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Befores and Afters

This is one of a series of posts about my health/fitness journey. The first one is here.

Part 6. Befores and Afters

I promised a blog entry on the whole “Endomorph/Ectomorph” thing and it’s coming, but the research is taking me to some interesting places, and it’s gonna take a while to complete, plus I’m super busy playing Pok√©mon Go. If you want a sneak peak, read the Wikipedia article on Somatotype_and_constitutional_psychology. I’ve ordered some of Dr. Sheldon’s books, and they’re pretty wack-a-doodle. So that’s coming.

In the meantime, I thought I’d give you an update, and also fill a gap I made in my very first post.

The update: I’m now down to 183 lbs, and intend to lose a couple more, than hopefully build up a few pounds of muscle, maybe getting back to 185. That’s the plan anyway.

So, in my first post on this topic of fitness and health, I recited a litany of problems I had before I started this journey. To recap: I felt shitty, I felt invisible, I had man boobs and a nasty chronic cough, I had foot pain which caused a limp.

511765799_43828913da_oI really didn’t like my double-chin (don’t know if I remembered to mention that one), but I’ve had a double-chin pretty much most of my adult life, and I didn’t care for it much. I had crazy food cravings too.

Now what I didn’t tell you, but perhaps you inferred, is that all of these issues have gone away now that I’ve lost 60 pounds.

Nope. Not all of it.

So I thought I’d talk about the stuff that’s changed, and the stuff that hasn’t.

The feeling shitty part has changed, for sure. No doubt I will continue to have bad days, but in general, my overall mood and outlook are significantly better. I credit the exercise, mostly, with providing a huge boost in my energy levels. But I am also genuinely proud of what I’ve accomplished.

Did you ever stand in the supermarket check-out line, silently judging yourself (or others) as you compared the food you bought with the food of the people ahead and behind you? I stopped at the market tonight to get some dinner things and a few oddments, and the contents were just a little different from what they would have been a year ago. Then: Cereal, milk, bananas, Ben & Jerry’s, an onion and some tomato products. Now: An onion, some tomato products, 2 chicken breasts, a bag of farro, kale, eggplant, zuchini, poblano, an assortment of green olives. By the way, tonight I made a chicken/farro/veggie/olive/eggplant/bone-broth soup that briefly made me reconsider my life-long atheism.

The feeling invisible thing is mostly a manifestation of age, but your sense of your attractiveness-level certainly plays into it. That self-regard is now elevated, but by no means constant. There are mornings where I feel like a superman, and others where I only see the flaws. The difference is, I am no longer avoiding the mirror. I’m interested in what I will encounter there.

I still see man-boobs, but I’m pretty sure every man has them. What are you gonna do? Nipple removal? I am inching closer to removing my shirt in public. Maybe next year.

Health-wise, the chronic cough, which I had for over 10 years, and which had prevented me from teaching classes on a regular basis, as well as singing, started going away after I lost about 20-30 pounds. By the time I lost 40 pounds the cough was completely gone and has not yet returned. I fear that it may return, and I will continue to fear so until a full year has gone by, because the cough used to be seasonal. But an encouraging sign is that I no longer need to take constant doses of Omeprazole, a stomach acid reducer (acid reflux was a likely contributor to my cough). I am singing stronger than I have in years. And if I could play the violin, I would be playing it too.

The foot-pain went away too. At first. It really seemed like I was heading towards an impossible ideal of good health. And since exercise was making me feel good, I kept piling more of it on. But as I gradually increased my exercise to 5 workouts a week, a couple of evening night-hikes at Griffith Park, and dog-hikes every morning, averaging 17K+ steps a day, the foot pain returned, with a vengeance. And with it came some new pains. Knee pain from all those squats, steps, and lunges. I discovered I had a torn meniscus in one of my knees (possibly both), and I found that constant walking and running aggravated the foot pain. I had to take it easy for a while. Now I have slowed my workouts to 3 or 4 a week, and I’ve had to stop the night hikes. The foot pain is still there, but it’s very gradually getting better.

I’ve put my lower back out twice, at the gym, but interestingly, it is not nearly as bad as when I would put it out and I weighed 60 extra pounds. I’m not a complete wreck when it goes out, but I still need to be careful.

I can see a convave curve under my chin, where I didn’t have one before. But I still have a bit of a double-chin below that: I can see it if I do that two-mirror profile trick. Probably genetic. I’m not fond of it, but I don’t look like Alfred Hitchcock anymore. I’m too vain to get my little double chin fixed with plastic surgery.

And of course, I still have food cravings. The other night, in the supermarket, I was compelled, for some reason, to walk down the cookie & cracker aisle. It was an aisle full of stuff I no longer want to eat, and it was all calling to me. “Hello Jim!” said the Oreos. “Eat me!” said the Mallomars. “Come back to Pepperidge Farm!” said the Sausalitos. “We miss you!” said the garlic bagel chips. I really need to avoid that aisle.

And I still clean my plate, a life-long habit perhaps instilled by a misguided sense of thrift. I pretty much have to plan my meals around the certitude that my plate will be cleaned. There is no “I’ll eat half, and take the rest home”, something my wife does almost as a matter of routine.

If you ask about my new-found sense of self-control, I can only tell you I don’t have one. I’ve just found some new foods I like, and have gotten a little better at planning.

There are mornings where I still feel fat. I look in the mirror, and all I see is my fat tummy. There used to be this awful “Special K” commercial in the 80s which asked Can you pinch more than an inch? and it still taunts me. Fuck Special K. I can pinch way more than an inch. I imagine they were trying to make the entire television viewing public feel inadequate.

So I’m still fat. I’ve dropped nearly 8 inches in the waist, and I still feel fat. I’ll probably always feel fat. Just not as fat. And some days, I don’t feel that fat at all. It’s really kind of variable, like the clouds in the sky. It would be nice if there were meteorologists who could tell you how fat you would feel on Wednesday.

I worry that maybe I’m working on an eating disorder. Because I love the losing weight part. I want to just keep going, because it makes me feel good. Eventually I have to stop. Right now, I think I’m eating pretty well, and I feel pretty good, but I’m curious how I will feel in a year.

To be continued…

And now my soup recipe:

Chicken Farro "Mediturreen"

Prepare these chopped veggies & seasoning in bowl:
   One Zuchinni, diced
   One Japanese Eggplant, diced
   One Poblano, chopped
   Few leaves Kale, chopped
   Two stalks celery, chopped
   10-15 good olives, seeds removed (brown or green)
   1/8 tsp Cayenne
   1 tbsp Oregano
   Black Pepper

Brown one whole red onion, chopped and a few cloves sliced garlic in olive oil.  
Add 2 cups Farro (barley would also work) and brown it for a minute too.
Add 5 cups bone-broth or stock  
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes, 
the veggies, 
and two (raw) skinless chicken breasts.

Pressure cook 5-6 minutes and then let it sit 15 minutes before releasing the steam
OR bring to boil then simmer a couple hours.
Shred the chicken and add back to pot.
Add chopped Cilantro and juice of one lime before serving.

UPDATE: I’ve done probably a hundred variations of this soup since acquiring an Instant Pot. We typically have it once a week and eat the leftovers for a couple days. There’s a lot of room for variation.
We like Farro the best, but you can also try other grains or noodles. Often I add mushrooms and green onion tops. There is wide variance in the veggies – I like to have a green leafy one like chard or kale at the end,
and in general its best with a a ton of veggies. If you don’t have bone-broth, a box of chicken stock works great.

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