Step 2

I’m on Step 2 of the Nicoderm CQ nicotine replacement patch plan.  I stepped down just a few days ago.  So far, this is what’s it’s like:

  1.  I’m an emotional wreck for half of the day.  I’m irritated, agitated, twitchy, and just downright snarky to be around.  One of Ray’s coworkers likened it to “being on your period” for women.  Since I don’t have a frame of reference for that, I’ll just agree with her.  It seems about right, minus the blood.
  2. I am still coughing up crap from my lungs.  It seems like a constant stream of ill-flavored mucus is making it’s way into my mouth from the depths of wherever inside me.  I know this is a sign of health and healing, but man-o-man, it’s disgusting.  I keep drinking water to wash away the flavor.
  3. I cannot wait to be done with this silly nicotine addiction.  I’m ready to move beyond this constant, nagging, annoying craving.  I have a month left.  I can do this. I have to.
  4. I never, ever, ever want to smoke again.  No, it’s more than that.  I don’t want to be addicted to anything like this again, especially something so mind-altering and unhealthy.  Were that I was addicted to running, or yoga, or gardening, or fresh air…

I’m doing okay, all around.  I can smell and taste unlike ever before.  I know that my clothes don’t stink, and I also know that the tar stains in my mustache and beard are finally gone.  My lips aren’t coated with a brown film of cancer-causing tar.  I know this is how it all should be, and I’m committed to keeping things like this.

I’ve also put on weight.  Over the past month, I’ve watched the scale creep upwards, which is why, starting today, I’ve re-committed to getting back on track with a healthier diet.  I’m back to cutting out the overindulgence in carbohydrates, no more processed anything, and most-assuredly no more convenience foods – like the kinds I’ve been getting at work, especially.  I don’t need all of those chemicals and preservatives and added weirdness getting into my system.  I need to eat clean, I need to treat my body better – especially as it heals from the damage I brought upon it from smoking.

My last round of going low/no-carb resulted in a massive weight loss over a short amount of time.  I felt great.  I was doing well.  Then, as I needed to move house and deal with the anxiety and stress of adjusting to a new home and new life, I found myself reaching for the sugar and alcohol and cigarettes.  The fact is, I can no longer do any of those things.  I’m at that age where acting like that is both adolescent of me, and not healthy in any manner.  I *know* better.

Ray is backing me on this as well.  He knows my weight and overall health is a source of anxiety for me.  He knows what I’m capable of looking and feeling like – I was so damn fit when we first met – and he would love to see that smile and ability back on my face and in my body.  I would too.

Besides, focusing on my diet will help take the pressure off this constant, nagging, ridiculous craving for nicotine that I’m going through these days.

28 Days Later

No, not the movie.

I’ve just recently crossed the 28-day mark with regards to my old smoking habit.  It’s a thing of my past.  Well, the actual putting of a cigarette to my lips is.  The nicotine, currently delivered to my body by means of a patch on my upper arm, remains a thing for me still, but I’m on the verge of stepping down from that as well.

This morning, after being awake for a few hours and messing around on my laptop, playing Civilization V actually, I found myself with a headache.  I started getting twitchy in my chair, restless for something.  I took myself out for a coffee, and it wasn’t until the walk back, where I stopped for a second and caught myself staring longingly at a discarded half-cigarette on the ground, that the reason for my headache became clear.  The patches I am using are good for 24 hours.  I hadn’t changed my patch in nearly 30 hours.  What I was experiencing was, in fact, a nicotine craving, but I didn’t actually identify it as such for quite some time.  It wasn’t that I was acting out, or that I felt myself going mad.  It was more like this nagging need for something…something was not quite right.  Once I got home and swapped out the patch, after a few minutes, my teeth unclenched, my headache lifted, and I was feeling right as rain again.

I still have that chemical dependency to break.  I’m also dealing with some pretty hefty chest congestion and heaviness in my thoracic region.  Shortness of breath is not something I’m used to – but from what I’ve read on line, it feels like asthma, or a nondescript weight sitting right on my chest.  This is a common side effect of quitting smoking, and may take quite some time for it to lift, but lift it will.  I need to keep up on my hydration, and when I can, exercise.  I am also thinking of getting a few hours in a steam room somewhere here in town, preferably with some eucalyptus or menthol in the air.  Whatever it takes, I’m game.

Ray, for his part, is super proud of me for doing this.  All along, he’s been irritated by the fact I was smoking.  It became a block between us and something he felt like he had to just deal with, rather than put his foot down about.  Now, though, he reaches over and holds my hand, tells me how happy my not smoking makes him, and a barrier that I wasn’t aware of between us has shifted, falling away.  I do blame him for inspiring this change in me, and I’m so thankful for it.

Twenty-eight days in, my life has improved a lot.  I’m not out of money all the time.  I don’t stink.  I don’t have to sneak off and miss out on some pieces of time spent with Ray or with any of my friends – most of whom don’t smoke either.  I’m not angry at work, craving that next break, that next moment off the bus.  I’m not as short with people (I’m still a curmudgeon, though, let it be known).  I’m feeling more balanced, more in tune with my body.  I now have a little checklist I go through when I’m feeling off – tired/thirsty/hungry?  To be honest, I can’t believe I took all of those vital things as a sign just to smoke.  How much did I deprive myself of sleep, or food, or even just water?  Why would anyone be that awful to themselves?  I think, perhaps, I’ve also turned a strong emotional growth corner in my life.  I don’t hate my body as much.  I don’t despise the skin I’m in as much.

I can finally and completely smell the season around me – Autumn, my favorite time of year.  It hit me today, actually, as I was out on a walk, that I hadn’t really smelled the rot of leaves and the dampness in the air that always comes with fall, in a very,very long time.  I appreciate the smell of hot apple cider.  I can smell the rain again.  Today, on my walk, this realization made me well up with tears.  I missed this more than I realized.

 

Re:Beginning – The Gym

A couple of weeks ago, Ray woke up with gumption.  He and I got in the Mini and took off to his gym, a 24Hour Fitness that’s about two miles from the house.  His intent – to use the membership he is paying for, and in order to achieve this – add me to his plan.  He wanted to use me as a motivator to get him back into his workouts, back into the art of movement, and out of his headspace that was starting to consume him.

We’ve gone a few times now, and today, I’m going to be doing the third workout of a beginner’s 28-day plan that I found online.

What brought me to writing here, besides the fact that I haven’t shared a post here in a while, is that this feels legitimately better than any other gym experience I’ve ever had.  In the past, when I’ve been to the gym, it’s been with a sense of desperation and anxiety.  I went to workout, not only to just lose weight and feel better, but tucked in the recesses of those platitudes was the real reason I was there: control.  I have a long-standing tradition of taking out my control issues upon my own flesh.

Almost twenty years ago, I had fallen into a steep and ugly depression.  It was my sophomore year of college, and I hadn’t come out of the closet.  I had left my family behind me, a situation that was fresh off an ugly divorce of my parents, and taken off to college, where I was surrounded by energetic and enthusiastic people of all stripes, who all seemed to have this joy about them that was missing in my life.  I faked it, for the most part, but something was off with me.  I was heavy, and had used food as a means of coping with anxiety and stress about the things in my life, not least of all was my questionable sexual identity.  Somewhere along the line, though, I had the idea that if I just changed my physical appearance, then things would be better.  Changing like that meant taking control of an aspect of my life that I’d never really paid attention to, apart from when I was actually made fun of for being heavy.  I, in short, stopped eating.  When I did eat, I forced myself to expel most of the food I had put in my body using any means necessary.

At first, it felt weird, but after a week or so, and noticing some of my weight falling off, it became it’s own feedback loop.  The more I starved, the more I lost, the better I felt.  I started to mix in going to the gym as a means of speeding up the weight loss, and as I wasn’t fueling my body at all, apart from an occasional coffee and a few bites of oatmeal, and the weight just kept falling.  For the first few months of this control push, I found myself with new-found confidence.  I was carrying myself around with a head held high, all the while, keeping my eating and fasting and purging habits tucked deeply away so that no one would notice.  I knew what I was doing to myself was wrong, but the results spoke louder, and the starvation addiction grew stronger within me.

Eight months of this was hard on my body.  I lost nearly 100 pounds through starvation, expulsion, and exercise.  I was sick, and it was a lovely young lady in an English Lit class who finally called me out on it.  She suggested I get some help, and I did.  By that point, I was looking really rakish and pale.  I’d been getting the occasional, “How are you doing, Thom?” from people around me, but like always, I remained upbeat and said I was great.  I had become masterful at hiding what was really going on.

I got the help I needed.  I also came out of the closet, and was able to move through my darkness into something better.  Still, along the way, in moments of chaos and crisis, I found myself turning back on my own body as means of regaining control.  After each boyfriend I’ve had prior to Ray, I spent weeks either running or weight training.  It’s how I coped with the loss of my first boyfriend, Thomas.  It’s how I responded to the termination of my marriage with Nathaniel.  It’s how I reacted to the failure of my relationship with Caleb.  Time and time and time again, turning inward and inflicting stress upon my body in order to reshape and reform myself has always come when the world around me is in total chaos and I felt like, somehow, at least being in control of my physical form would re-establish some sort of order out of it all.

Today, though, with this renewed attempt at fitness, and moving towards health, the backdrop for it all is markedly different.  I’m in a loving and stable relationship.  I live in a stable and supportive home.  I’m not having a crisis of identity.  I’m not feeling the pressure to change my form simply to fit in, or to give myself a false sense of power.  Today, with this re-beginning at the gym, it feels better.  It feels honest.  It feels more real?  I’m at a loss for words about it all still because it’s both old and new to me.  I know that I’m doing something good for myself.

Milestone

I stepped on the scale, and registered the number there:  215.

For a couple of days now, I’ve sat with that, putting it on the back burner, and going about my life.  Things are rolling on here at the house. I’m caught up in the settling, the anxiety of a new place, still getting my bearings, and so I really didn’t let the number on the scale really take on any meaning.  That is, until today.

I just got back from a walk/run of about 10k.  While out there, feeling the endorphins and all that comes with elevated heart rate and such, it hit me.  By reaching that number, 215, which is thirty pounds less than the last time I stepped on the scale, I’ve, in fact, reached about half-way to where I want to be in my skin.  I feel my best at around 185 or so, which if you do the math, is about 60 pounds less than where I was at my heaviest this year.  The fact I’m drawing in close to that mark, that midpoint along this journey, means that, actually, I’m doing something right.  I can, for just a moment, be proud of myself, and this morning, while I was putting one foot confidently in front of the other, I felt that emotion: pride.

No, I’m never going to be a skinny little otter thing.  I see plenty of that walking around town here – tall, lanky, barely 150 pounds, able to whip off their shirts at any opportunity, confident in how their flesh sits on their frames.  Typically, this only works to make me grind my teeth and self-loathe even more because, let’s face it, we’re all a little jealous of the pretty people we see.  Today, though, for just a few minutes, I allowed myself the feeling of being among those confident, head-held-high men.  I inhabited my own body, my own flesh, and while there was still plenty of jiggling and such going on under my tee shirt and around my thighs, in a white heat of euphoric endorphins, none of that really mattered.  What mattered, and what continues to matter, is that I’m effecting positive changes in my physicality.

Giving up sugar in my coffee, cutting back on the alcohol, swapping cereal for a green smoothie or scrambled eggs, drinking more water, paying attention to my sleep, getting out for walks when feasible – these are the steps I’ve taken.  Small, incremental, and at the micro-level, barely registering as change-making.  Taking a step back, though, and reflecting on where I was when I began to regain control of my body about five months ago, I’ve come a long way, and today I am proud of that fact.  The journey continues, though.  It is my life on the line here, after all.

 

Eating Differently – An Update

It’s been nearly three weeks now since I started eating differently.  To be honest, this was just going to be a week of a trial-effort.  I never expected it to have lasted this long.  So far, though, I can see this sticking, so long as I make some tweaks sooner rather than later.

Firstly, I’ve lost way more weight than I thought I would by now.  I started off at 240 pounds.  Now, when I step on the scale, I’m down to 225.  That’s a fifteen-pound loss in three weeks, ten of which came off in the first week or so.  Now that my body is adjusting to the way I’m eating, weight loss has slowed up, but is still progressing towards the weight I should be at.  I will admit that it sure feels nicer to step on the scales and see the numbers getting smaller, rather than larger, as they had been for the past year and few months.  More importantly I’m able to fit back into the jeans that Ray bought me last summer, which means I’m about 1.5″ smaller around the waist than I was at the start of this.  Ray also commented that he was seeing weight loss in my face.

Secondly, my housemates and Ray have been super supportive about this dietary shift.  Bil made some off-hand comments to start, but after reporting the results so far to him, I think he’s come around to seeing this as a good thing.  Ray knows of some decent paleo-friendly restaurants around town which I’ve enjoyed trying.  Dick’s Kitchen, for example, will get more of my money.  Grass-fed beef over greens?  Yes please.

Ray has started taking my dietary needs into deeper consideration when we do go out to eat,  which has caused us some nonsensical friction.

At first, I told him not to worry about where we grab a bite – I’m a big boy who can find something to eat pretty much anywhere, and this is not a dietary restriction of his food.  When we went to a new sushi/Japanese place here in our neighborhood, though, I made the mistake of saying “I’m not sure what to order” while we were looking over the menus.  He got quiet, and replied “we can leave,” which is not at all what he wanted to do.  I immediately felt bad, and found two appetizers on the menu that had the least amount of blacklisted food, and proceeded to order them.  Soy sauce is off the menu, but the dishes I had contained some.  Same goes for sesame seeds (a grain).  Still, the bulk of what I did manage to order was fine, and while I did notice an up-tick in bloating and gas the next morning, it wasn’t completely uncomfortable.  Ray got whatever sushi/rice he wanted, and as the meal finished, I told him how sorry I was for making it awkward to go out to eat, apologizing for my diet, and that I never expected him to make any changes to suit my personal needs.  He looked at me, smiled, and explained that he wants me to be able to enjoy a meal with him, and that his only concern was that I wasn’t able to get enough to eat to be satisfied.  I told him that being satisfied with food isn’t why I go out to eat with him – it’s the shared time with him that I most enjoy.  He grinned and blushed, and I thanked him for his concerns about my new diet.  He can see that I’m pleased with the results so far, and he is being supportive in a way I would have never expected from a lacto-ovo-vegetarian who’s diet is based on bread, rice, beans, and milk.  Once again, my boyfriend is amazing.

The biggest hurdle I’m having, though, is what to eat when I finally do get hungry.  Because my cravings for food have changed, I can go hours in between meals unlike ever before.  That said, when I do finally realize it’s time to eat, I find myself searching for something quick to make.  I need to be better about planning and prepping my food for the day.  I’ve got breakfast down pat – eggs and spinach/greens, or a green smoothie.  Lunch is usually a piece of fruit and some nuts (breakfast seems to last a lot longer in my system these days, leaving me full and satisfied for much longer).  At dinnertime, though, is when I falter.  My housemates enjoy all food – “paleo” and not – and as it’s a shared food situation (and they outnumber me 2:1) there is one meal made that is shared.  Sometimes, it’s all things I can eat, like last night’s baked chicken and fresh steamed green beans.  Other times, it’s stuff I have to avoid, like Friday night’s pasta bake.  On those nights when the meal isn’t going to fit me, I need to have more options.  I need to take more initiative there.

I also need to incorporate more exercise into my week.  I typically get about 10,000 steps in a day, with more on my days off, but I need to up that.  Walking, or even running, is going to help me shed even more weight, plus it’s great for my cardiovascular system and fights off a number of bad effects from having a sit-down, sedentary job.

I’m going to nail this down, in time.  I’ve learned that paying attention to the signals my body is sending me is crucial, and now that I’ve cut out the sugar and junk, it feels like I’m hearing the signals a lot clearer.  I am happy with the way things are going, and I know I’m doing the right thing for the body that I’m inhabiting.  I feel like, perhaps, this is the first time I’ve felt like I’m treating my body with the dignity it deserves, and that makes me feel at peace.

While Out Walking

It’s been far too long since I posted an update on my fitness.  There’s a perfectly good reason for that.  I’m embarrassed by it.

I stepped on the scale last Sunday (about six days ago).  240 pounds spun up on the dial, and stared back at me as I leaned forward, looking over my belly to read the numbers and count the dash marks.  The red indicator dash aligned squarely at 240.

240.

This is precisely fifteen pounds less than I have weighed at my heaviest ever – a weight I carried during my first year of college.

I stand at about 5’9″ tall.  This, according to all scales and charts, puts me in a spot that is not one I ever wanted to be in again.  I am, official, obese.  I know, I know…charts and scales are not the end-all-be-all of a measurement of health.  I get that.  I also get, however, how I’ve been feeling over the past few months.

When I left Caleb’s house, just over a year ago, I was hovering around 170 pounds.  I was on a very, very restricted diet (because I couldn’t afford to buy food – I had no job), and spent my days sleeping or running to deal with the anxiety of the situation I was living in.  As soon as I had a job, though, I also signed up for the gym at work, and for a bit of time, it was exactly what I needed.  I hit the gym every other day during the week, and went running as often as I could.  I also moved into a new home, where nutrition and food to eat was readily available.  For the first month or so, I ate anything I could.  As long as I was going to the gym, I kept my weight at a manageable level, but more importantly, my clothes fit better than ever.

I met Ray shortly after moving and settling into this new life, and at first, he met me right as I was transitioning into this new life, new home, and new job.  He was attracted to my activity level.  Back then, he was also hitting the gym a couple of times a week, and had a decent yoga routine that he loved.  Neither of us were what you’d call athletic, but we were making the effort.

Sometime over the summer, and for reasons I still don’t know, we both focused more on eating well and camping and staying in with each other, rather than being as active as we had been.  For him, his workload increased a lot – working two restaurant jobs during the summer here in Portland means you’re always at work.  For my part, I simply sat behind the wheel and drove my bus, but continued to eat as though food was a precious commodity.  Then, I stopped going to the gym, as my schedule shifted from a structured Monday through Friday routine to one that was more all-over-the-map.  Instead of one garage, I began to work out of all of the garages in the metro area.  Some days I worked ten hours and had zero time/energy to get to the gym.  Other days, I just wanted to sleep.  On days off, Ray and I spent our time grabbing bites to eat, camping, and the occasional hike – but nothing too strenuous.

Through all of last year, the weight crept on.  Slowly, but over time, my waist expanded.  My work uniform grew tight.  I needed larger shorts.  My strength was waning.  Headaches.  Neck and muscle soreness and stiffness.  When I did try to go running, five miles seemed like a monster goal, when only a few months prior I  was doing seven to ten miles per run regularly.  I simply didn’t have the energy or drive.  In fits and spurts, I’ve tried and tried to restart the engine of me and keep striving to my Fit By 40 goal.  Instead, I reached for a slice of pizza, another peanut butter sandwich, a nap, a glass of whiskey – anything I could to feed this weird craving of always being hungry.  For his part, Ray never said anything to me about it.  He saw me getting pudgier, but as he was also growing softer – I coined the term “love pudge” to explain what was going on – we both agreed many times that something needed to change.

That all came to a head last Sunday, and it’s when I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now.

I’ve gone paleolithic – mostly.

I have done diet research for quite some time now.  I even bought the book “It Starts With Food.”  I have read countless articles about this kind of change in my approach to food, and while it all sounded great on paper, when the rubber met the road, I still found myself using cream in my coffee, along with lumps and lumps of sugar.

I still found myself reaching for bread and peanut butter when I needed a snack.

I still snacked constantly when I wasn’t sleeping.

I was still raiding the fridge upon coming home every damn time, no matter what time of day it was.

I still felt hungry.  I still felt run down.  I still felt more weight going on my bones.

So, I hit a reset button. I’ve started by doing the basics:  no dairy, no grains, no legumes, no processed anything.  So far, as of tonight (Saturday), it’s been nearly one week on this diet change.  So far, so good.  In fact, I weighed myself yesterday, and much to my glee, I found I’d lost five pounds during my first week of this new approach to food.  After some further research, I learned that 5-10 pounds lost during the first week or two is not unheard of because, it turns out, eating a lot of carbohydrates also means retaining quite a bit of water.

After just one week, I already have noticed that my hunger cravings have changed.  I only feel hungry after going far too long between actual meals.  I’m not feeling a crazed buzz after a meal, followed by a hard crash in a few hours.  I feel more balanced.  I feel like my moods are leveling off too.  Not putting sugar and milk in my coffee means I’m actually sipping my go-juice slowly, and thus not spiking my caffeine levels as high/low as before.

As far as actual meals go, my housemate (who does all of the food purchasing in our living situation), has done a really great job of keeping veggies and fruits stocked.  There’s plenty of the protein I need to eat available, and he’s always open to suggestions for food purchases.  I’ve had to turn down a delicious pasta dish, and instead opted for a massive salad with tuna on it.  Tonight, I said ‘no, thank you’ to pizza – something I truly loved – and had baked chicken and a garden salad.  Getting food that’s on the meal plan at convenience stores is next to impossible, so I am learning to pack better when I do head out the door.  I am, however, fortunate to be in Portland, Oregon, where the food options are plentiful, and every kind of dietary need can be easily filled, as long as I know where to look.

I know Ray is already annoyed with all of my chatter about how I’m feeling, but he’s being super supportive just the same.  Today, our conversation turned to actually going to the gym together and getting back on that fitness horse together, something I’m very happy to do.

I had a glass of wine with dinner on Friday night, which is not on the food list.  Truth be told, it was a decent red Malbec, and while I am used to having more than just one glass, it was all I needed.  Today, I countered that indulgence with a decent walk with Ray in the morning, and a lot of healthy foods all day long.  I’m not ever going to be militant about this – that kind of exactness is not in my nature – but I am going to make a real effort at this.  I need it.  I need the balance, the feeling of health, and to take advantage of my ability to move and be active for as long as possible.

This is a change, but I think, in time, it can just be what I eat, and not some sort of freakish experiment.  Perhaps this, in a way, is an extension of learning the power of the word ‘no’ and taking control over my life again.  Perhaps this, in a way, is me being even more of an adult.

 

 

Progress?

I weighed myself yesterday.

And yes, before you even start, I can see your eyes roll, and I can hear the words “SCALES ARE AWFUL YOU SAID SO YOURSELF I CAN’T EVEN UGH” coming out of your mouth.  Believe me.  I can hear you.

Over the past year, I’ve put on a hefty amount of weight.  I mean, I’m about twenty pounds less than my most pudgy ever.  Or, at least I was before I started this little walking routine.  It’s only been a week, and I’ve also been incorporating a decent amount of fiber into my diet (read: the volume of ‘waste’ I’m producing is up), but when all is said and done, I apparently lost five pounds.

Five.

In my first week.

Of course, I also know that, with any bump in exercise, or change in diet for the better, the first bit often reveals a lot of weight loss.  Water weight, or whatever, tends to dump quickly.  As the body adjusts, according to what I’ve read, I need to keep changing it up in order to maintain a state of flux (and weight loss/muscle gain) about every couple of weeks or so.  I know that five pounds is a lot to lose in just one week, but just for a minute, I’m going to revel in this.

Please, let me.  Don’t be a Debbie-downer.  Or, better yet, be one, but know I’m sticking my fingers in my ears and ignoring you.

I LOST FIVE GOD DAMNED POUNDS AND IT FEELS SO DAMN GOOD.

This week, I’m paying more attention to the sugars and starches, and while I’m certainly not zero-carb at all, even just being aware and making dietary choices that limit the sugar I do intake seems to be helping.  I managed to get through yesterday without too many bumps in the road – though I did learn that the yoghurt that I like has about 45g of sugar per serving (one cup), so that’s a little shocking.  I also have limited myself with the sugar in my coffee, and I’m trying to navigate lunch in a way that doesn’t involve a sandwich.  Yesterday, I will admit, was tough.  Work was super-stressful, but now that I know my runs for this week, hopefully today will go better.  I can plan better.  I can pack a few pieces of fruit to get me through my six-hour shift of bringing people to a mall at Christmas.

This morning’s walk had me daydreaming about my mother’s visit in March.  I am looking forward to her arrival, and am curious as to what we are going to get up to.  I know she’s a cyclist, so we might rent bikes for the week and get out and about in Portland that way.  I also want to take her to the coast, possibly for a hike.  I really think she’s going to love it here, but I need to get physically fit enough to keep up with her.  She’s super-duper active.  I’ve got three months and a few miles of walking ahead of me, so I think I’ll be alright.  We shall see.  In all, the daydreaming while walking is great.  I can feel my thoughts bubbling up to the surface.  I can wrestle a thought while putting one foot in front of the other, and simply let my mind float.  This was something I loved to do while I was running last year, but those thoughts were often dark and angry.  I’m not dark or angry any more.

I’m loving the newness of all of this.  I love this different aspect of my life.  It is something both old and fresh at the same time.  I’m optimistic, as always, and can’t wait to see where I end up with all of this come this time next year.