How to Find Out What You’re Made Of


I’ve been pretty much completely missing in action from the internet this year. I haven’t made a post on this blog in a very long time. I haven’t made a blog entry at in something like 8 months either. I haven’t been tweeting, or plussing, or pinning, or even sharing much on Facebook.  I’ve never been a particularly active person in terms of writing content for others or sharing existing content across the internet, but to stop everything online for the better part of 8 months is unusual, even for me. So what was going on?
I was discovering what I was made of.

Some Context

Frank Herbert’s seminal work Dune had a profound impact on me when I read it at the tender age of 14. While I didn’t appreciate the full scope of the book’s (and later books’) meaning until adulthood, the book was key in shaping me into the person I am today. Early in the book, young Paul Atreides is being tested by the Bene Gesserit sisterhood. His hand is placed in a pain-inducing box, and he will be killed if he removes it. He feels pain beyond anything imaginable; as though his hand is being burned off completely. He passes the test and is shocked to find his hand intact afterwards. “The pain,” he says, and is cut off by the woman who tested him. “A human can override any nerve in the body,” she tells him. Her lesson is that humans can elect what to feel and are not slaves to their biochemistry and instinct the same way animals are.
That lesson resonated strongly with me, and it’s something that I came to appreciate the truth of more than ever over the last 7 months.
Heather (aka H4rpy on myfitnesspal) and I have been changing our lives over the past two years. Her write-up of the past few months spells the tale out far better than I could. Do yourself a favor and read it (and marvel at the strength and courage of this incredible woman), then pick this post back up.
I’ll attempt to summarize, but she really tells it better than I ever could.
If you didn’t read Heather’s write-up, you should. If you don’t want to, here’s my version. Hers is better.

Trial By Fire

 Heather has been infertile her entire life. This isn’t an especially big deal for us as children have never really been something we felt we needed in our life together. Over the last couple of years, she’s changed her lifestyle (and I’ve changed mine at the same time) for the better. We both eat properly, exercise frequently, and have lost significant amounts of weight.
This January, I told Heather about my intention to ride in the Dehydrator, a bike ride with various ride lengths that’s hosted here in Duncan, OK every July. I wanted to ride at least the 25 mile course, but was hoping to do the 50 miler. I was surprised that Heather expressed interest in doing the ride with me as well. We decided the 25 mile course would be a good goal for us, since she doesn’t have as much riding time as I do and would need more conditioning to get ready.
In February, she noticed a big lump in her abdomen. Heather has always had a number of small uterine fibroid tumors so small lumps were nothing out of the ordinary. This wasn’t small, and more concerning, it moved from day to day; sometimes up to 12 inches. One morning it would be down near the top of her pelvis, then next morning, 3 inches above her belly button. We knew something new was wrong, so we scheduled an appointment as soon as possible, which was about a month away.
As the days turned into weeks, Heather’s condition began to deteriorate. She was in a significant amount of pain and was rapidly losing endurance. She had to stop going to the gym in late February. She couldn’t go to the store on her own in early March. By early April, she could barely work anymore because she couldn’t sit up long enough to accomplish anything meaningful at the computer.
We went to the appointment and were referred to another doctor, who saw us a week or two later. Heather had to undergo a battery of tests, including a CT scan. I looked over her CT scan when we got home since it was going to take a day or two to get all the results, and I immediately saw the cause of the problem. I have no medical training, but I do have a pretty solid understanding of basic human anatomy. None of her organs were in the right place. Where her spleen, stomach, intestines, and reproductive system should have been was a solid mass of grey matter. On a CT scan, that means solid tissue.  Heather had something in her somewhere between the size of a large bowling ball and a small tire. I could even see where one of the lobes of it was pressing on her spine in the exact place she had herniated one of her discs a couple of years before. The conclusion seemed obvious to me- immediate hysterectomy.
When we saw the doctor, everything she said backed up what we’d seen. Heather had to have a hysterectomy as soon as possible. The largest fibroid was 26 centimeters in diameter. It had numerous brothers and sisters nearly as large.
Heather underwent the next set of examinations and tests to rule out any complications before surgery- tests for cancer, infection, etc. The day after those tests, I was on an unscheduled trip out of town for work for the day (my job often carries me around to various parts of the state) when she got a panicked phone call from the doctor.
She was pregnant.

She was totally infertile, but she was pregnant. There are any number of possible reasons, but we both feel pretty strongly that her new, healthy lifestyle was the catalyst. The cause doesn’t matter. She was pregnant.

She drove to the hospital (I can’t put into words how I hate myself for not being there to take her) and I left the work site immediately to meet her there. The ultrasound confirmed that she was indeed pregnant, and also that she was hopelessly riddled with fibroids, all of which were growing in overdrive due to the increased blood and nutrient supply that were supposed to be nurturing our unexpected child.
Unfortunately, she was also bleeding.

Trial By Thermonuclear Fire

She started on the way to the hospital and it got worse each hour. The pain mounted until she could only sit with a glazed expression on her face, fighting to hold herself together. Heather and our child fought for life, but there was never any hope of going full term. A bit over a week later, our family of three was two again.
We were, of course, crushed. I can’t really express the feeling. I don’t think anyone can. I think trying to would fail to do it justice, so I won’t.
This is where Dune comes in. I wanted to scream and rage and kick and yell about the unjustness of it all. I wanted Heather to stop hurting, to be able to smile more, to be able to cry less. I knew that what I wanted didn’t enter into the equation, and that screaming, raging, kicking, yelling, and crying would do precisely nothing to make her feel better. My focus became laser pointed: I would do anything and everything I could to make it easier for her to endure what she was going through. Doing so would help me to keep the stress and grief at bay.
This was when I began to feel the strain. Work had been insanely busy for the first four months of the year and wasn’t winding down. The financial strain of making sure we were going to be okay with all of the medical expenses was daunting. The stress of watching and fearing for Heather was beginning to wear me down. One night I was thinking about all that had happened so far, and I remembered that section of Dune. I thought about the fact that there was a deeper lesson to be learned.
Animals react to what they are given, or to what is done to them. A true Human doesn’t choose to disregard their reaction. They choose how to react to what has happened.

I decided that I was going to see for myself what I was made of.

The Power of Choice

I had been doing most of the house duties already, but I endeavored to be more diligent with them. I tried to find things that needed doing so that I could do them before she asked. If she didn’t have to ask, she didn’t have to worry about it.  I spent every free moment on the weekends tearing apart our flower beds and building huge new raised beds and containers for her, then planted a multi-level flower display and a small but robust vegetable garden for her. It felt good to nurture things, and I’m sure it was a subconscious need on both our parts to watch something grow under our care, if only to reassure ourselves that we would have been good parents to our little bundle.
Her surgery was finally scheduled in mid-May, and it went off without a hitch. She followed her doctor’s orders to the letter, walked when she was supposed to, and we got to leave the hospital after only two days.
Heather spent the following weeks at home with me. I finally got to take off work for a bit to help her recover, so we both got to rest a little. We sat in her new garden, which had just started to bloom. We ate fresh tomatoes and green onions from the vegetable beds. We watched the birds raise their young and teach them to use the feeders we set up. I biked, and I spent time in the work shop, building and tinkering. Our love for one another, always strong, somehow grew stronger still.
Heather’s six week post-operative appointment came and went in June with flying colors. The doctor pronounced her fully recovered, and gave her the official blessing to carefully begin working out again. I knew our chances of riding together in the Dehydrator were slim to none. We had a month to go and she hadn’t ridden a bike in well over half a year. I hadn’t ridden more than ten miles at a time in five months.
The day after her release, we went to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, hiked up a hill with our bikes, and rode around one of the scenic loops of the park. Heather did this with a twelve-inch incision in her belly that was barely healed. She spoke cautiously of wanting to do the Dehydrator, even if only the 10 mile.
I bought her a new bike for her birthday a bit early, and we did a few training rides to see if it was possible.
On the 26th of July, Heather and I completed the 2014 Dehydrator. She was 11 weeks out of surgery. It had been a bit under four months since we found out she was pregnant, and then found out that she wasn’t pregnant.
So I got to spend the last six months or so finding out what I’m made of.

The Power of Fusion (Or When Two Become One)

 Heather tells me often how glad she is for my strength. She’s glad that I was there to do all the small things around the house. She’s glad I built a garden for her. She’s glad I pushed her to ride. She’s glad I went to every appointment with her. She’s glad I stayed in the hospital with her. She’s glad I stayed up all night to make sure she slept. She’s glad I cooked her what she wanted and took her out to eat when she wanted. She’s glad I was there, waiting on her hand and foot, watching and hovering like an overprotective mother hen.
She says these things as though they were hard for me. Not doing them would have been far harder. It would have been far harder to let her endure in silence, to know she was crying alone at night without an arm around her.
I found out what I’m made of.
I’m made silver and glass. The strength that Heather says she’s so proud of me for showing is just a reflection of the strength she’s shown me every single day of our life together.
To all of you who helped us through our tests this year, whether you knew you were helping us or not: thank you.
We love you.
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700 Grams of Suck

Parental Guidance Warning
This post describes lady innards and includes occasional profanities. Both are necessary to the story. If you’re not okay with that sort of thing, you might want to take your eyeballs elsewhere. If you are okay with that sort of thing, well, read on.

The Lump
Early this February I happened to notice a weird lump in my lower abdomen. I’ve always had a lumpy lower abdomen and have suspected fibroids for years, but this lump was new. My first thought was, “Hmm, that doesn’t go there.” Brian agreed with me, so I called for an appointment to have it checked out. Schedules being what they are, that appointment was approximately a month away. I happened to have a checkup with my primary doctor the week before that appointment, so I mentioned the lump to him. His reaction was funny, but kind of horrifying.

Doc: *poke, poke, big eyes* “Oh my, this is HUGE.”
Me: “I thought so.”
My Brain: “NO SHIT, SHERLOCK! I wasn’t making it up!”
Doc: “When most people come in saying they have a lump, there’s nothing there. That is just…wow.”

He figured it was a ginormous uterine fibroid tumor and sent me for a CT scan a couple of days later. The CT came back showing multiple fibroids, so they referred me to an OB/GYN. By this time my stomach had grown dramatically, pain and fatigue were constant, and I was beginning to waddle. We had to wait a week for the referral and another two weeks for that appointment. Much crabbiness ensued, but we finally made it.

The OB/GYN doc’s reaction to my belly was even more entertaining (mind you, I had grown pretty immense since the primary doc visit and looked about seven months pregnant). She turned to the nurse and said, “I’ve never seen one like this.” The nurse said, “Me neither!” The big fibroid, which I had by this point named Fizzgig, measured 26 cm. He appeared to have quite a few minions, some of which rivaled him in size. I had told the doc the whole works had to come out pronto, and she wholeheartedly agreed with me, so we began the testing procedures to get that show on the road. Hysterectomy, here we come! And then…

The tests had been Wednesday and Thursday. We had another appointment the following Tuesday to get those wrapped up and the surgery scheduled. Friday afternoon, I was curled up with my tablet researching hysterectomy procedures when the phone rang. It was the OB/GYN doc! Not her nurse, but her. I thought, “Uh-oh.” She called on her cell from the hospital because the tests had come back and we had, to put it mildly, an unexpected complication. I was pregnant. She needed me to come right in to the hospital for an ultrasound and blood test to see how far along we were.

I hung up and immediately called Brian, who was working out of town that day. He was calm, steady, and perfect, leaving right then to come meet me at the hospital. I, however, was having a museum-quality meltdown. As far as I knew, I’d been infertile all my life, so possible pregnancy never entered my mind while all this swelly tiredy painy insanity was going on. Freaking out wasn’t going to help, though, so I pulled it together and drove the 45 minutes to the hospital my doc uses.

That drive was surreal. My brain was split between putting together all the pieces that I’d missed (fatigue, boobs, eating like a mastodon) and planning to move to a better house somewhere with really good schools for this kid. Total panic had transmuted into a general sense of “what the crap?!” by the time I hit the parking lot. It was an improvement. Being me, I ran to the bathroom before going to registration (hey, it had been almost an hour), and discovered a new problem. I had started to bleed.

The very nice ultrasound tech told me I had too many fibroids to count. They were inside, outside, even within the muscle wall. My uterus had been overrun. She had a hard time finding our little surprise hitchhiker in all that mess, but find it she did. I still have the picture. We were at twelve weeks, five days. I told the tech about the bleeding, which I knew didn’t bode well. She replied that I was very high risk and sent me off for a blood draw. That was it until the follow-up on Tuesday.

Brian met me at the hospital and drove us home. He wasn’t as surprised as I was because he had seen the signs and mentioned the possibility, but hadn’t pushed the issue. We speculated about what had happened. Maybe the exercise and improved diet over the previous six months had managed to equalize my hormone production, opening the door. I think this is the case, but we’ll never know for sure. We were so proud of our kid for being able to implant in such an inhospitable environment at all, let alone actually grow for over three months. What a badass bun, taking over a faulty oven like that. Given those circumstances, we decided to dub the baby Bunzilla until we knew which gender we were expecting. Even terrified, I began to feel weirdly happy.

However, I had been hurting more and more as the day went on. By the time we got home I couldn’t even sit up straight due to gargantuan cramps and energy drain. Thus began the most awful days of my life to date. The pain was horrendous, only made worse by knowing what was happening. The doc said that we never would have made it to term; Fizzgig and his army of resource-sucking invaders were taking up too much room. Making it as far as we did was a bit of a miracle, but there was nothing anyone could do. We lost our baby the third week of April.

The loss only cemented my conviction to go ahead with the surgery, which we scheduled for mid-May. Aside from the varied and dire health risks of another pregnancy, I did not want us to go through that again. The invaders were still there and would just expand to crowd out the next bun. No. I was so angry at my uterus for being a treacherous, defective jerk that I wanted to personally punt it into the incinerator after surgery. By this point I couldn’t stay up long enough to work and couldn’t walk for more than a few minutes at a time. My entire life was on hold.

Most of my focus from then on was getting to other side of surgery and recovering. My brain wasn’t letting me think much about the loss and I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. I still hate talking about it because it makes me cry, which pisses me off, and then we’re right back where we started. Defense mechanism, I guess. It was like this:

Emotions: “Hey, we should deal with this.”
Brain: “Get away from her, you bitch!”
Me: “I totally can’t hear you guys and am focusing elsewhere.”

Eventually, the lot of us made it to Surgery Day. Brian, who had heroically gone to every appointment with me, drove us to the hospital for check-in on a Friday morning. I was nervous and a little excited knowing we wouldn’t be blindsided again and that the monthly hells of the last 32 years were about to end. Also, the last few weeks had given the invaders time to shrink, so we were looking at a smaller horizontal incision instead of a vertical chainsaw scar going up my entire torso. Bonus.

The surgery went very well and the hospital was great other than the staff forgetting to tell Brian when I was in my room, which forced him to go hunting for me. The nurses were all very sweet and kept telling me I was “itty bitty” (not gonna lie, I got a kick out of that). This was the first time I’ve been in the hospital since I was ten, so it was an interesting experience. Lessons learned: morphine doesn’t work so great and makes me itch, Zofran is amazing, and cafeteria cheeseburgers taste really good when you haven’t eaten in 32 hours. Also, Cream of Wheat is still grossbuckets.

The doc cruised by Saturday to tell us that the treacherous uterus weighted 700 grams and was utterly enormous. For perspective, normal uteri weigh between 30 and 70 grams. Yeah. Even my fibroids had fibroids. Everything else looked great, though. Due to following all directions and walking when allowed, I got to go home Sunday morning, which was three days ahead of schedule. Being held together by superglue made me slightly twitchy, but getting to sleep in my own bed and really be on the road to recovery felt fantastic.

I can’t say enough about how wonderful Brian has been over the past few months. He was there when I needed him, taking care of me and everything else, making sure I had no extra crap to worry about. He went to every appointment, stayed at the hospital with me, cooked (best mac and cheese on the planet), cleaned, and built me the most gorgeous garden in town to sit in during recovery. He walks with me every day and is the most patient, supportive coach for getting back into the exercise routines. When I tell you he’s my hero, I am not kidding. While this is just as hard on him, he’s had the strength to carry both of us. He is the absolute best and I’m more aware now than ever how lucky I am to have found him.

Recovery has been pretty textbook. No major complications have cropped up, so we’ve only dealt with the usual cases of super-tireds and weird aches. Sadly, my appetite did not diminish. I’ve had a few hormone trips to Crazytown giving me insomnia, but nothing major, and those are just because my ovaries are like, “Hurr durr, we forgot how to ove.” It’s getting better.

Physically, I improve every day and have kept exercising as much as possible. Regaining my strength is the new focus, and it helps me deal with the grief. My brain has started letting me think about everything and it’s hard not to get mad at myself for missing the signs of pregnancy. Knowing sooner wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but we would’ve had more time to enjoy Bunzilla.

Honestly, we had never planned or wanted to have kids. As far as we knew it wasn’t in the cards for us, but our perspectives changed when this happened and we keenly feel the loss of this one. I really feel like we were thrown into a soul forge and came out utterly changed: heartbroken, definitely, but a thousand times stronger. We’re grateful for the brief opportunity we had to be parents and the knowledge of what might have been.

So, that’s what’s up. Soon I’ll be back to boring you with talk of weight routines and the macronutrient profiles of my chili recipe. This post just needed to happen.

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Neil Armstrong, Halfway There

Today is one of those big days for me.

You know the ones I mean.

This is one of those days when something monumental has happened.  I’m not talking about getting a package you’ve been waiting on, or your favorite show is back on the air after a long hiatus. I’m talking about one of those days that’s going to stick with you for the rest of your life because it represents something huge and noteworthy in your personal story.

This morning, I stepped on the scale and it read 350.

As of this morning, I have lost 125 pounds from my highest weight.

As of this morning, I am now halfway to my goal weight of 225.

I was so thrilled when I saw the scale settle exactly on 350.0, because I knew this was going to be a great day. I told H and I did the truffle shuffle all over the kitchen out of giddy, stompy joy.  It’s been so long, and I’m getting so tired.. but I’m halfway there.  I know it’s going to get hard now, and it’s going to test me SO MUCH more than it has already before it’s over…

… but I’m halfway there.

I came to work, bouncing in my shoes, itching to share my good news. I practically ran to the offices when I heard the voice of one of my friends in the hallway so I could tell her the news.

She couldn’t have cared less.

No one cared, actually. People are sick of hearing about it. I tried to tell coworkers and based on their reactions, I shut the door to my office and buried myself in work.

I was hurt. My god, I was hurt.

I know the world isn’t all about me. I know I’m not the center. But I just wanted my friends and coworkers to share in My Day. This is like a graduation, or closing on your home, or any number of huge adult achievements we all share from time to time. We share those experiences with our friends so they can leap for joy with us.

Here’s the kicker.  They’re sick of hearing about it.  I agree with them.  I’m sick of it too. I’m tired of the journey. I’m tired of putting my head down and forcing out another 10 pounds; another 10 minutes on the elliptical, another 10 miles on the bike.

Neil Armstrong  was the first human to set foot on the moon.

When he got there and took that first step, his journey was only halfway over… just like mine. Like me, I’ll bet he was tired, scared, euphoric, and dying for someone to share the experience with.

The hardest part of the journey was over; now it was time to take in the view and pause for some reflection. He still had to get home alive, but at that moment, I doubt he was worrying about that very much. 
I don’t expect the world to celebrate my accomplishment like it did his, but I’m not going to let the fact that the world doesn’t give a damn about one fat man’s halfway point diminish my sense of accomplishment at what I’ve managed to do, because I didn’t do it for the world.

I did it for H4rpy, and I did it for me.

To my friends who know and DO care: I love you. I really do, and you know it.

To my friends who don’t care: I’m not stopping. I get that it’s an uncomfortable subject, and I will stop talking about it with you, because I DO respect you and I love you as well. I’m just sad that you’re not coming with me anymore.

I’m sad I’m going to have to leave some people behind with the other 125 pounds of junk weight as I blast off from the moon and head home. There’s still danger and my mission can still fail, but in a way, the hardest part is over. Even if I crash and burn, I’ll still land.

I may not have walked on the moon, but for a little while today, I felt like I could have. I’m never going to let myself forget that feeling.

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Challenge Smashed!

Okay, here it is, all that juicy before and after info from the Six-Week Challenge! This post is a mash-up of what I put together for the end of my challenge thread on the NF forums. I know a couple of you four readers are into numbers, so you should get a kick out of this. Everybody else can skip to the end if mathy things make their brains ache. For the record, I would normally be skipping to the end here.

First off, the goal tally!

New Jeans—Not only do they fit, they are LOOSE! I’ll have to grab the next size soon!
Blog Posts—All done! Most of them were even towards the beginning of the week where I prefer them.
Strength Training—All workouts completed. I’ll include lift progress below.
Bike Rides—Mileage worked out to 66.26 as of this Wednesday (goal was 60).
Deadlift Progress—Goal completed in Week 2, hehehe. DLs continued throughout the challenge.

Good stuff! Now for the lift progress from the beginning of the challenge to today. They’re not big numbers. I had no muscles to speak of when we started with the weights and the lifting and the running our butts off. But they’re a start, and they’re progress.
Squats—Start, BW, 3 sets of 9 reps. Current, 85 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps.
Bench Press—Start, 45 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps. Current, 60 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps.
Inv Row/Low Lat Pull—Start, 15 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps. Current, 35 lb, 4 sets of 8 reps.
Deadlifts—Start, 65 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps. Current, 95 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps.
Overhead Press—Start, 20 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps. Current 35 lb, 4 sets of 7 reps.
Lat Pull-Down—Start, 50 lb, 4 sets of 5 reps. Current, 90 lb, 4 sets of 6 reps.
Back Extensions—Start, BW, 3 sets of 10 reps. Current, 10 lb, 3 sets of 12 reps.
Calf Raises—Start, BW, 3 sets of 10 reps. Current, 40 lb, 3 sets of 12 reps.
Shoulder Shrugs—Start, 20 lb, 3 sets of 10 reps. Current, 40 lb, 3 sets of 12 reps.
We do squats, benches, and rows on one day, then deadlifts, overhead presses, and lat pull-downs the next, alternating the two over a three-day lift week. Back extensions, calf raises, and shoulder shrugs go in at the end of every session, followed by cardio. As a result, I almost have delts now. Bonus!
Speaking of cardio, today I ran five intervals in a 15-minute program, which was AFTER I had spent 20 minutes crushing the elliptical. Suck it, you evil death machines!
And now for the measurements, to be followed by the even more terrifying photos. Yes, photos! *echoing doom voice*
Weight—Starting, 167.6. Current, 164.2.
Neck—Starting, 14 in. Current, 13.75 in.
Waist—Starting, 36.75 in. Current, 34.75 in.
Hips—Starting, 44.5 in. Current, 43.75 in.
Forearm—Starting, 9.25 in. Current, 9.25 in.
Bicep—Starting, 12 in. Current, 11.75 in.
Thigh—Starting, 24.5 in. Current, 24 in.
Calf—Starting, 15 in. Current, 14.5 in.
Definitely got some improvement here, but I can see they’re telling the truth about fat not leaving the areas you want in the order you want. Stupid hip fat. If I could beat it with a rake, I would.
And now for the pics. I can’t tell you how freaked out I am to do this, but I feel it’s part of the challenge, so RAWR. (Favorite hat included in today’s photos to simulate bravery and to cover up my hair, which was AFU.)




Helper Cats!
Clearly I have a long way to go, but feeling a sense of increased velocity towards that final goal is priceless. Balance, happiness, badass. I should probably add patience in there somewhere, though, because I’m seriously lacking when it comes to wanting my chunky belleh to disappear.
Many thanks to Brian for taking the pictures and putting them together for me to post. He was with me every step of the way on this challenge, and it would have sucked without him. So much love!
So, there we have it. Over the past six weeks I’ve not lost a ton of weight, but I am on schedule. I’ve also gained a whole lotta muscle and still managed to go from XL to L in most of my clothes (and even M in some of them). What does this mean? Moar shopping, of course. I’ll take it!
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Challenge Completion

It’s cool and rainy here in town this morning. Seems like a good time for drinking coffee and working on the computers. We’re near the end of our challenge after a particularly long week, getting ready to quantify all of the hard work we’ve done over the past couple of months, and I feel pretty good about our results. Just one more workout at the gym tomorrow morning, and then we’ll put together the before/after measurements and shots for the six weeks. Since I’ve been talking about the process on this blog, I’ll post the information here along with any less horrifying pictures I can live with being public. My four readers deserve no less!

Today isn’t about the numbers, though. Progress can be so much more, and in our case it really has been. We went into this wanting to build some good habits, knowing that it takes about six weeks for most people to do so. We’re now able to add the gym, bike rides, and healthful home-cooked dinners to the food-logging habit we formed previously. And while the new habits do have a favorable effect on our numbers, they have a bigger effect on our lives. I really do believe we live better since we started getting serious about our health back in March and especially since we took on this challenge.

For example, the planning required to fit in gym/rides/dinners has improved my time management to the point that I get a lot more done in a day and end up feeling happier because I was productive. I’ve worked certain chores into the schedule so the house stays cleaner as well. Bonus! And we’re saving quite a bit of money by buying fresh meats and vegetables instead of sodium-laced Bags o’Crap at the grocery store. (Note: I still wish we had a big farmer’s market around here. Somebody get on that!) Going out to eat once a month rather than once a week has also helped.

She’s choppin’ broccoli!


This challenge has been a great focus for us and I’m glad I stumbled upon the opportunity to accept it. I’m also glad Brian jumped into it with me, because his support has made it infinitely better (and more fun) than it would have been on my own. He’s the best. We’re going to keep tackling these challenges for a while to build more new good habits and kill old bad ones. New goals are bubbling through our brains even now. In my case, they’re crazy things like hand-stand pushups and burpee pullups, but coming up with them is pretty fun.

Would you like to get in on these? Let me know and I’ll help you set up. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you decide you really want to. I sure was.

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Motivation, Will, and a Little NSV

I’m coming up on one of my milestone goals.
I arbitrarily set them every 25lbs, so I’d have 10 “Milestones” on my total journey from 475 to 225. I’m getting close to 350, which is the halfway point. I guess that makes this a MILESTONE GOAL instead of a milestone goal.
I’d been told, have read, and heard many times that this is where things will start to get hard.  That’s accurate.  It IS starting to get hard. The aches and pains are becoming a little more pronounced at times. That nagging feeling in my lumbar nags a little louder than before. Some gym days are exercises in pure willpower to get dressed after work and go to the gym when I really don’t want to.
It’s not because I’m tired. I’m not.

It’s not because I’m hurting. I’ve dealt with pain for much of my life, I’m used to it and don’t let it dictate what I can and can’t do.
It’s worse.
It’s because… it’s working. I know that doesn’t make sense.. let me try to explain.
When I started work at my current job two and a half years ago, I bought some new clothes. I had worked in an industrial office environment and now was working in a more formal office environment. I bought slacks, shoes, shirts.. you name it.  The shirts were 4XLT (4x Extra Large, Tall) shirts. I’m NOT tall but I needed the extra length so the shirt was long enough to tuck into my pants after making the Magellanic circumnavigation around my enormous gut.
They’re great shirts- they were priced well, look good, and have held up to daily use for 30+ months.
… but they don’t fit anymore. I’ve lost almost 125 pounds since I bought them, and they fit me like a 55 gallon Hefty garbage bag fits a kitchen trash can. So at H4rpy’s prodding, I bought a pair of new shirts.  I had been waiting, because I wanted to get two sizes down- I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on 3x shirts that hopefully won’t fit for more than a few months.
But 2X? The last time I wore 2X shirts, I was in pretty good shape from a muscular standpoint, I was 26 years old instead of 36, and I weighed 260 instead of 360. “There’s no way,” I thought.
 H4rpy insisted I should get them, because if they don’t fit perfectly now, they will soon, and I’ll get years of use out of them. She was quite right, so I ordered two shirts to test.
They fit.
I don’t mean I could squeeze into them and they’re strained. I mean they fit. They fit properly.
I weigh 360 pounds and have a gut the size of the Death Star, but I’ve managed to burn off enough fat and add enough muscle to my body that I fit into a 2XL (note: NOT a 2XL Tall- just plain old 2XL) shirt and have it look right.

Do you know what this means? 

I can go clothes shopping in normal stores again.

 This is a huge victory. This is one of those life moments where it all starts to pay off, and you see the results becoming real for the first time.
It’s the perfect time for the voice of Self Sabotage to speak up from the shadows of my psyche, needling me just when I’m feeling good, when I’m at my most vulnerable, when I think I really CAN do this, reminding me that I really SHOUDLN’T feel good.

“You’ve made it, big guy… so take it easy! Slow down, you’ve beaten me.. I yield! You don’t need to keep doing this to yourself! Take a day off, rest a bit.. hell, have a treat! You know you’ve earned it, right?”

 My response is thus:

&@#% the voice in my head, and !#@% 2XL shirts.

I’m done when I say I’m done, not when my insecurities tell me “It’s Good Enough.”
The voice in my head can piss off, because I’ve got lifting to do and miles to ride before this is over, and I’m the one who decides when the train stops.
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Posting: Challenge Update

I’m a bit late this week in posting to keep up with my six-week challenge goals. Part of that is because I’ve been busy, especially on Friday, and part of it is because I’ve had a really hard time focusing lately. Harder than usual, that is. Flighty brain is flightier. What’s got me so distracted? I suspect it’s the weather. We had a bunch of dreary, awesomely rainy cold days this week and those invariably make me want to hibernate. Some days it was all I could do to stare at my monitor and go “buuuuhhh” until dinner time. On the plus side, it’s cool enough for me to wear my favorite hat, which I’ve been doing. All week long. Even to the gym.

Best hat evar!

At any rate, I figure it’s a good time to update everyone on the challenge progress. So far, all goals have been met.

Strength Training—On track. Three sessions per week, and we have not missed one. We’ve added weight, reps, and even a couple of new exercises, so that program is moving right along.

Deadlifts—Done! I was able to transition to full deadlifts in the second week of the challenge. Deadlifts are awesome and full of RAWR. I’ve been varying the weight since my back freaked out during run intervals last week, but it is moving back up.

Bike Rides—Done! Just passed the 60-mile mark this week, though that last 5 miles was on the stationary bike due to crappy riding conditions. We’ll keep riding as long as the weather allows and then switch to the stationary for the winter.

Blog Posts—On track. One post per week, usually somewhat on a schedule. Sort of. Good thing schedule wasn’t part of the challenge, hurr.

We are now finishing Week 5. This challenge hasn’t been easy, but it hasn’t been quite as hard as I thought it’d be either. My motivation for going to the gym hasn’t wavered because getting stronger feels so good. The endurance stuff is where I get flaily. It has been a lot more painful for me than the strength program: literally, thanks to that stupid old back injury. No more running for me, so we’ll have to find other ways to work on endurance, along with the bike rides.

As difficult as they were in the beginning, though, I’ve come to love those rides. My balance is better, my breathing has improved, and holy flagnog are my legs stronger. A certain peace falls over me when we’re riding, especially once we get out of town a ways and are just surrounded by tall grass, sunlight, and wind. Brian says I’ll be pretty fast when I get a lighter bike, and I really look forward to finding out. In the meantime, I’ll keep charging up those big-ass hills in ever higher gears while roaring, “YES, I HAVE QUADS OF STEEL!”


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Birthdays and Bicycles – Part 2

There was a little more of a gap between Part One and Part Two than I would have liked.
As I mentioned in Part One, I was concerned about going into a local bike shop and being told (politely or not) that they wouldn’t be able to help me. I’m still a magnificently fat bastard, after all- 365 pounds is nothing to sneeze at, even if it IS a hundred+ less than my peak weight. That overwhelming fear of rejection and ridicule drove so much of my day that it was kind of shocking to have it rear its head so strongly again. It DOES still influence me deeply, and honestly, I am quite sure it always will. There will always be a little voice that says “You’re the picture people see when they think “Well at least I’m not as bad as THAT ONE GUY.” You’re the Worst Case Scenario.” That’s better than it was (seriously; I leave the house willingly now. I go shopping and walk the streets without prodding or bribery from H4rpy), but I have a lot of work to do still.


I was being a complete dumbass. 365 pounds of pure, Grade AAA, All American, Corn-Fed DumbAss. I knew I was. H knew I was. You ALL knew I was. So I told The Little Voice that I was going to sack up and do this, and if he didn’t like it, he could suck on a teabag.
We made the drive to Oklahoma City and were at the bike shop for all of 30 seconds before the owner we were supposed to meet came right out and greeted us. It was probably all of 120 seconds later (after a few questions to make sure he had his numbers right) that he led us over to a couple of bikes that he thought would do the job. I gravitated strongly towards one in particular, largely because of some options it had that I knew I wanted in my next bike (disc brakes and lever shifters, plus a better gearing ratio. I knew I wanted a hybrid because I was going to be mostly on the road, but I can’t handle the riding posture of a true road bike yet.)
He talked with us about the bike (a 2014 Giant Roam 2) for another 10 minutes or so while his crew got one ready for me to test ride (the one on the floor was a large frame, and he thought I would benefit from a medium frame since I have short legs but a very long torso.)(He was quite right.) I knew as soon as I saw it that it was the one- the price was right, the size was right, and it was a huge upgrade over what I had, but not a jump all the way to top-of-the-line (with the price jump that would entail.)
Once the bike was ready, we took it outside and I hopped on for a test ride. H saw the smile on my face and that was it- we knew we were coming home with it.
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So for the last week I’ve been an insatiable monster, wanting to ride the new bike everywhere. No matter how much my ass screams about the tiny new seat, I scream back louder: “YOU WILL GET USED TO IT, ASS.” I feel like I’m cheating, because it’s so easy to ride and I can go so much faster than I could on my Schwinn (better gearing and larger tires.)
After having it for a week, I decided it was time to give the Schwinn an overhaul.
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The Blue Bomber (and its sister, pictured above shortly after we bought them) has a fair number of miles on it, badly out of adjustment brakes, a broken spoke, an out of round rear wheel, and generally just needed a lot of love. So I spent most of this last Saturday working on it. I taught myself how to disassemble the rear freewheel, remove the cassette, install and properly tighten a new spoke, retrue wheels, etc etc etc. After I was all done, it was time to go for a test ride to make sure I didn’t ruin anything.

Something unexpected happened.

I fell in love with the Schwin again.

Don’t get me wrong. The Giant stays, and it will indeed get the lion’s share of my Ass->Seat time. But riding the Schwinn after riding the Giant for a week made the differences between the two immediately, SCREAMINGLY apparent. The Schwinn is indeed a comfort bike. It rides like a cloud, soaks up every bump, goes slow, handles like a tank, and is perfect for a leisurely cruise to the store to get some milk, or for a jaunt with H. It felt good to ride the Schwinn again- the Giant made me appreciate all the things that felt the same between them, all the things that were RIGHT about my Blue Bomber, and now I realize I didn’t just get a new bike for my birthday.
H got me two new bikes- the one I always had and had forgotten about, and the new one from the store. I love them both and I’m going to use them both.

In the next 12-24 months, those two bikes are going to take me down to 200 pounds.

That’s what H gave me for my birthday, and I love her for it. 

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Do you ever wonder if people intentionally let themselves drift into stereotypes because they’re comfortable with the definitions? How often do they pick up hobbies or find themselves watching shows that they think they’re supposed to like? I suspect everyone does this at one point or another because we all like to belong to something, but I’ve noticed a weird trend in myself as I get older. My likes are all over the place now.

I still love music and reading. I still love cats. I still love tripey TV shows and movies (here’s lookin’ at you, Elvira). But video games have fallen off my radar to be replaced strange new habits I never really thought I’d develop. This new stuff is great. However, what strikes me lately is how wildly different my hobbies have become. It all seems to fall into two categories: Little Old Lady and Fitness Beast.

Little Old Lady Things
Seriously, when did this happen? And why is it so fun?

Freaking glorious!

Gardening. I love to plant flowers, grow food, and feed the legion of tiny birds that now inhabit our yard. Cardinals and finches are my new mascots, and my morning glories are freaking glorious. Oklahoma Gardening is one of my favorite shows now. Tending to my plants and the neighborhood cheepers brings me peace likes nothing else does. It just makes me happy. You should see my gardening gloves. They are lavender, for feet’s sake!

Cooking. Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned to cook and have really come to enjoy it. I’ve always loved to bake, but branching out into foods that won’t put you into a sugar coma has been rewarding. I wrote about this when it started and am glad to say it’s still going strong. Thanks to cooking shows and, our menu has become much more varied than it was in the distant Hamburger Helper Era. It’s actually fun now!

Homing. As in, home improving. Yes, I know that’s not what homing means, but I like consistent headings, so nyah. One of my other new favorite shows is This Old House. Watching it and planning for the things we’ll do to our own home when we buy one is fun to the point of making it a hobby. I even get This Old House Magazine! And read it! What?!

Fitness Beast Things
And now for something completely different (not The Larch). Getting fit makes me feel like a total beast. I *love* it.

Strength Training. The gym started out as a means to an end (weight loss/health), and I am still very dedicated to that goal. But the feeling of power when I picked up the first iron plate and started lifting has grown exponentially every session. It has become a part of my weekly routine and I have no intention of ever stopping. The benefits are just too awesome, which leads me to the next beast thing.

Muscle Definition. Okay, I am vain. Call it a character flaw, but at least I’m honest. Being able to see the muscles in my arms and legs, and the beginnings of a defined core line in my stomach, is the most incredible physical accomplishment I’ve ever had. Even as a skinny kid I was never this strong or defined. After spending the last 20 years in various states of lardery, I’m ecstatic over this change. /flexflexflex

Endurance Training. This part has been slow to start because of the aforementioned lardery, but the progress is so gratifying. I’ve begun running in intervals, increasing the time and number of sprints every week, and have been amping up the distance/speeds in the bike rides as well. My heart rate during burns has vastly improved. Thanks to this training, I’ll be more able to survive the zombie apocalypse (because cardio)! Bonus!

You see what I mean, though? These two categories are what most of my free time is split into now. I’m always researching when I get a bit of downtime, and it’s either about gardening/cooking/home stuff or fitness. Sesame Street called and sang “one of these things is not like the other” to me. This stuff shouldn’t really go together. But for me, it does, and I embrace the weirdness. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do bicep curls while watching Antiques Roadshow.

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Birthdays and Bicycles – Part 1

There are two things I wanted to write a bit about this week, and they’re kind of related. My beloved H4rpy (I know it’s weird to say that someone you call “Harpy” is beloved, but that’s another blog) is participating in a 6 week challenge where you set your own goals and win warm fuzzies for completing them. One of her goals is to ride 60 miles over the course of that 6 weeks. That’s not a huge distance for experienced riders, but H is just gearing up to get serious about it now.

That challenge started this week, so we’ve been going on medium distance rides (7-8 miles) out to the edge of town and back. She’s learning about gearing and how to tackle inclines and how to share the road with not-always-observant drivers. It’s amazing what just a couple of extra 1 hour bike sessions a week do for you (and TO you), both physically and mentally. The whoops of joy as she found top gear and pushed down the road at a maintained 18mph for a mile long stretch was music to my ears and made the pain of the ride back (20 mph cold headwind, and even 100lbs down, I’m still more like a sail than a beanpole, so ANY wind causes me to have to work a lot harder) so very much worth it.
So H is riding now and we’re both loving it. We do pretty much everything together, but this was one fitness activity that we’d kind of grown apart on, and for us to both be doing it feels very right.
Our bikes are nothing special- they’re nicely built Schwinn Link series comfort bikes picked up at The Great Blue Satan (aka WalMart) back in 2010. We got them somewhat on a lark:
I had come home from a trip to Colorado where my mother had passed away. As my stepfather, my sister, and I were going through things he mentioned that her bikes would need to find a new home. She and he were avid riders and had very nice equipment. At the time I hadn’t ridden in years, and I had no way of getting her road and mountain bikes home. I couldn’t use them, and I wasn’t sure H would want them, so I declined. I kick myself about that to this day- not because of the quality equipment, but because they were hers. Grief makes people do stupid things!
So I came home with things and started learning how to live again.
A month later, H and I were shopping at the aforementioned Satan and I saw all the bikes at the store. I mentioned how I could have brought my mother’s home for her and she lit up happily at the idea. We kicked around the idea a bit and the next thing you know, we bought a pair right there, took them home, and rode for the first time in years… in the middle of one of the worst summers in Oklahoma in the last 50 years, in the middle of the day, in the middle of July. We didn’t make it very far!
Anyway, the point of all this is that our bikes were chosen on a whim based on what we thought would work. At the time I wasn’t yet at my heaviest weight, and H was carrying more than now as well. It amazes me that the poor thing could even hold me up without breaking spokes- we got lucky and actually picked one that could hold me without knowing any better.
So the years and the miles began tacking on. The particular bike I had chosen was not assembled with great care, so it had some problems at the start. Never one to be afraid of disassembling things I know nothing about, I wrenched in and did my best to repair everything, with general success. Then I had my first run-in with a texting driver, and I ended up in a ditch with a banged up bike and blood all over me. I managed to make it home and patched my bike and myself up and resumed riding a few days later, only to find that there was actual serious damage to my bike (the crankshaft sheared into 2 pieces), so we had to take it to the nearest LBS (Local Bike Shop), which is 40 miles away and is so busy they need a week or more to fix even small problems.
Over the course of the 3 years I’ve had my Blue Bomber, I’ve had 3 accidents (2 due to texting drivers, 1 due to malfunction) but none have been especially serious after the first. The bike has held up well, but I can tell the miles and the strain of carrying 470lbs, then 400lbs, now 365lbs on a bike designed to carry no more than 300 or so is adding up. I intend to ride it until the frame starts to split, but here’s where the wrinkle comes in…
…my birthday is coming and H wants to do something nice for me.
She wants to get me a new bike so I have two in case one goes out of action for a while, and so I have a fancier, shinier one than my Blue Bomber.
I’m more than a little freaked out at entering an actual bike shop to buy a new one, especially one run by a pro rider, when I have heard and read so many horror stories about people being told to leave and “come back when you weigh 200lbs.” She has a contact who we’ve been assured is wonderful and kind and won’t do that at all, but I still freak a bit a the thought of being told “Nope, sorry mate, you’re just too damn fat. We don’t have anything that can hold you.” (Having to drive an hour and a half to Oklahoma City to be told that, then coming home empty handed, would be further sauce for the goose.)
So, we will see how that plays out- we might go up today, or perhaps Monday. More to come on that front.
So there’s part 1 of the bicycle chapter. Part 2 and the birthday chapter will come soon.

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