Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Pools - Not Just for Swimming Anymore

My last post was about exercise. If you read it, you already know I’m not a big fan.

BUT, I love the water. Pools in general, but I also love the ocean. I spent a great deal of my youth living close to the ocean... For a time I lived one block away from the sand and the surf.

Speaking of surfing...when I was a freshman in high school I actually tried to be a surfer! Kind of...if there is such a thing as an Atlantic City NJ “surfer”. A friend had a surfboard, and chubby little me took it out and tried surfing. I finally quit when I took it out after the summer season during the time JELLYFISH were spawning (or whatever it is they do in the fall). I had no idea. There I was, swimming out to make my feeble attempt at being a cowabunga king, when a wave rolled up, filled with little baseball sized jellyfish. The wave hit me, and I was pelted with a barrage of those scary clear monsters. No more surfing for me. I do pools...period.

Pools. When you think of pools— using pools to get healthy— you think swimming...right? Confession: even though I love...LOVE...the water, I am a terrible swimmer. Don’t get me wrong, I can doggie paddle at what I modestly think is near olympic level, but “real” swimming… nope. I stink...or more appropriately, sink. But I use a pool almost everyday now as the main part of my fitness plan because…

Pools are not just for swimming anymore!

If it wasn’t for the pool at my gym (and the pools in hotel rooms I stay at while my band is on tour) I probably would not get much exercise. Exercise has to come in one of three forms for me to do it…

  1. It’s fun… like playing sports, a game, dancing, etc.
  2. It’s something I have to do anyway, like walking to a destination (parking the car, going to the mall), cleaning the house, walking the dog, taking out the trash...You get it right?
  3. Something that makes me feel good instantly… For me being in the water does that.

So I ended up in the pool, mostly to relieve stress and to get my back not to hurt. When I went to my new heart doctor, he wanted me to exercise, but only in the pool! Again, I’m not a swimmer, but I came up with an exercise program/routine that works for me. If you are not big on swimming, you might find my daily (4-6 days a week) routine interesting too. Here is what I do…
  1. START OFF IN THE HOT TUB. For me this is a must. I stay in for 15 minutes. It loosens up everything. I think it gets the toxins out and heats up my body, so that when I get in the cold water, it kinda jumpstarts my metabolism and wakes me up.
  2. In the shallow end of the pool, I walk for about 5-10 minutes, keeping my hands in the pool, moving them with hands open to create resistance.
  3. Marching: lifting legs up as high as possible and bending arms, moving faster, 5-10 minutes.
  4. Run, sprint, jog as fast as I can go to the deep end.
  5. Once in the deep end, I hold the ladder with two hands and pull my knees up to my tummy 100 times! This really helps to eliminate back pain for me.
  6. Next I float, stretch my back and neck, and with my hands behind my head I do 10-20 leg lifts.
  7. Holding on to the ladder or rope, I do 10-20 core twists. Hold knees to tummy and rotate legs back and forth.
  8. Run, jog, sprint as fast as I can back to the shallow end.
  9. Stretch legs, calves, and do 10-20 water push ups on the side of the pool.
  10. On my way out, I do 10-20 stepper-like exercises on the pool stairs

There you go: my routine. About 30-60 minutes, depending on what I do that day. Exercise is important. Moving and getting your blood circulating is a must... so is being flexible. I found something I can do. It makes me feel good. I remember when watching all the hard core swimmers just got me depressed. I knew I would never be like that, but this I can do. Remember, I am not a doctor, nutritionist, trainer or any other health professional, I’m a guitar player… Never take health advice from a musician...never ever! I offer this info to let you know what I do and what is possible.

I look and feel so much better since I realized pools are not just for swimming anymore!

Thanks for reading, I hope you liked it.

Please subscribe my mailing list and never miss a new blog post!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Confession: I Hate Exercise


Confession: I hate exercise.

Just to be clear… I understand that getting exercise is important, I know that you need to be moving and stretching. I know that aerobic movement is an important ingredient to getting and staying fit.. I really do, but the idea of going to the gym, or going down to your workout room, and spending what seems like an eternity on an exercise bike, treadmill or a stair stepper… Aargh!

Just not my idea of a good time. As you probably know, since you’re reading my blog...I’ve dropped quite a few pounds. Almost 100 now. Most of these pounds came off without the added assistance of regular traditional exercise.

In November 2017 I switched from the standard American diet (SAD) to a plant-based diet (vegan?), and ultimately I’m evolving into more of a whole food plant-based diet… It is essentially a vegan diet minus oil and all the processed foods, while trying really hard to keep the added salt and sugar intake low. As I write this, I’m approaching my first 100 pound weight reduction, as I said before. The first 40 pounds came off really easily with virtually no exercise.

About the time I dropped my first 40 pounds I was forced to get all new doctors for insurance reasons. This, as it turns out, was not a bad thing. It addition to finding a family doctor that was sympathetic to plant-based diet and lifestyle, I also got a new cardiologist. When I asked my new heart doctor about exercise, his answer was quite interesting. He recommended that I use the swimming pool and basically walk. When I felt up to it, he said to do some other low impact water aerobics. He said because of my size, working out in the pool would be better for my joints, back, legs and knees.

This was really great news, I had already joined a gym and was regularly going there to use the hot tub and the saltwater pool for other reasons, mostly relaxation and to help relieve back and joint pain. These days I spend 3 to 5 days a week at the gym and have come up with an exercise routine that I use in the pool. It consists of walking, jogging, jumping and some other exercises I created that loosely resemble sit ups, pull-ups, and crunches, along with other various stretches and aerobic movements. I honestly think that if my doctor told me I need to go to the gym and use the exercise bike or the treadmill, or do any other types of traditional exercise routines, I probably would’ve quit. It’s just not my thing... or at least it wasn’t…

Recently I have noticed that I’m showing interest in some other forms of exercise. I recently took a tour of the gym with my son and his girlfriend and I discovered I was very interested in some of the other exercises available that resemble things I’ve seen people do on TV shows like the Biggest Loser, a show I tried to get on a few times. (Maybe I should write about that?) On that fateful day at the gym, I actually pushed a Big NFL-style training camp sled around and did some things with ropes and free weights. I could see myself getting into stuff like that in the future, but I still don’t see myself ever jumping on the treadmill, the stair stepper, or the exercise bike… I’d probably do a Zumba class or play basketball or some other sport first.

I was recently having a conversation with a doctor friend of mine from Canada, and she suggested that I talk more about the importance of exercise when I post on Facebook or write blog entries like this. To be honest, I’ve been having trouble with that request, as I don’t really get into the whole exercise thing… Not really… Not traditionally. I’ve had great results so far without much of it.

Long term? Maybe it’ll help to keep weight off and keep my body functioning in a much healthier way. How could it not, right? But, I’m just not there yet. In my opinion (but remember I am not a doctor I’m a guitar player), I don’t think you necessarily need to start exercising right away if you just want to lose weight. I don’t think most people’s bodies are ready for it. I also don’t think most people’s minds are ready for it. I think that a new person… a new you… will probably arrive or evolve as you go on your journey. Baby steps.

In the meantime, there are many things you can do to get moving and get more “exercise”. Here are some suggestions to help you get you started…

Find ways to move more, walk more, bend over more, stretch more...basically do more in your daily routine every day. Parking a little farther away than you usually do when you go to the store (this is something I really need to work on myself), put the things that you use the most in the kitchen at the lowest cabinet or the highest cabinet. This will help you burn a lot of calories and become a lot more flexible without ever stepping foot inside a gym or buying exercise equipment you never use… except to hang your clothes from it!

The more weight I lose, the more exercise I get. Weird how it kind of works that way.

If you have a lot of weight to lose, it’s probably best to start with what is going in your mouth. Try not to overwhelm yourself with too many things at once... the rest will follow.

As far as exercise goes, yes it’s important but it’s also important to find ways to exercise your body that you enjoy doing and look forward to. Forcing yourself to do everything that you hate all at once is pretty much a one-way ticket to failure. Remember, there are so many different things you can do to lose weight, get and stay healthy.

Find what works for you and do it. Never stop.


Confession: I hate exercise...or do I?

Thanks for reading, I hope you liked it.

Please subscribe my mailing list and never miss a new blog post!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Was My Heart Surgery Really Necessary?

In July of 2015 I had a quintuple bypass...Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).

Was it necessary?

Well, yes and no... let me explain...

Back in 2014 I was about 380 lbs, I was on a lot of prescription medications, high BP, cholesterol, PRE-diabetes... more stuff I forget. My doctors had me convinced I needed to lose weight...I did... so I worked really hard at it for most of the year.

I was living in the Green Bay, WI area and I started having chest pains and difficulty breathing. I saw my doctor and had an EKG...which looked abnormal (my doctor thought there might be blockages or something more serious) and made him refer me to a cardiologist. At my cardiology appointment the doctor looked me over and (without any testing) told me, "I have no idea who told you you have blockages. Your heart is fine. You're just fat and out of shape"... yeah that happened.

So, now properly humiliated and motivated (thinking I was a total hypochondriac) I started off on a new diet...Atkins! I did pretty good, then I moved to Appleton, WI got a new doctor and a new diet...the Mediterranean Diet (something my new doctor really liked) and lost about 40-45 lbs. HOWEVER, I was having more and more trouble breathing and eventually started getting chest pains. But I was losing weight! One thing I learned after going on a plant based diet/lifestyle is that you can lose weight in a number of ways. Some are healthy, some are not. Some diets will help you to look good on the outside, but not help you on the inside. Yes, I was losing weight on my high protein diets but I was still clogging my arteries! Wow.

I thought maybe I wasn't trying hard enough so I started exercising more, trying to walk faster, swim more... but the breathing and chest pains kept getting worse. BUT I KNEW THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH MY HEART, a doctor told me so...just my weight! HOWEVER...it got to the point I couldn't do stairs or walk down the hall without stopping and holding on until the pain went away. But I was sure it wasn't my heart.

I visited the doctor and they treated me for possible asthma, bronchitis...other pulmonary problems. My heart was fine! I tried to hide how bad it was from my family, but I think they knew. Then one day I had a show (I'm a professional guitar player and singer) at a library with my son (he plays drums) and I couldn't breathe... wheezing...dizzy, chest pains....he told me to go to the emergency room. Instead I made a doctors appointment...  for the NEXT DAY... I did the gig (barely) and went to the doctor the next day...

Guess what? I had several blockages and needed bypass surgery ASAP! So I did. Cracked me open, used my leg veins to bypass five blockages. Put me out of work for a year and pretty much destroyed my life and messed up my family forever. But I wan't dead.

Now, did I need, really NEED heart surgery? ... again, yes and no...

Yes, because I did not die. I probably would have unless I made all the changes I LATER made right then and there. The problem: I was not ready to make those changes. I wish I had. Some people tried to tell me. But I was all in with the doctors. They do a great job of selling you on this procedure, explaining how there is NO OTHER OPTION.

If I had thought there were any other options...other than surgical options... the answer would have been no, I really would not have needed the surgery (or most of the prescription medications I ended up on for the next year or two) if I made changes like the ones outlined by Dr. Esselstyn in his book PREVENT AND REVERSE HEART DISEASE 

My heart surgery was an expensive, horrific, terrifying experience that caused great strain on my family, friends, career and my personal relationships. It still messes with my health. My legs and chest still have problems (most likely they always will).

Heart bypass surgery can save your life...your lifestyle can save your life too. But you have to be ready for it. You may have a choice. Please check into all options before jumping off this cliff...it's not fun. I can't speak for anyone else, but knowing what I know now, I would rather give up some foods and just eat vegetables for the rest of my life if it will save me from another round of "chest cracking" heart surgery.

Thanks for reading, I hope you liked it.

Please subscribe my mailing list and never miss a new blog post!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Eat Food You Like

One of the most important keys to success when you’re trying to lose weight is eating food you like, this does not mean eating food that is bad for you, but it does mean it’s finding foods that you like… foods that you love... that can support you on your weight-loss journey.

There are probably foods you are eating right now that are perfectly fine and healthy (you might not even know it!) and other foods that aren't. There may be foods and recipes that just need to be tweaked to make them perfect for your new plant based weight loss program.

Sometimes you may have to get creative, learn to like a new flavor, texture or taste, but you can usually come close to finding a plant based equivalent to some of your favorite foods! For instance, I love sandwiches, subs and potato salad. Once I found bread that was free of ingredients I didn’t want to eat, the rest just fell into place. I eat sandwiches and subs anytime I want. The ingredients might be a little different but the experience is the same...at least for me. Maybe you might miss an ingredient or two, but you never know until you try, right?

I also LOVE potato salad. As far a potato salad goes, eggs are the big problem for everyone and oil is another problem for those of us trying to avoid oil too... but I’ve had a few plant based and vegan potato salad recipes that work just fine for me! One of them is green. (made with avocado) Guess I'll be ready for the next St. Patrick's Day pot luck!

If you think you can’t do a plant based diet because there is nothing you’re going to like, you are probably wrong. Ever eat at Olive Garden? The bread sticks and minestrone soup are vegan!
Speaking of eating out, many burger joints serve veggie and black bean burgers... just watch the oil, salt and any sneaky non plant based extras like mayo, cheese and other sauces that pop up here and there.

Are you an ice cream freak? Well, there is a simple plant based "ice cream" alternative... "nice cream" made with frozen bananas!

I love pasta! So I eat it... sometimes it’s made with zoodles, butternut squash, or sometimes it’s whole grain spaghetti... if I really want "meatballs" I can get vegan meat-less balls or toss in some small mushroom caps (they give me a meatball look and they are pretty tasty too).

Try to find as many foods as you can that you already eat  and when you’re ready...try new versions of your old favorites. Don’t make your transition to a plant based lifestyle feel like a punishment or think of it as a short term solution. If you like everything you eat, you won’t be missing anything, and the more likely you will be to stick with this for the long haul.

If I thought all I could eat was raw food like kale and celery I would fail. There is nothing wrong with kale or celery, except I don’t like either of them.

Eat food you like.

Thanks for reading, I hope you liked it.

Please subscribe my mailing list and never miss a new blog post!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Never Good Enough?

Do you think you eat bad?

I know I did. For years and years. It wasn’t just what I ate...but where I ate...when I ate...and how much I ate.

I’m pretty sure that for decades  I ate out way more than I ate at home. Lots of the local eateries knew me by name and the "all you can eat" buffet joints started counting their losses as I walked in.

I didn’t read labels. I didn't have to... no labels to read on a menu! Didn’t worry about things like GMOs or gluten. I just stuffed myself, got fat and sick!

As the years passed while I ate whatever I wanted, no one ever seemed interested about what was in the food I was eating, where it came from or how scientists messed with it. As I got bigger and sicker, friends and family would sometimes suggest I eat less, diet... get healthier... whatever. No one ever seemed concerned about my protein intake.  I’m sure I ate a lot of protein...covered in fat and cheese and oil and all kinds of high fructose sauces. Nobody seemed to know much about nutrition or care. I was just another fat guy living the American dream.

And then one day I walked away from the SAD (Standard American Diet) and suddenly everyone became an expert in nutrition! Who knew? Where were all these people for the last 40 years of my SAD life? Now when people see me passing up steaks, chicken, fries, milkshakes and all, they shake their heads and tell me how worried they are about my health.

Whenever an average American finds out I’m not eating animal products the "protein inquisition" begins! WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN??? You at least eat fish right??? Heaven help me if I turned down olive oil or nuts or avocado.... cries of "YOU NEED HEALTHY OIL!" still echo between my ears.

You are just never good enough for some people. 

Sadly it’s not just the masses eating the SAD that torture people that follow the plant based lifestyle... there are also the WFPB snobs and WFPB NO GMO ORGANIC OR DIE NAZI’s. If you eat anything non-organic or genetically modified you might as well wash down your Big Mac with a Shamrock Shake... no difference. We are never good enough.

I have made amazing changes, lost weight, reversed diabetes and more on a plant based diet that includes canned, frozen, non organic and GMO foods. I’m doing pretty good. Maybe not good enough, but I’m learning. Maybe someday I’ll eat more organic or grow my own, but please, don’t make me and all the others that are making amazing changes feel bad because we are not perfect.

To be honest many of the people trying to give me advice these days look fatter and sicker than I do.

To all the people making little changes every day, keep it up. Do the best you can. That is always good enough.

Thanks for reading, I hope you liked it.

Please subscribe my mailing list and never miss a new blog post!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Big Shirt, Brain Damage and Clown Pants

I don’t know what you do for a living, but me? I play guitar in a band called BIG and TALL.

It’s not a hobby, it’s my full time job. There are only two people in my band... me and my son Wil. Wil plays the drums and he is a bit taller than me. So, since I was pretty short and fat, BIG and TALL sounded like a great name with a little visual gimmick.

A while back we had shirts made. My shirt said ‘BIG’, his said ‘TALL’. I got them for a photo shoot. They look cool, but the place that made custom shirts only went to 3XL... I wore a 5XL... but I squeezed into it and put it away in my closet (and forgot about it).

Yesterday we had a big theater gig. I wanted us to wear something cool, and I remembered we had these shirts. This is where my brain damage comes into the story...

I think I have some kind of brain damage now when it comes to my body image. Like, I know I’ve lost almost 100 lbs and INTELLECTUALLY I know I’m a size 3XL, not a 5XL, but... I still think I’m a 400 pound, 5XL hulk.

So when I tried on my "BIG" shirt, I totally expected it to be tight. But it wasn’t... brain damage.
Then I was deciding which pants to wear...

Again, I wanted us to look good, so I thought I’d wear my "good" black dress pants, which I haven’t worn in a while. These are the same pants that barely fit me at 400 pounds (thanks to the comfort fit stretch waist). See where I’m going with this? Brain damage.

So I packed up my trusty old dress pants, (without trying them on) my (not so) BIG shirt, and headed to upper Michigan for a big theater show!

So, I’m in the motel room before the show, I put on my BIG shirt and then.... MY CLOWN PANTS!
Yep... they were big... not just in the waist, (which I expected) but the legs, thighs, butt... all I needed was a red nose, maybe big matching shoes and a little tiny car for me and thirty of my friends to jump out of! I brought a belt... thought the waist might be a little loose... a little loose... brain damage.
I did bring a back up pair of black pants that worked ok, but here is the point: If you have been really big like me for any length of time, it might take your damaged brain a while to catch up to your real, actual weight loss. You can probably do more things: walk farther, sit in the booth, and wear smaller sizes than you think.

I think eventually my brain will heal itself like the rest of my body, but until it does I need to remember to try on clothes before I pack them!

Thanks for reading, I hope you liked it.

Please subscribe my mailing list and never miss a new blog post!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Why Don't I Eat Meat?

It is true... I don’t eat meat.

No beef, poultry, fish... nothing that has a face or mother.

Am I a vegan?

Well, technically I guess I am, but I’m more then that... or different... than what most people think of when you hear the word vegan. I guess the real question is why don’t I eat meat... or dairy products... and why am I trying to quit eating oil?

I’m not trying to save the planet, end animal suffering or make a statement. I’m just trying not to end up having my chest cracked open again, being chronically sick taking dozens of prescription drugs and being treated for diabetes with insulin shots. Like the title of Dr. Michael Greger's book, I'm trying to learn “How Not to Die”.

However, if During the process I help the save planet, reduce animal suffering or make some kind of a positive statement... great! It’s a bonus. Just like my continued weight loss.

MASSIVE CONFESSION - I did not start eating this way to lose weight!

Losing weight was a happy side effect (unlike the unhappy side effects typically associated with prescription drugs) of my new no meat, no dairy lifestyle. I just wanted to get healthy enough to stop taking insulin and hopefully reverse and prevent any further instance of heart disease. It all started with a book...

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. This book changed my life and opened the doors to a world of wonder. A world where people were getting better, healing themselves... not getting sicker and sicker, like I was, with every passing year. The book lead me to videos, more books, other doctors, documentaries, websites, apps, Facebook groups that all shared the same message...

DON’T EAT MEAT, DAIRY or OIL... live longer and live healthier. Oh... and apparently lose a lot of weight.

Since I stopped eating a few things, I feel better and look better... INSIDE AND OUT. I’m not here to argue about ethics or protein deficiencies... you can (and should) have your opinions... don’t take health and medical advice from me... I’m a guitar player! BUT... not eating meat and a few other things really works for me.

Would it work for you? Maybe... maybe not... I do not know.

I do know that if you are having health problems or you are concerned about heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol, etc., you can alway grab a copy of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and see what you think. Can't hurt, right?

So back to the question, why don’t I eat meat?

That's not really the question.

I guess the real question for me is, why would I want to?