Adjustments needed to be made even during this month. I started getting leg cramps in the morning. Nasty ones. Felt like the leg was suddenly trapped in a plaster cast with its own vice attachment. After that, I started adding a banana to breakfast a few times a week.
Soon decided that with the reduced calories, I might soon be lacking some nutrients. Started taking a multivitamin daily. Also began taking fish oil capsules in the hopes it would help my cholesterol levels.
Leg cramps wouldn’t be my only problem. Once I reached the level of thirty pounds lost, the real fun began…
(In case you didn’t get it, that last line was sheer sarcasm…)
It was just an ordinary Friday. Busy, busy, busy. I was printing air waybills, making copies, the usual.
The unusual part: Every time I got up, I almost passed out. At first, I thought I was just tired, but the dizziness got worse as the day went on. By early evening, I was standing upright by sheer willpower. I had no real energy to speak of.
Not sure how I made it home, but I did get there. Finally occurred to me that I should take my blood pressure. Grabbed my cuff; don’t recall the reading but it was much too low. Think the diastolic was in double-digits.
Now, the smart thing here would’ve been to get myself to my doctor’s office ASAP. Never said I was that smart. So as not to miss an important work period, I didn’t go. Figured instead that my weight loss was leading to a lesser blood pressure. As a result, I felt I was now over-medicated. Following the accounting theory of LIFO – Last In, First Out – I chose to eliminate the most recent addition to my medication list.
You really shouldn’t ask how my accounting grades were, either…
Ok, I’m semi-kidding here. Dropping the extra dose of the Lisinopril combo brought the pressure back up to normal. The problem was I immediately gained two pounds.
Reconsidered the plan and realized that with the loss of the Lisinopril dose, I also lost the diuretic portion of that program. I brought back the Lisinopril, lost the Hytrin, lost the pounds, and still kept the blood pressure levels within the acceptable range.
Finally got myself to the doctor to see if he’d sign off on that plan. Surprisingly, he did. Also ordered a few more blood tests. Great results this time.
Another side effect that no one tells you about is that you spend a lot of time in the bathroom. A lot of time.
Ever wonder where the fat goes when you burn it off? So did I. When I eventually got around to looking up the answer, it came up as a two-part answer. Fat breaks down into two components, carbon dioxide and water. One you breathe out. One has you inspecting porcelain on an accelerated schedule…
By now, we’re up around April. Still on-program. I’ve accidentally gone over 1500 calories once or twice. Sometimes it’s hard to do the math in my head even as I’m losing valuable brain cells…
Having lost 47 pounds, and with everyone in my office noticing, I decided to spring a brief April Fool’s joke. “I’m making a 7-Eleven run for some M&M’s, anybody want anything?”
The looks and sounds of horror and disappointment…it was a beautiful thing. Wish I had a camera. Yes, I can be such a cruel bastard sometimes…
The next notable milestone occurred at the 60-pound mark. Another busy day at work, up and down making copies…any of this sound familiar?
Yep, the blood pressure dropped again. This time the Atenolol went away. The doctor agreed.
I moved to a new apartment in mid-June. Was down about 83 pounds at this time. All lost via diet only. Still kept to the four rules.
This new apartment has a 24-access fitness center onsite. I started using it. Didn’t really want to, even though that’s part of the reason I moved here. Always intended to never work out again after I was done playing basketball. Figured I needed to start exercising to complement the diet routine. Burn off some calories and accelerate the metabolism, if you will.
I’d hit a bit of a plateau following the move. I’d lost water weight in the double digits while moving; over the next couple of weeks it all came back to the 83-pound level. Not exactly a move I welcomed. Therefore, it was past time to hit the treadmill.
Oddly, the weight didn’t exactly start coming off right away. Even more oddly, I actually gained a couple of pounds at first. Apparently that’s not unusual when starting an exercise program. Not certain why; the most common guess I’ve heard is that muscle mass starts building, but I don’t know that I accept that theory. I’d think more than a couple of weeks would be necessary to throw off the scale that much if muscle increase was the root cause.
Which brings me to something else no one ever tells you: Scales lie.
I know, it makes no sense, but it’s true. They absolutely lie like cheap rugs.
On one Sunday morning – or early afternoon, whatever – I got up, weighed myself, and hopped over to the fitness center. Didn’t drink or eat anything. Worked out for about an hour. My workout clothes were drenched. If nothing else, I certainly should’ve lost some water weight.
Not according to the scale. It said I gained two pounds.
How the hell do you gain two pounds while sweating profusely? Muscle mass doesn’t accrue that quickly. I wasn’t wearing any more on the post-workout weigh-in than I was pre-workout. (No, I’m not going to describe that in any further detail…)
Another time, I was experiencing one of my many bouts of insomnia. Around two am, I decided to weigh myself. Went back to tossing and turning. No food or water from that time until I weighed my still-sleepless self again four hours later. Another gain, probably another two pounds, if I recall correctly.
Now, the sleepless gain, I can almost understand, as I’ve had the reverse result under slightly differing circumstances. I’ve weighed myself in the middle of the night. Weighed again after a couple hours’ sleep to find a slight loss. Maybe four hours of sleep later, a two or three pound loss.
For some reason, sleep is necessary to process the weight mechanism; these anecdotes seem to prove that.
There’s a line that you’ll often hear that you should pay more attention to the way your clothes fit than what the scale reads when you’re following a program. That’s just a polite way of saying what I’m saying.
Scales f***ing lie. So don’t fall into the trap of weighing yourself every day. And ignore the numbers if you’ve got alternative evidence that you’re getting fitter.
Back to the new exercise program; I’ve always lived by the idea that if something is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing. That’s why I don’t drink anymore. That’s how I got so ginormous in girth. That’s why I could get away with eating everything when I was playing basketball every chance I got back in high school.
And that’s how I started attacking the fitness center. I finally started getting some good results. I also started getting into a little bit of distress.
I’ve always hated weights, but I started lifting again. The problem is, there is this one machine that for lack of a better description is a forearm press. Or maybe squeeze. Either way, I put too much weight on it and tweaked my left bicep a bit. Abandoned the weights for a while and focused on the treadmill and the exercise bike. Seemed that the weight came off faster when I wasn’t on the weights, so except for a time or two which confirmed the arm wasn’t quite healed, I didn’t go back to them.
As I got down to the 90 pounds lost milestone, I’d workout hard, get back home, and – say it with me – got dizzy. Yep, the blood pressure was dropping again. This time in the neighborhood of 85/55. Fortunately, this happened at about the time of my regularly-scheduled July checkup.
By this time, my doctor was a bit of a believer in my accomplishments. Even impressed. That didn’t suck, let me tell you…
I was also down to the Lisinopril combo twice daily. Now I didn’t see I had an option to cut that medication down arbitrarily. My thought was, I might not need all the Lisinopril, but I certainly needed the diuretic.
Not so much, apparently. He did order a decrease to one Lisinopril per day. I asked about the diuretic, but he felt I’d lost enough mass that retaining fluids wouldn’t be an issue now. That said, if after a couple of weeks I still felt the diuretic was necessary, we’d go back and reevaluate.
Didn’t happen. Dropped to the one pill, and the weight still kept dropping off. Water weight was really no longer an issue.
Kept on the treadmill regularly. Let me tell you, though, nothing sucks more than spending an hour or so on exercise machines listening to nothing more than the sounds of footfalls and gasping for one’s breath. I highly recommend a distraction during workouts. My preference is to strap on my mp3 player and crank up my personalized workout playlist. Mostly high-energy rock and roll with a driving beat to help boost the adrenalin. I especially favor KISS; specifically the “Alive IV: Symphony” album, featuring the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
Speaking of KISS, I went to Vegas in late August to attend
one of the four concerts they gave in the
Here at home, I had complete control over what I ate. In Vegas, not so much. It was going to be restaurant food, by and large. Plus, I was certainly likely to be up at all hours of the day and night, no real schedule to speak of. The only thing set in stone was I had to be at the concert at 9 pm the Friday before Labor Day. All other bets were off.
This needed some planning. I decided I could control at least one meal a day; so I packed my own breakfasts. A trail mix of sorts, measuring about 500 calories. I started with a relatively high-protein granola that I like, added a serving of mixed nuts (heavy on the pistachios) and banana chips which I personally prepared in my dehydrator. I absolutely loathe industrial-made banana chips. Those things taste like cellophane and cardboard…bleah…
I also stayed in a hotel off-strip that had its own fitness center, free of charge to guests. I worked out at least a half-hour every day I was there. For that matter, working out was the first thing I did after I checked in. First time I’ve ever been in Vegas that searching out the poker room wasn’t my first order of business. (And given how much I lost, that should’ve been my only order of business…but I digress…)
When ordering meals, I tried to stay protein-heavy, though I must admit to a couple of aberrations in my food intake. I ate a couple of salads. To me, salads are what actual food eats. I’ll maybe have one salad a year, but this trip I had at least two. With the dressing on the side. Amazing how little you can actually use that way; I really didn’t think that was possible.
That was on the positive side. On the negative, I ate potatoes twice. Hash browns with a breakfast ham steak. Left a quarter-portion on the plate. Mashed potatoes with a steak dinner. Left maybe half on that plate. Knew I shouldn’t have eaten either of them, but after six or seven months virtually without, they were sooooo good…
I also came periously close to breaking my after-midnight rule for the first time. I was on Fremont Street playing a tournament at Binion’s (I came so close to cashing; if I’d made it to the money there, I probably would’ve opted not to play so much and so badly the last two days - and made it home with a profit); went over to another casino world-famous for its cheap shrimp cocktails. As I popped the last shrimp in my mouth, glanced at my watch and saw it was straight-up midnight.
Kept tabs on my blood sugar during the trip; when I left I was down a total of 112 lbs. Got back home, weighed in to find that I’d (drumroll, please) lost another five.
Hot damn! I was so stressed about screwing up away from home, this was a tremendous boost of confidence.
This continued on until my October checkup, in which I got a big surprise. On checking my daily readings, my doctor suggested I stop taking the Metformin. Which I never thought he’d ever suggest. Agreed to try it for a couple of weeks. Haven’t taken one again to this day.
At about this time, I actually reached my 120-pound goal, nearly two months before Thanksgiving. Also achieved something I never thought possible; I bought clothes. In stores that didn’t have the words “Big and Tall” in their names.
Clothes that didn’t have stretch bands in the waists. No “loose-fit” cuts. There isn’t much that makes me cry. I almost cried that day. The sense of accomplishment and frankly, disbelief, were almost overwhelming.
When I started this program, I was wearing 3X stretch pants. Probably about 52-54 inches around. I certainly couldn’t fit into the 50 inch pants anymore. Once I started losing, I had to start tightening my belt. Literally. I kept cutting holes in it – 15 in all – as it eventually wrapped to halfway behind my back.
Let me tell you, that’s a sight that’ll get you some positive reinforcement from those around you every day. But at that point, even I – who despises clothes shopping – conceded that I needed a change of wardrobe. Back to the big man’s store for a pair or two of 44 inch pants. Ok, they were stretch pants, but still, that was a tremendous accomplishment.
Figured that was about the extent of my waist reduction. For the first time in years, I could actually feel the bones in my waist. Highly unlikely that I’d get any thinner there.
Until I started cutting holes in the new belt. There was a shocker…
Just before the October checkup, the clothes were again too loose. Just for kicks, I thought I’d go to a “regular” store to see how close I might be to fitting into anything on mainstream shelves. Grabbed a pair of 40 inch pants, headed for the fitting room, took a deep breath…and discovered I didn’t need to take that deep breath.
They fit. Easily. No stretch bands. No relaxed fit. Straight cut, 40 inch waist slacks. Which fit me.
That wasn’t the end of it. My shirts weren’t fitting well, either. Most of them were 3XL. I’d accidentally ordered some XL t-shirts on line a few weeks before instead of the 2XL shirts I thought I was ordering. Surprisingly, they’d fit. So, just for kicks, I tried on a large shirt – that’s “L”, no “X” – and it fit. Easily.
I’m not a terribly emotional guy, but I almost got teary-eyed on that shopping trip. Thing is, even when I was up around four hundred pounds, my self-image wasn’t that of a fat guy. I knew I was big, didn’t care, didn’t define myself by my weight.
Only when I started losing did I see myself as really fat. Oddly, even up until that day, I only “saw” the fat guy in the mirror. So when I found that I could now fit in much smaller clothes, there was a complete disconnect between my current self-image and what I’d actually accomplished. Very strange, but nonetheless true.
By Halloween, I’d hit my all-time low, I was down 140 pounds. Now the problems started…
My girlfriend had been sick with colds and a case of pneumonia for a couple of months. By Halloween, I’d finally caught the bug myself. Even though I’d relaxed my calorie restrictions from 1500 to around 1800 per day once I hit 100 pounds lost, I went back to my old thinking that I didn’t want to be undernourished when I was sick. Plus, I started hitting the orange juice. Big time. Plus, I wasn’t overly concerned by my midnight rule. If I needed some orange juice after midnight, I drank it.
Within a week, I was up twelve pounds.
Good news is, after I felt better, I got back on the program and lost it all after two weeks. By Thanksgiving, I was still around 140 – and I fully intended to fulfill part two of my original goal. I’d lost the intended 120, now I was going to have a traditional turkey dinner.
I tell you, dinner was great, but the leftovers are always the best part of Thanksgiving. Come Saturday lunch, I finished off the stuffing and mashed potatoes. Hadn’t had such an influx of carbs in over ten months. I swear, it was like I had a hangover for the rest of the day…
Surprisingly, I only gained two pounds that weekend, even though I was as far off-program as was possible.
Since then, I’ve been holding at between 133-140 pounds lost. At my latest checkup in mid-January, my doctor decided I only needed to come in every six months instead of every three, as I’m still not taking any medication for diabetes. Haven’t shaken the blood pressure medication yet, but that’s next on the list. I also don’t need to check my blood sugar daily; three times a week will do if my levels stay as they’ve been.
To be completely honest, all is not rosy. I’ve only rarely worked out from November to this day. I’m still self-medicating somewhat with food; December was a particularly bad month for that. Received some news in mid-December that was extremely upsetting; that was followed by two weeks of end-of-year stress at work.
On the other hand, I’m typing this paragraph on February 1, 2009. The first anniversary of starting this process. Weighed in this morning down 136 pounds for the year. I’ve had no M&M’s for over a year. No potato chips. No ice cream. Major accomplishments there.
I know I have to get back on track. Right now, I’m not feeling motivated. However, I am feeling fat and bloated again. What little tone I might’ve had, particularly around my gut is about gone. My belt is getting a little tight, and I’ve not come close to poking a hole in this one.
I really don’t know if I can get past the 140 mark. I’m sure if I get back on track, I’ll eventually get off the blood pressure meds altogether. It could be that even if I drop more weight and get fitter, I still could have to go back on the diabetes meds as I age and insulin production reduces.
Whatever is to happen, though, I know I can’t do it alone. So I’ll be updating my progress here. Nothing like using the Web to keep myself honest…and I like the idea of opening up my support system to anyone browsing by. Hopefully, I can return the favor in some way.
Originally posted February 1, 2009
Updated February 23, 2009