You Should See the Other Guy

I look like I’ve been in a bar fight.

My face is all swollen up: imagine a Cabbage Patch doll, but with bruising.

I have no energy and I feel like crap.   I joke, “You should see the other guy,” but really, he looks perfectly fine. He’s a dentist. Read more

Getting Ready for the Close-Ups

I have come to realize that something remarkable happens when we hit a certain age:  Apparently, we can get all the calories we need from air.

Everything else makes us gain weight.

No kidding, I used to be able to scarf down a big old piece of cake, go for a run, and it was as if the cake had never happened.  I got spoiled.

Now, as my daughter’s wedding approaches and I face the thought of being immortalized in numerous photographs that will forever be on display, I am shaping up.  It’s not easy, but it’s happening.

You may not know that I have two blogs, reflecting my two different lives; this is one, and the other, because I am a health and science writer by trade, is a men’s health blog called vitaljake.com.  Recently, I wrote in that blog about my battle to be Fit and Trim, which is also the name of a dog food.  These blogs don’t usually cross over, but this is consuming my life, so it’s spilled over here because I want to share it with you, in case you’re in the same boat.

There was a Woody Allen movie a long time ago, I forget which one, and this man is cradling a large chunk of earth in both arms like a baby.  “I have a little plot of land,” he says.  “One day I hope to build on it.”  Well, I don’t have a little plot, but I have a little pot.  This is where my body likes to store fat.  I don’t have “junk in the trunk,” or thunder thighs or back fat.  No, instead, my body wants to put on fat right in the tummy, where it causes the heart to work hardest.  So yeah, I’ve got heart attack fat.  It’s not much, but it’s more than I want.

You know how they say the only things left after the apocalypse will be cockroaches and Twinkies?  Well, I can add one item to this list:  belly fat.  It’s the guest who came to dinner and decided never to leave.  It’s ring around the collar:  you’ve tried soaking – you get the idea.

So that’s what I’ve been working on, and I have to say, I am seeing results.  The tummy is getting smaller.  If you think about the belly button as the equator, the tummy is going down from the North Pole and moving up from the South Pole.  It’s shrinking.  Today, I was really excited about how far it had come, and I showed my husband, who happens to be a gastroenterologist.

“Look at this!”  I crowed.  Then I added, “Although I still have heartburn. I had hoped that would get better.”

He cast a professional eye, and said, “There’s still a good bit left, and because it presses right on the stomach, you need to lose more of that before the reflux will go away.”

Thanks, Hon! That was a good talk.  Very inspirational.

Still, it’s happening.

The Struggle is Real, but Not Real Hard

My kids got me to start going to the gym a few years ago.  Then I stopped doing weights and started running, but although I enjoyed it, I got plantar fasciitis and was hobbling around every morning when I got out of bed.

Then my daughter sent me a link to this great website called Bodybuilding.com.  After doing just weights, and then switching to just cardio, I have finally figured out that it’s better to do both.  (I also want to state publicly that my daughter tried to tell me this, years ago, but I didn’t get it.  I do now.)

None of this is as hard as you might think.  Here’s the routine I have been doing:  http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/randy29.htm

I don’t even do all of it!  It starts with crunches.  I don’t do them!  I go to my local YMCA, and frankly, the floor is gross.  They have mats you can use, but they’re gross, too.  I don’t want to be on them.  This is not your fancy clientele, as evidenced by the sign over the water fountain telling people not to spit in it.  Sometimes people don’t read the sign, that’s all I’m going to say.  (There are also a lot of guys who are heavy groaners; they do their exercises and grunt so much with each one, it sounds like they’re dying.  I struggle not to have inappropriate laughter, which would not go over well, I’m sure.)

There are 12 exercises, and before you think, “oh, Lord, how long will that take,” let me reassure you that each one just takes a few minutes.  And again – I don’t do them all!  It’s not that bad.

barbellI start with the “barbell bench press.”  I do 40 pounds.  Don’t laugh; it used to be 30.  That’s okay.  If 40 gets easy, I will move up to 50.  Baby steps, people.  Then I do the dumbbell shoulder press.  I do 12 pounds each; again, you could laugh at the girly lack of weight, but it used to be 10 pounds.  One-arm dumbbell row, 25 pounds; it used to be 15.  Wide-grip lat pulldown:  I do 55 pounds.  It used to be 40.  Seated cable rows: I do 40 pounds.  That hasn’t changed, but I was doing it wrong at first, and now that I’m doing it right, that’s a good weight for me.  Barbell curl:  I don’t do it, but I do the dumbbell curls instead; 15 pounds, used to be 10.  Triceps pushdown:  I do 45 pounds.  I used to do 40.  Barbell full squat:  The pole that holds the barbells weighs 45 pounds; I add 50 to that.  Leg extensions: I do 50 pounds; used to do 30 when I started.  Lying leg curls: I do 50 pounds.  I don’t like them, so I often don’t do them.  And that’s okay, because I’m doing the other stuff.

Then I do 20 minutes on the treadmill; I used to run, now I walk briskly.  I also have Molly, my Chocolate Lab who is insane, and I take her for long walks, too.  Combining both the weights and the walking really has made a huge difference for me.

Molly the dogAnother thing: I have changed what I eat.  This has been difficult, because God help me, I love comfort food.  I love macaroni and cheese, the kind you bake in the oven that gets the crust on it.  I love meatloaf.  I love mashed potatoes, and then I like to take green peas on my plate and bury them in there – a surprise in every bite!  I love bread.  I love cookies and cakes and pie and custard.

I grew up in the South, and when I go to South Carolina to visit my family, I gravitate to fried chicken, fried okra, fried catfish… notice a theme here?  Fried foods – well, it’s not what they serve in the health spas, okay?  It’s not very good for you.

Also, sweet tea is the house wine in the South.  I am now drinking my tea straight, without the cup of sugar in each gallon.  My relatives are still speaking to me.

My point here is that I’m eating food that is better for me, and in return, I actually feel better for it.

You may find a diet that is perfect for you, and if that’s the case, more power to you.  I have found that slow and steady wins the race.

Every Little Thing Makes a Difference

Here’s my best tip: Every single little thing you do makes a tiny difference.  Have mustard instead of mayo.  If you get a sandwich, skip the cheese.  Get it on whole-grain bread.

Don’t get chips with it.  If you say, “No way, I’m getting chips,” of course that is your right, and it’s your life.  How about maybe you get the small size instead of the “sharing size?”  At least there are fewer chips in there.  You’ve got to start somewhere.

Chicken has fewer calories than beef.

healthy foodDrink only water or something with no calories, like unsweetened tea.  Avoid soda like the plague.  Alcohol has a lot of calories.  You could start to lose weight right away if you just cut back on that.  Watch out for juice; it has a lot more calories than you think.  Eat a piece of fruit instead.  If you go to Starbucks, get a Refresher, which only has about 35 calories, instead of a Frappucino.  Don’t rely on diet drinks; that’s a whole ‘nother blog post, but they still make your body crave sweet things, and this does bad things to your insulin receptors.

Make the effort to limit processed food.  Yes, when you’re tired and you just want to eat something fast, it’s a pain to cook from scratch.  I know this.  I have never been one to make a bunch of meals ahead of time, so I can’t recommend that approach, although a lot of people do it.  But it’s not that hard to get a piece of chicken and cook it.  You can buy frozen brown rice and microwave it; it takes three minutes.  Or cut up that chicken and stick it on top of a storebought salad mix, then add a simple vinaigrette dressing.

Fast food is bad.  Now, you may say, “But I have no choice, I’m on the road, I can’t carry food all the time.”  Keeping in mind that you actually could carry granola bars and fruit, I’ll say, “Okay, then watch your calories.”  McDonald’s posts the calories right on the sign.  If you just have to have a burger, limit your portion size, as the doctors say.  Get one of their original small hamburgers, not a cheeseburger.  Get a small fry instead of a large.  For God’s sake, don’t get a soda.  Your insulin receptors will thank you. It’s not great, and I wish you would do something else, but at least you will save hundreds of calories right there.  (I will note here that some nutritionists would say I’m being a traitor to the cause:  “Eek! Fast food burgers and fries are evil!  Shun them!  Get a salad instead.”  But a lot of people feel that when their doctor gives them a diet, it’s “my way or the highway,” and if they leave the highway once, they might as well just stay off-road.  I am hoping you will stay on the road for the long haul.)

Speaking of salads: Salads are good, but if you load them up with a creamy ranch dressing, lots of cheese and croutons, maybe some ham or bacon for good measure, with a big side of bread and butter, you are defeating your purpose.

Take the stairs.

Don’t drive circles around the parking lot looking for that lazy spot right in front of the store.  Park farther away from the store and walk.

walkingWhen you start to exercise, don’t start with heavy weights.  Work up to it.  Don’t get on the treadmill, run fast and then poop out after two minutes.  Start by walking slowly.  In my opinion, it’s better to walk slowly for 20 minutes than speed-walk for five.  If you don’t have access to a treadmill, set a timer and walk for 20 minutes, at any speed you choose.  Anything you do is more than you would accomplish by just sitting still.  Trying means a lot.

Don’t get discouraged.  The worst thing you can do is try something, decide it’s too hard, then quit because you just know it’s never going to happen, and that you’re a loser, or whatever you might say to yourself.  You’re not a loser, because you’re trying.  No judgment, only encouragement.  You are making the effort.

Baby steps.

If I can do this, I know you can, too.

© Janet Farrar Worthington

, ,

A Good Day

“The man who is well wears a crown that only the sick can see.” — Sir William Osler.

“Today is a good day to have a good day.” — Joanna Gaines.

Two of my favorite sayings just came true for me, when I had to stay overnight in the hospital after what I had hoped would be an outpatient surgical procedure.  The first was said by Osler, a legendary physician from more than a century ago, widely considered to be the Father of Internal Medicine.  Actually, I don’t know who coined the second phrase, but I heard it from Joanna Gaines on the HGTV show, “Fixer Upper.”

What Osler meant was that, you don’t know how good you have it until you don’t feel well.  The most basic things that you took for granted even a few hours earlier seem like privileges, and you think, “Oh, man, I was so fortunate, and I didn’t even know it.”  Then, if some or all of those essential things are restored to you, you realize that you have the makings of a good day.  A great day, even.

For example:  If you are lying in a bed and you don’t have these gripper things Velcro’d to your legs from ankle to knee, rhythmically squeezing first the left leg and then the right so you don’t get a blood clot, that’s a pretty good day right there.  If you want to get up from bed, or even turn over, and you can move your legs and your abdominal muscles are working even though you just had surgery, way to go!  If you want to get up, and you don’t have an IV connected to your left arm and a blood pressure thing connected to your right arm, along with the Velcro leg things mentioned above, congrats!  You’re free!  You are untethered, friend!

If you get up, despite having the IV pole, and manage to walk a lap or two around the nurses’ station on your hospital floor, fist bump!  If you manage to make it to the room toilet and something — even a few drops — comes out, you are on your way to having a good day.  In my case, the anesthesiologist told my husband I was “a lightweight” — meaning, the least bit of anesthesia just knocks me out, makes itself comfortable in my body, and doesn’t want to leave.  So when I managed to eat a Popsicle and drink a styrofoam cup of iced Shasta ginger ale — and thought those were the best things I had ever had in my life — they just sat there in my stomach, not getting absorbed.  Then they came back up.  Several times.  At last, when I finally achieved urine, it was a victory.  Things were moving along!  And then, my friends, if you have not had any food for 24 hours and you have had abdominal surgery and, when you go to the bathroom, you manage to achieve a small toot, let me tell you:  Tchaikovsky himself could not have written the cannon fire in the 1812 Overture to be any more triumphant.  The system is working!  Doctors and nurses really get excited when the old digestive tract fires back up.

But this is not about what happened to me so much as what it made me realize.  Just about everything is a gift of some kind.  We don’t always see it, but it is.  Tired at work?  Hey, at least (I hope) you got to get up, dress yourself,  eat whatever you wanted to, have a big cup of something with caffeine (which also means you don’t now have a righteous caffeine-withdrawal headache), and you either drove or walked or rode a bike or some form of public transportation to get there.   If you also had to get your kids and/or spouse up, maybe chuck some laundry in the washer, maybe put something in the Crock Pot for supper, you could look at it as a burden.  But I hope you will look at it as a privilege, because nobody had to do those things for you because you weren’t able to do it yourself.

The very best part about all this, and my recovery, is, as always, my family and friends.  My kids — Blair, Andy, and Josh, plus Kevin, Andy’s best friend, who’s visiting us this summer — have been wonderful, doing anything I needed them to do, and not letting me do much at all.  I am not good at not pushing myself, but they have done (literally) the heavy lifting when I really needed it.  Blair, my daughter, has been especially incredible, driving Josh to school, cooking meals, going to the grocery store, etc.  My friend, Marion, sent me a card that said she was wearing pajamas in solidarity with me (I love that!).   Cassie, Gena, and Leigh listened to me worrying about everything that could go wrong (and nothing did, as far as I can tell!).  I didn’t really announce it at church or among my friends, but the people who knew, like Bev, sent cards and called and checked in, and I was in their prayers.  My buddies in the praise band and choir were there for me.  Catherine fixed us meals that were feasts — twice.  My dad, my brother, Bradley, and sister-in-law, Carole, and mother-in-law, Sally, keep checking in.

And, as always, Mark was there, holding my hand before surgery, just sitting by the gurney in pre-op and being with me when the case before mine was delayed and I started to fidget.  When I didn’t bounce back right away, he was with me in the hospital room, and when it became clear that I wasn’t going to get to go home, he just slept there, wearing his same clothes, with no toothbrush or pillow.  He slept on a pullout sofa in the room, helped me get up to go to the bathroom in the night, cheered with me when I managed to achieve urine, then got up at 6 a.m., went home, took a shower, and went to work, where he spent the next nine hours taking care of his own patients.

If you have people in your life who give a crap about you, who love you, who take care of you when you’re sick, who do stuff for you when you need it, then be happy.  You have won the game, buddy.  If you’re fairly healthy on top of that, then you’ve got a lot of reasons to celebrate.  You’re wearing a crown that only someone who isn’t feeling as well as you can see.  You’ve also, I hope, got a lot more to be thankful for than you know.  Many reasons why today is a good day to have a good day.

P.S.  If I ever complain or feel sorry for myself, you have my permission to give me a swift kick — but gently, please — I’ve still got stitches.

,

I Just Want My Sudafed

It’s spring here in the mountains of Arizona, and everything is blooming. Big clouds of pollen are blowing off the trees, and apparently all that stuff is just going right up my nose. I’ve had a stuffy nose for days, and then a headache from the stuffiness. So today, in desperation, I rooted around my old purses and suitcases, looking for Sudafed — not unlike a bum searching for cigarette butts with a little bit of good left in them. It was sad. I found a lone, little red pill, and took it. (Fun fact: I also found that I have tucked away a lot of extra feminine hygiene products over the years, so if there’s ever an apocalypse, I can do a bustling business on the black market. I can barter!) As always, once I took that little red pill, my head started to open up and I feel so much better now. I don’t always need Sudafed, but nothing else works as well as it does. I don’t even take the whole dose — two pills. I just take one! I am so not a danger on any of the government lists I’m probably on for buying this semi-controlled substance.

I hate to buy it. I feel like a criminal, giving my ID and signing a little book. Stupid government. Stupid meth heads. I’m not going to make meth with it! I just want to achieve breathing in both nostrils! The lame Sudafed substitute — PE — doesn’t work nearly as well.  I tried to buy a 48-pack at Safeway, and the young pharmacy clerk looked at me like I was ready to dance with Satan.  “A 24-pack is the most you can buy,” he said reproachfully.  You moron.  I’ve bought the 48-pack at Wal-Mart before.  I know it exists.  This poor dude probably has not known a life where Sudafed could just be bought, like the beautiful nose-opener it is.  And yet, people can buy Benadryl, which makes you sleepy and you probably shouldn’t drive on it, by the truckload.  Buy it until the cows come home!  But Sudafed?  God forbid!

In tribute to Sudafed, I have written these haikus:

Precious Sudafed
You always open my head
So that I can breathe

Vasoconstrictor
Gift to nasal passages
Red pills, and red tape

I will not make meth
Can’t even do chemistry
Not that good at math

I just want to breathe
No longer to be stuffy
So here’s my I.D.

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

,

The Captain and Kohlrabi

Captain Crunch’s Peanut Butter CRACK.  That’s what it should be called.  I have a problem.  I love this cereal.  I’m Sherlock Holmes, it’s cocaine.  I’m our dog, Roxy, and the Captain is rawhide.  I’m not going to lie; the Captain and I have a history.  I thought it was over long ago.  Then, my son, Andy, bought some, I had a couple pieces and all bets were off.  We reconnected.  That box is gone and I just went and bought another box.   I don’t even put it in milk, I just eat it right out of the box.

Don’t  judge me.  Carl Jung would judge me.  He said:  “Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine, or idealism.”  Way to bring down the room, Carl.  Go sit on the downer couch with Edgar Allan Poe, who said, “I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge.  It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.”  Edgar — or do you prefer Edgar Allan, or simply Mr. Creepy — you missed out, buddy.  If you had self-medicated with the Captain, maybe you would have cheered up a little and not written about tell-tale hearts, brick wall tombs, and ravens.  Also, you could have worked a fun maze on the back of the box.

Remember the loser couch in the snobby Omega fraternity in “Animal House,” where Larry Kroger and Kent Dorfman are taken to sit with Jugdish, Mohammat, Sidney and Clayton?  “Don’t be shy about helping yourselves to punch and cookies.”  Maybe Edgar and Carl could sit there for fun party smalltalk.

My diet is not without balance.  Because I also have Whipstone Farm.  Here in Prescott, Arizona, we have great local farms, and we bought a farm share with Whipstone.  Every Tuesday we pick up a huge bag of fresh vegetables.  We got the flower share, too, so in addition to eating greens, carrots, turnips, tomatoes, and broccoli just about every day, we will have fresh-cut flowers in the house until October.  Pretty nice!  My younger son, Josh, is my farm buddy.  He goes with me to pick up the veggies, and then he helps me find recipes.  His favorite vegetable is kohlrabi.  We never had it before we started the farm share last year.  It’s in the cabbage family, a funky-looking bulb with long stalks sticking up like antennae and leaves at the top.  We blanch the greens and then toss them in sesame oil and soy sauce, and we cut up the bulb and make a quick pickle, with rice vinegar, a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

In the movie, “The Natural,” Robert Redford plays this kind of mythic baseball player, Kim Basinger is a temptress out to ruin his game, and Glenn Close is his childhood sweetheart, who stands for all that is right and good.  She stands up as he is batting, and when he sees her in the crowd, he hits one out of the park.  I’m not saying the Captain is all bad, or that kohlrabi is Glenn Close, which would be weird.  I’m hoping for moderation in all things.

And maybe another handful of Peanut Butter Crunch.

 

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

 

Houston, Wii have a problem

Just an update on my ongoing negative feelings toward the Wii Fit Plus little animated balance board dude.  So, I’ve been running, working out, and dutifully wearing my little Wii pedometer everywhere, every single day, so I can suck up to the Wii and get credit for wandering around the grocery store and walking the dogs.   “It looks like you’re only burning about 250 calories a day.”  There is never any kind of conversation like, “Hey, you’re doing great!  I see you’re making the effort to work out!”  None of that.

Instead, to meet my goal of losing two pounds in two weeks, the Wii dude said I needed to burn 500 calories a day, and I had no choice!  I had to hit “A” on the Wii Fit Plus tablet, or I couldn’t move on!  So I kept logging in and checking my calories, and I made it to 435 calories burned, and I was just done for the day.   Couldn’t do any more. Plus, I kept doing calorie-burning exercises instead of strength training and yoga, which I wanted to do.  There is no way to change this mandated calorie-burning setting, as far as I can tell.  Andy and I searched the internet and we found diddley squat.

As it happened, that same day, I weighed myself on the Wii board later in the morning than usual.  “You’ve gained 1.9 pounds.”  Then it forced me to a screen where I had to identify the reason for this weight gain.  The reasons it had available were winners like, “Late dinners.”  There was nothing I could click on that said, “I just ate breakfast!  I’m full of cereal!”

Again I got the “Just thought I’d mention it” snark that I usually weigh myself earlier (see my previous post).  There was no choice to click on that said, “My son was playing his Donkey Kong game on the Wii U and I couldn’t get on until now!”

Similarly, there is nothing to click on that says, “It’s my time of the month and I’m bloated up with water weight and my exercise pants barely fit but at least I’m here standing on your stupid scale and subjecting myself to your abuse so why don’t you just shut the hell up?”

After that, I did the two tests that the Dude came up with, “One for your body, one for your mind.”  I did okay with the balance one, then there was a new one that required me to blow into the Wii Fit Plus Tablet.  I didn’t even know where to blow, but Josh said into the microphone, so I did.  That put air into this virtual bubble.  Then the bubble started to drift to the left.  I kept blowing, and it hit a wall and burst.  Test over, with no instruction how to do it.  “Looks like lung capacity isn’t your strong point.  Do you get out of breath a lot?”   I really hate that guy.

I took yesterday off.  What a great day!  I had recently had a conversation with an anti-carb friend about eating fewer grains, and I had spent Saturday feeling guilty for my life, trying to determine which foods I could eat that would be Stone Age-appropriate.  This is a huge crock, by the way.  Those poor bastards were starving.  What do you think they’d have done if they had stumbled across a box of Cheerios?  Scarfed it down.  And the box!  They’d have eaten that, too!  Do you think they’d have sniffed at the carb load?    But I was AWOL — so we got Domino’s pizza.  I did get the thin crust, which was very good despite having fewer carbs, but I washed it down with a Coke!

I toasted the Wii Fit U, which was not on.

 

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.