2022 Is Here! What Will You Do?

Ok, let’s get this out of the way.  I am not fond of the celebration of the New Year.  I kind of feel like it is a bit of a cheat.  It seems to be a day where we are offered a new start where all the bad things disappear, and all good things take their place.  That is just not the case.  When you get up on January first the same issues in your life are right there staring you in the face and no amount of toasting in the New Year will solve those issues.

Now I know this is just me, or maybe not.  There are probably a few people who agree with me, but the majority are sure New Year believers and maybe they have a point.

New Year is a time of renewal in many areas of our lives.  A time to evaluate where we are and correct the course is necessary, To do this though you must do a deep self-examination and this is hard to do because it means being brutally honest about all areas of your life.

For instance, let’s use me as an example.  I admitted to myself a couple of months ago that I am overweight, grossly overweight and if I didn’t do something about it I would probably die much sooner than the rest of my family who weighs in the right range.  I told myself to look around, there are no old fat people.  And as far as I know, there are none.  I have been obese for years and the medical community didn’t warn me of the dangers, in fact, most of my docs avoided discussing the matter until I said, “Im fat and something has to be done.”  Then they could speak.

I believe one of the reasons the docs are afraid to talk about weight issues is because of this new thing called fat shaming.  Now while I totally agree that kids on the playground should not insult the fat kid, I disagree that once you have grown up and someone mentions your weight you should be happy someone cares enough about you to say something.  To tell heavyset, obese, or fat people to feel good about themselves and to be proud of who they are physically is just plain stupid.  I’m going to be quite clear.  I’m ashamed of myself for letting things go this far. I’m uncomfortable in movie and theater seats.  I don’t like the way I look and I know I am damaging my body by being this size.

This is a brutal self-examination but it is necessary if there is to be change.

We cannot live in a world where change is scorned or where people fear it.  We did, in Europe for many years and that time in history is called The Dark Ages.  Nothing changed during those terrible years but when they ended people began to think and thinking both good and bad is what brought us where we are today.

You can have Dark Ages ib your own life.  That time when you see yourself as perfect when you are far from it.  All the years I denied I was gaining weight were my own Dark Ages and it has led me to where I am now.

It’s not just the weight and how I look.  It’s getting out of breath while carrying something.  It’s feeling my heart race when all I’ve done is walk across the room.  Being short of breath from doing the simplest of tasks and having my feet and legs hurt all the more because of the weight I carry.

That exams my physical body and assesses the problem fairly well.  Now, what’s to be done about it.  I have already begun a program of weight loss.  With my doctor’s approval, I am doing Slimfast for two meals and a sensible dinner.  The reality of that plan is my morning Slimfast shake with an apple and 16 ounces of water lasts me till around four o’clock so for the most part I don’t use the second shake.  I know my stomach, at least, has shrunk as I can only eat a much smaller amount at dinner than I used to.

After a physical assessment is done a mental assessment must also be done.  My mental and emotional state, in general, is better than it was before.  I still need therapy and appropriate medication but in many ways, I am a much calmer person than I used to be.  I can be honest with myself, I no longer rely on comfort food to help me get thru rough patches and other negative behaviors have become much more under my control. My emotions are no longer controlling me as much as I realize that emotions are first response tools.  You have to be careful to digest a first response and think about it before acting on it.  If I get bad news, for example, my first response would be to eat something to make me feel better about the bad news.  I can’t do that.  First response emotions will die down and go away after a while especially if you use your brain to think through your response.  If we respond to anything in anger or fear it is pretty much assured we will regret what we have done.

Now I think more before I react.  First thoughts may be McDonald’s will not solve my problem.  Second and third thoughts could well be the solution to those problems.  Self-control is the beginning of learning how to deal with emotions.  If you have strong emotional reactions to anything, given time, rational thought will calm those emotions down.

We are made in three parts, The Physical, The Mental and The Spiritual.  Many people regard the spiritual as unimportant or attached to emotions.  It is not.  For me, the spiritual parts of us are about our relationship with God and his with us.  I am a Christian and I believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, as an adult lived a sinless life and taught the precepts of the Kingdom of God.  At the age of 33, he was crucified for what he taught but on the third day, he rose again from the dead.  He was seen by many and ministered another 40 days here on Earth before he was bodily taken up to heaven.  I believe that if you believe all of what I have just written and believe that Jesus is Lord you have a place in eternity with Him.  Repeating that is a way to decide how much work my spiritual life has to go.

This year I’m good.  However, Jesus taught us that we should be good to the poor and the suffering.  This year my question must be what I’m doing to follow my Lord in that area and the answer must be not much.  And I’m not sure where I should start.  My physical issues are many and my resources are tight and yet Charles Dickens wrote in A Christmas Carol “Any Christian working in his little sphere will not have time enough, in this life to complete all he can do.”  I paraphrased that but the answer I seek is what can I do?  Hopefully and humbly in future blogs, you will read the answers I found on how to help.

New Year’s may not, in reality, be a new beginning.  But it can be a renewal.  Get past the parties and the cork popping and really dig into who you are and who you want to be in the coming year and you find yourself on the greatest adventure anyone can take, the adventure of conquering yourself.

God bless you dear reader and Happy New Year.

It’s Not Where You Start…

It’s Not Where You Start It’s Where You Finish is not only the title of a great song it perfectly describes my life now.

It has been a crazy week.  Getting ready to move has many of its problems, but throw in a holiday and a Covid scare and you get quite the mess.

Last weekend I got a call from someone I had been hanging out with the previous Saturday that they had tested positive for Covid.  It would be a far stretch that I would have caught it from this person but the possibility was there so I went and bought a home Covid test.

Have you done a home test for Covid?  My understanding is that the home test for negatives ranges in the accuracy of the high 90s.  It seems they are less accurate for positive results.  The procedure for self-testing is a little hard.  There is a card that has to remain flat on the table the whole time.  Then you put 6 drops of reagent in a hole in the card.  Then with a long cotton swab, you swab out both your nostrils for 15 seconds each.  Then you slip the swab into a lower hole pushing it into the hole that has the reagent.  You then close the card and seal it and wait 15 minutes.  If a line appears in the lower half of the window of the card you are positive.  If it remains clear you are negative.  That’s it.  The kit comes with two tests.  I did them both and both came back negative. YEA!

Because Thanksgiving came less than ten days from my exposure it was prudent to stay home for the holiday.  There is no point in risking other people’s health until you are sure you’re not carrying.  At ten days out I took the second test and confirmed being clean.  Yea for modern science.

I don’t recommend spending Thanksgiving alone.  I wasn’t all alone, my housemate and I had breakfast together and I tried to make it festive.  We had fried eggs, Taylor Pork Roll, Buttered Toast, and Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls.  It was nice.  I wouldn’t see my housemate for dinner as she was working.  It was the last holiday we will spend together as housemates as my move has arrived.  I ordered Thanksgiving Dinner from a local diner and enjoyed it.  It’s not the same eating by yourself but the tastes were there and I had memories of Thanksgiving’s past and there will be more to come.

Friday it was time to organize as much as I could.  I have two rooms in the house that I live in now, an office and a bedroom.  I can cram a lot in a small space and it all had to be packed.  Statues and pictures and toys and ceramics and all other kinds of stuff went into box after box. 

Cleaning out the two closets were particularly interesting as I found stuff I thought I had lost buried under piles of other things.  Looking back it became a bit of a treasure hunt as both closets contained some wonderful items long-buried but now coming back into play.  I was Indiana Jones in my own house.

Right now the living room is filled with packed boxes waiting for Saturday when the movers come.  But that’s not all.

On Friday the movers will come and finish my packing.  Because of my disability what I could do the last time I moved I cannot do now.  My legs are in pain a lot and so are my feet.  I have an extensive library and the last time I moved I brought all the books and all the shelves over to the house myself.  I can’t do that now.  It’s just not possible, so the movers will come on Friday and pack the books up and my clothes, another item I moved in the past, and my large electronic devices.  They will be in charge of safely packing my stuff and then moving it the next day.

One of the things that this move has forced me to realize is my limitations.  I’m heading for 61 years old and my body doesn’t work like it used to.  Some things need to be changed, things that are in my power, and I intend to make those changes.  Still, there are other things that I have no control over like severe arthritis in my knees and feet and the neuropathy in my legs.  These are things whose influence will lesson as I take off weight but they will still be a part of me.  The pain will lessen but will not go away completely.  If I can get enough weight off my knees will be replaced and that will make some difference in my life.

I think the thing to keep in mind here is not that I have all these issues but that all the obstacles the issues have presented can be overcome.  With the help of family and friends, a very difficult move is made so much easier.  My niece and her husband were a tremendous help.  Yesterday my housemate, Lorraine, helped me clear out the bedroom closet. My legs being what they are I could not have done it without her help. My cousin John has come over every Tuesday and carted stuff over to the apartment for the last three weeks and is happy to help more if I need it.  My friends Rob and Gary have supplied boxes and support and Rob will be my wingman on Friday watching the guys as they pack and making sure the boxes are labeled correctly.  My sisters have also been a big help.  Even from Tennessee my sister Susan and her husband Kirk have given me encouragement and solid advice.  My sister Trish has helped with all the financial details and the stuff I didn’t know anything about as I never signed a lease before. My friend Manny has always been there for me for more than forty years. Though we are separated by miles he has been my greatest encouragement. A true Barnabus. A name meaning “Son of encouragement”   Lastly, my friend Bill has given me his whole Saturday to help me unpack and settle in. I’m very grateful to those I’ve mentioned as well as those I haven’t.

Moving is a great adventure and as the song says, it’s not where you start it’s where you finish and I’m going to finish on top.

Weight Loss

The weight loss journey will officially begin on December 6th, 2021.  That is the Monday after I move into my new apartment.  I chose that day because between now and then eating will be catch as catch can while I move to my new home starting on the 16th of this month.  Things are happening fast.

The first step in my weight loss journey has been accomplished.  I saw my primary care physician this past week to see what his recommendations would be and to see if he would be part of holding me to whatever I do.

He was great about the whole thing.  First, he asked if I would be interested in weight loss surgery?  He got a resounding no on that thought.  I went to a surgeon once, for a consultation on weight loss surgery and it scared me.  Weight loss surgery is a big deal.  It involves sewing up part of your stomach to make it smaller so you won’t eat as much.  That’s all well and good, but because of the surgery, there are certain food that you can no longer eat and those foods could kill you.  That seemed extreme to me.  The other part that has to be taken into consideration is the reasons I overeat.  My food issues are not hunger but sadness and depression or high levels of anxiety or other emotional factors.  Sewing up my stomach will not alter those and so it’s not an answer for me.

My doctor then discussed the new fasting diet.  This diet consists of eating dinner and then fasting for 18 hours after that so basically no food from 6 pm to 12 pm.  Then eating during those 6 hours after the noon hour. This might work but we did not discuss what to eat during those 6 hours.  I could do a lot of damage in that short period.  I need to do an internet search to see exactly how this diet is supposed to work.

The next thing we discussed is how I had lost weight in the past.  This was easy.  I always used Slim Fast.  Two shakes a day and a salad with meat on it, usually chicken.  I have lost a lot of weight doing this at different periods in my life.  The problem is I always gained it back.  I also would do half an hour of aerobic exercise every day.  This was done with a stationary bike, My legs and feet being how they are this is no longer possible.  There are, however, YouTube videos for seated exercises that I could do now that my television will be in my living room.

After a lengthy discussion, we decided that the Slimfast route was probably the best way to go with my doctor actively monitoring me.  He had me set up three appointments before I left the office each in the early day of January, February, and March so he can track my progress.  Ultimately, he will have my back, but it will be tough getting thru the Christmas season this year.  The words no thank you are going to have to be a big part of my vocabulary and my own favorite Christmas treats are going to need to be forgotten this year.

Food for me is a security blanket and it is as much a part of me as Linus’ attachment to that blue blanket.  It’s not all food, of course, it’s the food that is the absolute worst food for you.  I am addicted to McDonald’s.  If I’m having a bad day or am in a general bad temper a McDonald’s triple cheeseburger, medium fries, a Hi-C Orange drink and an apple pie is essential to my survival.  If it’s a really bad day I will buy two triple cheeseburgers.  I don’t eat to live, I live to eat and it is slowly and methodically killing me.

One truth is clear, there are no fat old people.  My grandmother, my aunt, and my dad all lived well into their 90s.  My father is still alive and though he has some old age issues, he is in generally good health.  My mother God Rest Her Soul died at 80 but she had complications from surgery and what age she may have lived to is pretty much undetermined.  I’d like to live a good long life, but it won’t happen if I stay at this weight.

I have to go through a radical lifestyle change and stick to it regardless of the mental consequences that lifestyle may have.  I have to find a way to live without McDonald’s and find other ways to comfort myself other than food.

I’m not blaming my behavior with food on anyone else but me.  Still looking at my early childhood I was sort of conditioned to enjoy high-fat content food.  I think many of us born as part of the baby boom generation were.  I am the youngest of four kids.  There is a five-year gap between my closest sister and myself.  That means that right after I was born my brother and sisters were all in school.  Leaving me home alone with mom for five whole years.  Back then mom liked to eat.  She was an amazing cook and baker, so if a pie went into the oven there would be scraps of pie crust dough rolled out and buttered and then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and then rolled up and baked just for me.  There would be homemade frosting bowls to lick and sometimes an open-faced sandwich made with mayonnaise and relish as an after-lunch snack.  My mother made amazing dinners every night and there was rarely a night that dessert was not part of the meal.  These were my formative years and I loved them.

Mom changed.  I don’t remember when, but it may have been about the time my sisters got married.  She had put on more than a few pounds and she wanted to get them off and she did.  She joined Weight Watchers and a ladies-only gym and she achieved her goals.  She went back and forth with gaining and losing for a few years but eventually dropped ten pounds below her goal weight and never gained again.  She kept a good healthy diet for the rest of her life.  That’s not to say that she didn’t enjoy occasional or even regular treats.  She and my father would split a pizza every Saturday night after Mass and enjoyed a bottle of wine with it while watching Lawrence Welk on PBS.  Desserts were regulated to Sundays and holidays and she rarely snacked on anything more than fruit.   I can’t imagine the amount of emotional strength it took to accomplish what she did, but I’m about to find out.

I did try Weight Watcher some time ago and adhering to their program I did not lose a pound.  I also tried Noom and though it initially worked well eventually, no matter what I did I couldn’t lose another pound.  After that, I gave up.  It seemed hopeless and I drowned my sorrows in eating everything I could get my hands on and then I turned sixty.

Sixty is a magical number.  It speaks.  It even yells.  Do you what it says?  “No matter what you don’t have much time left on earth.  Even if I live to be one hundred I am past the halfway point.  I’m not young anymore.  I’m not ancient either, but I’m not young.  If I want to see a change in my life now is time and this is the moment.

So, here’s the plan.  Slimfast and some fruit in the morning.  Slimfast for Lunch.   A salad with roasted chicken pieces for dinner and that will be it.  I will allow myself one dessert on Sundays and Holidays but that’s it.  I have a set of free-standing pedals I can put on a tabletop and use my arms and hands to do some aerobic exercise.  I can also use YouTube sitting-down workouts as I will have plenty of space in my new living room. As I mentioned earlier.  All of this will begin on December 6th.  A lot has to happen between now and then.  But I believe that this is possible.  Join me in believing.