Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I have never been the kind of person to set goals. Well, at least not the kind to write them down. I’ve always kept my goals in my head. That way if I don’t accomplish them, there’s no glaring reminder of the failure.

When I began this diet and then later began to exercise by walking, I didn’t set any long-term goals or even short term goals. The walk was just a walk. I did plan to increase it, but there were no real preset increments of extension. My first walk was just around the block. That was between .25 and .3 mile and it took me twenty minutes to complete. Yes, I was that out of shape.

Of course, at that time I had an incredible defense. I have arthritis in my back and my weight makes my knees hurt. More importantly, the muscles in my lower back completely fatigued many years ago and I had to go through physical therapy to be able to walk at all without pain. Walking would bring on the tightness quickly. The tightness would bring on the pain. The pain would bring out the wimp.

I began using a cane to help take some of the stress off of my lower back. Even then, five minutes would bring on the tightness, the pain, and the wimp. The term ‘within walking distance’ had a whole different meaning for me. I would go to the store only if I had a cart to lean on. Most of the time, I would be a ‘sit in the truck and wait’ kind of shopper.

That first walk was two weeks ago. The first change was in the amount of time it took to walk around the block. As the time got shorter quickly, I set my sights on going farther. My block included a large hill up and down. The up part stressed my back and the down part increased the pressure on my knees. This was not being a wimp, it was being conscious of the stress I was putting my body under.

I mapped out a slightly longer route on a more even terrain. I would walk down the street I lived on toward town and then turn a walk back. Not every day, but nearly, I would increase it by a landmark or block. It was four tenths. Then it was five tenths; then six, and seven tenths. The seven tenth walk was just last night. It brought my daily walk total to 1.8 miles.

This morning I got up with my back hurting and my ankle feeling a little tender. I figured I wouldn’t walk or if I did it would not be for a long distance. I put my walking clothes on. I had my phone for any emergency that might arise. I had my MP3 player and headphones (I listen to the Bible when I walk.) I was ready. Out the door I went.

I walked a little gingerly on the ankle at first. However, as the walk progressed, the pain subsided, not completely, but enough. I walked past my first previous turning point. I kept going. I walked past my second previous turning point. Still going. I passed the third and fourth points. Then I was at the place where I turned around last night. I still had walking left in me, so I went on. I finally stopped at the library and turned around. It was cool (under 70°) but the sun was right in my face on the return trip.

When I got home, I went to spark and plotted my course. I was somewhat shocked when the total distance read, 1.12 mile.

It was not a goal I had set on paper. It was a goal that was in my head, eventually, somewhere down the road.

In two weeks I had gone from a weak complaining 20 minute three-tenth of a mile walk to a 26 minute, no complaint, 1.1 mile walk.


Friday, August 27, 2010

The ever growing walk

Bad knees and arthritis in my back make for a slight difficulty in long walks. That is not an excuse. It is just a fact. That being said, I have begun walking more.

It started quite simply as a late night (12:30AM) walk one night when I had planned to take one earlier and forgot. I had decided to walk around my block. My wife told me she thought it was a quarter mile or so. I planned to do it shortly after dark to take advantage of the coolness of the evening. As I was preparing to go to bed (actually about to get into the bed) I realized I had forgotten the walk. So, I went back into the sitting room and gathered the necessary tools for my late night walk. As I was totally unaware as to how this was going to play out, I took a small flashlight, my cell phone, and my keys.

Out the door, quietly I went. I walked down the drive, up to the corner, up Queen, down Main, down MLK, up Locust, and back up the drive. Once inside, I locked the door and headed up the stairs. Mission accomplished. I was deeply re-oxygenating (breathing heavy) when I got to the bed. TJ asked what was wrong. I told her of my walk. She mumbled something and drifted back off to sleep. I fell asleep shortly thereafter.

The next day, I mapped it out and found that it was just over three/tenths of a mile around the block. I know to a professional walker or runner three tenths of a mile is nothing. However, to me it marked a new change. Yes, my back was very unhappy about it. That day, I did the walk three times. My back would not allow me to make three trips around the block at once, but I did so with a couple hours interval in between the walks. I walked almost a mile.

You have to understand (as I am sure some of you do) how weight can make you a prisoner. The idea of going out where you will have to walk and be in pain, and endure the glares and stares of judgmental society is, at times, unbearable, and at all times, uncomfortable. Perhaps this is why I originally chose to walk late in the evening. There would be much less society to encounter. The first night I walked, I encountered one man walking his dog across the street from where I was walking.

The pain part is much more bearable than the glares and stares part. I worked construction for nearly thirty years. I am used to working through pain. I am used to getting up and going when your body would much rather lay in bed for a few more hours or days. Of course, work is much different than the easily declined choice to be out and about. Work is necessary. Going shopping, walking around the block, and just going out in public in general are optional.
As to the glare and stare part, let me first say, “Yes, I know how much I weigh.” I do know the general societal stance is that a person is overweight because of laziness and controllable over eating. While these may be true in a percentage of those overweight, it is not a blanket reason. There are a many other reasons as there are overweight people. I could point my finger to my thyroid condition which was undiagnosed until I was already around 300 pounds. This weight contributed to the pain in my back and my knees. Less active me gained more weight.

Now, let me assure you that I do not blame all of this on my thyroid or inactivity. I did my part. I did overeat. I did eat the wrong things. So, I was in partnership with my thyroid and bad knees and back to keep me from losing any weight. It is this revelation (it did not just happen) that also gives me the hope of losing weight. I know that there are things that I can do to help me lose weight. I cannot cure my thyroid problems (although I am medicating as prescribed,) my hurting knees, or my arthritis. For now, those things will continue to work against me. I CAN, however, change my eating habits, control my intake, and exercise to the limit my body will allow.

Back to my ever growing walk.

This week I mapped out different routes to increase my per walk distance. The around-the-block walk entailed some semi-steep walks up and down. The up part was difficult on the back and the down part was difficult on the knees. I wanted a more level walking path. The new path did have a slight uphill and downhill part, but was much more manageable than the prior path. The new path was also .35 mile long. Then it was .4 mile long. Then yesterday it grew to a .53 mile long with a steep uphill walk in the middle.

The walks started out being about twelve minutes long. Then without increasing the distance, the time dropped to nine to ten minutes. Then the longer walks were still ten minutes. Yesterday’s longest walk of the ever growing walk was fifteen minutes. It was hot. It was painful. It was glorious. You may laugh at my jubilation over walking half a mile. That’s okay. I know things you don’t know. I know where I started. I know where I am. I know where I am going.

I have decided to no longer be a prisoner of my weight. I have lost nineteen pounds so far. That is almost fifteen percent of my desired weight loss and just over five percent of my total body weight. My BMI has gone from 53.2 to 50.3. I am breaking free, thanks to my changed eating habits and my ever increasing walks.

See you at the goal line.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I know it is a diet, but ...

Can't we call it something else?

The phrase most commonly associated with diets is that "someone dropped off their diet." or "Someone broke their diet." Diets are very fragile because they are so easily broken.

My father struggled with his weight. He was a skinny kid. He was five foot eleven inches and a rail in high school. After school came the Air Force, then marriage and work as an electrician. He also was pastor of a church. Food was his friend. Dad was raised by his aunt as his mother was very young. He had abandonment issues even though he and his mom were very close. When something stressed him, he turned to his friend that never rejected him: food. His weight led to numerous health issues. There were times he was very heavy. He tried many ways to lose weight, and he would, for a while. Then he would eventually regain his weight and usually with more added. He tried diet after diet. They all failed. Diets are so easily broken.

We look at diets as rules that can be broken without immediate penalty. Since the majority of diets are self imposed, they can be self-broken.

I, jokingly, called this my IMP. That is my Ingestion Modification Plan.

In my whole life of nearly 53 years, I have never really dieted. I was a skinny child. When I was in 8th grade, I recall trying to break 100 pounds. I started lifting weights then and by my senior year in high school, I weighed in at 132 pounds and was lifting 220 pounds in the bench press. I was a 'lean mean fighting machine.' My metabolism was racing. I could eat practically anything and not gain weight. I stood around five foot eight inches tall.

A brief stint in college followed, then work and marriage. I worked in electrical construction and though I gained some weight, it wasn't an issue. We didn't own a scale. We didn't need one. I was around 200 pounds before I remember weighing myself again. Now, not making excuses, but I am thick built. My wrists, an indicator of bone density, are eight inches around. I am not going to be a small person even when I am at a good weight for me. At 200 pounds, I was not fat.

It was a while later, while working in Pennsylvania and living in Ohio that I weighed in at 240 pounds. I was overweight. I had to admit it to myself. Even then, admitting it, I felt no compunction to diet. I can’t begin to tell you what I was thinking then. It was if I assumed the weight appeared by some sleight of hand and was going to go away the same way. I don’t recall whether I tried a diet then or not. As I said, I can’t remember ever dieting.

Several years later, I came back home to Kentucky to work. I was staying in the mid 200’s then. I stayed around there for about ten years. Then came the divorce, and living on my own. I became an accomplished cook. Cooking for myself and eating without monitoring myself took its toll. It was also around this time that we discovered my hypothyroidism. Suddenly I was over 300 pounds.

The battle for stability of my thyroid condition produced casualties. I was always cold in the winter. I was always tired. I was always hungry. Being cold and tired kept me in. Being hungry kept me eating. I crept up to over 350 pounds. It went up and down after that. I quit drinking three 24 oz Mountain Dews a day and went to diet Dew. I lost 20 pounds doing that, but it crept back up as I was still eating. My Synthroid dosage went from the starting dose of 25 MCG to 350 MCG in the next six years. My weight went up and down but stayed close to the 350 pound range.

That brings me to just over two weeks ago. I was at mom’s house. She has a medical type scale. I weighed myself as I have often done while there. I was either to or down to 350 pounds depending on which way I was traveling in my weight gain or loss. That was a Friday. On Sunday, I decided it was enough.

I have to tell you. I am a procrastinator. Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until next week. This, however, needed to be done now. I had thought about it many times before and sometimes even went as far as to say in my mind, I am going to start a diet. It never happened, until that Sunday evening. I was visiting some sick friends in the hospital. Tammy was home fixing a pot roast. I was visiting “J” in his room. He had been dieting and told the hospital he was doing so. They put on his chart that he was dieting. The dietary staff gave him meals on their diet plan. He told me that others, family and friends, were bringing him food from restaurants, because he was hungry.

Mind you, I am not making a judgment call on “J”. It was just that at that moment, something in me changed.

My wife smokes. I tease her sometimes about being a slave to that thin white stick. She tells me I can’t understand since I have never been a smoker. I did smoke one pack of cigs when I was fifteen years old. That was the extent of my smoking career. She is right. I can’t understand being addicted to cigs, but addiction, I can understand. I was/am addicted to food. I ate when I was hungry. I ate when I wasn’t hungry. I ate when I was angry. I ate when I was happy. I celebrated good times with food. I commiserated bad times with food. I recall a friends joke about another person’s drinking. “He only drinks when he is by himself or with someone.” I was that way with food.

I liked most foods. I liked Mexican food, Chinese food, Italian food, Thai food, Indian food, German food, American food, Moroccan food, and most other foods. I liked the way food tasted. I like the way it felt. I liked feeling contented after a good meal. I am such a junkie.

I went home that Sunday and told Tammy, while eating a delicious supper of Pot Roast with potatoes, green beans, and carrots, that my diet would begin on Monday morning. Truth be told, it started after that meal, as I didn’t go down in the middle of the night to get an overnight bite.

The process of change is not an easy one. I immersed myself in the whole thing. I made a chart on Excel® to track my daily calories. It kept my meal totals and calculated my daily total. It charted my eating and gave me my averages. It keeps my per-meal averages and my daily averages. I found SparkPeople® and joined. I was a tracking fool.

Two things I loved in school were math and writing. I used both in this process. I track and calculate, and I write about the progression. Both are vital and integral parts for me. This is helping to make this more than just a diet. As I said, diets are easily broken. This is not my diet. This is my change.

Here are some examples of the change:
· I love chips and hot salsa. The salsa part is not as bad as the chips part. I was craving the taste. Before, that would have meant half a jar of salsa and half a bag of chips. Instead, this time, I took two scoop chips, filled them about half with the salsa, and ate them slowly, savoring the taste. I satisfied the craving for the taste and only took in 25 calories. That is a change.
· I love peanut butter. I generally kept a jar of it somewhere near my desk. There is still a container of it beside my desk now. It is a six-pound container. My granddaughters love it. I wanted the taste. Previously, this would have meant half a pack of saltine crackers and lots of peanut butter. This time, it was just about a quarter of a tablespoon and a slow savor. That was 27 calories and a craving sated. That is a change.
· More than a few times a week, my lunch would be my favorite sandwich: Bologna, cheese, onion, and Miracle Whip on white bread X two. One of these sandwiches was 585 calories and I would usually have two. That is a whopping 1170 calories for lunch more than twice a week. I haven’t had one of those since the change. As the matter of fact, my average daily calorie intake in the last 15 days is 1140 calories per day. That is a change.
· There are numerous other changes as well. Some of them large and some of them small. All of them are part of the change.

It was a twelve pound change in the first week. It was a five pound change in the second week. Change is good.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

the biggest change

My wife and I were talking about the changes I have made in this diet. She surprised me when she told what she saw as the biggest change. There were several large changes to consider.

I started counting calories. This prompted me to pay more attention to what and when I eat. This was new. Before, I would 'graze' most of the day. I would eat a little here and a little there. I would hit most of the major meals, but most of the day was a grazing thing. This was a major change.

I started eating healthier. By paying attention to calories, I began making healthier choices. I realize that low calories doesn't always mean healthier. I began looking at protein and fat and carbs in what I was putting in my mouth. This was a major change.

I began walking for my health. I walked before, but not just for the sake of my health. I would begrudgingly walk if I had too. I have arthritis in my back and it was easier to say, "My back hurts" than to go places where I would have to walk or stand for any period of time. Anyone that has ever had a backache will empathize with you when you say, "My back hurts when I do that." It is a great and necessary excuse. So, for me to voluntarily go for a walk was unheard of. This was a major change.

I have a thyroid issue. I have Hypothyroidism. I am taking a large daily dose of synthroid. When i was originally diagnosed, my thyroid count was over 200 (normal is 0.5 to 5.5.) My doctor was amazed that I was still working or even walking. For those uninformed about the thyroid, let me give you a brief medical lesson: The thyroid regulates your metabolism. Your thyroid tells your brain how to 'fix' what is perceived as 'wrong' with you.

My thyroid is telling my brain that I am starving to death. This, of course, leads to my brain telling my body to eat more and more. I was always hungry. Since my body was starving (or so my brain thought) it would shut down at times to conserve energy. If I sat still for more than a few minutes, I would fall asleep. Dieting was and is very hard because my body already thinks I am starving to begin with.

My doctor started me on 25 MCG of synthroid about 6 years ago. Since then, on most visits where my blood was tested, my dosage has steadily increased to as much as 350 MCG and has now dropped to 300 MCG. Every time my doctor increased my dosage, I had a surge of energy for about two weeks until my body adjusted and then the appetite and lethargy returned.

I could commonly be heard to say, "Dieting doesn't work because my thyroid fights against it." This was a true statement.

My wife told me the biggest change she had seen was that I had put away my excuses. Now, mind you, most of my excuses were good and legitimate reasons. But even the best reason can become a crutch and an excuse if you try hard enough.

Am I still hungry a lot? Yes, I am.
Do I eat (graze) all day? No, I do not.
Does my back still hurt? Yes, it does.
Do I still get out and walk? Yes, I do.

Since beginning two weeks ago, I have not brought up my thyroid or TSH levels until this post. I have complained about my back hurting. Well, not really complained. I have stated that my back is hurting after my walks. I walk around my block. It is just over tree tenths of a mile. I try to walk it two to three times a day. I know it doesn't seem like much. However, it is two to three times a day more than I walked before. The muscles in my lower back begin to get stiff about two-thirds of the way around. At that point i have no choice but to finish. I have to get back home to cool down and sit down.

I would love to tell everyone that changing your eating and exercising habits is easy, but it isn't. It is tough, and tougher some days than others. The results, however, are worth it ten times over.

The hardest part was giving up my excuses.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

past the first week .. shew

The first week has come and gone. It was wildly successful, which is the double edged sword. I lost 12 pounds and radically changed my eating habits. the changes were two-fold. They were:

1) I took notice of what I eat. I began eating healthier.
2) I took notice of when I eat. Regularly is the key.

Breakfast became a protein drink with 190 calories instead of a hit or miss fast food breakfast, or a whatever is left over in the fridge breakfast. i have found that when I know ahead of time what I am planning to eat, it keeps me on track.

Lunch became a healthy salad. I now keep a variety of salad fixin's in the fridge. The variety keeps it from becoming the 'same old thing' every day. At the start of the week, my wife and I will cut, slice, chop, and sort into individual baggies the ingredients of that weeks salads. So when it comes time to fix my daily salad, it is a matter of grabbing the individual baggies instead of doing the prep work daily. Too often in the past, lunch became whatever was quick to fix. Most of the time that was a couple of unhealthy sandwiches or fast food. Now, time is on my healthy side.

Supper became smaller. We always ate mostly healthy. We rarely fry things. we generally bake them or crock pot them. so, smaller portions was the key to changing supper/dinner. One trick my wife taught me was to use a smaller plate. This way, the food on the plate looks like more, fooling your brain into thinking you were still eating a large portion.

Snacks became fewer and healthier. I can't count the number of times I would open a large bag of chips for a snack while working on the computer. When I would look again, half the bag would be gone. Becoming more aware of what and when I am eating has eliminated this. Snacks are prepared or purchased in 100 to 150 calorie packs. If we buy a large bag of chips, we take appropriate size portions and repackage them. So, when we open a snack, when it is gone we are done. We are more aware. One of my favorite snacks is just to core an apple and slice it into 1/4" slices. One golden delicious apple is only 80 to 100 calories.

I am in the middle of week number 2. I have added walking to my daily routine. I still get hungry from time to time, but I think that is just because my body is still used to eating throughout the day, and not actual 'need nutrients' hunger.

I am 3 days from my next weigh in. I realize that 12 pounds a week is not only unhealthy, but unrealistic. So, I will be delighted to lose only a few pounds a week. This will still get me to my goal of losing 120 pounds total in one year. Fifty and a half weeks and one hundred eight pounds to go.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Someone asked me to write a prayer poem for our Pastor .. here is the result:

The Shepherds

For the sake of their charge,
They stand in the gap
And make up the hedge,
In the heat and the cold
In the sun and in the rain

If they ache,
The sheep never hear
If their heart is heavy,
They try to shield the sheep
That the heaviness isn’t shared
For it is their burden to carry
In their sorrow, they still stand
In their weariness, they still stand

If they ask anything of their charge
They simply ask for prayer
This is their task
This is their burden
This is their joy
This is their glory

God, our master Shepherd
Give added strength
To our undershepherds
Give them added joys
For our shared sorrows
Give them added courage
For when our hearts are faint
Give them wisdom to know the way
And guidance to lead us home

Give me the power withal
To hold up their hands
For they often hold us
To hold up their souls
For they cry for our souls
To hold up their hearts
For they weep for our hearts

Bless them, O’ Lord
As they bless our lives

Ron Simpson, Jr.
August 15, 2010

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

poetry ..

A website (which shall remain nameless) posted a contest to write a love poem of fifteen words or less. In order to be able to enter the contest, you have to upgrade your membership from the 'free' kind to the 'pay' kind. I didn't find this out until after I had written my entry, and was not willing to upgrade (sigh.) I did, however, like the nameless results of my effort. Here they are:

Two hearts align

Two worlds collide

Two fates entwine

Two souls reside

In one love

Ron Simpson, Jr.

August 3, 2010

Monday, August 02, 2010

poetry .. for a friend .. "Hold On"

Hold on

I was holding on

Holding on to the ledge

My security was there

Holding on to the fear

That flying might just be falling

Holding on to the pain

Of loves lost in the past

I was holding on tightly

Until you

I felt my security begin to shift

To the feel of your arms around me

I felt my fear begin to fade

In the light you brought to my life

I felt the pain recede

Pushed away by your smile

Without trying or even realizing

I found myself falling

Far from my ledge

Far from my fear

Far from my pain

And then

You said

“hold on”

“What ?”

Ron Simpson, Jr.

August 1, 2010

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Don’t sell your happiness .. poetry

Don’t sell your happiness

Don’t sell your happiness to any one person

There are a myriad of people in my life

In whom, I have invested some of my happiness

However, the bulk of my happiness still resides with me

I must be the ultimate author of my happiness

The bubbling wellspring still remains in my court

There are no friends that can take my happiness away

Understand, losing them will produce a sadness

And that sadness may continue for many days

But, the fountainhead of my happiness still flows

There is no family that can wipe away my happiness

Although loss or anger may generate a sorrow

And that sorrow may last a lengthy time

But still, in my plaza, there is a fountain

Where happiness continues to stream

There is no love of my life that can staunch my happiness

Although that happiness may be hidden for a time

Behind a seeming insurmountable wall of pain

But my happiness knows it will outlast

A wall of pains bricks mortared by hurt

It will trickle slowly through the seams

Until erosion forces the fall

And happiness washes away the remnants

But only,

If I have not sold my happiness to any one person

Ron Simpson, Jr.

August 1, 2010