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.

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.

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

It’s been a while

I figure it’s about time for an update if anyone is still paying attention. This year has been a roller coaster health-wise, but in general things are improving, so there’s that.

Recently, I started to re-engage myself with something I haven’t done in a long time: active accountability. In general, that means making a minimalist list of what I want to accomplish over a given period of time so as to be able to check against that list whether I am doing what I said I was going to do.

Some people will probably nod sagely at that confession, but my style of active accountability isn’t quite what most people do (is anything I do quite what most people do? But that’s a different conversation…). For example, rather than having a notebook or a calendar, I have a private blog. I use that blog as much as a checklist as I do a project management system. I tend to limit myself to five tasks a day, even if I know I have time for more because I realize that the stress of over-expectation is the second biggest reason I don’t get what I plan to done (the first being physical incapacity to do it).

The moral of the story is that I use this system to keep the things I am working on fresh in my mind and focused. I can tend to wander off if I don’t only to discover long periods of time have passed without getting anything demonstrable done. Active accountability helps me stay focused when I won’t otherwise be.

Updating this blog is now part of that accountability. I hope to make at least monthly updates, as much because I promised myself and others I would as because the act of writing is both invigorating and cathartic for me.

More will follow.

DLH

And now, an update

So, it turns out that I haven’t updated here for a while, but it turns out that’s a good thing.

Over especially the past month, my health has remarkably improved in a lot of respects. I am able to be more active than I’ve been in months, I have more stamina, and I am able to maintain my activity over days instead of hours.

Granted, I still get stung with bouts of fatigue, and I’ve managed to gain back all the weight I lost, but those things are currently manageable.

My current view is that, as long as I keep focused on improvement and don’t settle for a steady state, the improvement will continue. For the first time in a while, I believe it may be possible to undo most of what led to this being necessary and maybe even improve on it some.

Let’s hope so.

DLH

A matter of motion

A little over four years ago, I bought a Fitbit One. I bought the device because I was just on the tail end of having lost 65 pounds, dropping from around 340 to 275 over the course of a couple of years. That weight loss was mostly the result of specific dietary changes, especially the near elimination of soy from my diet as the result of an allergy to soy proteins.

My theory behind buying the Fitbit was to help me keep the progress of that weight loss going and to help me achieve a minimum level of fitness. Four years later, that very same device tells a tale, and its not one I wanted to hear.

It turns out, way back in 2013, I did a lot of research into what a “minimum level of fitness” would mean for me. After all that research, I concluded that around 5,000 steps a day, a mere 35,000 steps a week, would meet the goal I was trying to achieve.

Now, I know what the multitude of “experts” say. I read many of them, and I concluded that, and the end of it all, your mileage may vary as far as their expertise is concerned. My conclusions were based on me and my fitness level at the time, and I’m sure, if I had followed my own advice, it would have made a difference.

You see, the story that Fitbit tells me is that, based on my own determinations, I should have walked about 7.5 million steps by around now. Instead, as of today, I’ve walked a mere 2.3 million steps. Even allowing for the fact that I didn’t use my Fitbit at all for six months last year, the fact is that I’ve walked less than half the amount of steps I determined I should have to achieve a minimum level of fitness for me.

The fact is that I am a quintessential example of the modern sedentary lifestyle. Sure, I run a farm, but my physical output comes in fits and starts, and for a while now, not as frequently. And the fact is that this reality starts with not bothering to walk a measly 5,000 steps a day.

It would be easy for me to make some kind of grand pronouncement here about how I’m going to change all that, but I’m not going to. The story my Fitbit tells me is that the changes I need to make to be even minimally fit are hard, and what it is going to take for me to achieve that goal may be beyond my grasp right now.

But, now I know, and knowing is its own kind of power.

DLH

A question of precision

Having medical conditions often means medication, and taking medications often means a level of precision whether we realize it or not. Each medication has its own, often unique, requirements for administration that are often, in some way, in conflict with any others.

Add into this the human propensity for mistakes, and you have a recipe for disaster. In my case, this morning, it was a matter of injecting the wrong dose of my long-acting insulin, to the tune of 22 more units than I should have taken.

In isolation, this is not that big of a deal. I will have to keep extra track of my blood sugar throughout the day to make sure it does not drop too far, and because I can’t afford not to stay on track with my regular doses, I will have to make sure I eat enough calories tonight to see me through until morning.

That said, while I happened to notice this mistake and can compensate for it, I wonder how many times I may have made similar mistakes–taking a once a day pill twice or other instances of taking not enough or too much insulin–since this process began.

The fact is these mistakes pile up. Over time, we can’t help but to make them, and they start to have an effect on our health just as surely as the diseases we are treating. It’s an important thing for patients and medical professionals to consider for anyone battling disease.

As for me, I will redouble my efforts to pay attention. That’s the best I can do.

DLH

When no news is bad news

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but that’s mostly because there really hasn’t been anything new to post. Frankly, I’ve been waiting for the doctor’s appointment I had this morning in the hopes it would answer some questions about the lingering effects I’m experiencing.

No such luck.

It turns out that, all things considered, my test results came back great. My blood serum numbers are fine. My triglycerides and lipids are improving. My cholesterol is better than it’s been in years. My thyroid numbers are a-okay.

That seems like good news, and it is, but it doesn’t explain why I’m suffering such significant fatigue that I can’t even walk to the end of my driveway and back without being done for the rest of the day.

Frankly, I think doctor’s tend to ignore the fatigue complaint because everybody has it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real and not affecting someone’s quality of life. I’m not complaining about my specific medical care so much as I am identifying something I think is endemic to modern medicine.

So, as things stand, I’m improving but also not. It’s all well and good for my numbers to have improved, but the fact is that, until I’m not so easily fatigued, I’m not better. How that improvement might come about remains to be seen.

DLH

Are we awake?

Unfortunately, sometimes we’re awake when we don’t want to be. Insomnia has many and various causes, but for some people the problem is both chronic and enduring.

I’ve struggled with sleep as long as I can remember. For whatever reason, I’m more awake late at night and I tend to hit my stride just about the time everyone else is ready for bed. Being a night owl makes living what most people call a normal life difficult at best.

But the problem is that it’s not just staying up late. My body seems to have an awake switch that, once its turned on, no matter how tired I might otherwise be, I’m awake. There is no real rhyme or reason to that switch. It can stay on for one day, wake me up in the middle of the night, or in my worst circumstances, keep me awake for weeks.

I’ve learned to cope with that kind of insomnia for the most part, but I’ve discovered that it makes recovering from an illness a challenge I did not anticipate facing. Now, in addition to the challenge of being awake at appropriate times, I have to make sure that I am not so fatigued I cause myself further harm.

That said, it is a problem that can be managed. I have to be careful with when and how much caffeine I consume, and I’m discovering that how much, when, and what kind of calories I consume can contribute as well. As with most things, this is a learning experience, and as I learn, I will continue to share what I know with you.

DLH