Saturday, May 4, 2013

Starting over

So the blog is about to take a left turn, for reasons that will become apparent. 

I keep thinking I've bottomed out. I keep finding not.

Let's get up to speed very quickly: Two years ago this week, I went into hospital with stopped-up bowels. Turned out I had diverticulitis, a nasty infection on top of that, and was about to die. They performed a colostomy on me.

Two months later, the doctors did a second surgery: A colon recission. That means they shortened up my colon. In practice, it meant cutting out old dead colon that had wrapped itself around my bladder. Oh, and: They punctured my bladder during the surgery.

The colostomy, for what it's worth, created a hernia. And the doctors tried to fix that hernia when they reversed my colostomy in November 2011. But the fix didn't take. Today, I'm overweight AND lumpy in a way that being merely overweight doesn't describe. A CT scan a few months ago shows I basically have no abdominal wall between my belly button and my sternum. Oh, and I weigh 280 pounds—this being a chicken-and-egg thing: Am I *this* fat because I can't exercise much ( get tired, and frankly sit-ups are out of the question) or do I not exercise much because I'm fat?

Doesn't matter. A surgeon told me yesterday he won't operate to fix me because, at this weight, there's an 85 percent chance the repair would fail. He wants to see me in three months. He wants me to lose 50 pounds. And if I can't do it the old fashioned way, then I need to look at "surgical" methods for dropping the weight. For my health.

So that's the story. I'm 40, fat, and herniated like a motherfucker. And I don't really have many good stories to tell about how I got this way. I've spent a lifetime making undisciplined, mediocre choices. Now I find I'm falling apart. "You can't continue to live at that weight," the doctor told me. He's right. So what the hell do I do?

I'm giving myself a month to see if I can start to lose that weight in a natural and meaningful way, before I call the weight-loss surgeon he named. I'm not entirely sure  how it's going to happen. I think it means an hour on the treadmill or eliptical, every day. I think it means no more cheeseburgers, wings, pizza, sausage breakfast sandwiches. I think it means weighing myself every goddamned day. I think it means tracking every thing I eat. I'm not sure I can be a strict calorie counter. I've done that before, and it drives me nuts.

But this is where I start. This is how I start. I'm a freelance writer. I largely shape the schedule I work. My son is in school so I don't have to drag him around during the day. I'm on the road very little. If anybody has the space in their life to reshape their eating and exercise habits, it's me. So, fuck it, it's time.

I'm a compulsive oversharer. Everybody who knows me knows this. I'm aware of this. But it's not easy for me to share this stuff, because it reveals me to be weak in a lot of ways I don't want to be seen as weak in public. This is humiliating. But I suspect I'm going to need support and ideas from people.

I want to be a vigorous and vital partner to my wife for decades to come. I want to be an active and energetic dad for my son for as long as I can. I want to live, and live with a good quality of life, instead of quickly crumbling to an early grave. This is where it starts. I'm out of delays, out of excuses, out of time.

Starting today—later today—I'll post what I'm eating and how I'm exercising at the end of each day. I don't expect a huge audience for this. But I am interested in hearing from folks. I guess I'm crowdsourcing my survival.


Lex said...

I too want a lot more Joel time in the world.

One benefit of diet tracking is that it's so goddamn annoying. Suffering through it—if you demand of yourself that you do it—absolutely forces you to make better food intake choices. That's in several ways: One, you learn better just how bad so much stuff is. Two, you start to think, "crap, I'm not eating these cheese doodles because I don't want to look them up anyway." And the combo three: You start to think, "Hell no, I'm not eating that dessert. I only have 90 calories left for the day."

Is a treadmill desk out of the question? (Not a joke!) Is a Fitbit?

Monkey RobbL said...

I'll echo Lex. Calorie counting is the primary way I lost 60 pounds in less than four months.

And the way I avoided being annoyed by calorie counting was by using a tool that made it easy: It's free, and it has a HUGE database of foods: Groceries, Fast food, restaurant foods, etc. And if you find something new, you add it to the database, so you never have to add it again. And it syncs from web to iOS app to Android app seamlessly, so you can enter from whatever device you have handy.

When you're really overweight, START with calories. Exercise is important, and you should do that too (the treadmill or bike-pedal desk is a great idea, and one of my friends does this) but being constantly aware of how many calories you're shoving into your body is critical.

Monkey RobbL said...

I should also bear witness that being in a group that was all trying to lose weight was tremendously helpfull, as well. Of the half-dozen people in our group, only two were in the same state as me - my wife, and one of my friends. The rest were "new to me" friends of Doc, and even though we hardly knew one another, they were a huge encouragement. Not nags at all, almost all positive-reinforcement, tips, and a place to go to whine when I wasn't feeling it.

Having my wife and I losing weight at the same time was also VERY helpful. At the same time I lost my first 60, she lost almost 40. It made meal-choosing and preparation much easier, and our teenage daughters were totally on board with our dietary changes, even though it affected their meals, too.

You can do this, Joel! And you've got a 5-year head start on me.

vcmcguire said...

Oh, please get a Fitbit, Joel! I need all the Fitbit the peer pressure I can get.

vcmcguire said...

I was going to say the same thing as Monkey Man.

Is Jo willing to do this with you? Because I really think that will make a big difference. If you are going to change your lifestyle, the whole family is going to have to do it. And you will also be teaching Tobias good eating habits and putting him on the road to a healthier life. The choices you're making now will make it less likely that Tobias will be in the same boat when he's 40.