Sunday, June 19, 2016

First a Princess, now Goldilocks

Observant readers of this blog will have noticed that I am not posting as frequently as I once did. That is a direct result of my getting rid of my home Internet connection (and saving myself $70 a month in the process - that $840 a year!). Now, instead of frittering away my time doing trivial things online, I'm actually taking advantage of the lighter nights (summer solstice this week) and doing more. More of everything: more reading, more preparation for writing the next great novel, or poems, or song lyrics (I can dream, can't I!?), more painting, more photography, more new social activities, spending more time with the people who are important to me, and more preparing for the next phase of my journey back to better health.

One thing that's not going so well: sleeping with two mattresses! Why did I ever think that was a good idea? As Goldilocks would have said, "This bed is too soft!", and she is correct. So, I can see myself fixing up a solution that involves putting my 10" foam mattress on the bedroom floor at night, then leaning it against the wall during the day. The difference between when I first got the mattress and now is that I used to be a 405 lb guy trying to get up from the floor, and it was comically painful to watch (even worse to be the one having to DO it!). Now, I'm a 295 lb guy, and it's much easier.

Which brings me to the next thing: my State of the Union, or State of the Chris, to be more precise. It has been exactly a year since I launched my effort to get healthier (it was Father's Day weekend, June 20th, 2015). A lot has happened since then. A lot has changed, almost all of it for the better.

Birdie (my daughter) and I were talking about this earlier this morning, after she'd treated me to some tasty Eggs Benedict at a local cafe. The obvious visible difference is the loss of 110 pounds (50 kg). I can see it in my face now, and my waistline. There's still a lot there, I'm under no illusions about that, but it's a lot less than it used to be. I can't imagine, now, where all that fat once was.

I am able to walk a lot further than I used to be able to. I still struggle with going up hills and stairs sometimes, but that didn't stop me from reaching the summits of Mount Ascension and Mount Helena locally.

I can more comfortably bend over to tie my shoelaces or pick things up from the ground. I can fit into clothes that I haven't been able to wear for three or four years. It'll soon be time to save up for a new clothes shopping spree, where I will reward myself for reaching my halfway point with a $$$ trip to the "normal" men's store instead of the "big and tall" store.

I feel so much happier. I was telling The Bird, who has also done REALLY well with her own journey back to good health, that there have been days when I wake up feeling euphoric. She has experienced the same thing. It's a bizarre (as in, unexplained) state of supreme happiness and contentment. I'm sure it's hormonal. I remember, several times, talking to my supervisor at work about how I was feeling almost unnaturally happy - yet none of it was induced by artificial chemicals. It was all natural. Of course, my friends noticed it too.

It's not all sunshine and roses though. There are still some psychological struggles. I'm still prone to overeating, or eating things that I know are not good for me. Not often, but sometimes I feel almost powerless to stop myself. Last week, one day, I had doughnuts and a bagel; things I don't normally eat any more. From time to time, I know I should do more exercise, pushing myself further and harder than I am used to. I don't always do it.

Some things have changed for the better. I can hardly remember the last time I had any sickly sweet milk chocolate. If I ever have chocolate these days, it's > 70% cacao, and (usually) only in small quantities. I rarely eat bread or anything with much flour, almost no rice or pasta. I bought my first small bag of sugar last week, but only because I'm making my own kombucha (drink) at home, and the bacteria and yeast need something to feed on. Most of the sugar gets converted, so only a little is left.

I'm eating a lot more vegetables than before, and a lot less meat. As that trend continues, I'm going to switch to better sources for my food. It'll be more expensive, for sure, but it will also have fewer hormones and antibiotics and pesticides in it or on it. Some day (like, in a few years, probably) I'll be in a position again to grow my own vegetables. That is something I'm looking forward to.

My stomach fills more quickly now - I don't need to eat as much to feel full, normally. My blood sugar levels are generally lower and more stable. At some point I'm hoping I'll be able to taper off my heartburn (acid reflux) medication.

In the future, I'm looking forward to some new activities: boxing, Tai Chi, cycling, and (a new addition to my list) dancing. I'm not sure yet what kind of dancing, but it ought to be fun. There'll be lots of opportunities to burn excess calories. There'll be lots of opportunities to make new friends and share common interests.

So, overall, life is grand. The past year has been good, and the future looks bright too.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

More progress, and new activities

Thinking about my previous blog post (, and some of the things needed to make those new priorities a reality, I started by clearing my bed from my bedroom, so that now I have a dedicated "home gym" area for my boxing and Tai Chi. The bed frame is in the hall closet, and I'm sleeping on an extra mattress now in the spare bedroom, which makes me feel like the "Princess and the pea".

A large mirror will be installed on one wall for the shadow boxing (and for checking myself out - what with having a sexy new figure and all!) My ceiling isn't built to hold an 80 lb canvas heavy bag for punching, so I'm going to acquire a "BOB" (Body Opponent Bag) that sits on the floor. You fill the base with water and/or sand (about 250 lbs of sand, apparently).

The reason for converting my main bedroom is that I don't have neighbors below that room (it's the laundry room underneath me), so I won't disturb anyone with the noise (when BOB bounces back and smacks me on the chin! - no, not really, he's got no arms!)

My friends at are sending me some hand wraps and boxing gloves. They must be my friends because they keep sending me stuff, right? (not for free though). A couple of friends here in Helena, who happen to be boxers, will be giving me some tips and pointers to successful training. In my imagination, I think I can manage, at least for a few months, without having to join an actual gym again. We'll see.

With the bed frame in the hall closet, the bike has to live in the "gym" for the moment. I still need a pump for the tires, but I'm getting a puncture repair kit, tire levers, a special bicycle multi-tool, so that I can repair and maintain the bike myself. New bright LED lights and panniers (for carrying groceries, for example) will be added later. Cycling is going to become my next BIG THING, especially if my plan is to ride to Portland next year!

Tai Chi doesn't require much gear - just some comfortable loose clothing and lightweight shoes.

Now, too, I've got the space to be able to use my rubber/elastic resistance bands (which I've had for many months), and my homemade weights (really just 1 gallon Arizona tea jugs, filled with sand or water). If you would like to download my resistance band exercise charts, go ahead: The gallon jugs, filled with water, weigh 8.6 lbs each. Filled with dry sand they weighed 12.2 lbs each. I can add water to the dry sand and probably reach 15 or 16 lbs each.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Priorities for the rest of 2016

Now that my trip to Oregon is behind me, it's time to focus on the next few months of my improved health journey.

It started almost a year ago and has, for the most part, been successful. Having been, at one point, "pre-diabetic" with A1c values of 6.4, 6.2 and 6.1 %, I now have better control of my weight and diet, and those values are coming down all the time. Whereas I once physically struggled to walk to the end of my driveway and back, or walk half a city block, I can now comfortably walk 10 or 12 miles at a time, including up a steep mountain ( I've lost 110 pounds of weight in the past 12 months.

Thinking about just the weight loss aspect, if my plan is to go from 405 lbs to 178 lbs, that's a loss of 227 pounds. I've lost almost half of that in 12 months, so I know I have at least 12 more months to go. I also know that I may always be carrying an extra 25 lbs of extra loose skin with me, unless I have it surgically removed - which I wouldn't do until I've proven to myself that I can keep the extra weight off for at least an extra year. Still, even if I "only" get to 200 lbs, that's still a heck of a lot better than 400 lbs, right? That's still 200 lbs less body mass to have to move all the time, 200 lbs less that my heart has to pump blood around, 200 lbs less for my skeletal joints to support.

To help me achieve my ultimate weight loss goal, which I have broken up into a series of monthly goals (, I will be continuing the hiking and backpacking and walking. I had toyed with the idea of buying a car to get around before the next winter comes, but discarded that thought. The exercise is good for me, and I really need to learn to love the cold and snow. I moved to Montana 20 years ago in September, and have never really embraced the weather here (

I've spoken to a number of people recently who have said something along these lines: "I need to get moving too, because of my arthritis (or they want to lose weight, or to control their blood sugar, or whatever), but I can't find the enthusiasm". If you are one of those people - call me! We'll go for walks. Even if it's only a measured mile (or two) around Centennial Park, I'll walk with you! I don't walk especially fast (3.0 mph is usually my max, about 2.7 mph is 'normal' for me) but I'll encourage you and we can hold one another accountable and motivate each other.

So, thinking about new activities to keep things fresh and push myself in new directions, here are some things I'm looking at:
Some of you may be familiar with the biblical expression, "Man does not live by bread alone" (or, in my case, lettuce alone!). Physical nourishment is not sufficient for a healthy life. A man (or woman) has other needs. For me, those include:
  • Winning the psychological battle with food that is going on in my head, 
  • Getting into better shape financially and becoming debt-free again, and 
  • Spending more time doing the things I love, with the people who are important to me. 
As an employee of the State of Montana, we have some excellent resources available to help with the first point (the psychological battle with food). After five years of loyal service, I'm doing okay financially where I'm at. My income is higher this year than it was last year or in previous years, and my expenses are lower. Starting tomorrow, I am ditching my home Internet connection (and those of you who know me know how much I [used to] LOVE the Internet). Instead, I'm going to use the time to get outdoors more, to do more reading and writing, or watercolor painting or photography, or whatever other things are important. 

Another priority will be to move towards a more vegetarian diet. I can't imagine myself becoming a total non-meat-eater, but I can foresee eating a lot less beef (think of the environmental consequences), and choosing better quality meat with fewer antibiotics. I can also see myself adding more pulses, beans and nuts back into my diet; both as protein sources and sources of fiber. I'll become an expert at cooking with cauliflower, broccoli, chard, kale and spinach. 

Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Mount Helena conquered

I had something to prove, and I did it! I woke up just before 05:00 on Saturday morning (I'm usually up at 5.00 am on a work day anyway, so no big deal). After getting dressed quickly, I was out of the door by 05:11. The sun was barely up over the horizon (we're less than three weeks from the summer solstice), and the temperature was a pleasant 49 °F (9 °C).

Hard work, reaching the summit of Mount Helena
An hour later, I had walked to the Adams St parking lot at the Mount Helena trailhead. I chose to go up the very steep Powerline Trail, and return down the 1906 Trail. Just after 8.00 am, I reached the summit. After a few minutes of taking in the scenery, taking photos, and texting some of my friends, I started the descent, past the Devil's Kitchen limestone formation, on the longer 1906 Trail, which turned out to be just as challenging as the Powerline Trail. Hard work, for sure!

I reached the trailhead again just before 9.30 am. The Montana Conservation Corps were doing some scheduled trail maintenance today. Thank you for that valuable work that you do!

A short rest, then it was time to head to the farmer's market downtown. At this point I was beginning to wish for a flying carpet or magical teleportation powers to take me home. A nice, fortifying breakfast (with a couple of scoops of ice cream - I'd earned it!) set me up nicely for the final leg, the 2.5 miles back to my apartment... uphill!

From 4,200 down to 4,100, then up to 5,468 feet elevation
By the time I got home, I was fit for nothing except sleeping for an hour. Checking my number of steps, I'd walked 10.1 miles today, with more than 22,400 steps! It felt like nine tenths of them were uphill, but I know that no more than half of them could have been (what goes up must come down, right?). However, I do know that my apartment is at 4,200 ft elevation, the Last Chance Gulch walking mall is at about 4,100 ft, and the summit of Mount Helena is at 5,468 feet.

Photos are available at