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Fat Writer Running – The Myth of Discipline and White Knuckles

Hi all, Fat Writing Running checking in. I’ve been keeping pretty busy so it’s been tough for me to prioritize these blog update. But it’s been too long so here are some quick bullet points on where I’m at and what I’m thinking about. After that, there’s a bit more I want to dive into as it relates to this idea of changing diet and exercise as some result of Herculean indomitable will. (Spoilers: it’s not really if you’re doing it right).

  • I have my first official half-marathon run coming up in a few weeks and I’m really excited. I’ve done four 13+ mile runs solo since August and while they’ve been very challenging and I haven’t mastered the alchemy of what to eat/drink before/while/after running to avoid some pretty intense post run nausea quite yet, I’m confident and eager to get out there. Running is awesome!
  • I’m also deep into a new writing project. Not much I want to share on it yet but it’s occupying a lot of my time and attention. Writing is awesome!
  • I read this story when it was first posted and I have a ton of thoughts about it: Everything You Know About Obesity is Wrong. I’ve tried to distill those thoughts into something readable for this blog but I haven’t figured out how to really approach it in a way that satisfies me. I strongly recommend you read the story. There’s a lot going on and it’s very thought-provoking. Thoughts are awesome!

Anyway, let’s talk about discipline. I shared that news story above on my social media and a friend reposted it. She added a comment that referenced me and my experience in a way that I thought was flattering but also inaccurate. She wrote (I’m paraphrasing) that I had lost > 100 lbs through “sheer hard work” and “discipline.”

Nah. That’s not how I did it.

I maybe haven’t been clear enough about this so I want to skewer this myth right now because I think it’s a big obstacle for people. They deeply believe that the only way to make changes to regular diet and exercise is through some kind of masochistic fortitude and that if they’ve ever tried before and had mixed results they must be weak-willed or incapable. That’s a deeply self-destructive and self-defeating idea and the very large (and lucrative) health “lifestyle” industries are counting on it. They reinforce this whole “willpower” narrative and then offer their solution as a magical life hack. It’s deceptive marketing, you guys, and it’s awful.

Here’s how I think about it. I’m going to use bullet points again here for clarity:

  • The things we eat and the activities we do (or do not do) are largely a result of learned behaviors and habits.
  • Learned behaviors and habits exist for a reason. We have found validation, satisfaction, or simply enjoyment from them in the past. We eat food that might not be the healthiest for us because it tastes good or makes us feel good. Doughnuts are fucking delicious, you guys, and it’s not discipline to argue otherwise; it’s denial.
  • We don’t change these learned behaviors and habits by shouting at them and hating ourselves for having them and we won’t have a lot of luck quitting them in exchange for doing things we hate and can only imagine doing for limited lengths of time. We change them by learning- or re-learning- other behaviors and habits that also give validation, satisfaction, and enjoyment. Ideally, we find these other behaviors and habits feel even better.

So, the secret of my “sheer hard work” is that I looked at the life I was leading and asked myself “how come I’m doing this?” and when I had those answers (“tacos are tasty AF!” “I don’t have time to go to the gym” etc.) I thought really hard about how I could get the same physical and emotional reward from doing something else that might also be healthier for me. Tacos remain tasty AF, but I now I make tacos a little bit differently so that they are still tasty AF but are a little leaner, a little more nutritious. Or I found ways to shift my approach to exercise. I listened to podcasts or music while walking at first, things that gave me genuine enjoyment so it didn’t seem like a chore. My wife and I recently got a treadmill and I can get some miles on it while I’m watching Netflix. Netflix is awesome!

There’s another layer to this that goes to a deeper place. I cannot and will not speak for everyone that’s had similar physical struggles. As a society- as individuals- we really need to have a lot more empathy and a lot less judgment when it comes to everyone else’s bodies. The notion that obesity (however defined) is a moral failing is one of the most profane and offensive puritanical notions that we’ve allowed to continue into the 21st century. There are a hundred passionate blogs in those last few sentences alone but I digress to talk about my personal experience: For me, food was and is a source of tremendous comfort during times of emotional distress. This is not the only reason why I was “fat” nor is it a character defect. It’s just a behavior I learned and found that it rewarded me.

The night I found out my grandmother passed away, I ate an entire Dominos pizza. I ate until my gut was full and my brain was bombarded with chemicals telling it “YES YES THIS FEELS GOOD.” Biologically our bodies are hardwired to reward us for simple calories because it wasn’t that long ago in biological terms since food was scarce and quick and easy access to caloric fuel was a decisive advantage against looming death. When I ate that Dominos Pizza my body was probably thinking FUCK YEAH SCORE NOW EAT IT ALL BEFORE WOLVES FIND YOU OR THE WINTER COMES AND YOU CAN ONLY FIND ROOTS AND MICE TO EAT but what my body didn’t know is that we don’t have wolves anymore and Dominos Pizza is totally down to bring you pizza in the winter. The net-result was the same- I ate too much because it made me feel better. And it still will. That hasn’t gone away and I don’t expect it to. If I get a gut-punch from life, eating an entire Dominos Pizza will make me feel good. So will a lot of drugs and alcohol. So will going for a run.

What I’ve endeavored to do is give myself an alternative habit to process grief, stress, and anxiety. This wasn’t- it isn’t- easy but it’s more about being vulnerable with my own feelings and candid with myself about them than gritting my teeth and spouting some American folklore about bootstraps. I need to feel better when I’m hurt or afraid or insecure. I deserve to feel better when I’m hurt or afraid or insecure.  I also need and deserve to eat delicious food and need and deserve to do awesome things that bring me joy. Willpower might allow me deny those needs for a little while but it won’t make them disappear. “Sheer hard work” and “discipline” are admirable traits and a little bit of that is always required when making changes in your life but they are woefully insufficient and too often they’re traps. If you see two options and one is not doing anything at all and the other is impossible hard work all the time that you do just because you’re a bad ass, well, I think that explains the really dispiriting statistics about the number of people that are able to successfully lose weight and keep it off.

I have a lot of advantages that have really helped me do what I’ve done. So many that I’m not sure I could list them all if I wanted to. One of them that’s especially useful is a rad support network including healthcare and mental healthcare professional. Another is a love of cooking and a diverse palate that makes it easy for me to make delicious AF food that’s also healthy AF. A stubborn work ethic is another very important advantage but I think it’s helpful to know where that came from. I experienced some lousy things as a kid and I made some lousy choices with my life. At fifteen years old I was a high school drop out living in a trailer park with my single mother, supported entirely by government assistance. I was grossly obese, cripplingly depressed, and was statistically and realistically likely to fall into a life of mental illness, addiction, and poverty. A handful of great people believed in me (my grandmother was one of them) and somehow instead of giving up and sinking into that mud, I found some final reserve of strength and trusted those great people and I got the fuck up. This was not willpower. This was survival and it was the kindness of people that didn’t need to be kind and maybe it was also some greater purpose beyond all of this skin and bone. In the wake of that experience and in the years that followed, my stubborn work ethic has always rewarded me with validation, satisfaction, and enjoyment (also a house, a wonderful wife, and a couple of spoiled Chihuahuas). I’m proud of my stubborn work ethic but it’s not a magic life hack. It’s something I came by honestly and selfishly and it’s something anyone can have. Mystifying discipline and turning it into some kind of super power gives hard work too much and too little credit for what it actually is.

Geez. I wrote a lot more than I planned to. Keep writing and keep running everybody. I have some of that to do myself. Until next time!

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Fat Writer Running – the Pilgrim’s Eye of the Tiger

Fat Writer Running is back, you guys. This time it’s going to get a little philosophical up in here.

When I was younger I went through a heavy JD Salinger phase. I started, like most, with Catcher in the Rye but became especially fascinated with his stories and novellas about the Glass family. Central to these stories – especially Franny & Zooey – is something called the Jesus Prayer from a book called the Way of the PilgrimThe Jesus Prayer is a simple mantra – “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me” – that the pilgrim learns to teach him to pray without ceasing. The idea behind this prayer is that if one learns it properly prayer becomes unconscious, it becomes as integrated into daily life as breathing and in doing so brings a person closer to God and divine understanding. What I find so fascinating about this concept is that it posits that something very intentional and banal becomes revelatory through practice. What begins as a 7 word phrase evolves into an ecstatic state. This concept isn’t unique to the Jesus Prayer. There’s a tremendous number of spiritual, philosophical, and psychological teachings that cover similar territory some more elegantly or profoundly than others. Ultimately, they all say something similar about faith. God or mercy or meaning itself does not suddenly appear uninvited into the soul but is summoned after a million or a billion recitations.

For most of my adult life, my Jesus Prayer was the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket.

Because you are a disgusting fat body, Private Pyle.

Not to spoil a 30+ year old movie, but the drill sergeant’s weight loss motivation techniques didn’t work out well for anyone. Even now with all of my hard work and progress, sometimes my head still feels like a junkyard full of bad ideas overcrowded with paranoid schizophrenic hobos. The hobos sneer at me over their tire fires and bubbling can of beans or whatever and slur at me that they’re all going to laugh at me and dump pigs blood on my head when I go to the prom and I say what are you talking about I’m not going to the prom and they say oh that’s so sad no one wants to take you to the prom and I shake my head and say no, I’m a 38 year old man and they don’t have proms for 38 year old men and they cackle and spit half-chewed baked beans at me and say is that what they told you and I don’t really know how to respond to that but it still makes me feel bad.

A couple weeks ago I had this problem where for several nights in a row I would wake up in the middle of the night and I would suddenly have a song playing in my head and I couldn’t make it stop and I would lie there with an insomniac’s ear worm, miserable until the alarm went off. After a joke from my wife about her intentionally sticking a bad song into my subconscious I tried something. I woke up in the middle of the night with a song- something I had listened to on a run or while working that day, I think- and I started remembering the lyrics to that Big Red chewing gum jingle from the late 80s. Something something make it last a little long with BIG RED. It was ridiculous and I don’t know the words so I made up some extra silly ones and I smiled a minute and then, magically, the music all stopped and I fell back to sleep. For me the moral of that is that story is that if you’re to have a song stuck in your head at 3 in the morning, pick the song.

The most important thing I’ve found to being successful as a runner or a writer or a person living his best life is to believe that I can do it. Fake it until it make, mind over matter- whatever corny aphorism you can think of- there’s truth to them. The Jesus Prayer leads pilgrims closer to God and the Big Red jingle fixed my insomnia. Intention plus practice equals belief and belief-faith in oneself- is the missing ingredient to accomplishment. I think about all the years of my life with that drill instructor screaming in my face, with those weird brain junkyard hobos planting seeds of doubt, and I can’t just shout back at them. That won’t fix the problem any more than Private Pyle’s big crack up in Full Metal Jacket. I need to pick a different song.

So my new Jesus Prayer is “Eye of the Tiger.” My new Jesus Prayer is a hundred self-affirmation anthems and embroidered doily aphorisms. I don’t believe that I’m a champion (or even not a disgusting fat body) just because I listen to painfully sincere sports movie one hit wonders but belief is a practice. Prayers are just something you say over and over often enough that they transform you. I choose to pick better prayers.

This is what I want motherfucker, make it happen for me.

Fat Writer Running – Condescension in a White Coat – or – I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES 

Fat Writing Running here with a very special blog. I started FWR to be excited and positive about running and writing and life and good stuff but life is not all those things. This blog is about the impact of doctors have on our narratives and the ways they help and hinder us. I have a great story about it and then I have a not-great story about it. Because this is going to deal with serious things I’m going to get our obligatory otter photo out of the way up front to ease us in.

So, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes about 7 years ago. Since that diagnosis I have worked with a team at the Portland Clinic Diabetes Services and they’re awesome. I’ve had good health care experiences, bad healthcare experiences, meh healthcare experiences, and enthusiastically great healthcare experiences. The team at Portland Clinic are enthusiastically great. They answered questions when I was confused, supported me when I needed new solutions, and were generally rad people to interact with. About two weeks ago I had my most recent check up- my second in the last 15 months since I started eating well and exercising- and I was greeted with the amazing news that my Hemoglobin A1c, a blood test that measures an average glucose or sugar level and a primary metric for diagnosing Type II diabetes was not only really good but notably below diabetic levels. The target for a Type II diabetic to be considered “controlled” is 7. Anything above 6.5 is indicative of diabetes and anything 5.7 up to 6.4 is pre-diabetic. My latest A1c was 5.5.

I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES

Seriously, this is tremendous news for me and my pancreas. I did it with a sustainable diet, regular exercise, and the lowest recommended dosage of one diabetes drug, Metformin. The first question my diabetes nurse asked after telling me about the results is if I wanted to stop taking Metformin. I told her I didn’t want to do anything that could compromise my ongoing health. She said that with my A1c results (my test from 6 months prior was also very low and under diabetic levels) and my current running regimen, I should go ahead and stop taking it. She said that Metformin stops your liver from generating glucose from “emergency stores” and that at my activity level that was a detriment. Basically, all the running I’ve been doing I’ve been doing it without the benefit of my body pitching in energy reserves during and after. I agreed to this and agreed I would monitor my sugar levels with my meter at home regularly. She left my prescription active so if I noticed an uptick I could start the medication again.

And then I went to my car in the parking lot and I cried because I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES AND THIS IS ALL A GREAT HAPPY STORY AND EVERYONE HIGH-FIVED EVERYONE ELSE THE END!

Except that’s not how it went.

Two things followed. First, I didn’t believe it. I still struggle to. I have been testing my blood sugar constantly. I have been anxious that the test was wrong and this condition that I always believed was going to kill to me was just lying low and it would pounce when I let my guard down. Honestly, I will probably always worry about this, and I will test my sugar levels and I will consult with my doctors and I will do what I have to do to stay healthy and stay alive because I’m enjoying it and I recommend it. My meter readings have been just as great as my A1c even without the minimal dose of Metformin. I test before meals, after meals, between meals, when I wake up, in the middle of the night – and the results are consistently the results of someone who would not be diagnosed with Type II diabetes right now. This makes sense. I’ve spent the last 15 months not doing a crash diet or workout craze or taking drugs or getting surgery. My diabetes nurse had me do the body fat test and my results show that even though I’ve lost over 110 pounds it hasn’t come at the expense of muscle development. In fact, I have gained muscle and gaining muscle is sustainable. Every single thing I did, I did it the “right” way and my diabetes nurse in her white coat assured me as much. Her confidence in me- her educated and credentialed confidence- helped me to have confidence in myself. So much of this process is changing the story I told about myself and my healthcare team at the Portland Clinic contributed to a triumphant new one.

The second thing that happened was the opposite.

I’ve been wearing glasses for near sightedness since I was 11 years old. I’ve always wanted to do laser corrective surgery and I’ve talked to every single optometrist or ophthalmologist or street corner monocle vendor about it for years. My eyes are perfect for the procedure they’ve told me. I know that Type II diabetes can hurt your eyes so I had diabetic eye exams and I asked them about it and they said my eyes were great – there were no indications of damage from diabetes and as long as my A1c and sugar levels were well-managed (and they have been – even before they dropped to non-diabetic levels, I’ve been diligent about my health for 7 years) I should have healthy eyes and should be a good candidate for LASER EYES.

Anyway, the stars seemed to align and I had a great opportunity to get it done. I actually had to schedule the initial consultation with the Casey Eye Institute over a month in advance but it was worth it. I told them during the phone screening about my health history but at the time I was still on Metformin. There were no red flags or concerns because I had been diligent and thorough and earlier this week my appointment came and I made the trip down to the office. I filled out the medical history form in advance- clearly indicating my diabetes and all of the medications I was taking/not taking. No big deal, I thought. They should be thrilled that I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES right? The tech asked me more about my recent A1c and medication change. I answered her questions. No worries. She started with a series of exams to confirm that my eyes were good candidates. They shined lights into my eyes for over an hour and then she excused herself to check in with the doctor. She came back and informed me that the doctor was not going to do the procedure because he felt that my medical condition was unstable. He was concerned that I had recently stopped taking Metformin and wanted to wait 6-12 months to see what happened. I was caught off guard. If there was some medical justification, I could resume taking the Metformin. I still had a prescription. But they didn’t ask to see my medical records. They didn’t show any interest in 7 years of diligence with regular appointments and evaluations at the Portland Clinic. My Portland Clinic diabetes nurse (and the optometrist that did my last diabetic eye exam) were thrilled for me. The doctor didn’t even meet me before deciding I was not a valid candidate. I was told that another doctor at the Casey Eye Institute might be willing to do the surgery but I would need to schedule a later visit to find out. I was offered a refund for my non-refundable $100 evaluation fee and told I could either wait to see or, essentially GTFO. 

Look, consumers are entitled. I get that. We want what we want and if we go to the LASER EYE store and they are all out of LASER EYES we can be whiny obnoxious jerks about it. I felt that entitlement and fought with it in that appointment. The tech could tell I was upset though and she went and got the doctor so he could talk to me directly (a real standup move, I’m sure). The doctor came into the exam room and tells me my tests look great. My eyes look great. But he doesn’t do surgery on diabetics. He gives me this long speech about how diabetes works (pretty remedial stuff that my actual diabetes docs covered better) and how he thinks diabetics shouldn’t get laser corrective surgery. And I tell him I don’t understand. Why did he tell me to come back in 6-12 months then? Whey did they schedule my appointment in the first place? Why did they just do over an hour of exams? I told him if he was worried about me not taking Metform, I could resume taking Metformin – my diabetes nurse had made it clear it was my choice. He kind of waved his hands around and said “no – that would be going backwards and I would less likely to do the surgery.” Then he asked to look at my eyes with a bright light thing and I said okay and he nodded and said they looked good and then asked me some weird loaded question about how it was a good thing for him to not irreparably damage my eyes wasn’t it? And he made some comments about how I “seem to be on the right track” and how “most people can’t do that” and then walked me out into the front of the clinic and the full waiting room and told the woman at the desk that I didn’t meet the standards for his practice and that I should schedule some time with the other doctor but I probably shouldn’t get the surgery and he winked and disappeared.

It was the most condescending shitty experience I’ve ever had with a person in a white coat ever. He talked down to me. His rationale seemed muddled and inconsistent and honestly, he was just a prick. Even if I met him at the grocery store and he was like “I see you have an avocado” I would probably find him arrogant and off-putting. He emanated glib detachment and smugness with rare and complete repugnance. Above all- and if you’re a white coat wearer or know a white coat wearer please note this- this doctor lacked the empathy and respect for me that I deserved as a patient and a person. In the days since this happened I’ve gone over every moment of this interaction trying to pinpoint his exact words and actions that bothered me to so much and ultimately it was just everything. If it was about my health I could have talked to him about my health. He didn’t want to see my A1c results going back 7 years. He didn’t want to see that I have literally everything I’ve eaten for the last 15 months carefully logged, that I haven’t gone a day without at least 30 minutes of exercise in that same time, because he didn’t care.

I left that appointment feeling not like a champion because I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES but instead feeling somehow ashamed and bad about myself. What about me or my story made this doctor so certain I was unstable? The way he talked about “being on the right track” and the way he wanted to wait 6-12 more months felt like he was telling me “I know you’re going to slip up fatty- I know you’re going to fail and I don’t want my glorious LASER EYES damaged by your weak gluttony.” Because he’s wearing a white coat and because I’m already anxious about my own health, it really got to me, you guys. I’ve been incredibly lucky as a fat man with diabetes that my doctors have listened to me and considered my specific history and condition. A lot of people aren’t so lucky. They see a doctor because they’re depressed and need help and they’re told that maybe they need to eat a little bit less because of their BMI. It’s not exactly fat shaming. It’s fat blindness. Some doctors just can’t see- or don’t want to see- beyond your body shape, or your diagnoses.

Now, I’m not crazy and entitled. If I’m a bad candidate for laser corrective surgery I shouldn’t get laser corrective surgery. But my diabetes isn’t unstable. My diabetes is fucking gone.

I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES 

I’m not going to fall off the “right track.”

I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES 

I have data. I have the history. I have doctors that care to look at it and make informed decisions. And this jerk in his white coat would know that if he asked. This jerk in his white coat could have come in and not been a jerk and talked to me with respect. Even if he thought it was best to wait for the surgery he could have given clear reasons why and told me when to follow up instead of lecturing me about how “most people can’t do it.”

It is so incredibly difficult to tell your story triumphantly when men with bleached teeth and bleached hair and bleached white coats and bleached smug pop in for a quick 5 minute fuck you and then tell a room full of people that you aren’t up to his standards.

Fuck his standards.

I DID IT YOU GUYS I BEAT THE DIABETES

Fat Writer Running – The Triple Dragon August Challenge

Keep your socks on folks, because it’s Fat Writer Running business time!

The most important things in my life are my wife, my friends, and my neurotic dog monsters but after those things there are three big priorities that fight each other for my time and attention. Starting this week I’m throwing these three priorities – I’m going to call them dragons because dragons are pretty damn cool, you guys – into a cage match where they will have to work out their differences and improve the equilibrium of my life. And! The very best part is that I’m going to blog about this and tweet about it and stuff – as long as I don’t get caught in the middle of the rumble.

So, you might be wondering, what are these Triple Dragons, Erik? Are they cake? Is cake involved? I like cake. No, my friends, cake is not involved.

Like Double Dragon but 50% more Dragon-y

My Triple Dragons are Miles, Hours, and Words or more specifically, miles I run, hours I bill, and words I write. These three create a kind of sandwich with things I’m passionate about on one side and things I need to do to not lose my house in the middle. Ideally, there would be proportion in my sandwich but that’s not always possible and lately it’s kind of seemed like one piece of bread has been alright, the other has been wafer thin, and the middle of the sandwich has been made out of lava and bees and workahol. That, my friends, is not a tasty sandwich. Thus, the Triple Dragon August Challenge.

I’m a data nerd, you guys. I dream data sets and metrics and my barbaric yawp far too often comes in the form of a pivot table. I struggle with my addiction to quantifiable measurements (and my tendency to redefine my targets midway through) but for this challenge I think it will be a helpful structure. My ultimate goal is complete parity. Every mile run = an hour billed = 1000 words written. This might not be realistic or smart but that’s never stopped me before!

Starting out, here are my numbers from last week:

Miles: 14

Hours*: 25

Words (in thousands): 8

 

To make this work, my intention is not squeeze more time out of the day but to shift priorities. I want to increase my miles a mile or two a week (that’s my half-marathon training), pull back some work hours, and really increase my writing output. I’d like to get 16/16/16 by the end of August, a goal that I think is both super ambitious and absolutely arbitrary. I’ll be posting about my progress here and on the Twitter. If you’re not following me, look up @erikgrove. I might even tweet out some bonus otter photos!

 

*Yes, I bill a lot fewer hours than the average person works per week. This is a privilege I have worked hard for and do not take for granted. If you have ever been a contractor or consultant you know that billed hours <> hours worked and that there are times of feast and famine. I also spent about 10 years of my life side lining every other important thing in service to my career and I was savvy and lucky enough to get where I’m at now. It could go away tomorrow. Don’t @ me.

Fat Writer Running – I Just Ran Nine Miles AMA

Hi all. Fat Writer Running here. I’m doing pretty good. A little less fat. Running more. Writing when I can. How are you? Have any good barbecue or anything?

The thing about running nine miles is that it takes a really long time and one of the many things I thought about while I was doing my nine mile run this morning was “oh hey I should be updating my blog about how I just ran nine miles and stuff.” So, here’s a new post, you guys.

Long Ass Run FAQs

How long did it take you to run 9 miles?

Today it took me about an hour and forty-five minutes. My average speed varies between 11 and 12 minutes per mile (5-5.5 MPH) on long runs depending on how hot it is and how many times Eye of the Tiger comes up on my running playlist.

Isn’t that really slow?

Not really. I mean, I run faster over shorter distances. I’ve done a comfortable 6 MPH for 3 miles and my overall speed is trending up. It’s not really about going super fast right now. It’s endurance training.

But I mean aren’t you a slow pathetic loser?

Wait. Are you just the shitty anxiety voice in my head that says mean stuff all the time?

Kinda. But answer me this – aren’t you just a neurotic insecure life failure?

Will you shut up if I put on Eye of the Tiger again?

Yes please. It’s the thrill of the fight.

So many times it happens too fast. You trade your passion for glory.

That’s not a question.

Rising up, straight to the top. Had the guts, got the glory. Went the distance, now I’m not gonna stop. Just a man and his will to survive. YEEEEEEEAAaaaaahhhhh! EYE OF THE TIGER MOTHERFUCKERS!

Okay… moving on. Next question.

So, running for an hour and forty-five minutes seems like a bad way to spend an hour and forty-five minutes. Why are you doing it?

Well, I’m training for a half-marathon. And I like it. It feels pretty fucking rad to keep breaking my personal record. Plus, it really helps me cope with stress and be more creative and just overall improve my health and life.

Do you have any idea how many times you could listen to Eye of the Tiger in an hour and a forty-five minutes?

… No. Why would I know that?

Exactly 28 times if you were listening to the single version of the song.

The song is on my running playlist. I listen to it. It’s a catchy song.

Is it on your running playlist 28 times?

It’s not.

Life failure. What are you doing while you run that isn’t listening to Eye of the Tiger 28 times?

I’m thinking mostly. It’s meditative.

Thinking about what?

Let’s see. Story ideas. Running really helps me work through things.

Are you just saying that to justify this indulgent internal monologue on your writing blog?

Give the people what they want. And by people I mean my wife. I gotchu sweetie.

No YOU’RE indulgent.

That’s what I thought. What are you really thinking about?

Sometimes I think about how boring running is. Sometimes I think about how amazing it is. I think about how I haven’t updated this blog in a while and about blog posts I wish I had time to write. Oh. And I think about how bicyclists are the worst.

Why are bicyclists the worst? 

They’re always cycle spreading, taking up all of the multiuse path, pushing me into the bushes or out into the street. I hug the right shoulder while I’m running. I take up half of a lane in a two lane trail full of runners and dog walkers and baby strollers and we all get along great. But then a gaggle of jerks on two wheels come flying down the trail riding three of them in a row and that’s how I almost die. Also, bicyclists are generally rude. Everyone else that’s out there killing it on a hot day, we nod or smile or wave at each other like keep on killing it killer, I see you but the only thing these helmeted assholes with Tour de France delusions do is shout out “ON YOUR LEFT!” while they pass and glare at you for having the temerity to exist. They’re smug buttholes and I hate them.

Wow. Tell us how you really feel.

Maybe it’s just a Portland thing or just the cyclists on my running route. I have a lot of friends and family that cycle. I like to think they aren’t jerks. But c’mon. I see a hundred cyclists and exactly one guy gave me a Sup Dog nod in almost two hours. I know they can interact while they’re riding without falling down or something because they talk loudly and gesture dangerously while they pretend no one else uses the MULTIUSE path. What gets me is that they’re rude even when they’re stopped and standing next to their bikes. They block the entire middle of the path and they still don’t wave or smile or anything when I’m running along. Just get down off your adjustable seat and stop being an entitled pompous jerk butt.

Are you going to rumble with cyclists? Are you gonna throw down, you slow running life failure man?

I mean, all I have to do to win a fight with cyclists is go up some stairs. So. BURN BICYCLE BROS BURN

I have a note here that says I’m supposed to ask about how you prepare for a long ass run.

Yeah. That’s my note.

I see. So by FAQs you don’t mean Frequently Asked Questions you mean stuff you made up in your head while you were bored because you were running for an hour and a forty-five minutes?

Pretty much yeah. But about the preparation. I try to eat a meal a hour or two before a run so I have some energy. I also try to drink water leading up to it. I stretch a little bit. I check the weather. I find it’s a lot harder to run when it’s over 75 degrees out. The best is between 50-70. Also, I like to scout out the route I’m going to take.

What do you mean by “scout out?” 

I don’t know if it’s primarily psychological or not but it’s a lot easier for me to run a route when I have it all mapped out in my head. I know where the hills are, where the shady spots are etc. Lately, I’ve been doing my long runs on parts of the Trolley Trail in Milwaukie. I’ve gone from the junction at Roethe into Sellwood and across the Sellwood Bridge in different legs. My speed and confidence is always higher when I know what’s coming up.

Alright, that’s a little bit interesting. Anything else?

For a long run I make sure I have my favorite running shorts and shirt clean and my Apple Watch and Beats X headphones all charged up. Also, band-aids.

Band-aids?

*cough* For places.

Oh. Oh God. 

It’s not always glamorous.

New subject. What about after the run?

Water! I spend the rest of the day making sure to rehydrate properly. I’ve also been drinking Muscle Milk after my runs. I thought it was silly at first and I don’t really like milk but the protein and vitamins seem to help. Plus, it does sort of taste delicious. I also try to eat a proper meal with lean proteins, whole grains, and some fruit within a couple hours.

Does it hurt? I heard running hurts and you shouldn’t do it?

It doesn’t hurt me. I run three times a week and walk or cross train other days. I’ve been doing this consistently for 9 months with increasing distance and intensity. I think keeping active on non-running days is important. And good shoes. And not over training or pushing too hard. My knees and legs used to feel worse. The only real danger is chafing around the-

Stop. I saw the link. That’s gross.

I’ve stained a couple of shirts.

You have some serious psychological problems. You shouldn’t do this, you should just-

Fat Writer Running – How I Lost 100 Pounds Without a Fad Diet, Surgery, or Powder Drugs

 

Here’s the clickbait, folks. Here’s how I whupped ass and transformed myself from a really fat writer to a kinda fat writer. These are my secret secrets. The grocery store check out tricks. The life hacks. Just remember:

Actually wait. Forget that. Share this EVERYWHERE. Give me all the web traffic and troll comments. IT IS MY SUSTENANCE YESSSS MY PRECIOUSSSSS

*cough*

But first, some caveats. What I did is just what I did. It is not a template or medical advice or magic. My circumstances apply specifically to me and what worked for me might not work for you. And really, you shouldn’t just do what a guy says on the internet anyway. You should always make informed choices about your life and your body with your healthcare team and in consultation with none of anyone else’s fucking business. There is a lot going on with your body and your life and you are the only one that gets to make choices about it. I’m not fat-shaming or fitness guru-ing or judging or any of that. This is a very complicated web of topics and I’m going to focus on some of them in more detail in future blogs but this one is just what I did that seemed to have good results for my specific circumstances and my specific goals. Take it with salt, sugar, powder drugs, and a chaser of who does this guy think he is anyway? Oh, and there’s nothing wrong with fad diets or surgery or powder drugs. I don’t mention them to belittle them but to contrast my approach with those approaches and because I need a headline to get people clicking on the clicky thing and headlines don’t really have room for nuance. I am completely supportive of anyone that finds bliss and power eating only celery or smoking drugs or cutting a motherfucker with a scalpel just to see a new kind of red. Well, maybe not the scalpel thing. Don’t email me pictures of your murders anymore please thanks.

Anyway.

Here’s what I did:

I consumed less and I exercised more.

It’s not sexy and it’s not one simple internet trick but it worked. In future blogs I’m going to break it down more. I’ll write about how I consumed less and and what less meant for me. I’ll write about exercise. But what’s really most important is not what I did – it’s why I did it and what it meant to do it the way I did it. There were four guiding principles that really worked for me and it’s these principles that I credit with a lot of my success.

Fuck the numbers.

CONFETTI YOU GUYS WOOT WOOT

Yes, my blog clickbait specifically talks about losing 100 pounds and yeah, that’s pretty cool. I hit that milestone between first blog and this series and this one. High five, you guys! But really, fundamentally, the number doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what my clothing size is or what my BMI is. What matters to me is that I feel good, I’m healthy, and I can do awesome stuff. If you feel good and you’re healthy and you’re doing awesome stuff you’re already doing it right so you don’t need my blog or anyone else’s blog to talk you out of the good choices you’ve already made. We get fixated on things that don’t matter. What matters is how you feel, your health, and living a life full of awesome stuff. There’s a tremendous amount of social toxicity that gets in the way of that relationship with our bodies but don’t lose perspective.

There’s no finish line.

I’ve known a lot of people that have done low-carb/no carb/keto diets with a lot of success. I’ve seen most of those same people gain a lot of the weight they lost back. I didn’t want to do anything that was a temporary fix. I’ve done temporary diet and exercise routines before and saw my progress revert. I wanted a fundamental shift in my life that was never going to revert. I wanted to find a path forward that felt like I path I could commit to for the rest of my life. I needed something sustainable and balanced and I feel like I found it. There will be diversions from this path but I know what the trailheads look like and I can head back to it.

No Cheat Days.

I am adamantly and fundamentally opposed to the concept of Cheat Days. They are, in my full-throated opinion, poisonous ideas. A “Cheat Day” implies that you’re being tested and when you cheat you’re getting away with something. Who would I be cheating? This is about feeling good, being healthy, and doing awesome stuff remember. Am I cheating the feeling good part, the healthy part, or the awesome stuff part? I get it – the idea of saying to yourself “ON SUNDAYS I CAN EAT 37 PANCAKES AND LASAGNAS AND CAKES AND MILKSHAKES” compartmentalizes your hunger and shame but nah, man. Fuck that. Hunger is literally your body turning on the low gas light. Metabolism is super complicated and that gas light sometimes goes on when it maybe doesn’t need to go on but if you were driving your car around and that was happening you would get the light fixed – you wouldn’t ignore it or overstuff it with pizza. And shame? Well, shame is our puritanical inheritance. It’s the original anxiety and I don’t want to compartmentalize it, I want to understand it and let it go. So Cheat Days, to me, play into a bad relationship with hunger and with shame. It’s more sustainable and realistic to just have a reasonable amount of pancakes sometimes. I’ll definitely talk more about hunger and shame and finding a place for whatever you might want for a Cheat Day in your regular life in future blogs but I think it’s important to just throw out this idea. At least, it was for me.

I celebrate myself and eat tacos whenever I want because tacos are delicious

Trust the numbers.

Yeah. This one contradicts the first one. I contain multitudes. OLD SCHOOL WALT WHITMAN Y’ALL. For me it was difficult to sort through the psychological and the physical challenges to my fitness and well-being. An anxious mind will whisper all kinds of lies to itself and when you team that up with external pressures and expectations- khaki pants commercials, hotdog vendors shouting “hey fat guy!” from across the street, and that look of panic on someone’s face when they see a fat person is sitting next to them on an airplane – it’s just a lot. For me it was paralyzing. The worst part about losing hundred pounds is that every high five along the way sort of feels like a backhanded compliment. I’m doing great now but boy was it scary there for a while when everyone was afraid I might get hungry and confuse their faces for donuts and go full fat man cannibal. A year ago, thinking about the state of my life it seemed hopeless. I needed to do so much and it was going to be so hard and so slow and what if I couldn’t do it? My head was a mess of doubt, insecurity, and our old friend from the last paragraph, shame. Honestly, my head still is but finally, I trusted the numbers more than the mess. I recorded what I did. Everything I ate. Every step I took. I shut out the shitty lying voices and focused on the data. And then I just mathed the motherfucker. Everyone’s numbers, everyone’s math, is going to be different but if you can find the rights numbers and figure out the right math, you have a place to start. I didn’t start out with a goal of losing 100 pounds -it was the feeling good, healthy, awesome stuff goal remember. I checked my progress and calibrated my approach to my goal with numbers. If I wasn’t feeling good, did I need to eat more? Did I need to sleep more? If I wasn’t able to do awesome stuff, did I need to take some vitamins? I would try things, document the numbers, and see how it worked. In practical terms I relied on smart phone apps to track food that I ate, exercise I did, and my glucose readings, as well as feedback from my doctor. I’ll write about those tools later but the takeaway for me is that I stepped back from the subjective and trusted the objective.

 

Those were my four Big Ideas. Maybe they will help you or help you think about your own principles. Maybe not. At least you got a picture of Uncle Walt. And here’s an otter. You know why.

Fat Writer Running – On the Intersection of Body and Keyboard

A year ago, I started to get pretty concerned about dying. I’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes for just under 7 years and I’ve been fat my entire life. Last spring, with my health slipping out of my control and the serious risks it posed to my plans of not dying young, I started making significant changes in diet and exercise. Since then, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve lost – as of this morning – 99 pounds. I went from taking 4 medications every day to manage my diabetes to taking a minimal dose of only one. I have not tested outside of normal healthy ranges in months. My doctor gave actually me an award for my amazing- and rare- turnaround. I run about 3 or more miles 3 or more times a week and I’m even beginning training for a half-marathon in October. I can’t fit in any of my old clothes, and I haven’t had a serious cold or significant allergies in a year. Intellectually and creatively I feel like I’m firing on all cylinders. I’ve also felt an increase in my confidence and a decrease in anxiety and occurrences of depression. All in – on every metric, in every way, I feel better than I have in literally my entire life. I didn’t begin this to lose a certain amount of weight or fit in a particular size of pants. I began with the intention to transform my behavior and perspective from here on out and the most rewarding thing has not been the change on my bathroom scale or waistline – it’s been in my head. It’s the transformation from “I can’t” to “I can and I did and I’m gonna do it again and then some with rad rock music playing super loud, and you should join me.” It’s pretty fucking rad, you guys.

As I’ve shared parts of this story, more than one person has asked me if I’m “writing it up” and my response has been an uncomfortable “no?” I’ve even had some folks tell me that I’m “inspirational” – whatever that means. I’ve done absolutely none of this for anyone else. In fact, the changes I’ve made in the last year were completely selfish. I did all of it for me. At first I did it so that I wouldn’t die, and then because it empowered me and finally because I really like how healthy feels.

Then again, as weird as it  is for me to write about, I do have a lot to say about food, exercise, “fatness”, and a more balanced and sustainable life, and I am a writer. It says so right up there in the webpage header. So I’m going to try something new here. I’m going to write a series of blogs this summer (possibly beyond) on all of these dense and related topics. Don’t worry – I’m not going full self-help fitness blog. As with most things, I see important connections between what’s been going on with my body and what’s going on creatively. Writers are not merely brains in computer chairs. We are the expression and result of our experiences and points of view. We are as influenced by the health of our bodies as we are the health of our minds and I think –  in fact I have experienced – that a healthier body improves creative output.

To put it more succinctly – take care of your meat suit and you will become a better writer. Let me tell you how.

So, here’s what you can expect from this series:

HI THERE THIS IS AN OTTER

— Some blogs will talk about my personal experiences – what worked and what didn’t work as well for me with food, exercise, and philosophy – over the last 12 months.

— Some blogs will talk more generally about the impact of the intersection and optimization of well cared for meat suits and writing sweet, sweet fiction

— Some blogs will be a combination of both

— Some blogs will feature gratuitous otters

— All blogs will feature plenty of corny jokes because c’mon

My plan is to write and post a few blogs weekly and I have several outlined and in early drafts. While I continue to run and write top secret kick-ass laser kung-fu space fantasy two-fisted action this summer, I will bring you- and the otters- along for the ride.

On Lloyd: Some Words About An Old Friend

Facebook is weird. In the mix of sponsored posts, media click bait posts, and instagram brags, I saw a note shared to someone I’m friends with about someone I used to know named Lloyd Porter that has passed away. Lloyd was this tall, friendly cowboy that smelled like pipe tobacco and worked as the technical trainer in a call center I worked at back in 2003/04. I always liked Lloyd and was happy to see him but I haven’t had occasion to think about him in well over 10 years. Thinking about him today though, I realize I owe a lot to Lloyd. I maybe owe Lloyd my entire life.

https://allthingslorane.com/tag/lloyd-porter/

In 2002 I was not doing awesome. I was freshly dropped out of college and the economy was still reeling from 9/11. I applied to literally dozens of fast food jobs in Eugene, Oregon and was turned down by all of them for not having any experience. I took a few different seasonal jobs before I landed a gig working phones for Harry & David selling gift baskets and fruit of the month clubs that holiday season. I was pretty good at Harry & David and didn’t mind the work but the job ended after Christmas and I found myself homeless, drifting from a couch at one friend’s house to the laundry room floor at another.

I managed to land a job working in customer service for a tech company call center in downtown Eugene after New Years 2003. I was pretty good at it but it was not a career or a real direction. It (barely) afforded me enough money to get an apartment above a beauty salon a few blocks away but I would have quit or been let go from it and not thought anything more about it – except for Lloyd. In talking with Lloyd (he was a chatty guy) I got it into my head that I could probably do the technical support job that made $2 more an hour. $2 more an hour was huge for a recently homeless college drop out. Lloyd encouraged me and a group of customer service workers to take a placement test (that he coached at least me on) and helped get us all trained to be technicians. I was computer literate but I was not a technician before Lloyd’s training. He made the subject matter accessible and stressed the skills I already had – common sense and clear communication. After training I did really well and that job led to another job that led to another job that connected my resume together and created a career that’s kept me from being homeless or unemployed since. The house I sit in is paid for by jobs I got because Lloyd said, “yeah, I think you can do this- let me try and show you.”

The impact that Lloyd’s decency and generosity had on me is both subtle and irreplaceable. Every friend I have now (and I have a lot of them) that I’ve made at jobs since 2003 – Lloyd deserves part of the credit for that. All of my financial decisions that impacted where I’ve lived and all the people I’ve met where I’ve lived – Lloyd deserves part of the credit for that. My dog. My wife. My truck. My MacBook that I’m typing this on. Lloyd deserves part of the credit for all of it.

It seems to me that our lives, that the world, is overflowing with Lloyds. People who do nice things just because they’re nice people. This thought humbles me and inspires me. I want to be a little bit like Lloyd whenever I can be. I want to recognize every other Lloyd I meet.

Lloyd didn’t need to encourage me. He didn’t need to talk to the bosses on my behalf. He didn’t need to coach me about the differences between FAT 32 and NTFS. I didn’t do anything to properly repay him for it. I never had enough context to know how much I had to thank him for. I do now.

Thank you, Lloyd Porter. Thank you for my life. Rest in peace and cowboy boots.