I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. 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. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Weight Loss for Geeks: Step One: See a Doctor!

How many times have you read diet advice that begins, "see a doctor?" (Or, more pretentiously, "consult with your physician?") I hate that advice. For several reasons, I'm skeptical of our medical system. About fifteen years ago I had a doctor who seemed to want to prescribe a pill for everything. I never left his office without a grab bag of pharmaceuticals. He didn't seem so much an actual doctor as a salesman for drugs.

So, I changed doctors, and my new doctor suggested I might have a food allergy that would explain my persistent allergies and said he'd order some blood work. He didn't tell me that the blood work would cost SIX-THOUSAND DOLLARS! It seems like, I dunno, the kind of thing you might mention. The blood work came back telling me I was "sensitive" to pretty much every food on earth, wheat, onions, tomatoes, radishes, and a long list of stuff I can't remember. I started reading up on food "sensitivities" and came away feeling like the whole thing was a scam. Obviously, there are legitimate food allergies, but the sensitivity stuff felt like pseudoscience designed to give doctors an excuse to issue bills for six grand.

After that, I went a decade without seeing a doctor. It was only a few years ago when I started drifting to sleep while I was driving home at 3pm that I thought, you know, maybe it's time I see a doctor about my never ending drowsiness.

It took about thirty minutes and an inexpensive blood test to diagnose me with a thyroid deficiency. The thyroid medication is dirt cheap, and my energy levels were boosted at least 200% once we got the dose right. But, I was still having to take naps in the afternoon. So, my doctor recommended a sleep study, saying I probably had sleep apnea. I suspected this was true, since I often woke up to discover I was sitting upright in bed, since I would stop breathing when I was laying down. I was really worried about using a CPAP machine when I first got it, but now using it is no hassle at all. I get great, deep sleep, and make it through my days without needing a nap. Heck, I even miss my afternoon naps and sometimes try to sneak one in and find I can't fall asleep because I'm not tired enough.

It's possible that I might have been able to lose weight if I'd cut calories and upped my exercise while I still had my thyroid deficiency, but it's doubtful. My metabolism just couldn't burn the calories I ate efficiently. It's also possible that I could have cured my sleep apnea by losing a significant amount of body weight. But, I didn't have the energy to do this until I started getting good nights of sleep by using the CPAP machine. I also couldn't have broken my addiction to soft drinks without CPAP. I used to require bottle after bottle of Mountain Dew to get me through a day. Now, I genuinely can't remember the last time I had a soda.

Even if you don't have an underlying health problem causing your obesity, if you are obese, it's likely that you're developing health problems. I was on the borderline of high blood pressure and flirting with diabetes before I changed my lifestyle. My latest blood work had all these numbers pulling back well into the safe zones.

Information is power, if you have the wisdom to use it. Your doctor has information you need. Get it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Final Weigh In: 225.

Today was the final weigh in of the weight loss contest where I work. In this second round, my final weigh in was 225, or 19 pounds down since the end of January. My weigh in at the start of the first round of the contest last September was 284, so I've lost 59 pounds since getting serious about changing my diet and exercise habits. This is the before and after of what that looks like:

I'm not done! Not reaching 224 nags at me. I'd rather say I've lost 60 pounds than 59. I'm definitely going to continue moving forward with the goal target of being below 220 by the time of my next convention, ConCarolina's in early June. But, I fear these next five pounds are going to take more effort than the first 50. In the last week, I walked over 30 miles and biked another 13, and came in well below my calorie goals on all but one day, and still only lost 3 pounds for the week. My body is very efficient at moving me across long distances. When Cheryl and I first went biking on the American Tobacco Trail three years ago, we were wiped out after biking 7 miles. One one trip, five miles left me so tired I had to walk my bike up the final hill, and we're not talking a real hill here, just a very mild grade of a few degrees. This time, we did the first seven miles on Saturday barely breaking a sweat. Even after 13 miles, we weren't completely spent. I think we could have easily managed another couple of miles if we'd had time.

Back in September, I wore pants with a 42 inch waistband. Now, my best fit is a 36" waist, and I'd probably be buying a 35" waist if they sold men's pants in odd sizes. I tried on a 34" waist yesterday and was able to get it on, but it wasn't comfortable. I'm highly doubtful I can get below a 34" waist, since I think that's what I wore in college when I was skinny as a rail.

In the coming days, I plan to do a few posts about my weight loss strategies. I have a very geeky approach; basically, I treat my body like a characer in an RPG game and constantly work to improve my stats. I used to spend five hours sitting at a computer hunting through virtual dungeons in hopes of getting my character to go up a level. Now, I spend five hours a week exercising to get my weight stat to tick down another notch. And, like an RPG, the further you go, the tougher it gets.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Week 13: 228

Up a pound this week, on the pentultimate weigh in. But, I'm eating vegetarian up to the final weigh in, and over the next two days I'm doing a marathon distance, walking 27 miles over the course of two days, basically covering all of the American Tobacco Trail from Herndon park down to 64. My target is to reach 224 by next Monday so I can finish with a nice round 20 pound loss for this latest contest, and a sixty pound loss since September.

Last week, on a whim I tried on a pair of 36" waist jeans in the store to see how much more weight I'd need to lose to get into the smaller waist band. (In September I was a 42" waist.) To my shock, I not only got them on, they were actually a little loose! Yay! Except, groan, I already spent a ton of money on new clothes at the beginning of the year. Now, it's shopping time again. Sigh. But, I guess that buying new wardrobes is the literal price you pay for losing weight. Weighed against potentially lengthening my life and avoiding the diabetes that was almost certainly on the horizon for me given my family history, it seems like a worthwhile trade.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Week 12: 227!

I broke through my plateau of 231 finally and made it to 227 this week! Woohoo! When I started my new eating and exercise habits back in September, I weighed 284, so I've now lost 20% of my old body weight.

One reason I got through the plateau was the return of better weather for walking. And jogging. I still can't jog very long, but I'm definitely getting faster. For the first time ever, I did a mile in under 15 minutes, clocking in at 13:45. My knees aren't giving me any trouble at all since I started wrapping them. I'm looking forward to building up my endurance.

I've got two more weeks left in the competition. This week, I'm going to do a couple of medium sized hikes in the five mile range. The following week, I plan to shoot for some real distance. The furthest hike I've yet made is 11 miles, and I want to beat that by a good margin. After how hard it was to break through my last plateau, I'm not as positive that I can hit 224, which would be 20 pounds down in this latest competition. But, I'm damn sure going to try.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Week 11: 231

Back to 231 this week. Still on my plateau, even with an 8 mile hike at Pilot Mountain on Saturday. My goal of getting into the 220s by the end of April is still plausible, but much more daunting than it looked to me a month ago. My real milestone will be 227... if I hit that number, I'll have lost 20% of my body weight since starting my fitness project last September. However, when I hit 230, I'll have lost 20% of my body weight since my checkup last March that led to my sleep apnea treatment. I weighted 288 then, so there's big difference between how I looked then and how I looked now. Even though my weight has plateaued, I'm definitely seeing my waistline continue to shrink. The new clothes I bought in December are now pretty loose. I tried on some shorts the other day that were a 36" waist and they weren't tight at all. I wore 42" pants back in September. Progress!

Monday, April 01, 2013

Weeks 8, 9, 10: 232

Sigh. I know it's usually called a plateau, but it sure feels like a rut. It's frustrating because my weight at home has frequently been dipping into the 220s during the morning. Last Wednesday, I got as low as 227. But, for some reason, on Mondays at work, I'm just stuck at the same number.

We've had a couple of weeks of terrible weather that's kept me from making any long hikes. This week, I'm going to be too busy on my novel to carve out time for three or four hour hike, which are the exercise that really moves the numbers for me. I have been working in jogging when I get out, but the three mile sessions I have put in just haven't been enough, apparently. Oh well. It's a long term game. I'll keep going.