Archive for category Health

How Weight Watchers Changed My Life

So fellas, what was your first impression of the title? Did you call me derogatory names? Did you laugh? Why is Bryan talking about meetings of overweight women in spandex and over-sized shirts?

If that’s what you think Weight Watchers is, you should listen up, because when a man of my level of skepticism shows up to praise something I have to spend money on, you might want to pay attention.

I have chronic back problems, specifically Degenerative Disk Disease, and about once a year or so, I have a relapse of pain that likes to remind me of this condition, hence the word “chronic”.

In 2003, during one of these relapses, I had decided that enough was enough. I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life at 216 pounds (which is heavy for a guy at 5’8″), and I had known that there is a correlation between weight and back pain. As a matter-of-fact, I had a doctor tell me that there were 3 things I could do to minimize or prevent these chronic back problems:

  1. Keep my weight under 185.
  2. Exercise and strengthen the core and back muscles to provide support.
  3. Stop smoking cigars and drinking.

Well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

A doctor once told me also that excessive weight means that you might as well be carrying an extra sack of potatoes around 24-7.

I needed to do something fast. I thought about what would be the best way to lose weight. Here it is. You ready?

  1. Eat healthy
  2. Exercise

That’s it. That’s what you need to do. Easier said than done right?

I needed to come up with a plan, either one that I devised (I am not a dietitian), or I would follow some program. I had 3 criteria:

  1. Structure. I grew up in a family where food was important. This is not a critique of my family. Americans in general have an obsession with food, but that’s a different blog post. I had let my over-eating take control and I needed something to help me reign it in.
  2. Simplicity. I have better things to do with my time and brain-power than memorize which fucking food has too much starch, carbs, sugar, fat, fiber, hydrogenated oil, “good fat”, “bad fat”, cholesterol, salt, enzymes, fungus, urine, rat feces or whatever some fad diet tells me I have to or can’t eat.
  3. Permanence. The plan had to be something that I could follow for the rest of my life, not something that I follow for 3 months and then abandon.
  4. Power. I want to continue to eat foods that I want to eat.

Looking at my options, and with a little help from my beautiful wife, I joined Weight Watchers in March of 2003. Since then I have lost 36 pounds and with very little variance have kept it off.

Recently, the Weight Watchers program has placed even more of an emphasis on exercise.

It’s the only weight program I can think of that let’s you eat anything you want, you simply have to limit how much of it you eat. It’s portion control. And it works.

The way I think of Weight Watchers is that it basically puts you onto a food budget. Want to eat steak? You got it. Ice Cream? You got it. You just have to plan for it.

And, no more back pain.

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Your Colon and You

Several years ago, I had some pretty bad heartburn.  Antacids were my best friends.  Figured the reasons were that my diet sucked, I ate too much, and I was overweight.  Turns out, I was right.  Oh yeah, I also had acid reflux.  So my gastrointestinal doctor gave me two choices: either go on medication to control the acid, or lose weight and exercise.  Now I’m one of those people that really tries not to take every medication that man has ever created.  I have to be in serious pain to even pop acetaminophen.

So I opted for the second one, you know, that “lose weight and exercise” silliness.  A couple months later, I was on the medication, and never looked back.

Now every couple years, the good Doctor refuses to refill my prescription that turned my life around, and wants to physically see me in his office.  Demanding as all hell.  So two years ago, he was going over my chart and we realized that I was quickly approaching 40.  He smiled and said to me, “Normally I recommend my male patients to get a colonoscopy at the age of 45. But because of your family history, I want to see you at 40.”  I smiled, shook his hand, and cheefully said, “See you next year!” and left.

I turned 40, and avoided calling him for the entire year.  But, when I turned 41, a few revelations hit in a blur:

  • Over the year I found out that colon cancer also ran on my father’s side.
  • A former coworker, years younger than me, is battling colon cancer.
  • I had walking pneumonia for over a month and a half, and finally realized that my health was not of the same ilk as Clark Kent.
  • My latest prescription ran out, and my doctor wanted to see me.

So I sucked it up, called and went in to see him.  The colonoscopy was scheduled, and they handed me all the informational paperwork that I would need.  I didn’t glance at any of it until a week before the procedure.  I was in fear.  Not of the procedure itself, hell I’d be knocked out, they could play spades on my ass for three hours and I could care less.  No, I feared “the cleansing.”

Now, I don’t normally mention brands by name, but I have to give credit to two absolutely amazing pharmaceutical creations that can alter a man’s existence in profound ways: Dulcolax and Miralax.  I had heard of Dulcolax before, and figured I wouldn’t be introduced to that until I was happily into my 60′s and stopped up like a bathroom sink in an all-girls dorm.  But Miralax… never heard of it.  But I can only imagine they named it for “Miracle Laxative”, because I can tell you, there is no doubt in my mind that there is some kind of divine power in that bottle’s powder.  I was surely cleansed of evils.

I also was not allowed to eat any solid foods from the evening before the cleansing. So my lovely wife did the shopping for me and picked up Jell-O, ice pops, plain chicken broth, and a variety of drinks that could be mixed with the Miralax to make 32 ounces of the deity drink.

So the day before the procedure is the Cleansing Day.  I plan to go to work for a half day, and leave in the early afternoon to head home.  Working an hour from home negates starting these festivities at work.  It could get messy quickly, and my truck has cloth seats.  I arrive home a few hours before the party starts, down some more water, “eat” some Jell-O and chicken broth, and start to plan.

As this whole thing is all new, and generally people don’t talk about things such as this over lunch, I have no clue as to what to expect, so I plan for the worst.  I charge my iPhone so I can have email and gaming access.  I place my Kindle in the bathroom’s magazine rack for a good read.  I get my laptop charged, and put a tray table in there for it.  I put on sweatpants for the easy off, and put on sneakers so I have good traction and speed for my inevitable sprints.  I… Am… Ready.

So right on time I do as instructed and pop two of the pills and down 8 ounces of the god drink.  I slam the glass down, in beer-chug-winning style, and smile.  Bring it on.

Now, I am expecting something earth-shattering within five minutes of this.  At ten minutes I start looking at the clock.  I feel fine, normal.  At 20 minutes I’m starting to pace.  At the 30 minute mark I have to swig another 8 ounces of the jesus juice.  Forty-five minutes in, I’m checking the status of the laptop, reading material and the supply of TP again.  At the one hour mark, I have another 8 ounces, and am starting to feel disappointed… and terrified.

I have now had the two laxative pills and 24 ounces of a concoction that promises “A completely different kind of constipation relief.”  Seriously, how absolutely horrifying is this situation?  At this point I’m considering grabbing some duct tape from the basement and wrapping it around my midsection to prevent some kind of catastrophic explosion.  My imagination had me sprinting up the stairs, awful things happening to me, turning around and seeing my two children’s panicked, aghast, crying faces… my wife running and scooping them away yelling “Look away!  For all that is holy, LOOK  AWAY!!”

But nothing.  No cramps, no odd sensations at all.  Despite this, I am still afraid to sit down.

Not ten minutes later, all of that changed.

A strange sound came from the lower left of my abdomen, definitely below my stomach which had ceased it’s hunger growling several hours before.  It was almost the sound that a baby makes when it is straining to reach for a rattle you are dangling over it’s head.  Almost cute.  A feeling of euphoria came over me, as I realized that soon it would start, and would not end my life in a fecal-filled explosion in my kitchen.  Only 15 seconds after, another sound, this time that of a small child who is unhappy that they will be getting brussel sprouts for dinner instead of chicken fingers.  Euphoria soon changed to concern because that not-too-cute sound was accompanied by a slight cramp.

I was on the move, not waiting for further developments, but being proactive and planning ahead.  I was proud of myself.  I reached the top of the stairs without incident, and stood there relieved that my overactive imagination was proven wrong.

What happened next was that I was assaulted by a strange vibration in my abdomen, accompanied by what could only be described as the sound of an industrial dishwasher draining it’s waters into the sewer.  I was no longer proud.

I made it, and I will spare you those details that follow.

As I returned to the downstairs, I realized it was time for the last 8 ounces of the miracle of miracles.  For the next two hours, I checked a lot of email, played a lot of games, and did some serious reading.  So I consider my time there very productive.  At times I thought of the scene from the movie, Dumb and Dumber, where Lloyd spikes Harry’s drink with laxatives, and we see Harry’s bathroom time.  It wasn’t far off.  I recommend seeing the movie several times.

At a few minutes before 8:00, I again returned to the downstairs, my children already down for their slumber… how I missed seeing them.   Now having that “not so fresh” feeling, I looked at the instructions again, and realized I now had to take two more Dulcolax pills.  Those sadistic bastards!

My evening was spent like anyone would spend it after a full beef fajita burrito washed down with four beers and topped off with a dozen Buffalo wings.  Although, my beef fajita burrito was chicken broth, my wings was quivering Jell-O and my four beers were the cups of divinity.

By bedtime I was in much better shape, and I was able to sleep peacefully.  When I awoke my guts still had some fun with me, and I was rather amazed I still had any fluid in my body.  Because of morbid curiosity, which drives a good portion of my life, I got on the scale.  In a 24-hour period, I lost almost five pounds.  To me, that’s impressive.

The hour-long trip, and the procedure itself were very benign.  I’m hoping the two polyps they removed also come back the same way.  BUT because they did find some, that means I get to go through this every three years now.

I think in 2013 I’m going to go for six pounds!  One has to challenge oneself, right?

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Andy and the Jets

Let me set the back drop by saying that the lunch special at work this day was beef lasagna. It was a slice of lasagna about as wide as a  floor tile with a dinner roll – how could I resist that? Unfortunately, as I have aged, pasta sometimes sits like a rock in my stomach. It kept churning around like a thick magma and I continued to re-taste it about every 15 minutes – the gift that keeps on giving.

Anyway, my son’s last track practice of the week was at 5:15 that day and when I got home I found out that it was coaches/parents vs. the kids. I was pretty pumped – here was my chance to show my kid that his old man still had the jets. I took him to practice and was ready to run. When I got there I found out there was a shortage of parents so I had to double up and run two legs of a 4x100m relay. Just to remind you all, 100m = about 109 yards. That’s longer than a football field. So I sprinted 218 yards in about a 3 min span. That’s a greater distance than I have sprinted in about the last 15 years combined.

So I am the starter in the first leg and I take off like a bat out of hell – just destroyed the 7th grade girl in the lane next to me by at least 30 yards. I felt pretty good – the old man still had the jets. So I hand off the baton with my team well in first place and am pretty winded but not too horrible. Then I go to get into position to run leg #2. I start off pretty good but about half way through the legs start to get a bit rubbery – I still beat the little snot next to me, but not by as much.

Now I’m pretty winded and need to catch my breath. It takes a little while and I do get my breath back, but something just isn’t right. I really didn’t feel well at all. I tried to walk it off and chatted with some other parents, but I just felt like crap. I decided that maybe it would help if I walked to the car and sat with the AC on for a few minutes. I think deep down, I was a like one of those wounded animals that just needs to find a place to crawl off and die – some place secure and away from the all of the other animals. Anyway, after 5-10 minutes in the car, I become honest with myself and admit that I really just need to puke – that lasagna was not sitting right at all. So I got out of the Santa Fe and walked around to the back of it, out of view of everyone else, and just spewed like Vesuvius. Chucks of beef lasagna everywhere, including stuck in my nose. I walked around to go back in the car and clean myself up when another wave hit and I spewed again. This time was worse, not only because  I could have been spotted, but because when I opened the door, my friggin ice scraper fell out of the door holder and right into ground zero. Dammit!!! Anyway, I found some old Wendy’s napkins (all sprinters consist on Wendy’s) and cleaned myself up and drank some water.

Suddenly, I felt 100% better – as if I had been healed by the touch of God. After a thorough check that I had no incriminating spew on my body or clothes, I went back down to practice and had a nice rest of the day. Of course when practice was over, I had to fess up to the boy as there were those large vomit lakes by the car. He had a good laugh – I let him enjoy his laugh and didn’t mention to him until we got home that that he was sitting on the very Wendy’s napkins I used to clean myself off. The best laugh is the last laugh.

Several of the boy’s friends did tell me how great I looked running – probably just being nice but my ego is taking them at their word. When we got home, I started hitting  my son with the “Your old man’s still got the speed” line to which he replied “To go along with a lot of vomit”. He did finally give me a nice backhanded compliment of “Well, you certainly are fast for someone who looks like you. Fast enough to beat a 7th grade girl. Good job, Dad”. I think I made my point with him – case dismissed.

So although the cost was high – a $5 lunch special I will never get back – I was able to defend the pride of Dads everywhere. And that, my friends, is priceless. Well, I guess the price was actually $5, but who’s counting.

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Andy’s New America

A few days ago, I was at my local gym, fooling myself into believing that I was really pushing it on the treadmill while watching an episode of “The Verminators” on the little treadmill TV. (The guy who combined TV and exercise should really get a  Nobel Prize.) Anyway, during a commercial break, my paradoxically short attention span caused me to start looking aimlessly around the gym when I noticed a guy working out in a Star Trek shirt. There was no mistaking it – the blue shirt – black collar – the Federation symbol displayed proudly over the heart. Majestic is its own sort of way.

Now, one would not be wrong to argue that the real story here is the fact that I was actually in a gym. Normally I would agree, but this is a special story – a story about how far we have come in America. And it’s a story about America’s redemption and how we have come to finally embrace our past.

You see, not all that long ago, anyone caught wearing a Star Trek uniform within a hundred yards of a gym would find themselves walking home with an Atomic Wedgie.  The irony here is that at one point in time, America itself was the little nerd – at least on a global sense. The British with their powder wigs, ruffle shirts, and big buckle shoes were the cool guys. They got off on pushing us around and making fun of our coonskin caps and silly accents. In fact, most people don’t realize that the movie “Revenge of the Nerds” is actually an allegorical recounting of the American Revolution. The Nerds represent the Americans with the Alpha Betas as the British, the Omega Mu’s as the Hessians and Lamar as the French. And just like in the movie, America stood up to the big bully British and took over the Greek Council. But unlike the movie, we didn’t embrace ourselves as nerds. We were embarrassed and ashamed so we bulked ourselves up, got addicted to processed meats, and became the world’s big man on campus.

But that has started to change. Just as we have made progress in terms of sexism, racism, and a wide range of other hang-ups, we have also made progress in the acceptance of our Nerdism. The evidence of this change can be seen everywhere around us. On television  the SyFy Channel  blares out Dr. Who and Battlestar Galactica 24 hours a day. And even old stodgy CBS has a series called “The Big Bang Theory” that centers on the lives and dreams of a group of nerds. (This show truly is the “Will & Grace” of the nerd revolution.) At the movies we have sequel after sequel of Harry Potter while the new Star Trek movie grossed almost 400 million dollars.  Finally, if you need more proof – William Shatner has become some type of neo-hipster.

So, all of this brings me back to that brave guy at the gym in the Star Trek shirt. There he was, lifting weights and sporting a healthy cardiovascular system, and most importantly, not being judged. As my attention span waned yet again, and I went back to watching “The Verminators” tangle with some angry honeybees, I felt a renewed sense of pride in being an American. Sure, times may be tough now, but it’s going to be alright. Live Long and Prosper America.

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Fat Guy Runs a 5K

Back in February, right around my 38th birthday, my oldest son told me that he wanted me to run my town’s “Father’s Day 5K”. Initially, I was less than pleased about it. You see, my motto in life was simple, “Only run when being chased.” For me, to get my fat ass off the couch and train for and complete a 5K without catching a myocardial infarction would completely go against my entire philosophy in life. Now I’m sure many of you out there are scoffing at my complaints. “WAAAHHH, my kid wants me to run a 5K, WAAHHH!” Trust me, I hated myself for feeling that way. So I decided to commit to the process and train for it. Here’s the skinny:

February – bought running shoes at Kohl’s. I have really wide feet and New Balance makes wide widths. I also didn’t feel like spending hundreds on real running shoes. My wife tells me that my feet look like Fred Flintstone feet. She’s a riot. I consulted with a friend who runs marathons who told me about the “Couch to 5K” program. Perfect. Just what I needed. If only the couch had wheels.

WEEK 1 – I walk carefully over to the local park and stretch for a few minutes and start running. The “Couch to 5k” program is simple. Three times a week, go running. Start with running for 60 seconds, walking for 90. Repeat for a total of 20 minutes. Warm up and cool down walks on either end. Simple. Thought my lungs were going to explode and my shins and feet disintegrate from the abuse. Can fat get sore after a workout? Yes it can. Considered taking the boy to the mall, buying him an Orange Julius and an Aunt Annie’s Pretzel and leaving him there.

WEEK 2 – Run for 90, walk for 90. Starting to get into it and liking it, sort of. Feels good to brush the chip crumbs off my chest and get off of the couch. Try to start eating better. Not being too successful with that.

WEEKS 3 & 4 – Really getting into it now. Running 3 – 4 days a week, alternating between the treadmill and outside. Pushing myself to run more than the program says. My already-bloated ego tells me that I’ll be doing the Ironman by August.

WEEK 5 – Went on vacation to Myrtle Beach with the brood and brought my running shoes. They never left the suitcase. Ate everything in sight and drank A LOT of BEER. Decided that being a fat sloth was more fun.

It was at this point that my training took a turn. I was inconsistent at best. Some weeks I ran three times, other weeks I skipped altogether. However, I did start running longer distances on the treadmill. Did two miles in 23 minutes on a Wednesday in May and then ran 5K (3.1 miles) on the treadmill on Friday in 33:30. Was very proud of myself. Considered me to be done with training and was ready for the 5K, even though it was still a month away and I had never actually run the thing outside. So that weekend I decided to try to run the course. Not good. Really thought I was going to puke at the 1.5 mile point. Stopped and stole a bike off someone’s lawn and rode it home. By the way, my 4 year old, loves her new Barbie Island Princess bike with the training wheels.
Fast forward to the week before the race. I’m running like a fool on the treadmill, hoping for the best but expecting to embarrass myself and my kids on Sunday. The day before, I go to bed early, try to deny my wife nookie to “save my strength” but once she sets her mind on something, there’s no stopping her. I reluctantly give in, quoting lines from Raging Bull about “Not before a fight, Vickie” but she doesn’t get the joke. I wake up early the next morning to pouring rain. I figure that the run is off but I wander over to the park anyway and there they are, all set up. I register, get my number and try to look like I belong there. It felt like high school again. “Hey, look at the fat band geek trying to hang with us cool people!” I guess it would have been better if I didn’t fall into a puddle while stretching my quads.

So we line up for the race in what the lead race official calls “heavy fog” and the gun fires. I start running faster than I should but I felt good. Two seconds later, as I’m being passed by, well, everyone, my ego kicks in and tells me to stop being a pussy and pick up the pace. I spot my goal, a fat woman in pink spandex. I catch up to her and pass her. About five minutes into the run, I realize that my pace is way too fast and I’m going to die if I don’t slow down. SO I slow and get my pace to where it should be. Two minutes after that, Pink Spandex passes me. I feel ashamed but resign myself to the fact that I’ll probably be pacing with this woman. Her ass looks like chewed gum. I’m surprised that her thighs didn’t catch fire. She’s breathing like she has asthma but then again, so am I.  Yes, I’m angry and taking it out on her.  She probably has a glandular problem.  Anyway, things are going fairly well even though I’m soaked to the bone. The race goes right past my house and as I turn the corner, I see all my kids and wife on the lawn cheering me on. On the house they had big signs “GO DAD!!” and “OUR DAD ROCKS”. I was hoping for a “BJ AFTER THE RACE” sign, but the wife must have forgotten to hang it up. Seeing the kids excitedly cheering me on brought a tear to my eye and made me realize why I was doing this. And then the faggoty trainer who was running with bubblegum ass in front of me turned around and ran backwards and said “AWWWWWWW!” Screw you Fruity McGee, pay attention to the Jabba the Hutt-ish looking Teletubby that you’re torturing and stop trying to check out my soaking wet crotch. I digress.

The rest of the run goes smoothly, except when I spilled water all over me at mile two. How the hell do you drink from a cup while running? Didn’t matter, I was soaked anyway. I had a nice rash on my corpulent thighs from the rubbing.  I crossed the finish line at 33:42 and didn’t have to stop once to catch my breath. Not bad considering I hadn’t run the 5K outside before. I considered having a Rocky moment,  “Yo, Adrian, I did it!” but was too tired. All in all it was fun and I’m glad I didn’t quit. Hope to do another one before the summer is over. I’ll let y’all know how that goes.

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