On being better, not great

I've struggled with weight my entire life. When folks were bing nice they called me husky, when not being nice they called me lots of other things. Later in life I became big man. (Seriously, everyone who wants my attention on the street calls me big man (an aside, there is this bellman who works at a hotel between two of my museum's buildings. I see him all the time. A couple years ago his house burned down. Tragic. Right before thanksgiving. I passed him some cash as I've been there and it's a terrible place to be. We chatted about the kind of crushing loss that comes from losing all your shit and how you're glad to be alive but all your time is consumed with figuring out how to get the basics of life covered. Anyway, months later he asks if I know any furniture restorers - I do. I give him the names of a couple guys. A couple months later he calls the museum and is transferred to my desk because he's forgotten the names I gave him. He say, hey, do you work the a heavy set fella? I say, that would be me. He says oh, not heavy set, healthy guy. big man...................))

I've counted carbs, watched weight, drank less, ate only white foods, had a can of green beans a day, didn't orange Julius but might have if I was a bit older, and lost hope along the way. I've exercised, biked to work, strength trained and beat myself on the cardio machines. I work a pretty active job, but now that I'm management I spend a lot more time at my desk.

Enter a bad trip to the doctor. I generally do not shy away from knowledge, though being diagnosed as diabetic kinda crushed me. Moral failure. (I know, I know, not really but that's the thought process). Enter a deepening depression already deep enough with the state of the world. I fired my PCP for a variety of reasons but high up on the list was the way they delivered the news - phone call and an email telling me to pick up a prescription. No follow up. No information. No referral. Just take these pills for the rest of your life, you're fine.

New PCP is a great doctor. Very communicative and very interested in long term enjoyment of life. Says, hey, let's work on some of this. Try to lose some weight. Take it seriously. I do and I did. Problem is that that I just don't lose the weight. Doc says my A1c is climbing a bit despite my efforts at diet and exercise. Says, look, there are these new classes of drugs on the market. Lots of concern tho, no long term understanding regarding  life time drugs or if lifestyle change means you can taper off them in a year and maintain health gains. We weighed the risks and rewards and I chose to jab myself every week (though I've already been injecting shit to kill the hives* so what's another couple jabs a month)

The crazy part is that almost instantly everything changed. I guess I had no idea how much time I spent dealing with or thinking about food. I love to cook. Cooking is an expression of both love and creativity. That isn't what I'm talking about when I say that I didn't know how much of my life was dominated by food thought. Almost impossible to describe.

The weight fell off of me at first. My best friend in NOLA left in June. We kinda had a nawlins** bender before he left which I'm sure didn't help my overall health picture. I started the course of drugs in July and when I saw my man at the MN state fair on Labor Day I was down ~20 pounds. He was shocked. I was shocked. I am shocked.

In the 4.5 months since I started taking a drug designed to control blood sugar (and taken by lots of folks who want to lose the extra 20 pounds) I've lost a considerable amount of weight, but I've also changed almost every aspect of my life. I still drink too much, if I'm honest, but I've been far more active, I eat considerably more healthy than I did prior, and my a1c is low enough to be considered elevated but not diabetic - though I'll carry that diagnosis for the rest of my life.

Lots of stuff to unpack. I have many mixed feelings about the drug. On one hand it's effing amazing in the ability to control sugar and food noise, on the other have I failed so hard I need to be on a drug to bring me back from the edge????!? (also, I don't engage with fast food or 'ultra' processed foods that often, but I am certain that the food scientists addicted millions to their products and now Lilly is here to provide a cure in the form of another addiction) I get that some folks see these drugs as cheating. I didn't engage with this for vanity. The visible change, tho, is what drives people to ask what/how/are you? and say things like you look great (thanks, but that implies I also looked like shit previously...) All to say that when you're big man people have opinions and do not hesitate to share them.

I'm continuing to shrink a bit. I've been lifting again to maintain muscle. Thinking about going to a strength trainer. My life is largely the same but very different. Colleagues and strangers all treat me differently now that I'm not big man anymore. Strange to wander around as a different human in the same skin.

*thanks covid

**no one says this

32 thoughts on “On being better, not great”

  1. I was very confused at first to see my bike on the front page. It makes sense in context, though!

    Great work on the weight loss. Under no circumstances is that drug cheating and anyone who says it is can go to hell. I'm assuming its the same one I was jabbing myself with after I got my diagnoses and yeah, its kind of crazy how effective it is. I haven't taken it, or any diabetes medication, in two years now and my A1C is as good or better than most non-diabetic people. A lot of what helped me stick with my more intense workout routines was a love of cycling, but also a PCP who is super positive and encouraging to the point where he tells me at visits that I am an inspiration to him. Its wild how far small things like that can help keep a person motivated. (the other motivation was that I got better at curling.) So keep up the good work, my man!

    On that note, I was scrolling through my phone looking for a picture of the water heater I replaced a couple years ago and came across a picture I took of myself when I had lost 60 lbs and got under 200 for the first time in like 20 years. Looking at it, I realized I looked kind of ridiculous: My head looked huge, my arms looked skinny and hung straight down my sides while my shoulders sloped downwards. Since then I've gained about 35 lbs of mostly muscle so I took another picture and compared the two and, man, it was hilarious:

    Spoiler SelectShow

    Since the image on the left I started every day with a protein shake with creatine in it and for the past almost six months I've been able to get a gym quality workout at work and made pretty huge gains over that time. Its been a fun journey.

  2. I've learned that there are just some genes that predetermine that a person is going to end up fighting the weight battle; Mrs Runner's side of the family has that, my side not as much (or at least it's controllable). When a series of drugs come along that helps level the playing field, that's outstanding -- good for you! Especially if it can help you be more active and remove other health pitfalls.

  3. Weight has never really been my issue but I was pretty unhealthy in my early thirties. A couple young kids and diminishing metabolism was kicking my butt.

    After starting and stopping a number of times, I finally started running again. I ran cross country and track in high school so I was really hard on myself and that's what caused me to keep quitting. Finally, I figured out to forgive myself.

    Now, if I have a week where I don't work out as often as I'd like, I can just shrug it off and focus on the next week. I wasn't able to do that when I was younger. I think that forgiveness is important as we get older. Sometimes, we are better at forgiving others than ourselves.

    1. diminishing metabolism was kicking my butt

      There was a study that showed on average, people's metabolism is stable from their 20s until 60s. After 60, your metabolism slows by 7% per decade.

  4. If you need meds, take them. There's no shame in it, and it's not cheating. Mrs. A is on a variety of meds for a variety of reasons. I've been blessed to not need any so far, although I number of supplements. But as I get older, I'm sure the day will come.

    There's nothing wrong with it. You do what you need to do to be as healthy as you can be.

    1. This, absolutely.

      Sooo many people have weight-related health problems in the U.S. $billions go annually to Big Diet without a lot of success.

      I'm not willing to accept that doing something to improve your health is a moral failing. These new drugs are game-changers for many.

      1. I don't disagree, but as a country we have to shine some light on the massive harm that sugar (especially GMO beet sugar and HFCS) does. Why do we subsidize the sugar industry to the tune of $4 billion/year? There are only about 1,500 independent, small sugar cane and beet farms left in the country, so nearly all of that goes to Big Ag. Americans eat 50 times more sugar than we did 100 years ago. Not 50 percent more, 50 TIMES more. And what do we get in return for that taxpayer investment? Obesity, diabetes, and all manner of autoimmune disorders caused by chronic inflammation.

          1. Small family farms produce just 19% of agricultural product sold in the U.S. Farm subsidies have been captured by corporate agriculture, they're just another form of socialism for capitalists now.

            1. My uncle was a "family farmer" in Nebraska. He farmed 16 quarters, all irrigated, growing corn, soybeans, and federal subsidies.

            2. The median family farmer is a millionaire because land is wealth. The land acts as collateral and various laws bolster how much its worth in loans. Farmers have always been wealthy. Hobby farmers are also wealthy because hobby farms lose so much money the farmer has to already be rich to support it. Furthermore, family farms tend to be rife with labor abuses because the farmer is important in the community and can protect themselves from the consequences. A corporate farm has an HR department. That doesn't make them good but it does increase accountability.

              form of socialism for capitalists now

              People with capital getting more capital is capitalism.

              1. Oh, it does, but when a combine costs $400,000+, you're not going to find any new startups.

                I do take offense to "farmers have always been wealthy" talk. That's like saying all baseball players are wealthy. There are many dozens of MiLB lifers for each Cup of Coffee player.

                1. We need to be careful to differentiate between farmers and farmworkers. There is more overlap than their used to be, because mechanization eliminated the need for much of that pesky labor.

                    1. Lots of field workers at one time in southern Minnesota, IIRC. Onion pickers, etc.
                      I am not one to demonize capitalism.

                      One of the very serious problems with old-style "family farms" was under-capitalization. There's a reason so many Midwestern politicians made so many bones catering to farmers and bitching about bankers and monetary policy. Dirt farming was backbreaking work and a good way to die poor.

                      Mechanization changed their world, dramatically shifting the emphasis away from labor and toward capital. Tractors and combines, in particular. It drove consolidation of farms and massive reductions in demand for farm labor.

                      Out here in California, the emphasis has long been on large, well-capitalized farms. And immigrant labor, because vegetables and fruit crops that often depended (or still do) on tons of cheap hand labor. But fields often yield two or three harvests per year and are dramatically transformed mechanically from crop to crop, in contrast to the Midwestern world of raising corn, soybeans, or wheat.

                  1. Got my first official job in when I was twelve, working on the chicken farm. The minimum wage for farm labor at the time was $1.25, and that's what I got.

  5. I also started jabbing myself. Lost 40 pounds since June. Unfortunately, the side effects eventually became unbearable so I had to stop. Let's hope I can keep it up.

    It was nice though for 4 months to not be so damn hungry all the time.

      1. Intense nausea, belching, diarrhea, vomiting. They didn't start until four months in and I missed four days of work in four weeks despite lowering my dose

  6. Last winter I packed on a bunch of weight and peaked at about 225. It's taken me over a year to lose it all and then some, I'm down to about 190 now, give or take a couple of pounds either way. All I really did was start eating a high protein (30g) breakfast (lots o' egg white and oatmeal) walk or do some other exercise every day, and cut way back on the sweets. I only eat two meals a day now, but I'll have a few snacks throughout the day, fruits, cheese, veggies, nuts and such. I feel pretty good about my weight and how my clothes fit again and the waistline has considerable less dough hanging over the rim of the pan. As I get older I realize how important maintaining mobility is going to be to my quality of life going forward. The longer I can keep my legs under me the better.

  7. With my hip tendinitis, travels to Minnesota, and now knee problems (opposite leg from the hip problem, natch), I have put back on the ten pounds I had lost from walking 3.5-4.5 miles per day and riding the recumbent bike.

    I have an MRI scheduled for mid December (earliest available) and an Ortho appointment two days after. Right before we fly out for the holidays (a week with my parents, then a week with our daughter in NYC; the Boy and his GF will be out of town, unfortunately, but will instead be here next week).

  8. Wegovy here. (Single largest contributor to Danish Gross National Product, and deserved).

    I've lost 59lbs since May. This also included complete closeout of alcohol, no bread, very little pasta. Switched to Sodastream-zero cal. tonic/ginger-ale, also Coke Zero. Weird to have loose skin where there was belly - even fingers have some loose skin. I did have side effects of constipation, which Dr. Brown added Lactilose, and now I'm experimenting with a pair of prunes each morning to eliminate one more drug.

    Every lb. I lose makes everything easier - better SWOLF in the pool, now running 3.5mi regularly, no effort to climb hills, etc. I'm doing a 5K race on 12/3 - first timed event since Teh Cataclysm (duodinal ulcer in 01/22.

    1. fwiw, my doctor recommended I start using Metamucil last year to help manage hemorrhoids (shut your eyes, youngsters, but it's gonna happen to you!). I also got me a bag of straight psyllium husk powder to mix in, because Metamucil is full of sugar. And Costco has mega bags of prunes, which are moist and delicious.

      anyhoo, a scoop in a big glass of water is part of my lunch every day. And lunch usually consists of celery sticks, carrot sticks, olives and tomatoes, usually with hummus. Mmmm, fiber!

    2. I had no desire for alcohol or bread on Wegovy, and pasta was an every once in a while. Just looking at bread made me queasy.

  9. I have also struggled with weight my whole life, especially as an adult. After a stressful summer, I was the fattest I've ever been at the end of August this year. I started counting (and restricting) calories on Sept. 6, and so far am down about 15 pounds. That puts me back to the weight I was in August 2020, so I'll soon to my pre-pandemic weight. The losses have slowed over the past couple of weeks, but as long as there's still progress, I'm ok with that. I still have a long, long way to go to get to a healthy weight, but I'm happy to be headed in the right direction. So far, I've just been doing diet, and plan to start in with exercise once this semester is done.

    My wife hasn't been doing injections, but she started taking a few different meds with similar goals in August, with very positive results.

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