Breaking Radio Silence:
It’s been a few weeks since my last post, and I have much to tell. This long of a gap in publishing is pretty atypical for me. Frankly, it’s been a few difficult weeks and I have not been very communicative. But now I’m back and I have a fair bit to say, so let’s dig in. The three weeks covered in this Weekly Digest entry are Oct 4-10, Oct 11-17, Oct 18-24.
(Cover image: Ducks that I saw out on a walk!)
Let’s get to the results first off. So as of my last post, I had just hit a breakthrough and lost three pounds. So going forward from there over the next three weeks, I gained 1 pound, lost 1 pound and gained three pounds. So as of now, I am at a net 0 gain or loss over a month. That’s the results – and in my opinion they are unsatisfactory.
In looking over my eating and exercise, I can identify very few things that might -at all- be significantly impactful of causing so little results. Mathematically, as long as I am continuing to adhere to my diet, I should be losing weight. However, here again we are presented with evidence that, often, the body does its own thing. That may indeed be a factor, and so may stress be a factor. Gaining three pounds over the last week came as a total shock. However, having undergone some stressful events, I am not entirely surprised.
Looking at a month of no weight loss and similar difficult results stretching back over the summer has me doing some significant analysis. I’m starting to look for trends, and places where I may be loosening my standards, etc. Here are a few examples:
- Asking myself hard questions about portion control – am I maintaining that or am I allowing myself to eat more?
- Am I keeping the content of my diet as clean as the first year or am I allowing more sweets, sugars, and starches back in?
- Am I working as hard physically to keep myself active or am I returning to a more sedentary lifestyle?
- What outside factors may be impacting my health and interfering with my process?
- Is my barometer of success getting too mired in scale numbers only? What about measurements? What about how I actually look?
I’m starting to butt up against some difficult terrain and I think it will take some re-evaluation of where I am. Questions like those listed above may take me a bit of time to sort through. Inevitably one leads to others and eventually they all lead back to My Fat Brain, and that’s where the real work starts. But its time to make some changes and see if I can’t get the process moving in the right direction again.
The summer has been fun, and while I do feel great, and more athletically capable than I have been since childhood, I do get concerned when the numbers start to not add up. That’s one thing I have discovered about myself….all the columns need to add up. Looking back over the summer, despite high activity levels, I do notice that weight loss has been very up and down, and overall progress through the months is averaging much lower than I would like. I am down around 220 lbs from my starting weight, so that is significant – either my frame of reference and expectations need to change or exploring questions like the above will lead me to process adjustments that will dictate a change. For instance, perhaps expecting 3 pound weight loss weeks is unreasonable. Perhaps .5 to 1lb weeks is where I am at now? I have an initial suspicion that it is a combination of both.
On Ledgers, Spreadsheets and Founding Fathers:
Perhaps my instinctual need for the numbers to align is the legacy of being the son of an accountant? I like to think of one the USA’s founding fathers: Thomas Jefferson. It is said that Thomas Jefferson was a fastidious record keeper. He kept ledgers of every single expense that he incurred. Jefferson was a noted lover of books, and often he could not resist the purchase of interesting books in local shops. He recorded each of these purchases. Really, that kind of record keeping without electronic aid bespeaks a tremendous amount of personal discipline. I really am stunned and impressed by what was accomplished back then. It inspires admiration.
However, the story doesn’t end there. By the way, this is the part that makes me giggle with unrestrained glee every time I think of it: Thomas Jefferson, while he recorded everything, and made a science of record keeping, was also constantly in debt. But why? He was a landowner, ran a plantation, and yet, he still could not turn a profit? Well, as it turns out, our great icon of the American experiment never added up the columns. Yep, let that sink in for a moment. He made records of EVERYTHING …but never bothered to add up the columns so he never had any idea if he had any money or not. I kid you not …that’s how it was.
So right now …at this moment of concern, self-examination, and self-criticism, I recognize that this very process of holding myself accountable lets me do something that Thomas Jefferson never could do. At least I know how the columns add up …and right now, regardless of anything else, I am over 215 pounds in the black. Eat your heart out, TJ.
My Fat Brain: The Mechanism
This could be its own article …and likely will be. But over the last few weeks I have been asking a lot of questions about myself and reflecting quite a bit on how I relate to the world. That has been taking a fair bit of time and concentration and it is partially responsible for my radio silence.
Being obese for all my life creates a condition where you build a shell – a protective mechanism – that lets you deal with the judgement, discrimination and rejection that is levied by society, at-large. It creates a whole series of internal checks and balances, systems, and behaviors that minimize your “risk” and teach you to fly under the radar as much as possible. It impacts the very way you look at life, at yourself, how you partake in life and how you interact with everyone.
My Fat Brain: Uncharted Waters
Now, I am no longer that person, but I have to deal with the mental fallout of that existence. While some elements that create those mechanisms are the byproduct of society, some are the byproduct of my own coping strategies or history. While I may not need those mechanisms anymore, my own brain doesn’t know that. It’s instinctual. It’s ingrained. And it takes serious work to reverse those behaviors. In some ways, the behaviors are even character defining – it goes THAT deep. It’s the kind of thing where if you have never experienced it, you will never understand it.
It’s like when people ask me what I hope for when I reach an ideal weight? Often I answer them rather bluntly with “how would I know? …how can you hope for something you have never experienced and don’t even know exists?” Understanding what life is like as a normal-sized person is completely outside my scope of understanding – and as a result I am flying blind. It’s uncharted waters. And, much to my surprise, I am finding that the real work to get there will likely have to be done in my own head. It’s the last thing I expected.
On the 19th, my mom had a fall and broke her hip. While always a concern for an elderly person, this situation is complicated by my mom’s health, which includes terminal conditions. So an event like this is fraught with concern, worry, stress and desperate hope. She fell on a Saturday and wasn’t able to be operated on until Monday. So for the first week, my days and evenings were mostly spent at the hospital. Often answering questions for mom and being there for her rare moments of lucidity (due to the heavy narcotics for pain) it made for some very long days and some great worry.
Mom has achieved a delicate balance between her quality of life and her terminal condition. She’s been happier and more active than I have seen her for years and maintaining that balance post hip surgery has been paramount. To that end, significant physical therapy is underway. I remain very hopeful and confident in her inner strength. She can do this. One last word – the 6th floor Orthopedic nurses are awesome at Methodist Hospital – Full Stop.
Confronting the health situation with mom and how that triggered my own crisis mode reactions, made me recognize the interconnectedness of how our emotional health is tied to aspects of My Fat Brain and all the corresponding dark corners in which we hide our secrets.
In short, self-image is not just shaped by society, it’s shaped by history, by our upbringing, by what we are raised to be, how we are taught, what we learn through experiences, and by how we see ourselves or what we want for ourselves. Recognizing that fact and how it plays out in real time has made me confront some history and familial patterns – and recognize that they might have shaped me in ways that I’m not happy with or are contributing factors to some of the hurdles I deal with along this journey. The “big picture” is so very big and it has a long memory. The totality of it can be overwhelming.
So rather than going through everything over 3 weeks, I’ll keep it simple. The caloric totals were good! The contents of those calories were questionable in some cases. You know my weakness by this point …crackers, cheese, tortilla chips and peanut butter. That about sums it up. In terms of alcohol, I had one glass of wine and one beer over three weeks. Overall, the intake looks pretty good by the numbers:
- Week 1: High for calories was 1507 – all other days between 1400-1500.
- Week 2: High for calories was 1511 – all other days between 1400-1500.
- Week 3: High for calories was 1512 – all other days between 1400-1550.
So the amount of calories looks good as they have been recorded. I would likely want to clean up the calories in terms of what they are comprised. I, likely, would benefit moving to less calorically dense selections in some cases and being more cognizant of dressings, butter, etc. Focus on clean calories. Additionally, monitor my portion sizes with extra caution to ensure they haven’t crept up in size while I have been continuing to record things per what I established initially.
Well it’s now cold here so the biking is about to stop completely, much to my disappointment. Despite that I am attempting to augment my activity with the elliptical and free weights again. Let’s look at the three weeks:
- Week 1: (Dedicated activity 6 out of 7 days) Biking: 40 miles, Elliptical 20 min warm up sessions x 2, Free weight work out sessions x2, walking: 3.3 miles
- Week 2: (Dedicated activity 6 out of 7 days) Elliptical 30 minute sessions x2, Elliptical 20 minute warmup x2, free weight sessions x 2, Walking: 9.8 miles
- Week 3: (Dedicated Activity 5 out of 7 days) Biking: 25 miles, Elliptical 40 minute session x1, Elliptical 15 minute warmup session x2 , Free weight session x2
Overall, the exercise activity levels look pretty decent. I do feel like it has dropped off a bit since summer and I am not as generally active as before. I would like to make a better effort to be up and doing things even when I am not exercising. Day to day activity is an important part of being productive and keeping the progress going.
My Take Away:
It’s been a very complex three weeks. I’m not sure where to start. In part, my take-away from the last three weeks has been largely about finding answers of one kind or another. All of the emotional and identity work will be ongoing, and is part and parcel with losing this much weight. I think there are a lot of folks out there that have experienced similar struggles when changing their life this dramatically. It’s not unrealistic to expect that any of us that go through this will face these challenges. My goal is just to keep plowing my way through the wilderness and making progress.
With regards to the mechanicals …it’s pretty straightforward. I need to step back and reaffirm my commitment to doing this right. Not that I haven’t been – but take a couple weeks to check my portions, ensure I am backing off on caloric-ally dense foods, focus on eating cleaner and better, and continuing to be active.