It Has Happened!

I’ve been a little quiet about the actual details of the reasons behind why I started loosing weight. But about five months after I started this journey, I’m ready to share some good news. And in doing so, I feel conformatble sharing my bad news.

Let’s start with the good news, and we can go back from there!

I’ve lost 40 lbs (~18 kg, 2.8 Stone)!

Moreover, my blood work (which I received last week), is showing so much improvement that it’s actually the best general blood work I’ve had since moving to the U.S. Even the ‘bad’ news from the summer is now a lot better than it was, and while I’m *technically* still in the not-where-I-should-be zone, I’m out of the danger zone.

And I think that requires a bit of celebration on my part. So let’s go back in time, and start afresh.

Last year, I was in a bad place.

I was NOT happy… but I was larger than I wanted to be.

At the start of 2022, I wasn’t in a good place. Work stress, combined with stress about the political situation in the U.S., depression, and growing anxiety meant that I wasn’t looking after myself. What’s more, I was making excuses about my health. I’m not sure how many of you reading this know, but I have a rare heart condition called Long QT Syndrome. It’s an electrical fault with the heart relating to repolarization of the heart chambers after it has contracted. In its most severe form, it can cause fatal heart arrhythmias which can… y’know, kill you (that’s why it’s fatal).

LQTS risks rise when your heart beats fast, so I’m on beta-blockers designed to slow down my heart rate and my metabolism. It lowers my risk of suffering a cardiac arrest, and (for the most part) appears to be under control from medication (this is why I don’t have an implanted defibrillator like some of my family do). I do have a portable AED, but that’s mercifully outside my body… 😉

For the past few years, I’ve been blaming the beta-blockers (my does went up in 2020) for my growing weight. Working out with LQTS is HARD, because my heart rarely gets above 120-130 bpm, and there are certain cardiac intensive exercises I just shouldn’t do. Swimming is one of them (I’m basically banned from swimming). That perceived cause of my weight gain, combined with not enough time to devote to myself, depression, and what I thought was weight gain from HRT, meant that while I was working out, the weight wasn’t coming off. And I knew it.

I was starting to feel easily out of breath. I was getting swelling in my hands and feet. And I felt poop. And that, combined with a lot of depression, dealing with continual hate from trolls online, and PTSD from past traumatic events in my life (I’m two-times over sexual abuse survivor and I was an adoptive parent to two very traumatized children – but that’s not something to discuss today) meant that I was just… spiraling.

Worse still, because I had a healthy diet… in so much I grew a lot of the food we ate, didn’t eat take-outs much and avoided pre-packaged and processed foods.. I was convincing myself that my diet wasn’t the issue.

It was… at least partially.

I’ve never had a particularly sweet tooth, but I’ve always had a good appetite. When I was a child, home-cooked farm meals were… large. They were properly nutritious, but because everyone was expending a lot of energy working on the farm or walking places (we didn’t have a car), we naturally burned through a LOT of calories. When I was cycling to and from schools in my early days of being a music teacher (before I got my driving license) I was eating large meals to satisfy the 50-miles (80 kilometers) of cycling I was doing every day.

The problem began when I started to enjoy a more sedentary life, and middle-age crept in. I never really changed my portion sizes. And it was biting me in the butt.

A Nasty Wake-Up Call

In the U.S., while there’s not a lot of requirements for you to go and visit the doctor for checkups, Insurance companies like it if you go in once a year for an annual physical. And in my case, I’d been putting it off. My annual physical was more than six months overdue, and I didn’t want to face what I knew: my weight was going up and my health was deteriorating. I’d had a couple of work trips that coincided with planned physicals – and so I’d just kept pushing it back.

I ended up going in to my surgery in late August. And while I didn’t enjoy my doctor (she was someone I was basically assigned after my previous doctor had moved to a concierge practice) I sat through the consultation. For reasons I’ll discuss another time (because I’m about to make a formal complaint), my doctor was pretty nasty about me being on HRT (and ended up, six months later, refusing my HRT prescription refill request). She was pretty derogatory about my physical condition, and basically dismissed any concerns I had. I was shipped off for blood work, and a few days later, the horror hit in.

My general blood panel was showing extremely elevated liver function. It was showing extremely elevated levels of glucose. It was showing my body was not happy at all. All in all, about six of my blood panel readers were abnormally high. Worse still, my A1C had reached 7.0, indicative of early onset diabetes mellitus. And my weight? It was 262 pounds, my heaviest ever. The Doctor messaged me and told me to make a follow-up appointment to discuss my options, and to have a second set of blood work to confirm the diagnosis (in order to confirm a diagnosis of diabetes, doctors require two blood tests within a few weeks). Given that I was making another series of work trips, I knew I wouldn’t be able to return to the doctors any time soon. And I knew that I needed to make a change.

By the time I was at FCL in San Diego, I was working out most days and desperately trying to shed pounds

Faced with a doctor who told me that my being on HRT was no-longer possible because she felt it was a cancer risk (she’s tried to get other trans patients off HRT for a variety of other reasons), I decided three things.

  1. I wasn’t going to let myself get diagnosed with diabetes (I’ve seen it destroy too many people).
  2. I was going to make a change there and then to take control of my life.
  3. I was going to find a new doctor.

The very next day, I doubled… no quadrupled my efforts. I knew I was eating too much, and I knew that bread was my nemesis. I’m not a dietician, but I grew up in the country. I know what constitutes a healthy diet, and while I was eating all the right things and doing so in a pretty healthy manner, I was simply eating too much of the stuff.

First, I increased my workout schedule, from a few times a week to every day. I increased my workouts to include not only the things I enjoyed (hill climbs) but also strength and core classes. My work out times went from 20 minutes every now and then to close to an hour or just over it, four to five times a week.

Since I knew I was eating pretty healthily, I tackled things I knew was rising cholesterol and fat levels. I made substitutions. Instead of having scrambled eggs in the morning, I had two scrambled egg whites. Instead of multiple pieces of bread, I had one piece of bread, made at home, so I knew what was in it. Instead of making a 20-ounce late every morning (I’m a total coffee snob), I switched to making Americanos with a splash of milk on top.

I replaced Lates with Americanos (Don’t tell my cardiologist: although I’m allowed “one” coffee a day) 😉

Then, I became more aware of food choices and plate size. I ate less bread. In fact, I think I halved my bread consumption overnight. I started using My Fitness Pal to account for calories in and calories out.

And I decided I wasn’t going to give up.

Not a Minor Journey.

When I and the rest of the Transport Evolved team headed to Fully Charged Live in San Diego in September, I was about two weeks in, and I’d already lost a noticeable amount of weight. I was traveling with PyoorKate, who has been running most days since the start of last year as part of her own improved health journey, and she dragged me to the hotel gym every day. I was glad, because it got me into the swing of things. They say it takes a few months for a new program to stick, and it really helped cement the idea that I get up and work out.

I’ve been cycling and lifting my way through 2022. Christine D’ercole is one of my favorite instructors, as is Ben Aldis.

My wife AmeriKate has been wonderful too, and I think she’s been able to shed some weight as part of this journey. She’s let me work out in the morning while she takes care of the dogs. It’s been amazing. And every time I’ve had a tough work out session, she’s cheered me on. Every time I’ve had a celebration, she’s celebrated too.

And today, when I got on the scales after showering, the good news hit. I’d lost my 40th pound. Now at 222 pounds, I’m still considered in the danger zone from a weight perspective, but I’m closer to a healthy weight than I’ve been in almost 5 years. If I can keep this up, and I really hope I can, I’m hoping to be under 200 pounds by the summer, and 180 pounds by next holiday season. If I can, I’d like to reach 168 pounds (meaning I’ll have lost nearly 100 pounds in total), but I’m okay with 180 if it feels right when I get there.

I was about 10 pounds heavier than I now am when this photo was taken, but I was already feeling years younger.

It’s fair to say that my weight loss has slowed considerably in the last few weeks. Over the Thanksgiving and Holiday period, I was watching my weight less carefully, and told myself that as long as I didn’t INCREASE my weight, I’d be okay remaining pretty stable. That’s what I did. And believe me, I’ve been waiting to hit that magic 222 pound weight now for about two weeks as my weight slowly dropped to that figure. But because of family commitments and cold mornings, my workouts have been less frequent in the last two weeks than they were in previous months. Now we’re back in to ‘normal’ schedules though, my work out schedules are slowly back to a normal level. Yesterday, I did a 1 hour 10 minute Peloton workout split between warmup, upper body strength, core strength, hill climb, and cool down.

The other good news? Well, that’s coming now.

There’s work still to do, but…

With my old family doctor point blank refusing to renew my HRT script (despite my breast cancer specialists stating they saw no reason for me to be pulled off HRT) I began looking for a new family doctor.

The local clinics in the Portland area are all under incredible pressure. Immense pressure. And most doctors don’t have openings and aren’t accepting new patients. So we chose to use what I’m going to admit is upper middle-class privilege and sign up for a concierge doctor instead… specifically the concierge doctor who used to be at our family clinic and who had left that clinic to join a concierge service.

Concierge doctor surgeries are weird. They offset some of the costs associated with longer appointments (giving patients more time with the doctor or specialist they’re seeing), with a membership fee that you pay either monthly or annually. In our case, my wife and I are both signed up for a year for under $500. That feels like a lot, but it actually felt reassuring knowing that we were able to find a doctor we knew and trusted. Do I like the fact that it costs more to see a good doctor? No, I think healthcare should be free for everyone. But I hope switching to this surgery helped free up a slot for someone else at our old clinic.

The concierge doctor experience last week was epic. It was unlike any doctor’s visit I’ve had in the US or UK. We had time to discuss things. We had time to go over my health concerns, I was able to get my HRT refilled (and yes, I even booked in to see a counsellor to discuss some of the mental health issues I’ve been struggling with of late).

Then I had my blood work done. By this point, I was honing in on my 40th pound of lost weight, so I knew I was looking and feeling a lot better than I was in August. I may be 43, but most days now I feel as if I’m back in my late 20s. The blood work confirmed it.

Not only had all of my blood panel work returned to normal levels (and not just within the bounds of normal but often into the ‘lower’ value for ‘safe and normal’) but my A1C had gone from 7.0 (diabetic) to 6.2 (pre-diabetic). I’m also now closer to a normal A1C than I am to diabetic levels, since an A1C below 5.6 is considered ‘normal’ rather than ‘pre-diabetic’.

This not only means I didn’t get that diagnosis of diabetes, but I’m now out of the danger zone and into the “we can do this” world.

And we can do this… No. I can do this!

Where do we go from here?

That… is a good question. Right now, while I have LegsOfSteel™ I have a pretty piss poor core. I mean, I still struggle to do a sit up (but I can at least now do a push-up and I’m able to lift a half-decent amount of weight). I need to continue my weight loss to get myself to a point where I’m into the safe zone for BMI and A1C. And I’d really like to get myself there without needing to go on any specific diets. Growing my own food is great. I just need to eat less of it. (So far it’s working).

Weirdly, there’s one thing that’s helping that I never thought would help. A few years ago, someone gifted me a Hidrate Spark smart water bottle. I have no idea who, and I can only assume it was part of some Swag fest at some car event or other. Frankly, I’ve lost track of the water bottles and hats that automakers have handed out at events.

I found it over the holidays (still in its packaging) and I’ve started to use it. It tracks my water usage, and frankly, while I doubted it would work and called it a gimmick, it turns out that it only blinking well works. I’m drinking more water, and as a consequence, I’m feeling less hunger than I previously did. It’s working.

Who knew a smart device would actually have a good benefit?

And if you’re in a situation like I was? Forget the fad diets and the slimming drinks. Sit down and work out what your calorific needs are in a day. Talk do a doctor. Get proper health monitoring. Start exercising… and drink more.

If I can do it… well, then anything’s possible. Oh, and if you want to join me on Peloton? I’m @Aminorjourney on there, just like I am most other places. Let’s work out together some time 😉