Current Happenings

Plains & Pastures Bike Tour (2013)

I'm so proud to live here! Fredericton folks are just AMAZING!!!  Thank you one and all!!  My team raised over $2000.  The support was humbling.  What a great place to be!!!

Mind you, the journey isn't about me - it's about people who fight this horrible disease on a daily basis.  If you're reading this now, I hope you'll come back and sponsor me in the ride next time. 


Bike for Breath

Many thanks to everyone and their generosity.  The amazing people in my life supported me to the tune of $377.  Some days it is just great to be here!   (Fall 2012)


Entries in Taking Control (11)


Getting back on the horse....

I grew up on a farm, and luckily for me, horses were part of that picture.  ((I say lucky because my father always called them "hay-burners".  They made zero contribution to farm income.))  But I digress.....  there's an old saying about getting right back up on the horse when you fall off.  If you postpone it, often as not you won't ever do it later. 

So, I need to get back on my fat melt horse.  Enough of this lollygagging and feeling sorry for myself.  S*** happens.  Get over it.

Last summer I entered myself in the wellness participation challenge at work.  It's started up again so I joined.

After two days of data entry I'm in second place.  Bummer.  Last year I was in first place for about a week!!  Better get busier!!!!

The other change I made was to my avatar (my symbol on the map).  Last year I chose a happy-dorky smiling turkey.  (I thought he was cute!) 

This year, given the whole low-carb revolution we've been through, I chose a slice of bread.  LOL.

Here goes!



Becoming a trainer.

My brain is absolutely chock full tonight.  The RAM is so crammed I almost forgot to drink my tea.  Why?

I had an EXCELLENT weekend at the Y - taking installment two in the fitness leadership training: Individual Conditioning.  It is SUCH a rush when all the bits & pieces start falling into place and start making sense:  coaching, sports, fitness, nutrition, physiology,  metabolism, and on and on I could go.

It’s a direction I never contemplated before, but rather something that has come to attention through the difficulties I’ve experienced.  When you start at someplace north of 350 pounds, there are NOT a lot of options out there for you to choose from when you decide to change your life.

This meltdown has been anything but easy, but I realize that I have several advantages that most people wearing the cement boots of obesity would not.  I had/have no major health issues and take no medications.  I have some previous experience at being healthy, active, and moderately jockish.  I also have a solid grounding in both nutrition and physiology.  Thanks to recent learning from the world of blogs and podcasts, I have been able to patch my own recovery programme together.  

There have been many people encouraging, supporting, and cheering me on for the whole journey.  But applicable expertise?  Not so much.

Example (and my subject of many rants lately):  VERY few people understand the physics of human body manipulation, hence they ask morbidly obese people to do impossible tasks, such as “planks” and “pushups”.  (And then they stupidly wonder why we never come back to the gym.)

I asked an engineer friend to help me on the calculations.  Based on my height and former weight of 350 pounds - exactly what force would my arms have to lift in a pushup or to hold in a plank?  As it turns out -- a total of 244 pounds or a whopping 122 on each arm in a plank.  JUMPING JUPITER and other unprintables!!  

WHO in their right flipping mind starts a person out on a weight bench doing a chest press of 244 pounds???  NOBODY!!! So why in flipping hell would anybody think an obese person should accomplish the equivalent?  OH, but WAIT.  We can make it easier for you, you can do “ladies” pushups from your knees and not your toes.  Right.  Cuz my feet are the problem here?

Guess what?  When you do a “modified” pushup or plank at my height and former weight, then the load on my arms would have been reduced to a paltry 193 pounds total, only 97 pounds on each arm.  OH WELL THEN, I mean really, whatever is the problem here?

The problem is that the trainer didn’t have the expertise and I didn’t have the confidence to tell them to go fly a kite.  I tried obediently to do a pushup and couldn’t.  I managed a seriously uncomfortable plank for about 10 seconds using both elbows and lasted less than a second on one elbow because the pain was excruciating.

So there you have it.  People like I was need somebody who understands what it feels like and knows how to modify the entire workout for their abilities, wherever they are starting from.  Today I discovered that I can finally do those freakin‘ planks now that I’ve melted 131 pounds off my arse....... AND......  I know how to modify for success at any weight.    

I have had much experience with losing weight throughout my life but I had never been 350 pounds before.  I felt awkward and totally uncomfortable.   I didn’t know where to turn.  It doesn’t need to be that hard.  That’s why I’m going to become a trainer.

Here's the photo that ran with the article in the paper last week - standing in MY pool with my arse out of view. (YES - that was indeed one of my criteria for agreeing to a photo shoot!!!) 


Public Speaking

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”      Thomas Jefferson


I don't ordinarily quote foreign presidents, but that's a pretty good one.  So I'll make an exception.

I did something yesterday that I've never done.  I stood up in front of a room full of people and talked about melting my arse.  Seriously, I would rather go to the dentist.  I know there are people who quite happily yap about themselves for hours on end - I just don't understand them.  Blogging is totally different.  I can't SEE the people who read this.  When you're standing in the front of the room -- you're that deer in the headlights! 

After a number of suggestions and outright prods, I did a Lunch'n Learn for the folks at work.  How I started, what I learned, what I've changed, and what I'm doing.  All of it things I've blogged about, just without the ranting. 

I can happily talk about dog training, dog behaviour, animal husbandry, etc. for hours on end.  A couple good friends and a road trip can be just what the doctor ordered.  But talking about yourself?  This whole "authentic" thing is over-rated.

Apparently it went well.  People wanted more so I'm now doing another one next month on how to read food labels.  That will be MUCH easier since the subject is academic!!!!

I borrowed this cartoon off Facebook.  No idea who created it but it certainly fits how I feel right now!!!!


Those demonic bathroom scales

Another day in January, another self-help New Year’s Resolution checklist rolls in.  I’ll admit a certain filtering on my part, since I don’t often bother to look further than the title.  For starters, this one didn’t say “New Years” or “Resolution” in the title, so I got sucked in.  Well, actually that’s a stretch too.  It was from a resource I’m actively following & evaluating: an outfit called Metabolic Effect.  So far, my impression is favourable since they seem to address things with depth and reasoning.  Their main resource people describe themselves as holistic physicians, or else present some credible backgrounds in nutrition or fitness.  

The first bullet of the Metabolic Effect message was a question: Do You Have Patience?  The paragraph centred around having the patience to learn what is happening within yourself.  Two sentences struck home: “Most people stay frustrated because they have spent all their time learning the latest one-size fits all plan rather than studying their own body.”  ......and.......  “Patiently immersing yourself in your own process is the only shortcut that exists”.

BINGO!!!!  I’ve been calling it geeking out.  That stops now.  I’ll figure out something cute to call it later.

I read yet another piece last night with a mindfulness focus that I thought would have good perspective.  Wrong.  Right now there is grave danger of throwing said baby out with the bath water because he, like a jillion others, suggests throwing away the bathroom scales.

It’s become a red flag issue for me - symbolic even.  Those scales are just a tool.  They live in the privacy of your own home.  Most people don’t have talking scales, so all you have to do is look at the numbers.  That’s right: NUMBERS.  Data is MY friend.  Why throw away a fully private means of getting DATA?

What is it about the bathroom scales?  Why are they such a threat?  Yeah, yeah, scales do not measure health nor fitness nor happiness nor dress size nor attitude.  I get that.  I’ve talked before about the sheer JOY in discovering that you can move again.  It’s huge.  (Blog Sept. 2012, “The Joy of Movement“).

I’m talking about information.  Personal information to use in managing yourself for better health however you choose to describe it: mental, physical or emotional in any combination.  

That’s when I remember my arch-enemy “DENIAL”.  Facing data means facing facts.  Not dreams or wishes or delusions, but cold, hard (and incidentally manageable) facts.  I’ve also said before that you cannot improve what you don’t manage and you can’t manage what you don’t measure.  If you don’t know the data about yourself, then you don’t have anything to manage with.        

Most of those who say “throw away the scales” also add the caveat that it’s not worth stressing about the numbers because there are other ways to measure health and progress.  That caveat is true.  There are, but note the word “measure” remains in the equation.  A good one would be waist size incidentally since visceral (gut) fat is a huge factor in many, many bad things.  But what about those scales?  

The scales don’t lie.  The scales don’t move when you suck in your gut to snappen** those jeans that are just a hair too tight now.  Those scales don’t cater to issues nor denial.  That’s the kicker isn’t it?  Denial.  If you don’t look at the scales, then you can convince yourself in other ways that you are making progress, and indeed maybe you are.  I would personally doubt that, but maybe you’re different.  

Learning to manage yourself starts first with an objective understanding of where you are.  “Objective” means no blame games and no self-hate.  It means FACTS and DATA.  You don’t have to like it, that’s different, but you have to face it and deal with it.  

So if you can’t face the bathroom scales, then I would respectfully say that you’ve got bigger issues somewhere else in your life, or more importantly, in your head.  My BMI was north of 53 and nobody gets to that size without denial about something.  Deal with it.  

**Snappen: verb, transitive, meaning to close infernally difficult snaps & buttons on clothing, as defined by my daughter when she was 3.   

Here’s a photo from my 20’s, a time when I actually thought I was fat.  In fact, the summer of this photo I voluntarily sought a referral to the publicly funded dietitians at Vancouver General Hospital.  They put me on a 1200 calorie diet.  Say what??  I was working full-time, a physical job, as a research tech on the UBC poultry farm.  Extremely short on cash, I was working 6 days a week.  When I went back to school in the fall, I was a full-time student who kept that part-time physical job on the farm.  I managed to stick it out until Christmas.... the diet that is.

Here’s what fat really looks like.  The un-funny thing about being that size was that it did not feel like “me”.  Yeah, yeah, I recognize myself.  But I hate every single picture of the era because every picture was a shock to the system.  I wasn't accepting facts about where I was.  I had convinced myself that it wasn’t that bad yet because I could still, walk, talk and chew gum or whatever.  I avoided photos like the plague.  They didn’t fit the paradigm in my head.  There was a long, long time I didn’t step on the scales.  Not because they were thrown away, but because I was too heavy to measure on them anymore.  Garden variety bathroom scales don’t cater to a BMI that’s north of 53.

Get over yourself.  Deal with it. 


In defence of geeking out.....

Backsliding has been on my mind a LOT lately.  The holiday season is rife with landmines for gaining weight..... and said weight that is gained tends to stick around (forever).  The science behind yo-yo dieting to gain back more fat is clear.  Follow the standard (wrong) advice of absurdly low calorie reduction and your body will cannibalize itself, especially sourcing from your muscles.  When you stop the starvation nonsense, you will gain all the fat back anyway, and more.  

This is probably the first time holiday season where I wasn’t concerned.  The subject line would come up in the podcasts or the blog posts -- and just get ignored.  Why?  Let me explain ......

Ketosis for the past few months
Got the data to prove it
Got the tools to manage it

State of ketosis?  How do you know?  Well, in the absence of fancy tests and such: the gamut of cravings & mood swings before/after food are just gone.  Forget to eat - no problem.  Go for a 1.5km swim at noon with no breakfast - no problem - no headaches - no sugar shakes - no issues.  Energy levels actually mirror sleep quality now.  A bad night will add two minutes to a kilometre in the pool or closer to 5 minutes on the bike ride to work.  

Data?  Been tracking food intake for six months.  I don’t mean spotty “think-back journal guessing”.  I mean using the kitchen scale and entering quantities in food tracking software EVERY DAY.  For this reason, I am absolutely certain that in the week of November 26th, 2012 I consumed 8% of calories from carbohydrates, 21% from protein and 71% from fats.  My stomach is fine and so is my poop.  (Thanks for wondering.)   

Tools?  Kitchen food scales.  They live on the counter.  Bathroom scales.  Not just any old bathroom scales mind you..... Withings WIRELESS scales which send magical signals bouncing through my house for the computer down the hall.  That computer draws cool pictures of weight loss, fat loss, and lean body mass gained.  Are those measurements 100% correct?  Probably not.  But since I use them every day I can look at the trends and be totally comfortable with that.  I’m not kidding - I only miss a morning weigh-in a couple of times per month.  That’s it. 

And then there’s the new toy in my house:  Santa Claus brought me a “FitBit”.  What a seriously cool gadget.  Counts my steps.  Counts flights of stairs (15 yesterday in case you cared.)  Has entry spots for swimming, cycling, rowing machine, weightlifting etc.  It even tracks sleep.  Seriously cool!  No more guesstimating on an XL spreadsheet (which wasn’t all that far off either btw).  Nope.  Now I’ve got a gadget to do all the guesstimating for me.  So what?  Gadgets can be wrong.  Yes they can.  But I’m actually concerned with trends and maintenance of those trends.  I don’t care if the number itself is wrong.  As long as the trend line is going in the direction I want, and the scales back me up, then I say just let it be wrong.  Next?

Backsliding.  That’s the point of the tirade.  I’m petrified of backsliding.  Been there ... done that.....  Learned from it.  That’s the difference.  Learned from it.  

So when I hear people go on and on about holiday eating I wonder why they don’t just take control of it.  I mean -- I did -- so skip all the theatrics and the excuses -- I’ve used them all -- just do it.  It drives my teenage daughter nuts to ask “do you want some ___?” and I go enter the item in my food diary before I decide.  Take control.  That’s what data does for me.  It gives me control.  I can DECIDE whether or not I’m going to break the rules today.   “Knowing” allows me to tweak and find wiggle room.  Over this past 6 months I’ve learned that I can exceed 50 total carbs with impunity --as long as-- NET carbs =50 or less.  That’s huge -- that’s putting data to work for me.  By the way: it means I had Belgian Chocolates at Christmas.  

So all the holiday eating guides continue to roll in, and the New Year’s Resolution guides follow closely on their heels, and I’m ignoring all of them.  The best defence is a good offence and I’ll still be geeking out with all the scales, the fitbit, and the data.  My new-found health improvements are more than worth it.  

So you don’t want the hassle of weighing yourself every day?  You gained a bit of Christmas weight?  Oops.  Just don’t whine to me about it.       

2010 - I hate those jowels!!!2012 - Less puffy face!!!