Welcome!

I'm James Maxey, the author of the Dragon Age fantasy series of Bitterwood, Dragonforge, and Dragonseed, the Dragon Apocalypse series of Greatshadow, Hush, and Witchbreaker, as well as the superhero novels Nobody Gets the Girl and Burn Baby Burn. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Week Three Addendum

I got my bloodwork results in the mail today. Results were even better than expected! Last year, most of my cholesteral numbers were right on the borderline of being high, with a few meandering over the line into the low reaches of the danger zones.

Now, all my numbers are well in the midpoint of the recommended ranges. My resting blood sugar has also improved away from being borderline worrisome. Since my father was diabetic and died of heart disease, getting these numbers down is a pretty smart move on my part.

Just returned from a three mile hike which we went ahead and did despite the fact it was raining. If it wasn't raining, we probably had it in us to go a bit further. We are really lucky to have some excellent trails in this area.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Week Three

Weigh in today: 267.

Can I hit 264 by next Thursday? I know I'll probably plateau soon. But, for now, I'm happy with my results. I really think the biggest key to my success is my smart phone. Logging everything I eat, and being able to research instantly the calorie choices before me, are key. Today I had a situation where I couldn't come home until late and had to eat dinner out. Thanks to my smart phone, I was able to look up all the calorie counts for the entire menu at PF Changs while I was sitting in the parking lot and when I went in I was able to place an order for lettuce wraps and a bowl of soup that were well within my calorie budget. Especially in a restaurant where a lot of the food is prepared with different sauces, having the mystery removed of how many calories I was consuming was pretty empowering.

Onward! (Or downward, as the case may be.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Week Two

Today at work I weighed in at 271 pounds. That's 13 pounds gone since starting my dietary changes two weeks ago. I'm less than a week away from my next physical, and I'm really interested in seeing the bloodwork. I've been eating a high fiber, high protein, low carb and low fat diet, so I'm expecting all my numbers to look good except for sodium. I've always eaten a lot of salt, but I suspect it's representing an even higher percentage of my diet these days, since I'm avoiding all sweet snacks and sticking with salty ones; ie, I eat beef jerky instead of Snickers during breaks at work.

I'm trying to get Cheryl to eat tofu, but it's an uphill climb. I personally like tofu, and have since long before starting this diet. I eat it in a lot of dishes at asian restaurants, and would be perfectly happy recreating these dishes at home. Alas, Cheryl doesn't like any of the various textures it comes in. I currently have been experimenting with extra firm tofu, which to me has the texture of a firm cheese, but, I must admit, it's also a texture that resembles biting through a pencil eraser. Not that I've done that. I'm not that hungry.

Which is my biggest surprise. I've had few moments since starting this when I've really been hungry. A lot of my food consumption patterns were built on habit instead of actual physical need. Some of my coworkers go outside to smoke during breaks. I would go to the break room and eat an ice cream sandwich. (I work next to a DollarTree... they sell ice cream sandwiches in boxes of 4 for a dollar. You can eat a lot of ice cream sandwiches for pocket change.)

I can't yet figure out if eating healthy is costing me more or less than my old dietary habits. Last week's trip to the farmer's market wasn't cheap. The whole grain flatbread with flax seed I've been buying is a heck of a lot more expensive ounce for ounce than an ordinary loaf of bread. Beef jerky costs a heck of a lot more than a candy bar. On the other hand, we've eaten out much, much less. I suspect in the long run we're saving money.

Okay, enough writing. Time to hit the treadmill for the evening. I want to make sure that at weigh in next week, the second digit on my weight will be a six. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Week One

I weighed in today at 274 pounds. Losing ten pounds in a week is a nice start, but I'm realistic that the path ahead won't be quite as easy. Still, what's surprising is that, so far, it hasn't been all that hard.

I've gone cold turkey on soft drinks. The only liquid I've drank in the last week with any calories are V8 and tom yum soup. Coke and Mountain Dew have been my weakness for decades. This is the first time an entire week has passed without me partaking of either.

The withdrawal from the caffiene gave me a dull headache the first few days, but now I'm pretty much over it. Many days I was drinking over 1000 calories of this stuff. I knew it was insane, and I'm damn lucky I'm not already diabetic. I feel good about resisting the siren call of sodas for the foreseeable future.

I'm also over pizza, at least the mass market produced stuff. I work next door to a Little Caeser's pizza, and once or twice a week would grab a pizza for lunch. Some days I'd eat the whole pizza. How was it I managed not to weight 300 pounds already?

The competition factor of losing more weight than my coworkers over the next three months is still extremely motivational. Basically, I've transformed work from the place I used to have my worst eating habits to a place that is keeping me focused on my goals.

I've also got the help of my wife, Cheryl, who is 100% behind rethinking out meals at home. We've both signed up for My Fitness Pal, an android ap that lets us track all the calories we consume in a day on our phones. So far, I've met my goals every day with room to spare. The act of recording all the food I'm eating really makes me stop and think about everything I put in my mouth.

We bought a used treadmill from Habitat for Humanity and have done a decent amount of walking. I'm planning to add some weight training soon. I've got a doctor's appointment on the 25th. I'm looking forward to seeing what he thinks of my current weight loss goals. So far, I feel like I'm on a good path.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Lifestyle changes ahead

I'm fat.

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!