Hell Week

11 07 2012


Busy couple of weeks lately. Vacation is around the corner and as usual I’m working like a dog to get everything done so I can go away and mentally be free of work. Late night stakeouts (I’m an investigator/glorified social worker) in a car is not very conducive to losing weight but the battle continues. Since beginning acupuncture treatments I’m 10 pounds down. (the pain reducing effects have been wonderful!) It’s a long, hard slog though. And frankly vacation worries me. I will need to really focus on getting my exercise in. The goal is to come home from vacation, weighing significantly less than when I left for it. We all know how difficult that can be. But at least for a week, I’ll be out of the car and out from behind a desk so I definitely feel like it will be possible.

Trying a Wholistic Approach to Weight Loss

9 06 2012

For years I’ve thought about using acupuncture or some other healing art to assist me in losing weight. Now after losing nearly 70 pounds, I finally feel more ready to begin exploring forces outside of my own control. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not a fan of going to a doctor’s office but I realize that this battle with weight often feels bigger than me and getting a bit of help might not be the worst thing to do at this point.

Because I’m a bit neurotic, the search for an acupuncturist becomes a complicated process. Sure there are tons of qualified people out there, but I wanted someone who had extensive experience. I wanted someone who is preferably Chinese. I wanted the Chinese medicines, herbs and teas. I wanted someone with a broken English accent. I know this is faulty thinking. Maybe I’ve watched the Karate Kid too many times but my criteria made the choice seem like a more authentic one for me.

Upon the recommendation of a colleague, I found and called a practitioner who was able to see me that same day. I had called several other practitioners before this but was not getting any warm fuzzies. The fact that this gentleman could see me the same day made it more difficult for me to be able to allow my nerves to get the best of me and back out.

For me, going to a “doctor’s office” is an anxiety producing event. When I walked toward the door of the office I read a posted sign with several rules. I was to take off my shoes and turn off my cell phone. The act of becoming untethered to my cell phone for any length of time is also quite anxiety producing. It’s the era that we live in. I always need to feel connected. The reality though is that smart phones leave us unconnected from each other a great deal of the time.

Before I knew it, I had been ushered into the space where I would receive the treatment. I spoke with the practitioner about some chronic but generally dull pain I had been experiencing for years in my left ankle as well as a new pain that had been developing over the last few months in my right shoulder. We also spoke about my weight loss journey so far and how he might be able to assist me in moving forward.

Before I knew it, it was time to disrobe and get on the table. This is also anxiety producing. At over 300lbs, this body is not ready for prime time yet.

The practitioner began working on my right foot as a way to ease my shoulder pain. I offered that the pain was likely the result of the way I sleep as I tend to sleep on my shoulder with my arm curled under my pillow and wedged up against the headboard. He remained quiet and I felt that maybe he was not accepting my hypothesis. I have since come to learn that in some Asian healing arts practices, shoulder pain is most often an indicator of a major stress build up.

With needles inserted and electrical stimulus pulse applied, the practitioner turned off the lights and left the room for a period of time. I was left alone with the sounds of the ocean mixed with a separate recording of American Indian flute. I wondered if my American Indian tattoos had inspired him to play this for me or if it was just by chance. Either way the sounds and the needles seemed to lull me off to an extremely relaxed state in no time which is really impressive given how anxious I had been feeling. I was not tired or sleepy but my mind did produce some interesting peaceful images. It reminded me of a very lucid dream. Every once in awhile I would come back to reality when my right hand unexplainably moved on it’s own, most likely the result of being a human pin cushion.

Before I knew it, the practitioner had returned and it was time to work on my ankle. I advised that my podiatrist had told me that because of the repeated sprains and strains to my ankle since the age of 18, a very large bone spur had developed and my entire ankle would need to be scoped so that the tendons could finally snap back into place and heal. I advised that I had also been told that my ankle had aged to about that of a 65 year old despite my only being 35 at the time. My practitioner laughed at this assertion and seemed to indicate with his facial expressions (although he said nothing) that surgery would probably not be necessary. Maybe that was wishful thinking on my part. I’m not completely sure.

The practitioner pushed on the exact spot on my ankle that often gives me pain. When strong pressure is applied it really hurts and I had all I could do to not sit upright and scream. Then he inserted one needle on the top of my foot near my toes and said “pain gone now” and pressed again. And it was! For the first time in 19 years my ankle was completely pain free. It felt absolutely normal. Tears began to well up. I couldn’t believe the instant difference.

The practitioner then began to add needles in a large circle around my stomach. I felt the tapping on the tops of the needles but never any actual pain (it’s very different than getting a needle at the doctor’s office). He also put needles in my arms and legs. One needle in my right leg definitely gave me an unpleasant sensation and sent a wave of something not nice down my leg for just a second and again briefly when it was finally removed later.

I also received very tiny needles in my right ear. some of these were painful but not for too long. They were covered with medical tape and I was told that I would keep them in until my next visit. These too would help with stress relief, pain relief, metabolism boosting and food craving control when massaged at least five times a day for 30 seconds each. Again the lights went out and my relaxed state returned.

At the conclusion of my visit I was told that acupuncture is not a panacea for weight loss. It will only assist in it. The hard work still belongs to me if I want to see results.

I was then given a “diet” plan for a three day caloric restriction type fast (essentially eating 1/3 of what I typically eat). This begins today. It will be difficult because I’m already eating considerably less than I had been before going plant based. After the three days, I would return to a diet not unlike what I have been doing already. No dairy, no grease, no excessive oils, low carbs and no processed foods. I also was given Chinese root tea and other herbal supplements to help with metabolism and fat absorption.

It was a very interesting experience and I’ll be going back twice this coming week. My only hope is that my insurance will get onboard and start picking up most of the tab as it is not at all cheap. I do fear that the treatments will become too cost prohibitive and I will need to stop before I’ve received enough of them to truly make an impact.

For now though I am feeling good. The shoulder and ankle were a bit sore a few hours after the session and the pain comes and goes still. Unless I become overly tired it generally remains duller and shorter in duration than it had. I expect that these issues will need more time to resolve. I’m skeptical about acupuncture’s ability to fix my ankle pain in a lasting way. This isn’t western mind. I’m definitely willing to give it a try though. I certainly cannot argue with the pain free moments in the office. That experience still amazes me.

The ear needles are neat. For some reason they make the whole right side of my face feel like it’s open (as if a piece of my skull is missing). It’s hard to find the words to explain it any other way. It’s a neat sensation. And yes my cravings have generally been in check although I’ve had my moments. We’ll see how it goes. One of the needles hurts when i massage it. The thought of having needles just stuck in my ear for days is not particularly comforting but its not stopping me from giving it a shot either.

This is an exciting new phase in my adventure. I’m interested to see where this road will lead. I definitely believe that western medicine can be beneficial but if we limit ourselves only to that, I think we miss an awful lot.

If you’ve used alternative methods to gain relief from pain and/or assist in weight loss and would like to share your experiences post a comment or email me: johnnysized@gmail.com

I See You But I Don’t Know Who You Are

29 03 2012

Tonight I will be attending the Best of the Valley Blog Awards for Northeastern Pennsylvania. It’s exciting to see that this little labor of love which is only a couple of months old snagged three separate nominations. I don’t expect to win anything but it really is an honor to be recognized alongside my peers, many of which I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for.

Events like this always cause me anxiety. In the past, I would try to pick a seat I could fit in comfortably although that is becoming less of a worry as my journey chugs along and I continue to lose weight. The other issue that I don’t talk about much is that I am face blind. Face blindness is the inability to recognize faces, even those I see semi-regularly. Sure I know my family, my friends and my every day co-workers but I’ve seen neighbors that live next to me in local stores and have been afraid to walk up to them for fear that it might not be them. In fact I still can’t say for sure if it was them or not. I’ve had co-workers from other offices that I used to work with daily who get bent out of shape if I see them outside of work and don’t acknowledge them. I’m sure it seems quite rude but it’s just my brains inability to recognize you. It’s nothing personal. Even watching movies or programs on television is a nightmare. If there are multiple people with the same hair color or style, I am done for. I cannot distinguish any of the top stars from each other. In my daily life I end up focusing on hair, distinguishing features, body movement and mannerisms to help me determine if someone is who I believe they might be. This often leads me to feel more socially awkward than I already am.

I used to think this was a normal experience for everyone but in recent years I have come to learn that it is an actual phenomena that1 in 50 people suffer from some form of. Some people can not recognize their own children. I’m lucky as my symptoms are not that severe.

So if you see me out and about and I don’t acknowledge you or I seem perplexed, just reintroduce yourself. I know it’s weird but it is what it is.

Goodbye Pills: Life Without a Net

22 02 2012

It’s been 24 hours without these:

Since September, I’ve been eating these things like candy for a staph infection that I was eventually diagnosed with.  It took a month just to find a med that really responded to it, hence all the different ones. The pink ones were for pain as a pimple on the back of my neck had swelled to something about the size of a deck of cards in less than 72 hours. Some of the white ones were to prevent the sepsis (blood poisoning)that was beginning to occur from really taking root. Then the dosage was increased but did little to stop the actual growth. So I was switched to a different and stronger med which still didn’t do the trick. Then I began getting antibiotic shots at my doctors office and again my med was changed (a third different white one). By the time I was finally diagnosed with the staph I had been on 6 different meds. The experience with my general practitioner was very difficult and I had to really fight to advocate for myself. If I hadn’t fought to get a culture done, I’m not sure what would have happened. Luckily I knew some knowledgeable people who were able to help steer me in the right direction.

The experience with my doctor was miserable and honestly I can’t even write about it in the detail that it deserves without feeling the anxiety that surrounded that time start to seep back in. So suffice to say, I found an infectious disease doctor that was quite fantastic and he put me on the blue guys for the last four months. Because the size of my infection was so large and was mostly under the skin in one of the deadliest spots you can get staph (the nape of the neck. The most deadly is on the forehead – all because of blood vessels and relatively easy access to the brain and spine), I had to take 8 of those suckers a day. That was 2400mg a day for three months. I can’t even begin to tell you what this does to a person’s stomach.  I remember my new doctor saying that I was on enough meds to sink a battleship. Gradually I was able to reduce down to half of that dose. Yesterday I stopped all together.

Over the last four months, I have felt decent but there have been times where I thought the staph was coming back. The meds kept everything in check and within hours, pimples that popped up would be gone again. But now, I’m going without that net. It feels really good to be off of meds and I hope that I will never need them again for this. But I am scared like crazy at the same time. Hopeful and scared. Once I get through a week with no problems, I will start feeling better.

As miserable an experience as this was (for a little while there, I truly thought I would be hospitalized and possibly worse) it gave me the push I so desperately needed to try to get my health and wellness in better order. The human body was created to heal itself. It is it’s own best medicine. Taking care of it allows it to better be able to do its job. I’m pretty much doing all that I can to take care of myself now. I really hope the worst is over. It’s an interesting story, but one that I’d rather not have to live through ever again.

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