Apparently showering is another thing I’m doing completely wrong.

showerheadIt seems the list of ways-I’m-failing-to-live-my-life-properly grows with each day. The latest addition the the list? Taking showers. I take very hot, almost scalding, showers every weekday morning and I love every minute of it. It’s one of the few things that make getting up to go to work every day tolerable.

Alas, more and more I’ve been seeing articles saying that what I should be doing is taking cold showers instead:

Cold showers are hard. That’s why you should take one. : TreeHugger.

The scientific evidence is there. Studies have shown that cold showers stimulate blood circulation, act as an anti-depressant, improve athletic performance, and can help with weight loss by burning off stubborn brown fat deposits. (See 5 reasons why you should take cold showers.) Despite knowing the benefits are real, however, very few people are willing to turn off the heat and stand under a stream of cold water. In the words of Carl Richards, a financial planner from Park City, Utah, “There is still this daunting gap between knowing I want to (and should) take the cold shower and actually doing it.”

I can tell you right here and now, that ain’t gonna happen. The whole reason man discovered fire is so he wouldn’t have to take cold showers anymore. You could tell me that taking cold showers every day cures cancer, makes me look like Brad Pitt, and will make me a financial genius and I’d probably try it once or twice and go back to being an ugly, destitute sloth who will die young from every cancer ever and I’d be happy about it because at least I’m taking nice hot showers.

The article I linked to above, however, says even if I don’t do it for the health benefits I should still do it preciously because it’s so hard to do it:

In an article for the New York Times, Richards explains that there’s another reason for doing turning the tap all the way to cold or jumping in a lake when you’re still cozy warm from bed that goes beyond the health benefits. He believes you should implement a daily cold shower precisely because it’s the hardest thing you can do first thing in the morning. Once you’ve got that under your belt, everything the day throws at you will seem easy by comparison.

Fuck that. Taking a hot shower is what enables me to face the day’s trials and tribulations. Also, making what the day throws at me “seem easy” is not the same as making it easy. Maybe if it actually made things easier I might consider it. Possibly. Perhaps.

OK, no, not really. I lurvs me my hot showers.

My employer wants me to drink more water.

Like many companies the one I work for has a vested interest in healthy employees. Too many people, myself included, are overweight and inactive and we contribute to the higher rates all of us pay for healthcare. As a result our HR department has been trying to motivate folks to be healthier.

This manifested back in the Fall of 2014 with the Fitbit Challenge where the company offered to give us a $99 Fitbit Flex for free if we managed to walk 8,000 steps a day for 20 days in a single month. I took on this challenge in the hopes that at the end of it I’d be well on my way to a habit of walking regularly. I successfully completed the challenge and even kept walking regularly and then winter set in and it all came crashing to a halt. The Fitbit got packed up when we moved last year and I have no idea which of the boxes it’s still stuffed in. Still, it was a valiant effort on the part of my company.

I don’t recall what they they tried last year to get people motivated to be more healthy, I’m not even sure they bothered, but this year they have a new challenge: The Water Challenge!

Are you ready for a new challenge?

Did you know that roughly 70 percent of the body is made of water? Brain 75%, Lungs 90%, Bones 24%, Blood 85%, Skin 80%, Muscle 75%.

Drinking enough H2O has numerous benefits to the body. Are you drinking enough water per day?

Challenge: Drink 64 ounces of water per day for 25 days during the month of July (1 – 31). Only water intake counts, any other beverages such as coffee, juice, sodas do not count!

This is their big idea for this year? Let’s all drink more water? It doesn’t help that the email is written in Comic Sans which makes it impossible to take seriously. I also don’t know what the little factoids at the start have to do with this challenge. Those organs are also made of protein so I guess we need to eat a shitload[1] more protein than we are too?

Don't leave home without it.

I never leave home without it.

My hatred of water is well document on SEB. As is the fact that it’s what I primarily drink these days. I have a mug or two of coffee in the morning and then it’s water from my trusty 32oz Contigo water bottle that I keep with me everywhere I go. I hate every fucking sip of it, but I drink it just the same. On average I go through 3 to 4 full bottles throughout the course of a day and some days it’s even more. So I’m already doubling this challenge on a regular basis. It turns out the recommendation for males is 16 8oz cups of water a day which works out to about 4 of my water bottles. Keep in mind that the average diet includes sources of water other than drinking it straight so you don’t necessarily have to drink 16 8oz cups a day to hit the recommendation.

Needless to say, I’m underwhelmed by this challenge. I fucking hate drinking water and I’m already exceeding the challenge by quite a bit. They want us to track our intake using our Fitbits, smartphones, or just an Excel spreadsheet, but there’s no real way to verify that anyone is actually drinking the amount they’re claiming. Up for grabs are four $100 Dicks Sporting Goods gift certificates which is something I have absolutely no use for being that I don’t exercise and have never set foot inside a Dick’s Sporting Goods store.

To be fair, I have no idea how many glasses of water the average American drinks in a day and it’s entirely possible that most of us are probably relying too much on extracting water from other foods over drinking it straight. I know I’m guilty of that in my youth where most of what I drank was Coca-Cola, which does get you some water along with a whole bunch of stuff that counteracts anything good about the water in it. A quick and dirty Google search provides this CDC article on the National Cancer Institute’s 2007 Food Attitudes and Behaviors Survey:

Overall, 7% of adults reported no daily consumption of drinking water, 36% reported drinking 1 to 3 cups, 35% reported drinking 4 to 7 cups, and 22% reported drinking 8 cups or more. The likelihood of drinking less than 4 cups of water daily was significantly higher among participants aged 55 years or older than among those aged 18 to 34 (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 1.3), among residents of the Northeast than among residents of the South (AOR, 1.4), among participants who consumed 1 cup or less of fruits or vegetables per day than among those who consumed 4.5 cups or more (AOR, 3.0), among participants who did not exercise than among those who exercised 150 minutes or more per week (AOR, 1.7), and among participants who were neither trying to gain nor lose weight than among those trying to lose weight (AOR, 1.3).

So it sounds like there’s more than a few folks who could benefit from drinking more water, but 2007 was a long time ago so it’s possible things are better (or worse) today. Still, maybe this water challenge is just what my coworkers need to be better hydrated. As for me, I’m already running to the bathroom more times in a day than I’d prefer. It’s that use of the Comic Sans font, however, that makes me want to start drinking pop again just out of spite.

[1.] I wasn’t sure if it’s spelled “shitload” or “shit-load” or “shit load” so I looked it up and was pleasantly surprised to see that Merriam-Webster actually has a definition for it. It’s spelled “shitload.”

Weekend update.

weekendupdateSo I’ve been trying to get back into blogging on at least a semi-regular basis. My goal is to not let multiple weeks go by without publishing something. I’m actually surprised at the amount of content I have managed to put out recently. Basically, anything I would normally share to social media that I would type more than 3 sentences about I try to turn into a blog entry. There’s been a couple I’ve scrapped because I just couldn’t seem to make anything coherent out of them, but overall I think this has been helpful.

I’ve been thinking more and more about trying vlogging. I find that I’m being incredibly self-conscious about it. I don’t want to record it in front of anyone, including my wife, which makes it hard to do considering she’s home most of the time. There’s also a question of what to do a vlog about and how do I want to present myself. Should I do an energetic rant? Lots of folks doing those. Should I try to do it conversationally? Should I let my goofy side shine or be serious? Fuck it, I’ll just play a video game.

My mother has finally sold her house and is currently living with my sister in the neighborhood we grew up in. I’ve mentioned before how odd it is to go visit and not only be in the house of our former babysitter, but be directly across the street from the house I spent the first 17 years of my life in. It’s also annoying because the field we used to play in got bought up and someone shoved two houses into it so what was once the closest we had to a park is no more.

Healthwise, I’m still fat and I haven’t gotten back into exercising with the warmer weather like I know I should. Still hovering in the low to mid-290’s weight. My right knee has been bothering me for several months and I’ve got a doctor’s order to get it x-rayed, but haven’t gotten around to that yet. It’s hard to get up the motivation to do something like that when, despite having insurance, I will have to foot the entire cost as we’ve not hit our deductible yet.

Other than that it’s work, eat, sleep, play video games. I lead an incredibly boring life.

The great house search of 2014 has come to an end.

And not because we actually found a house to buy. Rather we called it off for health reasons.

Anne’s been suffering from a chronically sore back for some time now and our doctor had her go get an MRI done to figure out if it was muscular, spinal, or neurological in nature. Turns out it was muscular and the solution, as always, is to lose weight. Given that’s something we’ve both been working at for awhile, our doctor suggested we consider some form of bariatric surgery for Anne. Our health insurance has a $3,000 deductible so it made sense that we’d have to use some of the money we originally planned to use as a downpayment on a home to cover the deductible so we called our Realtor and let him know. Mike was great about understanding our decision and if you ever need a patient and hard-working Realtor in Michigan then you should look him up.

We started looking into the various forms of bariatric surgery available only to discover that our insurance doesn’t cover weight loss surgery of any kind. So now we go from having to cover a $3,000 deductible to having the cover the whole cost, which can average between $20,000 and $35,000. Hoo boy. I think it’s safe to say I will not be buying a home anytime in the next several years, but I’d much rather continue to rent and have a healthy and happy wife than a miserable one and a home that we can’t take care of because we’re not healthy. Apparently some of the clinics that specialize in this surgery have financing available and we’re looking into how many arms and legs that’ll take to acquire.

Why yes, yes I am.

Why yes, yes I am.

As for me, I’ve given up on trying to use the elliptical machine we bought and I’m going to try plain old walking for 30 minutes at a time now that the weather is getting better. I’m thinking I will try to sell the elliptical and maybe put the money towards a treadmill (for use in the winter or on rainy days) as that’s something Anne and I should both be able to use of a little more easily. We spent about $1,000 on the elliptical and it’s been lightly used enough that I think I could get maybe $750 for it. Anne and I recently upgraded our smartphones to Nexus 5 devices so I may try reinstalling one of the healthy eating/exercise apps I had tried to make use of previously and give that another go. At the moment I’m still hovering between 290 and 300 pounds and I’d really like to drop below the 290 mark sometime soon. My back hurts occasionally and my legs are sore more often than not so I need to find the motivation to make this a habit soon.

Lastly, our old queen mattress set is getting pretty long in the tooth and I’m sure some of our back issues are a result of it being worn out so we’ve been looking into spending a little of the money on a new king mattress and maybe a simple Ikea foundation to put it on. More specifically, I’m heavily considering ordering a Casper mattress as everything I’ve heard about it is pretty good. They make one model of mattress and it’s a combination of memory foam and latex foam. They fold it up into a box small enough to fit into a car and the price seems reasonable enough at $950 for a king with free shipping in the U.S.. Of course, as soon as I started looking into this new startup (they only came on the market back in April) I discovered a similar company called Tuft & Needle offering a similar product for an even better price. So clearly I have some more research to do, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to go with one of these two companies over the traditional route of visiting a local mattress store. If any of you out there have experience with either one then I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

So anyway, that’s what we’ve been up to lately and why I won’t be joining the ranks of home owners for a bit longer.

Is it time to just assume life causes cancer?

At times it seems like the list of things that’ll give you cancer is infinite. Things once considered perfectly safe are later shown to be the cause of countless deaths. Now it appears we might have to add grilling meat to that list:

Cancer risk from grilled meat: Is it time to give up smoked and fried foods?

A growing body of research suggests that cooking meats over a flame is linked to cancer. Combusting wood, gas, or charcoal emits chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Exposure to these so-called PAHs is known to cause skin, liver, stomach, and several other types of cancer in lab animals. Epidemiological studies link occupational exposure to PAHs to cancer in humans. When PAHs from a flame mingle with nitrogen, say from a slab of meat, they can form nitrated PAHs, or NPAHs. NPAHs are even more carcinogenic than PAHs in laboratory experiments. The reasonable conclusion is that grilling meat may be hazardous to your health.

This idea isn’t new, but is the result of decades of research stretching back to the 1960s. Grilling isn’t the only culprit either. Frying can be pretty bad as well:

Frying bacon, for example,produces significant levels of PAHs, probably due to volatilization of carbon in the bacon itself. An Iranian study published last year found that people who develop certain kinds of gastrointestinal cancers are more likely to have a diet high in fried rather than boiled foods. (The researchers linked level of browning to cancer incidence, thus reducing the likelihood that oil consumption was the culprit.) The FDA and WHO also remain concerned about the presence in food of acrylamides, a known carcinogen that forms from sugar and amino acids when cooked at high temperatures. Long-term studies are currently underway. The worrying implication is that cooking foods at high heat, even without active combustion, may be dangerous.

The thing is, cooking food is something humans have done for tens of thousands of years and modern humans may never have become possible without it. There are a lot of things that cause cancer that I can live without: smoking, asbestos, drinking too much booze, etc., but cooking my food is not one of them.

The link between grilling/frying meat and cancer isn’t quite as solid as the link between smoking and cancer, but there was a time you could’ve said the same about smoking and as time went on and more studies were done that link became more and more evident. It’s not a stretch to assume the same may happen here.

So should we toss out our grills and deep fryers? If you’re one of the sorts of folks who feel that any chance of cancer is too much of a chance to take then, yes, you should. Along with anything else that appears to be linked to causing cancer (and good luck with that effort). Personally, I’m going to go with the strategy of being aware of the risk and sticking to moderation. Surprisingly enough, my diet is already pretty low on grilled/fried foods. I may still get cancer at some point because we have a family history of it, but it could come from any of a hundred different sources the least of which is how my food is prepared. The way things are going currently, I’m more likely to succumb to diabetes before cancer gets a chance to do any damage. Then there’s the fact that no matter what I do, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and make it all a moot point.

I suppose I could go vegan, but I’m pretty sure that’d make me miserable because, dammit, hunks of dead cow steaks and hamburgers are just too fucking tasty to not enjoy from time to time. Part of the problem I’m having with losing weight is because exercise makes me miserable and thus I’m finding it very hard to motivate myself to do it regularly. Giving up meat would be even worse and I’m not about to try it. If I end up shaving a couple of years off the end of my life for my love of a good bit of beef then that’s a price I’ll have to pay.

Which brings me to the title of this post which was a thought I had while reading about this growing consensus. Are we worrying too much about cancer? With all the myriad ways one can shuffle off their mortal coil it seems like we overly hyperventilate every time a new study comes around about a cancer risk. I’m not suggesting that we should ignore the issue (on the contrary, being aware of risks helps you to manage them), but even if you could somehow eliminate all exposure to everything that could possibly give you cancer there’s still a chance based solely on your genetics that you will get cancer. Our ability to cure cancer has never been better and a lot of the different types you can get are no longer guaranteed death sentences. The key, I think, is awareness, moderation of risks, and regular health checkups to catch it as early as possible if it does rear its ugly head. We’re all going to die of something eventually and for a lot of us it’s not going to be cancer that does it.

Not entirely sure this makes as much sense as I thought it would, but it’s what I was thinking.

Time for another “Les isn’t dead yet” update.

exercisemotivationI last wrote about my state of health back on August 2nd so I figured it was time to give those of you who are interested an update on my current status.

The short version: I’m not dead yet.

The long version: I’m doing better. I still haven’t lost any weight — in fact I shot up to 308 pounds at one point which was a first — but I am doing better. We still don’t know for sure exactly what my chest problem was, but it’s gone away and hasn’t been back and I’m no longer taking Prilosec for it. I’ve been trying to exercise and count calories since that incident flared up and I started off really strong managing to do 15 minutes on our elliptical every weekday morning for near three weeks until my back flared up and I took a week off. Since my back got better I’ve only managed two to three times a week for reasons including sore legs and back twinges. I’ve also given up on trying to accurately track my calories as the MyFitnessPal app only worked occasionally on my smartphone and figuring out dinner counts was way more of a hassle than it was worth. Not that it matters as even with over-estimating how much I was eating I was still coming in under what it said was my limit that should have made me lose a pound a week and yet, as you’ll recall from the first sentence, no weight loss has occurred.

I saw my doctor this past Monday and told her about how demoralized I was getting with the whole process. I’ve been told repeatedly the exercise will get easier. It hasn’t. I’ve been told to expect a little weight gain at first, but after a couple of weeks I’d drop below my starting weight. I haven’t and it’s been almost three months. I still can’t make it more than 15 minutes without risking my legs giving out. The only indicator I had that there was any improvement is that it now takes almost 10 minutes before I start sweating profusely whereas it was just a couple of minutes at the beginning. Other than that I’m making myself miserable and not seeing any positive results for it.

My doc is a smart lady. She knows I need something to show me I’m making a difference so she orders me to have blood work done right then and there without bothering to fast first as you’re supposed to. So I do as I’m told and yesterday we got the results back.

I mentioned last time that almost all the bad stuff was too high and the good stuff too low. I specifically mentioned that my sugar was 254 and this time it was 247 which is still high, but my HbA1C, which is an average of my blood sugar over the past few months, had dropped from 9.8 to 8.2. The goal is to get it to 7.0 or under and I’m headed in that direction. My total cholesterol has greatly improved dropping from 235 to 140 with the goal being less than 200. My LDL (bad cholesterol) went from 151 to 79, the target is 100 or less, but my HDL (good cholesterol) also dropped from 36 to 27. She says that happens sometimes when you lower the bad stuff and not to worry about it just yet. Finally my Triglycerides were 169 down from a high of 241 last time and the goal for that is less than 150. Considering this was a lab done without fasting that’s seems pretty good to me.

So the upshot of all that is I am far from perfect healthwise and I’ve not lost any weight yet (I was 299.6 on Monday), but I’m definitely getting better. She wants me to keep exercising for as long as I can managed it every other weekday (Mon, Wed, Fri) and if I can squeeze one in on the weekends that’d be gravy. I’m still trying to pay attention to calories and portion sizes and she’s pointed me to a couple of other possible apps to help with that. I go back for another lab and followup in three months.

I’m happy to see that at least something about my health appears to be improving, though even a tiny bit of weight loss would go a long damned way to helping my motivation. I don’t think I’ll ever be thin again, but losing at least a few pounds would be really nice. So I’m keeping at it. I’m not particularly good at it, but I’m managing it in my own way.

A small update on my health.

youarewhatyoueatI’ve had a couple of folks ask me for an update on my health so I thought I should post an entry about it. Here’s the short version:

We’re not 100% sure what the hell the problem was, but it appears to have gone away.

My doctor seems pretty confident that it was esophageal muscle spasms and I’m inclined to agree, but at the time I wrote the last blog entry they felt a lot like heart palpitations. I continued to experience whatever the hell they were for the next week and a half. They only stopped recurring a day or so ago. I was due to have a heart stress test today just to be on the safe side, but the place she originally recommended was out of my network so we’ve postponed it until I can find out from my insurance company of an in-network place I can go.

That said, the results from the blood work I had done show I’m in terrible shape. All the bad things are too high and the good things are too low. For example, my glucose level was 254 when it should have been (after a 12 hour fast) below 140. Bad cholesterol is too high, good cholesterol is too low along with vitamin D. It’s not all bad news as my electrolytes, liver, and kidneys all seem to be in good shape. Still, the whole experience scared me enough to motivate me to make some changes.

So a week ago Thursday I dusted off the elliptical and hauled my fat ass up onto it and did 15 minutes of exercise, which is about all I could handle before my legs gave out. I managed to crawl back on it last Friday and do another 15. I also installed the MyFitnessPal app on my phone and started trying to track calories. I put in my stats to the app (weight, height, amount of moving around I do at work) and it calculated out how many calories I could eat a day and still lose a pound a week before taking into account any exercise I did. Then the weekend hit and I fell off the wagon. Didn’t track calories. Didn’t get on the elliptical.

This week I’ve managed to do 15 minutes of exercise every day except Tuesday when I only managed 5 minutes due to some other events taking place that morning. Tracking calories hasn’t fully recovered. It’s a stunning pain in the ass to do and the app has been having trouble connecting to the servers and any of a number of other excuses I can make up, but I am still paying closer attention to the calorie count of the things I’m eating and trying to make better choices.

My legs are ready to mutiny and I’m starting to tire of all the folks telling me it’ll get easier as time goes on because it’s not getting any easier fast enough. It’s also somewhat disheartening to look down at the display on the elliptical just before my legs give out and see that after 15 minutes of vigorous exercise that has left me a panting, sweaty mess (which is why I’m doing it in the morning before my shower) that I’ve only managed to burn a pathetic 113 calories. My enthusiasm isn’t helped any further by the fact that last week when I stepped on the scale we have here at work (good for upwards of 2500 pounds) I came in at 298 and maybe a half pounds  — the scale couldn’t settle on whether that .5 was legit or not and kept flopping back and forth — and today, a week later, when I stepped on the scale it read a solid 299.5. Which means I’ve gained one to one and a half pounds since I started trying to control my calorie intake and exercise.

Needless to say I’m feeling pretty fucking pessimistic about my success at the diet and exercise thing, but at least my heart isn’t about to fail. I will trudge on and attempt to expand my daily exercise to 20 minutes a session by the end of next week and I’ll redouble my efforts to track my calories, but I’m going to be an a piss-poor mood for some time to come. And, yes, I realize it took me a long time to get myself into this situation and it’ll take a long time to get myself out of it, but it would help if the initial attempts to start doing the right things didn’t seem to make the situation worse. I would’ve been thrilled if I’d managed to lose .2 pounds, but nooooooo.

Once again I fall victim to a mystery ailment.

So this past weekend was exciting for all the wrong reasons. After unloading groceries from the car I was struck by heart palpitations. Or at least I assumed they were heart palpitations. Not sure what they were now because… well, that’s getting ahead of the story.

It’s not like I’ve never had heart palpitations before because I’m overweight and out of shape, but usually they last about 5 or 10 minutes and then they go away. This felt like the same thing as in times past, but they didn’t go away after I had regained my breath. They didn’t go away after 20 minutes, or 45 minutes, or the rest of the night. They kept flaring up over and over and I wasn’t entirely sure after a while if they were palpitations or not. Until I went to bed that night.

I tend to sleep on my sides because I’m too fat to sleep on my stomach. Laying on my sides Sunday night, however, resulted in very strong palpitations that were definitely from my heart. Strong enough that at a couple of points I wondered if I should wake Anne and go to an ER because I might actually be having some form of a heart attack. I didn’t have any of the other symptoms of a heart attack though so I waited it out and eventually I feel asleep. In the morning I felt back to normal until I got up to do my morning routine and the palpitations returned.

Figuring that 14 hours or so was an awful long time to have palpitations, I called into work and sent an email to my doctor who advised that I come into the office and have an EKG done. Never one to ignore my doctor’s advice that’s what I did only to find that my heartbeat was just fine. “Textbook” is the word she used. So whatever the hell the problem is it doesn’t appear to be my heart. So the doc ordered up some blood work to be done, but I had to fast for 12 hours first so I hit the lab on the way into work this morning and had blood drawn. So far it’s indicating that my only real problems are 1) high-ish cholesterol and 2) glucose levels way higher than they should be. Electrolytes, liver, and kidneys were all OK. Just to be sure, the Doc has me going in for a heart stress test a week from this Friday.  Right now she thinks it might be my esophageal muscle spasming so she’s put me on Prilosec to see if that gets it under control. Since Sunday night I’ve continued to have the sensation in my chest, though less intense and less frequently as time has passed.

This whole experience has been both somewhat disturbing (my heart’s freaking the fuck out) and highly annoying (I’m not experiencing any of the other heart attack symptoms). If you think you might be having a heart attack and you check online to remind yourself of the symptoms you find that they’re amazingly vague:

The most common heart attack symptoms are chest discomfort or pain, which lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back; upper body discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach; shortness of breath with or before chest discomfort; nausea; vomiting; lightheadedness or fainting; and breaking out in a cold sweat.

I wasn’t in any pain, the sensation wasn’t comfortable but I wasn’t sure it qualified as discomfort, it was going away and coming back, no problems with upper body or arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach. I could breath just fine. No nausea to speak of, no vomiting, lightheadedness or fainting. I did break out in a sweat after unloading the groceries, but it was a hot sweat and probably the result of the effort. Of course they tell you you may only have a few symptoms and if they last more than 5 minutes you should call an ambulance. I only had one symptom, what I thought was heart palpitations. I’ve never experienced a heart attack before so I wasn’t sure if what I was experiencing qualified. So do I call an ambulance or not?

Obviously I decided not to and probably saved myself both an unnecessary expense and a red face in the process and it turns out I’m probably not experiencing anything all that life threatening, but it has served as a great wake up call to get my shit together and start doing something to lose weight and get my blood sugar under control. It was more than a little scary on Sunday night. I think this may just have been the nudge I needed to get my act together. I’m signing up for Weight Watchers Online as I type.

Man, this is going to suck…

One man’s solution to the obesity problem: Fat-shaming.

meanwhileinamericaBy now it’s pretty common knowledge that Americans have a growing (get it?) obesity problem. The word epidemic is used quite a bit to describe how big a problem it is. According to the Center for Disease Control the percentage of adults over 20 who are obese was 35.9% in 2009-2010. My home state, Michigan, is the fifth heaviest in the Union with 32% of adults here qualifying as obese. At 299.3 pounds I’m certainly part of the problem and I’m paying the price with things like my recent back problems.

So there’s really no argument here. We’re a bunch of fat bastards who could stand to lose a few pounds, but how do you get people to go about doing so? In Michigan the state government is rolling out a program to try and encourage folks (like me) to get off their fat asses and shed at least 10% of the body weight through exercise and eating a better diet. The program will mostly be an educational effort telling folks about the dangers of being overweight and offering encouragement to do better via an online website and/or text messages.

I can tell you that I know it probably won’t work on me. I’m already well aware of the potential problems of being obese and despite making some attempts to do something about it — choosing the weight watcher options when eating out and buying an elliptical that clogs up my living room collecting dust — I’m rapidly not losing any weight at all. I’m at the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life and I’ve been hovering around the 300 pound mark for several years now.

I can tell you what else won’t work. This guy’s solution of Fat-shaming:

Fat-shaming may curb obesity, bioethicist says – TODAY Health.

Daniel Callahan, a senior research scholar and president emeritus of The Hastings Center, put out a new paper this week calling for a renewed emphasis on social pressure against heavy people — what some may call fat-shaming — including public posters that would pose questions like this:

“If you are overweight or obese, are you pleased with the way that you look?”

Actually, yes, I wear my weight pretty well. A lot of folks who know me personally are surprised when I say I’m just a smidgen under 300 pounds. Sure, I’m heavy, but I don’t look that fat to most folks. It helps that I’m tall so it’s spread out a bit more than most. I’ve had folks describe me as “solid” when I’m about as solid as a giant marshmallow (and probably not even that solid). For a fat guy, I look pretty good. At least with my clothes on.

Callahan outlined a strategy that applauds efforts to boost education, promote public health awareness of obesity and curb marketing of unhealthy foods to children.

But, he added, those plans could do with a dose of shame if there’s any hope of repairing a nation where more than a third of adults and 17 percent of kids are obese.

“Safe and slow incrementalism that strives never to stigmatize obesity has not and cannot do the necessary work,” wrote Callahan in a Hastings Center Report from the nonprofit bioethics think tank.

The author circa Sep. 2010. I've not changed much since.

The author circa Sep. 2010. I’ve not changed much since.

The problem with this idea (to use the term generously) is that it assumes there isn’t any stigma or fat-shaming already taking place. I don’t get much of that myself because apparently I scare people by being big and beardy, but my sister has put up with it throughout her entire life. I can tell you that it doesn’t work as a motivation, though it does a great job of destroying one’s sense of self-worth. Of the three of us siblings, my younger sister is probably the best of us in terms of compassion, generosity, and just generally being a decent person yet she has been on the receiving end of some of the most heartless comments I’ve ever heard anyone receive about their weight. It’s probably safe to say that women in general have always suffered more from the stigma of being overweight because we, as a society, tend to hold them up to some pretty ridiculous ideals shaped and promoted by popular media whereas most men are considered halfway to genius if they can tie their shoes without drooling all over themselves. How many sitcoms over the years have had pudgy — if not outright obese — oafish, middle-aged men married to thin, attractive, brainy wives?

But I digress. The point is that there’s already plenty of fat-shaming and stigma being tossed around at fat people out there. Quite a lot of it coming from fat people themselves. I’m not sure how encouraging such behavior is going to improve anything in terms of getting folks to shed some pounds.

It certainly won’t work on me. My problem isn’t an educational one. I already know I’m not at a healthy weight and I’m well aware of the health risks that come with it. I’ve watched an uncle suffer from Adult Onset Diabetes before his death and my dad is struggling with it now having had it cost him most of his eyesight. My own back gives out on me on a semi-regular basis because it gets tired of carrying around all the excess weight.

My problem is motivation. I’ve never enjoyed exercise even when I was skinny way back in my youth. Which isn’t to say I never got any back then, but it was because I was “playing” not “exercising.” Riding my bike, playing baseball, running around like a crazy person pretending he’s a superhero, that was all exercise that didn’t feel like exercise. Then I became an adult and got a car and into computers and most of what I did for fun stopped being so physical and the pounds came rolling in. The non-exercise that was really exercise disguised as play went away and I didn’t have any real-exercise habits to take up the slack. And I hate exercising. Just typing the word sets my teeth on edge. Hated it back in school. Jumping jacks? Running laps? Sit ups? What kind of idiot do you think I am? When do we get to the fucking dodgeball game??

It took me 34 years to switch from regular sodas to diet pop and when I did it helped me lose about 40 pounds only to gain it all back within the next year. It took me another 6 years to give up on diet sodas. For the past four years or so the majority of the liquid I consume is plain old tap water. I hate water. I hate drinking water. I hate every single nanosecond of it. Not as much as I used to hate it, but I still hate it. Yet I do it. It took me entirely too long to make the switch even knowing it was a healthier choice and I would be better off for it.

I have the feeling that the same will be true of getting into the habit of exercise. I’ve made some starts at it in the last year or two and breaking down and actually buying a piece of exercise equipment was a big step in that process. Even if I’ve not been great at using it regularly. Part of the reason I keep it in the living room instead of moving it to the basement is, well, it’s because the fucker is too damned heavy to move down the stairs by myself, but also because having it in the living room gnaws at my subconscious and reminds me that I really do need to start getting on the damned thing. This latest round of back problems has been severe enough that it’s acting as a great motivator as well. It’s amazing how your body just giving the fuck up will get your stupid brain’s attention really fucking quick.

For as smart as I supposedly am, it seems I just have to do some things the hard way. It’s stupid. I know it’s stupid. I feel stupid for knowing how stupid it is. Yet it is my nature and I will continue to struggle with it — probably in the stupidest way possible.

Oh look at how the time has passed…

Been awhile since I last blogged anything so I figured an update was due. Part of the delay has been lack of anything to say, but another part is the fact that I’ve been flat on my back since last Wednesday with a sore back.

Every so often the muscles that hold me upright in my lower back go on strike and it’s often several days before they’re feeling up to working properly once more. This flare up has been one of the more severe I’ve had in awhile and has kept me away from my computer. Even now I can only manage to sit upright for short periods of time.

So, once my back stops complaining and I come up with something to blog about I’ll be back here in front of my keyboard hammering away, but for the moment I’m going to lay down again for a bit.