Your Fat Cardiologist*

It's OK to be where you are. You don't have to stay there.

Your Fat Cardiologist* - It's OK to be where you are.  You don't have to stay there.

neVer forgeT?

Author’s Note: This post has nothing to do with losing weight….or maybe it has everything to do with it.  

 

“Where did you go to grad school?”

“Virginia Tech.”

“Oh, you weren’t there when……?” 

I’ve answered that question 1000 times.  I’ve answered it at work, on vacation, at a wedding and even during a job interview.  Yes, I was there.  I was there to receive a call from my wife alerting me to there being a shooter on campus and dismissing her because there wasn’t anything of note in my email or on the Virginia Tech website.  I was there right next to Norris Hall grabbing a newspaper just minutes before Seung-Hui Cho locked the doors of the building so people couldn’t get out and opened fire.  I was there when the media trucks lined up on the streets and thrust microphones into everybody’s faces.  And I was there when Cho released the bizarre videos to the nightly news.

Proverbs 4:23 – “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything that you do flows from it.”

The day after the shootings, I was back in the lab running experiments.  The only thing on TV was coverage of the shootings, perpetuated further by the release of the videos.  No matter where you turned, there were constant reminders that nothing was the same.  I tried to suppress the feelings that I was having with work, food and alcohol: grief for the people lost and the families that had to deal with that reality, anger that this had happened, frustration with the VT administration for their inability to act in a more responsible manner (especially with the experience from eight months prior), relief that it wasn’t me in that building, shame that I had those feelings of relief, helplessness at not being able to do anything……

For seven years, I’ve hated April 16.  I’ve hated hearing people say “neVer forgeT” because that’s all I want to do.  I’ve hated thinking that I had a math class in one of those rooms at that exact time just a year prior.  I’ve hated that Virginia Tech—a place where my father grew up and I always associated with family—no longer feels safe.   I’ve hated that anytime there is a school shooting, I feel that same empty feeling that I felt on April 16.  I’ve hated waiting for “the question” once I tell somebody where I went to school.  Most of all, I’ve hated Seung-Hui Cho for putting this scar on my heart.

Seven years is a long time.  I want to let the hate go, but I’m not quite sure how.

The 30-day marriage challenge

Hugh beach

Copyright 2014, Munye Miles

Last month, the pastor of our church challenged us to do something for our marriage: do something nice for your spouse for 30 straight days.  This sounded like a great idea and I got immediately energized and (geek that I am) opened up a spreadsheet and started writing down ideas.  I reached out to her friends to ask for things to do and had half of the spreadsheet filled out by Sunday evening.  Everything went well for the first week or so, but then for week 2 it started to get more difficult.  It didn’t get difficult because I didn’t want to do it, but because it required that I sacrifice time either at work or at night to arrange for the next day’s item.  The excuses started to pop into my mind.

  • “It’s raining.  Do I want to run into the store to get a card?”
  • “Doing these things is getting expensive.”
  • “I had to go to the ER, so don’t feel like making breakfast (ok, that one is probably justifiable).”

I was just at my breaking point—depressed over the new knee injury and justifying quitting by rationalizing that my wife knows that I love her whether I do nice things for her or not—when one afternoon my daughter crawled up into my lap and whispered in my ear, “What are we doing special for mommy today?

Galatians 6:9 – “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

It hit me hard.  She had been noticing all of the nice things.  She got excited when I involved her in the surprises.  She had seen the notes written on the mirror before I left for work and the flowers I had brought home.  I realized that if I quit, I was teaching her that mommy wasn’t important enough for me to sacrifice.  I was teaching her that it was ok to say you’re going to do one thing and then do another.  I was teaching her that it is ok to settle for a guy who will quit, just like I was about to do.  I thought that the 30-day challenge was for the benefit of my marriage, but now I see that it was also for the benefit of hers.

So how does this relate to food?  The kids are watching that too.  They notice when I make exercise a priority or when I teach a class on losing weight.  They notice when I make an effort to eat my vegetables or when I write down my calories.  Conversely, they notice when they eat their vegetables and I avoid them.  They notice when I sit on the couch watching football for an entire Saturday instead of going outside and enjoying the weather.    They notice when I give up when it gets hard.

The other day when I got home from work the kids were outside playing in the (finally) warm weather.  My wife asked me to watch the kids while she went inside to check on dinner, and when my son ran off towards the main road I quickly realized that no matter how fast I limped, I wasn’t going to be able to catch him.  It made me think about what’s going to happen as they get older.  They’re eventually going to be in situations where I can’t be there to protect them.  The only question is what example they’ll draw from when they need the strength to say no.  If that’s not more important than a piece of pizza, then I have bigger problems than being fat.

Redefining Weakness

*Author’s Note: I was going to post this last week but I didn’t want to show my own weakness.  After the events of this past week, I need the help even more though maybe not just for eating.  Step 1 in this process is realizing that it’s not weakness to ask for help.  It’s weakness to fail because you were scared of looking weak.

On Monday night, I had volunteered to help out as a judge for a middle school chemistry competition.  It was a fun event, and some of those kids knew answers to questions that the judges certainly did not.  As part of the festivities, volunteers were provided dinner, and the dinner provided was pizza.  I have been eating well for a couple of weeks now.  That all ended Monday night.

“It seems to me shallow and arrogant for any man in these times to claim he is completely self-made, that he owes all of his success to his own unaided efforts.  Many hands and hearts and minds generally contribute to anyone’s notable achievements.” – Walt Disney

It started out innocently enough.  I had decided in the morning that I would just not eat any of the pizza and have a salad once I got home.  It was a plan that seemed easy enough at the time.  Then I walked into the judges’ room and could smell the hot pizza.  I mean, how much could one piece hurt?

So two pieces later, I went out and helped to judge the competition.  At the end as I was helping clean up, the organizer started imploring us to take the pizza home with us because she was just going to throw it out anyway.  Well, can’t argue with that logic right?  So I took an entire large pizza home with me, except it all didn’t make it home.  I wasn’t even hungry anymore.  All I knew was that I couldn’t say no to more pizza on the car ride home.  Once I was at home my wife had made a quiche, and I had to try it right?  And I was way past my daily calorie limit, so what harm was a little bit of ice cream?

If this story is familiar to you, know that you aren’t alone.  Binge eating disorder is characterized by compulsive overeating in which people consume huge amounts of food while feeling out of control and powerless to stop.  Now I’m not a doctor and don’t want to self-diagnose, but this is exactly what I feel when I’m eating too much and have described before on this blog.

In the past, I’ve encouraged you to get help as part of your weight loss journey, and I’m going to take my own advice and see a counselor.  My reflexive reaction is that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but it’s really a sign of strength.  My father has often told me that the most dangerous doctors are the ones who don’t know what they don’t know.  The same thing applies to humans in general.  Ignoring the problem is doing the exact opposite of what I claim is necessary to lose weight.  It has become clear that I need help because there are things that I don’t know how to control.

Prayers for Jim Kelly

Sunday morning was like any other weekend.  I had planned to make breakfast for everybody before church so I took my meds for my knee and hopped in the shower.  All of a sudden, a wave a dizziness hit me….and another….and then one so strong that I knew I was going down.  I blacked out and the next thing I remember I was lying on the shower floor, my knee throbbing because it had bent WAY past where I was told I could take it, and I was shaking uncontrollably.  On the bright side, there’s nothing better than being stark naked when the paramedics arrive.

“I’ve been blessed.  I wouldn’t change a thing.” – Jim Kelly, former Buffalo Bills QB

I got to the hospital and it was the same drill as the last time.  Check for a heart attack, a pulmonary embolism, and any other sort of major problems with my system.  Nothing.  No explanation, no reason for passing out.  Just a shoulder shrug and a “it happens sometimes”.  As much as I’ve tried to be positive,  I’ve been depressed over my knee injury lately.  It’s been really difficult to not be able to play with my kids, to not be able to help around the house, and to be forced to the realization that I’m not just getting older, but getting old.  Now the knee may have been injured further, the rehab schedule will be pushed back, and I’m sentenced to more of the same feelings.

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I grew up in Indianapolis and like most kids was a front runner.  It didn’t take me long to switch allegiances from the Colts’ Jeff George and Jack Trudeau to Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills.  I lost a lot of money on the Buffalo Bills when I was younger, at least a lot for a middle schooler.  And much like Chris Berman, I was always forced to circle the wagons to defend my favorite player: Jim Kelly.  He wasn’t classically good looking like Elway or Marino and didn’t have any of their commercials either.  But Kelly called his own plays, took some vicious hits and always got up, and he always acted with class after the Bills lost.  Even the greatest game during the Bills four year run—a comeback from down 35-3 against the Oilers in the playoffs—had to be bittersweet for Kelly because he was injured and his backup led the comeback.

But the quote above from Kelly isn’t profound because of the four Super Bowl losses.  It is profound when you think about his son—Hunter—who died from Krabbe Leukodystrophy at 8 years old, but has seen a research institute in his name that has conducted research that allows early diagnosis of the disease and facilitates life-saving treatments.  It is profound when you realize that he’s survived a plane crash into the frigid Bearing Sea.  It is profound when you think about his battle with cancer, which has taken his upper left jaw and many of his teeth.

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So as I was feeling sorry for myself and was surfing the web this morning, I came across the news that Jim Kelly’s cancer is back and it is aggressively spreading.  Let’s just say it put things in perspective really fast.  That isn’t to say that I don’t have my own difficulties, just that I can learn a lot from Jim Kelly’s attitude.  I am blessed.  Whether I choose to acknowledge that is up to me.

We figuratively live and die with our athletic teams.  I remember the empty feeling each of those four times that Buffalo came up short in the Super Bowl.  I used to think I was cursed for rooting for the Bills, but that isn’t the case at all.  Jim Kelly has taught me more by losing than he ever could have by winning, and for that I thank him.  So say a prayer for Jim Kelly and his family tonight, and if you have the means, check out www.huntershope.org and help out a great cause.  Here’s to hoping that Jim will win this battle.

Love like a child

Every year my kids get money for Chinese New Year.  My kids are young enough that they forget this, and so my daughter was thrilled when she got money from her uncle and grandparents earlier this year.  She opened up the red envelopes and squealed with delight when she pulled out a crisp new $1 and $5 bill.  She was rich!  Right before dinner the other day, my wife was asking her what she wanted to do with her money and she said, “I’ll give it to other people if they need it.”  When I asked her what she would do if she needed money, she said she would wait until the next Chinese New Year.

“No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child.  The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.” – Emma Goldman

It was about this time that I swelled with pride.  I also felt guilty because, if I reflect honestly, would I answer in the same way?  She was willing to subjugate her own needs for the needs of others, and maybe more importantly, to wait patiently for her reward.  How often do I do that?

There’s a lot of logic in that attitude, as one definition of maturity is the ability to delay pleasure, to be able to sacrifice short-term for long-term gain.  Dave Ramsey says you “live like no one else so you can live (and give) like no one else.”  There’s also a lot of love in that attitude.  As Bob Goff says “That’s because love is never stationary.  In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it.  Simply put: love does.”  My daughter showed her love to other people by being willing to give of herself for the betterment of others.  Her attitude was profound in that she realized there would always be more money at the next holiday so there was no need to hold onto what she had.

When it comes to our weight, we often rely on logic.  We know that eating fewer calories or exercising four days per week will cause positive changes in our health.  We understand that short-term sacrifices are necessary to see the long-term result.  And then we don’t make any of those changes.

We don’t make those changes because we ignore the love component.  We ignore that we have people who rely on us to be around 10, 25, or even 50 years from now.  We ignore that there is a little girl or a little boy who will end up eating and exercising just like us because of the example that we set.  We ignore that there will always be another hamburger, slice of pizza, or television show available to us tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.

My daughter reminded me that in order to lose weight—in order to accomplish anything of value—we have to be willing to let go of what we have.  We have to be willing to be uncomfortable in the short-term.  We have to love others and ourselves enough that it is worth putting down the potato chips.  Yes, we need logic to understand the plan that we need to put in place, but we need to focus on love to execute that plan.  Because love does.

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