Tag Archives: health

Ratcheting It Up After a Slow Afternoon

Yesterday I cycled 42 kilometres.

That’s the fifth time I’ve ever bested 40km in a day. It felt pretty awesome, because it’s the first time out of all those times that I managed to Finish Strong.

Fitness, for me, isn’t just about health. It’s about proving things to myself. It’s about saying now that “That can’t beat me anymore.”

It’s about saying “I Win.”

There was a time when cycling a round trip of 7 km to my bookstore job would add about 40 minutes to my day. It once took me 74 minutes to cycle 12km home from downtown (with about 4-5km uphill), not including “catching my breath” breaks.

Now I can do it in about 34 minutes.

Being athletic isn’t about where you start, it’s about where you make it go. It’s a mindset, a way of life, a credo, and a pursuit. It’s about taking control of your health and dominating something, ANYTHING, in life.

Me? It’s been a long, long time of slowly improving and constantly setting new goals. “Okay, I did that. Now what?”

The only problem I run into, though, is who I was versus who I am.

I wrote once about how Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of The Tipping Point applied to me, personally, with my weight issues. Gladwell asserts it takes 10,000 hours to gain expert proficiency at any one thing.

Well, I spent 218,000-plus hours chasing the “expert” status in Being Fat. I mastered that shit. I came pretty close to being The Funny Forever-300-Pounds Friend.

Now, with all my weight-loss efforts, I’m probably over the 10,000-hour mark for Kicking Ass and Taking Names, but the 218,000-plus of fatty-school hours did some pretty intense conditioning to this Bear of Little Brain, I tell ya.

This week, though, I measure myself and learn I’ve lost 2 more inches off my hips and 2 more off my waist. Somehow, there’s this band in between that isn’t yet giving, but hey, movement in the other areas is fantastic. I’m closing in!

Today I’m learning about diabetes, and I’m reminded just how preventable that disease is.

I’m loving that exercise is such a major factor in how likely you are to prevent or reverse its occurence.

I’m loving that I can now describe myself, most weeks, as being “active”.

I can’t tell you the satisfaction of yesterday doing a ride that killed me years ago — when I used to do a 20km shorter version of it, and tackling on an extra 10km on an already-50%-longer route for the hell of it because I had “more left in me”.

It’s with a great deal of smugness I can casually state what I’m capable of doing these days, when the opportunity to talk about it comes up — only because I know how hard I’ve tried to get here. I’m the one on the other side of painkillers, ice bags, chiropractor appointments, and everything else I’ve had to learn to use to my advantage as I suffer through the acrimony of Becoming UnFat. I’m the one on the other side of asthma.

I don’t know.

I don’t know what I want you to take from this, why I’m writing it. I guess I ultimately hope that anyone who’s out there who’s not fit or active can learn what it’s taken me a long time to work through — that you don’t need to remain who you are today, that exercise does hurt but it’s supposed to, and it’s in that struggle and pain and recovery that we become new, better, more confident people.

Even if you’re “skinny-fat”, inactivity kills people every day, and the lack of self-esteem from being inactive cripples people every single minute of every day.

My athletic accomplishments make me stronger in every single life experience I face, because I know the mental fatigue I can overcome, and the physical strength I’ve shown. I KNOW it now. I’ve proven it to myself.

It’s not about filling 30 minutes with walking because the doctor says to do so. It’s your opportunity to set a goal and kill it.

If you’re not huffing, puffing, sweating, and wheezing, then you’re simply not exercising hard enough — whether you’ve got 10 minutes to do it or an hour.

Leave everything on the floor, and you’ll know it.

And a few hours later, then a few weeks later, and then a few months later, you’re gonna increasingly love it.

Today, I’m recuperating a little. Soon, after a healthy meal, a healthy snack packed, and hydrating a little more, I’m off to ratchet up at least another 25 km today.

Come Tuesday morning, I want to feel like I won the Weekend Warrior challenge.

It’s the athletic version of the old saying “Why do I keep hitting myself in the head with a hammer? Well, ‘cos it feels so good when I stop.”

If you don’t know that feeling, isn’t it time you started?*

*The first 3 weeks will suck. The best antidote to stiffness and sore worked-out muscles is to do it all over again. Ice. Advil. Whatever the common prescriptions are for overcoming training, go for it. In a few weeks, they’ll not be necessary anymore. You, too, will be a fitness machine, grasshopper. If I could do it? SERIOUSLY, you can.

Diving into Safety Head-First

We have helmet laws here in British Columbia. Even if we didn’t, I’d be wearing mine.

One saved my life. And still I’m different than I used to be.

When I saw this article come up on Twitter, I got pretty choked about it. I started thinking of the friends I’ve seen riding without a helmet — whether for a block or in the thick of city traffic with bad weather — and I found myself clenching my teeth in frustration.

Head injuries are horrible.

They change you forever.

They affect you emotionally, spiritually, physically.

And I’ve had far too much personal experience with head injuries to let the topic of helmets disappear easily into the cybernight without some commentary.

My personal experience, with just people my age?

Well, personally, I almost died. Had I not been wearing a helmet, I would have died when I somersaulted off my scooter and hit the pavement at Columbia and 2nd back on August 29th, 2004.

I spent the next year trying to get back to who I was while I laboured without a diagnosis on my head (because judgment is the first thing to go; you can’t be objective about yourself and you don’t think about the reasoning behind why you’re such a “fuck up” now; it becomes a self-esteem and time/skill-management thing when it should really be a head-injury thing).

I changed as an employee — it cost me my job security and made me first on chopping block when needed lay-offs came rolling around. (We didn’t know then that it was my brain-bouncing that was the cause of my production getting slower and less sharp.)

That started two years of job insecurity as I hopped around the employment world, learning that I couldn’t handle stress like I used to anymore, and realizing I couldn’t learn new skills or organize as well as I once could.

Experience 2 with head injuries is my brother. Hit by a Chevy Suburban, he spent 5 days in a coma in late 2005 and has never been the same person since. He takes longer to understand things, has a hard time processing his emotions, is more inclined to depression, and it’s all a result of the severe head injury he took — since he had another one within 6 months of the first.

Experience 3 with head injuries was a beloved old friend, in 2008, just 34 years old, who was out adventuring with friends just 9 days after the birth of his little baby girl. His ATV tipped, crushing his head on rocks, and leaving him washing down the fast river, where he drowned and died — orphaning that beautiful baby girl in her first two weeks of life.

Yes, head injuries are bad.

So, when I see brilliant, fantastic friends hopping on their bikes in their almost-hipsterness, cruising around town without their helmets, it fucking kills me.

Know what a head injury feels like?

Take equal parts of STUPID, ANGRY, and CONFUSED, throw them into a martini shaker and mix liberally with IMPULSE CONTROL ISSUES and BAD JUDGMENT and you’ll have the start of what you’re after.

Now, take that horrible mood cocktail and spread it over your days — 24/7, 365.

I spent a year at a loss about what I felt, what I needed, where I wanted to go, how to get there. I’m lucky, I’m a writer, and somehow through the act of writing EVERY SINGLE DAY for a year, I managed to get my brain to finally start firing again.

I don’t even remember ANY of the first 6 months except a Pocky Incident and being unhappy about a hamburger while watching World Cup Hockey.

I’ve never been as good at learning things as I used to be, I need more guidance and have more questions, but I’m smarter than the average person so I get it together sooner or later on new tasks, but only after a lot of frustration.

I’m still smart as hell, no doubt, but I forget large chunks of my life.

Large chunks.

And my mother’s dead.

And some of the chunks are of her. When death rolls around with your loved ones, memories are all you’ve got left, and your head is all you got to protect that with.

It kills me, you know. Just kills me.

When you’re a writer, your memory is your most valuable tool. I’ve lost a lot of mine. My years are a hazy blur when they used to have crystal clarity to them.

I have to live the rest of my life with the very real knowledge that head injuries are like a good savings plan — they compound infinitely.

Every time I hit my head, I run the risk of making myself less of who I was.

Every time my noggin bumps a doorframe or something, a shock of fear runs through me.

You parents failing to put helmets on your kids, I’d be all right with calling that child abuse, given what I know has changed in my life from my head injury.

Protect your children. It’s your job. It’s the law.

I can’t tell you how much I wish I could have that day I almost died back. How much I could undo the stupidity that led me to thinking I should be on my scooter that morning.

I just can’t tell you.

Most people who know  me would never think I’d had a head injury. I’ve got razor-sharp wit, keen conversational abilities, and I’m sly as the day is long.

But they’d be wrong. I’m different. Just in little ways I can work around.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t anger me still that I’m different now.

I used to test at Mensa levels on IQ tests, you know. Between 145 and 170, depending on the day, over the years. “Smart” is a commodity one can’t afford to trade on, not via head injuries or anything else.

Really, it’s not that the head injury takes you out of the game — because it doesn’t. That’s kinda part of the problem — you become the “walking wounded” afterwards.

You go through life okay enough — you look fine, everyone thinks you can do your job, they think you’re as normal as can be. But because you’re rendered some lesser part of yourself as a result of the changes, you’re not even aware of how much you’ve changed — you’re in a fog, a daze, so you can’t say “Hey, something’s off here.”

And because you’re not defending or explaining yourself, those around you think you’re just in some depressive funk and that you need to “shake it off.”

But you can’t.

You hit your brain and you have a boo-boo that can’t be bandaged, doesn’t get air, never sees the sun, and can’t be displayed to others. You’ve seen how long a bruise on your leg takes to heal? What about if it’s under a skull, and all the bruised areas affect how synapses and thoughts and neuro-body-controls occur?

It was two years after my head injury that I finally realized how much I had changed, and only because I was seeing the same stuff happening to my brother with his head damage. A strangely consistent downward spiral in his life mirrored the one that had been happening to me.

Finally, I went to see a shrink I’d been to in the past, who’d had muchos experience in head injuries, and I learned what was going on inside was all part of the healing journey a head injury victim usually takes.

I had a helmet on and I’ve luckily lived to tell my story, even though I’m changed and will probably always have to live with the legacy of that day in small ways.

In fact, everyone I’ve written about here today was wearing a helmet, and yet, look at our stories.

Put your fucking helmet on.

Get over your haircut. Get over yourself.

If not for your own life and the hell it will likely be if you survive a head injury and have to live with it for the remainder of your life, then at least wear it so my fucking tax dollars can go somewhere more intelligent than dealing with your dumb-ass negligence.

Please.

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Think you might’ve had a head injury and wonder what the indicators are? Check here. The New York Times has a good cheat-sheet HERE on what to do or look for after a head injury has first been suffered — please read it NOW, not when you need it. Remember how quickly Natasha Richardson died from a ski fall? Yeah. Know your shit.

No Fatties: The Ethic of Funny

People urge me to try stand-up comedy. A natural, they call me. A funny girl.

And, hey, they’re right.

What, it’s wrong I should know I’m funny? I shouldn’t acknowledge it? Right, like I’ve spent my life cracking jokes so I can play the fool now.

Jokes are hard. Funny is tough. Humour’s a fine line.

I pride myself on a having higher funny “ethic” than I think most people ever will. There are things I won’t touch: I don’t insult people for their size or weight, or for their colour or abilities.

Your job, clothes, where you live, how you act, what you do with your time — those are all choices, and I feel absolutely fine about ripping them apart and going to town on ’em for jokes. It’s commentary on who we’re opting to be as a society. Get on the bus in thigh-high rubber fuck-me boots and a LaToya Jackson studded-special leather jacket? Sure, yeah, I’ll use it for humour. Your choice.

But I don’t hurt people with nasty public jabs made about a weight problem, or vision issues, or a goiter, or anything like that.

You think people wouldn’t change those things about them if they could? You think they’re not aware of how outside the norm they might be?

Somehow “fat” is different from all the other discrimination out there, because people “choose” to be fat. That’s another argument for another time, considering the modern food industry, media, how government’s been bought and sold, and more — so I’m not going there.

This whole posting sprang up because I got all pissed off about some remarks a young guy was making about “fatties” on Twitter today, mocking overweight girls trying to glam it up for a profile shot — saying how they’re just getting fatter and fatter, and he wants to puke.

Who the fuck does he think he is? He’s perfect? Does he KNOW what it’s like to be 300 pounds and feel like losing weight is the hardest thing in the world? Um, no.

Know who does? I do. I know what it’s like. I’ve weighed that. Note the past-tense.

I’ve hauled my 275-pound body up a 30-floor highrise’s stairs and back down again, I’ve cycled 70km in a day, lived through the hellish pain that comes from waking up a body that’s long been hibernating. I know.

I know the looks a girl gets when she’s pushing 300 pounds and has the audacity to enter a gym — the skepticism, the obvious wondering about how long she’s gonna last.

Fat people are NOT encouraged to change. When they try, they’re largely scorned and mocked just for even attempting that. Trust me, I know.

It took watching my father almost die from diabetes to wake me up; I didn’t want to die like THAT. And it was the hardest road I’ve ever travelled.

Mocking fat people clearly hasn’t been working. Look at our world.

Insulting the disabled removes them from our world, while denying us the possibility of another Ray Charles or Stephen Hawking because of shame felt from having to endure the mockery that comes from a large portion of the public.

Making a non-specific insult about a body-type or disability or skin-colour doesn’t have to have an intended recipient — without one, you’ve broadly painted everyone. They’ve all been struck by the ignorance of that comment.

Have YOU ever been that person behind the computer screen when an insensitive generalized remark is made, and you react with “is he talking about me?” because it could totally be about you?

Passive-aggressive hate is everywhere on the internet. Its passivity should in no way suggest it is impotent. It rises up and harms many.

My tweet about it said it best: Being mean isn’t cool. It’s never been cool. And if you make it funny, it’s still not cool. Grow up. High school’s over.

We’re an unhappy society. What’s causing it? Is it the ever-present derision and commentary about each other that sets us constantly on edge? People are less secure than ever, and some are striking out at others as a result. Suddenly, it’s no longer a grown-up world, but a return to all I loathed about being in grade 10.

Seriously, what’s going on?

When I hear waif friends panicking about calories, “oh, god, I’m getting fat!” and they’re a size four, I wonder where the fuck we all went wrong.

Maybe some people still haven’t gotten over their elementary-school mocking and want to take it out on everyone else. I don’t know.

What I do know is, in an age where we have greater glimpses into other people’s lives than ever before — their pains, their sorrows, their struggles — I find that we’re getting crueler, more ignorant, and more insensitive when we’re supposedly civilized.

I often wonder if it’s the culture of the celebrity-gossip blog that’s killing kindness in society.

Instead of pettiness being confined to blogs about celebrities, we’re now visiting it on everyone.

The thing about this whole thing that’s most odd, this little fight with this ignorant kid, is I might consider myself somewhat overweight, but I know I’ve changed a LOT about myself — I’ve lost more weight in the last couple years than most people could even fathom. I KNOW what it takes to lose 3 pounds in a week, I know what kind of hardcore activity is required week-in, week-out. I could probably kick your ass.

There’s a reason most people fail in trying to not be “fat.”

It’s not a two-month course-correction — it’s trying to change for the rest of your life what it took you a lifetime to become. There are years of up-and-downs as you learn about yourself before you one day figure out what it takes for YOU to have success. There are medications and environments that can artificially influence weight. It’s not a black-and-white thing.

And there is no addiction in the world more difficult to overcome than food: We are faced with making choices about it three times a day, at least. Every holiday revolves around it. Every social outing is based upon it.

Overcoming weight issues and other addictions is a massive challenge.

It’s NOT society’s job to fix anyone’s life. It’s on EACH PERSON to improve themselves, and using excuses why you won’t change just doesn’t cut it — because some of us find the strength to change even in the face of our largest adversities.

I don’t accept that being unhealthily fat is a lifetime sentence. I believe every unhealthy overweight person* can change their life and improve their health — because I could, even after a decade of injuries.

And I think we can be better people.

We can be a kinder society.

We can accept that words and actions hurt others.

We can try to understand how it might feel on the other side.

I don’t WANT a world where everyone’s NICE all the time. Do I strike you as a sunshine-and-roses kind of girl?

I just want a world where people are treated with a little respect.

I didn’t need the world to give me a hug and tell me everything was gonna be all right when I was super-fat. But I sure as hell needed less skepticism when I finally had the courage to go to the gym and try to change my life. I needed people to understand and support me when I started on my path of change, rather than presupposing I was just going to be another failing fatty who would give up on everything.

I may have ate the food, but EVERYONE in life around me helped perpetuate my mammoth size that by saying all the things that made me insecure and hurting in the first place — which drove ME to my security blanket of food. Yes, I still take the blame, but at least I understand the reasons, too.

Too bad I didn’t have an emotional dependency on cocaine — at least then I might’ve been a hottie and socially-accepted in my svelte size four. After all, nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels, says Little Miss Kate Moss, who might be confusing how skinny feels with the high she’s riding from her cocaine addiction that fuels her size-zero money-maker.

We’re ALL fucked up.

Don’t try to pretend you’re not. YOU know it. I know it. We ALL have things we’d rather not have come to light at a party.

People with obvious physical issues can’t hide theirs, though, so they don’t get off easily. Instead, they’re publicly hurt.

That’s my problem.

That it’s somehow been deemed acceptable behaviour in today’s world?

That’s our problem.

* “Skinny-fat” is the new phrase out there — people who look healthy ‘cos they’re skinny but their numbers are off the chart, all because they luckily have a quick metabolism so they can hide their true health. There ARE overweight people who are healthy, I’m definitely one — since I can climb/descend 30 floors in a high-rise after cycling 15 kilometres and get my 6 cups of veggies a day — but society still isn’t talking about how health is about internal numbers, not outward appearances. Stop judging on looks or abilities.

The Piano Has Been Drinking*

So too has the blogger.

And, boy, has my body decided it’s had enough.

I became social again last year, which effectively doubled the amount I’d been drinking. It became far too regular, and had it not been for the drinking, I’d probably have lost more weight instead of just having maintained my numbers for a year now.

The drinking escalated last fall. More this spring. A good three or four nights a week would be 2-3 drinks, maybe more often than that if it was a busy period.

Just how often became a significant realization this week. Continue reading

So, How’d I Lose 70 Pounds? MY Weight-Loss Secret.

THIS POSTING’S DEDICATED TO ANYONE WHO THINKS THEY’RE STUCK BEING FAT. It’s not all hand-holding and gentle. I cut through the bullshit. You want your reality check? Start here. Oh, and I’m not selling a fuckin’ thing. I’m just trying to help you do what I’ve done, because it’s WORTH it.

I get a lot of people asking me how I lost my weight. Like there’s some magical store you can walk into, point, and say, “I know, I’ll do it THAT way.”

After a lifetime of being fat, trying shit, and finally figuring it out, you know what I think? There’s only one way to lose weight. Continue reading

About My Dad, About Weight, About Change

My dad was moved from the emergency ward, where they were keeping him under intense care because there were no beds in the ICU available, to a “normal” ward because he’s now stabilizing.

The long and the short of what’s wrong is, he has a systemic diabetic infection. Bad shit’s going on inside him and they’re trying to flush it all out. He is sick because he is fat and because he eats shit and does no exercise. Plain and simple. I love him, but these are the facts. Continue reading