Worldview: The Rambling Road: Work or work out?

Ages ago, I developed a hypothesis that I wanted my work to be my work out. At the time, it was a wrongheaded attempt to ignore the fact I was doing neither, but it turns out I also wasn’t completely wrong about the notion.

As part of my effort to improve my health, I have been researching, learning about, and engaging in the idea of natural movement, especially as it pertains to the fact that, even when we work out, we’re often incredibly sedentary in the intervening time, effectively undermining some of the best benefits of our work outs.

Now, I grant, it’s nearly impossible for us moderns to return to our hunter-gatherer roots, but I think we can make specific changes to how we approach physical activity that allow us to utilize some of their genetics we inevitably carry.

One of the biggest changes I’ve made pursuing that goal is to make sure I eat after I engage in physical activity. In short, I work out first, then I eat. It turns out, that’s the pattern our bodies are designed to follow rather than the bell schedule three meals a day. In fact, that’s where exercise “hangry” comes from, and we would do well to listen to it.

The second thing I have changed is how I exercise. I walk a lot, but I have made my walking less structured and more free-form. I sometimes carry awkward things. I have the benefit of having a 185 acre farm with few dedicated paths, so I force myself to walk in the unimproved areas to get the benefit of climbing and having to work my way through.

The result of these changes is that I am working my body more the way it expects to be worked, thereby increasing my overall fitness.

My goal from here is to increase the amount of manual labor I do on the farm, meaning that I intend to forgo the use of labor saving tools when it is possible and safe in favor of doing the work by hand. This labor follows the same pattern as the rest, and I expect it to magnify the results I am already achieving.

In the end, the answer of work or work out is yes, do both. Do as much as you can. Get up and move around often. Lift and carry heavy things. Eat when your body says it’s hungry. Sleep when it says it’s tired. The benefit is there. Pursue it.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Movement vs Exercise

A long time ago, I started getting fat and it started getting me in trouble with my job in the Air Force (Air National Guard). At the time, I adopted an exercise routine that, despite what some people believed, was quite focused and rigorous. There was a point where I was walking several miles a day for months. During that time, I lost maybe five pounds but ended up gaining dozes over the long run.

Now, I will be the first to tell you that adopting a sleeping habit that actually fits me and adjusting my diet to fit my metabolism and nutrition needs has paid huge dividends, but one of the most important changes I have made is to stop exercising and start moving.

What do I mean by that? Well, I still walk a lot, but what I’ve discovered is that the things I am doing that I can feel almost every time I do them are not exercise in the classical sense. I do body weight squats, modified push-ups, simple getting up and down off the floor, Tai Chi, and Yoga, and I am convinced that these activities help me as much as all the walking I do put together.

And the fact is that the science supports that it is our lack of general movement over aerobic calorie burning that has gotten us all into trouble. One of the reasons that exercise programs like CrossFit end up being so effective is because they so often focus on movement over other kinds of things.

So, my challenge to you is to just get up and move. Don’t worry about duration so much as frequency, and make it movements you don’t already do. Try it for a couple of weeks, and see how you feel. I’m convinced you’ll thank me for it.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Documenting Progress

I had a medical appointment yesterday, which in itself is not remarkable, but that revealed a very good result.

I should back up a step and explain that, since about June of last year, I have altered my approach to managing my physical maladies, adopting a very low-carb diet(1) and following an intermittent fasting schedule(2) along with ramping up my physical activity. These changes flowed into the fact that I also started taking a pair of antidepressants in October that helped clear my head so I could focus better on what I am trying to do. Finally, in December I started taking Trulicity in addition to insulin and metformin

When I got out of the hospital a couple of years ago, my A1C was 8.5 and my blood glucose was running in the 450s mg/dL (yes, I am aware of how dangerously high that all is). At my last appointment, my A1C was 7.1 and my blood glucose average was around 180 mg/dL.

Fast forward to yesterday, and after about 9 months of focused effort, my A1C has dropped to 6.6 and my blood glucose average sits at around 161 mg/dL.

The moral of the story is that, if you are suffering from similar issues to mine, there are methods to overcome the obstacles those issues present. The right combination of medications, diet, and exercise can pay huge dividends in a short period of time and offer the promise of remission if not recovery.

DLH

(1) I try to keep my daily intake of all carbohydrates between 20 and 40 mg a day and do so by avoiding all sugars, modern grains (basically, anything containing wheat or rice), and manufactured foods. In general, I also try to keep the foods I consume in the low Glycemic Index range (below 55). Foods called Brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and the like) are great for this.

Understand this kind of diet can be a huge adjustment, and if you decide to try it, there may be a period of transition where you experience symptoms similar to coming down with the flu. Also, if you have other health issues, be careful not to make them worse by following this diet. Be sure to consult your health care provider as you move forward.

(2) There are as many opinions on intermittent fasting as there are people who try it, and I don’t have a specific recommendation of where to start, but in general, the idea is to limit your calorie consumption to a narrow window once or twice a day. For me, this means usually eating one big meal between 2 and 4 and another smaller meal about an hour before bed (this helps level out overnight blood sugar spikes). These meals can vary somewhat based on my daily schedule, but in general results in there being at least 12 hours and as many as 16 hours between caloric intakes.

This method of eating helps encourage your body to take advantage of its already extant biological pathways that are part of the “feast and famine” experienced by our ancestors. Doing so helps our bodies use calories more effectively and, once you get into the habit, often results in eating less.

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Five million steps

Yes, 5 million steps. That’s the number of steps–at least a rough estimate anyway–that stand between me and cutting my current body fat measurement in half.

Granted, it’s always dangerous to reduce human biology to a simplistic math equation, but the correlation between high percentages of body fat and health problems is pretty strong. It turns out that, when measured as simple calories, half my current body fat adds up to about 3.5 million steps worth of walking. Add in another 1.5 million steps that account for my current rate of walking, and you get 5 million.

At first, that number seems daunting. It is also, far less simplistically, a moving target influenced by all sorts of sometimes inscrutable variables. Yet, it’s also a concrete point; a goal to focus on that helps manage everything else.

If I were to somehow manage to walk that many steps in a year, that’s only about 13,700 a day. Granted, I’m only at 8,000ish a day now, but doubling the number doesn’t seem all that bad, though I’ll have to do more than double if I want that number to be my average.

The point is that we can’t do what we don’t know we’re trying to do. Now I know how many calories 5 million steps will burn. Now I understand what it will take for me to get to that number. I’m just at the beginning, but I can get there.

Now, to do it.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: 2018 goes out a lot better than it came in

With the year drawing to a close, I would be remiss if I did not revisit where I find myself now after the past couple–and really the past few–years of illness and struggle.

One of the most important health changes I have ever experienced happened in the form of starting a mild anti-depressant at the end of September. The changed I experienced upon beginning that medication is real and enduring and has enabled nearly everything else that has happened since then.

The biggest subsequent change has been to dedicate myself to a series of dietary and exercise changes in the hope of wrestling my life back from my health. I have virtually given up process sugars, modern grains, and processed foods. I have begun an intermittent fasting regimen. I have starting moving more than I have in years.

Specifically, I am walking and using a bike trainer, and plan to start running and attending a yoga class after the first of the year. If those efforts go well, I plan to start trail hiking and purchase an e-bike for longer-distance rides sometime in the next year.

I have begun using light therapy as part of a daily program that involves waking up using light instead of sound and also using a therapy panel as part of my daily routine. The effect this has had on my mood and energy level cannot be understated.

Perhaps most importantly, I am confident that I can do the things I plan for the first time in a really long time. I am hopeful for the new year, and those are strange words coming out of my mouth.

More will follow.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: 2018 goes out a lot better than it came in

With the year drawing to a close, I would be remiss if I did not revisit where I find myself now after the past couple–and really the past few–years of illness and struggle.

One of the most important health changes I have ever experienced happened in the form of starting a mild anti-depressant at the end of September. The changed I experienced upon beginning that medication is real and enduring and has enabled nearly everything else that has happened since then.

The biggest subsequent change has been to dedicate myself to a series of dietary and exercise changes in the hope of wrestling my life back from my health. I have virtually given up process sugars, modern grains, and processed foods. I have begun an intermittent fasting regimen. I have starting moving more than I have in years.

Specifically, I am walking and using a bike trainer, and plan to start running and attending a yoga class after the first of the year. If those efforts go well, I plan to start trail hiking and purchase an e-bike for longer-distance rides sometime in the next year.

I have begun using light therapy as part of a daily program that involves waking up using light instead of sound and also using a therapy panel as part of my daily routine. The effect this has had on my mood and energy level cannot be understated.

Perhaps most importantly, I am confident that I can do the things I plan for the first time in a really long time. I am hopeful for the new year, and those are strange words coming out of my mouth.

More will follow.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: A time to run and a time to not

Some of you may recall my post from a few months ago now about what I termed “medicinal running”. Granted, I said I was going to provide regular updates, but didn’t, so I figured I would provide them all at once.

From a therapeutic standpoint, I believe the running was doing what I intended, albeit slowly, just like everything else about my current ordeal. I got to the point where I was slogging (jogging very slowly) about half a mile 3-4 times a week. Not spectacular, but it was something.

You’ll notice I said was. While I was able to maintain the 3-4 times a week for about two months, I proceeded to develop an injury in my left foot that got progressively worse until I stopped. I’m okay to walk, and once it stops hurting, I can run 2-3 more times before it starts hurting again.

The moral there, I suspect, is that I’m just too heavy to run right now. That said, I have more than tripled my walking steps average over the same period, and I’ve lost 9 pounds during the same, so this hasn’t been a total loss. If I continue to lose weight, I plan to try running again at some point and once I have better shoes.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: A wheeze on the wind, or the sound of a fat boy running

So, it turns out that, after years of trying to ignore it into going away, the simple fact is the best way for me to jump start the process by which I’m not going to be perpetually fat, tired, and sick is by running.

Yeah, I know, running…

To be fair, I used to run. For a few years in my 20s, I ran 2-3 miles nearly everyday. Then I stopped. That in itself is a long story, but one that likely helped set the stage for where I am now. Now, 20ish years later, I’m going back to the thing I once did, I guess.

One day, perhaps even soon, I hope to document the research that led me to that conclusion so that, at the very least, it’s out on the internet for anyone else searching for answers to judge for themselves, but for the moment let’s suffice it to say that running engages the specific biological pathways that help reduce fat around the liver, which fat is likely one of the main culprits of my complaints.

In several important ways, this running is going to be, lacking a better way of describing it, medicinal running, and the best way to describe this phenomenon is to do so by what it’s not going to be. Unless something in my own psychology changes, this running isn’t going to be about 5ks or marathons, not about PRs or ever increasing distances, and not about proving myself in any other way but one.

Along with a controlled diet and plenty of walking to complement the running, this effort will be about weight loss. It’s a ham-handed standard, I know, but the fact is that at my current weight–295lbs and counting, for those keeping track at home–it’s the single most effective way for me to measure whether what I am doing is achieving my primary goal.

I appreciate every piece of advice I’ve already received about this undertaking, and I always want to hear more of it, but please understand that I hear and evaluate any of it through the filter of what I already know I am trying to do. It may be that something you say helps me advance that cause, and I want to hear it, but please don’t be disappointed if I decide it doesn’t fit with what I am trying to do. It’s not that I haven’t listened. It’s that I am very focused on what I am trying to do.

To that end, I also plan to post a weekly update documenting my progress so that interested parties can keep track and so that I can have a log of what I’ve been doing for my own use. If you are keeping track and don’t see that update, please ask. I need the accountability.

For now, this is what it is: a fat boy running for his life. Literally. Stay tuned to see how it works out.

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Walking away

Don’t worry: I’m not quitting.

No, instead, this blog is about a realization. It’s one I’ve stated here before, yet at least for me, I’ve realized it in a new way.

As far as my physical health is concerned, walking is going to be what saves me.

Once upon a time, I was a walker, a rambler in the truest sense of the word. Starting in junior high, I started walking to school any day I could, a journey of several miles. Once high school was upon me, I walked except when the weather was the worst for four years despite the distance.

Along the way, I developed an affection for trail hiking that carried me into my mid 20s. Then, a lot of life happened–the details don’t matter so much–and I kind of quit. It wasn’t a sudden thing, just over time, I walked less and less and hiked less and less, until I wasn’t doing it at all.

Since I got sick a year ago, on the days I’ve been able to walk, I’ve felt better, but walking every day has been a challenge for a variety of reasons. My new realization is that I’ve failed to deal with those reasons, and that is what is keeping me from walking.

I’ve decided to change that. First up is dealing with one of the colder Ohio winters in recent memory. It turns out that, since I got sick, I can’t stay warm like I used to. Cold weather takes it out of me, so walking in the cold is a struggle. That’s also an excuse. We have the technology for that, and it’s time I started using it.

So, next week, I have an extreme sports designed balaclava, cold weather over-mitts, and wind-pants arriving. They should do the trick most days when the temperature is below freezing an help eliminate one more excuse.

Next up will be rain gear. And, before you know it, I’ll be rambling along again like days of old.

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: When excuses aren’t excuses

A more bitter part of me wants to demand that, before anyone gives anyone with a chronic or enduring illness advice about what they should be doing, they should have to live through my past couple of weeks before giving it.

Now, before anyone panics, it’s just been a tough couple of weeks. I’ve been caught in what I call an “autoimmune loop,” first triggered by allergies, then flowing into everything from debilitating insomnia to blood sugar spikes and crashes. Good times…

I will grant, that having endured that, I’m particularly sensitive when people start throwing around, “Well, all you have to do is…” advice. I admit it. It pisses me off. After spending two weeks feeling like you’re a combination of drunk, high, coming down with the flu, and hopped up on way too much caffeine, that kind of advice hits wrong.

But I’m also listening, and in the course of listening, I have my own advice. I understand those of you trying to help people like me mean well. You sincerely want me to feel better. You believe you have answers, and the fact is that you do.

You’re also not listening.

Almost every conversation I’ve ever had with someone who believes they know how to fix me revolves around a single premise: everything I have to say about why their advice is a struggle is an excuse. I’m here to tell you, no, it’s not.

Yes, I can be doing more than I am. Yes, sometimes, I have to push through the terrible consequences of my current state of health in order to make it better than it is. That is true.

It is also true that, when my blood sugar crashes while I’m walking around the grocery store, so I have to cling to my cart like a lifeboat, and thank God my wife is with me to drive me home because I might not have made it otherwise, and I’m still shakey more than 24 hours later, it’s not an excuse. This stuff really happens. It really does limit what I am able to do. I have to keep in mind that every expenditure of effort I make comes with a cost I have to pay, sometimes for days. That’s not an excuse. It’s reality.

All I am asking you well meaning people to do is to understand that. Modify your expectations by the reality of the health I have right now. Not the theory of how healthy I could be. Not with a guilt trip about how I’m unhealthy because I did it to myself. With the fact that, right at this moment, what I’m experiencing is what is.

Help me with my reality. That will actually help.

DLH

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