Weeks 83 (2/28-3/5) to 90 (4/17-4/23)
It’s been a while since I have put pen to paper. Err… keyboard to screen? …something like that. But I am back to write another update. Not in the same way as before, with all the minutiae and detail and fixation on systems. All those pieces are still in place, but today we don’t need to talk about those things very much – little has changed. Instead I’m going to give you a look inside what has been going on here, how I’ve been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and what changes I’ve seen in my world since this all began. I will also discuss some of the larger trends and hurdles commonly encountered in dieting.
Where I am:
Let’s start with a quick recap. I had been struggling with a series of small nagging injuries and diet issues, the winter blahs, (read: Seasonal Affective Disorder), and a seesaw weight loss result. Over the last 7 weeks, I have endured a couple injuries, and dealt with significant stress and it’s contributed to the most bizarre swings in weight gain and loss. For instance, 4 weeks ago I gained 6 pounds in one week – I was astonished and disappointed. It was crushing. Then the next week- even with attention to diet and exercise – I gained 9 more pounds. That’s 15 pounds in 2 weeks – even though I am watching what I eat, and exercising – totally insane. Then one week later I lost all 15 pounds. It’s beyond mathematically impossible, it’s flat out nutty.
With a relatively consistent diet, and decent exercise routine, the only thing I can point to is stress, injury and the remarkable times in which we are all living. Where I am now is at 218 pounds lost, total. I’m trending down right now, and with no injuries. Let’s hope that continues.
See-Sawing Like A Champ:
Everyone has ups and downs. Everyone deals with weeks where things just don’t go well. If that’s you (and I know it is!) then you aren’t alone. I too deal with this – and have throughout my entire weight loss journey. Like all endeavors, could it be better? Sure …if I have one margarita over a two week period, I could make that better by having NO margaritas. But that’s ridiculous…who doesn’t like a well-made margarita. (Point of reference, my margarita is not bad, but my mojito is world class!) Whether it’s a beer or glass of wine with friends, the occasional snack, a nice evening with comfort food, or something along those lines, you have to find a way to blend a sane life with your goals.
However, sometimes being reasonable isn’t enough when you add in mitigating factors. That’s the hard thing to grasp for me. You can do everything right and still gain in a given week due to outside factors like stress, injury, illness, etc. So don’t sweat the small stuff, and keep that long term goal in mind.
Math Textbooks & Stuff:
I tend to look at things from an analytical or mathematic standpoint. Diets are a combination of inputs. They are, essentially: “calories in – calories out”, but also the quality of the calories matters (200 calories of chocolate is not going to have the same positive effect on your body as 200 calories of vegetables), in addition there are calories that have negative impacts like promoting swelling and water retention (salt, sugar, alcohol), etc. So it’s not just a math equation – it’s a math equation with a whole bunch of ground rules, and mitigating circumstances.
It’s very much like managing a three ring circus, but …the good news is that once you educate yourself on the difference between good foods and bad foods, it becomes much easier to make choices that are good for you. All of this leads up to the one thing that has kept me going: Establishing good habits, a good system, and doing your best to stick to it.
One Size Does Not Fit All:
That’s the other thing I have noticed. What works well for some people just doesn’t work for me. My body reacts differently to input that what other people experience. I think everyone has this experience. Not to sound like a broken record here …but it comes back to having to plow our own road, and find our own way through the dieting adventure. Eventually we all figure out what works best for us, and as we educate ourselves we will eventually broaden our understanding of the topic and that may open more options for developing an effective diet plan for you.
I’ve been absent from the writing desk for some time. About 7 weeks, actually. It’s been very difficult for me to put pen to paper and write anything coherent. Not that I am succeeding here, but at least I am focused enough to peck this out. That’s another area that has been severely impacted lately – focus. Some days I’d want to write, pull up the computer and just sit there staring at the blank page. Many days I knew there would be no point in trying to force it like that so I made myself busy doing things around the house or being otherwise engaged.
What’s really strange about this is that there’s no shortage of topics rampaging through my head that I would love to write about. I have bunches of ideas …and no compass to help me navigate the forests of distraction and other focus-stealing anathema. Instinctually I want to point at multiple things – I had already felt seasonal depression robbing me of motivation and concentration – focus. But then as the overcast skies started to clear from the oppressive Minnesota winter, we had the pandemic. From the frying pan into the fire.
Is this writer’s block? I’m not sure I fully understand what that is. I understand the concept but not the practical impact of it. It feels more like a concentration issue brought on by outside influences. Since I get ideas about what to write constantly, but am struggling to implement those ideas, it’s not really what I understand writers block to be. Perhaps there is more than one type?
Traditionally, I understand writer’s block to be a void of creativity, where the words won’t flow, your vocabulary betrays you, and frustration leaves you unable to generate ideas or content. But that’s not what I feel. I feel like I can’t focus on what I want to say and am easily distracted. That if I were to talk about it on a Vlog, I’d be jumping all over the place and come out sounding crazy. But the process of translating those thoughts to the written word is more focus than I can muster right now.
I often wonder if I were put on a desert island with wicked fast WiFi, my bike and and a gorgeous bike path, a fully stocked gourmet level kitchen, and a good bottle of single malt, if I wouldn’t end up having no issues whatsoever!? For the sake of science *ahem* I’d be willing to submit myself to that experiment. I know, I know …it’s a sacrifice, but I will take one for the team. You can all thank me later.
Covid 19 & Stress:
So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Well, it’s more than just an elephant, really. It’s more like a giant mammoth named “Hermann” wearing neon green high tops, a Hawaiian shirt, with a mullet and listening to death metal at ear-splitting volume. In a world of your garden variety elephant, Covid 19 is definitely a Hermann. Plus it’s a fun visual for when it all gets to be too much. Big Bird has Snuffleupagus. I have Hermann.
The severity and danger of the coronavirus has impacted our society and given birth to a source of stress previously unknown by most of us. It’s coming at us in many forms – not just from being asked to stay home, closing of businesses, an economic and social lockdown, but also in the danger prevalent in the disease itself. Concern over family, friends, acquaintances, and anyone you care about weighs on us all. Uncertainty, lack of answers, lack of leadership on the national level, a general unpreparedness has left many of us feeling vulnerable. Not just to the virus – but fragile in general.
All of these things can contribute to stress, worry and make us frazzled around the edges. I’ve noticed the impact in many small ways – not the least of which has been dietary mood swings, the propensity to reach for comfort food, and seeking mental/emotional shelter in any way that I can. Often that comes in the form of disengaging and seeking light entertainment to avoid obsessing or thinking too deeply about where this whole experience is heading.
An Eye-Opening Experience:
I was able to benefit from a video conference with my mother’s hospice care team, including the hospice doctor. This doctor took the time to explain what new research is coming out about Covid 19, the discussions she and her colleagues are having about it and what it means for those in a vulnerable position.
My take-away was indeed severe – that Covid is showing signs of impacting systems across the board and rests in the lungs as a convenient receptacle of transmission. With the recent news about potential links to strokes in otherwise healthy people, once again we are seeing examples of a broad impact on human systems. It ratchets up the danger level to something well beyond what most people perceive for a virus. Understanding the scope of impact adds a whole new level of seriousness to this pandemic and the trickle-down from that knowledge is whole new level of concern for people that are vulnerable. It also reinforces the fact that it’s not just a highlighted vulnerable population that is at risk – it’s all of us. No, that’s not alarmist. It’s what current medical research is telling us.
Is Change In The Wind?
I won’t bother restating much of the obvious about the dangers and impact of Covid 19 but just forward this idea: Covid 19 has impacted the world and changed the way we live our lives. I’m certain there are those that just don’t believe that we are in for permanent change and everything will go back to the way it was before. There are plenty of science deniers here in the United States that simply don’t think this is any worse than the flu. And in some areas, change will come slowly.
This country, by it’s very nature, is made up of vastly different views, opinions, religions, belief systems, and philosophical approaches to nearly everything. I respect that, indeed, I would say that is a strength of the United States. It is through our diversity that we can bring the best of everyone to the table to help solve issues. Whatever happens going forward, eventually we will land in a place that likely works for this country – whether that is fostered by government or developed in the field, by the population.
What Will Change Look Like?
So with all this variety – what will change in our country? The first thing I think of is high school. When I was in high school there was a social studies teacher named Phil Abalan. I remember that Mr. Abalan had a tendency to stand very close to you when speaking. I think this was a byproduct of family heritage, possibly ethnic origin. But for a Minnesota Scandi, it was well-inside the comfort zone.
Understand, that Minnesotans would look at the 6 foot social distancing distance as “ohh …are ya sure that’s far enough?” We’re an odd people like that, but my point is that social distances like what Phil Abalan often employed are likely a thing of the past. I can see us naturally standing further apart when talking. People may naturally wait for a less-full elevator car. Handshaking may take a severe downturn in popularity. Masks will become a much more normal sight in this country.
It will take a long time for people to feel comfortable in a crowded restaurant or on public transportation. Some may not be willing to embrace that so easily. Concerts, sporting events, movies – all of these are activities we miss, but I feel like they will be slow to be embraced. In fact, many of them may be permanently changed. Seating arrangements may see a slight revision to cater to comfort levels. Certainly we will see that in the short term. But in the long term? I wouldn’t be surprised if there is still a slight modification that happens. Especially if forecasts hold true about the recurrent nature of this virus. I think the long term changes will be dependent on the course that this virus takes and the impact of ongoing challenges we face as a result.
Random Acts of Kindness:
Not everything is doom and gloom. I know it has felt like it lately – and justifiably so. Watching the number of impacted people, globally and within North America, the spiraling death count, it’s no wonder we might have a pretty dark outlook.
I think all of us likely vacillate between a more reasonable outlook that focuses on doing what we can and being hopeful to moments when we feel lost, or abandoned…and hope is at a premium. I was dealing with fairly significant swings in this regard until I started seeing signs, when I was out on a walk, that other people were feeling the same way.
Small acts of kindness were occurring through written messages on walks, decorations left on walking paths, and painted rocks left in random places with messages of hope and love. I have walked that path many times, and not seen things like this. It’s definitely something that has started to take place here as a result of what we are all going through. It seems like such a small thing, but it made me stop, appreciate it…and smile. In that moment I didn’t feel alone. I felt warm and it lingered throughout the day. Such a small thing, yet such a large impact. It gave me a momentary insight into the goodness inherent in people. I felt reassured that some people do still care. It gave me, perhaps, the most precious thing I needed in that moment: Hope.
You know, one of the byproducts of everyone staying home as been some of the remarkable changes we have seen to the environment. Smog and pollution levels dropping globally, the air clearing around big cities, streams and rivers clearing and even the canals of Venice seeing a stunning drop in pollution and increase in clarity. While this pandemic has been really hard on people, it’s clearly given the environment a break. It’s refreshing to observe resilience in nature and, by example, know that we too can recover from this pandemic. I’d love to see that trend continue. I’d like, very much, to see a better world as a result of people making an effort not to mess it up. It appears as though the world will repair itself, to a degree, if only humans would let it. That’s a pipe dream perhaps – but all dreams start somewhere
A New Routine:
With the stay-at-home order and from an abundance of caution, my life has changed significantly with the pandemic. I’m the primary shopper for my house and considering the vulnerable status of my dad, go to great lengths to exercise effective risk management. That means I’m anal as all hell about cleaning and disinfecting everything that comes into the house, including me.
When I come home from shopping I wipe down and disinfect all the groceries before they come in the house, discard the bags from the store, and transfer all the newly disinfected groceries to bags for transport into the house. I have set up a staging area in my garage so I can unload the car, a bag at a time, disinfect and load up a transfer bag to actually go into the house. I end up washing my hands multiple times in certain stages of the process and even cleaning door knobs, handles, steering wheels, tables, counters….everything. I do wear a mask or a shemagh/keffiyeh when I go shopping, and that virtually the only time I leave unless I am going for a walk or bike ride. Cabin fever, you wonder? Oh yeah.
I have used some of this time at home to play guitar more often. It feels good to knock some of the rust off my chops. It’s amazing how much I enjoy it and starting to play more has reminded me of that fact. I’ve taken up watching videos from pedal and amp makers, learning some circuit design principles, and tinkering with the idea of building some of my own pedals just for fun. You’re never too old to learn, and learning is something that makes me feel alive. There is a visceral thrill to learning something new – it feels like an accomplishment and I walk around thinking of ways to employ that new knowledge. The electronics workbench will be busy over the next year or so, I predict.
“On the Road” and Other Closing Thoughts:
So before I go on and on, let’s get to the closing thought here. That is this: I hope, that through this experience, the time has taught many of us to slow down, and determine what is really important in life. I hope that we look at life differently now – that our expectations, values and priorities change to reflect what we feel in our hearts. That a simple hug becomes more important and contains in it a message of trust and love. There are a handful of friends and family that I just want to give a big hug. It’s something I miss, and that simple act is something I won’t be taking for granted in the future
I have a favorite quote that somewhat fits this situation which I attribute it to Jack Kerouac, but for the life of me I can’t find any proof he said it. It goes like this “the road is not made up of cobblestone and concrete, but of the people we meet along the way.” To me, this highlights what I am talking about. The point of a journey is not always to arrive, nor is the point of departure to return. (Ok, that’s Neil Peart, I think) It’s about finding those things that matter the most to us and placing our time, value, and energy into embracing and celebrating those things.
This journey, any journey, is less about where we arrive than what we learn along the way. It’s my sincerest hope, that for all of us, we take something from this experience and use it to enrich our lives in some way, find meaning and purpose, and emerge as a better version of ourselves. Be well and stay safe, friends.