Exactly one year ago today, March 17 2014, I started on my plan to lose weight and get back into good health. This was not a whim or a vague hope that “I hope I get this done” or “I need to get lose weight.” I actually sat down, wrote my goal weight and gave myself a time frame of five years to accomplish this. I stated that I will lose at least 200 pounds before March 17, 2019. One year has passed. In one year I have lost 70 pounds, my resting heart rate has dropped at least 15 points, my blood pressure is down enough I don’t need blood pressure meds, I can now walk 45 minutes per day without problems, and I’m down 2 full sizes in all my clothing. These positive changes were done even while on anti-depressants.
One of the most common side effects of anti-psychotic medications and anti-depressants is weight gain. I gained at least 200 pounds in 14 years during the course of treatment for schizophrenia. I did try to lose weight a few times in those 14 years, but those efforts were half hearted and had no real commitment. I believed that weight gain was inevitable because it was statistically proven that weight gain was a high possibility. It wasn’t until I decided to ‘lose weight or get busy dying’ that plans started to formulate. I asked myself ‘why do I want to lose weight.’ My answers were a) there’s so much cool things I haven’t gotten to see or do yet, b) i don’t want to be one of these guys who ends up on a motorized cart by age 40 and dead by age 45, and c) i have too much going for me to just give up and wait for death. I’ll go into more detail on these reasons.
There really is so much more cool stuff I want to see and do. Sure I’ve made friends from all over the country and the world during my years in college. But I would absolutely love to visit at least some of these people in their home states and even home countries. Wasn’t going to happen with me in poor health and suffering from sleep apnea. I flew on an air liner once when I was seventeen. I remember how uncomfortable those seats were even as a kid. The poor stewardess would have probably taken one look at me and thought ‘it would be easier for this guy to fly as live freight 🙂 ‘ Taking a train is really not a good option as USA has probably the worst passenger train service in the developed world. I always envied Europe and Japan as a guy could just get practically anywhere on high speed rail with less headaches than driving and cheaper than flying. I wasn’t going to be traveling anywhere with as much as I weighed one year ago. It’s still a work in progress, but in a couple years when I’m down much more than yes I will make it a point to travel more. Laugh all you want, but I have never been in the eastern half of USA. Farthest east I’ve ever been is the Mississippi River.
The motorized cart and early grave options were not appealing, to say the least. Now I’m down 70 pounds, they are even less so. Living in low income housing with mostly senior citizens and people on disability, I see people in poor health every day. Every one of these people were young once and in good health. Many of these people made lifestyle decisions that contributed to the loss of their health. Some got involved in drugs, some became alcoholics, many ate way too much and did way too little exercise, and some just gave up on life when they got a diagnosis of a health or mental problem. Some of these people are really sad cases that are literally waiting for death. That’s a real terrible way to live. I don’t know if there is an afterlife or if my Hindu friends are right in that we keep coming back in one form or another. But I know I’m alive and I exist right here and and right now. That is what I know I have. And I refuse to let it slip away. The fact that I was conceived and came out as a human, why I won the genetic/cosmic lottery jackpot on that alone. I had a far better chance being a chunk of granite or a cockroach than being a member of the self aware and curious species we humans are. I, and all humans, have the winning lottery ticket. We just have to cash it in and enjoy the good fortune.
Mental Illness or no, I still have much going for me. I still maintained most of my natural intelligence. The thing I really miss is the mathematic ability. It’s kind of tough trying to do calculus (or even multiply large numbers) when the voices in my mind are trying to figure the problem out as well and are all on different parts of the problem 🙂 That’s the big part of my intelligence I lost. Surprisingly, everything else is still intact. No I can’t manage stress well and I have a hard time decoding body language and office politics. I was recently asked by my therapist what I would do for work if I was cured. I blurted out I would go into financial management because that’s what I studied in college. After some thought, that’s not what I would do. If by some act of God and/or science I were to have a complete recovery, I’d go to a trade school and learn how to set up computer networks and do IT work. I could take skills like this and work literally without borders. I could start my own business and charge people quite a bit to do the nuts and bolts computer work that many people simply don’t want to. Other good skills that would be seriously worth considering are electrician, plumbing, welding, carpentry, and mechanics. Should any of my readers be getting out of high school soon and want to go on to college afterward, seriously consider going into the trades through a trade school or a community college. The costs of a trade school are much lower than a four year college and you’ll definitely have a skill that will make you employable from day one. I studied business management in college in part because I had to give up my dream of medical research and also because I had absolutely no training in money, budgeting, finance, or accounting in high school. Mental illness or no, I really screwed myself not studying for a specific job in college. The budgeting skills and money management I learned in college has come in handy as I have learned to hunt for bargains, not get into debt, become streamlined and a minimalist, and still live quite well on less than $15,000 a year. Learn from the older man with a few years of experience under his belt. Don’t make the assumption I did twelve years ago that ‘any degree is a good degree.’ Simply isn’t so. As much as college costs anymore, you have to make it pay off.
Year One in the process of this lifestyle overhaul is in the history books. I still have at least two more years of work ahead of me. But a solid foundation is laid. Now it’s time to keep building on it. Let’s see what Year Two brings. Stay tuned.