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.


Mr. Cavin said...

Actually, I've been meaning to ask about this. High blood pressure and sleep apnea can be symptoms of extra abdominal weight, one of the reasons that these diagnoses skew statistically higher in aging males and pregnant women. I know that a lot of people on CPAP machines tend to no longer need them after the belly fat comes off. Are you still using yours? Do you think you still need to? Also, it seemed to me that both your thyroid deficiency and your sleep apnea had similar side-effects. Were you really suffering from both, or was the thyroid issue misdiagnosed?

James Maxey said...

I'm certain I had the thyroid condition. My mother and sister have thyroid problems, so it runs in the family, and getting on the thyroid medication really did improve my health. The sleep apnea was a seperate issue. For now, I'll continue using CPAP. All the upfront expenses have already been paid, and I sleep well using it, so I don't see why I should quit. Also, even when I was a skinny kid, I snored. With CPAP, no snoring, so, if nothing else, it lets Cheryl sleep better.