I understood from a young age that growing old wouldn’t be a picnic and I’ve met the various aches and pains I’ve developed over the years with, what I would like to believe, is a certain amount of grace and acceptance. What I’m not happy about, and what no one who ever bitched about getting old had ever mentioned to me, is how some of us (me) would develop weird little disfigurements as we age.
Specifically, little bitty bumps. I noticed a few years back that I had a couple of little bumps on my forehead near my hairline. They didn’t hurt like a pimple and they weren’t hard like a wart. Just a couple of little bumps like tiny lunar landers had set down on my face. Well, you can’t be young and beautiful forever I suppose so I accepted the bumps as a the price of wisdom and moved on. It was only a couple so no big deal. Then today I just happened to notice that the number had grown. I now have a string of the damned things across my forehead down into my left eyebrow. What the fuck?
I didn’t sign up for this shit and I want to know who to write to in order to make a proper complaint. There’s eight of those little fuckers on my face now and I suspect they’re conspiring to increase their numbers as I sleep. I tried checking on WebMD to see if they had a name for them and now I think I might have forehead cancer. Don’t ever try to look up anything on WebMD, they always say it’s cancer.
So I’m trying to spin this into a positive by telling myself it makes my forehead look all rugged and shit, but it doesn’t. It just looks like I’ve been practicing writing in braille on my face. Also, that little outcropping of hair at my widow’s peak is slowly losing the battle of existence and now you know why I shave my head regularly.
Oh well. I suppose I’ll just have to live with it, but it would’ve been nice to get a warning that this was going to happen.
Apologies for being away for so long — I just realized I didn’t get a single post up in February — but I am still alive and kicking. My recovery from the pinched nerve issue has been slow, but steady with my pain levels being mostly background noise these days. I had my second steroid injection into my spine on February 19th and it has helped considerably. I doubt I will need a third one.
Sitting in most chairs and on the toilet isn’t much of an issue anymore and I can bend over to pick up stuff from the floor without too much issue as long as I’m careful in how I do it. Putting my sock and shoe on my left foot is still a struggle, but I can do it on my own most days. I still have weakness in my left leg/foot/toes with numbness in the calf, big toe, and pinkies of my hands, but pain-wise I’m close to being back to normal. I can also sleep more than three or four hours at a time.
Now, of course, my hospital bills are rolling in and I’ve definitely hit the $4,000 deductible on my health insurance for the year. I fact, I somehow owe almost $4,500 to the hospital and various others involved in my treatment in spite of my deductible being $4K. I’m going to have to call Anthem and ask them how the fuck that’s possible. Thus stress over being in pain constantly has given way to stress over how to pay my hospital bill. Not sure how I’m going to do it, but I’ve been in spots like this before and have made it through.
Other than that, I’ve been working and sleeping a lot. I missed seeing the latest Star Wars movie in theaters and I’m more than a little bummed about that and I still haven’t seen Black Panther, but I hope to rectify that this coming weekend. Thanks to some help from my sister-in-law and her husband and my buddy Greg, we got the last of our boxes out of my mother-in-law’s basement. Now our basement is back to looking like this:
It really is amazing how much stuff we’ve accumulated over the years.
I’ve started digging through the boxes and a lot of them are full of books. So much so that I may need to buy a couple more bookcases if we decide to keep them all. We have to dig through all of this soon as we’re going to need the room to hold a going away party for my daughter, Courtney, who is packing up and moving to Phoenix, Arizona to take on a new job at her company that will be a big step up for her career.
Needless to say, plans to sit down and blog, vlog, and/or stream have not been working out for me lately. Not because I don’t have the time, but I’ve been lacking the motivation/inspiration. You hear all the time about how chronic pain is exhausting, but it’s another thing to actually experience it. Fortunately, I appear to be getting better and I’ve started actually exercising a bit (25 mins or so of walking a few times a week) in yet another attempt to improve my health and alleviate some of the issues I’m having. I’m hoping to buy a bicycle soon, but with the hospital bills coming in I’m not sure I can justify the cost.
So, I’m still here and I have every intention of getting back to posting more often. I can’t guarantee that I will, but, much like trying to get back into exercising, I’m going to try.
Yes, I know I’m a bit late with this, but I have a good excuse. My new year started off poorly with the onset of excruciating pain in my left hip/leg after eating lunch at a local Olive Garden. It got worse on the ride home and attempts at sleeping it off did nothing to help. By 4:30 PM it was so bad that I couldn’t get into the car to go to an urgent care center. After deciding against calling for an ambulance I continued to try and rest, but the only position that didn’t cause immediate pain was laying on my belly, a position I never sleep in, or standing straight up, which is also not conducive to sleep. Still, I managed to doze off a couple of times and by 2:30 AM things had improved just enough for me to fold myself into Anne’s car for a trip to the ER at Saint Joseph’s Mercy hospital in Ann Arbor.
This is me in my hospital gown standing up in my room because it’s too painful to lay down.
I was admitted pretty quickly and had an IV stuck into my arm whereupon I was given healthy doses of morphine which helped in making my immediate situation bearable. Over the course of the next day and a I half I had a couple blood labs done, an x-ray session and, ultimately, an MRI. By Wednesday evening they had worked out what my issue was. Despite it being the location of all my pain and misery, my hip and joint were ruled out as having any issues other than some minor arthritis. However, upon looking at my spine they noticed a problem:
L4-L5: Moderate-large size central to left paracentral disc extrusion. Slight caudal migration. This results in compression left anterior/lateral thecal sac with moderate to severe narrowing of the left lateral canal. Encroachment on the expected left L5 nerve root. Mild left foramen stenosis. Right foramen patent.
Which is to say that I have a partial disc herniation that is pressing on the root of one of the major nerves in my leg resulting in, to put it more collequially, “sonofafuckingbitchthatfuckinghurts.”
The first time I was able to lay on my back in over 24 hours and only because I was very doped up on that sweet, sweet morphine. You can tell it’s only slightly dampening the pain in my expression.
Near as I can figure, this is the result of a fall on my stairs that I took nearly three weeks prior just as I started my annual end-of-the-year vacation. Stepping down the two steps from my kitchen to the landing in front of the side door of my house, we had a small rug there to collect debris on shoes as we came in and I slipped on it falling backwards and smacking my ass and right arm into the edge of the step. I thought I had only bruised my ass badly (and, indeed, there was some sign of that in the x-ray), but I thought I’d come closer to breaking my arm than my spine.
After much more waiting around, I finally got word from the neurological surgeon that was consulting on my case that they wanted to try giving me a lumbar epidural steroid injection Thursday morning and then they’d keep me around until Friday evening to see if it had any effect and if it didn’t reduce my pain by at least 50% then I’d be scheduled for spinal surgery on Saturday morning. Considering that I had already missed most of the first week I was supposed to be back at work and that surgery would mean four to six weeks of recovery time, I was seriously hoping that the epidural would work.
Fortunately, it did. This is me sitting up on the edge of the bed eating my breakfast Friday morning.
Mind you, I’m on a healthy dose of percocet in the picture above, but it was still more than I’d been able to do for three days. They kept me around into Saturday, but I was finally let go with a prescription for more percocet and ibuprofen (to reduce inflammation). After a weekend spent sleeping off and on, I went back to work on Monday.
I’m far from fully recovered, but I’m at a point where I’m able to stretch out how often I take my pain pills from the recommended 6 hours for the percocet and 8 hours for the ibuprofen to as much as 10 or 12 hours depending on if I’m sleeping through it. I’m able to sleep on my side again, but I can only manage sleeping (in any position) for at most 4 hours before I have to get up and walk around to get my leg to stop hurting enough to go back to sleep. The pain still manifests in my hip and the calf of my leg, the latter feeling like the muscle is just this side of going into a full charley horse. Additionally it causes numbness in the pinkies of both my hands and along up the edge of my arms. The medication keeps it down to an annoying roar, but I can definitely tell when the pills have worn off. Walking is a bit rough at times as all this also makes my left leg somewhat weak hence why I have my cane handy.
But, I am able for the most part to function. I’m on restrictions with regards to lifting heavy things and bending over too far, which makes putting on socks and shoes fun. I am also scheduled for another injection in February with the possibility of one or two more depending on how much progress I make in the coming weeks. It may be that I’ll end up having to have the surgery in the future anyway, but at least this offers some hope of avoiding that for the time being.
So, yeah, my new year is not off to a great start. I’m hoping this means things can only get better from here on out. I’m not looking forward to the bill for all of this and finding out how much of an additional pain in the ass my insurance company is going to be about this. They’re already refusing to pay for more than one week’s worth of percocet and only once a month at that leaving me to pay it out of pocket, but that’s a rant for another time. Here’s hoping your new year was pretty good or at least not as eventful as mine has been so far.
I’ve been talking about trying to get into vlogging for awhile now, but I’ve allowed my trepidation to get the better of me and have kept putting it off until I had a better webcam and then a better mic and then a better Internet connection and so on. Fact is, I don’t know what I’m doing. Then again I didn’t know what I was doing when I started blogging 16 years ago and I’ve done alright with that.
So here it is. It’s short, doesn’t have anything particularly interesting to say, but it’s something and works well as a test of my setup if nothing else. Oh, there is a surprise camo by Jasper the cat:
As you can tell, I’m nervous and not well spoken. I’m assuming that’ll get better in time. I also made this via Google Hangouts because Windows 10’s built-in camera up won’t allow you to choose what mic to record from and I can’t seem to find anything better to use. I’m open to suggestions on what you’d like to see from me.
Today I am officially a half-century old. Which feels really weird to type out and read. I both do and don’t feel 50. Physically, yeah, I’m feeling it. No doubt in part because I’m not in great shape. Mentally I’m still wondering when all the wisdom is supposed to show up so I can fulfill my role as a mentor to the younger generation.
Heh, as if.
Frankly, I’ve been winging this adulthood thing all along. If I have any wisdom at all, it’s the realization that there’s an alarming amount of time in my life when I don’t really know what I’m doing. Most of the time I got this shit down pat. Then I do something I’ve never done before, like buy a house, and suddenly I don’t know what I’m doing again.
I have a lawn that I am responsible for. It was stunningly green and free of weeds in the real estate listing. Yeah, it’s not so much that anymore with me in charge. I’m looking forward to winter if only because my yard will look as nice as everyone else once it’s buried under an inch or two of snow. I own a lawn mower and a leaf blower and I’m looking at weed trimmers as a serious purchase. Hell, I own weed killer. Not that it seems to be killing weeds all that well. Followed the instructions and the weeds just laughed.
I have, for the first time in my life, replaced electrical switches in my home. That turns out not to be as hard as I thought it was going to be, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to sweating a bit more than usual on the first attempt. I can only assume all the incandescent light bulbs in this place were bought all at the same time because they all seem to be burning out within a short period of time since we moved in. I’ve replaced most of the ones in the basement with LEDs (hence the switch replacement), but now 2 of the three in the bathroom fixture have died, two of the five in the dining room fixture died, one of the two in the fixture over the back door died, and three of the five outdoor fixtures all died. The outside fixtures have new LEDs, but I need to pick up more for the others that have given up the ghost. In the dining room this will mean swapping out another light switch as it’s dimmable and old enough not to support LEDs properly.
So, yeah, lots of new stuff to learn at 50. That said, it’s been a pleasant birthday. I took the day off and have spent it alternately playing video games, getting the house tidied up for the party tomorrow, and napping. Got a few birthday gifts already too.
An early gift from my mother-in-law.
Speaking of new things outside of my comfort zone, my mother-in-law bought me a charcoal grill so I can have hamburgers and hotdogs at the party tomorrow. I’ve never grilled anything in my life. I have a basic understanding of how these things work, but I’m sure there are details I’m clueless about. Fortunately, I have friends who think about such things.
Thanks to Stan Pedzick I will have some help with the grill.
This book is amazing, though you have to go all the way to the end for the basic tips on using a grill. 309 recipes from around the world many of which I already know I won’t ever try because they are spicy and I can’t handle spicy. That said, there were several that sounded damn good. However, I doubt I’ll try the Ultimate Hamburger recipe considering it asks you to do things such as grind your own chuck and purchase sea salt from a very specific region of the world.
Speaking of books, someone bought me this and I still don’t know who.
I have many of the Calvin and Hobbes collections already, but here is every strip in one spot with commentary from Bill Watterson. I’ve wanted this for a long time so hopefully I’ll find out tomorrow who it’s from so I can thank them.
Speaking of speaking, my wife got me a Blue Yeti microphone, shock mount, and pop filter!
This thing is so sensitive that even with the gain turned all the way down it picks up the hum from my computer sitting on the desk as well as my tortured breathing, but it makes my voice sound soo good. Only thing left that I need is an arm to mount it on so the shock mount can isolate it from things like the PC and any typing I do. I guess I’m going to have to get serious about vlogging and starting the podcast with Dave back up or something. Vlogging, now there’s something else that I don’t have any real clue about what I’m going to do.
Anne also got me a funny book about turning 50 and a BBQ apron that says MADE IN 1967 on it. The apron is a bit small, but it’ll always work well as a bib if nothing else.
Lastly, my sister-in-law Angela and her husband Rob bought me a wicked cool Hawaiian shirt plus the movies Live Die Repeat (formerly Edge of Tomorrow) and Pacific Rim. I don’t have a pic of me in the shirt yet, but that’ll probably happen tomorrow.
So a little time off from work, some new toys to play with, and a party still to go tomorrow. As birthdays go, this one has been pretty good so far.
Today is my 49th birthday. Not nearly as big a milestone as next year’s birthday will be, but not entirely insignificant. I’m solidly into middle age now and can’t even pretend to be anything remotely close to young except in comparison to those who are significantly older than I am. The nice waitress at the restaurant we went to for dinner tried to claim I didn’t look a day over 35. Yeah, right. We gave her a good tip anyway.
What the hell happened to me? Click to embiggen.
This is me as of 3 minutes ago.I didn’t use to wear glasses. Then I started to wear them when I needed to read super-fine print. Next I started to wear them when I needed to read text on my computer monitor. Now if I take them off the letters on my keyboard are fuzzy as hell so I wear them most of the time now. These days if I need to read super-fine print I have to take a picture of it with my smartphone and zoom in on it.
There’s a shit load more grey in my beard than I remember there being last week. I have very fine, dirty dishwater blonde hair so it’s harder to notice it on my head when I let it grow out, but damn if it’s not easy to spot in my beard and mustache. I’ve got a good start on wrinkles too. Especially around the eyes. Probably why I can’t read fine print anymore.
Something I’ve noticed that’s a little more concerning has to do with my typing. I find that more and more I’m somehow substituting a word in a sentence with something other than the word I meant to type. Invariably I end up thinking something like “absolutely” and end up typing “abstinence” or some other word instead. I wasn’t even thinking of the word abstinence, but there it is. Sitting in the middle of my sentence causing it to make no goddamned sense. Usually the wrong word will start with the same letter, but will have absolutely nothing to do with what I was trying to say. I could blame it on autocorrect, but it’s not limited to my phone.
I’m still too fat and I still don’t get enough exercise, but I’m in decent health in spite of those facts. My right knee has been bothering me for the past half-year and I have a standing order from my doctor to get it x-rayed, but I’ve not gotten around to it yet. Think I might do it this Saturday.
Other than dinner out this evening, the day was pretty much like any other day. Went to work, dealt with a few minor irritations, had dinner, came home. Got lots of birthday wishes from friends, family, and coworkers which were all greatly appreciated. All in all, not a bad day to turn 49.
As if it weren’t enough that I don’t take a proper cold shower, apparently I also routinely engage in a major fashion faux pas by wearing cargo shorts. If the Wall Street Journal — always on the bleeding edge of fashion trends — is to be believed, I could very well be destroying my marriage by wearing my bright blue cargo shorts:
Relationships around the country are being tested by cargo shorts, loosely cut shorts with large pockets sewn onto the sides. Men who love them say they’re comfortable and practical for summer. Detractors say they’ve been out of style for years, deriding them as bulky, uncool and just flat-out ugly.
I don’t give a flying fuck what the fashion industry and its aficionados think is cool when it comes to clothing. I’ve long given up on trying to be stylish and my rule is “if it feels good, wear it.” Hence I tend to wear t-shirts with a pocket on the chest and Hawaiian shirts at all times of the year and mostly jeans for pants.
When it comes to shorts I don’t have a lot of them because I generally don’t spend a lot of time outside in the summer and I can’t wear them to work (it’s bad enough I wear jeans everyday). As a result I only own one pair of bright blue cargo shorts that have some insignia on them that looks like they were aimed at surfing fans or something. If I’m going out in public in shorts then these are the pair I’ll probably be wearing. They’re comfortable and they have lots of pockets to carry things like my phone, glasses, and whatever the fuck else I need to carry. According to some folks, I should be tarred and feathered for being a middle aged man who dares to wear such an atrocity:
Around 2010, slimmer men’s shorts started to replace baggy silhouettes. By then, the backlash against cargo shorts was well under way.
Fashion guru Tim Gunn said in a 2007 interview with Reuters that cargo shorts were the least fashionable item of clothing in his closet. British tabloid Daily Express called cargo shorts “a humiliation for any man over 21 and should be sold only after proof of age has been presented.”
Leading the charge against the humble cargo shorts are the wives:
Jen Anderson, a 45-year-old freelance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y., said she used to tease her husband gently about his fashion choices, until he made a purchase that crossed the line: denim cargo shorts. That was “just too far,” she said.
Through what Ms. Anderson described as “strong mocking,” she convinced him to return the shorts. She said she doesn’t like the idea of being seen in public with her husband when he’s wearing cargo shorts, which make him look like “a misshapen lump.”
“It’s a reflection on me, like ‘How did she let him out the door like that?’ ” she said.
I’m fortunate that my wife is more concerned with my happiness than my fashion sense. Honestly, I think she’s happy if what I’m wearing only has one hole in it someplace (some of those Hawaiian shirts are getting pretty tattered). The WSJ article I linked to above talks about a number of wives who are throwing away or donating their husband’s cargo shorts when they’re not around which seems like a pretty duplicitous thing for a wife to do.
Besides, fashion tends to be cyclical. It won’t be too long before cargo shorts are all the rage again. The damned things have been around since the 1940s. Bell bottom pants made a brief comeback in 2014 that made absolutely no sense to me having had to live through them in the 1970s. If there’s one silver lining to the current backlash against cargo shorts it’s that it appears to make them relatively cheap so I think I may have to add a couple more pairs to my wardrobe.
I apologize for not posting something sooner — it’s been long enough that my mother sent me an email asking me to update SEB — but it’s been a busy few weeks. Anne has started a new job that has her getting up at 5AM so the both of us have been going to bed earlier than usual the past couple of weeks.
I’ve also been heavily involved in a PC refresh at work. Most of the laptops we currently have are over 5 years old so the IT department has started purchasing replacements and I’ve been trying to upgrade anywhere from two to four people a day to their new machines. We only got 24 new machines in this first go-round, but that’s enough to keep me jumping. We’ll be doing several more batches throughout the year.
In addition to that, our company just struck a new deal with T-Mobile that sees everyone being upgraded from the crappy flip-phones they’ve been using to a brand spanking new iPhone 6s. Guess who also handles phone issues at our site? Since last Thursday we’ve been working on this and it’s been a painful learning process in part because upgrading from the flip-phones isn’t as simple as you’d think it would be and also because we’re offering to let people port over their personal numbers into a business number if they want to. Not to mention the process of setting up an iPhone to be managed by the IT department is easily a 40 minute process by itself. The amount of training I had on this was minimal due to the fact that the folks in Ohio who were teaching me weren’t completely up to speed on how to do everything themselves. This has resulted in any number of hiccups, but we’re slowly making progress and the folks I support have been very gracious in their patience.
Tonight, however, worries have me back out of bed at 11:30 in the evening and I’m not sure if I’ll get back to sleep tonight or not. Our emergency backup cat, Jasper, has suddenly started vomiting his food back up at least once a day for the past several days. My first thought was we got a bad batch of hard food, but Cuddles doesn’t seem to be having any issues himself. He doesn’t seem to be any less active than usual or showing any obvious signs of distress so we weren’t sure if there’s a serious problem or if he’s just eating too fast and getting sick after roughhousing with Cuddles. I called the vet’s office today and they said we better bring him in just in case so we have an appointment for Saturday afternoon.
My daughter is also having relationship issues with her mother at the moment that has resulted in a couple of exasperated phone calls from Courtney this evening, one of them after we had gone to bed. Things will probably have settled down by the morning, but it’s hard not to worry if she’s going to do something rash like try to live out of her car until she can afford an apartment because she and her mother can’t seem to get along anymore.
I’ve been laying in bed tossing and turning since the last phone call and I eventually decided to get up to pee. Jasper joined me in the bathroom where he jumped in the tub and crouched as though he were trying to urinate. This is way out of character for him and he stood that way for several minutes. When he finally moved there were two very small pools of urine in the tub. Barely any at all. One of the issues the vet was concerned about was dehydration from the vomiting and this would seem to confirm those worries. After I finished doing my business I went looking for him to see if he was OK and at first I couldn’t’ find him. Checking the litter boxes in the basement I noticed another very small pool of urine next to one so he’s clearly having issues.
I found him here in the computer room. He’s curled up on Anne’s chair sleeping next to me at the moment. Now I have to decide if I should take the day off and take him into urgent care or see if the vet can squeeze him in. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow so I really should go to work, but I don’t think I can risk waiting until Saturday to take him in. Anne certainly can’t take the day off as she just started this job a couple of weeks ago. Getting back to sleep with him in distress is probably not going to happen either even though he seems to be sleeping peacefully at the moment.
Lots of pressures and stresses at the moment. If I hadn’t already shaved my head my hair would probably be falling out. I hate this feeling of not knowing what to do whether it’s in trying to get someone a new phone to do their job or help my daughter to find a place of her own or whether to rush my cat into an animal urgent care. As a kid, the adults in my life always seemed to know what they were doing and I always figured that when the time came I’d know what to do too. I must have missed school the day that held that class because more often than not I’m just winging it by the minute and I hate that.
On a lighter note, I had been letting my hair grow out for the winter only to be reminded why I shave my head. Once it gets to a certain length it’s impossible to get it to behave and I end up looking like this:
You’ll note the permanent wave I’ve got going on there.
Last Wednesday I finally gave up and shaved it off so I’m back to looking like this:
Crazy eyebrows still intact.
Well, it’s now 12:08AM and I should probably try to go back to bed. Probably won’t, but I probably should. I’m feeling anxious and it’s amazing how well that suppresses any tiredness you’d otherwise feel. Here’s hoping the morning brings with it some clarity and positive resolutions to at least some of my immediate concerns.
I’m fat. The last time I stepped on my fancy WiFi enabled scale on September 1st I topped off at 291.7 pounds. That’s down from my high of 301, but it’s up from the 287 I managed to get to in July. My ideal body weight for someone my height should be between 132 to 167 pounds. My BMI is 42 and it should be between 20 and 25. I am what is considered morbidly obese. I am not what a lot of people think of when they think of morbidly obese people. Most folks don’t even realize I qualify for that designation.
This pic is 5 years old, but other than being a little grayer in the beard I still look more or less the same. Click to embiggen.
That’s because I somehow manage to make it look damned good.
I’ve been this way for most of my adult life starting sometime in my late 20’s. I know it’s not healthy and I’ve been feeling the effects of carrying around all this extra weight for awhile now. Whether it’s my aching back or my feet that can’t seem to stay warm even in the heat of summer (not to mention a growing numbness in one of my big toes), I’m aware that I’m doing long term damage. I’m diabetic, but not to the point of needing insulin shots yet and I’m on medication to control my sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. In short, I have every reason in the world to be motivated to engage in regular exercise. Yet I don’t. Why? Because I really, really fucking hate it and I find it very hard to do things I hate as much as I hate exercising.
Taken on my wedding day, this was 14 years ago and I was at my heaviest weight. Click to embiggen.
Which isn’t to say that I haven’t tried. If you’ve been reading SEB for awhile then you may recall I bought an elliptical machine a few years back on the mistaken assumption that Anne and I would fall into a routine of using it regularly and having the pounds melt away. The reality was that it made a wonderful coat rack for the vast majority of the time it occupied a corner of our living room up until I sold it prior to moving to Canton because we wouldn’t have any spare space for it. Yes, there was a period of several months multiple times over the years were I made valiant attempts to put it to good use, but none of them lasted longer than a month and I never did manage to make it a habit. In the end it was depressing to even consider hauling my fat ass onto it. Then last year, after we gave up trying to buy a house, Anne and I tried getting into the simplest form of exercise you can do: walking. My company tried to help by offering up a Fitbit for free if I managed to walk 8,000 steps a day for 20 days during last October. I took up the challenge in the hopes that a whole month of walking regularly would make it a habit. While I did hit the goal, it didn’t become a habit and when winter set in my walking routine went the way of the dodo and hasn’t really recovered since.
So you can imagine my incredulity when I came across an article that basically said I probably shouldn’t be trying to exercise at all:
That hell I described is what the majority of the population thinks about regular exercise. They hate it, and they don’t want to do it. I am an internationally syndicated fitness columnist with columns read by a whole lot of people, and make my living writing about diet, exercise and weight loss. For years I’ve extolled the virtues of exercise as a way to control your eating behaviors and sculpt your physique into something that looks great and performs amazing feats.
And I have been wrong.
Wait, what? Yeah, that’s fitness journalist Jim Fell in an article titled The Exercise Myth he wrote this past February that I just stumbled across on Facebook. He continues:
It is not a personal failing in any person to fail to see the light with exercise, because that kind of light just isn’t visible for some. Actually, it doesn’t work for most. If you don’t want to exercise, then you qualify as “most.” You’re in the vast majority, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of, because exercise isn’t exactly natural. It’s asking you to do something very unusual. It’s asking you to be someone you’re not. It’s asking you to expend energy and to embrace discomfort for a nebulous long-term goal that doesn’t actually accomplish anything in the near term other than shortness of breath and smelly laundry. Also, it costs money.
I’m not turning my back on exercise. I personally love it and will continue to do so (and I’ll keep writing about it too), but in learning to love it I realized how hard it was – how unnatural it was – to dedicate so many hours a week to running and cycling and the lifting of heavy things for no reason other than to put them back down and then lift them up again.
It’s like the man has known me my entire life. Jim goes on to talk about how the folks who really get into exercise to the point that it’s an effective weight loss are a minority making up maybe 5% of the population and only 25% get enough exercise to have any health benefits at all. He says we’re not lazy, just normal. That plays right into my cognitive biases so of course it appeals to me.
The myth about exercise is that it is a viable solution for the population at large to achieve lasting weight loss. Whether the reasons are physiological, psychological, practical or financial, most people are at the opposite end of the spectrum from Nike’s tagline. They Just can’t do it. They WON’T do it.
For some, exercise works as an important part of a weight loss program, but for most, they will never be able to make themselves exercise hard enough, long enough, and frequently enough to get a considerable caloric burn and therefore affect weight loss. THIS is the myth that has been perpetuated about exercise.
Jim goes on to explain all the problems inherent in regular exercise that keeps most folks from doing it and how much effort is involved to really get any benefit from it. He spends a lot of time on the traps and pitfalls a lot of folks who try to make a go at it end up falling into. All in all it would be a pretty depressing article if it weren’t for the end where he has suggestions for those of us who just can’t seem to get into exercise:
There is another option to assist weight loss for the non-exerciser, and it’s pretty neat.
Actually, make that NEAT. It’s Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, which is burning calories via methods other than traditional sport or exercise. It’s movement with a purpose, like walking instead of driving, using your bike as a mode of transportation, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, getting up and walking to a co-worker’s office to chat instead of picking up the phone, pacing while on the phone instead of sitting, doing housework, shoveling snow, yard work, carpentry, playing with your kids, walking the dog, doing laundry, moving furniture … All those things people stopped doing because of technology.
When you adopt a mindset of looking for every possible excuse to add in extra movement, traditional exercise be damned, you can burn more calories each day without the pain and hassle, and without nearly the risk of developing a reward mentality in regards to “earning” a tasty treat. What’s more, movement begets more movement. Starting slowly, you’ll find over time that you transform from a sitter to a mover, and you’ll rack up some caloric burns while achieving greater fitness.
And in terms of weight loss, if you sit less, spend less times in front of screens, and keep those hands busy you’ll be less inclined to engage in mindless snacking, and more likely to establish a regular meal pattern.
In other words, the NEAT approach to fitness can help you on the food intake side, which is where lasting weight loss really happens.
This makes a lot of sense to me and not just because it excuses my inability to develop an exercise habit.
Even as a skinny-ass kid I hated exercise. When it came time in gym class to do exercises such as push ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, or running laps I always hated every second of it and did them in as half-assed a manner as I could and still claim I had done what I was asked. However, when it came time for dodge ball or basketball or volleyball or any of a number of other similar games I’d put my all into it and loved it. I also tended to enjoy swimming and riding my bike, two things I haven’t done in years. Anne and I keep talking about buying a couple of bikes, but living in an apartment makes figuring out where to keep them difficult. If I have to carry them up and down from the basement then I know they’re not going to get used, but I don’t have anyplace safe to store them outside where they won’t be stolen or damaged by the weather.
It’s clear that I’m never going to be an avid exerciser so perhaps it’s time I stop trying to become one. Perhaps the solution I should be trying is to just get up from my computer screens more often and seeing if I can’t find something I love to do that involves more movement. Playing is what kept me skinny as a kid, maybe it can help me as an adult.
Today I have somehow managed to reach my 48th year and, despite all my bad lifestyle choices, I’m still relatively healthy. I’m getting to the age where birthdays start to become days of reflection which is something I’ve never been all that good at, but there are certain truths about my life that are starting to become apparent.
For example, I realize that I will probably never be a published author. At least, not of a book of any kind. Part of the reason I started my blog 14 years ago was to practice writing and, while I’ve definitely improved over the years, I’ll never be able to come up with an idea for more than a short story or two. I used to write short stories often when I was younger, but these days the inspiration comes very infrequently. I know a couple of people who are pretty big writers who seem to be able to pump out volumes of prose with little effort and who have a large fanbase, but I will never be one of those people. They are all remarkably well-read and are familiar with large numbers of other authors. I’m very picky about my fiction reading and as a result I’m not as familiar with the tropes and traditions of my favorite genre — science fiction — to really contribute anything to it. When I first had this realization it bothered me a little because it was something I long thought I would do, but these days I’ve come to accept it.
I also realize that I’ve already hit the peak of my career and will never hit that high again. In part because I will always be a break-fix IT guy. Moving up to just about anything else would require a college degree and I’m not going to get one of those anytime soon. Or it would require I go into management and I’ve never wanted that either. Despite working in a position that is perpetually considered entry-level, I’m good at it and I enjoy it. I get paid alright for what I do — just a little under the industry mean which means there’s room for raises — but it’s never going to reach a six figure level. It took 20+ years as a contractor before a company hired me directly and it’ll probably be the last one to ever do so. I wouldn’t recommend my method of career decision making to anyone and, honestly, I’ve been damned lucky in spite of myself. At this point I probably won’t be retiring unless I manage to hit a lotto jackpot.
Lastly, I’ve come to accept the fact that I will never own my own home. We came closest to realizing that goal last year and it didn’t happen and I don’t suspect I’ll be in a position financially to try again for quite some time. This is one of the few things that make me feel like a bit of a failure because so many of my friends and family have somehow managed to accomplish this, but I can’t seem to figure it out. I ended up deciding not to worry about it anymore. I have a roof over my head, there’s food on the table, and a wonderful woman that I spend each day with. Not to mention two of the best cats this world has ever seen. We seem to be able to make wherever we end up into a happy home and that’s all I really need.
My apologies if this seems like a bit of a downer, but I’m up very early today because of nightmares I had last night and I probably should’ve waited until the coffee kicks in a bit more before trying to write about my latest birthday. All of that said, I’m still breathing and there are a lot of people who seem to appreciate having me around and, in my own small way, I’m contributing something to the world. I’m fortunate to know a lot of people who have had stunning success in their career and lives and I’m often amazed at the people who stop to see what I have to say. I’ll never be a big fish in this pond we call life, but at least I’m still swimming.
Who knows? Maybe that sudden flash of inspiration will finally happen and I’ll become a huge success. Until then I’ll keep plugging along pretending I know what I’m doing.