Tag Archives: Chronic Pain

Really? More Than a Year Since I Wrote Anything?

Here we are, at the beginning of another year. My birthday is right around the corner, and I’m celebrating another year of feeling like crap every single day. Another year of weighing and measuring nearly every bit of food that enters my body. Another year of watching my weight bounce up and down, even though I’ve been dieting for five years straight. (By the numbers, I should have lost so much weight that I ceased to exist. Instead, I’m almost back to the same weight I was at this time last year, despite being 25 pounds lighter at one point.) Another year of specialists, procedures, and therapies that haven’t helped.

It’s also just about time for another annual physical. So, here’s my dilemma:

Do I go see the same doctor again? Do I look for a new physician? My current doctor is a big fan of “eat less, exercise more, all your problems will go away.” But, he does have a few years of history with me, so maybe he’ll finally consider another explanation. A new doctor might be hesitant to do much of anything based on a lack of history. Neither is likely to believe a word I say, as the truth doesn’t make any sense. Most doctors I’ve seen treat me like I’m A) lying, B) exaggerating, C) confused, D) drug-seeking, and/or E) stupid.

I’ve scoured the internet in an effort to diagnose myself. All signs point to a thyroid issue (or a related pituitary issue, or an autoimmune disorder that presents like, and can lead to, a thyroid issue.) Unfortunately, everything I’ve read says that most doctors fail to order the tests that would actually help define any of these conditions. Instead, they rely on a single test (TSH). If that test comes back in the “normal” range (which mine did), it’s the end of the story. Never mind that there is very little agreement on what normal is. Never mind that there are a wide array of thyroid, pituitary, and autoimmune issues that don’t show up on that test. Never mind that I’ve identified more than thirty symptoms commonly associated with thyroid issues. Never mind that even if my thyroid IS fine, I am still experiencing all these symptoms, and maybe “eat less, exercise more” isn’t quite enough.

Yes, I’m aware that self-diagnosis is an imperfect approach. Yes, I’m aware that the internet is not always a reliable source of information. I’m also aware that I walked around for more than a decade with a hernia, and couldn’t get a doctor to diagnose it until after I had diagnosed myself. I’m also aware that when I got a second hernia and told the doctor I had a second hernia, I still had to see two more doctors before being diagnosed with a second hernia. I’m also aware that I spent years with crippling back pain before I could get a doctor to order an X-ray and an MRI to discover two bad disks. I’m also aware that basically, I have spent my entire adult life in pain, and not once has a doctor acted BEFORE I diagnosed myself.

So, what, am I writing this just to complain? Maybe. But it’s also to help me clarify my own thinking. It’s also because I want to get back to writing more. It’s also because maybe, if I throw this out there on the internet, someone will read it and relate to it and have some helpful advice. All I know for sure is that I can’t do this much longer.


[This was a post I started writing back in June. For some reason, I didn’t finish it, and now I have lost my train of thought. So, I just published it as-is.]

Look, I get it. Obesity is a big deal, no pun intended. I have been overweight or obese pretty much my entire adult life, and a fair bit of my childhood, too. I’ve spent the last several years making a very conscious effort to lose weight, and since my daughter was born, I’ve really gotten serious about it.

Really. Serious.

I’ve been exercising. I’ve been dieting. I’ve been on Weight Watchers. I’ve been seeing my doctor(s) regularly.  I’m tired all the time. I’m hungry all the time. I feel like crap all the time.

All. The. Time.

Oh, Andy, you’re exaggerating. You don’t really feel that way ALL the time. Seriously, how do you usually feel?

OK, fine, you’re right. I suppose that for the handful of hours that I sleep at night, I feel pretty decent. Occasionally, in the middle of a meal, I don’t actually feel hungry. Now that I’ve had two surgeries on my crotch, there’s very little pain there, and my back is generally much better than it was a few years ago.

Every once in a while, the back pain, the nausea, the hunger, the exhaustion, the headaches, the plantar fasciitis, the depression, and everything else all hit their low point at the same time. During those precious moments, I could probably say I don’t feel terrible. Of course, I couldn’t say when the last time that happened was.

Anyway, I’m rambling off topic. What I really came here to document was the current state of my struggle with weight loss. I’m really not looking for sympathy, but I do want to track my state of mind at various points in this journey.

Over the last four years, since I began regularly tracking my weight, I have lost 62 pounds. Yes, that’s wonderful. But, that’s averaging less than five ounces a week, and I am absolutely torturing myself for that. If I actually allow myself to eat enough to feel decent for a day or two, it takes me weeks to recover.

But Andy, something’s not right. You should see a doctor! There’s no way anyone could gain weight eating the way you do!

Yeah, you’re telling me. Unfortunately, I can’t find a doctor who believes anyone who is overweight can have anything else wrong with them. ALL my problems are a result of being fat and lazy. All they tell me is that if I lose the weight, I will feel better, so I just need to try harder. I write this today at 214 pounds, a new low for me since I began tracking my weight. I can say with certainty that this is the least I’ve weighed since my daughter was born (and probably for quite a while before that.) And you know what? I still feel terrible. Technically, I am no longer obese, but simply overweight. Goody. When does the feeling better part start? I have another 20 pounds to go before I have a BMI under 25. Will I magically feel like a million bucks on that day, or at some point, will I start gradually feeling better? I would expect the latter, but from talking to medical professionals, it will be more like the former. (Side note: Don’t even get me started on every doctor’s adherence to the magical BMI. It’s a vague reference point at best, and takes absolutely no variables into consideration.)I know, I should focus less on my weight and more on being healthy. But, the fact is, I believe that I am not well. I’d like to talk to a doctor about that, but until I have a BMI of 24.9, there is no point.

Day Fourteen

An internal monologue that will never happen in my world:

“I’m hungry. I think I’ll have a cup of soup, and maybe a slice of bread.” [Eat soup and bread.] “Wow, that was so fulfilling. I doubt I’ll have any desire to eat again for 4–6 hours.”

I guess that’s how some people function most of the time, and how they maintain a healthy weight. That’s probably how I should function, but I cannot envision an existence in which that is true.

I’m starting to rethink my entire attitude toward weight loss. It’s not easy. I’ve always thought of weight loss as a destination, and upon arrival, I’d just have to be cautious not to gain back too much weight. As long as I remained vigilant, I could catch the weight gain early, when I had five extra pounds instead of 80.

Then I read this article, and it tied in perfectly with what I’ve been contemplating the last few days: What No One Tells You.

As I made my way through this two-week experiment with ABC, I kept bumping the calories down a little further and a little further. I became more aware of the ‘extra’ calories I was getting from a cup of coffee here and a cracker there. I kept an eye on the scale, assuming that my weight must be dropping, because I was eating next to nothing. Gradually, I started to realize that this isn’t about making healthier food choices or cutting a few calories, this is about a complete lifestyle change.

There is no diet plan that will allow me to feel full while achieving a healthy weight. It will never happen. I will either be hungry or overweight pretty much the rest of my life. Sure, there will be brief moments in which I eat something and feel completely fulfilled afterwards, but they will be few and far between.

Maybe this is short-sighted of me. How can I predict the rest of my life with such certainty? Well, I can’t. But I can tell you that after 25 years of chronic pain, I feel pretty confident that I will continue to be in pain for the rest of my life. If, by some chance, that pain were to stop, I honestly don’t know that I’d even recognize the sensation. After fighting a never-ending battle with my weight, I feel pretty confident that will continue, too.

Maybe I’m being shallow. How can I complain about my weight when others are starving? Well, I can. I can complain, because my weight has been literally crushing me for years. I can complain, because every time I try to talk to a doctor about it, I’m branded fat, lazy, and too stupid to even be believed. I can complain, because I’ve spent countless hours and dollars on this problem, and I have yet to find a solution.

Maybe I am being lazy. Why don’t I just get off my ass and get some exercise once in a while? Well, I’ve tried. I joined a gym and went swimming every day. I went running, I went biking, I went walking. I’ve done yoga, I’ve done sit-ups, I’ve done aerobics. Now, I chase two small kids around the house all day. In my spare time, I’ve ripped out pavement and built retaining walls and installed windows. I’ve done these things on three hours of sleep; I’ve done these things when it’s below freezing outside. Oh, and not to toot my own horn too much, but I’ve done all of these things while in pain. Some days it’s mild pain, some days I want to cry just from getting out of bed, but it’s all day, every day. I’m not lazy, but I am still fat.

The question remains, what am I to do about it? Well, keep trying, I guess. The alternative is to learn to be happy with things the way they are, and I’m not. My clothes don’t fit, I’m tired all the time, and I generally feel lousy. I’m also not thrilled about the way I look. Maybe that’s vanity, but there it is.

I also don’t feel safe. I’m not getting any younger, and it’s not unreasonable to think I could have some health problems. In my experience, no doctor will even consider the possibility of any illness, condition, or injury in an obese patient. Everything that could ever go wrong is linked solely to my weight. If I ever want to be taken seriously by a medical professional, I have to be thin.

So, I guess I need to be hungry. I need to keep scaling back the calories until my weight starts to drop, and stay there. I need to wrap my head around the idea that if I ever reach a healthy weight, I will still have to battle every day to stay there. I will never be done.

On the positive side, I do think that ABC can help. It’s relatively easily to monitor my exact caloric intake on ABC, so hopefully I can find a number that works for me. I’m still optimistic that ABC can help me learn what an appropriate portion size is, even if it leaves me hungry. It can also help me get balanced nutrition, which was often lacking on other diet plans.

I don’t think I’ll be on ABC all day every day, but I can see me continuing this a few days a week to help maintain balance. I guess I didn’t get the answers I expected from this experiment, but maybe I got one or two that I needed.

Day One

I have a love/hate relationship with food. Basically, I love food so I eat until I hate myself. As a result, I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. I also have plenty of other health issues: back injuries, foot injuries, insomnia, depression, allergies, headaches, hernias, etc. Many of these are likely related to my weight, and together, they’ve provided me with chronic pain for decades. I honestly have no idea what it feels like to not be in pain.

Over the years, I’ve had varying degrees of success with different approaches to weight loss. Most recently, I spent 18 months on Weight Watchers. WW was pretty effective, and I lost quite a bit of weight. It was very expensive and time-consuming, but it was working. After about a year, though, things started to plateau. Instead of losing weight, I was just getting more and more lethargic. I couldn’t maintain my energy levels anymore, which made exercise nearly impossible. For the last six months I was on WW, I gained about ten pounds and felt terrible, so I quit.

Now with two small children in the house, I’m finding it harder and harder to incorporate exercise into my daily life. I take a yoga class once a week, most weeks. I was walking pretty regularly, taking the kids out to the park, that sort of thing, but rarely did I get my heart rate up for any extended period. At best, I was getting just enough exercise to maintain.

I got myself a Nordic Track with the absolute best intentions of getting up early in the mornings and putting in some time on it. Seriously. Then, the day after I got it set up in the basement, we had to empty the attic for roof repairs following the big storm in June. Now, my Nordic Track is completely surrounded by boxes of crap that haven’t been opened since we moved into this house.

All of this is a long-winded way to say I’m at my wits’ end. To date, I have not found a combination of diet and exercise that works for me. I’m still gaining weight, and I still feel terrible all the time. It’s time to try something totally new.

I had an idea many years ago for People Food. Basically, something like pet food with complete nutrition for humans, and one could simply adjust the quantity for their own personal caloric needs. I wasn’t the first to come up with the idea, but now food science is getting pretty good at it. Enter Soylent.

See, a whole bunch of people had the same idea, and started discussing it on the internet. They started their own recipes, sharing tips, and comparing notes. Some started calling it soylent, after Soylent Green. Others went with Bachelor Chow after Futurama. Whatever you call it, it comes down to the same thing: all your basic nutritional needs with as little extra as possible.

A couple other guys had the same idea, but they went to college, got fancy degrees, and started making it for real. They had an insanely successful crowd-sourcing campaign, and are about to start manufacturing this product. They’ve also teamed up with the homebrewers to share refined recipes to make at home. Now there’s a website to help you create your own recipe. So I did.

ABC (Andy’s Bachelor Chow)

My target is 1900 calories a day. My recipe is tweaked to be slightly higher in protein and slightly lower in fat than the US Government recommendations. 1900 calories is probably a little light for a guy my size, and I may need to bump that up as I go. Or, I may just decide to eat a banana every morning or something.

Now, I’m committing to this for two weeks. I’m separating my biological need for fuel from the pleasure I get from eating. Essentially, I’m giving up food.

I don’t expect to never eat again; this isn’t like quitting smoking. But, I’m hoping to get a grip on my body’s needs and get portion sizes under control. Instead of asking myself how much of something is OK to eat, I can now simply have none. If I do this for a couple weeks, I hope to have a better idea of how much is enough. If it works well, I can continue it several days a week.

I have some concerns with this approach, and I’m hoping to remain flexible enough to adjust as needed while staying firm enough to stick to it. For one thing, I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee lately, and I anticipate some serious caffeine withdrawal over the first few days. I may add a few calories the first few days for a cup of coffee to help ease that transition.

Anyway, today is day one. I just finished a big glass of ABC for breakfast. It was… different.

The flavor wasn’t too bad. Mostly, I could taste the corn. It was saltier than I expected. The texture was a bit rough, but I think a finer oat flour (or more blending) would help that. I think I’ll add cinnamon to the next batch, and a bit more water to make it a little thinner. I’d also considering changing the recipe a little to add some milk, which might improve the taste and texture quite a bit. I’ll probably wait on that, though.

If I end up doing this longer term, I think I should seek out some organic, non-GMO masa, since that’s a major ingredient and corn is such a bastardized crop.

Overall, it was bearable. The goal isn’t flavor anyway, but it does need to be something I can handle three times a day.

We’ll see.

[EDIT] Here’s a screen shot of the recipe. Apparently, there’s an issue with Internet Explorer not displaying the grid on the web page. So, here you go:Screenshot from 2013-10-28 15:14:13


I Repeat Myself When Under Stress

There are two major themes running through this blog: how often I go long periods of time without writing and my health.  Well, that might get old, but those are two of the major themes running through my life, and they’re actually linked quite closely.

I’m a busy guy. I try to stay organized, I try to stay motivated, I try to stay focused and I try to stay on top of things. Yet, no matter what I do, it never seems like enough. There’s always some important task I missed, something I didn’t prioritize properly. The one thing I always fail to make a priority is myself. I rarely (if ever) take the time to pursue my own interests or desires, or even just kick my feet up and relax. That needs to change.

One of my interests is writing. I get a lot of satisfaction from getting my thoughts down in words, and I frequently find that the process of choosing those words helps to clarify my thoughts. So, I’m going to try to write more, first in this blog, and maybe eventually getting back to the book I started. I have plenty of other interests and desires, but for now, let’s just see if I can do some more writing.

My failure to take care of myself has resulted in a wide array of health issues, many of which can be linked quite easily to stress. When I get stressed, I try to compensate by putting in longer days. I get worn out, and when I get worn out, I eat. The more worn out I get, the more I eat junk food. Then I start piling on weight, which aggravates my back, knee and foot problems. Those problems generally make me work more slowly, which makes me fall further behind, which stresses me out. Repeat as necessary.

I can’t stand it anymore. Things have to change. I have to take control of my physical and mental health.

I’m the kind of guy who needs some hard numbers to work with, so Monday I ordered a scale online. It arrived Wednesday. I hopped on. 276. Two hundred and seventy-six pounds. That’s not good.

So I signed up with Weight Watchers. I typed in my information, and came up with 190 pounds as a healthy goal. (Yes, I know, weight should not be a sole indicator of one’s health, but at this stage, I just need to drop some weight. I have other goals, like touching my toes and spending a few minutes a month not in pain, but those will get addressed later.) That means I have 86 pounds to lose. Eighty-six pounds. I need to 86 those 86 pounds.

Now, here I am, on day 3 of my new Weight Watchers lifestyle. I carefully look up everything I eat and log it in to my account. By early evening, I’ll be trying to figure out how much I can eat before bedtime. If things go well, I’m guessing I’ll need to do this for about a year. I really hope this translates into feeling better relatively soon, or it’s gonna get pretty tough.

My mental health is another issue. To kick things in the right direction, I just bought my ticket to see the Adrian Belew Power Trio and Stick Men (Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter) at the Cedar. They’re each playing a set, then teaming up to perform some of the King Crimson double trio material. I saw Stick Men at the Cedar last summer, and it was pure awesomeness. Now, it shall be pure awesomeness with some Adrian Belew on top.

I’m also getting more aggressive at seeking out paying work. Bills are stressful, and money helps pay bills. I have no problem working for free, as long as I know it up front.

An a related note, I’m also weeding out some negative influences in my life. I’m getting a little tired of ‘friends’ who only contact me when they need help with a project, offer to pay me for it (usually at cost plus beer, ’cause they’re friends), then stiff me and disappear. (The best is when I do a CD for someone, I get stiffed, then they ask me to BUY a copy of it.) I like friends more than I like money, so I’m always happy to help out and I don’t always need to get paid. But quite honestly, if I only hear from you every 18 months, and you just happen to need my help when I do, you’re stretching the word ‘friend’ to its limits.

So, it’s a start. I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a start.

Here’s Why


OK, I admit it: sometimes I’m not the most fun guy to be around. I can be angry, I can be pedantic, and I can be an elitist snob. A lot of people have asked my why I’m such a grouch. There are a lot of answers I could give. I’ve dealt with chronic pain for more than 2 decades. It’s looking more and more like I’ve had clinical depression for most of my life. I’ve worked in some incredibly hostile environments. Now, I think I’ve found the simplest answer.

I live in a world in which THIS is possible.

Thank you very much, but I believe I’ll carry on being an angry, pedantic, elitist snob.


Those of you who read my blog with any regularity might think I’m about to write about Broadcast Music, Inc., which gathers license fees for musicians. Maybe another time, although I don’t really havemuch to say about it. No, today’s post will be about the Body Mass Indicator.

The Body Mass Indicator is a number generated by a simple function of height and weight. It does nothing to account for a person’s build or fitness level. As such, it is a rough approximation of a person’s fitness. At best.

BMI was never intended to be a diagnostic indicator. Somehow, it has become a primary diagnostic indicator. Short of blood shooting out of your body, it is the first thing a doctor will look at. It has been my experience that if your BMI is above the “normal” range, many doctors believe that there can be nothing else wrong with you. They won’t consider other ailments until you lower your BMI.

But what if you suffer from a condition that makes it easy to gain weight? (Or difficult to lose weight?) How can you get a diagnosis if a doctor won’t check for anything until you lose the weight?

[Side note: I did get my most recent doctor to check for diabetes and hypothyroidism, which was great. Once those were ruled out, the next guess was sleep apnea, even though I showed no indication of it. Ummm… anything else you’d like to check?)

The latest chapter in my medical adventures began about a year ago. That’s when I aggressively started seeking help for my back pain and went to extremes to drop weight. I lost 40 pounds in nine months. That put my BMI at 30, the line between “overweight” and “obese.” Not one doctor I saw even considered the fact that I had lost 40 pounds. Because my BMI was still high, they felt there was no reason to believe that I should feel better.

According to BMI, my “healthy” weight would be between 144 and 194 pounds. I can believe 194, but can you picture me at 144 pounds? Total freakshow. Yet most doctors wouldn’t even blink at that.

An interesting tidbit I  found while reading up on BMI: a 2005 study showed that “overweight people” actually had a lower death rate than “normal weight” people (as defined by BMI). So maybe we should all be shooting for “overweight.”

My point here today is how easy it is to get bad advice and how difficult it is to get help. Maybe there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me that dropping another 40 pounds won’t fix. But I don’t believe that. Just like I didn’t believe 10 years of non-diagnosis of my hernia. Turns out I was right then. I hope I’m wrong this time.

Exercise: 3 km running.
Intake: 2010 calories, 44 grams of fat.
What I ate today: Banana, English muffin, refried beans, coffee, bread, turkey breast, mayo, green beans, turkey sausage, onions, bell pepper and blueberries.

Assumptions, Expectations and Goals

I think it might be important for me to clarify my assumptions and expectations going into this little adventure.

• Following the doctors’ advice to the letter is not working out very well for me. If I am to improve my health, I will have to question what I’m told and augment that advice with my own research.
• Lowering my weight will improve my back pain.
• A healthier lifestyle should lead me to feel better overall.
• Starvation is not a healthy lifestyle, despite what the doctors tell me.

• I will be hungry a lot of the time. This will make me grouchy.
• I will learn new things about my diet and eating habits, both positive and negative.
• I will reevaluate these expectations and goals as I go along, and I’ll probably try to convince myself that I should make them all easier. Hopefully, I’ll reread this when I do and reevaluate my reevaluation.

Short-term Goals:
• I will lose 10 pounds in July. This is aggressive, and probably too fast to be entirely healthy, but I feel it is important  to my mental well-being to make significant progress quickly.
• I want to overcome the bad advice I’ve received in the past about food, exercise and health.
• I want to develop eating habits that will allow me to maintain a healthy weight without being hungry all the time.

Long-term Goals:
• I want to stop being grouchy all the time. I believe this is largely a side effect of constant pain, mild nausea and hunger; if I can improve my health, I shouldn’t be as grouchy.
• I want to reach a point in my health that I can actually enjoy a meal without analyzing every bite of it.
• I want to reach 195 pounds and maintain it. This number is not set in stone, but will be reevaluated regularly as I approach that goal. I don’t believe health can be measured by weight (or, god forbid, BMI) but this gives me an approximate measure to work towards.
• I want to be able to bike regularly (and by extension, park the car more often).
• I want to run a 5k in under 30 minutes.

Exercise: 2k run
Intake: 2260 calories, 35 grams of fat
What I ate today: banana, yogurt, muesli, coffee, english muffins, turkey breast, corn, carrots, beer, black beans and pretzels.

Now, on to the excellent comments I’ve already received on this thing.

I’m not terribly concerned about food intolerance. I have a sister who was diagnosed with celiac disease not too long ago, and she feels much better now that she can deal with it. I read up on it a little after her diagnosis, and I don’t believe that’s the answer in my case. I’m not ruling out food intolerance completely, but I’ve not learned anything yet that makes me think that’s a likely candidate, nor have I identified any suspect foods.

On that note, I should mention that I’ve been given a green light on blood sugar, thyroid function, blood pressure, blood oxygen and cholesterol. My “good” cholesterol is a little low because my total cholesterol is really low.

I agree that 900 calories is absurd. I reached that point when doctor after doctor told me to eat less, eat less, eat less. I barely had the energy to continue exercising, and though I still made it to the gym three times a week, I couldn’t do much once I got there. This is also when I started experiencing frequent mild nausea. That has improved since I started eating a little more. I think the nausea is largely just muted hunger.

My current plan is to try to keep it to about 2000 calories and 50 grams of fat a day. The easiest way to do that is to avoid packaged, processed foods and fill up on fruits and vegetables. I’d like to have the majority of my fat intake come from vegetable oils (mostly olive and avocado), which should help bump up my “good” cholesterol.

I’m hoping that the act of recording everything I eat will help me identify problem areas. For example, I learned yesterday that the turkey sausages I eat are much fattier than I realized. (“Healthier than pork” doesn’t always mean “healthy.”) For the 10 grams of fat in one turkey sausage, I could eat almost 2 pounds of lean turkey breast. I’d fill up faster and get a boatload of protein. This is exactly the sort of thing I want to identify.

On the happy side, I’ve also been reading up on the nutritional content of beer. There really isn’t any, but it’s not nearly as bad for you as some people would have you believe. Even a beer snob like me rarely drinks anything with more than 200 calories in it. The carbs can get a little high, but not terrible. Plus, there have been numerous studies showing that moderate alcohol consumption can be very beneficial. Long story short, a couple beers ain’t gonna hurt.

And one more thing, Sara: comment away. I know this is an area near and dear to your heart, and I trust your opinion at LEAST as much as any of the doctors I’ve seen. Much of what you wrote is directly in line with what got me to this point.

Kimsky, I remember you talking about that blood type plan. I should find out what my blood type is. That might be useful information in general.

Two of the doctors I saw recommend that I see a nutritionist. Unfortunately, that’s not covered by my insurance, and it’s painfully expensive. I’d rather find a nutritionist/dietician outside of the HMO system and see if that isn’t more palatable. Pun intended. That’s definitely on my list of things to explore.

A parting thought…

One doctor suggested that sleep apnea might be to blame. Again, sleep studies aren’t covered by insurance, and just the initial visit was almost $300. (And that’s BEFORE an overnight sleep study.) So, I started reading up on sleep apnea on my own.

Turns out that my symptoms didn’t really fit with sleep apnea. But, it did get me reading on sleep disorders in general, and it would seem I have a textbook case of chronic primary insomnia. I’ve begun self treatment for my self diagnosis, and that has proven somewhat helpful. Treatment of insomnia (without chemicals) is a slow, gradual process, so it may be several months before I really get a grip on that. But, I have every reason to believe that any improvement will be beneficial.

100 years ago, people slept 9 hours a night, accomplished what they needed to, and had more free time than we do now. Makes you wonder why we’re all in such a damn hurry all the time.

Here’s To My Health

Ah, July… here again. Let me give you the short version of my life since last July:

Last July, I was in a lot of pain. I lived on a steady diet of muscle relaxants and pain killers. I spent my free time lying flat on a concrete floor. On the good days, I whimpered; on the bad days, I cried. I’d been visiting doctors on and off for my back pain for years, and had recently been stepping up the quest. I was seeing a chiropractor several times a month. I didn’t get any better, but I got worse more slowly. Upon reflection, I realized that I had been in pain every day for almost 20 years.

I weighed 275 pounds. I didn’t eat much, but I exercised even less. I began making a real effort to lose some weight, with limited success. It’s hard to exercise when you can’t walk very well.

Finally, in July, a brilliant Urgent Care doctor thought that perhaps after seven years of back pain without any diagnosis, I should have an X-ray. While the X-ray didn’t show anything, it was enough for him to suggest to my regular doc that I have an MRI. So, I had an MRI.

Lo and behold, the MRI revealed a herniated disk (L5-S1) and a dehydrated disk (L4-5). I was prescribed Physical Therapy (and more pills).

Physical Therapy was great for a while. I went twice a week for sessions, and got the home version of the game to play on my own. I showed a touch of improvement, then started sliding downhill again. At this point, I was again reduced to lying on the floor. I had trouble standing, and started falling down somewhat regularly. I would purposely not drink anything, just to have fewer trips to the bathroom.

Finally, my doc thought maybe something was wrong. He suggested steroid injections to my spine. In November, I started two series of injections and my pain was reduced to a manageable level. I could stand up on my own and even walk around. I started getting some actual exercise for the first time in months. I dropped a few more pounds, and actually started to look a little thinner.

My doc suggested that I lose some weight. Thanks for noticing. I got really serious about it though, and got down to 235 pounds by Easter. My goal was to get my back in good enough shape to ride a bike again, and I was willing to do whatever I needed to do to get there. I watched my diet closely and went to the gym three times a week. I worked my way up to swimming a kilometer at a time. I still did my PT exercises four or five times a week.

I started putting on weight again. Not toned, muscular weight, but flab. I started tracking everything I ate, thinking perhaps I was eating more than I realized. Nope… I was averaging about 900 calories a day. (Most estimates said I should be LOSING weight at around 2400 calories a day, almost three times what I was eating.) My diet was very healthy: fruits, veggies, beans, some whole grains, a little meat, almost no dairy. I rarely ate sweets. Heck, I even switched to decaf most of the time. I still drank a couple beers here and there, and I still put half & half in my coffee. Those were the only two concessions I wouldn’t make.

I began to worry about other health issues: diabetes, hypothyroidism, swine flu… OK, I didn’t really worry about swine flu. But I did head back to the doctor for more tests, all of which were negative. The diagnosis? I’m fat. Um, yeah, that’s the part I told you when I came in.

So, here we are, July again. I haven’t lost any weight since Easter, though I’ve been continuously working harder and harder at it. The doctors all believe there’s nothing wrong with me other than I’M FAT. They tell me to watch what I eat and get some exercise. Um, yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing. I dropped 40 pounds, and I still feel like shit ALL THE TIME. But, they won’t listen to a word I say until I get down below 200 pounds. I spent almost $500 in office copays in the last year (and we have REALLY good insurance).

For the entire month of July, I’m going to track every single thing I eat and drink. I’m going to track my exercise. I’m going to track my weight. And I’m going to do it all right here on my blog, so there’s no room for me to cheat. If I don’t drop 10 pounds by August 1, then I will do it again for the month of August, only I’ll do it without meat, dairy, caffeine or alcohol.

I encourage all my faithful readers to comment regularly. Point out my errors. Make some armchair diagnoses. Tell me anything other than YOU’RE FAT.

So, today, Wednesday, July 1, 2009…

Weight: 236 lbs
Exercise: 25 minutes elliptical, 1/2 km swimming, a few light reps on my shoulders
Intake: 1770 calories, 39 grams of fat

What I ate today: 2 pieces of toast, 1 egg white, orange juice, banana, coffee, turkey sausage, green beans, beer and a brownie.

New Year, Old Issues

I can’t believe I haven’t written anything since September. I know time flies, but really, this is ridiculous. I’m not going to make excuses for it, I’m just a little surprised.

You may be asking yourself, “What the heck has Andy been doing for the last 4 months?” If that’s the case, you really need a hobby or something. But, if the best hobby you can come up with is reading this blog, well, here you go…

I’ve been obscenely busy not working. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’m just not going to look for a job for a while. The market is slim at best, I’m still not sure if I could even go back to my old career and there’s plenty to keep me busy around the house. Granted, there are projects that simply aren’t going to happen when it’s -20° outside, but just sweeping up all the salt is enough to kill a few hours a week.

Of course, we still need money. If you’ve figured out how to get around that, please, let me know. Fortunately for me, I can make more money playing these days than I could with a real job. Unfortunately for me, “more” still means “not that much.”

In other news, the struggle to overcome back pain continues. I’m now taking some pretty scary anti-seizure meds and I’m meeting with a surgeon in a couple weeks to see if a trip under the knife will help. I’m still feeling a lot better than I did 6 months ago, but I’m still living a fairly limited lifestyle.

OK, that’s all for now. I know, I know, this was a pretty dry entry, but I just wanted to shake off the cobwebs. Deal with it.