can go out at a moment’s notice), and I look like crap. What once was a solid mass of fat all over my body has collapsed – I no longer look like I am carrying a beach ball under my shirt, I instead look like a candle that has been put in a hot oven for a few minutes. Not pretty.

Looking On The Bright Side

It isn’t all bad, of course. On Sunday, I was able to get into (and wear comfortably) a pair of 46-inch jeans that my mother-in-law bought me years ago, my first new jeans in years, and my first time in a 46-inch waistline since 2005 or so. I can now walk a whole mile without being ready to die. I even managed to get through 50 ounces of water yesterday, which may not sound like a mighty achievement to many of you, but my fellow bariatric patients are all nodding at the significance. Drinking that much fluid while only taking single sips at a time is amazingly difficult. Try it some day, if you are curious.  We should all be drinking 64 ounces a day anyway, right?

The struggle continues. This is the final week of relative calm, then the weeks of April 3 through the 23rd are filled with surgery-related appointments, 2 – 3 a week for 3 weeks straight. We are only 6 weeks out from Lor’s final dietary consult at this point, where her surgery will be submitted to insurance, then scheduled. We do not have far to go here if we can just stay sane, keep encouraging each other, and keep moving forward. By Labor Day, this should all be over.

Well, except for the weight loss part.

Visualizing No Longer Shopping in Fatlandia,

– Hawkwind