Sugar is the Enemy

I keep making resolutions about losing weight, and not sticking to them. Falling off the wagon with a resounding thud is a more apt description. But then I discovered combat fitness, or rather plugged up the courage to call a number that was on my phone for over a year. And I fell in love with exercise.

People told me that they loved exercise; that it gave them a high. I didn’t believe this, because the only form of exercise that made feel great was swimming. I loathe running, thanks to the big melons genetics has seen fit to strap to my chest.

Combat fitness was amazing, except not sustainable for me. Work and stuff got in the way, and I have dropped out for now, fully intending to go back some time soon.

But in the interim, I decided to grab my diet by its balls. I made one change: reduced my sweet intake. Avoided desserts wherever possible, and substituted with fruit when the urge was too strong. In any case, I preferred natural sweeteners like honey, and disliked the overly cloying sweetness of sugar. So it wasn’t a leap for me.

The next thing I am trying to do is reduce carbs overall, but that’s tricky because I have gout too, which calls for a reduced-protein, increased-carb diet. Plus, I experience vertigo with the medicine prescribed in India for gout, so I have to control it with diet exclusively. Joyous.

Anyway, in two weeks, there was a rapid decline in my ability to consume any sweets. A biscuit or a mouthful of cake sated my desire for treats, and soon those went away as well. My diet is so much better, especially since I adore vegetables. Let’s see what further changes I can make going ahead.

The upshot is that I feel great. At my worst point, I was 95 kilos. Today, I tip the scale at 84.6 kilos. I still have a long way to go, but damn that feels GOOD!

Advertisements

Not Comatose

There has been a raging Internet debate on being healthy/making healthful choices vs. having body positivity. I have mostly been a silent spectator in all cases, because honestly I can see that both sides of the argument have merit. It is important to make good eating and exercise choices for your health, just as it is important not to be burdened by an unrealistic conception of your body should like instead of what it actually does. Ultimately, I have reached a point where I accept my [overweight] self as I am with serenity, but aim to do better in times to come.

Having said that, I do believe that only I have the right to make these judgements about myself. Everyone else can [and should] take a flying leap off a tall cliff, if they feel compelled to air their unsolicited opinions to me. Because that’s what they are: unsolicited. I didn’t ask for your opinion, and therefore please keep it to yourself. Covering up nastiness in a flimsy veil of “caring” or “tough love” is a bunch of bollocks. I can also serve up a searing indictment of your character, morals, and sundry other personal aspects, but I choose not to.

This post was borne off two things: one, a completely toxic ex, who eroded my self-esteem and confidence to virtually nothing AND had me believing that he was right; and two, a couple of conversations I had with two overweight friends. Both guys, incidentally, which just goes to show that anxiety about weight is not restricted to gender. [But y’all knew that already.]

The second of these conversations happened in Delhi, last month. I was chilling out with a friend in my hotel room, while I waited for a plumber to come and fix a faucet in the bathroom. I made a comment saying that only one person had observed that I had lost weight since the last time the group was together. And he responded by asking how I had done it. I described joining an MMA class, and sort of falling in love with the concept of fun exercise. There was also the part where I was trying to eat less, and avoid stuff I knew wasn’t nutritious, but without any ironclad rules.

But the point I stressed the most was that I had started and failed many, many, many times over. The needle of the weighing scale had stubbornly refused to budge for weeks, and when it did, it was a miserable tick of minuscule proportions. Essentially, hardly a dent in my weight. But the key was that I stopped feeling bad about it, and carried on with forming better habits and doing it for the love of it only.

He nodded, but sighed disconsolately too. And in that moment, I felt a rush of sympathy and empathy for someone who absorbs numerous ‘big’ and ‘fat’ jokes on a daily basis. He is taller than average, so does have an imposing presence. Comments and jokes from friends and loved ones are fine, but up to a point. And that point varies depending on person, mood, state of mind, and a multitude of other factors.

Which brings me to the first incident that summed it up so well for me.

I was in Bangalore, and I called up a college friend who lived there to catch up. I was horrified to learn that he had been in an accident and was in hospital with several broken bones.

When I went to visit, I met his parents too for the first time. We chatted for about half an hour, and he was telling me about his attempts to lose weight. [Tall and again considerably overweight.] He had tried exercise, gyms, nutritionists, diets, gotten tested for hypothyroidism, and so much else besides. I listened in round-eyed wonder, as he recited a litany of the avenues of weight loss he has attempted without noticeable success. The truly depressing part was when his mother chimed in to say that he hardly eats anymore. A fistful of rice and or a small salad comprised most of his meals. She sounded angry and sad at the same time, and I wondered why until he told me what was happening when his friends visited him.

In the modern hubbub of life, one tends to lose touch. So months, sometimes years, elapse before you meet old friends again. Any changes that occur in the intervening period stand out more starkly to those who haven’t been around in the recent past.

My friend had had his parents staying over for a few months, and he occasionally invited friends over to his place. The first thing they said on seeing an old friend again, after many years was, without variation: “Dude! You’ve put on so much weight!”

My friend sighed at this point of his narrative. I knew what he must have felt, having been at the receiving end of the same sort of thing innumerable times. And then he turned to me and said: “Don’t they think I know that already? I haven’t been in a coma for like 8 years, without looking in a mirror, and suddenly woken up that I can’t see that I’ve put on weight. Do they seriously think I don’t KNOW already?”

Well. Good point, isn’t it?

Fancy Sore Throat

I’ve written before about the medical malpractice that has dogged my family over the course of the last 20-odd years. After losing my father though, my mother has clammed up as far as doctors are concerned. She believes in the body healing itself, given the right nutrition and state of mind, and that’s the reason I ended up with a horrendous infection.

Sometime in mid-January, I thought I was coming down with a cold. There was a little discomfort in my chest and I had the beginnings of a sore throat. I’ve had septic tonsillitis twice already, and thus was deathly afraid of a recurrence. That shit hurts. It feels like there are razor blades stuck in your throat, not only slicing at everything you swallow, but also at your throat itself.

Colds are not big deals though, and I have rarely, if ever, gone to a doctor for a piddling case of the sniffles. Plus, there were two friends’ weddings on the cards in the chilly north, and I had to get ready to attend. Weddings are insane things, with an energy altogether their own, so I must’ve averaged about 4 hours of sleep over the course of 10 days. Added to that, the weather was chilly; not great for an already achy throat. Suffice it to say, my infection clearly worsened.

Coming back to Mumbai though, I figured rest and relaxation were on the cards, and I could recuperate in peace. Granted being in my home environment was soothing, but work robbed me of any peace. I developed a nasty cough.

Ok, I figured, not a big deal. Coughs usually succeed colds, and I consider myself fortunate that I escaped the ravages of traditional colds: runny nose, heavy head, etc. But the cough was persistent. And it was getting nastier by the day. The few people I spoke to via the phone noticed a difference in my voice, and were treated to intermittent bouts of uncontrollable coughing. Therefore, I kept most of my interaction limited to emails and chat; as I didn’t want to freak people out any more than I had to.

Finally came to Pune, since mom had also contracted a viral infection around the same time. The only doctor she seems not to dislike intensely is here in Pune. He first checked her symptoms and wrote up a long prescription of drugs and tests. Nothing surprising there. But. BUT. When it came to me? Boy, was I in for a shock.

I took my place next to his examination table, and he asked me my symptoms. “An intermittent cough,” I said laconically, “and sometimes I think my tonsils swell at night. I had a congested feeling in my chest too, but that’s eased up. I think it’s better now, doc!”

He didn’t say anything, but asked me to open my mouth to examine my throat. Then peeked in my ears. Then had me do the breathe deeply thingie while he bunged the stethoscope over my back in a bunch of places. He sat at the desk, and proceeded to write out a prescription that was, I kid you not, twice as long as my mother’s. It has painkillers, steroids, and antibiotics.

By this time, I was well and truly flummoxed. Why did I need so much medication? Because, I had ignored the infection and, as a result, it had grown out of proportion and my lungs were full of congestion.

Oops.

The next corker was that the medicines he had prescribed were the bare minimum, and if I didn’t see a change in a few days, he would up the dosage.

Blimey.

Finally, I need to have nebulisation immediately. For at least 3 days, 3 times a day. Because otherwise my airways were in danger of closing up thanks to the swelling.

Yikes.

Assimilating this information took me some time, and I was horrified to think that I had a respiratory infection, just like my father did when he passed away. It would have been quite the twist if I had to be hospitalised for the same horrible thing that caused my father to have a cardiac arrest.

Sobering thought.

The Second Biggest Challenge

There are a number of things that trip up my progress with the whole weight loss gig. First, it is my lack of resolution and staying power. I have staying power for a lot of things, unless they are wholly in my control. Then, I tend to take the easy way out. With my new combat fitness class, I am going to be shelling out a substantial sum, and that will goad me into being regular.

But this post isn’t about how I battle my lack of resolution, but the second biggest demon: embarrassment.

In this wonderful class, with an amazing coach, and a fantastic trainer, I am in the worst shape. [I kinda love this sentence, with all the superlatives. hehe.] I am the fattest, not the oldest (but those guys are fitter), and the one with the least ability. And therein lies the rub.

It would be awesome to go into something like this with some sort of pre-existing ability. Like I did with my French classes in Goa. I had already been through levels of French in Pune, and I found the course a breeze. It enabled me to stop feeling nervous and to really grasp the nuances of language that has escaped me the first time. That sort of leg up can make it for me. And it is a tremendous confidence boost, although I wasn’t in competition with anyone else.

Right now, I’ve been to two fitness classes. And it is a struggle not to want to collapse into a heap because everyone else is [literally] running laps around me. In short, I feel utterly humiliated and embarrassed.

Stupidly though, and I know this because I have a functioning brain, all this is purely in my head. Not by a word or glance have any of the others, least of all the trainer, betrayed disgust or disdain for my lack of ability.

So I tell myself, everyone has to start somewhere. Everyone had a first day once. At least I am here trying to get to the next day, the next month, the next year: the next level.

I cannot also myself to be discouraged with lack of immediate progress, because that’s not how physiology works. I have to focus on doing one more rep, being a little less breathless, kicking a little bit higher, and tweaking my form a little more each time. That is going to be enough, but I have to keep telling myself that.

Ultimately, I want to enjoy this process. And focusing on the result isn’t going to get me there any faster or happier, which is more important.

Falling Down and Getting Up Again

Before I started writing this post, I peeked at the page where I am documenting my so-called journey of weight loss. [This post will be indexed there too, so it is kind of meta that I am linking to the container page from within the post. Sorry. I need to geek out slightly.]

Anyway, so I looked at the posts on that page, and I can see fairly clearly that I have gotten absolutely nowhere. I am still as fat as before, if not more. But I haven’t started writing this to whine, but to talk about how I have decided (anew) to change that. The millionth time’s a charm?

So, last year, before quitting my full-time job, I looked up places that taught martial arts. Specifically mixed martial arts. I am not only terribly unfit, but also an unfortunate target of a lot of unwanted male attention. I thought it might me feel a bit more secure to be able to kick ass.

However, due to circumstances, I didn’t join at the time. I saved the number in Keep, and never mustered up the courage to call, nor to tell my family about this new desire. [Because my mum would have been very enthusiastic, and perhaps pushed me to join sooner.]

Last month, I bit the bullet and called the number, terrified of lord knows what. The man didn’t answer, and I heaved a sigh of relief and figured it wasn’t meant to be.

Only. He called back.

Um.

Ok.

Breathe.

Be normal.

Speak to him, you idiot.

I asked him a few questions, and he was unsurprisingly an easy person to talk to. [No matter how many normal people I speak to, I always imagine them as ogres in my mind before speaking to them.]

I laid out all my caveats. I’m 33. I’m very overweight. I have gout. I have a mostly sedentary lifestyle. I don’t know whether I was subconsciously asking him to reject my candidature. He did no such thing. He said that anyone could take the class, and they would progress as per their individual capability and speed. He had an excellent suggestion: come to a class and see what it is like. I was out of excuses.

The next morning, I legged it to the class. I was there for less than 5 minutes, because that’s how quickly I was sold on the idea. I said that I would need a couple of weeks to settle in with a new project that was coming up, and after that I would join the class.

My first class was on Tuesday. It was intense. I couldn’t do all the reps that the trainer instructed, but I tried. My body is out of shape and doesn’t not respond well yet to orders to move it so vigorously. But I tried.

Wednesday, my body was groaning and aching, and my muscles felt fit to burst with agony. I was hobbling around like an ancient crone. I alternated between relishing the stress on my muscles, knowing that it was good for me, and being scared about continuing.

I was still undecided this morning. But I decided to take it step by step: get out of bed; shower and change; get to the class; and then see whether I am able to cope.

I wasn’t able to cope, but I tried once again. Again, I couldn’t do the reps. But I’m going back on Saturday.

Cooperation

After much cajoling, my aunt and I finally convinced my mother to have a health check-up. She is clearly diabetic, but doesn’t take any meds. It has plagued her (and us by extension) for years now. So this week, we finally got it done.

The clinic we are visiting is new for us. It is cheek by jowl by my aunt’s place, and is run by someone she knows. We purchased a package with tests typically necessary for a diabetic. One of these was a session with the ophthalmologist.

Now, the way the clinic is set up, there are doctors in at different times during the day. We went across in the morning for a dental check, an ECG, and a meet with the dietician. So far, so good. We enquired about the eye test and the hobnob with the GP, and were told to come around 7 pm.

So around that time, we hauled ass to the clinic. We were tired after a long morning and afternoon out in the Indian summer, although to be fair we were in and out of shops. But yes, tired.

We were taken straight to the ophthalmologist’s cabin, and he clearly had an attitude to begin with.

My mum sat down in the the chair, and I stood out of his way facing her. He started with checking her eye sight. My mum is 65 years old. She is tired and she hasn’t been too well. Ding ding ding. We were at a clinic. Duh.

He kept barking at her to keep her eyes open and not to blink. She tried. He then held her head hard against the machine. I objected. He backed off.

Then, he tried to test her power. The sneaky bastard kept trying out the same lenses, certain that she was just being difficult. I knew this because I was standing behind. She was clear in her communication: I cannot see; it’s blurred. Yet, he continued to test the same powers, convinced that she was being difficult.

Then he moved onto the next machine, but she couldn’t keep her eyes open long enough. I don’t know where these blokes get their egos from, but my goodness. What an appalling bedside manner.

Finally he says: “You aren’t cooperating.” And I lost it. I told him off, very politely, saying that he had no business speaking to my mother like that. She stayed calm, and tried to comply. But I was furious. I was trying to get her out of the seat, and the man continued to argue. I couldn’t respond to what he was saying because I was in a red haze.

The centre manager got involved, and we walked out of the ophthalmologist cabin quickly, rejecting his services. My mum was angry and a little weepy, my aunt was fuming, and I was transcendent with rage.

Only when I heard my aunt explain to the centre manager, did I realise why I was so angry. Till then, it was a purely subconscious reaction.

On 4th of April, 2016, my mother took my father to an ENT surgeon for a check up, because he was having breathing issues. Due to the ENT surgeon’s enormous ego, which was inflamed with my mother trying to explain that my father was unable to take medicines orally, he said to her, in my father’s hearing: “He is not a small boy; he should cooperate.”

The day after, I lost my father due to an undiagnosed chest infection. He went into respiratory arrest, and then cardiac arrest. And eminently avoidable situation, if the condition had been treated with antibiotics the previous day. That ENT surgeon is one of the people I hold directly responsible for my father’s death.

I was not there to fight for my father, and my mother was unaware of the iniquitousness of the medical profession. I have always been there with him. Except that one last time.

So when I heard: “She is not cooperating.” I should be congratulated for not rearranging the features on that bastard’s damn face.