Worldview: The Rambling Road: So, what’s this all about?

It’s sometimes hard to know where to begin an explanation of something that has been coming my whole adult life, so I will start with the event that triggered the birth of this blog.

A couple of weeks ago, I ended up in the hospital for almost a week as the result of acute pancreatitis brought on by a dangerous elevation of my blood-borne triglycerides. The condition was serious enough the doctors opted to reduce my triglyceride levels by removing them using a process called plasmapheresis. The whole experience was the most intense and painful thing I have ever experienced in my entire life, and I realized that I am willing to do extreme things to never have to experience it again.

That brings me to the reality of how I ended up in that state. The circumstances that lead to my hospitalization were not just the result of some unexplained biological malfunction, although there is also that element to the story. Instead, a large part of how I ended up in that state began decades ago when I, for a variety of reasons I suppose I may get into over the life of this blog, chose to stop taking care of my body.

In fact, over the past decade, I had pretty much given up on taking care of myself at all, most often with the excuse I had more important things to do. I didn’t. Instead, that excuse was worse than an excuse: it was a lie.

This blog will be my documentation of the refutation of that lie. Over the course of the next weeks and months and, perhaps, even years, I plan to document my journey away from the lie of not taking care of myself toward the truth of taking care of myself so I can do all the things I do better. I want to share this journey with anyone who cares to follow along for the accountability of it, for mutual encouragement, and to provide a place to document the things I discover along the way.

As to the name of the blog, once upon a time, I considered myself to be a rambler, or as the Irish call it, a rover. I tend to wander without being lost, and have long believed that the journey is more important than the destination. I suspect my journey back to health will follow the same meandering but purposeful path so many other parts of my life have.

So, this is all about finding my way back to a place I should have never left: healthy and productive. I invite you to join me on that road.

DLH

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Worldview: Aftermath

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The picture you see here is me a day after spending six days in the hospital as a result of acute pancreatitis brought on by hypertriglyceridemia of such severity that I had to have the triglycerides removed from my blood by plasmapheresis. Left unchecked, the condition could have killed me. I’m only 43.

I’m posting this picture here as both a warning and a reminder. I want to make sure I remember how much I suffered during that period, and I never want there to be any doubt in my mind that I helped do this to myself.

Whether we like it or not, we are all very good at lying to ourselves. I’ve spent the last decade or more lying to myself about my health. This outcome has been coming for a long while, but somehow, I thought I would get away with it. Somehow, I thought I could ignore what I knew was happening because it wasn’t going to happen to me.

It did.

As it turns out, I have a long road ahead of me. My body is broken, and part of fixing it is going to mean giving up on the lies. It’s time to face the truth, and the truth is as bruised and ugly as this picture.

If anyone else can learn anything from my experience, it is that it will happen. Take care of yourself now. Stop making excuses. Stop lying to yourself. Do what needs done.

DLH

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Worldview: Seven Stone: The food that was trying to kill me

For reasons even science is struggling to understand, we are awash in an era of food allergies from the very real and sometimes deadly to the faddish and imagined. However, the idea that our food is making us sick is well documented enough that it should give all of us struggling with health issues pause.

I’ve been pretty sure that something I was eating was having an adverse effect on me for years, but the fact was that doctors just could not figure it out. As a result, about two years ago, I started trying to figure it out on my own, and this is what I found:

Soybean proteins were trying to kill me.

For a long time, I wondered if it was corn or wheat gluten, but three events and a whole bunch of research have convinced me that soybeans as they are presented in the American processed food diet are the devil.

First was an episode from years ago: on the recommendation of a doctor, I was using Slim Fast to try to lose weight. My local grocery ran out of the milk-based version available at the time, so I tried one of the soy-based ones. I was sick for a week and never drank one again, but never made the connection.

Second was a food log where I kept track of what I was eating and what was in it. Sure enough, every time I ate something containing soy proteins of any kind, two or three days later I would go through a few days of feeling ill. I still wasn’t quite convinced.

Third was that I eliminated any kind of soy from my diet for almost three months. I say almost, because the moment that proved to me that soy was the culprit was accidentally eating some saltine crackers containing soy meal toward the end of the third month. As the result of not having consumed soy for so long, I suspect my body was super sensitive because I was sick for a week.

I am not presenting this information in any way to suggest that people should eliminate soy from their own diets just because I did, but rather because I want people to pay attention to what they are eating. If you are struggling with your weight and feeling sick all the time, it is entirely likely because of something you are eating. Figure out what it is and eliminate it. You’ll be glad you did. I am.

DLH

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Worldview: Seven Stone: Calorie does not mean what you think it means

Most people, as a result of the junk sold to us by the media as dietary science, think of calories and nutrients for their body the same way they think of fuel and oil for their cars. As a result, they think, if they put in enough calories but not too many and keep the nutrients topped off, they should be healthy.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

I know plenty of people who will argue with me about this, but the actual science of diet is clear: it matters what kind of calories you are eating.

Before people read this and think I am advocating some sort of “eat only these kinds of calories” nonsense, I am not. What ends up being a healthy diet differs from person to person based on your own unique biology and lifestyle. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

That said, there is one rule: the more whole the food you are eating is, the less likely it is to make you fat. Here’s why:

Our bodies have very specific, unique mechanisms for dealing with nearly every calorie and nutrient we consume. These mechanisms often involve complex processes that sometimes themselves require calories and nutrients to function properly. It turns out that the necessary calories and nutrients needed for those processes to function can be found in the whole foods we are eating.

In fact, eating whole food is the most significant change I made toward losing weight over the past two-and-a-half years. I don’t really exercise more. I don’t really consume less calories. I simply eat less processed food and replaced it with more whole food, and as a result, I’ve lost 35 pounds and kept them off.

For me, it was really as simple as that change.

DLH


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Worldview: Seven Stone: About the farm

When contemplating weight loss, one of the first places people look is exercise, and if your work is exercise, so much the better.

I came into the undertaking of running a sustainable farm much the same way. Five years ago, I expected that working on Innisfree on the Stillwater everyday would function as a gateway to the weight loss I had struggled with for years.

I was wrong.

In fact, for the first three years I worked here, I gained weight, so much so that I put on another 20 pounds in the first two years I was here. What happened?

It turns out that’s a complicated question that I can only attempt to sum up. In basic terms, my body wasn’t ready to lose weight yet because some other things needed to change first. In specific, my diet needed to change before farm work could help me lose weight. As counter-intuitive as it was at the time, That’s what it ended up taking for me to start losing.

Since then, the work I do on the farm has functioned to help drive the weight loss, but it wasn’t the first reason, and still is not the primary reason, I am losing.

DLH

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Worldview: Seven Stone: an Update

A couple of years ago, I announced to the world that I was actively trying to lose weight and increase my overall level of fitness. That pursuit has taken me down paths I did not anticipate and that not a few people thought would not work.

Nevertheless, over the past month, I have stepped on the scale three times to have it show me under 300 pounds for the first time in years. That means, over the last two-and-a-half years, I have lost 35 pounds and, more important to me, consistently kept them off. That may not seem like a lot to some people, but for someone who has struggled with his weight most of his adult life, it’s a fact that borders on a miracle.

I grant that I have a long way to go, but it is good to see that the process I imagined actually worked and appears to be continuing to work. I will document that process here for anyone who might care.

DLH

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Worldview: What’s my hangup? A redux

The combination of reading my brother’s excellent blog on his fitness exploits–among other things–and my own recent bout with shitty health have me thinking a lot about health and fitness and whatnot. I watch all sorts of people do things like Crossfit and run marathons and, despite the fact that I know I need to do something, I know for a fact those things aren’t it.

Why?

I already touched on some of those reasons the last time I visited this topic, but I do not think I cut to the core of them. I really have one reason that trumps all the others, I think. First, I will disclaim by pointing out that I understand that almost none of these things may apply to anyone else but me. Second, I ask that the people who may see what I am saying here as excuses or rubbish to consider what I am saying without preconception.

That said, my biggest problem with traditional exercise (yes, even modern routines like Crossfit follow a traditional model in my book) is that the effort itself lacks a necessary layer synergy that I apply to almost everything I do. By synergy, I mean using one task to accomplish as many things as possible in the doing.

For example, I see someone biking or running or carrying something heavy, and I get they’re doing it because they want to feel better and so that they’re better at doing other stuff when they’re not biking or running or carrying something heavy, yet I cannot help but think, “Where are they going or couldn’t they be using that effort to move or build something?”

That may seem like something of a trite response, but the fact is that the lack of synergy I see there is everything to me. For me, if I’m going to bike or run–actually, walk for me–or carry something heavy, I want to be creating things, not expending effort for what I see as the sake of expending effort.

So, why am I not doing that already?

Frankly, because I’m not at a point in my fitness where I am able to do so, or so I tell myself. The fact is that’s not really true. Instead, the fact is that I’m simply not doing things I should be doing out of habit, laziness, and whatever else it is that drives people to avoid doing what they know they should.

So, what?

Perhaps this mea culpa is my own effort to jump start myself by returning to this nagging conversation and to, perhaps, inspire other people struggling with similar things to see that there is more than one way.

We shall see.

DLH

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Worldview: An Open Letter to the Wizards of Smart

A guest post by Pete Hitzeman

 

Dear educated so-and-so’s of every stripe,

We need to have a heart-to-heart. I admire the years of work and dedication you’ve put into getting where you are. I know, from my own intellectual and professional pursuits, how difficult, expensive, and time consuming your journey from layman to expert has been. I acknowledge without hesitation that your expertise does now and shall always exceed my own in your chosen field, and I am most often happy to pay you for the use of your advice or services.

That said, I need you to understand that I may know more about my situation and circumstances than you, and I may be far more educated on the topic at hand than you at first assumed. Just because I am a layman does not mean I am illiterate, and we now live in an age of instant, free access to virtually all of the amassed knowledge of mankind, which can be usefully navigated with a healthy dose of common sense and discernment. This recent revolution should be seen and utilized as the boon it is, rather than scorned and disregarded as noise.

I realize that this leads to an obvious problem. How can you tell me, the person who takes the time to know about things, from the other four hundred people you might see each day who simply don’t care? Well, at the risk of sounding trite, ask me. I want you to spend the first five minutes of our professional relationship talking to me, finding out what I know, and filling in what I don’t. You certainly have enough experience on the topic to know, in short order, whether I’m speaking from a point of sound knowledge, or simply blustering. It may seem frustrating and needless at first, but I promise you that it will save both of us time in the long run, since it will make our future communication far more efficient and effective.

In return, I promise to be open and honest with you about what I know and how I came to know it, as well as what I don’t know. There’s an equal chance that I have received bad information, as that you may have made erroneous assumptions. The truth, as they say, is most often in the middle. I would ask that you react to both my knowledge and my source with respect uncolored by your experiences with the customer before me. I am not them, just as I trust that you are not the same as the last professional I engaged, who fancied themselves as the sole arbiter of scientific knowledge.

So when I come to you to help me fix my car, or my computer, or my body, or my diet, or my exercise, I ask that you would do us both the favor of establishing a baseline of mutual respect and knowledge. We will both get more out of our interaction, and our business, that way.

Respectfully yours,

Cephas

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Worldview: What’s my hangup?

So, I’ve been having this running battle for a while now about exercise. There are a not small number of people who have concluded, and not without justification, that I am opposed to exercise. While this is not really true, I don’t think I’ve explained myself well enough to help anyone come to a different conclusion.

In the midst of that battle, the issues I have been trying to figure out for myself have been lost in the face of the fact that I am, ultimately, looking to solve my weight and fitness goals in ways most other people aren’t. It’s helpful to layout what I am trying to do in the hopes that the dialog can help me figure out what I am trying to do.

First, let me be clear: I detest the traditional fitness routine most people follow. This is not an indictment of the fact that other people follow it, but the idea of exercising for exercise’s sake offends me on a level that has proven, given my state of weight and fitness, to be self-destructive. And this is not some kind of arbitrary revulsion. Over the course of years, I have discovered that the traditional fitness routine does not produce the results for me that it does for some people. The result has been that, for the time and effort invested, I see mediocre results, which leads to my secondary problem of torturing myself with all the things I would rather be doing instead of wasting my time with exercise that doesn’t produce results.

Now, some people will say this is a problem of the fact that I haven’t found the right routine, and I agree wholeheartedly. Hence my hangup. I realized years ago that the only way I am ever going to achieve any kind of level of fitness is if my exercise is my work and if my work is the thing I would rather be doing instead of wasting my time with exercise that doesn’t produce results.

In fact, I did that. I am now the proud manager and operator of a sustainable farm that I can assure you presents daily opportunities for activity that can meet or exceed the demands of all but the most extreme exercise routines. It’s such an effective program that last summer I lost nearly 30 pounds.

So, what’s the problem?

If you’ve ever carried a large amount of excess weight, you know that there are two problems to losing it; problems I refer to as hurdles. The first hurdle is losing enough weight that it actually starts making you feel better. How much weight that might be depends on the person and the circumstances, but for me, 30 pounds wasn’t enough yet. Feeling better is probably the most effective motivator out there, so not feeling better becomes its own special kind of demotivator.

The second hurdle is the fact that those first pounds can be very, very hard to lose. This hurdle leads directly back to my hangup: while my job on the farm offers the kind of activity I need–especially once I am more fit–my current level of fitness means that I need more activity than what I am currently able to do on the farm to see results. Achieving that level of activity means exercising for exercises sake.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

What all of these things then mean is that I need to find some sort of way to add the extra activity I need for long enough for it to matter without giving up because I hate it. As of yet, I have not discovered what this activity might be, and so I continue to struggle.

DLH

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Worldview: Seven Stone

While it’s uncomfortable to put such an admission out into the public space, the fact is that over the past decade and a half, I’ve gained a lot of weight. Frankly, I’m downright fat. There have been a lot of causes for this fact, some of which are my own fault and some of which are not, but the fact remains that I am overweight and, as a result, in declining health.

This year, I’ve decided to do something about it, and I’ve decided to share that experience with anyone interested in reading about it. Along the way, I hope that maybe my experience will inspire others to do the same.

I’m calling my effort “Seven Stone”, which is a reference to an old weight standard and the amount of weight I intend to lose. A stone is about 14 modern pounds, and yes, I intend to lose 98 pounds over the course of the coming year.

My method is simple. I bought a membership to the local YMCA to have access to its indoor track and weightlifting facilities. I’ve already been walking for about a week and a half, averaging about 1.3 miles per session and 7 sessions over the past 10 days. I bought a pedometer that connects to my computer and created both a HealtVault and WalkMe account to track my progress in real time. I’m also modifying my diet by dropping the habit I have of eating quick when I need to be eating healthy.

There’s no reason I can’t do this, but to make sure I’m putting it out here for everyone to see. If I fail, you’ll know. If I succeed, you’ll know. And maybe, we can work together to make ourselves better over the coming year.

DLH

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