Day 106: Morning Ponder, and a Question

I wake up most mornings sometime around dawn; today it was about 5:30, so it will be awhile yet before the eastern sky lightens. I woke to the usual biological calls — fluids and backache — and dreaming of Dubya.  It’s a sad state of affairs when that old war criminal can rehabilitate his image by calling out 45’s self-centered inhumanity and helping to raise money for disaster relief. Still, it does help, and that’s all to the good.

On to the Question.

Why are you reading this? I’m frankly curious as to why someone takes the time to read and ‘like’ one of my posts.  I’ve had very few comments. I put notices to my Facebook wall when I write another post, with the same result. Are you as bored as I am?  Drop me a note and let me know.

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Day 104: Regrouping

It’s 2 weeks since the last post. Three weeks from the last weight check, so by my calculations, I’ve shed another six pounds, more or less, and I’m down to about 263 now. My average intake is down to just 1250 calories, my eating spikes less, and not much over 2000 calories when it does, so on the weight loss side, I’m hitting my goals and probably doing better than that because I’m tired of logging every minute of motion.

So yesterday I took a break. I was nauseous — a daily morning problem nowadays — and the morning 20 oz mug of water didn’t help. A second mug and a protein bar made matters worse, and by the time I was done shopping with my sister I was on the verge of dry heaves, so I decided to say fuck it, get my cramping innards fed and watered so I could think, and see what I was doing wrong. Another mug of water helped, but I still was seriously uncomfortable. Bryan, Ken and Ken’s mom wanted to go to coffee, so I went with them. A large cup of the local Java City’s house coffee and a delicious almond croissant helped, but when I got home I started tanking up on water, which made me feel better. Since I’d decided on a break day, I’d bought a cheap packet of imported cookies at Grocery Outlet to go with the water.  I admit I ate most of the packet over the course of the day, but they were a waste of money and calories consumed. Lesson learned; go for the Pepperidge Farm if you’re not hurting for calories.

The problems I’m having with dry mouth, digestive distress and even general discomforts seem to be a matter of hydration.  I drink about three quarts of water a day, not counting soda and coffee; according to a Web MD article I found, a human needs between half an ounce to an ounce of water per pound of body weight per day in a temperate climate. At my last weigh-in rate, that’s 14 to 38 cups, or roughly five to nine quarts, per day. Staying in the 17+ cup range has been hard since the weather turned cooler and humid, but that’s not enough to keep me hydrated and regular. So now I am working on my fourth mug of water since I got up about four hours ago with many more to follow. Getting my digestive tract back in order hurts as it goes back to work, but I am feeling a bit better already. Onward!

Day 90: Three months In

Between one thing and another, I forgot to mention that I did finally hit the two-pound-a-week average as of Monday last.  I now weigh 21 pounds less than I did when I started, and I lost eight between the September and October weigh-ins. The new jeans are already loosening up, and I’m getting more sleep if I go to bed early. Being a fifth of the way to my goal still has me mightily pleased with myself, though it’s getting a lot easier as I go. I still have My Fitness Pal open most of the time on my notebook, but I’m not as obsessive about the process as I was in the beginning, or even a month ago, now that I average two pounds lost per week.  I’ve started carrying a piece of paper to note start and finish times when I work instead of setting a stopwatch on my cellphone. At the beginning, every damned minute counted because I was starting from way too close to zero; I’m still short-winded, but I’m not struggling with sustained cleanup runs, and the chronic pains from inactivity are fading out as the post-activity needles take their place. I’m okay with that.

Figuring food is also a lot easier, too. The things I usually eat accumulate on My Fitness Pal, so logging is simple, and the measuring cups are close at hand, so it’s not a big deal to assemble a salad or whatever and log it for the calorie content. I’ve even started posting recipes with serving sizes, so I don’t have to remember all the stuff that went into the pea soup or the details of a crock of pulled pork.

I’ve found, too, that we eat cheaper, now that I’m taking in about half the calories I did three months ago. We eat better, with more fresh veg and fruit, and less fat, but the overall volume is less, and we don’t spend the money we used to on sweets or ordering in. I’m not sure I actually cook more, but a head of romaine is cheaper than a loaf of good bread, and chef salads are about as fast as a sandwich once the lettuce is torn up and the cheese sliced or shredded. I find I do have to watch how much we buy, though, and re-package meat for the freezer more often, because we don’t eat whole packages of anything quickly anymore. That’s coming together pretty well; I forget fresh bananas now and then, and I ended up making croutons and bread crumbs from half a pack of rolls that we skipped over a couple weeks ago, but it’s getting cool enough to make a meatloaf one of these nights soon, so it’s no loss in the long run.

Day 89: Housecleaning

The fires here in California are dreadful; I’m awaiting word on a family member in Santa Rosa. I’m reasonably sure he’s in a safe area after chatting with a representative from the SRPD, but the waiting is bad, and it’s worse on his mom, who has seen the videos I avoided. I scan the news for useful information I can pass on to others or otherwise help where I can from here, but all in all, it’s not much that I can do, and the horror is overwhelming if I let myself consider it too long.

So life goes on.  Bryan tells me of the latest political disasters now and then; it’s a different kind of devastation incoming from Washington DC, and it is relentless as those elected to lead abandon our people to the natural disasters and actively seek to destroy what solace remains in our country. There’s not a lot I can do about those, either.

About all I can do is to modify myself and my living conditions here at home; I diet and re-work the house as much as I can, putting such order as I can in place. The trash bin I bought last week was delivered today; it’s crimson plastic, and with that addition, the kitchen towels and the new red throw rug are beginning to tie together visually, rather than existing as isolated bright splashes against the beige, black and steel that are there now. The rust towels Bryan washed yesterday put life back into the bathroom that the light colored towels can’t. I fixed the skirt on his rocker yesterday. Today I’m purging the last of the SCA and fantasy garb, tossing cartons of scraps and failed projects into the dumpster and shedding illusions — and disillusionment — as I go. I wonder sometimes if I am lacking something that others possess in being able to do this, but so far it works well for me, and over time I find my baseline distress and bitterness are less.

Note: if you like the header illustration, you can find it here.

Day 81: Nope, Not a Diet Post

It’s been more than three weeks since my last post.  I’ve lost another four pounds, as of a week ago, so I’m still on track, but the violence of weather and of humanity, and the callous dismissal of both by those in power here in the US, overwhelm me.  I lack words for the sorrow and horror I feel at the devastation of Harvey, Irma, and most of all, Maria. The slaughter in Las Vegas pales by comparison, and it is more than enough by itself. Yet it is the blatant disregard, the chiding contempt coming from the walking filth living in the White House that leaves me sick with outrage.

Still, I go through the necessary motions, shopping, cooking, eating as close to the limits I set myself for this venture as I can, though the obsession has ebbed with the development of skill at figuring calories and portion size on the fly. I eat out with friends, noting after that my strategies need to change here and there to enjoy what I eat and to eat only enough of it.  I work on stuff here, another box of clothes or bedding or art supplies organized, shared or trashed. Bryan started a new D&D campaign, his first in months, so we and some friends shared an adventure far away from our present reality for a few hours. That was best and happiest of all, though tiring for him.

And so life goes on.

Day 59: Back on Track

I didn’t even count last night’s bout with the Chinese food we ordered in until this afternoon.  Yesterday’s diary up to that point was 137 calories under the limit; by the time I’d done with the sides, the lo mein and picking the meat and pineapple out of the sweet and sour pork last night, I was 1326 net calories over and in no condition to start working it off.  To add insult to injury, I felt like shit this morning, too, for similar reasons; I don’t do well short of sleep, and I was up late with things to be seen to and up early this morning.  On the upside, I was still satiated from last night, so I had my morning coffee and made a pot of the vegan pea soup first thing.  A half cup of that and the coffee carried me into mid-afternoon, though I’ve got a cup of black seedless grapes at hand to munch on until sometime around sundown.  That leaves about three cups of pea soup between me and the 1,000-calorie gross minimum on MyFitnessPal.  It’s going to take some doing to work off the take-out, but I want my two pounds this week free and clear.

Realistically, the big clamshells would be fine once in awhile if I were limited to one of those for the day, starting early in the day or early afternoon, say after a morning of coffee and housecleaning, or after walking down to pick it up at the restaurant.  As it is, it’s more practical to make “Asian” food at home, where I can control ingredients, and burn calories as I go, and to confine the deliveries mostly to pizza, which is lower in calories and less compulsive.  However I sort this out, it will be sorted shortly.  For now, there’s a rack of dishes to wash and a kitchen floor to mop up.  Life goes on.

Day 57: Break Day

Yesterday, Day 56, was a Friday.  My Fridays usually come in two flavors: cook for the weekend day, and Bryan’s Vampire Night.  Yesterday was BVN, and for me it was heavily spiced with unspent outrage from Day 55’s doctor encounter, so I worked off 771 calories in a little more than two hours of break-neck cleaning, aerobic paper scanning (two boxes at knee height, one for input, one out, bend/retrieve, start scan, bend deep, hit the save button, bend left, bend right, feed in another page, drop the first into the out box, run around doing other stuff during the next scan, get another sheet, repeat) and cooking up a stir-fry and rice for our lunch.  I was laughing and goofing by the time I was done, and the aftermath in the afternoon and quiet evening gave me time to think.  Bryan is a good sport about being my sounding board, and I gave a lot of thought to a situation he predicted would hit me at least once in this process, that I would hit a point at which I would ask myself why I’m doing this.  I’ve hit that once or twice already, but after talking to others and, so far as I can tell, being only partially understood, I figure a mission statement of sorts is in order.

We live in an uncertain world, one that is becoming more so daily.  As I write, Hurricane Irma is setting new records for ferocity and, no doubt, U.S. records for property damages.  I dread imagining the human suffering and loss in the southern U.S., to say nothing of the greater, ongoing catastrophes happening in Asia and elsewhere.  The West has different, growing problems, but in the turmoil of living poor in California and my own difficulties of various sorts, I’ve allowed myself to become dependent and nearly helpless in this increasingly uncertain world.  Twenty years ago, I used to walk for miles; a block or two without pausing to stop for breath is beyond me right now.  Two or three hours of vigorous house cleaning is about all I can do on a good day; after that I am exhausted and struggling stupidly to do whatever else remains to be done before I fall asleep wherever I am, in public or private.  To remain so helpless is intolerable to me.

Even less tolerable is the prospect of stomach surgery.  I already know that if I cannot control the impulses that push me to load my stomach with calorie-dense food when I am in distress, I would cause myself harm the first time one of those binges struck after surgery.  On the other side of it, if I can control the impulses, I don’t need the surgery;  it’s just a matter of time.  My weight loss goal is roughly the same as a realistic and somewhat conservative estimate of the results I might expect to achieve with surgery — I went into it in some detail here — but steadily over the course of one to two years instead of six to nine months of training and another six to nine months of crash weight loss from medically-induced starvation that would require another surgery to get my stomach back to something like normal, assuming I could get the reversal.  That’s more uncertainty than I can rationally contemplate for myself.

And, after two months, I am seeing results.  I’m thirteen pounds lighter; the tightness and cramping in my chest has stopped; and I’m able to work nonstop for an hour or so at a time, take a breather and come back to do it again.  The funny part is, my stomach capacity has actually shrunk as well.  Bryan and I ordered in Chinese food dinners today because fuck cooking, and I have been hungry for broccoli beef since the last time we ordered in.  I took the time to measure out a cup of broccoli beef and a half cup each of the lo mein and fried rice that came with it; combined with a packet of foil-wrapped chicken and two egg rolls, it was too much food by the time I was done.  It was also less than half the dinner meal, so I will be eating lo mein and fried rice for days.

Day 55: Weigh-in and Perplexity

First, the good news.  I’m down to 277 pounds, which is six less than last month.  That is about what I expected under the circumstances, and I foresee general improvements.  That said, I am trying figure what the actual fuck my doctor is trying for, as the diet/exercise as given is doing what’s expected (and is a healthy rate of weight loss) but he’s looking for something else, from his manner.  The implication is that I would/could/should be doing and losing a lot more.  I’m going to see my general practitioner and see if I can get a referral to a nutritionist and, I hope, get another copy of the physical therapy referral I’ve mislaid.  The neurologist isn’t trained in this, at least as his specialty; it’s time to find someone who is.

Still, the trip was worthwhile, in part because I had a chance to shop at Grocery Outlet and Dollar Tree on my way home.  Both the stores were larger than those in my neighborhood, so I was able to find things the local stores don’t have in stock.  I’d been wanting some small sealable containers to go with my meat-carton bento set — Hillshire Farms packs their sliced meats in Gladware reusable containers that are even labeled in such a way to make reuse easier — and I found a pack of ten quarter-cup plastic containers for a dollar that are perfect for holding some sriracha sour cream dressing or to keep the pickles and cheese from blending in transit.  If you’re interested in more bento information and some neat pictures, have a look at BentOnBetterLunches.

Day 53: All About the Food

This morning was productive despite the smoke and damp in the air.  Cooking and cleaning the kitchen totaled just over two active hours again, which translates to some 600 calories, but the stove is clean, the tacos for dinner only need the meat heated up in the microwave while I cook some tortillas.

I also came up with a killer salad combination based on the antipasto salads I’ve been ordering in.  My roommate Bryan is fond of thin-sliced ham for sandwiches, and I just shredded a pound of colby jack so we’ll have it on hand for the week or so it might last around here.  Toss in some olives and sriracha sour cream dressing, because sour cream has half the calories of ranch dressing (no, I don’t want lite ranch, thanks).  It’s 336 calories of wonderful.

Ham and Cheese Salad
Makes 1 serving. Approximately 336 calories

2-3 cups salad greens, lightly packed
4 slices thin-sliced ham
1/3 cup shredded colby jack or cheddar cheese
10 medium black olives, halved lengthwise
4 Gedney sweet pickled pearl onions
(optional, but awesome if you like them)

Sriracha Sour Cream Dressing
2 Tablespoons sour cream
1 Teaspoon Sriracha sauce, or to taste
1/2 Teaspoon Worchestershire sauce, or to taste

Roll the ham slices loosely. Cut the roll lengthwise, then crosswise to make bite-size pieces of stacked ham. Assemble the salad ingredients more or less in the order given.  (I like the pickles to the side, but that’s me.)  Mix the dressing, adjusting to taste as necessary, and distribute as you like on the salad.

Although this is pretty wonderful by itself, recent experience has taught me there’s a practical reason salads are served with a starch such as croutons or crackers.  The salad alone has 15 grams of carbohydrate, mostly simple sugars buried deep within the fibers of those greens.  Since I’d worked all morning on a banana, a cup of coffee and gummy vitamins, I burned through those 15 grams of sugar in no time.  A slice of heavy whole-grain bread smeared with pbj took care of the problem enough for me to have the nap I also needed.  Lesson learned!

Day 51: A Bobble and Onward

Yesterday was not fun, but it worked out.  I’d started the day with too much coffee on an empty stomach, then eaten most of my calories in carbs and fat by late afternoon, so I was frantic.  Bryan ordered Chinese in — I had bbq pork tofu, no rice or noodles, and one potsticker — and that got me back on an even keel. This morning I had the rest of the tofu dish and a regular-sized cup of coffee for breakfast, then I set about cleaning up the kitchen and prepping food for us this week. That took about two and a half hours, not counting breaks, as there were pans and nearly all our plastic storage containers to wash.  I’ve got the chicken cut up and marinating four different ways, and I can prep veg as I go over then next day or two, so I can stay busy on something besides the kitchen chores.  I like to cook, but it tires me out after awhile.  I thought perhaps I’d burn an even 1,000 calories getting chores done, but I was tired enough after prepping the chicken to cook a cut-up breast with butter and hot sauce and call it good.  Sour cream has half the calories of ranch and tastes better, so another win dousing the fire of the hot tenders, but washing up the pan and dishes from dinner can wait until morning.  The fade is hitting me hard as I type this, and Bryan still has broccoli beef from last night, so I don’t have to worry about his dinner.  It’s time to wind down and call it a night.

Now, if those clouds would give us some rain to clear the air and dampen the fires here in the West…