Saturday, July 03, 2004

My Cackling Metabolism Thingy

I suppose it really started about six months after my forty-ninth birthday. All my life up to that point, I’d been able to eat breads and baked goods with impunity. For years, I’ve “breakfasted” on four slices of wheat toast--two with butter, two with butter and jelly. Sandwiches have always played a big part in my diet. And if I ever grew famished in the middle of the day, I happily stuffed a slice of dry wheat bread down my pie hole. Cookies, sweet rolls, specialty breads from fancy bakeries , and various other baked goodies have also been perennial favorites.

For forty-nine and a half years, I was able to eat all this stuff and keep my weight under control. In fact, I never even thought about my weight.

From age thirty, I stayed at about 159-pounds. Even at that, my doctor would occasionally issue mild warnings about my spare tire. But I suspected that he wasn’t that concerned.

Then it happened. My brain decided to issue orders to my metabolism. The message: Get older; slow the process by which you break down and process all those baked items. My metabolism thingy--the technical term I use to describe it because my knowledge of human physiology is virtually nil--apparently set to work (or, ore accurately, set to slow) with a vengeance. It had a mission and was determined to succeed.

At first, I didn’t notice. You see, at about the same time as this order was issued, my wife came home from work with news. She and her fellow employees and their families had been offered a special deal for membership at a local gym. I was enthusiastic about the idea of joining. We went, checked the gym out, got a membership, and being a cheapskate, I decided not to pay the extra money for a few sessions with a personal trainer. The music videos playing in the gym prevented me from hearing my metabolism-thingy laughing at my ignorance. But I’ve come to recognize its cackle in the months since.

Of course, because I’d never really worked out regularly, I recognized that I needed to ramp up slowly in developing an exercise regimen. I knew that people can get hurt if, at the start of a regular exercise program, they push too hard.

That’s why one month into hitting the gym for an average of four days a week, I was only doing 200 crunches a session. “That’s Britney country!” my doctor’s assistant told me the day I went in for my appointment, complaining of some “mysterious” pain in my groin. I guess it shouldn’t have been so mysterious: I had herniated myself. That’s when I first noticed the cackling.

It was a mild hernia. But the doctor said that I should lay off any lower-body exercises for awhile. That was okay with me. I decided to focus on getting my scrawny upper body buff. But I would learn the lesson of the crunches, I said. I would take it easy.

And so I did. Or I thought that I did. One night, I was using flyweights and felt a kind of crunching in my neck and shoulder. “No big deal,” I thought. “I’ll just finish my workout; probably just some stiffness and the exercise will do me good.” Wrong! Whoever invented the admonition, “Play through the pain” is unfamilar with the truth, “Pain is an indication that something is wrong.”

That crunching I heard was me damaging my neck and rotator cuff. I’ve been in physical therapy ever since. For the first few months of that process, I was not allowed to do any physical exercise.

That’s when the cackling got really loud. Though unable to exercise, another habit I’d developed from my nights at the gym continued. Back then, arriving home sweaty and hungry, I filled up on whatever caught my eye in the kitchen. At the time, I could afford it: I was sweating off calories. Not so now. But the feeding frenzy continued.

Then, one morning, fresh from the shower, I tried to push my way into a favorite pair of blue jeans. I couldn’t do it. Perplexed, I did something I’d rarely done in my life: I weighed myself at home and not at the doctor’s office. I couldn’t believe what I read! I had ballooned to 179 pounds. Literally half of my pants no longer fit and the other half are something of a stretch.

I’m still in physical therapy, gradually recuperating from injurues caused not just by my workouts, but by the amount of time spent writing and working at the computer. I walk a lot and I’m going to the gym about three times a week, just to work on the elliptical walker. And I’m cutting down on the bread. One week into this new regimen, I can report that I’ve lost a whopping two-pounds-and-a-half. I’m down to 176.5 pounds, according to my digital scales.

I figure I owe it to God to get into better shape. The Bible says that our bodies are temples of God, not dumping grounds for cinnamon bread and Ho-Ho’s. I owe it to my family, too; I want them to be able to stand looking at me. And I owe it to my poor pants, straining under the added pressure from my midsection.

Those are good reasons for losing weight. But mostly, I want to stop that incessant cackling from my metabolism thingy.

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