Weight Report and Some thoughts on Depression

IMG_20150913_070233When I returned to my program, on September 6, 2015, my weight had gone back up to about 278 lbs. (about a 23 lb. increase, with most of it after rotator cuff surgery). I remember it being within a pound or so of that, but didn’t take a photo. Part of the reason for not taking a picture is that I wanted to get back into fat burn and properly hydrated before reporting my weight. The reason for waiting until properly hydrated over several days is because (as I reported in the past) my weight will differ by as much as 5-7 lbs. Inflammation, as joints and organs hold water to maintain proper function adds weight. There is also the additional weight of a full bowel—sorry to share that.

This past Sunday (September 13) I weighed in at 266.8 lbs. This might seem like a large drop for just one week—which it is—except that it likely includes additional loss for the above reasons. However, I usually lose very fast on this program, at least for the first few months. After several months my metabolism will slow down to compensate for the long term calorie count. But in the first few months my body happily burns major fat.

A couple days in, I stopped feeling any hunger pains. There was the occasional grumbling tummy, but that will come and go any time. After three days, I was in fat burn and my energy levels were back up. My motivation is high and I am very pleased with the program. This actually brought up some thoughts about another time I tried to go back on program.

Last spring, for various reasons I decided to go back on program and, a week or so in, I became terribly depressed. It really came on suddenly. It was also quite extreme. That is one of the reasons I dropped off the radar blog-wise. It got bad enough, that I thought I might need to seek help. I’ve used traditional and over the counter methods for years to counteract depression, and they usually work very well (I’ll share some later). This past spring nothing seemed to work, except for dropping off of program. Even that only brought me out of “the deep dark”, into the “not as deep and dark.” I was still fairly depressed. There was an element of it that continued until recently. This helped me to figure out what happened.

Low Carb diets can affect our serotonin levels and cause lowered moods—and for some even a depressive mood.  I don’t want to say it can cause depression, because depression is something medical. If you suspect depression, see the doctor. I can talk about moods and recommend ways to improve those, but really am not offering advice on depression. I am only offering what I have learned about myself. Please take it in that spirit.

I went back on program right about the same time that there were some new stresses in my professional and personal life. Those stresses and the program joined up with it being the time my doctor lowered my testosterone dose by a third to see if my body would make up for it. It didn’t. Instead I got very low on T-level, and only recently found that out by my latest blood tests (I’ll share some of what I’ve learned about testosterone later). The doctor recently raised my dose back up and confirmed this as the cause of my symptoms.

One problem with health, and trying to return from an unhealthy state, is that there are so many different factors. One thing good for you can actually compound with something else. These together can have an undesirable effect. Throw in three or four changes together and your world can seem to come apart. Take things slow. Don’t try to improve everything at once. We want everything to be undone immediately and to return right away to that healthy young man or woman we once were. The thing is, I didn’t get to be over 400 lbs. with all the health issues I had overnight. It took decades to get there. I hope it doesn’t take decades to fix it—especially since I am not so sure how many decades I have left. The thing to remember is that my goal may be total health. But that is long term goal over the distant horizon. My goal today is to be healthier than I was yesterday; healthier than I was last week; healthier than I was last month; healthier than I was last year…

Advertisements

New Doctor and Med Changes

Visiting the doctor is very different from what it was a year ago. It used to be that the doctor would look at his chart, look at me, look back at the chart, shake his head and mumble before beginning the lecture of how I was shortening my life and how badly I needed to lose weight. It was always the same. Today, I had to see the doctor to get some meds refilled. Because of insurance changes I was changing doctors so this was a new one. As part of getting my medical history, it was necessary to walk her through everything that has happened over the last few years and the changes that have occurred during within the last ten months. I just love the shocked look on people’s faces when I show them the photo on my license which was taken when I was still over 400 lbs.

The interesting thing was when we went through the usual questions about current condition. My A1C and cholesterol are fine. I am off my C-PAP. I went off of one blood pressure medicine months ago. My testosterone shot volume has been reduced. I am lighter, healthier, and much more energetic. All these are things I’ve shared here before. I haven’t even had a gout flare in a couple months. During the conversation, the doctor asked if I have any medical complaints I needed to talk to her about. This was the first time that I had to think for quite a while to come up with something. I finally remembered the pain in my elbow from lifting, and she recommended an over-the-counter cream—I just used it and it worked wonders. There was really nothing else to discuss but the changes she was making to my final blood pressure medicine—my blood pressure had dropped lower than it should, showing I was now overmedicated.

I’ve been on Lisinopril for years. My dosage kept creeping up until they added HCTZ to it. Then they doubled my intake to twice a day. About a year before starting my health journey, the doctor added Amlodipine once a day, trying to keep me from stroking-out. Then came the change—no, not menopause. I started my health changes and after a few months the doctor dropped the Amlodipine. Today, my new doctor removed the HCTZ and cut my Lisinopril dosage by twenty-five percent.

I don’t remember doctor visits ever being so fun. We talked and I shared what I’ve experienced and learned over the last few months. I also shared the way my life has changed from losing the weight. The doctor paid me two great compliments—I could get used to this. She said I should hang around and talk to her other patients who just don’t seem willing to make changes. She also, when handing me the obligatory reading material, said, “Here’s some information for you to read, but based on our conversation, you could probably write it.”

It is amazing the difference in doctor visits when you take control of your own health and make positive choices. Most doctors go into medicine to help people. They can only help those who listen. They are also greatly limited when so much of our health is determined by our life choices between visits. There is no magic pill/drink/food/shot/operation going to make you healthy. The only thing that will either sustain your health or rebuild it is wise choices. These choices about what you take in (diet) and how much you burn (exercise) have to be made day by day, moment by moment. You have to develop a habit of choosing health.

New Weight and an Italian Dinner

IMG_20141017_075717I haven’t posted anything in a while on the blog. I haven’t gotten bored, neither have I given up, nor have I “fallen off the wagon.” Things have been pretty busy career wise, and I’ve had to put more emphasis in some new directions there—which leaves less time for other endeavors. Of course, one of the biggest improvements to my career has been losing weight. I now have the energy to match my drive giving new joy from my work.

There are several differences over the last few weeks. As I said before, I transitioned off my earlier program onto a different one because my goals have changed from losing weight to building muscle in order to impact my lean mass to fat ratio from the other side.

I’m on what Roman Malkov calls a macrocycling rotation in his book The Carb Cycling Diet. This means I am doing more than one day a week working to build muscle. One or fewer days per week on weight-lifting (a regiment concentrating on weight loss and cardio) is referred to as microcycling.

Here is what I’m doing now:

Monday: Weights—high resistance, low repetitions; higher carb; higher calorie.

Tuesday: Cardio—one hour on the treadmill; low carb; low calorie.

Wednesday: Weights—high resistance, low repetitions; higher carb; higher calorie.

Thursday: Cardio—pool workout; low carb; low calorie.

Friday: Weights—highest resistance, low repetitions; higher carb; higher calorie.

Saturday: Rest—no cardio or weights; moderate carb; moderate calorie.

Sunday: Rest—no cardio or weights; moderate carb; moderate calorie.

Each day I have a protein shake for a meal replacement and on weight lifting days I have two. I still eat six times a day and try to get half my body weight in ounces of water per day.

The scale results are not nearly as impressive as they were on Take Shape for Life and Medifast, but I am looking for different results. My weight is down to 262 lbs. This is a loss of about 4 lbs. over the last month. It’s about 10 or 12 lbs. under the rebound weight that I recorded shortly after changing over. My most important measurements are with the tape. My waist is down two inches and my chest is up about 3 inches. The other day my daughter asked me to print something for her on my computer. I sat down at the desk without a shirt with her standing over me. She looked down and said, “Dad, your abdomen goes down straight from your chest while seated and I can see the muscles in your shoulders.” She was shocked. She didn’t know me as a young soldier—she was born after I got out of the Army and had gained a ton of weight. She had always seen me fat, and was shocked at the transformation.

Keep in mind that transformation is the goal. If the need is to transform the numbers on the scale then concentrate on those. If the goal is other transformations then don’t get worked up over scale results.

I want to share some lessons gleaned from the book Mindless Eating, which I’ve referenced here before. On my weight lifting days I get higher carbs, and can even allow myself carbs that I would previously have passed on. My wife and I love Italian food. One day, a weight lifting day, I decided to take her out to an Italian restaurant—a treat I hadn’t allowed myself in months. I won’t name the restaurant, since they aren’t paying me.

Restaurant meals are usually larger portions than anyone actually needs—unless you are eating at one of the pretentious, sanctimonious, hoity-toity eateries, which my wife and I wouldn’t be caught dead in. Besides large portions, the restaurant we went to, like most, would serve in courses, so I would make decisions about multiple courses. Thanks to Mindless Eating, I’ve started doing such meals like this:

The meal would include several course options:

Bread

Beverage (Could be alcoholic, or sweet, or neither)

Appetizer

Salad (Keep the dressing in mind)

Entre (high carb, or low)

Dessert (Sweets, fruit, etc.)

Mindless Eating recommends you take such a list and pick three or four. I did a form of this, but adjusted volumes and options by carb content of each choice.

I would only consider Italian food on a high carb day, but I still had to watch it. Carbs would be the driving force behind my choices. My entre was going to be higher carb—we had already decided to split a pasta dish. This meal would give me more carbs, but splitting it with my wife kept the carbs and calories down. One point on pasta: from what I’ve read, if cooked properly pasta has a lower glycemic index than other wheat products because ungelatinized starches are trapped in a web of gluten if cooked al dente. While the GI is low, one still has to keep down the amount to avoid a high glycemic load.

Since my meal was higher carb (and contained wheat) I decided to have no bread. I also chose to refrain from an appetizer because all of the options were breaded and fried. I also did this so I could have a bit more freedom on my choice of salad dressing—I wanted Ranch, and some places add sugar to it. I also wanted to allow myself to have a few of the croutons with my salad.

For beverage, I chose unsweetened tea (my go-to drink in restaurants). Had it been later in the day, I might have had a vinaigrette dressing and ordered a glass of wine. The alcohol can disrupt the system as it switches from burning fat to metabolizing the alcohol to clear it from the system. However, once the alcohol is clear it quickly returns to burning fat. Like most things moderation is called for, but when trying to lose weight moderation usually means abstaining. You make the choice. Now, if I were on a low carb day, wine would not have even been an option, but of course we would not have considered Italian food either. On weight lifting days I am not trying to burn fat or lose weight. On those days I’m trying to build muscle. However, keep in mind that even on those days excessive alcohol can be a problem because your system uses testosterone and Human Growth Hormone in the muscle building process and excessive alcohol can reduce testosterone production—sucks huh? Allowing yourself a glass of wine is one thing. Allowing yourself a bottle of wine is totally different.

Some might look at this and think, “That’s just too much to think about!” The point is that one of the biggest problems with our health is eating with little or no thought. If we just eat without any thought we eat too much, too often, too imbalanced and just too wrong. That might be acceptable if you have the health and metabolism to handle it. The problem is that when we get out of balance and our health deteriorates thoughtless eating just makes things worse.

Update on Hydration

Water_glassOver the last two weeks, I had a bad problem (as I reported on Friday) with getting dehydrated over the weekend. I figured this was the cause of my weird scale results. I’d weigh on Friday and be lower than the previous week showing my weight moving steadily, though slowly, down. However, on Monday I would weigh as much as ten pounds heavier and this number would only slowly lower over the week, until I was once again on Friday or Saturday below my previous weight.

As I reported previously I assumed it was likely due to getting dehydrated over the weekend. I noticed during the week the weight going back down seemed to be tied to water intake. This weekend I set myself the goal of staying well hydrated all weekend. It can be a bit hard on Sunday morning—leaving the pulpit during my sermon to pee would not look good, after all. However, I was able to get plenty before church and after.

I’m happy to report there have been no great scale fluctuations over the weekend and this morning I am one pound lighter than I was on Friday. This brings me down to 274 lbs. I’m not counting on this weight too much though because my official weigh-ins are still on Friday. However, since I changed nothing over the weekend but the amount of water I consumed, this confirms—in my mind—the importance of, and benefits of, proper hydration. Make sure you are getting plenty of water. If you see weird things happening on the scale or in your body, look first at your hydration to see if you need more water.

Self Image, True Image

IMG_20140808_075551This week was a full one. If I hadn’t lost weight, I wouldn’t have really been surprised. Still, I stepped on the scale this morning for my official weekly weigh-in time. I weighed 281 pounds. You’ll notice on this and past weigh-in reports that I ignore the decimal (.6 in this case). I do this because it is easier to simply round down to the nearest whole pound. Worrying about fractions of a pound would just be even more anal than I can already be (I have a maddening touch of OCD). I do use these however through the week. It can be helpful when weighing the same over several days. This would easily be a worry, but then looking at the decimal helps (for example), “Oh! I did lose weight. I lost 8/10ths of a pound.” It can be a great assurance that the program is still working and a reminder not to worry too much about the numbers on the scale.

I am finding something interesting about my mental state. I still see myself as being that fat guy I was at the beginning of this diet. (I know many will be offended by the use of the word “fat.” I wasn’t hefty! I wasn’t big-boned! I was fat and saying anything else is a hurtful lie, meant to make the one speaking it feel better. A lie helps no one but the liar!) People often ask me what I currently weigh and out of habit I keep accidentally adding an extra 100 lbs. to it. It is hard to think of myself as being under 300 because I was above that number for over a decade.

This is helpful though. For a long time I never could lose any weight. Actually, I didn’t try very hard. Mental self-image can be very powerful. Eating disorders are closely tied to self-image. We hear often of those suffering from anorexia, though little more than skin and bone, who still see themselves as fat. They may look at the same image we see and they will see that image very differently. If you don’t think self-image is fragile and yet very powerful just try telling a pregnant wife that she is getting heavy. Get ready for water-works, and then be prepared to spend the rest of that pregnancy apologizing and complimenting her. I was lucky because in my wife’s culture heaviness in a woman, especially when pregnant, was seen as a good thing. She was pregnant and I would tell her, “Look how fat you are getting,” and she would break out a huge beaming smile. It would just make her day, because her cultural self-image completely changed the way she felt about herself in this regard. Of course, Western media has changed that even in her homeland.

Self-image can have powerful effect. All the time I was so heavy, I only saw it when looking in the mirror. When I walked away from the mirror, my mental self-image was the young trooper I once was. I didn’t see myself as fat. It wasn’t until I finally developed a more realistic self-image that I was able to come to term with my need to lose weight. A false self-image can be quite destructive. If you see yourself as worse than you are then you are handicapped. If you see yourself as better than you are then you simply have a different handicap.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not espousing the modern self-image (“You’re OK; I’m OK; we’re all OK”) garbage. The self-image that is needed is not a false bad image or a false good image. What is needed is a truthful self-image—one that sees the self truthfully and without distortion. “The truth will set you free” includes the truth about yourself, good or bad.

A few years ago, my self-image finally changed to what I actually saw in the mirror. It was a crushing blow. I looked at myself one day and said, “What the hell did you do to yourself!” I was ashamed. Before you do what many others have done and say, “Oh, don’t be ashamed. Don’t be so hard on yourself,” understand that shame is a very powerful and necessary force in human interaction. There is a place for it. I am not one of those people who try to spare everyone from ever feeling bad. Some people should feel bad and doing so is the only way a change will happen. I am not saying that others should heap shame on another (thought there is a time for that), but am saying that it is important for an individual to be able to look at themselves and experience shame when appropriate. Imagine if a young man willfully hurt someone and felt no shame about his actions. Such a child would be monstrous. Shame is helpful and useful. To deny that is just another lie.

I had to get to where I was ashamed by what I saw in the mirror before I would change my eating habits. If you have a friend or family member who has an eating problem, I would never recommend you try to shame them into changing—that can be very cruel. However, if they are developing their own sense of shame over what they have done to themselves, do not be the nice guy who says, “It’s OK. You don’t look that bad. But you have such a nice personality.” Let them experience the shame and ask them, “OK, you feel this way about yourself. Now what are you going to do about it?”

I simply wallowed in my shame for a long time. I felt I couldn’t do anything about my weight or my health because it was just too far IMG_20140807_203728619gone. I had problem on problem and felt all I could do was live a miserable existence until God mercifully ended my life. To be honest I even wondered if it was better to end it myself. What I needed was to find a way to turn my shame into action. Wallowing in shame is no better than pretending it isn’t there. Encourage the person to turn their shame into a course of action. I had to find a program that would work and work quickly enough to give me hope. I thank God I found that. Interestingly I found it through a friend who was himself on it.

You can help your loved ones who struggle with weight, not by shaming them into it, or by pretending they don’t have a problem. You help them by being honest with them, and by offering solutions.

Weight-loss as Lifestyle

IMG_20140801_072619This is my first official weigh-in after changing my program a little over a week ago. About a week and half ago my doctor asked me to drop off the diet program I was on because of some abdominal pain. He thought I either had gallstones or right-side diverticular disease. Since the purpose of this journey is to build habits through healthy choices, I chose to follow his advice. I decided to drop off the actual program but keep following the principles it taught (eating small meals every 3 hours, low carb, with controlled levels of fat, and lots of fluids, etc.). A couple days later I had continued to lose weight and that was last Friday. I also discovered that my pain was caused by several factors combining with some strong antibiotics the doctor had placed me on. These had given my liver a hit and it had become inflamed. Everything is better now, no more pain.

After that point, I still had a choice—go back fully onto the previous plan or stay where I was to experiment with using the principles I’d learned, without the foods purchased through the program. I chose to keep experimenting with choices to see what would and would not work. The danger was that one of my experiments would drop me out of fat burn and it would take several days of very low carb to get me back into it. I decided to check at least twice a day for a couple days with my Ketostix after each addition. The questions I wanted to answer were several. When I tried and then dropped off a famous low-carb diet back 10 years ago I quickly went on a carb bender and gained back all the weight I had lost as well as an additional 25 pounds. Because of this I wanted to see if I would do the same this time when introducing some new carbs into my routine. I added carrots, Greek yogurt, bananas, as well as the occasional onions. I also wanted to learn how the principles worked with regular store bought food. If the principles are sound, then they should not be material dependent. If the principles work with regular food then the principles are sound (and key to being healthy). If the principles did not work without the packaged foods then the foods were primary and the principles played only a supporting role. Another question I wanted to answer was whether I could actually treat this as a lifestyle rather than a formula. With a formula you follow A to B to C to D and do not waver from this. With a lifestyle you make choices naturally and easily at each step deciding the best route to get from A to D. With a lifestyle you make choices because they fit with the life you are living. With a formula your choices are limited to following the formula or wavering from it. A formula is very effective, especially when first making changes. But it can only be kept up for so long before some variety is desired.

I have been living the principles I learned as a lifestyle for about a week and a half. I have used no packaged foods from my program, but only what I can buy in my local grocery store. Last week I weighed 292 pounds. This week I weighed 286 pounds. I actually weighed lower earlier in the week, but I only take whatever happens on Friday as my official weight. I lost six pounds this week only using the principles I learned and living them as a new lifestyle.

Before you jump to conclusions and think there was no need for any of the other elements of my program—coaching, packaged foods, support network—you are wrong. It was these that helped me to learn the principles I now follow. It was these that made practicing them easy. To try to jump straight into this without that step would have lasted about a week—if that long. I know me well enough to know that early on, if I didn’t have a little box where I could go and take out a package and eat it when the alarm on my phone went off I would have given up long ago. Will I stay off of the packaged items? I don’t know. They are awfully convenient. Besides, I know if following the formula with the packaged foods there is no danger of falling out of fat burn. As it is right now, when I add something new it takes several hours to discover if I screwed up. This wait and the anticipation can be quite discomfiting. I choose to continue this way because I have questions I want to answer and because I want to practice making choices for my health.

I’ve noticed after eating this way for over three months that I no longer crave the things I once craved. I don’t crave potatoes, pasta, bread (though I would still, occasionally, be willing to trade one of my children for a flour tortilla), etc. Last night my wife made chicken for our supper. I asked her how she was going to fix it (in the past she would have fried it). She said she’d bake it because of my diet. I came in the kitchen as we were getting ready to sit down and saw the chicken. It was breaded. I asked her if she had put flour on the chicken. She responded, “No. It’s not flour. It’s bread crumbs.” I got a bewildered look on my face and told her they were ultimately the same thing. She responded, “Well I can’t bake it without putting something on it. I thought you would just scrape it off.” So there I stood over the sink scraping and washing my chicken before I could eat it, even though I was hungry. The interesting thing is that I considered just eating it breading and all, but knowing it would make it harder to make my goal the idea of eating the breading actually repulsed me. I have a weight I want to get to, a level of health I want to return to, and anything that gets in the way of that is not really attractive.

This week’s weigh-in and thoughts

IMG_20140718_133538This week’s official weight is 296 lbs. The last time I was less than 300 lbs. was in 2004. I am now 53% to my goal having lost 88 lbs. on my current program. From my lifetime highest I have lost 129 lbs. total. This number (approximately 130 pounds) has got me to thinking about one of the major problems that comes with being so overweight. I used to hear people often say that all one had to do to lose weight was to eat less and get up and exercise. This is easier said than done.

I was carrying an extra 130 pounds around in fat. Think about what else in this world weighs that much. My wife weighs around 120 lbs. or so. Imagine her carrying a 10 pound weight and me carrying her everywhere I go, every moment of every day. Bricks weigh somewhere around 4 lbs. each. That means I was carrying the equivalent of 32 bricks everywhere I went. Sit in a chair and place 32 bricks in your lap (the general area where most weight is carried) and try to stand up. This should make it obvious that telling a fat person, “Just get up and do something” is either insensitive or cruel. It shows a serious lack of understanding (or caring about) their situation. It is easy for the skinny person to say this, because he has much less to lift.

Now imagine this weight being placed on you whether you want to carry it or not. You can’t escape it. Dropping a brick each week, might look attractive when you only have four or five bricks to carry, but when carrying 35 this looks like it will take forever. It is like looking into a tunnel that is too deep to see the light at the other end. This makes the overweight person depressed. What do people want when depressed? They want comfort. What is the overweight person usually drawn to for comfort? He wants food. It is often the attempt to assuage emotional lack that got the person overweight to begin with.

While it is true that the only way to successfully lose weight and get healthy is to decrease intake of food and increase the burning of calories, telling this to a fat person is like dangling water in front of a parched man. A plan is needed. Support is needed. When those small steps seem to be taking too long, someone needs to help draw the attention to how far the person has come, not how much farther they have to go. Perhaps that person can’t get up right now—you might not be able to if you were carrying along a whole other human being in weight—but can start with decreasing intake. Perhaps instead of telling that person that all he needs is more discipline, or he just needs to do it, you can encourage him to not look to food for comfort. Perhaps you can be a comforter in the place of the food.