Getting in Shape

I had my big toe fused in November. For the next few months I went back to the doctor who performed the surgery, and he would take x-rays to determine if my body was healing properly. This went on for about four months before he determined I could resume most physical activity.

The only activities I can’t do at this time are running, jogging and jumping. Sports like tennis and racquetball are out because I risk jamming my toe into the end of my shoe. But I can walk. I can ride my exercise bike. I can do floor exercises and work out with resistance bands.

I focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t.

At one of my last visits to the foot doctor I asked what I could do to accelerate my recovery. He said, “Drop some weight.” So I bought an Apple Watch for Christmas, but didn’t do much with it until the end of March. I almost returned the watch, but I’m glad I didn’t.

From around the first of April till today I’ve dropped just over 45 lbs. I thought I would share how I’ve done that and what I’ve learned about myself over the past few months. I’ll start with my least favorite part of the process: tracking calories.

I’ve tried to count calories in the past, but after a few days I’d give up. It’s just too hard to remember. But I knew monitoring what I was putting into my body would be as important as any new exercise routine. So I downloaded the Lose It! app on my iPhone and started. I still don’t enjoy it, but I’ve made a habit of tracking each item I eat. This one change has brought about big changes in how much I eat. I decided I wouldn’t deny myself most foods, but that I would monitor the amount of food and calories I was consuming each day. I quickly realized how many sweets I was eating each day, and began replacing them with fruits I enjoy like blueberries, strawberries and cantaloupe.

Selfies help track my progress – Nov 2020 till Aug 2021

The other big change I made was set a daily exercise goal on my Apple Watch. I started with 10 minutes and added another five minutes every other week until I’m now up to 50 minutes a day. I don’t stress about what type of exercise I will do, but I have a couple of favorites which include my exercise bike and walking around my neighborhood. One tip I have is to set small goals you can reach. It’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t see instant progress, so I decided to focus on tracking my calories and exercising a few minutes each day. I didn’t make drastic changes to my daily schedule, diet or daily routine. It was also important that I be able to put on my shorts and tennis shoes and start working out quickly instead of driving to the gym, and then figuring out what to do.

About 14 years ago I dropped 65 lbs on the Atkins Diet. But I found it really hard to keep the weight off because the diet wasn’t sustainable for me. I removed entire food groups, banned sugar and most carbs, and the weight came off fast. I was a miserable person to be around though.

But I’ve learned that losing weight fast isn’t the most sustainable method. I’m learning to cook healthy foods at home. I’m drinking a lot of water instead of fruit juices. I’m one of those dorks who carries around a 40 ounce Hydro Flask! I keep a drawer of healthy snacks like nuts and protein bars and string cheese so I’m not tempted to down a Snickers and bag of gummy bears. If I have a day where I go over my daily calorie allotment, I’ll try to spend extra time on my bike or walking the next day, but I don’t get down on myself. I also found inspiration for losing a lot of weight by watching Chris Terrell on TikTok.

I’m at the half-way point of my weight loss. I have just over 50 lbs to go to get to my weight goal, and I figure I’ll be able to meet that goal sometime in the first few months of 2022. Slow and steady.

Fragility

2020 has been quite the year.

About three months ago my father had a heart valve replaced which put him in the hospital for almost two weeks.

A couple of weeks after returning home to begin the long recovery routine, his closest friend caught COVID-19. Each day his son posted updates on his condition, and things went from bad to worse until he passed away two weeks ago.

Another friend’s mother tested positive for COVID-19 the day after Thanksgiving. I spoke with another friend today who tested positive. It feels like every day we learn someone close to us has tested positive.

Last week it was my brother-in-law who was admitted to ICU with the virus. One day he’s making progress and the next he’s in bad shape. It’s one big terrifying roller-coaster ride of emotions.

On a much smaller less critical scale, I had my big toe fused to my foot with two screws last week during out-patient surgery. The recovery is a long 8-10 weeks, but I’ve already noticed a substantial decrease in pain so I’ll deal with the recovery just fine.

2020 has taught me how fragile life is. One day everything is fine, but the next can bring heartbreak. I’m so glad my father made it through his heart procedure, and I hope my brother-in-law makes it out of ICU soon and is able to recover at home.

Before this year I was more likely to text my dad or maybe call him if I had something important to share with him. But not this year. This year I like to FaceTime so I can see his face. He has lost over 100 lbs. this year and I barely recognized him when we started to FaceTime. Like, is that really my dad? I always see a bit of myself when I look at my dad, and that brings a lot of joy.

Man, am I glad to still have him around.

I hope in 2021 I can replace those FaceTime calls with in-person visits.

Turning Point

Many years ago, I purchased a step counter. It wasn’t much bigger than a postage stamp, and it hung from my shorts. I’d try not to check it all the time, but doing so was addicting. At least at first. Eventually, I dreaded checking it on days I didn’t move around much. Eventually, the washing machine put me (and the counter) out of its misery.

I thought back to that step counter as I began my walk today. I retired the counter, but have used various apps on my iPhone to track my fitness or lack thereof. Even when I walked or biked for miles or hit 10K steps in a day, I seldom felt joy. Sure, I hit a number, but that number held little value to me.

lava

Unlike this massive hill of lava.

See, the lava fields sitting just outside Snow Canyon are about 1.5 miles from my home just off a trail I like to take. When I don’t feel like walking, I tell myself I can at least make it to the lava. If I don’t feel like going further, I can turn around, and I will still have put in 3 miles.

I know 3 miles is nothing for most people. But right now, 3 miles feels like a lot to my body. Sometimes I turn around here and head home. And yet, I still feel like I accomplished something on those days. Making it to the lava feels good.

If I decide my body can go further, I remain on the trail and walk through the lava fields. Doing so nearly doubles the distance of my walk, but it feels further with several hills to traverse.

When I try this in the summer in 100-degree heat, I make sure to carry enough water, but today’s 50-degree overcast skies made for the perfect conditions to walk a little further.

The lava doesn’t count my steps, but it does something much more important.

Considering My Health

At the end of November I went in for what I figured would be minor surgery. I took a few days off work assuming I’d be back within a week at the latest. But sometimes your body has other plans, and I ended up being in bed for most of December.

I was able to read, watch Netflix and listen to podcasts during that time, but at about the two week mark I felt like my mind wasn’t holding up well. Getting up from bed and dragging myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth took every ounce of energy I possessed. I half-jokingly mentioned to Kim that I could understand how someone with a chronic illness that kept them down without hope for recovery might consider ending his or her life.

My mother and my mother-in-law have health issues that limit their activity and ability to move about at times. One of them is on oxygen and both use canes and/or walkers to get around. When I attended a funeral last year, my dad wheeled my mom around in a wheelchair because that was the safest choice. That was a shock to me as I hadn’t seen my mother in a few months and didn’t realize how much her mobility had been reduced. I’m happy my father is healthy enough to take her out of the home to the store, to church and to family activities.

It’s been about 2.5 months since my surgery which has given me time to consider my own health. I’ll be 50 in two years, and my health could be a lot better. Although the recovery has taken longer than I anticipated, I’m glad I got it done. My next issue to get resolved is my toe that’s caused me a lot of pain the past couple of years and has limited my physical activity. I’ve been to two doctors and both recommended surgery. I’m not looking forward to that, but the pain and limited mobility is enough that I need to have it done.

Back in 2006, I lost about 60 lbs over a very short period of time. I drastically changed my diet to the point that it wasn’t sustainable. But my body felt good, and I was able to do more physically demanding activities with my kids.

So my goal for 2016 is to find a balance between health diet and exercise that I can maintain for my life instead of merely a few months. If any of you have successfully found this balance I’d love to hear from you.