Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Diet: week 17

I lost another 3 1/2. That makes it 62 so far. I was especially pleased because that was my first week in transition. I guess I have learned something about eating properly. To tell the truth, I am deathly afraid to eat much of anything except vegetables and Lean Cuisine. I am enjoying the multiple choices of 300 calories or less frozen dinners of several brands. If they are not completely satisfying, I simply supplement with a salad with almost no calories to speak of.

I believe that my newly resumed enjoyment of yardwork nd tooling in the garden is most significant inmy continued weight loss. Although you might read on some chart that an hour of vigorous exercise does not really burn that many calories, what I didn't realize is that the activity sets your body's mode of metabolism. When the body is shifted out of conservation mode into activity mode it's like downshifting to first gear. Your car eats up alot more gas in first gear. Sorry, I guess I'm still thinking of the old days when we drove a car with hand-shifted gears--"four-on-the-floor" we called it.

We just had class numnber 18 on Monday (but the weigh-in only records 17 actual weeks of dieting, hence the title of this post), and that means we only have 2 more classes and then graduation. As we take turns suggesting favorite restaurants to hold a group celebration, our leader tears her hair. "Haven't you learned anything yet?" But it is a loose, jovial class and she knows it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Happy Fig

When I was a boy, I remember trading chores with my mother. She liked to weed the garden, and I found it very distasteful. While she would mow the lawn, I would vacuum the carpets. I didn't like to work up a sweat with the sun beating down on my head. Imagine, complaining about the heat of the sun in Los Angeles!

Well, somewhere along my life, I learned to work in the yard and enjoy it. Just the other day I found myself working most of the day in the garden--and loving it. Then it dawned on me that I have not been able to do this for years. Losing 60 pounds of blubber has made a lot of difference in my life. I still have several arthritic aches and pains, but they are sufficiently diminished when I am not carrying around that 50+ pound sac of potatoes. The pillow that prevented me from bending to the ground has not disappeared, but has sufficiently shrunk so that I can reach down and plant pansies without cutting off the circulation to my vital organs.

Since we have just recently moved into our Lakewood home, even though there are yet boxes everywhere we look and try to walk, I have spent an inordinate amount of time tinkering in the yard. I guess Barbara appreciates the fact that I am doing something, so she doesn't get on my case to remove more of these boxes. We both agreed that planting a Black Mission Fig was of high priority. So that was the first purchase at our local nursery.

The talkative old duffer (imagine me calling anyone old!) who helped us, picked out a nice tree, already about 4 feet tall with lots of buds and nascent leaves. I had soaked the featured circle of the landscape for the occasion. Then I turned over several shovels of forest compost in this location. That was where I planted the fig tree. I watered it into place. And, I kid you not, the next day the leaves jumped out. It has been looking bright and enthusiastic ever since. When Barbara came at my invitation to inspect the tree, she said, "It looks happy!" I can't think of a better description. We have a happy black fig in our yard, and someday we expect it to make us happy with its fruit.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Diet: week 16

Great week! Great start on the future of my dining career. I lost 5 pounds this week. I think I was the champion of the class this time. There are two men who are ahead of me in the overall total loss. (No, we don't play the game of biggest loser. Instead we encourage one another.) Richard has lost a total of 65 pounds, and Rod has lost a total of 62. My total now is 59. But that's really not the point. I am feeling better, and looking better. I just realized that I am gardening again, and enjoying it. After we moved I began planting flowers, veggies, and even a fig tree. I still move slowly, but one day last week I was plugging away out there all day. It must be a couple of years since I have been able to do anything like this.

Remember that although I label this post "Diet: week 16" we have just had class number 17 in the program. That means that this week we begin transition. Instead of 4 shakes and one soup each day, I now am prescribed 3 shakes and one frozen dinner. Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice and stuff like that with 350 calories or less. I just came home from shopping and I confess I went crazy shuffling through the freezer case. I bought no less than 8 dinners, and no two of them are alike. I think the highest calorie count is 290. After being on "conservation mode" for 16 weeks, my body is going to rejoice--even over a measly 290 calories.

Now I am afraid I will gain some weight back because my body is in this mode that wants to store all the calories it can get. That's why transition has to be so gradual. Also my digestive system needs to adjust to normal food with some natural fiber and nutrients. We're moving away from the chemicals, and back to the food--and not a moment too soon!

Today I'm a happy man. But those 6o pounds of lard still lurk in the shadows. That's my boogy man, waiting to get me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Diet foilbles

You have to excuse me for being preoccupied with diet issues, since this is my 16th week of a liquid diet. You might think someone in my position might be obsessed with thoughts of food. That would be correct. I have decided to change my eating lifestyle, but I will allow one day a month where I can dine more exquisitely. So why do I think so much of those rare meals? A filet Mignon at Ports O Call with the salad bar ought to be a good meal. But then there is always the call of Lucilles' BBQ and those succulent baby back ribs. Sluurp!

Okay, my mind is working hard, manufacturing decent recipes too. That spinach salad I may have mentioned several posts ago, looms large on my mind. I've heard of a brand of yogurt that my dietitian said made a good substitute for sour cream. Trader Joe's also sells a low fat cheddar cheese that she claims is quite good. Now we have tried that ugly, gag-provoking sludge before, but she swears that this new brand actually tastes like cheddar and works well for her. She also used to hate those low fat substitutes. I'm perusing vegetarian cook books, and finding delicious sounding recipes. I can hardly wait to get started.

In the meantime I am stuck with powdered chemicals and water. This stuff has no fiber, so I am getting intimate with fiber supplements. One week I was using a popular brand (three times a day) only to discover that I was thereby ingesting something like 50 extra calories every day! That was the only week during this diet that I actually gained weight! My solution of abstaining from fiber was not a good one. Constipation can be a very serious matter. I discovered the Cadillac of fiber supplements, without calories, and got back on track of weight loss. But if I don't wash out my mug well enough, when I dump out the water I left it soaking in, out comes something like a big loogie.

I've learned to add sugarless syrups to each shake I drink, and the different flavors with vanilla shakes provides rather delightful variety. Some of them taste like I'm drinking candy. If you think I might be getting addicted to this, guess again. Sweet and tasty as they are, it becomes old very soon. Can you imagine eating Almond Roca or English Toffe for 16 weeks? No, no, it actually can get pukey sweet after that long.

I had no idea our family ate so often in restaurants! When I have to watch my wife and kids and grand kids chomping down on shrimp, steak, fancy potatoes and such while I consistently order a bowl of hot water, they give me a hero's cheer, but that got old the very first time. Now the soup is remarkably savory, and even takes more life when three dashes of Tabasco are applied. But I torture myself by looking at the menu and choosing the meal I will not order.

Yes, yes, there is a psychological side to this crazy diet. But there is also a terminus! Tomorrow I will report on my progress because in just a couple hours I weigh in for my 17th class.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bag check

No, this is not about the examination of old ladies. Reading Facebook this morning, I saw where one of my friends had his luggage redirected to some irrelevant city. Another one of my friends told about suspicious scrutiny given to her x-rayed bag which prominently showed the seeds in her butternut squash. That brought to mind an experience I had at the airport many years ago. Please pardon me if many of my stories took place many years ago, but when you read an old guy's blog, you need to expect that kind of stuff.

When our family moved from Delaware to Modesto, CA, we were leaving a lot of favorite things (all my children were born in the east). One of those "favorite" things was a restaurant that served a Pennsylvania Dutch sweet and sour salad dressing that was matched by no other eatery--certainly none in Modesto. So when I had to go to Philadelphia to attend a Diaconal Ministries Committee meeting, I made it a point to see friends in Wilmington, DE. Before I left I made a trip to this restaurant where I found they were selling bottles of this salad dressing. Well I knew I wouldn't be east again until the next meeting of the committee, so I bought a dozen of these bottles, and I packed them with cardboard separators and I gerryriged a handle so I could take it as carry-on.

By the time I reached the baggage check I was zoning out from the weary trip and bustle of the meeting and visiting friends. So when I placed my box on the conveyor belt my mind was shut down. The operator stopped the belt, and with a threatening tone of voice said, "What do you have in the box, sir!" I want to tell you that at that moment in time I had no idea what was in that box. I stammered and stuttered. The armed security guard walked toward me. None of this was helping me gain my composure. I looked at the screen to see what she saw, and so help me it looked like 12 grenades neatly arranged in this box. She laid the box on its side and backed up the belt for a second look at these dangerous shadows. When the second picture came up, and we could clearly see the distinctive shape of the bottles, I blurted out, "It's salad dressing." The threat was over, and I was allowed to go on my way.

Then there was the time when we were living back east and at that time no one knew what tacos were. The only tortillas I could buy were canned. I kid you not. They were canned tortillas, and they were not even a reasonable facsimile of a tortilla. So when I was back in California on business, I loaded my luggage with 20 dozen tortillas. I was much younger then, but still I could barely move my luggage. In those days they didn't charge extra for overweight bags. We put them in the freezer and doled them out for special treat taco nights.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Diet: week 15

Well I lost 3 more pounds. Not bad, but I had hoped for 5. Maybe the goal of 5 pounds a week is not realistic, but I had a roll there for a time with 5 a week. Anyway, my total to date is a loss of 53 pounds. That sounds impressive. I feel better (but I still need to feel better yet). I look better (but I still have a pillow that prevents me from checking my fly without bending down). I look at myself in the mirror and say, "Hey, fatso, I thought you were losing weight. How come you still have that disgusting pillow sticking out front?" When I complained to my primary care physician, she simply said, "That's the last to go." Very encouraging.

We're coming down to the wire soon. At week 17 we begin "transition" to real live food! At first the program calls for 3 shakes and a frozen dinner. Well, maybe that's not "live" food, but I'm sure my gut will be very happy with what it gets. Instead of the frozen dinner I could fix my own plate of tiny proportions in balanced nutrition. I might just do that.

I've been studying cook books and watching the food channel. I discovered that at least one of my class mates is doing the same. When one diets in this dramatic form, I suppose it is natural to have a fixation on food. I am trying to think of recipes that I like that also fit my new lifestyle of dining. When I told my endocrinologist that I refused to eat "cardboard" because I am going to heaven anyway, she was not at all amused. "What do you mean, 'cardboard'?" "If it doesn't taste any better than the carton it came in, I will not eat it." I didn't even evoke a smile.

Trying to be realistic about the future, I want to stick to a healthy diet and not regain all that disgusting lard. So I want to collect delicious, healthy recipes. Fortunately I am omnivorous, and I am wild about spinach and many other veggies. Of course being omnivorous is also very dangerous when I am out of control. Now I have the incentive of the trouble and expense of this industrial strength diet to stay in control. I think some of the cardboard effect of healthy eating is simply in the method of fixing veggies and other healthy food. Anyway, onward and upward!

Last night we discovered that one of our class mates had fallen off the wagon, as it were. She had gained several pounds. When she told us of her experience we thought she ought to be commended for returning to the diet program instead of reprimanded for weight gain. She was walking her 18 mo old grandson in the stroller when a drive by shooting took place just in front of her. One man was killed and another wounded, and she and her stroller bound grandson hit the pavement. She was so shaken that she indulged in comfort food, and we all sympathetically understood. At that time one sees the goal of weight loss as a lower priority in the big picture. Thank God neither she nor her grandson were hit with straying bullets.

Bullets can kill quickly, but I need to constantly remember that extra fat also kills, albeit more subtly.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Diet postscript

I am surrounded by family and friends cheering me on as I come down the home stretch of my Optifast diet. Not everyone in my class has the kind of encouragement I receive. So just when I finally have another week of losing 4 1/2 pounds, and feeling rather proud of myself, we run into a family from our church at the restaurant. (Yes, I ordered my bowl of water and stirred in my soup powder again!) So while we were being shown to our table, we stop to greet our friends from church. Steve mentions that he read about my loss of 50 pounds as it was posted on Facebook. Just when I am getting puffed up with self esteem, he tells me that I beat him out. He only lost 40 pounds. "When did you start?" "Last November." he responds. "What did you use?" He slyly tells me, "Nothing, just self restraint." Steve is my hero! At great expense and calculated chemistry I am enrolled in Kaiser's celebrated Optifast program. Yes, I'm sticking to the diet, and yes, I am losing weight--but here's a guy who saved all that dough (no pun intended) by simply curbing his appetite. Now that's how it is supposed to be done. Only wimpy, indulgent sissies have to resort to the contrived protein shakes and discipline of weekly "classes" to gain (heh, heh, pun intended) the desired goal.

Okay, so only about half the number of fatties who began this program are still with it. There is some discipline to sticking to the diet. But Steve is still my hero. I am thinking allot about the self discipline method of weight loss, because that is what I hope to accomplish after I finish Optifast. I am reading vegetable cook books, learning about healthy foods and healthy proportions, and perusing a book titled: "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Glysemic Index Weight Loss." Some day I hope to arrive at the plateau where Steve already lives. Hats off to you, Steve. You are my hero.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Moving Saga: the guilt

Yes, there is guilt associated with moving--at least in my case there is. When we have no less than three storage units and find they cannot contain all of our worldly possessions, then I realize just how "worldly" are those possessions. Both my wife and I are savers. Actually it is a trait born of a variety of frugality. When we see something we haven't used in the last 15 years, instead of tossing it we say to ourselves, "This still works and it might come in handy some day. It would be wrong to throw it away. 'Waste not want not.' That sweater has no holes, and though it is dingy with age, it used to be a favorite of mine, and it would be wasteful to throw it away." Okay, we have given a lot of stuff to Goodwill or some other charity. We just have so much more that we saved.

I thought I believed in contentment with less. I remember days of poverty when one never gives away useful things. I was raised with depression mentality. The bible says to be content with what we have. Jesus taught us to seek primarily the Kingdom of God, and He would provide all the necessities of life.

Only half in jest do I tell my friends that our move was a biblical one. We have said to ourselves, "We have much goods and no place to store them. Let's tear down our barns and build larger ones. Then we can say to ourselves, 'Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat drink and be merry." Well it is biblical, isn't it?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Diet: Week 14

I must be very emotionally shallow. I lost 4 1/2 pounds this week, and I am elated. In the big picture of things, this is a poor reason for my emotions to swing back and forth. When I lose only one pound, I sulk and vent. Perhaps it's just the vulnerable condition that this diet has created. I need to blame someone or something besides myself. Nevertheless, I am happy to report that I lost nearly 5 pounds (which was my weekly goal at one time).

So in 14 weeks of dieting I have lost a total of exactly 50 pounds. I actually hoped to lose a total of 80 pounds, and now that is quite unlikely. There was never a time in my life that I have lost anything even close to that much weight on any other diet or program. So however I may grouse about the paucity of pounds lost, I need not complain.

We are now being prepared for transition. At week 17 we are encouraged to begin to take food--the right kind, of course. After the ordeal--and expense--of this diet, I am not about to blow it at transition, or afterward. I need to learn how to eat a healthy, balanced diet. I intend to lose more weight even after the program finishes. I am lusting for a spinach salad even as I write. The problem is that I am lusting for baby back ribs also.

One thing I must say at this point: I am sick and tired of this diet. We have been offered the opportunity to prolong this liquid diet another 8 weeks. Aaaahhh! I really do not want to do that. It's like being hung by my thumbs and then offered to either cut me down or let me hang for 8 more weeks. Okay, so I am being a tad dramatic, but you get my point.

So here goes another week.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The adventures of a hospital stay

First, let me say you can alter your prayers for Barbara to emphasize praise and thanksgiving for her good surgery and repair. She returned home yesterday, the day following surgery. She is in pain (as the doctor promised) so ask the Lord to be merciful in this regard too.

She got her good night's sleep last night, the first since Tuesday night. Wednesday, we had to get to the hospital at 5:30 a.m., so we got out of bed at 4. That was after staying up late getting prepared to spend a couple days at the mercy of the hospital staff. Then there is the notorious night following surgery. At one in the morning they came in to take an xray of Barbara's lungs. Then later they came in to take her vital signs (okay, maybe that is a necessity), not once, but twice. Someone came to draw blood for the lab. Then there was the glucose test. Of course her door had to be immediately across the hall from the nurse's station where they chat and bang around--all of which becomes magnified decibels of disturbance in the evening environment. She was confronted with the additional aggravation of noise from the vacuum chute which they use to communicate with the pharmacy. She had to ask one of the disturbing nurses about an especially annoying clang, and was told that one of those vacuum capsules was dropped on the floor. It rang out like John Henry driving steel.

Musing on hospital stays, I remember once (admittedly long ago) I was actually awakened and asked if I wanted a sleeping pill! Oh yeah, and there was a nurse's station across the hall from me too where I heard a male nurse trying to make time flirting with the female nurse all night.

All in all this stay was not the nightmare Barbara experienced when she was in for her shoulder surgery. That was the time she asked for pain meds a few hours following surgery, and the nurse refused to give her anything because she could not find in the computer any directions from the doctor for this. When Barb's pain began to get mega severe this same nurse became brusk with her, again refusing meds. Eventually she was attended to, but only after the pain got ahead of the meds (medical speak for too hard to handle with meds). Eventually the meds caught up with the pain and she did okay. Don't they teach you in nursing 101 that pain medications are indicated in the hours immediately following major surgery?

Well frankly she had nothing but competent, caring nurses this time. One of them even repaired the bandage over Barb's incision that the doctor botched and let it leak. We enjoyed her so much that we actually gave her a written commendation. She was so overjoyed to find that BL is a piano teacher and lives in Lakewood. She lives near enough that she wants to go back to learning piano, and has promised to call for lessons.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pray for Barbara

Not only does she have to contend with the likes of me, but she faces surgery tomorrow morning.

This benign tumor, which she affectionately calls her "golf ball", will be removed by laperoscopic surgery before it gets tangled in her spinal column. It is one of those voluntary surgeries that promises several weeks of pain to follow. The doctor made it sound rather routine. But the last time we visited him he dropped the comment that they will have to collapse her lung during surgery. He had said the surgery would only take an hour or a little longer. The anesthesiologist, however, said it would be more than two hours. What else are they not telling us? Those little things do not inspire confidence.

I plan to camp out next to her bed this time. The last surgery proved to be a rather disastrous experience because of poor nursing care. She will need me to smuggle in a Supreme Croissant from Jack in the Box, and otherwise plump her pillow and tell her that I love her. Maybe I can find that waterless shampoo again.

Her nursing care last time did none of these things for her. So please pray for her. Pray the doctor gets a good night' sleep tonight. Pray that recuperation is swifter and less painful than projected. Pray that her husband doesn't make things worse with stupid things to say and do. (See the former blog post for example.)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Diet: week 13

Tonight is the wrong time for me to write this blog post. I lost one lousy stinking pound! I am doomed!

If I can only lose one pound while I am eating only 800 calories a day, what hope is there for me when I am finished with this diet, and return to real food? I have been told that these calories are scientifically designed to give me all the nutrients in a day. But when eating my own meals will require more calories of food in order to ingest those same needed nutrients.

One dumb pound is not good enough. I lost 45 pounds. So what? It might take several weeks longer to gain it all back, but I don't see much hope for me. Oatmeal for breakfast, yogurt for lunch and a spinach salad for dinner. Oh goodie! Maybe I can eat that for the rest of my life, but I know I won't do that.

I have been accused of being Puddleglum before, so here is my resolve: "Oh well, I think I will slog on to ignominous defeat because it is the right thing to do. No doubt my endeavour will fall far short of my goal, and there will be nothing but failure and depression at the end, but it is the noble thing to do." Is that worthy of Puddleglum? Or perhaps Eeyore?