A journey in words...

Welcome to my journey in words! A story about health, exercise, weight loss, food addiction, humor, size discrimination, sarcasm, social commentary and all the rest that’s rattling around inside my head...

I now twit, er... or tweet. Anyway, you can follow me on twitter @Aeon1202

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Political Disillusionment

I don’t often talk politics. I’ll sometimes mention a social issue on my blog, but I never repost or speak about political opinions on social media feeds.

This isn’t because I don’t have them.

It’s because I don’t like to complain about something I can’t do anything about, and I don’t believe that reposting or writing angry political stuff on social media actually improves the world at all.

At best, it’s an echo chamber – because most likely the people you’re friends with on social media all think the same way as you, so you’re all pretty much just shouting, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” back and forth at each other. The people in charge are probably not monitoring our news feeds to find out what they should do next.

At worst, it turns into a fruitless, pointless, ugly fight – one in which everyone walks away angry and unsatisfied and no minds and hearts are changed. It’s not that hearts and minds cannot change, because with open, honest discussion between people who are currently sitting in the same place and looking one another in the eye it is entirely possible, but I have never (not once) seen it happen via social media, so I won’t waste my time.

Then there’s the fact that my political opinions are pretty depressing. I could bash the President, sure, he’s certainly an easy target with the way he constantly (and pointlessly) mouths off like an idiot via social media, but why bother? At the last election I practically went into the voting booth crying because I couldn’t decide which option was worse than the next – I felt they were all universally horrible. So yes, I could say, “Trump is horrible!” except that I genuinely thought the other choices were every bit as bad in different ways. So by shouting about his badness I feel like I’m saying I wish one of the other candidates had won – and that’s not how I feel. How I feel is that I desperately wish there had been sane and reasonable choices available. There were not, so I went in there knowing that regardless of who won America had already lost.

During the last election I also considered the choice to disenfranchise myself, and that’s a terrible choice I couldn’t make either. I had to go into that voting booth because I couldn’t dishonor the sacrifices of the men and women who struggled, fought, and even died to give me that right.

But how does it honor their memory when the only choices I have lie between different types of monsters?

For monsters, my friends, is all we’ve got.

I’ve officially lost faith, all faith, in our politicians. I trust none of them. I believe in none of them. I dislike all of them. America rose fast, and now it falls just as fast. I believe deeply in our system of democracy, I believe that it is good, but the political ruling class that has developed and is currently infesting it like a horde of termites is not good, they are all quite bad. Frequently I believe they are evil, and I do not know how to get rid of them.

Being angry on social media isn’t going to do it. Neither is this blog. But this is my space on the internet to talk about how I feel, even if how I feel right now is pretty damn hopeless.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Cough Trope

In pondering the many differences between real life and life as it’s portrayed on movies and TV, I’ve noted a particularly amusing trope about death. (Death is always good for a laugh – right?)

In real life, when someone develops a cough, even a brutally persistent and obnoxiously wracking one that hangs on nagging for months on end – it usually means that they have something like bronchitis or asthma. Although they’re sick, in time they’ll usually be fine again. In movies and TV, if a character lifts a hand to their mouth to cough (usually delicately) it means that their death is imminent almost 100% of the time. If the creators of said movies and TV really want to drive the point home, the character in question will go so far as to cough, then look at the hand they used to cover their mouth and find it flecked with blood. At this point, picturing the Grim Reaper himself standing at that character’s shoulder is entirely appropriate, for they are a-goner.

This is one of many storytelling shortcuts that TV and movie writers use to send a signal to the audience. That signal is: cough = beware, this character will die soon. It’s effective I suppose, but a little lazy and definitely unrealistic. I sometimes wonder if getting signals like cough = imminent death drilled into our heads by our entertainment viewing contributes at times to medical anxiety and the tendency to assume that every little thing that goes wrong with our bodies, like a cold with a cough for example, is going to kill us.

A friend of mine who recently battled cancer was particularly exhausted by TV and movie writer’s frequent use of ‘the cancer card’. It’s a quick and easy way to kill off a sympathetic character in a way that will make your audience emotional – but as an actual cancer battler my friend found it very annoying. The realities of the disease were a lot more complicated than what we see up on screen, and the constant use of cancer as a way to kill characters ignores the fact that a lot of people beat cancer and survive. Seeing character after character (after character) die from it can be pretty depressing to those who are fighting to live.

As a storyteller myself, noticing these often used chestnuts is a good way to avoid using them. They say that every story has already been told, and those of us still telling them are just rearranging them in our own unique ways. I think that’s true to some degree, but avoiding over utilized tropes is one way I keep my rearrangements as fresh as possible.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Status Report: 1 lb. lost, 33 lbs. total

Just a pound this week. Which I was expecting because I lost five the week before. I think it’s common for most to go out of the gate fast, slow way down, then settle into something resembling a groove.

This week went pretty well. No binges and I’m on day 10 of hitting my goal of getting in at least 10,000 steps per day. It gets a little easier the longer I do it because as time goes by I have a better awareness of where I need to be step-wise at what point during the day. The hardest bit is getting steps in at work because I have a desk job, and even getting up and wandering the long way around the office on the way to the bathroom doesn’t add much. Days when I don’t have Zumba class are also harder. Owning a treadmill helps a lot because I can get on there, turn on the TV, and just zone out until the buzzer goes off to tell me I’ve hit the goal.

I also noticed this week what a big difference healthy food makes in how I feel.

Normally on weekdays, I have what I call my “super food oatmeal” for breakfast. ½ cup plain oatmeal, ¾ cup frozen blueberries, ¼ cup milk, ¾ cup water, 2 teaspoons chia seeds, 1 tablespoon semi-sweet chocolate chips. I let it soak overnight in the fridge so the chia seeds can plump, then heat it in the microwave at work the next day. It clocks in at around 300 calories. After eating it I feel content, but not stuffed, and I’m good to go for energy until my lunch break at 1PM.

Yesterday one of our suppliers dropped off a metric ton of Panera Bread treats for breakfast, and I selected an asiago cheese breakfast bagel sandwich with egg and bacon. Afterward I looked up the nutrition info – 580 calories and 25 grams of fat, yikes! It was super tasty, but I could feel it sitting like a rock in my stomach all morning. When lunch rolled around I wasn’t even hungry, I just felt kind of heavy and bleh. And of course, I ate that the day before my weigh in. Derp.

I’m still debating whether it was worth it. It truly was a good and tasty breakfast sandwich but I really didn’t like the way I felt after eating it. The same thing happens when I have a bagel for breakfast, it’s like having a glue ball in my stomach for most of the day.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Clothing Review: Ava & Viv

I’m guilty of being a bad shopper. If left alone, I’ll wander into a store, glance around in a dispirited fashion, decide that nothing fits me, and leave. I am also guilty of buying anything cheaply priced that zips or buttons closed on me regardless of whether it looks good, fits correctly, or is even remotely comfortable. I struggle against a pretty terrible kicked dog attitude with regards to the fashion industry – if they deign to make something that actually covers my girth that I can afford, I’ll buy it just to put something on my back. This is how I wound up owning several seriously uncomfortable and lousy looking outfits of late.

It’s no longer true that plus sizes are impossible to find in cute styles. Although we’re still significantly limited (and somewhat pricier) compared to straight sizes, things have improved considerably. Major retailers like Old Navy, Kohl’s, Torrid, Avenue, Ashley Stewart and even sports clothing designers like Nike are getting on the bandwagon.

This summer I made several purchases from Target’s reasonably priced, plus sized clothing line, called Ava & Viv. Unfortunately, things went downhill from there.

There’s probably a plus sized body shape out there that these clothes fit correctly (all the models in the catalog look nice after all) but it isn’t mine.

I bought this long sleeved, lightweight shirt for work.

The neckline is… floppy. I don’t know how else to describe it. The fabric flops and wrinkles in a stretched out way, falling down over my shoulders and constantly threatening to reveal my bra straps. It’s also much too short. I like shirts to come down past my stomach and this one hits me right in the middle of it, causing me to constantly pull at the hem. It’s also cut strangely wide through the body so the shirt is basically a square of fabric rather than conforming to the elongated body shape of a torso. The only good thing I can say about it is the fabric feels nice and I like the grey color. I would guess that the model wearing it in the photo probably has clips on her back that you can’t see making the shirt look fitted.

Then there’s these pants.

I actually lopped and hemmed the grey ones off into shorts because I needed shorts and thought the hemline on them looked ridiculous anyway.

The problem with both of these pants is that I failed to walk around or sit down before I bought them. Although not exactly low rise (a style I avoid like the plague) they’re a bit short-rise and loose through the waistband. This means that though they sit in an okay spot when I’m standing up and standing still, the moment I sit down or move around they both start sliding north rapidly. Since I have a pathological fear of my underwear showing in the back, this does not work for me at all. I think they’re cut for people with smaller thighs but a larger waist than I have, meaning that they’re both too big and too small simultaneously. As always, the concept of an hourglass figure seems an elusive one to clothing designers.

Wearing a belt helps keep them from falling down a little, but belts don’t really work for me – again – because my hourglass shape causes them to roll and slide up over the top of my belt loops and sit uncomfortably against the skin above the waistband of my pants.

Somewhere, out there, must be clothes that fit me, look nice, and are comfortable – but I haven’t found them yet. And definitely not from Ava & Viv.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

To Probiotic, or Not to Probiotic

Content Warning: Frank discussion of gross but fascinating science stuff and possible TMI follows.

Bacteria. It’s invisible, and yet hugely a part of our lives. It can help us maintain a state of good health or it can kill us, and each and every human being is in possession of an entire colony of gut bacteria that helps us with the process of digesting food. When we die, the bacteria we’re already toting around eats us and helps us to turn back into dirt (insert song ‘Circle of Life’ here…)

When we get sick and a doctor prescribes an antibiotic to help us get well, the antibiotic can’t differentiate between the invading bacteria that are making us ill and our helpful colonies of digestive gut bacteria, so both die. This is why some people experience digestive problems during and after antibiotic treatments. How long it takes our helpful gut bacteria to recover after antibiotic treatments and how best to help them recover is a matter still open to debate and probably varies a lot from person to person.

My husband takes a daily probiotic pill to treat his IBS. IBS is the condition he has that causes him to digest food much too quickly, thus failing to put on body weight despite consuming a high calorie diet. Although eating what you please sounds nice, believe me – what he goes through isn’t worth it. My dad recommended he add a daily probiotic pill to his diet and pleasantly, it has improved his condition a great deal.

Usually, when I’m taking antibiotics for an illness, I eat a serving of yogurt containing live cultures every day and for at least a week following treatment to try and help my gut bacteria recover from the process. However, I’m not the biggest fan of the flavor of yogurt and I hate spending calories on a food I don’t like very much, so after a round of antibiotics used to treat a sinus infection last winter I just swallowed one of my husband’s probiotic pills every day instead.

It seemed to work fine, and though I don’t suffer from IBS I decided to keep on taking one every day. We checked with our GP and Doctors view probiotics as being not harmful and potentially helpful, but the jury is still out on just how much good they really do.

I decided to keep taking one every day after reading this article and also this one about how a woman with a naturally low body weight rapidly gained 50 lbs. after receiving an intestinal bacterial transplant from a person with a naturally higher body weight to treat a stubborn GI infection. It looked as though someone’s gut bacteria and the way it functions might be at least partly responsible for how much they weigh.

It’s not a smoking gun per se, it’s also entirely possible that the woman gained weight because she was sick with a GI-related illness and after getting healthy she put some weight on as healthy people do. However, scientists performed studies on rats and found that when they transplanted bacteria from the intestines of fat rats into those of thin rats – the thin rats quickly got fat and vice versa. And that gave me pause.

So I’m not yet going out and seeking an FMT transplant from a skinny person because… well… ew, but I figured doing something every day to help my existing colony of gut bacteria have a happy and healthy life certainly can’t hurt. I have noticed that my digestive motility, which is usually on the annoyingly slow side, has sped up since I began the regimen. Regularity is a good thing, at least.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Bring the Pain

So I’ve been doing pretty good getting to 10,000 steps every day, which isn’t easy when you sit at a desk for work. Fitbit has new software that reminds me once per hour to get up and move around, which is both helpful and annoying. I think I’ve been spotted a few times at the office muttering curses in the general direction of my wrist when Little Brother nags me to go walk around during the day.

My primary problem right now is pain. When I get to 10,000 steps whether by treadmill or walking outside or going to Zumba, I’m in pain when I lie down in bed at night. My hip hurts (I was born with dysplasia so there’s no getting around that since it’s an abnormally developed joint) and my legs ache pretty badly from simple DOMS. The leg aches make me restless because they’re relieved a little by shifting them around in bed.

Also, Zumba is causing me anxiety because I get really red in the face, which is both embarrassing and unsettling to look at. My heart rate is at peak almost the whole time during a Zumba class, which may be partially caused by how hot it is in my gym’s workout room. It’s a small, poorly air conditioned space so the temp inside soars in the summer, and ‘hot Zumba’ is not advisable the way ‘hot Yoga’ is. I’ve noticed I don’t have this problem when I go to special Zumba events at my local YMCA, whose workout room is essentially a meat locker. It’s too cold when you first walk in but once you get going, it’s awesome. I’m not sure what to do, I like to push myself during Zumba but I really don’t want to die in the middle of a Cumbia.

I can take Tylenol PM or Advil in the evenings which helps a little, but I don’t really want to take an analgesic every single night and leave it sitting in my stomach (and potentially burning a hole in the lining) as I sleep.

Is this going to get better? Or is working out while fat and post-40 just always going to hurt and possibly be dangerous? It's a bit depressing right now.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Status Report: 5 lbs. lost, 32 lbs. total

I’ll be weighing in on Fridays and today’s weight was 263, down 5 pounds from my regain weight of 268 and down 32 pounds from my starting weight of 295. That’s a bit fast, but my first week making changes usually sees a big drop, and I know it will slow down considerably quite soon.

I managed to make myself sick yesterday eating too much crappy food for lunch, then working out a lot when I got home. My stomach felt so bad I wasn’t even hungry for dinner so I skipped it – and that NEVER happens to me. Also with my health anxiety issues I can’t get indigestion without suspecting I’m having a heart attack, so… that was fun.

My last status report like this was dated September 10th, 2014 and I was at a 74 lb. loss back then. Boy howdy, it’s hard to have been knocked this far back.

You’ll also notice that I disclose my weight pretty freely. I’ve long been annoyed by the stigma surrounding body weight and that’s my own small, personal way to fight it. Are you horrified by my weight? Do you hate me for how much I weigh? I’m guessing the answer is no. Largely, you probably don’t care what I weigh other than vaguely being happy for me when I lose some. Just so, nobody really cares what you weigh either (unless they’re a fat-shaming jerk). As the saying goes, “those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.”

Nowhere to go from here but down.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Beginning (Yet) Again

There haven’t been a lot of blog posts lately because I’ve fallen into a really lousy place with my fitness and health. I put back on 50 lbs. of the 78 that I had lost, and working out became really really difficult.

Mostly, I’m annoyed to have to do the same work all over again and that the endocrinologist from the HMR clinic, who stated to my primary care doctor that if I left his care I would just gain all the weight back, appears to have been right. I hate for that jerk to be right, but still had to leave the HMR program because losing weight just isn’t worth it if you also lose a healthy liver in the process.

I digress.

I’m trying to get back on track, but since I turned 40 everything has become harder. My already sluggish metabolism has slowed further, my set point is higher, my hip hurts, my heart rate feels way too high when I do exercise. Most likely I’ve harmed myself in ways I’m not even fully aware of by weight cycling yet again, but I don’t know what else to do other than get back on the horse and try, try again. Accepting myself at this size is still not an option.

So I’m trying to get back to daily workouts, zumba, the treadmill, yoga - a combination thereof that keeps me active every day. I’m trying to get in 10,000 steps per day and I treated myself to a new Fitbit (the Charge 2 which I’ve nicknamed ‘Little Brother’) to help me keep track of things. I actually earned the Fitbit for free, because my health insurance company kept sending me gift cards when I synched the data from my old Fitbit to their website so they could see how much I worked out. Sadly, as always, working out a lot doesn’t make you lose weight if you still eat too much. My old Charge HR Fitbit (which I nicknamed ‘Santa’) was sent to one of my best friends so we can both track and help support each other – which helps a lot.

I’m also reading a new book which has a method for conquering binge eating that I’ve not tried before. Binge eating remains the diet-related problem that is keeping my weight high; I love healthy food and I’m very knowledgeable about it but it all goes out the window when I arrive home from work alone in my house, physically and mentally tired, and hungry.

Anyway... starting weight 268, goal weight 180. Here we go. Yet again.