Monday, May 7, 2018

A Few Extra Pounds Can Really Mess You Up

My weight cycles. I'm either concentrating on it - which means I'm losing a pound per week - or I'm not - which means I'm gaining a scant 1/4 lb/week, which adds up. As a result, I'm like a white male non-billionaire Oprah.

The ups and downs have taught me something - confirmed by my doctor and by my neighbor Jon - that I don't think many people realize: overweight maladies don't gradually arise as weight creeps up. There's a threshold, past which....bam! I've now observed this a couple times under clear conditions (other factors remaining uniform, and with careful tracking). And here's how it works for me (note: I'm tall, so if you're under 6', adjust accordingly):

10 lbs overweight: No problem.
20 lbs overweight: No problem.
25 lbs overweight: Cholesterol shoots up, blood pressure up a bit, light snoring
30 lbs overweight: Continuous snoring, sleep apnea, indigestion, heart burn, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Huge differences from tiny increments! You wouldn't think 5 pounds would be a big deal. That's less than a pants size; more like a single belt notch. But, again, there's a surprisingly sharp threshold. The specifics might be different for you, but I bet your threshold - wherever it is - is sharper than you'd think, too.

I recently peaked at 31 lbs overweight. My blood pressure is sky high without meds, and it takes literally four hours for my heart rate to recover after exercise (and I'm in decent cardio condition). My stomach at night feels like I've guzzled fabric softener, and I'm frequently awakened by breathless panic. This is how John Hughes must have felt:

My doctor was kind enough to prescribe a hypertension pill I absolutely hate. It makes me foggy and slurs my speech, and I can't drink a drop of alcohol. Which is great. Being forced not to drink will help weight loss, and, just generally, my mind is wonderfully focused on weight loss so I can get off the damn medication!

The good news is that just a bit of weight loss will make a big difference. Normally, the first few pounds are disappointing, with so much effort for so little visible result. But ten pounds (i.e. ten weeks) from now I'll be off these damned pills, and then I'll watch the other maladies evaporate soon thereafter. And then, having built momentum (plus an elevated resting metabolism - from weight training, increased physical activity, sufficient protein, and never starving) it will be relatively easy to get down to optimal weight.

I started this Slog shortly after having lost the 30 pounds I'd been carrying for much of my adult life. I developed some principles in going about it. If you're curious - or you'd like to get back under that threshold, yourself - the series starts here.

The final installment of that series offers a theory as to why the maladies of obesity cut in so early in my weight gain curve:
The more you engage in this massively unhealthful war against the body, the more afflictions of obesity will befall you even if you're not so overweight. Over the past twenty years, I've rarely been more than 12% overweight, and obesity starts over 20%. Yet I've had high cholesterol, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, fallen arches, sleep apnea - the full basket of conditions comprising Metabolic syndrome - normally the fate of obese people. My suspicion is that the more you battle your body with the sort of self-defeating patterns we've been looking at, the more your body falls prey to the ills of the obese - even if you're just mildly overweight. Obesity may be the result, rather than the cause.


Display Name said...

Love your attitude about the meds Jim. I know you like you some beer. I found myself channeling the same viewpoint in the sauna the other day when a woman was telling me how she worked at a big pharm company crowded in closely with others. She is allergic to peppers and someone cooked peppers in oil at work causing her eyes to almost swell shut. She got permission to work from home most of the time and this woman is disciplined enough to pull it off. I raised my fist in the air three times and chanted "and the pepper shall set you free!!!!!" I love lifting and find my gym addicting. I read some article on the internet proclaiming you can pick three: sleep, fitness, career, family and friends. I have been blowing off friends because the gym feels so good. Are you still climbing that nearby hill?

Jim Leff said...

I disagree with "you can pick three". Rather, you can ROTATE your picks, like a farmer rotating crops.

Though, indeed, when I'm in weight loss mode I'm far less social. I'm constantly thinking about meal planning. I actually eat BETTER. People don't get fat from thoughtful good food, they get fat from mindless bad food. So in a sense, weight loss periods are some of my best eating, and inspire my best cooking. It's really important to feel satiated when dieting (actual or perceptual starvation feeds the "metabolic syndrome" that lowers metabolism, and creates deep aversions that result in future rebounds). And it's surprisingly hard to eat circa 2000 really clean calories per day. That's a LOT of food when you remove the crap.

Yup. The hill provides a nice 700 calorie one hour workout. Hard to beat that.

Display Name said...

Nice. I'm on the hunt for a dog right now. My mini doxie lasted sixteen incredible years. We bundled her up and walked her almost every day last winter. Never got around to my flu shot and I'm convinced that those walks for the doggie's health helped me avoid sickness last winter. I want a dog for lots of reasons but having to walk him or her is way up there. I hear you on the food. My friend and I tried raw vegan for a time and found we had to eat constantly. Avocados were our friends. Plus my giant black raspberry patch. Nothing beat the easy buzz of watermelon for breakfast on a hot summer day. Such a feeling of well-being and energy. Though once in deepest winter I came back from a card tourney feeling like road kill and my friend handed me some freshly squeezed juice. It really felt like a magic elixir. I always think like a gamer.

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