For the first half of my life, I had the exact opposite problem. When I was a sophomore in college, I only weighed 140 pounds. This, on a 6'2" frame gave me a rather scarecrowish appearance. I really was self-conscious about how skinny I was. I tried a lot of strategies for bulking up. I lifted weights and I ate ravenously. I could eat an entire large pizza and drink a two liter soda on my own and still have room for a bag of chips. It didn't matter. I remained skinny as a sideshow freak.
Then, in my twenties, some kind of switch went off in my body and suddenly I started to pack on pounds. I hit thirty weighing about 220, and was reasonably happy with the way I looked.
If I had stopped at 220, everything would be fine. Alas, through my thirties and forties, I've continued to add to my girth. I now weigh 283 pounds, twice as much as I weighed in college. It's not difficult to figure out how I got here.
1. I never gave up my eating habits from college. I still can eat a whole pizza if the spirit moves, and it's not unheard of for me to go through a 2 liter soda in the course of an evening.
2. I'm sedentary. I do work a day job that keeps me on my feet, but it's in a very small area. I don't move around that much. On my days off and in my evenings, I sit in front of a computer and write novels, an even more sedentary occupation. I do occasionally go hiking, bike riding, and canoeing, but seldom more than once or twice a month.
3. I have some physical challenges. Over a decade ago, I was diagnosed with a thyroid deficiency. I treated it for a while, but eventually stopped taking the medicine because I didn't feel any effect. Last year, my condition worsened, from a state of mild deficiency to severe deficiency. I'm finally back on medication, but I still carry weight I put on when I wasn't treating my problem. Also, from childhood until my forties, I suffered from allergies and asthma. Any kind of vigorous excercise would trigger an asthma attack. But, for reasons that I can't explain, my asthma just disappeared about five years ago. It can still be triggered if I'm around too much cigarette smoke, but physical activity doesn't produce even a wheeze. And, claritin has mostly taken care of the allergies.
Finally, I've suspected for a long time I had sleep apnea. I had a sleep study years ago, but failed to sleep due to all the wires taped to my scalp and the fact the study took place on a bed that felt like cinderblocks with a sheet draped over them. That study cost a lot of money, so I wasn't eager to pay for another sleepless night, which explains why I waited over a decade before again agreeing it was something I needed to check out. It wasn't my physical symptoms that worried me as much as my mental symptoms. My short term memory has become terrible. This is a sypmtom of sleep apnea, caused by lower oxygen levels, and my oxygen levels were getting down below 75% at night, according to my latest sleep study. But, even though if was fear for the integrity of my mind that pushed me into treatment, I also know that my body suffered because of the apnea. I just felt tired all the time because I never got a good night's sleep.
So, why now?
We just got a new floor mounted shipping scale at work. And, of course, the second it was installed, everyone started weighing themselves. I'm the second heaviest person on my job. But, I'm not the only one overweight, and so several of my coworkers are going to compete for the next three months to see who can lose the most weight. I'm in!
Why I think I can lose the weight:
First, I've started on a CPAP machine two weeks ago. I'm still learning how to sleep with the machine, but early results are promising. I'll be starting this weight loss competition getting full nights of restful sleep, something I haven't had in ages. I'm hoping this will translate into more energy for excercise.
Second, my other physical issues, the thyroid deficiency and the allergies, are mostly under control with medication. I don't feel like my body is actively fighting my efforts to make it healthier.
Third, after many years of struggle, I'm finally breaking my addiction to cola. I've never liked diet cola, and know that drinking sugar water at meals and between meals has been disasterous for my health. But, last spring, I stumbled onto a mineral water called Topo Chico that has zero calories and that I enjoy drinking. I've sampled other seltzer waters since, and have discovered that plain old Food Lion brand seltzer water is pretty satisfying. I've already stopped buying sodas and drinking them at home, but tend to drink Mountain Dew at work for the caffeine boost. But, I needed the caffeine partly because I was so tired from not getting good sleep. I'm stocking my work locker with seltzer water and making a go at not drinking soda during the day. I think I can make it because work is where I'm in the weight loss competition, and I'm pretty competetive. Once I tell people I'm giving up soda, being seen drinking a Mountain Dew would be losing face. Eliminating soda is going to cut almost 800 calories a day from my diet. That's a pretty good foundation to work from.
Cheryl is on board in changing our menu here at the house. A lot less homemade ice-cream is in our future, alas. A lot more leafy greens, which is cool, since we both actually like leafy greens.
But, changing my diet won't matter much if I don't start exercising properly. Luckily, the timing of the competition is pretty good for me. Fall is the time of year I'm most active outside. Hiking in July in North Carolina is a difficult chore due to the heat. Fall is when we already did most of our outdoor activity. There's a lot of additional walking in my immediate future.
Despite the fact that there's a competition that's triggering my effort to shed some weight, I'm doing it primarily because I just want to feel better and be healthier. My goal is to lose about 1.5 pounds a week. That's only about 20 pounds in three months; probably not enough to win the contest, but hopefully a realistic enough lifestyle change that I can get back below 240 pounds by next spring. This isn't about how much I can lose in three months. It's about whether or not I can treat my body better in the long run and have more years of productive, active life.
One reason I'm posting this here on my blog is that I'm hoping a public declaration will help me keep on track. I don't want to come back here next month and announce I've gained three pounds! And, I've also been giving a lot of thought to the kinds of essays I post here, and feel like I may have run my course on writing about politics. I feel like I've spelled out my political philosophies pretty thoroughly over the years, and just have run out of interesting things to say. (Partly, this is because our current crop of politics have stopped debating interesting topics.) But there's a lot more to life than politics, so I'm going to shift to topics a bit more personal. Stay tuned!