Better Living Through Chemistry

I’m finally starting to feel normal after almost two weeks of recovery since hemorrhoid surgery. Less pain and somewhat normal functions have been welcome compared to the excruciating pain.

The day I was first examined my new doctor recommended some blood work to make sure my body was otherwise performing normally.  Considering the last time such a thing was suggested, I blew it off. I have been pleasantly surprised during all of this that my blood pressure is pretty normal. This comes as a surprise to most people who know me because they think I’m wound a bit tight.

This past Wednesday I had the follow up with the doctor to go over the blood work. The only anomaly is my cholesterol level. It’s a bit high. Okay, It’s a lot high. I am not going to tell you the number because it’s fairly disturbing, especially when you consider that optimum is 150.

So…

I am now on medication and fish oil (4,000 mg a day) to reduce the cholesterol and of course the risk for heart attack and stroke. I think I might actually have bacon fat running through my veins. I’m also still taking a couple of other medications related to my surgery. Twice a day it’s pill-a-palooza. The doctor says my cholesterol should be down to acceptable levels in six-to-eight weeks. More blood work is scheduled for six weeks from now.

The dietary restrictions are now palpable and onerous. I didn’t exactly get a meal plan from my doctor but her suggestions seem draconian. No more sausage, no more deli meat (there goes that Italian BMT from Subway, and oh do I love a good pastrami sandwich), no more processed anything, practically no more bread. Whole wheat pasta, brown rice instead of white, five prunes a day, and no more egg yolks. Canned soup is bad because of all the sodium. Good thing I didn’t tell her about my Ramen noodle addiction. And, oh yeah, the only alcohol she suggests is a four-ounce glass of red wine once in awhile. Good thing I like red wine. So much for those Crown Royal evenings, or beer with my Zweigle’s white hots. I’ll have to tell my buddy Charlie not to call me when he discovers a new 12-year-old Scotch. The food I must eat for gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health barely qualifies as food.

When I was a kid, I drove my parent nuts. I hated mealtime. I would sit at the kitchen table for an hour or more picking at my food. My mom was an excellent cook but I was a finicky eater. I had my favorites, anything else sat there on the plate and got cold. As I have gotten older and travelled the world, I have expanded my palette. There are still certain things I won’t touch with a 10-foot fork, but I am much better than I used to be. I have developed a taste for fine dining as well as neighborhood pubs. I enjoy a good unhealthy meal with my friends, especially when I am travelling for work. There isn’t much time for sightseeing but you have to eat. What better way to sample the local flavor than to actually sample the local flavor.

Okay party people, here’s the crazy part. When I started this blog and made the commitment to exercise and lose weight and eat healthy and all that jazz I weighed in at 236.6 pounds. Thanks to my injury and my surgery I haven’t been able to exercise. I’ve walked a large grocery store looking for food that’s safe to eat, that’s about it. The doctor says I should walk more and I will. Getting my gastrointestinal system straight and making these dietary changes I have lost eight pounds. I weighed in today at 228.8. I can’t tell you the last time I weighed less than 230 pounds. I went to work this past Tuesday, wasn’t supposed to – doc looked at me like I was crazy when I told her that – but a few of my coworkers noticed a change to my face and they remarked that I looked slimmer and that was after losing four pounds.

I don’t know if my metabolism is going to come back fighting and pack the pounds back on without exercise. I won’t let that happen because hard work and sweat are in my future. But if I can lose eight pounds in the short amount of time I’ve lost it, that is a light at the end of the tunnel, not a train.

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Frustration

My friends have been telling me that I should share my ailment and the reason I needed surgery this week. The fact is I find it embarrassing. There is a lesson to be learned from what I did to myself. In an effort to lose weight and get fit, lifestyle changes are in order. Thirteen days ago, we made drastic adjustments to our diet and I did not heed the advice of many people. I mentioned in a previous post that drinking water is becoming very important to me. I learned that lesson the hard way. I consumed way too much fiber without drinking enough water and screwed up my gastrointestinal system. Constipation is not the friend of the hemorrhoid sufferer.

Suffice to say recovery from my surgery has been extremely painful to say the say the least.The folks at the hospital were very nice, the doctor and the surgical staff were a pleasure, the care at home is great, but this whole thing is a royal pain in the ass.

DRINK WATER.

The frustrating part is that I’ve had more than one person, including my wife (who now knows more about my inner workings than she ever wanted to know), tell me that I have inspired them to eat right and exercise. People close to me who have been fit in the past are back on the wagon. I’m so frustrated because I can’t exercise because of my surgery. I got three days in before this happened. I know this is a project and that it’s not going to happen overnight. Walking from the family room to the kitchen is a chore right now and I haven’t gotten a decent night’s sleep in a week. I haven’t written because it’s uncomfortable to sit. I’ve also been having trouble with the death of the cat. He is sorely missed around here.

I know I’ve said it before, but I have come to the conclusion that daytime television is a disaster. I can only watch so many back-to-back episodes of ESPN SportsCenter. Jerry Springer is still on the air, Maury Povich is still trying to find the father, and Dr. Oz has the cure for all your ills. No wonder why I watched Caddyshack from start to finish the other day. I should be taking this time to read and write and watch DVDs that are still in the wrapper, but the pain and discomfort makes it so I don’t want to really do anything but heal.

If anyone learns anything from what I write in this blog, heed this: take care of your gastrointestinal system. The human body is an amazing machine and it is only as good as the fuel we put into it. Clog up your plumbing, even for the right reasons, and you could suffer the consequences.

Saying Goodbye to a Furry Friend

RIP Bomber. 1999-2013.
RIP Bomber. 1999-2013.

Fourteen years ago this coming April I had the opportunity to get a kitten. I picked the most rambunctious of the litter. I lived in a tiny apartment, I wasn’t home much during the day, so, a dog wasn’t an option. I’ve had both cats and dogs throughout my life, but I started as a cat person as a young boy.

Being a life-long Oakland Raiders fan, I named the kitten Bomber in honor of QB Daryle Lamonica who was known as the “Mad Bomber.” This destructive little ball of fur became my buddy, my pal and my confidant. Every day I went to work I played “kitten destruction roulette.” What was this little bugger going to destroy next? He tore the insoles out of shoes, chewed through the wires on headphones and wrecked what he could. I wore the battle scars of rough play on my arms. I loved him anyway.

Bomber used to like to find the high ground in the apartment. He perched himself on top of the kitchen cabinets and the wardrobe. You never knew where “death from above” would strike from next.

I was going through a bad time personally and Bomber saw me through it. I talked to him and he seemed to talk back with conversational meows. I’d try to read at bedtime and he’d bat the book out of my hand seeking attention. He’d groove on a good petting until he drooled.

He survived the trip from Ohio to California, he survived a near electrocution (he thought he was the cat in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and chewed through Christmas light wiring), he survived unintentional water boarding on the drive from our last residence to the current as water dripped on his head during an hour-long drive. And he survived every piece of plastic his dumb ass ate. He was a pampered cat, 15 pounds and change, loved like no other.

Bomber died today. I’m heartbroken.

Some people say their pets are like children. Bomber was a true friend. He knew when something was bothering me, he knew when I needed a foot rub and he knew when to just be a cat. His meow was distinctive, he sounded like he was channeling Edward G. Robinson when he was in certain moods.

He has been a fixture in my world for a third of my life and I miss him already. This week has arguably been one of the worst weeks of my time on Earth. Oh, things could be worse. I’m probably being melodramatic. But, with the prospect of surgery Monday and this happening…

…It’s always darkest before the dawn.

Goodbye Bomber, I love you kitten.

Minor Setback

I am no great author. Writing this blog is supposed to keep me on track with my weight loss efforts and provide a pleasurable creative outlet. I love to write. My job involves quite a bit of writing. I have plans for a novel someday. I’ve noticed quite a bit of traffic to the Jerry Project so far and I am grateful for that. I hope you folks enjoy reading it as much I enjoy writing it. I am surprised each time I sit down at the old computer here how much flows from my brain to the screen.

It’s funny. I was saying just this past Saturday that I may have gotten off to a slow start with the exercise and the diet and whatnot. Maybe my workouts weren’t strenuous enough. I broke a sweat last week, but I didn’t really feel like I exerted myself. My diet has always been the one thing that really needed change. Even when I was exercising four to five days per week and losing weight a couple of years ago, my diet still needed an overhaul.

Now I have had a setback. I’ve injured myself and I need a minor outpatient surgical procedure to fix it. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. My fault. I did it to myself. I’m not going to get into detail about what I did or how I did it. I’m just very angry with myself about it. The good news is that the recovery time will be short.

The one major dietary change I have made and the one I will stick to more than any other is the drinking of copious amounts of water for health reasons. Comedian Lewis Black said the word is “thirsty” not “hydrate.” He also said that Aquafina means “the end of water as we know it.” I’ve all but cut pop out of my life (yes, I wrote “pop”), and I have started drinking lots of water. The one thing I cannot give up and will not give up is coffee. At least one to two cups per day.

Daytime television is a total disaster. I need to get this problem rectified or my mind will turn to mush. From the McJournalism on Good Morning America to Jerry Springer, I feel like I lost a few IQ points just browsing the channel guide. I don’t know exactly how long I’ll be out of commission, but I do know it won’t be television that entertains me. However, the House Hunters marathon seems to be the highlight of the daytime viewing schedule. GMA actually had a story on this morning about folks who are hosting ultrasound viewing parties. I don’t know what’s worse – the concept of an ultrasound viewing party or the fact that GMA feels this is “news.”

Dr. Oz is talking about weight loss all month long on his show. I am not a fan of such shows, but the DVR will be whirring with episodes of Dr. Oz as I try to learn as much as I can.

I also know that my sleep apnea is a hindrance to me losing weight. The CPAP machine probably saved my life. It certainly keeps me functional during the day. This will be something that I am going to try to have adjusted as part of the Jerry Project. I’m sure another sleep study will be in order. There is a surgery, but I am told it’s only 50 percent effective. One more reason to exercise and lose weight.

If the human body is a machine, this 1969 needs a complete restoration. The engine needs rebuilt, the interior needs reupholstered, shocks and springs need replaced, new wheels and tires couldn’t hurt. I just need to quit blowing gaskets. A lube job couldn’t hurt. I’ll keep the paint though – the silver gray suits me.

Sorry I am a little scatterbrained with this post. This is the first time I have felt like writing since sustaining my injury. Thanks for reading.

Subtle Changes

Me after a haircut
Fresh haircut after getting smart and having the correct person cut it.

It’s amazing what a fresh haircut will do for you. After a miserable experience at Great Clips near work yesterday, I was treated like a king at Supercuts in Tracy this morning. I was a regular customer at that Great Clips for the better part of 10 years. But, personnel changes and the new online check-in feature (which allows employees to treat walk-ins like lepers) infuriated me. I have become a regular at Supercuts in my neighborhood, and for the life of me I don’t know why I tried to go back to Great Clips. Impatience I suppose.

The point? Making the decision to start exercising after being about as mobile as Jabba the Hut is a big step. Changing your diet and eating healthier is a big step. However, subtle changes can have an enormous impact on lifestyle. Supercuts is a half mile from my house. When I need a haircut, I normally drive. Lazy ass. Today, I chose to walk. I kept track of the walk on the Run Keeper app although my dumb ass forgot to pause it when I got to my destination. So, my numbers are slightly off. I walked 1.1 miles when normally I would drive. That’s a subtle change to a routine. That’s big for me.

Unfortunately, I did not complete my MyFitnessPal food diary entry for yesterday. I had a work function at a Mexican restaurant and just grazed. I’m not entirely sure what I ate or how many calories were contained in my victuals. I did little more than nibble and I drank several glasses of water. Normally in those situations I would drink one or more servings of regular Coke or Pepsi. Another subtle change. The meeting was at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, so instead of my usual lunch, I had some fruit and a granola bar knowing I’d be eating at the event. Previously I would have had a full lunch then consume too much at the event. However, I probably ate too much vermicelli for dinner.

Breakfast this morning consisted of two scrambled eggs, some bacon and two slices of whole grain white bread toast (yes, there is such a thing). I’ve had a few cuties and I am contemplating lunch. Looks like chicken noodle soup and a ham sandwich. I am hoping to embarrass myself with Dance Central on the XBOX 360 Kinect some time this afternoon. In case you’re wondering, there will be no photos or videos posted to Facebook of me cutting a rug…or pulling a hamstring.

On a side note as I sit here and watch the BBVA Compass Bowl, I don’t need FOX Sports’ Erin Andrews telling me about digestive health. I just don’t.

The Little Things

When you’re thin you take the simple things in your daily life for granted. I never had a problem bending over to tie my shoes or reach body parts in the shower. Gain 30-40 pounds and now everyday movements become chores. Getting up from a seated position, getting in and out of the car – all take significant effort when you’re overweight. Just more reasons for me to exercise and lose weight.

Day 3 of the Jerry Project – Powering Through Pain

Day 3 of The Jerry Project and I had to power through some pain. I started this past Wednesday with a two-mile walk. I burned 285 calories on the elliptical yesterday morning and 288 calories on that very same medieval torture device this morning. The tendonitis in my right foot is present, and a tightening in a muscle in my lower left leg is uncomfortable but bearable.

By the way, “before” photos were taken last night.

Breakfast this morning consisted of a sausage, egg and cheese croissant and a cup of coffee. I have plenty of fruit for snacks today. Lunch is up in the air. My diet will be a work in progress as this thing moves along. I have done this before so I know to eat every few hours to energize my metabolism and to keep from overeating at meal time. I enjoyed some spicy beef and rice for dinner last night, and a couple of “cuties” for an after-dinner snack. Late-night snacking has been a problem for me and it is something that must continue to be addressed. I will be using this site as a loose guide for crafting the fat burning part of this process. (Thanks Tom B.)

I have added drinking water (gasp) to my daily life as well. A couple of 16-ounce bottles of “high-quality H2O” per day never hurt anyone. However, anyone who knows me realizes I’ve always thought drinking water for health reasons was akin to guzzling turpentine. So, this is big for me.

Music is going to play an important part in this program. Yesterday’s music of choice was Depeche Mode’s Violator while this morning I sweated to Skinny Puppy’s Bootlegged, Broke and In Solvent Seas. Nothing like dark, industrial techno to get the day started. Yeah, I’m a ray of sunshine.

I have a chronic lower back problem due to lack of exercise, being overweight and living a sedentary lifestyle. Just a few short weeks ago, my lower back was in very painful spasms. Although the spasms have dissipated, it still felt like there was a knife sticking me in one particular spot. Not to mention the general stiffness. Well, after just three days of exercise and activity some measure of flexibility is returning and the pain is starting to subside.

By no means do I feel like I could run a marathon – two flights of stairs is still cumbersome – but I do feel like I have a small bounce in my step that’s been missing for quite some time.

The next two challenges involve activity in the evening and exercise during the weekend.

I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who has read my blog already. I am overwhelmed by the response and the encouragement I have received, both public and private. Keep reading and I’ll keep writing.

And So it Begins

Jerry Knaak
Me on December 30, 2012 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Weight: 236 pounds.

I am a 43-year-old white male and I am overweight and out of shape. I have identified myself as a reclamation project. My mind, body and soul need work. I have decided to start with my body.

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I used to be the skinny kid. My nickname in the neighborhood was Jerry “Bird.” Not because I had a deadly jump shot, but because I was thin and ate like a bird. I was teased constantly.

My weight was always an issue. Hell, I even had to gain weight to enter U.S. Navy bootcamp. I was 97 pounds dripping wet when I started my freshman year at Edison Tech in Rochester, N.Y. When I graduated in June 1987, I was a whopping 122 pounds. The Navy wanted me to pack on four pounds before heading to Recruit Training Center, Great Lakes, Ill. I remember the snickering from the other guys while I was weighed during initial enlistment physical examinations as I started the delayed entry program. I managed it, I don’t remember how, but seven months later, I met the minimum.

As an adult, I struggled at times with strength. I was an electronics technician on F-14 Tomcats. Some of those avionics boxes are heavy. Although I was a pack a day smoker at the time, I enjoyed sports, basketball mostly. I played intramural sports wherever I was stationed. Flag football, softball, basketball, volleyball, you name it. I was even heavy into bowling for awhile.

When I was married to my first wife, I managed to put a bit of weight and I think I tipped the scales at 165 pounds at my heaviest during that relationship. Home cooking and a slower pace to life when you’re married slows the metabolism a bit.

The last time I was single I probably weighed somewhere around 150-160 pounds. My eating habits were abysmal. I would have spent my last $3 on a pack of smokes rather than a happy meal. The cat ate better than I did.

After moving to California and getting married for the second time, my metabolism started to slow down. I got up to about 185 pounds. I exercised on a semi-regular basis but never seemed to shed any of those 10-15 extra pounds.

I quit smoking February 29, 2008. I did not really prepare, I did not realize how much I actually moved around from my office to the smoking area. I did not understand that I had been putting a stimulant in my body every day for 18 years. I’m not entirely sure how much I weighed when I realized I had packed on significant pounds over the course of a year. I caught my reflection in the mirror as I paraded around sans shirt. Holy crap – I was huge. I even developed severe congestive sleep apnea and use CPAP therapy.

For approximately two years I exercised pretty religiously. I enlisted the help of those who knew about such things, I found a buddy with whom to work out. I got all the way back down to 200 pounds even. Then I started to add weight again. At some time in 2010 I fell off the wagon. I ate whatever I wanted and pretty much stopped exercising on a regular basis. From oh, 2011 until yesterday, I think I stopped exercising altogether.   I weighed myself on a semi-regular basis, still posed for Facebook pictures, but my appearance and weight have been “weighing” on me. Heh heh.

So, I decided that after the first of the year I would wrap my head around this problem and do something about it. I am not calling it a resolution because those are meant to be broken. I am calling it a goal. My fighting weight is about 190 I would say. I weighed in at 236.6 yesterday.

I started with a two-mile walk yesterday and I spent 20 minutes on the elliptical this morning. I’m using two mobile apps, MyFitnessPal and RunKeeper, to keep track of what I eat and how much I exercise.

With dogged determination and a high tolerance for pain (the tendonitis in my right foot has already said “hello”), I’ll actually like what I see in the mirror and the numbers on the scale won’t mock me anymore.