Classical Conditioning Dodge Ball Style. Pavlov’s Dogs Had It Easy.

Weight control is hard. I wonder where you get one of these…

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Thinking About A New Project

Back in the spring some folks may remember I made a brief detour into some lighter writing. I chronicled my budding love affair with the Mocha Latte and bemoaned the difficulties of getting a good one when you live in the middle of nowhere. It was a short lived experiment that got side tracked by my personal need to get back on topic, and the general time demands of my summertime commitments. Now as summer winds down my thoughts have again wandered towards creating a new web space that allows me to show a different, and preferably less serious, side. Part of my motivation with the coffee stories was to show that I am much more than a mental problem. Most of us live much deeper lives than we show in these blogs, and I wanted to prove that there was more to me than Klonopin withdrawal and anxiety attacks. I would still like to drop the occasional post here that shows the larger “me”, and I would endeavor to make them less serious than this morning political rant, but I also want a different space to try something new.

There are many aspects of my life that I could use, but I don’t know if they would be interesting to share. I used to like the idea of a commentary on current events, I even started a short lived blog on this vein, but something like this requires an unbelievable amount of research and time. I think I need something that I can write from the heart. Something that may have the occasional researched piece, but that mostly comes from my own experience. I have tossed around a couple ideas, but I seem to be settling around one. About a year and a half ago I took over the meal preparation duties. I surprised myself by really enjoying it, but a lot of the experimentation and fun have been ruined by a new focus on weight loss. Weight loss and my traditional home cooking didn’t work out very well. I hope to begin experimenting with some healthier alternatives this fall, and have been wondering if a cooking Dad trying to find healthier alternatives might make for interesting reading. A bigger question is whether I could stick with it or see it evolve over time. I guess the point of this post is to ask for input. What do you think?

Counting Calories

In my last post I briefly discussed my recent weight loss. My wife and started the process when she decided sometime in January that she needed to lose some weight. I followed her down the path a couple weeks later. I have struggled with my weight since I was in college. In my teen years I was extremely active. I was a competitive swimmer and we practiced twice a day for about six months out of the year from October through April. I swam 7,000 to 8,000 yards a day during these months. That averages out to about 4 ½ miles. When I wasn’t swimming I was running and lifting weight through the summer in preparation for football in the fall. During these years I was always hungry. I actually tried to gain weight for football, but it made no difference what I ate I weighed in at 160 pounds. I recall the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I was determined to gain weight to make myself a better football player. I ran a lot, but I spent time each day in the weight room at the high school and drank these high calorie shakes a couple times a day. Between May and August I was able to gain about ten pounds and was a very fit and very strong 170 pounds on the first day of practice in mid August. The first week of practice was always two a days with a ton of running and drills in the morning with more running in the afternoon. After the first week I weighed 160 pounds. I have no way of knowing for sure, but looking back I would not be surprised if I was consuming in excess of 6000 calories a day, probably a lot more with those shakes, and I couldn’t gain a pound.

All that changed when I hit college. I went to a small school that had no athletics that were of interest to me. My activity level dropped sharply, but my calorie intake did not. I had learned some horrible eating habits in high school and they have haunted me constantly in the nearly twenty years since. I had a plan to enter the Marine Corps which kept me active the first year or so I was in school, but I had damaged my left elbow playing football, which brought a premature end to my military career. With that motivation for exercise gone I broke 200 pounds for the first time in the spring of my sophomore year of college. What I wouldn’t give to see that number on the scale again.

Over the years since I finished college there have been three separate attempts to lose weight. All have been successful, but eventually led to a weight that peaked out higher than the last. I was in the 230’s the first time I decided to stop and lose weight. That time I was able to get just under 200 for a brief spell, but I worked by ass of to get there. Five days or more of each week at the gym and eating like a rabbit was all that worked. Eventually I made it all the way back up to 250 a few years after I was married. My wife and I both put in a lot of effort and lost significant weight. I was back into the 220’s when she got pregnant. That changed our entire lives, and with my son at 2 ½ I peaked out this time in the mid 260’s. After working at my calorie intake for the last part of the winter I have made my way back to 240. I was under but Easter weekend was not kind and the remnants lying around the house, read jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, have continued to sabotage me.

The struggles I have faced over Easter pretty well highlight my biggest challenges with weight loss. I am not sure addiction is the right word, but maybe compulsion? I feel powerless around food. If it is there I will eat it. I cant help myself. In the weeks leading up to Easter my mother in law bought my son a bag of the Starburst jelly beans. I couldn’t stay out of them and ate the entire bag in less than two days. Sugar is my kryptonite. We will often make my son a little bag of “trail mix” to take in the car for the trip to day care. Typically it is just Cheerios and raisins. I had a purchased a bag of Special Dark chocolate chips for baking back around the holidays, but with our weight goals in mind I had not made any cookies. My wife opened the bag to sweeten the trail mix a little for my son, but once the bag was open I could stay out of it. Before it was opened I didn’t have a problem, but as soon as that seal was broken I was constantly eating handfuls of chips.

The second challenge I face is that I genuinely like to eat. I don’t eat just to provide my body with the nutrients required to sustain life, but also as a recreation. I love the sensation of flavor. I crave it. I recently told a friend that the two most important activities in life were eating and sex. It was suggested that breathing might out rank both, but I replied that without food and sex there was little point in breathing. An exaggeration?  Maybe. But it makes my point.

At the end of the day for those of us lucky enough to be relatively young and relatively healthy weight loss boils down to a simple mathematical formula:

Calories In > Calories Out = Weight Gain

Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss

All the fad diets in the world don’t change the simplicity of the above truth. Sure it can be more complicated, but if you eat fewer calories than you burn you will lose weight. Of course anybody who has ever actually counted every single calorie consumed in a day knows that it is shocking how fast they can add up to that 2000 – 2500 recommended daily intake.

It is 4:00 in the afternoon as I write this and I have eaten everything I will eat today prior to dinner. I was bad at lunch, and will be at a meeting for dinner that will really blow up the daily calorie count. So far today I have consumed the following:

                ½  of a 20oz Can of Dole chunked Pineapple with half the juice also = 160 Calories

                6 Dove Dark Chocolate Eggs (more Easter Sabotage) = 220 Calories

                Subway 6” Chicken Pizzioli Sandwich with Provlone cheese =  550 Calories

                1 bag of Baked Lays BBQ Chips with the above sandwich = 140 Calories

                6 sticks of Extra Gum = 30 Calories

                Total Calories before dinner = 1100 Calories

Had I been good at lunch I would have had a 300 calorie sandwich without the BBQ chips making the total calories only 710. If we had a reasonable dinner to this you can maintain or lose weight pretty easily. I only drink water all day. It is shocking how many calories you can drink in a day if you stray from water. We often squeeze cut up lemons into our water in the evenings.

All this sounds so easy, but as most reading this know all too well it is not. When I eat what I listed above I am hungry all damn day. I do alright staying out of the snacks until the evening, but the hours between dinnertime and bedtime are the hours that destroy my weight loss. I find it frustrating that little additions can screw up everything. A couple hundred extra calories in the form of fruit or veggies is not likely to show up on the scale, but the same number of calories in cookies, meat, or candy will destroy and entire days healthy eating.

I hope to lose another 15 pounds and then find a way to keep my weight under 230 pounds indefinitely. It is a battle maintaining healthy calorie counts. The other problem I often run into is that if I allow myself a single day to cheat I cant shut it off. I had one of those Chicken Pizzioli subs for dinner about a week and a half ago and I loved it. The problem is that instead of my nice healthy 300 Calorie sandwiches I have had three of the 6” chicken Pizziolis in the last four days. I cant seem to force myself to go back to the healthier sandwiches.  The truth is even the 500 calorie lunch is significantly healthier than anything I was eating before. The problem is my weight doesn’t seem to ever balance. If I am good I lose weight pretty steadily, but if I am not quite as good my weight doesn’t just stay the same it goes up.

The bottom line is that a thinner waist equals a better mood, better health, better sex, pretty much better everything I want. The challenge will remain, as it is with everything, finding some balance that will work inside the complicated confines of my life for the long term. That is a balance that I have yet to find.

Going To Try Chem Free Living

Forgive me blogosphere for it has been thirty two days since my last entry. It has been an amazing month, and with the notable exception of my employment circumstances things are looking up around here. The truth is my urge to write peters out when I am feeling good. When I have no real angst I have no inspiration.

A regular theme throughout the life of this blog has been my experience with the medications used to treat depression and anxiety. Anybody who has done much reading here knows I hate these drugs with some passion, but have also relied on them to get through the last twelve or thirteen years of my life. In that time I have never been completely drug free. For over a decade I have gone through each and every day of my life under the influence of at least one and most often two or more drugs designed to effect my mood. I hardly remember what it feels like to function without these pills.

Over the winter I went through the long ordeal of withdrawing from over ten years of daily Klonopin use. The last pill was taken December 30th and it was probably the third week in February before I began to feel in anyway normal again. At the end of February I had an appointment with the shrink and I asked about the possibility of getting off the Buspar and Wellbutrin. He told me I could drop the Buspar anytime and drop my Wellbutrin dose by a third from 450mg daily to 300mg if I felt up to it. I had been taking the Buspar twice a day prior to this appointment, but beginning to next day I only took it at night. After a week of the “only at night” dosage I quit altogether. Other than a mild hiccup in my sleep, which was probably all in my head, I didn’t even notice the drug was missing.

I was feeling very encouraged by the successful drop of Buspar. For many years I had used the Klonopin as my crutch. I never forgot the way the panic and anxiety felt, and I was fearful of returning to those days. During the withdrawal I was reminded of why I was scared as the experience was highlighted by two months of increased anxiety with several days spread out over the period that were nearly intolerable. With the Buspar gone I was living clear of any drug whose sole purpose was to control my anxiety, and I was functioning fine. For some time now I have been nagged by a vague awareness that the Wellbutrin isn’t really doing anything for me. With the Buspar gone it was time for the next hurdle so I cut the Wellbutrin dose as I had been directed. It has been about three weeks since I dropped the dose. I don’t remember the exact date/day, which I honestly consider a good sigh unto itself, if I can’t remember exactly when than I must not have been obsessing over it too badly. I am feeling very good, better than I remember feeling in a very very long time. Truthfully I feel better than I ever remember feeling. I left a message with the shrink this afternoon asking how to make the next drop. I am scheduled to see him May 2nd and I would like to have made the next drop a few weeks before then so if things do start to get weird I will have the checkup already on the calendar.

My wife and I committed to another change a couple months ago as well. Somewhere on this blog I once listed my weight at 250 pounds. I was lying. You know you are self conscious when you put the things in print I have put on this blog, and you can’t tell the truth about your weight. My weight maxed out at 266.6 pounds on my 5’11” frame. I remember the weight because the last three numbers struck me. I am not a terribly religious person, but I knew I was too heavy and the 666 stuck in my head as a bad sign. I had settled to 263ish when my wife decided she needed to drop some weight. I watched her get started and she was doing well. She bemoaned my cooking constantly as she struggled to lose, but lose she did. A couple weeks after she started I followed. I didn’t make a lot of noise about, and didn’t even tell her. My motivation was twofold. First my son is 2 ½. If I am going to be able to play and participate in his life I better get some of this weight off. The second is probably the greatest motivator for all men. Sex. My wife and I have always had mismatched sex drives, and one of the effects of dropping the Klonopin was a sharp increase in my drive which was already way ahead of hers. I had heard complaints from her that my weight made sex uncomfortable, but for some reason it took the light bulb a while to go off in my head. I finally decided if I wanted more sex I needed to take responsibility for making myself more appealing, and the act for comfortable for her. By the time I last posted a month ago I was down to the 250 number I had claimed to be. I wanted to brag, but how do you brag about being at the weight you told people you were already at? This morning marked two consecutive days at 238 pounds making my total weight loss from the start weight 25 pounds, and from my max weight almost thirty pounds. My pants used to fall down my ass like they do on all fat guys. They are still falling down my ass, but now it is because they don’t fit.

Weight loss is a real chore for me. I don’t want to get into all the details here so maybe I will put together another entry talking about that, but I can say the work is paying off. When I hit 245 my wife commented that the sex was better, and she was right. She has dropped about 17 pounds and the combination has made for a noticeable improvement. With the Buspar gone and Weight and Wellbutrin lower the biggest change I can see other than my general mood is my sex drive is off the charts. The mismatched desire has always been a problem in our marriage, but recently she has made more effort to participate and I tried to do some little things to keep her interested.  We talked about it last weekend and I told her that in a perfect world I would be looking for sex four times a week. She was a little taken aback by this. Last year we averaged every 10 -14 days with several instances where we approached 30 days between sexual encounters. This year has been once every 7 -10 days, and lately I am noticing we are pretty steady on a once on the weekend pace with the occasional extra thrown in. This is an amazing improvement over where we have been, but I think she was shocked to discover that I am only getting about 25% of the sex I actually want. Will this foster more understanding of where I am coming from? The drug free me is finding the urge stronger than ever so I certainly hope so. I am hopeful that this rapid change in my desire wont cause us any problems.

The past month has seen many more changes as well that I simply don’t have time for here, but maybe they will give me an excuse to write here a little more often. As a parting word I would ask for forgiveness for any typos you may find in this entry. I really want to get something posted, and I am rapidly running out of time so my editing will be quick and sloppy.