"I Dig a Pygmy, by Charles Hawtry and the Deaf Aids.
Phase one in which Doris gets her oats."
-- John Lennon, the opening monologue to the song, "Two of Us"
(Song written by Paul McCartney, first released on the 1969 album, "Let It Be")
I was in the gym on this past Friday morning. It was around 9 am, and folks were arriving who either receive physical therapy or are part of a cardiac rehab class. A man and woman were talking rather heatedly to a physical therapist near where I was stretching. The complaint went something like this, "But we come here almost every day to exercise...using the aerobic machine and the works. We are both still gaining weight!"
The physical therapist -- a young woman probably in her late twenties -- remained poised and circumspect. "Perhaps it is what you are eating that is causing you to gain the weight," she said rather thoughtfully (so it sounded). The woman shot back quickly, "Such crap! That's just your way of saying you folks don't know your job." The physical therapist -- still retaining professional composure -- simply said, "If that's how you feel about what we are doing, it may be best that you talk to the department director." The three walked into the enclosed area of the physical therapy department and disappeared.
I have no idea what happened to the couple. The physical therapist is someone I see moving about with patients on a regular basis, and she was busy with someone yesterday (Monday). So, I guess she is doing well enough.
I relate this scenario, because it is a great example of the common rejoinder for someone in denial: "Yes, but..." Think of all the times that an observation has been made that you know, somewhere deep inside, has merit and truth, but just can't bring yourself to own it. There is this internal mad scramble for something that will justify a response that counters the observation. More than any other opening, we will start by saying, "Yes, but...." or the slang "Yeah, but..." It is a slick way to try to dodge the uncomfortably obvious.
Over the years, I have lost track of the number of times I have been in a pastorally sensitive situation that denied the obvious. My role, as a priest giving counsel, is not to provide answers but to make observations, provide insights and guide the individual or group to form workable ways of moving forward with their dilemma. In so many of those situations, I would lay out information and and data that was so obvious that it did everything but physically solve the issue. Because the information meant owning a behavior, action or belief that was integral to their sense of identity, the respondent(s) would find all kinds of ways to blame it on others, fault the system or simply deny the truth of the observation altogether. "Yes, but...."
I began with a scenario of being "in the gym." That is not quite an accurate name for where I exercise. Its full title: Sarasota Memorial Hospital HealthFit Center. Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) is one of several medical centers in the Bradenton-Sarasota metroplex. It is, I believe, the largest. It has a number of satellite centers that focus on specific health issues. The HealtFit Center is located near where we live...in the southeast part of Sarasota...and it has facilities for neuro and cardiac rehab as well as a children's center across the street. I can walk there from our house in less than 10 minutes.
The main exercise room of the Healthfit Center has a lot of "state-of-the-art" cardio-vascular equipment and machine weight equipment. It also has a free-weight and universal gym area. A separate area on one side of the room is specific to physical therapy. On the opposite side is the cardiac rehab room. Nurses and therapists both have patients who use the main room as part of their programs. The building also has two pools, a jacuzzi, as steam room, an all-purpose court (basketball and other sports) and two aerobic rooms. You want to do it, HealthFit has it. The cost to belong is reasonable as well.
I am not an exercise nut, but I am enthusiastic about it. This relationship with fitness began with Navy training. It included a lot of "road work" and weight training. For a number of years (after the two year break in seminary, mentioned in an earlier posting), my routine was 5 days of running 5-8 miles and three days of strength training with free-weights. I used Hatha Yoga for stretching and staying limber. I would vary the routine and mostly used the U.S. Army fitness guide as a platform.
My enthusiasm was sometimes strong enough that I did damage. In 1974, I did the first injury to my right shoulder. It set in motion the trouble that would happen that caused the replacement saga in 2010 and 2012. I also did some damage to the left shoulder with a different kind of lifting exercise. It could become problematic. I have blown out both knees in distance running accidents (a pothole and an uneven sidewalk) -- resulting in arthroscopic surgeries and arthritis. Two foot injuries leading to surgeries. Finally, a lower back compression due to a fall during a half marathon. Two-thirds of those could have been prevented with proper "spotters" in the weight room (I failed to have someone spot...meaning be present to handle the weight if I lost control of a lift); or, by looking down a little more often on the road.
I no longer run. My last official road/treadmill run was in summer 2000. I no longer lift free-weights. That stopped in 2006. I swam for a while, but the business with the shoulder has curtailed free-style swimming strokes.
For the past few years, I have developed a program/routine that is still the 5/3 formula (five days aerobic/three days weight training). Aerobic work is a combination of bike, stairmaster and elliptical rider. I use a treadmill to warm up. At my best, it is a 50 minute routine. I am currently not at my best. It is a 35 minute routine.
The weight training is now almost all machine. If done properly, they provide accurate isolation of muscle groups and good control for both exertion and release. I still use free-weights for bicep and tricep focus...or a universal gym (which is a bar-pulley system). There have been some radical alterations with a prosthetic shoulder joint. A year after the last replacement surgery (20 March 2012), I am able to do bicep and tricep work and upper back work. I am not allowed to work the deltoid muscles yet, for fear (doctor's) of damaging the still growing bone in the joint.
Pertaining to the opening of this post, I, too, was one of those who was exercising hard and still gaining weight. I was even watching the amount of food intake. Still the weight crept upward. One of my primary care physicians suggested that I was simply "getting thicker, because you are getting older" (my 60th birthday physical).
Truth: I was gaining weight because I was, functionally, getting sick. Fructose was getting stored in my liver and turned into triglycerides. High triglycerides can indicate a metabolic syndrome -- the first stage of a diabetes diagnosis (mine were near 900 in 2007). Sucrose was getting stored as glycogen in muscles cells that normally store fat. So, I was eating a low fat diet and exercising 5 days/week -- and still slowly gaining weight.
By the time I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes in May 2010, I was taking five medications to control cholesterol, triglycerides and the diabetes. I was on two medications to deal with the coronary ectasia and attendant blood pressure issues. I had all kinds of advice...most of which ended up being a chorus of: take your medications, exercise and behave yourself eating.
I just finished reading a pivotal article in the latest edition of National Geographic. It's about sugar, and it tells the whole story. I commend this article to you. It is well worth the time and information.
One can exercise and still gain weight. One can exercise, be on a low-fat diet and still gain weight. One can exercise, be on a low-fat diet and eat minimal meals and probably lose weight...at least for a while. I did the latter in 2001 and did pretty well for about three years. Then it started coming back...the weight that is. It just started. And, for sure, I did the "Yes, but..." routine.
Now, it's about turning the dial on my metabolic activity. It's about breaking old patterns and habits. It's about reclaiming what my body is designed to utilize for optimal function. It's about the synthesis of activity, fuel and being centered on True Self.
Today's metabolic data:
- Weight: 234.4. I gained about a pound, but am told that it is an adjustment. My net loss is still six pounds in as many days.
- Fasting Blood Glucose: 97. Still within the 85-100 range necessary for control. I ate a snack pack before bed (a mix of raw almonds and walnuts).
- Blood Pressure: 134/76. It is modulating
Off to HealthFit.
[Note: The opening quote is spoken by John Lennon before the song "Two of Us" begins. There was a real John Hawtry (1914-1988) who did a lot of television, radio and stage acting...largely comic. It was the image I got when I began thinking about this post. Go figure]
Love and Blessings,