Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Auditory Setbacks

Hawkwind, ca. 1998, when he still had his hearing (and his hair.)

It hasn't been the best of weeks so far, in a "health and wellness" sense.

My weight has stopped dropping (still stuck at 224), my knee has flared back up after a few weeks of glorious pain-free exercise, and, tomorrow, I get to go have my hearing checked.

Wait, what does that last one have to do with weight loss?

Nothing, really. But it is the physical symptom that is bothering me the most right now.

Decades of playing rock and roll on very small stages in front of very loud amplifiers (and drummers) have left me with not-so-great hearing. While hanging around the house, this is no big deal - I just turn up the volume or make sure I am watching Lor's lips move while she speaks to me, and waiting for information to arrive via context.

However, out in the world, this has begun to be a problem. While out walking the dog, for example, Lor is invariably a few feet in front of me. While huffing and puffing and trying to keep up with her and Vixen, I will hear something that seems to indicate that she is speaking, but the words come through as something like the background noise at a really loud party. As I can't see her lips, I have no idea what is being said. I tend to say "Mmm-hmm" in a positive inflection a lot. I have no idea what I am agreeing to. Could be that I agree the dog is unusually cute today, could be I just signed off on tearing out all our flooring and replacing it with marble. Who knows?

So, at my latest doctor visit, I mentioned this problem to my physician. My doctor recommended that I go so see an audiologist. My appointment is tomorrow, and I am not looking forward to the results.

The idea of wearing hearing aids is just not appealing to me, I must admit. I have loved ones who rely on them, and it certainly has improved their quality of life. But, they just seem like something for people...older than me.

You know, like slowing metabolic rates are a function of age. And advanced arthritis in the joints is a function of age. Everywhere I turn, my body is gleefully pointing out to me that I am not in my twenties anymore. Not to mention the fact that I am reaping the rewards of a lifetime of abuse that I have heaped on my body. I wish I had enjoyed my thirties more, because I am paying for them now. Sort of like student loans or high-interest credit cards - the consequences last far after the initial purchase.

And, no matter how well I finally do in weight loss, exercise and nutrition from here on out, the fact remains - I am going to keep getting older. My body will keep slowing down. I will have to work harder tomorrow to achieve the results I got yesterday. Things are just going to keep ceasing to function properly. Because no one escapes the ravages of time. 

And, soon, I may have the hearing aids to show for it.

Damn it.

Wishing I Had Played Mozart Instead Of Skynyrd,

- Hawkwind

Monday, September 26, 2016

Social Butterflies

Photo Credit: Hugo von Schreck via Compfight cc

When you are an obese person, frequently the company you like best is your own. Though advertising would have us believe that beautiful and trendy people are out partying it up, the fact remains that, when you are uncomfortable due to your size, you would just as soon stay home and eat a pizza while binge-watching "Orange Is The New Black."

Eating the whole pizza, that is.

"Fat" is just not real conducive to social gatherings, ya know? You are sure everyone is watching (and judging) you all the time, so you sit in the corner. You sweat like crazy, thanks to a combination of your obesity and your nervousness, which you are positive makes you smell horrible. You gaze at everyone else's figures and assume that, since they are not obese, their lives must be better than your own. So, you just stay home instead.

It has been tough breaking out of that mindset. Lor has always been more social than I am, and has been instrumental in getting me out of the house recently. A couple of weekends ago we attended a birthday party. This last weekend we had dinner with some friends that we haven't seen in months, and also went to a weekly gathering we have been invited to for years and have just never gone to because, you know, fat.

The weird part is that I still suffer from those same social fears, just with a slightly different emphasis. I still think everyone is looking at me, but now I am convinced that they are wondering why I haven't lost more weight. While dining in public I now worry that our friends are silently judging us for how little we are eating. I am finding other reasons to assume that people's lives are better than my own, no longer based on weight.

Sigh. At least I am no longer sweating so much. So there is that.

Despite my battle with my private neuroses, it has been wonderful getting to hang around people I haven't seen in years, in some cases over a decade. I find myself surrounded by people that are genuinely interested in Lor and I, wondering where we've  been and how we have been doing. In many cases, the weight loss and surgery don't even come up as a topic of conversation - our friends are interested in the people we are no matter how much or how little we might weigh. That has been amazingly gratifying.

Also interesting is the number of people who have gone through, or know someone who has gone through, bariatric surgery. It is becoming less and less a taboo subject, a demonstration of failure or laziness, but is instead being viewed as a standard treatment for a real illness. This is amazing, and I hope it continues. Once obesity is no longer viewed as a simple failure of willpower, we as a country will get a whole lot healthier.

I am very grateful for the friends that have been patiently waiting for us to rejoin their lives, and I find that I have really missed social interaction more than I thought I did. Thanks to Lor, I am sure that we will be expanding our social circles even wider as time goes on. She is determined to re-enter the world that I have been hiding us from for years now.

Not that there is anything wrong with staying home and binge-watching "Sons of Anarchy" for entertainment every once in a while.

Stretching My Fragile Socialite Wings,

- Hawkwind

Friday, September 23, 2016

If Tomorrow's Weight Loss Never Comes

(With apologies to Garth Brooks)

Along with all the other excitement of the last two weeks, I have also noticed a marked slow-down in my weight loss. Where I had been losing 3, 4, even 5 pounds a week since surgery, last week I made it to 225 pounds, and this week to 224. Somewhere in my brain, some pressure has been applied to the weight-loss brakes.

Now, stalls happen. I am not overly concerned about the fact that my weight loss has temporarily slowed down. The facts are pretty simple - If I keep eating around 800 calories a day, and my daily exercise routine burns off another 300 of them, there is just no way that my weight loss is "done". At some point, my fat cells will be forced out of their resistance, and the weight loss will pick back up.

However, just for the sake of argument, what if I was done losing weight? What would it mean for me to begin living the rest of my life at my current weight and size?

Well, let's see:

  • I would have to accept a 40-inch waistline. That would be a little disappointing, but not very, since my original "pie-in-the-sky" goal was actually 38 inches. Remember, I started with a 48-inch waist.
  • I would have to accept better seizure control and no longer being on blood pressure medications. Yeah, I think I could do that.
  • My exercise routine would need to work around being at 224 pounds. Now, that is a little more difficult, since every pound you lose makes exercise that much easier on the rest of your body. But, in February, I could barely manage to walk to the end of the block and back - about 2 tenths of a mile. Today, we are regularly walking 2 miles, a ten-fold increase in daily activity.
  • My CPAP would remain a constant companion at night, since I have still not overcome my obstructive sleep apnea. I do sometimes wish that I could get rid of the Darth Vader mask and hoses. But, Lor hints ominously that, if I were to start snoring again after being taken off of it, the mask would be going right back on anyway. The CPAP has meant uninterrupted sleep for both of us for several years now, and I suppose I can accept that.
  • I would have to settle for the restoration of a regular sex life again, after not having one for years. Ahem. Yes, please.
I find very little to be unhappy about at this point - even if the process were done today, I would have to call the bariatric surgery a total success. Though I still have occasional hiccups (see what I did there?), what I have gained through surgery far outweighs the loss of beer and all-you-can-eat buffets. The fact is, I have a life outside my house again, and that in and of itself is one of the most valuable gifts I have ever received.

And, the good news is, I am not done yet! Though I am still skeptical of getting all the way down to 185 (my surgical goal weight), I firmly believe that I can make it to 199: I would like my maintenance phase next year to begin at under 200 pounds. And I will do everything in my power to get there. Two days from now will be my 2-month "surgiversary", so I should have at least 4 more months of honeymoon weight loss to go. Even at my current slower weight loss of a pound a week that would put me at 208 by January!

208 pounds. Imagine 95 pounds of total weight loss in just under a year. Who would have thought?

And Now I Have That Darn Song Stuck In My Head,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Yesterday, I Learned

Image courtesy of ohmyveggies.com

It began innocuously enough. Lor decided to experiment with "riced cauliflower", a rice substitute made from cauliflower chopped into really little rice-sized bits. We bought a bag of it from CostCo, and Lor decided to make an Orange Chicken stir-fry with it, utilizing Orange Chicken from Trader Joe's. Two pre-made bags = one easy meal, right?

My first warning should have been the serving size on the Trader Joe's bag: "1 Serving: 1 cup."

Betcha a few of you already spotted the problem right there, didn't you?

Yeah, 1 cup equals 8 ounces. Or, roughly, twice the capacity of a sleeve-reduced stomach.

But, we were not deterred. We would simply eat half a serving each, saving the rest for later. Economical eating is the wave of the future post-bariatric surgery, let me tell you.

Now, I was good. I swear I was. I took small bites. I put my fork down after each one. I chewed thoroughly. I watched the clock to make sure I was taking a full 60 seconds between bites.

What I didn't do was keep real close track of how much was left in my bowl. Hey, what can I say? It was really good, and we were watching an really compelling episode of The Blacklist.

At the point where I started to feel unusually full, I looked down into my bowl and saw that I had about 4 bites left. Maybe 2 ounces, total volume. That meant that, while distracted by the exploits of Red and Agent Keen, I had accidentally ingested about 6 ounces of food.

I immediately put the bowl down, but it was far, far too late.

It started as hiccups. The hiccups kept increasing in intensity, eventually getting to the point where my diaphragm was seizing every second or two, making it exceptionally difficult to speak or breathe normally. Finally, after about 5 minutes of gasping for air while experiencing a painful burning sensation in the center of my chest, relief (of a sort) arrived - I revisited dinner, this time heading the wrong direction. The vomiting was long and painful. The only upside was, immediately afterwards, the demonic hiccups ceased and I could actually breathe again, and no longer had to consider calling 911 to treat me for acute overeating.

Even this morning, my chest and my esophagus are still sore from the episode. Mainly what I am, though, is embarrassed. Repeated throughout our nutritional training is the instruction to not watch television while you eat. I always thought of this as an unusually restrictive instruction, since we never eat at a table, barring special occasions. We either eat while working in front of a computer or, like last night, while watching our one show of the night. (We generally only watch a single episode of television together each day. If it isn't sports, that is about all the TV I am interested in.)

What I should have done (and will do in the future) is not tempt fate by putting a "full" serving where I can get to it. If I am going to be distracted (and I frequently am), I need to make sure that 4 ounces of anything if the maximum that gets put in front of me at meal times. That way, there is no opportunity for me to injure myself the way I did yesterday.

Needless to say, I did not hit my protein goal for yesterday, and am not sure about it today, as eating is of very little interest to me at this moment. Maybe two or three protein shakes to make sure I don't have two days of less than 60 grams of protein in a row? Anything to avoid chewing and swallowing right now. I have exactly ZERO interest in a repeat performance of last night.

Chastened And Educated,

- Hawkwind

PS - This should in no way be taken as a condemnation of Riced Cauliflower. It was exceptionally tasty, and it was so nice to actually have something resembling rice! We will be using it again, just not in the quantities ingested yesterday.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Neither Hide Nor Hair

Photo Credit: kiplingflu via Compfight cc
Though the benefits of our surgeries have been awesome, there is no denying that bariatric surgery comes with a few, shall we call them, negative effects.  And, since we are all humans being, we tend to spend a LOT of time discussing those effects. Remaining positive does not seem to be built into the human consciousness for some reason.

Now, the #1 topic for freaking out about post-surgery, by a large margin, would have to be the infamous "OMG I'VE STOPPED LOSING WEIGHT WHAT DO I DO????" But, beyond that particular issue, there is a host of others we tend to bitch about. Dumping syndrome. Dehydration. Exercise. Lack of family support. Malnutrition. And...hair loss.

Really? Hair loss?

Though temporarily losing your hair may not seem significant to most, it is actually a serious topic, tying into things like nutritional health, self-esteem, and post-surgery relationships. The combination of surgical trauma, greatly reduced protein intake, and (in some cases) vitamin deficiency can lead to serious and heavy hair loss. Though your surgeons and nutritionists will try to reassure you that all will be set right within a year (or so) of surgery, the focus remains throughout the community on what can be done to reduce hair loss, how best to disguise what is happening, what headgear is currently in season...

Oh, excuse me. You thought I was talking about my hair loss, didn't you? Yeah, no - not so much. I have been losing my hair since 2004 or so, with the hairline receding and a thinning spot expanding on the crown of my head. Whenever the two areas meet, I will simply shave it all off. No big deal.

No, the real issue here is Lor's hair loss.

For a couple of weeks now, she has been mentioning it. She has always had long and beautiful hair, and now it is starting to leave her. She is diligently removing clumps of hair from the drain after every shower. Biotin got quietly added to our daily vitamin regimen. And now, even I am starting to find long, auburn strands of hair in random places around the house. We are quickly approaching a crisis. Despite my encouragement and visual evidence to the contrary, she is positive that she looks half-bald. And, of course, she is convinced that she will be the one bariatric patient whose hair never returns after the body gets used to its new protein intake.

So, Lor has come up with a plan: she is going to cut her hair. Like, waaayy short. In the 30-odd years I have known her, Lor has never had hair shorter than shoulder length - frequently even longer. To offset her current hair loss, she has selected an extremely short "pixie" cut. Knowing that she has always loved her hair length, I must admit to some misgivings about this operation, but the appointment is on the books for Friday, and we are going to proceed. I can only cross my fingers and hope for the best.

She keeps asking me if I will like her "better" with short hair, but the fact of the matter is that I would find her exceptionally attractive even if she shaved her head entirely and went with the "Britney Spears circa 2007" look. So, no, I won't like her better, per se. I will like her just as much as I always have. And I get the impression that this is NOT the answer she is hoping for from me. 

The pixie cut approaches - only time will tell if it will be a rousing success, or if she will ask why I didn't talk her out of it.

A post-bariatric patient's lot is not always a happy one.

A Pair Of Scissors This Way Comes,

- Hawkwind

Monday, September 19, 2016

The slow road to 5K

I spoke last week about a bucket list that I put together several years ago, while in the middle of the "my life is over" crisis that resulted from adult onset epilepsy. I actually still have the physical list around here...somewhere. My memory being what it is, I should probably try to find it and see if I have missed anything important.

One of the items on that list involved attending an annual sporting event here in Albuquerque, one that supports an organization that is near and dear to my heart: the Run For The Zoo, a 5-kilometer race that supports the Albuquerque Biopark. I have wanted to participate in it for as long as I can remember. The problem? I have probably not run 5 kilometers in total over my entire life.

See, I am just not a runner. It is not an activity I enjoy. The endorphin high that so many runners like to talk about never materializes for me: though it did show up occasionally when I was a weightlifter. These days it never shows up at all - all I get is sweat and discomfort from our daily exercise routine.

Still, I have never stopped thinking about it. Earlier this year, along with my commitment to buy a Halloween costume this year if I lost more than 50 pounds due to surgery, I also mentioned to Lor that I wanted to participate in the 2017 Run For The Zoo if everything turned out successfully. I have lots of ideas, and I think she just agreed with me, hoping that the idea would quietly go away after a certain amount of time.

Imagine her surprise when I mentioned yesterday that I wanted to start training for next year's Run after the majority of my weight loss had occurred - maybe December or January. My proposal fell on deaf ears. She didn't like to run, she reminded me. I don't like to run, for that matter. I still have two badly damaged knees. For that matter, I am still over 70 pounds overweight. (I started at 152 pounds overweight, remember.) As the injector of realism into my life, Lor was forced to pop my hopeful, wish-list balloon.

As a compromise, she did remind me that the event had a walking component as well. Now, last time I checked, the walking component was a 1-mile stroll around the zoo grounds, which isn't what I had in mind at all. However, after further investigation, I discovered that there is indeed a 5-K Fitness Walk "race". I use the term race loosely because it is non-competitive. No time is kept, no medals are handed out. Parents with small children and strollers are encouraged to participate. Not exactly what I had in mind at all.

However, I accepted my half a loaf, and began looking into training tools for race walking. You know, kind of a Couch To 5K kind of thing for those of us disinclined to actually learn how to run. As it turns out, no such thing exists. You are either learning to be a runner, or you are just going to have to figure it out for yourself. There are no other options.

Currently, we walk anywhere from 1.5 to 2 miles a day. 5 Kilometers works out to 3.11 miles. So, I am going to have to figure out a route in our neighborhood that equates to 3 miles, and then we can start hitting it at least once a week, I suppose. I hope the dog can keep up, though she has been doing fine so far with 2 miles. By January, I will try to start doing the 5K route more than once a week, so that I can begin working on my speed. Lor naturally walks an 18-minute mile without me to slow her down, but together we currently manage a little less than 3 miles an hour. At that rate, all the other race participants will have packed up and gone home by the time I get to the finish line. Even the ones with small children and strollers.

I am simultaneously excited and disappointed. While I am now looking forward to next May, I am also left with the feeling that I am not really going to be doing what I had in mind. But, hey. It isn't like I have ever participated in any kind of race in my adult life, right?

Besides, it is all for a good cause.

Fearing Finishing Behind A Stroller Full Of Infants,

- Hawkwind

Friday, September 16, 2016

Worded Out

Photo Credit: BarnImages.com via Compfight cc
It has been a busy week here at Misdirected. We (Lor and I, not the "royal" we) have been to doctor's visits, visited friends in the hospital, and begun investigating some additional potential income streams. At the same time, I have re-programmed Misdirected's web analytics (since it was reporting ZERO visitors for the last two weeks), and took the time to read and review Gina Horkey's new book "Making Money as a Freelance Writer". I have just finished another 10,000-word episode for my upcoming serialized novel (over at Fiction Vortex - why haven't you visited yet? Serialized Fiction is the coming thing, you know.), and begun work on the next episode.

And, somewhere in between completing episode four and starting up episode five this morning, I sorta ran out of words for the week.

Oh, I tried. I started and stopped no less that 3 different blog posts earlier today. I even "finished" one of them. But it was just not up to snuff. I checked out my conclusion with the Editor-In-Chief of Misdirected (Loralia), and she agreed - it was just not ready for prime time. So, I tucked it and the other two ideas away, where I will revisit them, probably next week.

So, why the little apologetic update?

Because the feedback I get from a particularly evocative article is NOTHING compared to the feedback I get when I fail to publish one on any given Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday. Questions rain in: "Is everything ok? Did you move your website? Are you having seizures?"

For today, the answers are: Yes, everything is fine, no the website has not moved, and my health is currently ok, but thanks for caring enough to check!

I just simply have no new, good insights on anything today to share with everyone.

So, release yourself to recess! You are hereby given permission to check out other blogs. Go buy an episode or two on Fiction Vortex. Heck, if you are a writer, go buy and read Gina's book! But I expect to see you all back here on Monday. I will give myself the weekend off from writing anything, to make sure I am no longer tapped out when next week rolls around. We will catch you all then!

Wondering If I Can Stand The Strain Of Not Writing For 48 Hours,

- Hawkwind