Monday, November 15, 2010

242-ish (and off we go...)

Headed into sesshin (silent zen retreat) for a week.  Nothing to say but this.  Interested to see how a week of oryoki works the numbers.

Be well, folks, and remember to be generous.

Friday, November 5, 2010

238.6 (Boo-Ya!)

After having been stuck at 245-ish for a month and some, this is beyond awesome.  I am near exactly one large dog-food bag away from 200lbs! (Nice tan-lines on the feets, eh?  Those should be called "PDX Southern tan-lines" [read: "from wearing Keens all summer"]).

To make this even better, I had a doctor's appointment today for a prescription reissue.  I haven't seen him in like 9 months.  I walked in, and I kid you not, he stopped, double-taked, exclaimed "You look great!" then without missing a beat, added "Everything okay?"


He asked how I was doing it.  I told him carbohydrate restriction, mindful eating and walking.  He was all smiles.

A bonus aside from that visit: it did calibrate my home scale pretty well.  I was 239.x this morning before I left.  I got on their uber-accurate scale fully clothed with shoes (I figured I was +6lbs or so there) and weighed in at 245, so that about jibes exactly.  After I left the doctor's office, I wound up getting off at the wrong bus stop and had to walk a good 1.5 miles to get to my next destination, so I got my walkies in fo sure.  I weighed myself just now after getting home, just to make sure I got the lowest number.  I may drop further today because I rushed out of the house this morning and forgot to take my diuretic, so I have some fluid in me.  I just took it, so I'll be peeing like a race-horse in about 30min.  Weeeeeee!  (<--hehehe.  See what I just did there?)

Last night at my sangha Communication's team meeting, I decided to have pita bread and hummus with the crew.  I had my regular Mediterranean chicken salad, but after having the bread at the monastery over the weekend and not essploding, I decided that I should, if only as a practice of moderation, not to say anything of a reward.  I'm glad I did.  It was wonderful.  Yet more people (at that meeting) ask me "how are you doing this?"  I tell them the same answer.  They all sorta shake their heads in mild disbelief, as if to say "Well sonofabiatch.  That diet and exercise stuff actually works, hu?"  My friend Bansho was there, and attested to the same.  He's really focusing on portion control and exercise, but whatever works.

Something kinda weird struck me on the bus today.  I am actually sorta looking forward to sesshin.  Why?  Because after a solid week of ōryōki, I may conceivably be down to 230!  We'll see, though.  I'm really enjoying not thinking so much about this stuff anymore, and focusing on "goals".  My only goal is this moment.  Now.  Now.  NOW!

But I'll admit that I'm liking that there's slightly less "body" in the "body/mind" that is sensing/experiencing this "now" now ;)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

241.2 (On "Mindful Eating"...)

Yep.  241.2.  That feels really good.  Yeah, that bit is a bit obvious.  Of course it does.  I was stuck at 245-ish for so long that admittedly I was getting rather discouraged.  I'll talk about discouragement in a bit.  But I wanted to start with progress.

I've taken a step-back from blogging here for a few reasons.  Firstly, it was beginning to feel a bit, I dunno... stale?  Not much progress to report on, so "keep on keepin' on" was the mantra, and the practice, so what's there to say on it?  Secondly though, it was starting to feel a bit obsessive, especially in light of the above.  It was making itself feel like "You must talk about food. You must talk about food. You must talk about food..." and frankly, it was getting a bit tiring.  One of the things I've liked about switching to a low-carb diet was that food making was becoming simpler, and as a result, I didn't have to think about food as much.  I was really liking that.  And I still do.  What follows is an amalgamation of cut-n-pastes from recent SOTW posts, and some other thoughts.

This past weekend, I attended my teacher, Chozen Bays-roshi's Mindful Eating retreat at Great Vow Zen Monastery.  The retreat was a gift to me by my friend Bansho, but it was a bit extra significant for a few reasons.  I've dropped over fifty pounds this year, and I really wanted to attend this retreat.  He's been following my progress, and had purchased this retreat with the intent of making it a scholarship.  I suddenly couldn't come up with the finances to attend, and it all fell neatly into place.  Also, it is the beginning of our observance of ango.  More on that, and its relation to teh foodz in a bit.

The retreat was wonderful, powerful, fun, challenging, helpful, painful, funny, healthful, healing, humbling and paradigm-changing, to say the least.  I had quite a bit of apprehension during the run-up, mostly over carbs.  There are plenty of carbohydrates at the monastery.  Don't get me wrong: it's a totally reasonable amount of balanced, mostly-complex carbs.  I mean, my monastic friends living there work very hard, and typically eat one meal a day in a very simple fashion, and need to power themselves with something.  They're not on a diet to lose excess weight or body fat in some more expedient fashion like I am, so any weight-loss is a byproduct of a truly healthy life-style.

But me?  I am very carb-restricted.  I have been eating mostly protein, and animal-derived protein at that.  Seeing that the monastery is critter non grata, what was going to happen to me and my diet while there?  I'd actually had my first carbo-phobo dream a few nights before.  I dreamed that I was sitting down to a dinner of unknown providence, and it wound up being a hamburger.  That in and of itself wasn't so bad.  The issue was that it was served three-slab-of-bun "Big Mac" style.  I dreamed I removed the bun(s) and scraped off the toppings.  Then when I awoke, I found myself looking back at the dream, and being upset that in eating the mere toppings, I'd consumed ketchup. -sigh-  Yeah, no anxiety there.  I knew immediately that this was a psychic manifestation of my anxiety over the whole issue, and sort-of laughed it off.

I rode up to the retreat with my close friend SS.  She's been tinkering with low-carb as well, and we both decided even before leaving that we were simply going to have to roll with it.  Being freaked out by carbs while there was going to do nothing good for the experience, and frankly, would be dishonoring the entire intent and purpose of the retreat.  On the good side of things, though, was the experience of doing this together.  We're old friends who've gotten to grow close again after a number of years orbiting in different and distant circles.  Now that she practices with our sangha, we get to see each-other near weekly, which is awesomesauce.  That we're both major foodies with life-long weight issues just made it all the more poignant.  It was a great ride up to the monastery on a stunningly lovely early autumn afternoon.  This was starting off well.

We got to the monastery and checked in.  My sensei, Hogen, heard my voice and popped out to check.  "Andy, that is you. Good, good..."  He never smiles all that demonstratively, but his face belied him, and it warmed me.  After the general necessities were taken care of, we settled into our dorm spaces.

Dinner was the first major challenge.  Salad, beet soup and bread.  BEET SOUP?  BREAD?  I could feel the anxiety surge up inside me.  I was aware of it.  I acknowledged it.  I worked on letting it go.  But there was a practical issue that needed to be answered: that beet soup--due to its carb content--may very well give me a major glycemic whammy, and after my health issues at my last retreat two years or so ago, I really didn't want to start suffering from major blood-sugar issues.  That, and not having eaten bread for literally months, and I felt that the wisest thing to do was make a conscientious choice about things.  So I decided to forgo the soup in favor of the consumption of bread.  The soup was likely to be a faster and more powerful carb blast being that it was essentially a carb-loaded liquid; at least the bread was a multi-grain whole-wheat, so it would be slower in to my system.  I made sure to take extra salad.

And yeah, the bread was pretty damned orgasmic.  I took my first bite, and chewed for what seemed like forever, not in a Road to Wellville/Fletcherization type way, but in a deep relishing of something so insanely wonderful.  Made by hand by friends, this bread was quite possibly the best bite of bread I've had since I first started baking bread by hand myself.  It honestly ranked up there with my first true and proper French baguette.  It was for all the world like a massive Wheat-Thin, but better.  I decide right then and there to toss the anxiety for good for the weekend, and just see what would happen.  I was pretty sure that if I did, in fact, put on a pound or two, I wouldn't breach 250.  It was a worthwhile experiment in allowing carbs back in, and there was no more perfect a place to run this experiment than in this vessel of safety that is the SS GVZM.  Right then and there, I decided to just let it go, and be down with the full experience.  Yeah, and have two more pieces of bread.

I slept like shat that night, though.  Always hard the first night.  I was a late arrival, which had the benefit of me being in the second men's dorm, so I was able to pick a bed in an area of the Equanimity dorm that had no other people in it, but I picked a bed against the exterior wall, and froze my ass off all night.  I might have managed two hours' sleep total, but seeing as the day was going to be light on effort, I knew I'd be okay.

We sat zazen, did morning service, then had our first ōryōki meal that morning.  It's one of my favorite breakfasts there: 10-grain hot cereal from Bob's Red Mill with brown sugar and peanut butter.  I just went with it, and felt renewed.

The rest of the retreat was group work with my other teacher, Jan Chozen Bays roshi.  I'm not really going to prattle on about that part of it, because she did it all here.  There was a lot of pain and emotion dealt with, and it was all very insightful.  I slept like I was dead Saturday night.  Sunday, I woke up at about 4:30am very well rested.  I got up and dressed in the dark so as not to disturb my dorm-mates, then went to sit outside in the crisp, cold darkness of the early morning.  The rain had stopped, and it was beautifully clear with a crescent moon dancing in and out of UV-blue clouds.  I sat zazen out in the cold, and thought for a moment about what commitment to make for this ango.

An ango (安居), for those who don't know, is a period of more intensive practice in a zen sangha or monastery.  My sangha observes one every autumn.  For us, it's traditional to make an ango vow or commitment; some extra practice like bowing, chanting, memorizing a sutra, daily- or extra zazen, etc. This year, I was having a hard time coming up with something that resonated with me.  Last year I committed to sit every time my sangha was at the dharma center (of 32 opportunities, I missed four.  Jes' sayin'...).  This year, I was thinking of trying to memorize the Shosai Myokichijo Dharani, which always renders me dumb and mum.  I may still.  I'll be chanting it daily for six days in about two weeks.  Regardless, I mulled, I sat, I went inside to the zendo and sat alone until the morning wake-up bell at 5:50am rang through the monastery.

At the main Sunday service, we had a sagaki ceremony to invite all the hungry ghosts here to be with us, take what they needed, and leave peacefully.  It was lovely, fun, and signifigant.  I'll post more on that later.  SS and I drove home after lunch, and swung into Fubonn market to see if we couldn't come up with some cheap ōryōki rigs.  I found some all-plastic bowls that nested into each-other nicely.  She dropped me off, and I chilled at home.

Then, when making dinner for myself Monday night and setting out my new bowls, I knew what my ango practice would be.  Mindful eating.  Duh!  I will eat at least one formal ōryōki meal a day this way throughout all of ango.  I'll be interested to see what that does for the weight-loss.

More later, my hungry little gakis...

Monday, October 18, 2010

245 (still, but whatever)...

Well, the stall continues.  Honestly, I'm really not all that concerned.  I've been dealing with these same 4 lbs or so for the past month.  At least I'm not gaining.

Yeah, it is a bit frustrating, or disappointing, or what-have-you, but as I said above, I'm not gaining.  I suspect that I may be able to hit my October goal of 240 (I think that was the number) by Oct 31st, if only because I'm as broke as the economy for the next few weeks, so I won't be able to afford to over-do anything food-wise.

I do have an idea of what the "problem" is, and it's me.  Lack of real substantial exercise is the majority of it, combined with my continuing problem with eating at night.  Those two things are really only mitigated by one factor: ME.  I have the ability to go get my exercycle back from an ex, but by permission only.  I don't have any real way to transport it, and therein lies the problem.  I'd use a Zipcar, but I don't have the $30 it'd cost for the 2 hours it'd take to go get it.  It'll just have to wait.

Walking in the cold is a real issue for me.  My legs tighten (even with a warm-up), I get all wobbly and tremory, and then--at that point--I'm sorta a danger to myself.  I really want the bike here, so I can just work out regardless of the weather.  Admittedly, it makes me feel a bit trapped at times, but I manage.  I suspect that I'd manage even better while still losing weight, though.

The eating at night thing is a combo issue.  At night, I do get bored and a touch lonely when a partner's not here with me.  Combine that with my herbal medication that I need at night for my spasticity that gives me the classic "munchies" and I have a hard time not eating.  But there ARE things I can do to try and address or confront this issue.  I just sorta haven't lately.  I've been sliding back into that "whatever" place.  Not helpful, I know, but I'm trying to be honest about it.  I guess it's a bit of burn-out.  I've been at this since... May?  Frankly, for me to be burning out now is an accomplishment in and of itself.  Typically, I'd have given up/in much earlier.  Take the victories where you can, Fat Man.

Part of it is also that I'm trying to be gentle with myself, not unlike with zazen/meditation.  If I flipped out every time a thought meandered through my mind while meditating, I'd have lost it years ago.  There's no point in treating yourself, or meditation, that way.  So we are taught that the best thing to respond with is "Hey, cut yourself some slack here.  This is actually kinda hard to do, even when you're GOOD at it.  You'll get no where punishing yourself."  True with zazen.  True with weight-loss.  I see that pretty clearly.

I wanted to go to GVZM's "Mindful Eating" retreat, but I don't have the cash.  I'd like to, really, but I'm still trying to get my financial pins underneath me again after the major hit the wallet took from the Wisconsin visit.  I'll do the next available one, sometime in 2011.

All in all, I still feel good about where I am.  About 50lbs lost.  Staying off.  I still have piles of work to do, but that's as it always is with anything worth the results.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

243.2 (And almost all quiet on the Gallbladder front...)

First off, that number will most likely tick up a bit, as it is an "on empty" reading.

Anyway, the gallbladder's finally quieted down.  To say that I've learned my lesson about 9pm mochas is not stating it emphatically enough, to say the least.

A quick word on the shiritaki noodles:
OMFGLOWCARBPWNIES!!!!!  These things made for the BEST pho!!!  Seriously, I was stunned.  Just like rice stick.  I was pleased beyond words, and at one point, I did--in fact--tell JB "Sssssh.  I'm slurping noodles, and I don't want to spoil the moment with words."  My friend TKW educated me on preparation, and the key is shocking them with boiling water to get the funk off them.  After that, you're golden.  Before that, you're pretty sure that spoiled, rancid tuna had been involved in the manufacturing or packaging process.  CCK ran out and got them the night after my TXT review and has used them as well.  The future's bright...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

243.8 (on gallbladders and [a] Dharma exercise...)

Well, I'm gonna cop to some stupid stuff here.  Last week, my dear friend TKW was here for dinner.  She biked in, and we had Ahi tuna steaks on the grill.  I started telling her about the low-carb Uber-Mocha I've devised, and we decided that it would be a great idea for me to make one... or two.  So I wound up having a mocha with her... at 9pm.

I woke up with my gallbladder trying to punch its way out of my torso -via- my rib cage.  It's done this before with coffee late at night, but I thought that since it was a low-carb version, I wouldn't get that sugar dumping thing again.  Wrong.  Anyway, it seemed to quiet down a bit later that day, and I just thought I'd try and muscle through it.


Last night, CCK and I were headed to a zen event I was in charge of running.  We needed something to eat on the run, so we swung into the Hawthorne Fish House.  Great food, and very lightly fried--not in batter--but brown rice flour.  It's about as low-carb as you can get and still be considered a fish fry. 


I'd totally spaced on the "fried foods" thing and ate a goodly share.

Oi!  The pain really started to hit me about an hour afterwords.  By the time we got back from the event, all I could do was make pathetic noises and grunts.  The thought of moving hurt.  On a 1-10 scale, this was easily a 7.5, and I haven't been there in a long while.  I took some medicine, including naproxen sodium and settled into a very fitful and painful sleep.

I woke up feeling considerably better today, and had no trouble working the workshop that followed.  I actually made cheese omelets for the crew this morning.  Had mine, and a pork sausage patty.  Had fish tacos for lunch.  Then about 3pm, it hit again.  This time it's about a 6.o, and naproxen is back in me.  More medicine to come.  We'll see how it goes.

But the nice thing I had happen today is that I just visited the scale, and I'm down to 243.8!  Admittedly, teh angry gallbladder is a very effective diet, but I don't think that's really it.  I have been eating, but I think the ANA is starting to work again.  They called it: if you stall, just hang in there.  Well, that is being road-tested, to be sure.

Today at the event I was "runner" for, I had a staring contest with a multi-grain cracker.  I won.  Ditto with the hummus, and the apples, and the pears, and the cookies.  But of all of them, the cracker was my greatest challenge.  I even cut up an olive ciabatta.  Not a crumb went into me.

This new strength--this internal fortitude to say 'no'--is so new to me.  At times, I wonder where it's coming from.  Is this really me doing this?  Is this really me who's now lost (depending on where I start counting) over fifty pounds?  Ten of which came off while I was on vacation?  To Wisconsin?!  And if you go from my highest weight (340) nearly a hundred pounds!?  I won't count that number, because that was way back in 2001, but I'll damn sure take the fitty.  That is a real accomplishment, and for the first time in this entire practice--this entire proccess--I'll say this:

I'm proud of myself.

Tonight, JB is coming by.  I took a carcass from a roasted chicken and cooked it with a leek, an onion, a shallot and a few other things along with star anise, cinnamon, clove, coriander seeds and all that whatnot, and will be making phở gà--or Vietnamese chicken soup--my favoirtist soup EVAH.  I'll be road-testing the Shiritaki noodles in this.  Picture and report to follow.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

245-6ish (stalled, but motivated still...)

Frankly, I'm not much concerned with this stall.  I'm not gaining, and at this point, that's still encouraging.

All said and done, I feel better than I have in years.  And years.  And... well, you get the idea.

But a word or two on the stall.  I am really beginning to suspect that this is due in large part to the diuretic.  I'm looking to find some alternatives to the triamterene that I'm on.  Atkins mentions L-Taurine and Co-Enzyme Q10.  I have a feeler out to a naturopath friend of mine for more info.

I got a decent bit of walking in yesterday.  Was in desperate need of a mocha yesterday, so I walked down to the bus stop and grabbed some beans from the store.  I hadn't had breakfast, so I knew a real walk wouldn't do me well with no gas in the tank.  But that was 10 blocks of walk (five on each side of the bus).  Later in the day, I did the full boat 1.6mi round trip.  Again, I didn't really feel like it, but did it anyway.  The walking's the thing, and if I don't do it, nothing really comes off.  So I strapped on the toggs and did it.  This was more of an aerobic walk than normal, because I didn't stop at the store.  I simply walked for the sake of walking, kept going and didn't rest, so it was a good, long, continuous burn.  All said and done, that was about 2 miles of walking yesterday.

Last night my kid was here for the afternoon-evening.  I hadn't really had much to eat all day except for pork rinds and sour cream.  She was hungry and fighting a headache, so I made "white roughy" with mustard/mayo on the grill.  I probably won't be making it again due to the controversy surrounding it.  Apparently it's basa, which is not a roughy at all.  It most certainly didn't taste like roughy, but the texture was similar.  Still tasty, though.  Also made a few chicken drummies over the coals as well.

Today is kinda a big day.  It's the celebration of my hitting my 250lb goal.  CCK and I are spending the day together in a special way.  Should be fun.  And low carb.  Very low carb ;)

Monday, September 20, 2010

248-ish something (Of shoes and saving throws)...

If there was reason to suspect that the 240's aren't here to stay, three days of not seeing 250-anything about stick a fork in it.  Having said that...

I have still not really recovered from my Wisconsin trip, but it's not for lack of trying.  It is, however, from lack of sleep.

JB an I have been seeing more of each-other, which is really nice.  We just get on so well is so many places, low-carb not withstanding.  We've really been feeding off each-other lately, and I saw her Friday afternoon, when we went to pick up her boy, my little buddy QB.  We then went back to my place and made dinner and some other things.  Sunday she came over during the day, and I made chicken thighs and experimented with a country sausage gravy that--while waaaaay too salty--was really tasty over mashed cauliflower.  We then went out to karaoke (with me fulfilling a promise) and had fun.  We stayed up way the hell too late last night, and didn't get to sleep until nearly 6am.  I woke up at about 11:30am today and made us breakfast: omelets with pancetta ham, mushrooms, diced onions and cheddar cheese with bacon along side.  She was thrilled and impressed.  I was wasted tired.

She left about 2pm, and I dorked about on my laptop, trying in vain to get caught up on nothing in particular.  I was dead tired, but knew I needed to go do something.  So I ate a CarbWell bar, strapped on the Keans, and walked.  I know that the exercise is key, so I forced myself, tired as I was.  I didn't even really give myself time to think about it.  I just started by putting on the footwear.  OK, strapped in.  Might as well walk.  I was so on auto-pilot and so tired that I didn't even grab my phone, which is unheard of.

Walking down the hill from my flat, I tripped rather significantly.  I stumbled two or three steps in a row, and thought for sure I was going to wipe out in spectacular fashion, splaying myself out in a heap on someone's lawn.

But I didn't.

And this is interesting.  Yeah, credit the dice with a good saving-throw, but I immediately knew that if this had happened to me before weight-loss (hereafter refered to as simply "BWL") I most assuredly would have been pulling grass out of my mouth.  My knees would have buckled, my hips would have given out, and I'd have gone down like The Hindenblob.

I gathered myself and continued on, grateful but still tired.  I stumbled a few more times.  This was beginning to feel odd.  Yeah, I was tired, and yeah, my right foot drags due to my unsteady gate and disability, but what the hell?  I stopped at a crosswalk and looked at my feet.  I suddenly realized that my feet were too small for this particular pair of shoes now.  Well, I should say that they were too small for the way I'd been wearing them.  I never had to tighten the drawstrings on them before.  My Fred Flintstones were always kinda snug in them.  I walked a bit further, sat on a bus-stop bench, and sinched them in tight.  The walk from that point on was easier.  And safer.  And less spectacular.  Good.

I was still damn tired, and knew that I probably wouldn't do well tackling my regular 1.6mi walk, so I decided to make it a simple (and safer) 1 mile.  On my way back, I got a bit of an idea, and popped briefly into a local pet store.  I found the largest bag of dog food I could find--a 36.5lb bag--and lifted it.  I then reminded myself that I've lost 5.5 pounds more than that bag weighed.  That was how much weight I was schlepping around on my 5'8" frame.  Part of me suddenly felt a slight shame welling up inside of me.  The other part--the larger part now--didn't feel that.  It felt relief and a bit of pride.

This is working.  Finally.  It's working...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I did it! 249.8!!

(Sorry about the picture quality.)  That is a real number.

While I was on vacay in Wisconsin, I fell off the "don't weigh yourself on someone elses' scale" promise wagon, and stepped on my mom's.  It read 245!  I knew that that was not real.  Couldn't be.  But at the same time, I felt an encouragement.  I weighed less than my first goal weight on someone's scale.  For whatever reason.  Maybe it was the latitude.  Gravity may be pulling harder on me in Portland?  Who cares?  I felt energized.

I was so good while in Wisconsin.  At my mom's party, there were buns, mac and potato salad and all the carby rest of it.  There also was cake, and a ginormous birthday cookie.  I had none of it.  Didn't even really feel tempted.  My eldest sister went out of her way to make a pot of veggie something-or-other for me.  She haddn't gotten the memo about my dietary switch-back.  I was so touched, yet I couldn't eat it at all.  It was bean-potato something, so it was like a double poison.  I actually felt really badly about it.  I found out that she has done low-carb as well.  She was a nurse her whole life, and knows her medicine.  She was really encouraging, and it made me feel better about my decision, and about the food she'd made me that I couldn't enjoy.

My other sister (the middle one) had gotten the memo, and went out of her way for me in the other direction.  She'd already made a big pile of chicken with bar-b-que sauce, and when she saw a post of mine on low-carbing it, she went out, got yet more chicken, and made a slightly smaller pile of it for me specifically with no sauce.  Awesomeness.  I had three pieces of chicken, three brats, and a couple of dill pickles, some mustard, and a tiny bit of ketchup.  I felt totally satisfied.  I got to take the rest of the chicken with me, so I had some back-up food at the motel.

I stayed that night in a motel my eldest brother had rented.  They had a fridge in it.  I'd inadvertently left the no-sauce chicken with my mom, and my brother had a pile of the sauced kind in the motel-room fridge.  "Just peel the skin off" he said.  Nope.  I wasn't even inclined to open the fridge.  The following morning, after he hit the road to drive back to Arkansas, I was gathering my stuff in order to swap rooms away from the high-volume-TV-at-4am neighbor, opened the fridge and spotted--along with the sugar-coated-chicken--a huge 2lb bag of "White Mountain Trail Mix" that was full of white chocolate, dried fruit, and about ten different kinds of baked crunchy carbs.  As I was walking down to the front desk, I had to squeeze past a house-cleaning cart with a garbage bag hanging off it.  I tossed the trail mix in like a desperate junkie dumping his last bag of heroin into a toilet.  On one hand, it was kinda sad: Yes, it had come to that.  I was looking at carbohydrates like they were a drug, a poison.  But it was also very empowering, freeing and encouraging.  I was not only able to say "no" to the drug, but I was able to say "yes" to control.

In heroin recovery circles, we have a bit of a combined saying; "Third time's the charm" combined with "Never trust a junkie who's quit smack once."  This essentially speaks to the following: it's actually easier to quit a drug or addictive substance when you've bottomed out and are lying face-down in the gutter.  You're miserable, you're in pain, and you're desperate.  You'll try anything to get clean.  So you quit the junk to avoid pain.  The trouble happens when things start looking up.  You're back in control somewhat.  You feel a bit empowered as far as avoiding temptations.  Then, a little voice in your head says Ya know, we're better than we used to be at this.  Maybe we can do it again and stay in control?  Yeah, I bet we can.  So you fail.  You feel like hell.  You know you made a mistake, so you climb back on the wagon.  Then the watershed moment.  You're back in control, and then something in life goes really wrong, totally pear-shaped.  You use again out of the fear of pain and suffering, to feel that instant rush of familiar--yet false--comfort and relief.  Then you are faced with a choice: the faux relief of the anesthetized state, or the tough--yet real and honest--world of sobriety.  You choose sobriety for its own sake.  You choose it in the tough times, not merely in the good times.  You choose it for no other reason than its base honesty.  You have finally comprehended that the honesty, the truth, is what has been missing from your life this whole time.  It, and it alone, is what has been exacerbating your pain.  The avoidance of the experiencing of pain has caused you to suffer more, not less.  So you say "I want to be real.  I want to feel what's real".

I want to feel what's real.

249.8 is real.  And it feels good.

The rest of the trip was really great.  Great on so many levels.  But there was some sadness, and it was weight related.  My eldest brother, who's lost over a hundred pounds at least ten times according to him, is back up to nearly or over 300lbs again.  He has degenerative disc disease, and has virtually no discs in his entire spine that are whole anymore.  He has such a hard time moving.  He is in so much pain.  When he awoke and rolled over, he let out a groan/yelp that sounded like someone snuck into the room and was stabbing him in the face with dull forks.  It was heart-breaking.

Next, I went and had a very quality hang-out with one of my oldest and closest friends, KK.  K had always been rather thin and healthy when we were teens and young men.  But the middle-aged Wisconsin life and diet of beer and stuff-on-carbs with a side of carbs had taken its toll, and by about 2003 or so, he was up to my realm of weight.  When I saw him at my father's memorial, I barely recognized him.  This past week, we were at about the same place weight-wise.  I tried to gently encourage him to think about trying the ANA.  We made a very carb-friendly dinner: roasted chicken on the grill and mashed cauliflower with cream cheese.  It was fantastic.

The rest of the trip was full of people wanting to support me with this approach.  My old college philosophy professor, MCEP, made a great stir-fry of free-range chicken and "Chinese-uh-Vegetable" (inside joke), and did make it more challenging by making Basmati rice for he and his wife.  It was more challenging less about rice being present than because he actually knows how to properly prepare rice.  I just had extra chicken and veg, and was totally pleased.  He and his vastly-better-half had done ANA, and were beyond supportive.

My greatest weapon during the trip were my Atkins bars.  I always had them with me, so I was able to maintain energy even at kind of challenging times (most notably, the airports).  When I felt depleted, I'd have a bar, and that would sate me.  On my way home, waiting at MKE, I knew I hadn't had anything real to eat that day, so I ducked into a Chili's in my concourse just a few yards from my gate and had a Mesquite Chicken Breast salad with bacon, cheese and ranch dressing.  They serve it with BBQ sauce, which I simply didn't use, and had them skip the roasted corn relish.  I felt totally satisfied.

I got a good walk in yesterday, running to the store for a few things.  Last night, JB and I got to hang out and have dinner together with her son QB.  We had a tiny bit of a low-carb freak-out feast.  I made grilled chicken and pork loin cutlets over oak coals.  JB totally dazzled me with tuna-cakes (think "crab cakes") and this absolutely fantastic cheesecake pudding that we topped with this sugar-free chocolate fudge sauce I picked up while we were all out shopping.  We also took KK's mashed cauliflower to a new high by making it with cream- and fontina cheese and some garlic powder, whizzed up in the food processor until smooth.  It tasted all the world like mashed potatoes!!!!  We both commented to each-other how helpful, and just plain ol' nice it is to have a friend in our lives who is doing low-carb as well that you can cook with, hang out with, and both support and be supported by.

Last night, I weighed 250.6.  This morning, 249.8.

What a journey this has been...

Friday, September 17, 2010

250.6!!! WHILE ON VACATION!!!!

How do you like THAT?  Ten pounds in a week!  I will keep this brief and elaborate a bit in another post, but:

  1. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be.
  2. I had very little temptation, and was in total control the whole time.
  3. I had plenty of energy the whole week.
  4. I did get plenty of walking in.  The airports made sore of that.
  5. I feel better than ever before.
  6. People are really noticing now, not the least of whom is me.

Friday, September 10, 2010

260 (again, again...)

Well, I'm back on the diuretic.  Two days off: five pounds back on.  Disheartening, but understandable.  I went back on for a few reasons.  1) I think I still actually need it for my hypertension, 2) I still suffer from edema, and really don't need to feel that awful when I travel, and admittedly 3) Gaining weight sucks.  I'll have to come off it sometime, I know, but I don't think now is it.  I already feel better, and I am down to 260-and-change again from 264-5.

Tomorrow starts the madness.  My former wife's wedding, then the reception, then the flight, then the layover, then the other flight, then hopefully a nap, then the party for my mom, then the rest of the time spent seeing old friends.  Some very old (friendship-wise, not chronologically).  I'm concerned about eating, especially with the money involved.  I have most dinner arrangements made to dine with friends and family who are willing to make me things I can eat that are low carb, but the mornings are likely to be up to me.  I need to go get some Atkins bars to have along with me during the day.  I hope it will be a fun trip.  I know I'll get quite a bit of walking and schlepping in at least.  I'll weigh myself tomorrow morning, then no weigh-ins until I return.  I'm practicing not caring about what the number is in the event that I gain weight while gone.  We'll see.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

260 (but I have a really good excuse, I swear!)

After going through a few flaming hoops last week to get my next 90-day supply, I have decided to go off of my diuretic blood pressure medication.  Now nobody start freaking out on me because of this; I'm taking good care of myself, I promise.  But diuretics or "water pills"--while rather effective at dealing with mild to moderate hypertension--are not very helpful when you're doing a low carbohydrate diet.  As a matter of fact, they are anti-helpful, and actually keep you from entering ketosis.  As a result of the combination of constipation and retaining a bit of water, I'm back up to 260.  But I want my numbers to be real numbers.  I need them to be real.  I'm okay with 260.  It's still quit a bit of progress over these past months.

Diuretics tend to tweak your kidneys so that they pass lots of fluid out of your system (by design).  However, in the process, they tend to leech lots of vitamins, minerals, aminos and important acids out of your system before they're actually done with their important jobs.  It's a trade-off: trade excess fluid that builds blood pressure for an inefficient body pH and malabsorption of bio-available nutrients.  When hypertension is moderate to high, there's no question that it's a good trade-off.  But I have actually been feeling so much better blood-pressure-wise that I know that I'm needing them less, and frankly, taking diuretics when you don't actually need them isn't very wise either.  To top it all off, diuretics actually exacerbate constipation, so there's even more reason to try life without them.

I had lunch with a buddy yesterday at our tavern of choice.  It was a bit of a challenge.  I'd never read the "meat" menu.  I wound up with a ginormous Mediterranean chicken salad that was rather good, and made with actual GREEN lettuce, and not just empty iceberg or romane.  But there's scant else on the menu I can eat.  Lots of beef (which I won't touch because it's not organic), and the rest of the sarnie side is just that: bread, bread, bread, bread, bread.  At least I have that salad.  My buddy commented on how much better I'm moving around.  Hell, for me, that's as much a compliment as "you're looking great!"  This falls squarely into the realm of "I'll take what I can get"-ville.  People noticing means there's externally noticeable progress, and that's all good.  It matches up with how much better I feel physically and internally (minus the constipation, of course).

Afterwards, I spent the evening with my friend JB who is serious low-carb, and was a bit of an impetus to me in trying this ANA for myself.  She brought over a "test loaf" of a turkey meatloaf she made, which was stellar.  I tossed it on the grill along with the rest of the Johnsonville brats (that I had that needed to be cooked before I left town anyway).  We chatted about how nice it is to have people in your life that you're close to doing this eating-style as well.  And it certainly is.  No question.  We had a really nice evening of low-carb chit-chat and reinforcing each-other.  She's a Wisconsin girl, and appreciated the mothers-milk bratwurst, too.

My daughter's headed over here in a tick.  Yesterday, she had me prepare her rice. RICE!  I had none of it.  Not one grain.  I even prepared her the stir-fry she was going to make, but when the time came, she was where?  On the phone.  I was comforted in making her the food regardless, and while I have joked with her about her evilness at demanding carbs, it really didn't phase me at all.  I really didn't feel tempted by it all that much, and it didn't seem to negatively impact me or cause a craving that I felt the need to push down.

I had been chatting with JB about how one of the things I like most about the ANA is that I have a consistent level of energy throughout the day now, as opposed to these highs and crashes that come with unstable blood-sugar from both a high-carb diet and with low-cal dieting.  Even when I'm hungry, I'm not on fumes like I was.  That's a huge help to me.  My mood is stable, my brain is more clear, and I have no real cravings like I used to.  That alone is enough to keep me at this.

Monday, September 6, 2010

259 (and grumpy...)

In my defense, I haven't had a movement since LAST @#%@ FRIDAY, so I suspect that that's the vast majority of my "problem".  I shall fix that.

The whole bowel thing is really irritating.  It's keeping me from walking.  It's making me feel a tad enslaved, which I don't like.  I'm drinking fiber daily, and no luck.  I've upped my water intake.  No luck.

Whinge, whinge, whinge.

I have to go have lunch with a friend today.  The tavern we hang out at together.  Pub food.  I've no idea what I'll eat.  Back when I was a veg, it was a veggie burger (which is awesome there) onion rings and fries.  I've never looked at the meat side of that menu.   I think he has a turkey sandwich.  Hopefully chicken.  We'll see.

Just a bit down today, I guess.

Happy Labor Day, everybody...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

256.2 (Randomness...)

Just blogging for the sake of consistency today.  It seems that a daily blurb here helps me stay focused, although I have to say that I haven't been finding it all that bloody hard to stay focused on this task.  That's refreshing.  Every other time I've tried to lose weight, it's been such a fight. Yes, there were up times and moments when I felt empowered, but for the most part, it was drudgery of the first order.  This is... easier.


Well, I have been, I suppose, but it's been pretty damn minimal.  I guess by "cheating" I'm referring to the induction phase of ANA (or "Atkins Nutritional Approach").  I have been having more than 20g carbs a day for the past week, which is why things are a bit slow I suppose.  But I've minimized things where I could.  Yesterday, I made two Johnsonville Brats for dinner. 1g carb each.  I made them into wraps in low-carb tortillas (3g each) with dill relish, onions and brown mustard (0g each).  But these were the first Johnsonville brats I've had in almost 10 years.  It woulda been an insult to not put ketchup on them.  So I went sparingly.  They were really good.  I'm making bacon cheeseburgers tonight, and will use them again.  I need to back off on the cheese a bit, though.  Need to stick with the harder cheeses and not so much fresh mozzarella.  Oh well.

The mocha is now going to be a weekly--not daily--thing, as it should be.  I'm going to make the low-carb version when my sweetie is here with me.  Most likely Sunday mornings.  I skipped it today.


Well, firstly, it's really nice to have someone doing this with me.  My sweetie, CCK, is doing this at the same time, wanting to shed about 10-15lbs.  It's already working for her, too.  She's done Atkins before, and jumped right back on it.  Her encouragement and support is invaluable to me.  We rant to the Low-Carb Nation store together, and had fun looking at all the (admittedly overpriced) goodies.

Support is also coming in from other places.  Old friends from afar finding out about this from Facebook posts, popping into this blog, people in my sangha noticing the weight-loss unsolicited, then asking how I'm doing it, even my sensei.  They are all encouraging me onwards, even taking the switch back to an animal-based diet into account.  They know I'm doing it very conscientiously, even when at the same time the decision has pained me somewhat.

Support has also popped up at my local Mondo-Mart!  I walked down there this morning to get leafy green salad mix, some avocados and an onion, and was hoping they'd carry the low-carb Heinz ketchup (DAMN YOU KETCHUP!!!)  Nope.  But while walking out the store, I happened to pass by a section that I'd never seen before.  They have a little section of low-carb and sugar-free stuff, including a bunch of things the LCN store carries, and lo and behold: SUGAR FREE KETCHUP!!!  I got that, and a sugar-free dark chocolate bar for CCK and I to have after dinner tonight as a special desert treat.


What to say here?  To say that this is a practice in mindful eating is an understatement.  But this is not like the obsessively niggling pain of counting calories.  I mean, I pretty much need only count to twenty.  I can handle that.  I am also finding a new joy in the freedom that this eating approach affords me.  I'm not as focused on food as I had been in the past.  Food for me now is an exercise in simplicity.  I like that.  I like to savor the things I'm eating, not cram them in as fast as I can.  I'm more satisfied with less food now than I once was, but at the same time, I'm not munchy again in 90min.  I'm not constantly thinking about what I'm going to eat next while still chewing something I'm eating now.  That is beyond helpful, and again, very freeing.


I crave a whole lot less than I did, that's for sure.  Yes, I still feel the tug of the sweet-tooth, but it's really diminished.  I don't partake in the sangha "tea and cookies" after sitting anymore, even to reward myself for having a "good food day".  My sweet needs are now covered pretty well by a low-carb snack bar.  Bread is still a bit tricky, mostly in the bun department.  I'll be perfectly happy with the low-carb wrap solution for now, but when I return from my Wisconsin visit, I'm going to get down to work on making home-made low-carb hamburger buns.  I've found a few resources on-line that use muffin-top baking pans, and low-carb flour that looks promising.


That may be taking a rest.  I think I'm going to switch to a weekly weigh-in.  Sunday mornings.  I'll do it tomorrow, and then when I get back from traveling.

That's all for now.  See you on the flip-side.

Friday, September 3, 2010

255.8 (Woops! Drank shower water and now 256.2!)

So I haven't been walking like I had been.  I've been stalled back up at about 260 for a few days.  But by "stalled", I of course mean my sewerage system.  I stopped taking the fiber laxative I'd had on hand because it has a $^@%-load of sugar in it.  No laxative--something that should make you $^@%--should have a $^@%-load of anything in it but fiber!  So I now have the sugar-free version.  Took that this morning, after the low-carb mocha I shouldn't have had, hoping for aid.

No joy.

Well, I did some work, watched a documentary on Netflix, cleaned my kitchen island, waited, and...


So I ate an Atkins bar (Yum! But damn the carbs, even the Net ones).


I figured that by this time, nothing was likely to happen.  Probably.  I needed to go make a (very meager) deposit at the bank about 3/4 a mile from here.  My landlord's been letting me use his truck while he can't drive (detached retina), so I could have driven, but I needed--and wanted--to walk.  It was a warmish day, and I really wanted to walk before it got hotter.  I know that the lack of exercise is expressly one of the things that's keeping the weight-loss creeping along, and I want it to go faster.  So I wrapped up my domestics, slapped on the Keans, and headed out.

I have a little system for, shall we say, "emergency rescue".  I walk on the side of the street that takes me with the flow of traffic.  If I suddenly get alerts from the, uhhh... "Waste Management Dept", I can stop at a bus stop, hang out and hopefully get rescued in time.

And that, of course, is exactly what happened.  Fortunately, I made it into the local Mondo-Mart down the street with time to spare.  I have visited this bathroom more times this summer than I care to admit.  Well, honestly, I don't care either way.  I'm grateful that it's there and public.  But I'm so familiar with that 'loo that I have my preferred stall, and am well versed in local lore: who gives up the goods after three PBR's, who is a total stoner, and what the Fourth Reich is up to, as well as what local bands are full of, apparently.

So, yeah.  Relief.  And...  umm... and how.  'Nuff said.  As a vegetarian, I really didn't have this problem.  This constipation is like a return to the bad ol' days of me eating meat for me.  As a spinal cord injury survivor, the bladder and bowel control are things #1 & #2 to go (hehe... see what I did there? '#1' & '#2'?  Heheheh... heh... anyway) and I have suffered that issue rather painfully since I was 15.  But if I have to suffer it again for this to work, I'm fine with it.  I have my sugar-free fiber-2-go stuff, and it'll be a twice-daily thing.

I walked back to the flat from the bank.  Check that: I floated.  Good lord, I felt like a feather.  A hot, sweaty feather, admittedly, but a helluva lot lighter than I set out.  Peeled off the sweaty stuff and headed to the shower.


So, that is my real, current body weight.  Seriously, though, after drinking some shower water to rehydrate the insides, and absorbing some through the skin, it was 256.2.  O! sweet water of life.  Why must you weight 8.3lbs/gallon?  I have been drinking more water lately.  It's important to the process for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my bowels.  So I've been really trying.

But back to the weigh-in.  I do believe that if I keep this up, I should make my first goal of 250 on time.  That will be big.  I will celebrate.  I will celebrate without food!  I will not do what I used to do and use success as an excuse to undermine myself and aim myself back to failure.  I have saved something special for myself for this occasion.  Some may say it's silly.  I don't.  It's very special to me, and I have saved this for years.  A special little treat that I have reserved for the two-five-oh, and I didn't give in and enjoy it at 253 back in 2007 or whenever it was.  I wanted to earn it.  It will be nice.  I will wait until I actually hit 249 or lower, so I know that 250 is real.

I'm all about reality now.

P.S.: Hope you enjoy the new masthead logo.  That's the tub that was custom-made for the 27th President of the United States--William Howard Taft. A notorious tubby if ever there was one, Taft--or "The Big Lub"--was too big to fit comfortably in the White House master bath tub, so he had this made and installed.  Acording to the Wiki gods: "Weighing over 300 pounds (140 kg) on average, Taft was physically the heaviest American president ever elected, and the last president to have facial hair."[3]

A side note: At my max, I weighed about 30-40lbs more than "The Big Lub" ever did.  Must be the facial hair...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Frying in the face of danger...

So, according to an ideal weight calculator page, I should weight somewhere between 126-207lbs.  Now there's a specific target, huh? 0.o  I think were I 126lbs, I'd look like Ghandi, and if I were 207, I'd still call myself fat.  The top end of the Medically Recommended Ideal Weight for a person my height is 167lbs, or approximately 91lbs from here (258).  That shocked me.  I'm less than 100lbs away from anyone's "ideal" weight!  That was a bit of a thrill.

Now, to reality.

I stopped to think about it just now.  I think 167 may be a bit... I don't know.  I can't even envision myself at that weight.  Then I stopped myself and realized that I've never been able to envision myself at that kind of weight, or in that kind of health.  Never.  I have spent my whole life being fat.  Huge.  Morbidly obese.  I don't think I have a circuit in my head that can conjure up that kind of visualization!

But on the other hand, there is something new going on in my head.  Something very different.  There is a voice in there now that is gently encouraging me to do so.  For the first time in my life, I feel that this may be possible.  It's thrilling.  It's scary.  It's empowering.

I am still concerned that 167 may be a bit pork-chop-in-the-sky (remember: no pie!) but I am now seeing that setting a few reasonable goals may be worth-while.  Now, I think that setting date-specific goals would be counter-productive: an unneeded pressure to succeed at something I'm so new at.  I haven't really experienced any of the major pitfalls or stalls yet, so I'm not sure how long they'll take to get passed.  Add to that the fact that at some point in this weigh-tloss, my doctor is going to tell me it's time to come off the diuretic for my hypertension, so I may gain some water weight back after that.  But I am beginning to think that 10lbs a month for at least the next three or even four months is reasonable and do-able.  After that, I think 5lbs a month is not unrealistic.  Also, the 167 number just seems a bit low, so I'm gonna pick an ideal weight for me as 175.  175?  I can't even believe I'm saying that!

So, having said all that, here are my goals:
  •  250 by 09/15/2010: This goal is a bit of a big deal for me.  You may recall from reading earlier on in the blog that I missed this a few years ago by three lbs.  It will be the lowest weight I've been at since high-school.
  • 240 by 10/29/2010: This is the date of the beginning of the Mindful Eating retreat that CCK and I plan to attend at Great Vow Zen Monastery.  I will be able to say that I've lost a hundred pounds since 2003, and over fifty pounds since April 3rd, 2010.
  • 235 by 11/15/2010: This is the date of the beginning of the Generosity Sesshin at Great Vow, which I am planning on attending.  This will be my first "sesshin", or formal zen monastic week-long meditation silent retreat.  The vast majority of the reason why I have been so nervous about sesshin is due to my weight.
  • 225 by 12/17/2010: This is the first day of the Beginner's Mind retreat, which I also plan to attend.
  • 220 by 01/01/2011: That would be an average of about 10lbs a month for 4 months.
At that point, I'll be 45lbs over my "ideal weight goal".  By this time, I really do expect the weight loss to slow somewhat from all I've read.  Taking that into account, it means that at a very reasonable (and frankly, modest) 5lbs a month, I could conceivably be at 175 by this time next year.

Now, I'm not going to really hold on to anything more than the goal of 250.  The rest just seems so ephemeral.  But if I am going to start visualizing myself as this wholly different person, I should also allow myself the ability to think about when it may happen.

Here's to the future.  Now where's my jet pack?

258.6 (and the ketosis dream becomes reality...)

So I went running around with CCK today after we got up.  First, I made low-carb mochas (which are pretty durn nommy, if'in you ask me, and only 10g carb -vs- the vegan mocha I used to make that totals a whopping 46g!) and mushroom omelets with garlic jack cheese and bacon.  I really am becoming Le roi des omelette du' fromage.  Good thing I really love eggs in all their forms!  Anyhoo, we went to the Low Carb Nation store in the area (sort of: it's a bit of a drive).  Last night, I was bemoaning a desire for cheesecake.  Today, we walk in, look in the freezer case, and spy "Frozen Cheesecake On A Stick".

OMFGLOWCARBPWNIES!!!  Man that thing was good!  They said to let it thaw first.  Yeah.  I heard her say that right before my last bite.  I got some no-carb barbecue sauce, some low-carb baking mix, and an Atkin's low-carb chocolate peanut-butter cups.  At some point I need to come up with a low-carb bread/bun/roll solution.  Glad I'm also a good baker.  I can't really manage to pay $8 for 6 hamburger buns!  And eventually, I WILL eat bread again.  Meanwhile, the baking mix is primarily to work towards one thing: PIZZA CRUST!  I have not switched over to a meat-and-cheese diet without being allowed to eat a fracking pizza!  No-sir-ee-bob.  I'll get it figured out.

Then on to Costco for meat-madness.  6.5lb bag of Chicken thighs, a three pack of organic ground beef, a box of Splenda, a huge two-pack of both turkey and pork bacon, and finally, a home-grown treat: a 20-count box of Johnsonville Brats!  Charlie Murphy[1] would be pleased.

On the way home, I stopped at some gal's house and picked up a bottle of Bayer ketosis test strips that she had no use for (-via- Freecycle).  When I got home, I was able to test myself for the first time, and I am already about 80% into ketosis!  The results showed "moderate" which is one step away from "full-on".  This most likely is the reason why the weight-loss has started again after a stall.  That, combined with the scale reading today, makes me smile inside and out!

If anyone ever tells you that low-carb and Atkins are BS, respond with a polite "BS to you too" because you now know someone who is living proof that this works.  It is easy, it is fulfilling, it is energizing, it is affordable, and I think it may be my ticket to a different life...

[1] For those not fortunate enough to have been raised in the Cheese Belt, "Charlie Murphy" was a character in the Johnsinville bratwurst ad campaign in the 80's.

259.2 (and an obseration on fat math...)

So, I've discovered that if I go to bed weighing approximately the same as I did when I wake up (with a day's meals in and no, um... "deposit"), I'm about to drop a pound.  I am not scale obsessed.  I find it helpful to track my weight throughout the day, so I have a sense of what "real numbers" are.  I am, however, considering switching to a weekly weigh-in on Sundays.

I am really feeling the difference in my body; how I move, my energy levels, my stamina.  I know I'm not even it ketosis yet.  This is really encouraging.  I have, for the first time, a sense that this low-carb way of living may really benefit me in the long-haul.  I am starting to envision myself in the future, and the image that was once a wild dream that I never really allowed myself to even so much as entertain now seems a possibility.

The craving for carbs and sugar has really diminished.  It's almost as if it only has an aesthetic appeal, and not the magnetic, black-hole-gravity draw that it used to.  Although I miss bread and potatoes, I miss them less than I thought I would.

I stumbled upon an offer on of someone giving away a pile of ketone test strips.  I'm going to go pick them up today.  Damn handy.  I guess those things are really pricey.  Probably going to pursue the Low Carb Nation store today with my CCK.  She's doing excellently as well, and has jumped past her initial goal of 150lbs (sorry, dear-heart.  I meant "10.5 stone" ;).  It's nice doing this with someone.  Anyway, I don't think I'll hit my 250 goal by the time I'm back in Wisconsin for my mom's birthday party unless I really ratchet up the exercise.  Who knows, though.  At this stage, I think anything may be possible.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

260, and I'm still happy with that...

Induction has been put on hold for a few days out of necessity.  Justa bunch of stuff going on.  Good news is, even though I haven't been exercising quit as much as I'd been before, no weight is going back on, I still feel good, have more energy, and am optimistic that the progress will continue.

In a few weeks, I fly back to my old home-town, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for my mom's 80th birthday celebration.  I imagine this will be an easier trip than when I was an active vegetarian, that's for sure.  I had been holding out hope that by the time I went back, I'd be 250, but I question whether that'll be the case or not.  I'm fine if it's not.  Honestly.

I'm looking into a gym membership for the winter months.  That may be a better solution than trying to cram a stationary bike and an elliptical machine in this tiny place.  Plus, it'll get me out of the house.  The place I'm inquiring to is about a quarter-mile walk right down the street from me, so I'll have the ability to walk there and back, even if it's crappy out, which it soon will be.  Unfortunately, they're undergoing a major renovation right now, and I don't know when that location will be open again.  The place--One With Heart--is a combo dojo and fitness center.  They're Indonesian-based Tulen.  They also offer Tai Chi, which I'd really like to start doing again.  If the price is right, I think the place could really be a good fit.

I'm thinking about trying to make beef bourguignon out in my smoker grill.  I think the smoky taste and the bourguignon sauce would be awesome together.  Just do one side of the grill as the hot side, and roast everything else in an aluminum pan on the "cool" side.  Could work.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog post...

Just got on the scale before a shower, and was 259.8.  Man, it's been so long since I was in the 25x's!

260! (Induction begins...)

Well, to say that the low-carb thing is working is minimizing it.  And I haven't even been doing it properly.  Well, it's now time to start, all proper-like.  But first, a few pictures.

That strapping lad to the right is me, circa 1982 or '83. I was about 14, and a freshman in high-school.  Tubby my entire life, this was me at my most healthy.  Ever.  I was playing freshman football (nose-guard / defensive end) until I tweaked my knee / ACL.  I never got to play an actual game under lights, but the exercise and weight-training helped get me in the best shape in my life up to that point.  I was also in swing choir, and was doing a lot of dancing.  Additionally, we had a 24' above ground swimming pool in our back yard.  I swam daily.

This pool is a very formative part of my life's picture.  Shortly after this photo was taken (on July 31st, 1983) I dove "wrong" into that very pool and impacted the bottom with my full body mass directly on my head, shattering my C4 and dislocated my C5 vertebrate.  Instantly paralyzed, I drowned.  That incident is a different story for a different time, but it lays the groundwork for the next 27 years of my life.  I went from a BMI of about 16 to 26 or so in a matter of weeks as muscles atrophied and lack of mobility quickly converted muscle tissue to fat.

To say that I've struggled with my weight since then is such an understatement that it's almost laughable.  The short form is this: I have always comforted myself with food.  Always.  And the years and decades that followed only saw that coping mechanism grow and grow.  Frankly, it grew in exactly the same proportion that my gut did.

Fast forward a few decades. It's now 2008.  I'm a vegan, and have been for three years.  At one point I was a 290lb vegan.  Now, I want to make this very clear: veganism is great, and practicing it really helped me understand food better, and it also helped me sharpen a few very useful cooking and baking skills.  So I want to reinforce that it wasn't veganism or vegetarianism that kept me fat.  It was me alone who did that.  This picture is me at the lowest weight I'd been at since highschool: 253 or thereabouts.  I'd been dieting (low-fat LCD) and exercising pretty regularly, including some pretty strenuous back-yard and construction work on the house and yard that my then-wife and I'd just moved into.  I was pretty happy about things, and about my progress, although I'd slowed in the weight-loss department recently due to a bit of a carb-laden blowout 40th birthday weekend in San Francisco.  Some upsetting personal news when I got back put me into a bit of an emotional shock, and obliterated my appetite.  I went from 258 to 253 in about a week.  The strife resolved, and I relaxed and started feeling a more normal appetite return.

I'd held a goal of hitting 250 for quite a while, so getting this close was a near-victory in and of itself.  And what does one do when victory seems within sight?  Why celebrate, of course!  So, I started getting lazy (or more correctly, I started eating a more reasonable amount of calories again, since frankly I'd been starving myself up until that point).  Refined carbs were back, and the weight started coming back on.  Quickly.  I'd missed my goal by three pounds,  Three pounds!  I'd never been that close to that goal in my adult life.  I got close.

Then life changed.

In late 2008, a slew of things happened that made life vastly more challenging than it'd ever been before.  My estranged step-daughter returned from California with a raging heroin addiction, and came to me for help in getting clean (something I fortunately or unfortunately have skill in myself).  My relationship with my then-wife had been in a state of flux for the better part of six months, and this was presenting its own challenges.  In early November of that year, I asked my partner for a divorce.  While amicable as could be hoped for, it was still emotionally devastating.  I was now 41, with an addicted kid, heart-wounded, unemployed, with no prospects, no resources, and very little direction.  I remembered "celebrating" Christmas eve (not that I observe Christmas) by eating a half-pound of brie, a quarter pound of smoked gouda, and a box of crackers.  By myself.  It got worse from there.

I stayed in the house with my step-daughter (hereafter referred to simply as "my daughter" because I consider her so and always will), slowly going through the accumulated crap in my life, trying to figure out what in the hell to do next, where to go, how to live, and getting progressively more depressed.

In January of 2009, I applied for residency at Great Vow Zen Monastery (the monastery my sangha operates in northwestern Oregon).  I thought this was a brilliant idea.  As a resident, you are only required to contribute towards the cost of your food (about $500 a month).  I could afford that.  Cheaper than renting my own place.  It'd give me time to work on my issues, my stress, and my zen practice (which had become increasingly more important to me the year prior), lose some of the weight I'd put back on, and possibly save some money.  I applied for residency before I'd ever gone on retreat.  That was a less-than-skillful decision on my part.

In early March of 2009, I went on weekend retreat.  This retreat--Beginner's Mind--while calendar short, was long on experience.  One thing this retreat taught me was that I was in no way, shape or form ready for monastic life at Great Vow.  I was back up to about 290, and simply couldn't cut it.  I remember the heart palpitations as I walked down to the dining hall for breakfast.  I remember the constant sweating, the dizziness as I stood up from my chair, the near-black-out I had after walking kinhin.  At the closing circle of the retreat two days later, when it was my turn to share any insights I'd had, I shared this: "I know I'm not ready to live here.  Not yet, anyway..."

-To Be Continued-

Friday, August 27, 2010

Oh, and one or two other things...

Firstly, I just popped on the scale, and the number was 261.6!  Admittedly, I haven't had anything to eat today except a mocha, but... ummm... whatevah!

And something I wanted to relay from last night.  I had a Communications Team meeting yesterday to discuss progress on our "new" website.  It was at a local Lebanese restaurant down the street from the zendo.  I have to pat myself on the back for this one.  I was soooooo good.  Everyone was eating hummus, pita, falafel, tabouli, etc.  I ordered a Mediterranean chicken salad.  I knew it would be hard sitting mere inches away from all those carbohydrates, so I preemptively rewarded myself by ordering an additional chicken skewer.  I even refrained from Turkish coffee (which has nearly as much sugar as coffee).  I still felt sated.  I left full.  Then off to the zendo.

After zazen and service, I cut out just a touch early (mostly to avoid the "tea & cookies" portion of the evening).  I was sitting at the bus stop across the street from the Dharma center.  A friend walked by on her way to her car, and sat down on the bench next to me.

"I can't place it, but something looks different about you?"

"Well, it's not my hair-cut," (zen joke: I shave my head).  "It's probably that I've dropped nearly thirty pounds since July 1st" I replied.

"That's IT!  Your face looks different!  You look great!"

We went on to discuss the whole critter issue.  She mentioned that she was considering adding meat back into her diet as well.

It's nice when people notice.  It's even nicer to know why they notice, and moreover, that they at times face the same quandaries you do.

The truth is, we all do.

Finally, some movement! (262-ish)...

Hehehe.  I said "movement".  The constipation is still here, but I'm back on psyllium-husk therapy, and that's... uhhh... "helping things along" as it were.  Bit of a drag, though, insofar as my genera-mucil stuff is CHOCK-A-BLOCK FULLA SUGAR!!!!  $^@$!!  I'll investigate tablet-form this week.

It's pretty nice to get on the scale and see that this is actually working again.  After having been stalled at roughly 264-5 since August 8th, I was getting a bit discouraged.  That's only natural, I suppose.  And it was complicated and exacerbated by this ethical dilemma regarding a diet based on critters.  I won't say that I'm not still a tad conflicted.  I also won't say that I'm not enjoying eating meat.  I'm only comfortable with being one kind of hypocrite at a time, please.

So, I made the final jump.  A few days ago, I ate beef for the fist time in nearly seven-or-so years.  Up until very recently (even post-LC) I swore that I'd never eat beef again.  I find the US beef industry to be one of the most hideous, insidious, hell-born pain machines ever to blight the Earth that Joseph Mengele didn't have an active hand in.  I still do.  But I've never been one to say that my former vegetarianism was a result of being repulsed by taste.  Truth is, animals taste good, and that includes beef.  But quite frankly, I also do firmly believe that there is BSE in the USA, and that it's here to stay.  But you can avoid exposure by buying and eating organic, grass-fed beef (which I do anyhow).  BSE is caused and spread by forcing cows to be cannibals, and feeding them cattle offal mixed in to their feed.  I refuse to participate in that cycle, and decided to buy two very nice organic sirloins for my girl and myself.  Certified Organic (Oregon Tilth) inherently means "all vegetarian feed" in the case of beef.  I will say that it tasted divine.  Check that: $^@*ing awesome.  To say anything else would be a bold-faced lie.  Frankly, I think that would be a greater breach of precepts than the eating of meat itself.

The whole issue has raised so many challenging points of practice for me.  I realize that this period of my life--this whole weight-loss issue--is really the true core of my practice, critter-eating included.  Ahiṃsā is something that is so dear to me, yet for years and years, I haven't had the ability or willingness (or, frankly, the guts) to focus that light upon myself.

Non-harming?  I wonder if there is a Pali word for "non-self-harming"?  I have been killing myself softly with good intentions about food for years.

May all animal-beings achieve enlightenment, even before me...

Monday, August 23, 2010

More on the Great Matter...

Last night (Sunday) was sanzen, or "private interview with the teacher" night at my zendo.  This is a very important part of my practice.  I'd go so far as to say that it's the core of my zen practice currently.  I took the food/meat issue to my teacher.  In sanzen, I told him that I'd made this decision, and that it was helping me with the weight (something he'd already encouraged me to deal with).  I told him of how conflicted I felt.  Guilt.  Hypocrisy.  My teacher has been a vegetarian (not vegan; do not attempt to mess with sensei's cheese!) for decades.

Now understand something: I was not there for any kind of approval or permission.  I was there to ask him if he had any advice or tools to help me deal with this feeling of internal conflict.  He immediately started to relay the story of His Holiness--The Dalai Lama and his cows and chickens.  HH wanted to help as many animals as he could.  He had a farm within sight of where he lived, and wanted to ease suffering, so he bought all the cows and chickens in order to keep them from being eaten.  He very quickly realized that he had--through good motivation--made the situation much worse because now he had hundreds of animals to see tended to, and no one to do it.  If I remember rightly, many of the animals suffered and died due to unskilled care, and went to waste because of it, and some beings went hungry because of his "kind" act.

My sensei looked at me and said essentially this: The key is to take suffering and turn it into something positive.  No energy in the Universe is ever wasted.  It all moves forward.  That suffering--farmed animals--is undeniable.  But if you are skillful with that energy, you can transform that energy into something positive by way of your own health.  That way, you relieve suffering (your own), and you affect the karma of those animals in a positive way, too, because while their lives may have been forced into existence, their deaths would not have been completely in vain.  That is a noble practice.

That's still hard to swallow (pardon the expression) but I do see the point, and the validity of it.

So now I'm going to walk down to the store and get some hardwood charcoal, some more bacon and a roasting chicken to do Vietnamese-style on the smoker grill.  Looks like a dharma friend may be by for dinner tonight.  He's a line-cook at a local restaurant.  I checked if he was a vegetarian, and he said "No not strict.  Mainly due to work.  Gotta taste what I cook."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

264 (But SOMETHING has changed)...

Well, no super weight-loss.  Sorta plateau'd, but I'm not concerned really.  Most of my clothes are starting to fall off, and belts are once again rather important.  I like that.

The change.  In one of my recent posts, I talked about strugling with the decission to eat animal flesh again, beyond fish.

Well, I am.  At least for now.

About a week or so ago, I tried turkey bacon.  I picked turkey bacon specifically so my girlfriend (who's an observant, reform Jew) could have some, too.  It was good.  I didn't faint from ecstasy or anything, but it was tasty.  Then this past Wednesday, I made the decission to open up the floodgates and let chicken and pork back in.  Pork was a less painful (for me) choice.  I got some good, smoked-cured pepper bacon.  Had it.  It was good.  Again, no spontaneous orgasm, but it tasted good.

There's been a ground-swell of a movement in the world--and here in Portland--regarding bacon.  It's nearly cult-like.  T-shirts, songs, festivals.  All about bacon.  There was that hideous KFC concoction, the "Big Infarction" (or whatever they called that monstrosity) that was nothing but fried chicken, bacon and cheese.  Hell, we even have a punk vegan bakery here in town that has perfected a vegan bacon doughnut (which is in and of itself a clone of another Portland icon: the VooDoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Bar).

The Cult of Bacon reaches in deep, grabs people by the chitlins, and apparently won't let go.  Personally, I blame Anthony Bourdain for this.  But even cynical über gastronomes like Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay wind up being affected by the reality of the meat-making process.  When you are faced with it personally, you can't not be.  This is a life, and it would much rather live in its environment than have one of its muscles land on your plate for dinner.  So it must be killed.

I have had some hard lessons over the years about food, animals, life and death.  I won't go into them here and now, but suffice it to say that I have killed many, many animals over my lifetime.  When I was a deer hunter, when I was a small-game hunter, when I fished.  And beyond.  Each and every death has affected me, and I carry the karma of those actions up to--and beyond--this very day.  I am mindful of it.  I will be for the rest of my life, be it a fat vegetarian life or a thinner meat-eating life.  Death is very important to me, in a number of ways, and I can't, and won't allow myself to ignore, or be desensitized to it.  Not for humans.  Not for animals.  This decision has been very hard for me.  I have literally agonized over it for weeks.  Some would say that's silly.

They can kiss my rump-roast.

I was chatting on-line with a close friend and dharma brother the other day, and I told him about my decision.
Me: Gotta say, eating meat again is really weird...

Dharma Brother: Yeah. It takes some getting used to. I know you're being conscious about it.
That acknowledgment took me by surprise, but I really, deeply appreciated it.  Someone whom I really care for, look up to and respect, without prompting told me that they recognize that I'm different in my approach to this situation than I once was.  That my heart is in the right place, and is engaged in the decision, and moreover, that this decision is hard for me.  I wasn't looking for a pat on the back.  I wasn't looking for consolation.  But the recognition of the fact of the moment was very helpful to my mind and spirit.  This comes as no surprise to a Zen practitioner.  That's what we do.  That's what we're all about: The recognition of the fact of the moment.

On that same bacon-fetching trip, I also bought some chicken sausages.  I had them over the weekend with my girlfriend as roll-ups on low-carb flat bread.  Again, good.  Again, no loss of control or flesh-eating Nirvana.

Yesterday, I took the big jump and purchased some frozen chicken meat.  Thighs and breasts.  I haven't eaten chicken meat in... six years.  I basted them in low-carb barbecue sauce (a southern mustard and vinegar "mopping" sauce) and did them over mesquite, pecan and cedar wood on my smoker, along with a Normandy mix of veggies.  I sat outside, looking at the thigh meat on my plate.  I said my meal prayer with a bit more solemnity than normal.  I looked at the meat before I cut it.  I looked at it after I cut it, on my fork, examining the sinew, the muscle, the tissues.  I prayed that the life this animal lived at least got it further down the path towards enlightenment.  I thanked it for its nutrition to my body, and acknowledged that it had died.  Not just died, but was raised and killed.  For ME.

Then I tasted it.

This tasted wonderful.  Better than the bacon.  Better than the sausage.  Very, very good.

I worked on processing the guilt I felt.  The niggling feeling of hypocrisy.  I was a happy vegetarian.  I was glad that I was reducing suffering in the world.

All suffering but my own.

I will be a vegetarian again.  It's important to me.  But right now, I need to take some drastic steps to bring my life back into balance.  I'm 42, disabled, and morbidly obese.  If I don't lose this weight--for real this time--I'll be dead far earlier than I should be.  I have just finally found a trajectory for my life.  I will not be able to follow this path to its fullest if I'm dead from a stroke at 54 or a heart attack at 56.

So I am asking the animals for help.  This time, though, there is a change.  A real change.  I am no longer willing to be numb to the grave importance of this Great Matter.  I refuse to blind myself to the truth of this very complex and nuanced issue.

I am okay with being looked at as a hypocrite right now.  In the end, this is about me.  It has to be.  I will always respect vegetarians and vegans.  It is without question the most compassionate and conscientious way to live and nourish yourself.  But it is the greatest demonstration of personal strength to admit when you need help.  I most certainly do.

The low carb diet is working.  I'm not dropping weight left and right, but I know I'm building muscle and converting fat.  I need that so desperately right now.  I haven't been able to walk as much as I was, yet I'm not only not putting weight on even though I'm eating more, but it's still trickling off.  This will be very helpful when winter comes and I can't go walking outside like I am now.  I need to re-arrange my apartment so I can get a stationary bike back in here.  I can't let circumstance or the environment stop this process.

Not until I'm done.

May all Beings be at ease, and may they forgive this dumb monkey for being so weak as to need their help again.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

And suddenly... 264.8!!

Well, it's been an interesting interval between now and last post.  Having been stuck and stalled at 269-270 for a while, I'll admit that I was pretty damned discourage.  Yeah, I know that I was mostly stuck due to the "starving off the first few stone" thing, but it was still quite the downer: no energy and no progress.  But I stuck with it, didn't fall off, fall apart and fall on my face with it.  That alone was encouraging.

But today when I got on the scale, I nearly jumped back off in glee-fueled shock!  264.8!  And with what I've been eating?  It boggles the mind.  Cheese and veg omelets.  Cheese.  A bit more cheese.  Mocha with Half & Half?  Salad: would you like cheese on that?  Why yes, please...

Now I haven't been going bonkers with it.  God knows not like I used to.  I buy really high-quality cheese (that hasn't changed) but I eat a very moderate amount.  Admittedly, a "moderate amount" of cheese on this diet is probably a bit more than for other folks, but to have gone from a controlled starve to eating eggs & cheese?  It's like I'm being rewarded by heaven's kitchen!

But now, onto the topic of... bacon.

I decide to buy a pack of turkey bacon (I'm not ready to eat the real thing yet).  It was... okay.  I'm a bit underwhelmed, frankly.  I think if I'm gonna eat bacon, I may check with my farmer brother in Arkansas and see if he can send me some of his stuff.  I'd consider eating that.  I suppose.  Dunno.  This is a way touchy subject, I guess.

I bought two really nice sockeye salmon fillets that I plan on smoking in my Char-Griller tomorrow.  I may wind up having a date tomorrow night (JB) and she's ultra-low-carb as well.  Then again she hasn't been the most reliable date-planner, so she may not be here after all.  Either way, they get smoked and cooked on cedar planks.  Probably going to do the dijon mustard treatment to them.  I haven't had a salmon like that in... years and years.

I have really stuck to the walking, in spite of my reluctance to do it.  Just like zazen, the best time to walk is right when you admit that you really don't wanna!  It's trite but completely true.  Which reminds me; I need to sit zazen now.

Anyway, there's the report.  PROGRESS!!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

269 and holding...

Well, I've hit the wall a bit, and in a number of areas.  Been eating a bit more, and added back in a carb or two (sprouted grain English muffin in the morning, and a mocha).  Haven't really put anything back on, but have stalled at losing, even with the walking.

Which has me on the horns of a dilemma.

And I don't like it.

At all.

I really, REALLY need to lose this weight.  And the faster I get down to 250, the better I'll feel (although that number is not my final goal number.  The real, long-term goal is about 200lbs, which by most "ideal weight calcs I can find is somewhere between 155-165 lbs, which to me seems kinda laughable, anyway...)  As I said, I've hit the wall.  No real movement for about a week.  I know why.

I shook off this stone-plus since July 1st with a controlled starvation.  Now before you get all uppity about it, yes I know that starvation is bad.  However, I needed to get a buncha weight off fast in order for me (my knees and hips mostly) to actually be able to exercise a bit (he says whilst typing and not walking like he needs to do yet today).  I also knew full well that it was not sustainable, but I got this head-start in place, and now it's time to find an approach that is doable for the next few months, not mere weeks.

I have been a pretty ardent vegetarian for almost eight years, and was pretty strictly vegan for about three.  This is for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I believe that the entire meat industry is damaging to our country, and our world.  I have seen the cruelty that is inflicted upon animals, and I've seen it up-close and personal.  At times, it's even been at my own hand.  So I have very good reasons why I haven't eaten animals for so long.  However, I have found a way to be a fat vegetarian, and even a fat VEGAN.

A few months ago, I added home-cooked fish back into my diet for protein and health reasons.  I'd eaten sushi, but backed off that due to rice carbs.  But I knew that I needed a dense source of protein every once in a while, so I started making Ahi tuna steaks.  It's helped a lot, and every time I eat one, I'm hyper-mindful that it was once a swimming, living being.

I'm starting to understand that I've been doing things very wrong for a rather long time.  I have been treating carbohydrates like they don't matter, because it's easy to find vegetarian and vegan carbs.  But they are carbs, and I'm now really getting my head around the fact that--for my entire life--carbs are the issue.  They always have been.

I have a friend that's on a very-low-carb diet that helps induce ketosis.  When you're in a state of controlled ketosis, your body burns fat instead of muscles -via- keytones.  It's pretty restrictive, but at the same time, it does work.  Now I'd always been very dubious about diets like this because you're putting yourself in a state of unbalance.  But I've been doing some research and some soul(less) searching lately, and I realized a few things, namely that I'm already in an unbalanced state.  I am, and I have been nearly my whole life.

Let's look at an example: let's say you have a stick (like a dowel) about 4' tall, and you hang it from a string off a tree limb.  If the air is still, it will just dangle there, nearly motionless; a pendulum at the bottom of its arc.  If you wanted it to be completely motionless, all you would need to do is reach out your hand a bit and hold it there, stilling it even further.

Now let's say that you shove that stick hard, making it swing wildly.  It will do as gravity and physics dictates and swing to and fro for a good long while.  If you want that balance-point achieved again, a mere motion of your hand won't do it.  You'll need to really reach out and chase that stick down and bring it back into alignment.  Read differently: you'll need more extreme measures to bring it back into a balanced state.

The short story here is this: I am considering adding meat back into my diet, and following a very controlled low-carb diet for a while.  For now, I'll stay with fish, but I'm starting to consider fowl & poultry again.  I am NOT, however, to the point of considering red meat.  I just don't think I can do it.  I don't think I could live with myself if I did.  This is an awful place to be, these horns.  But I know that, in snagging a line from one of my most beloved cartoons "Desperate times call for desperate desperateness."

Actually, I plan on talking to my Roshi about this.  More as it develops.  But tonight, it's tuna steaks for dinner...