#606 – The Embarrassing Epiphany

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First off, hi there, I’m Steven, and this is my blog. I haven’t written in it for most of 2018. I’ve been busy with school and life, and honestly, my therapeutic need for writing on a regular basis is mostly in remission. When I started this blog I was pretty much house-bound because of anxiety. Today, I am a successful college student carrying a 3.893 GPA and a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges. I’m back to doing all the things I was terrified to do a few years ago and I’ve been like this pretty steadily for over a year with only low-grade, brief dips into anxiety and depression in between.

The name of this site, MWMISOSELF.com, is an acronym, meaning “Married White Male In Search of Self-Esteem, Living Fearlessly.” While this originally applied to my mental health, there are other situations in which my self-esteem is suffering, and so I’m returning to my blog to work on those.

A little bit of background about me. I’m 49 years old. If I stand up straight, I’m five foot eight, and as of this morning, I weigh 296 pounds. That clocks me in with a BMI of an even 45, 20 points higher than the threshold of being overweight. (For the record, I put little stock in the BMI, I’m just using it here to illustrate just how morbidly obese I am.) My extra weight is causing me a wide variety of health issues, primarily type 2 diabetes and dangerously high blood pressure. Both are under control, but between these two conditions, I’m taking 15 pills a day with a weekly injection to do so.

I carry my extra weight primarily in my belly, although I’m a little bigger everywhere because of it. That means that my waist measurement is markedly longer than my hip measurement, and because of my body shape my pants are constantly slipping off my waist and down to my hips. As a result, I’m very frequently hitching my pants back up around my waist.

I promised you an embarrassing epiphany, and finally, here it comes.

Yesterday I spent the day traveling from Chicago, where my mother-in-law lives, to Austin, where my wife and I live. Both of us have the flu, my wife much worse than me. (PSA: She’s in awful shape, I barely have any symptoms. I had my flu shot, she did not. Coincidence? I think not. Get your flu shot.) As a result of the fatigue she was experiencing, and also because of a herniated disc in her back, we reserved a wheelchair to get her to the gate more easily. We traveled with her purse and my backpack, as well as two carry-on-sized rolling bags. She carried her purse and the backpack in her lap as she was being wheeled, and I had the two rolling bags trailing behind me.

The guy that was pushing the wheelchair set quite a pace for us, and at one point during the journey, I felt that tell-tale slip of my waistline migrating to my hips. But I had a rolling bag in each hand and couldn’t just hike them back up as I went. So I walked for several more yards, feeling them continuing to slip lower and lower on my hips.

Finally, my pants slipped off my left hip and there was no longer anything keeping gravity from doing its thing, and my waistline fell to my knees before I could catch it. My pants were pretty much the only thing keeping me from an indecent exposure charge and they were in full mutiny. Fortunately, I was wearing my jacket and it was long enough to avoid doing anything obviously criminal, but it was a very close thing. I was mortified, and the only thing that kept me from having a panic attack is knowing that no one that I knew was watching and therefore no one would have any way of knowing it happened. (Except, of course, for this blog post of admission, but I have my reasons for ratting myself out.)

I called out to the guy to stop while I pulled my pants up as quickly as I could, and once I was again properly dressed we continued on to the gate, a trip that involved walking underground from one terminal to another and then to the far end of that.

We got to the gate only to discover that our plane wasn’t even there yet, so we sat for some time before we could board. I was very warm from all the exertion, so once we got settled I took my jacket off and then noticed that the collar was pretty damp with sweat.

It took me a full fifteen minutes to catch my breath from the brisk walk that we took, but in that fifteen minutes, I had time to think about what had happened to me on the way. The waistline incident was just one more reason that I had to lose weight. I’d been tossing the idea around for some time, but nothing more serious than making an appointment for three classes with a nutritionist in January. I know I need to lose weight because of my health, but having my pants actually fall off in public was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It suddenly became a high priority.

At the same time, I was realizing that the trip through O’Hare was the most actual exercise I’d gotten in months, possibly years. I’ve walked plenty, but it’s all been leisurely strolls rather than purposeful workouts. I was scared of how my body would react to doing something that rigorous for that long, but now I knew. I was dripping with sweat, I was heaving trying to catch my breath, and I was doing it all in a very public setting, so there was no ability of me to hide that struggle away – but I survived it. And as I was resting, I realized that I felt more alive at the end of the journey than I did before we set off through the airport. There was an immediate benefit from exercising, one I hadn’t foreseen, and I liked how it made me feel.

So now that I’m home and the holidays are behind us, I’m finally ready to commit to losing weight and all that comes with it – the dietary restrictions, the cardio, all of it. And the timing is such that it can commence with the new year. That’s not to say I’m making losing weight a New Year’s resolution – I don’t believe in resolutions because they’re set up to crumble at the first sign of difficulty – but I will make a goal to lose ten pounds as soon as possible. And when I hit that, then I’ll make a goal to lose fifteen more, and then twenty. At the end of those three short-term goals, I’ll have lost 45 pounds and will be at my first target weight of 250. And then I’ll keep working on goal after goal until the excess weight is gone. My future depends on it. And so does my state of dress, apparently.

Progress is Progressing

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I saw my therapist today.

We had a good session. I mentioned that I completed last session’s homework and that it worked well, and we agreed that the next step is for the tool in question to be self-implemented, and done so earlier than my wife implemented it over the previous week.

We discussed my back problems, my relationship with Mom, my relationship with my daughter (okay, so, it was more like ten solid minutes of me openly and unashamedly bragging about her, but still, she was a topic of discussion), and my relationship with my new fitness log, the one my therapist turned me onto two sessions ago.

With the change in schedule, I’m finding that it’s becoming easier and easier to justify a fourth meal late at night, and that’s been blowing my caloric intake every day since the change. I’ve gained a couple pounds back, and so this week’s homework is to find a way to get that caloric intake back on track. I’m noticing that while I can easily skip items on my checklist and not have it affect me greatly, missing that calorie target really gets me down, and subsequent days I miss the mark exacerbate that situation.

We also set our first goal for therapy, which is related. My goal is to lose 15 pounds by Labor Day weekend. That’s a little over a pound a week, which I think is doable.

I also shared this blog with my therapist, so everyone behave and look busy. I have appearances to keep up now. (So kidding. I’m not going to start editing things now, though I won’t be going into a lot of detail about my therapy sessions as a general rule, only when the details are important for me to remember as time goes on. You might notice the new category for therapy posts as well. The Beatles theme continues.)

Venturing Into Unknown Territory

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Tonight I ate a tomato without salt.

There’s a lot of meaning in those seven words. For as long as I can remember, tomatoes have needed salt. One of my few fond early memories is of being at my grandmother’s house and taking a stool, a bucket of water, a rag, and a salt shaker down into her garden for lunch. I’d head about halfway down the row with the tomatoes and take a seat, looking for a good, ripe tomato. When I found one, I’d dip it into the water and wash the dirt off with the rag, then take a small bite to break the tomato’s skin. After that first bite, I’d alternate between salting and eating, just like an apple, til the whole thing was gone. It was meditative, the process of selecting a tomato, washing it, and eating it. Salt was an integral part of that process. I salted in moderation, but every bite that went into my mouth carried with it a sprinkling of salt to enhance the flavor.

As I grew older, I added steak and eggs to the “salt required” group of foods. I rarely oversalted anything, but in my early adulthood, a lot of foods were salted before I ever tasted them. I ate a lot of salty snacks, like potato chips, and I wasn’t a moderate eater of them. My waistline grew slowly over the years, and my need to salt food was aggravated by my pack-a-day habit that dulled my sense of smell and taste.

I quit smoking on September 4, 2000. I was driving to Austin from the Oklahoma City area when I got into an intense coughing fit behind the wheel, and I realized that I was going to either pass out or throw up, and regardless of which way I went I was going to wreck the car. I pulled over and switched with my wife (we were dating at the time and still lived three hours apart) so she could drive us to the next exit. We pulled into a restaurant and I got a glass of water while I continued to try and physically pull myself together. When we were ready to drive again, on the way out I tossed my half-finished pack of Marlboro Lights into the trash can.

I haven’t touched tobacco since.

In the aftermath of that momentous decision, I started packing on weight – some 40 pounds within a few months. The oral fixation I developed while smoking still had its grip on me, and my waistline suffered.

As my depression and anxiety grew worse over time, I began to comfort eat, and I was in need of comfort quite often. Gradually, over several years, I finally came to a point that I tipped the scales at three hundred pounds.

By that time, I had developed type 2 diabetes and stage 2 hypertension, and have been to the ER on multiple occasions to manage crises in both conditions. Fortunately, I’ve found a medication regimen that keeps my diabetes under control.

I cannot, however, say that about my hypertension.

Even with three medications, my systolic blood pressure is regularly over 160 and my diastolic is at least 100, and more often over 110.

It’s at this point that I acknowledge that this post has been all over the place as I spit out part of my life’s story in a stream of consciousness. But all the parts do fit together, and here’s how.

September 4, 2000 was not the first time I had tried to quit smoking. I had attempted, and failed, at least a dozen times before. But when I finally quit, it was like flipping a switch. I was done. And having made that decision, I’ve had the willpower to keep me tobacco-free all this time, without even one slip-up.

Likewise, I’ve tried several times to reduce my sodium intake and start eating healthier, only to fail every time. But figuratively speaking, I’m about to run the car off the road with regard to my high blood pressure, and it’s time to make a knee jerk decision and stick with it, just like I did with the cigarettes.

This time, it’s going to be harder, because while I can easily live without tobacco, I kind of have to eat. But I don’t have to continue to eat crappy processed foods that are going to spike my sodium intake, and I don’t have to salt everything in sight.

Tonight, I ate a tomato without salt. It was the first time in my life I ever recall doing such a thing. It’s so deeply ingrained in me that tomatoes have to have salt that my stomach was actually a little queasy for a time after eating. It felt unnatural, but I did it, even when my wife offered the salt to me with the suggestion that I could lightly salt the tomato. I stuck to my guns, and finished the tomato. And I survived.

And I’m going to survive steak and eggs and everything else without salt, too. Because that same willpower to keep me alive when I quit smoking is now focused once more on keeping me alive. And while my depression tells me often how much better it would be if I were to just end it all, I very, very much do NOT want to die.

So from here on out, nothing gets added salt. I’ll have to learn what foods actually taste like without it, and it’ll be a new experience. I’m sure steak and eggs are going to be just as weird without salt as the tomato was.

But dammit, I’m on a mission now. And I have the willpower to see it through this time, because I’ve made the decision.

And with that decision, I’ve given myself the power to live.

The Cut of My Jib

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As I sit reflecting on my life this morning (it’s what I do now that I’ve run out of things to accomplish so far today) I realize that as my weight has increased my concern about my appearance has decreased proportionately. I once chose to go to pre-school in a three piece suit because I thought it would make me feel important. Even in my early 20s, I still dressed quite well and fairly in step with the latest fashions. Now my uniform of the day is a T-shirt, jeans or Hawaiian print shorts, and Crocs. I don’t even own a suit anymore, and I used to have several.

This is one of the things that I’m looking forward to as I lose weight, getting back into clothes that look good and fit well. It’s also going to allow me to pursue one of my personal geeky dreams.

I have to remind myself that I have a cosplay idea for when I hit my goal weight. (Yes, I’m one of those weirdos that will treat practically any special occasion like it’s Halloween, shoosh.) The conceptual inspiration is above. The art is a screen capture of a character I created in a now-dormant video game I used to play.

It’s a steampunk Beefeater, and one day, I’m going to rock that outfit, and several other steampunk outfits, because I am a goddamned gentleman adventurer