Sick sick sick sick sick sick


Last Sunday I got on the treadmill and had a good ol’ workout for the first time in weeks, finally recovered from The Great Flu of 2020.

The next day at work I was feeling a little phlegmy and at first dismissed it as some lingering effect from the flu. I felt fine otherwise. That night I went to bed thinking that this was something. I woke up in the night, my throat raw and inflamed, my sinuses itchy and annoyed. It was something. Something bad.

I missed a day but seemed to bounce back quickly, so returned to work on Wednesday. Thursday I realized that I had not actually recovered, but was simply entering a different phase of what now seemed to be a cold. The most delightful part was getting to experience a whole different set of symptoms compared to the flu.

Thursday was the “running nose” day and when I say running, I’m talking Olympic-caliber sprinting here. It was awful. Also my sinuses began this back and forth of being clogged and unclogged, like a dam that was constantly releasing water, the shut back up, over and over.

I missed another day on Friday. It was now the long weekend and I was sick again.

By Friday night the first of the coughing began. The nose ceased its running and choose instead to just clog up permanently. I tried drinking some water while it was in this state and the experience was weird and unpleasant. Go ahead, try drinking something while holding your nose shut. Do this over a sink or outside, though, because you’re bound to spill. Turns out that breathing is important.

I kept waking up Friday night with my mouth bone dry, because I was breathing through it rather than not breathing at all. Saturday the stuffiness seemed to wax and wane again, but the coughing continued. My voice began to grow hoarse. The cough medicine did nothing or produced an effect that I could not measure with my working senses.

Speaking of senses, the last few days I have lost both my sense of smell and taste. I lifted a garbage bag with a day-old fresh chicken wrapper in it that had to stink to the hills, but smelled not a thing. That was kind of nice. But eating food without tasting it kind of sucks.

By tonight–Sunday–my nose is now officially only half-plugged, a major breakthrough. The coughing is worse when I sit or lay down, so my voice has also gotten worse. I don’t talk right now so much as croak. My voice cracks like I’m revisiting puberty. Once was enough, thanks.

But my sense of smell has returned a tiny bit. I had some mango passionfruit tea tonight and if I smushed the dry teabag right into my nose I could faintly detect a pleasant aroma of fruit.

Tonight I will take NyQuil and hope that my nose stays partly-functional through the night. Tomorrow I hope I “turn the corner” on the coughing because it wears me out, almost as much as getting sick with a cold right after recovering from the flu. It’s silly and wrong and I wonder what karmic payback this is for. Or maybe it’s just riding public transit every day.

Anyway, I thought about complaining about being sick and how it wouldn’t really change anything or make me feel better, but it got me writing, so there’s that. Here’s to better health for the rest of 2020 (pretty pretty please).

The post-flu world

Yes, given how awful and lingering this flu has been, I am now dividing my life into pre-flu and post-flu.

Every night for about the past week I have intended to post something to the blog–maybe a haiku, or a comment about the weather (done), but every night, after dinner and by mid-evening I find I have no energy left. The idea of laying down becomes immensely appealing. The idea of engaging my brain while sitting upright seems like far too much work.

That said, I’m forcing myself tonight, as you can now see. So here’s a haiku on the flu. A fluku, if you will.

The flu strikes swiftly
Energy sinks like a stone
Weeks later, still blah

Okay, not exactly my finest work, but it’s a start. Of something.

January 2020 weight loss report: Down 0.7 pounds

It’s a new year and time for new fat! Well, hopefully not.

First, a review of last year. I started the year at 167.5 pounds, 17.5 pounds from my target of 150. I ended the year at 171.8, up 4.3 pounds. As weight loss plans go, this was not exactly the ideal. The only positive is that I got through the month of December without gaining (or losing weight), a somewhat impressive feat given how much candy and treats one gets plied with over the holidays.

I start this year at 171.1 pounds, which is down for the month of January. I had dipped even lower thanks to the flu, but some last minute indulgences pushed me back over 170 pounds. I used food as comfort again, which was bad and I feel bad. But it was yummy. But still, bad.

So here I am 21.1 pounds away from my goal. I am almost recovered from the flu and will start running again. I have managed to keep the snacking under control lately, so who knows, maybe this will bee the year I actually dip below 160 again.

January 1: 171.8 pounds
January 31: 171.1 pounds (down 0.7 pounds)

Year to date: From 171.8 to 171.1 pounds (down 0.7 pounds)

And the body fat:

January 1: 21% (36.1 pounds of fat)
January 31:
21.6% (36.9 pounds of fat) (up 0.8 pounds)

The final flu weight loss tally is…5.4 pounds

Of which I gained back 1.8 pounds overnight, after eating the world’s most calorie-rich homemade French onion soup (it was very tasty, however).

Here’s the final chart showing the max just before the flu hits and the bottom where I still had very little appetite. As of this morning, post-soup, I am 169.7, so already I am perilously close to edging above 170 pounds again, which is BAD.

The secret to the weight loss was not actually getting sick, of course, it was not eating. Having no appetite due to the ravages of the flu (P.S. get your flu shot) just expedites the process.

The tricky part starts now, as my appetite returns to normal. For the last week I have not done much of any snacking because the idea of snacks has been grossbuckets. Now, though, food can once again return to something I find comforting, reassuring–a welcome distraction from whatever is happening. And therein lies the return to the fat.

But I’m going to try. I really want to stay under 170 for the rest of the month and build on that. I have five days to go and snacks in the pantry.

We’ll see what happens.

Getting really sick remains an effective weight loss program

I hadn’t got around to getting my flu shot yet, thinking, “What are the odds?” Then my partner got the flu and I thought, “What are the odds?”

It turns out the odds were quite excellent, as two days after his symptoms appeared, mine did the same. What has followed has been five days in which I have slept copious amounts, along with bouts of sneezing, coughing and all the other fun stuff one associates with colds and the flu.

And as always, the flu remains an excellent way to lose weight, as lack of appetite played prominently the first few days. The Fitbit chart above shows how I managed to drop 4.1 pounds in four days. For months the goal of breaking under 170 pounds has eluded me and all this time all I had to do was get incredibly ill.

Anyway, get your flu shot.

December 2019 weight loss report: Up 0.4 pounds*

I’ll explain the asterisk.

First, the bad news: I was up again.

Now to explain the asterisk. Although I was technically up for the month by 0.4 pounds, I have been trending down for several weeks and it was only due to a mysterious overnight gain of 1.6 pounds on the night of the 30th that I was up at all.

For the year to date, my total body weight did not change over the last month, still up 4.3 pounds. The accumulation of body fat also slowed, and for many days in the last two weeks my weight was in what is considered the “normal” range, so there’s that.

Looking ahead, I am reasonably confident that I can keep shedding weight, because December has already bucked the usual weight gain trend and I am continuing the same habits going forward. For example, I could be eating a big chunk of fudge right now at 8:56 p.m. as I type this, but instead I will eat nothing. Ta-da! Also, I have no fudge.

As recounted yesterday, my goal is to still hit 150. I have 21.4 pounds to go. I can do this, and without even needing surgery!

We’ll see what progress I’ve made to that end come January 31.

December 1: 171.4 pounds
December 31: 171.8 pounds (up 0.4 pounds)

Year to date: From 167.5 to 171.8 pounds (up 4.3 pounds, unchanged from previous month)

And the body fat:

December 1: 20.1% (34.5 pounds of fat)
December 31:
21% (36.1 pounds of fat) (up 1.6 pounds)

November 2019 weight loss report: Up 2 pounds

This post is brought to you by spin. When you have bad news to present, spin spin spin!

There is not much to spin but here is what I have: my weight gain slowed for the month. Last month I picked up a cement bag-like 4.1 pounds. I still marvel at that (in horror). This month, though, I only gained two pounds!

But I am still up and that’s where the spin ends. The rest of the news is fat and bad.

On November 12 the Fitbit app officially declared me overweight with a BMI of 25. I lucked into normal on November 27 when a rounding error declared the BMI to be 24.9, but was otherwise deemed overweight for the month of November. Yes, I’m aware BMI is a controversial measurement. But my waistline is non-controversially more expansive than it was a month ago. I am gaining weight and as the stats below reveal, it ain’t muscle.

A couple of things have contributed to the weight gain:

  • Yeah, that whole putting food into the mouth thing. Especially snack food. All attempts to curb this failed, with one notable exception: I promised myself a last oatmeal fudge bar from Starbucks yesterday, walked to the store, then turned around and left, a rare moment of impulse control.
  • Along with the food-in-mouth problem, I didn’t run much. This was due to a couple of things, like the usual “too dark after work” issue that plagues me during late fall through early spring. I also managed to pull a muscle in my lower back, then a week later pulled another muscle in my upper thigh. The latter was especially vexing. I was given opiates for pain! I did not become addicted. When I did finally run again, I was very slow, but I was also carrying 170+ pounds by that point.

My burdensome current weight reminded me of when I was at my most svelte. This was back in the summer of 2012 when I was running 10Ks three times a week (and walking 4 km to and from the lake each time). I recently found some shots from the MyFitnessPal app I took on my iPhone at the time that showed my current weight. This one is from July 29, 2012:

Yes, I was 144.8 pounds. That seems surreal now. It was also 27 pounds ago. Even the starting point of 159.8 (I apparently can never shed that last 0.8 pounds) is still 12 pounds lighter than I am today.

But there is hope ahead, even as we head into December, the snackiest seasons of the year:

  • As mentioned above, I’m off the oat fudge bars
  • I’m still off donuts
  • I swear no shortbread this year. The shortbread most readily available at nearby stores is covered with sprinkles and crap, so I’m unlikely to be tempted
  • Still running on weekends
  • And the one new change: I’m getting a treadmill. Woo! It’s actually commercial grade and honking big. I’ll be able to use it for my weekday runs when it’s too dark/snowy/scary. And then I’ll be able to use it any other time, too. In other words, I’ll be exercising regularly again, which is also what I was doing in 2012 when I was impossibly thin.

So here’s to December being the month the weight starts dropping again, instead of continuing to pack on like it’s being fed through a particle accelerator.

The fatty stats:

November 1: 169.8 pounds
November 30: 171.8 pounds (up 2 pounds)

Year to date: From 167.5 to 171.8 pounds (up 4.3 pounds)

And the body fat, now fatter than ever:

November 1: 18.3% (31.1 pounds of fat)
November 30:
20% (34.3 pounds of fat) (up 3.2 pounds)

An ear-y tale

Among life’s little annoyances is wax buildup in ears. Why do our ears even have wax? Does it serve a purpose, other than to be bothersome and clog up your ear canals and just generally be kind of gross?

I asked the internet and this is what it said (answer is courtesy of

Earwax has several important jobs. First, it protects and moisturizes the skin of [sic] ear canal, preventing dry, itchy ears. Second, it contains special chemicals that fight off infections that could hurt the skin inside the ear canal. Finally, it acts as a shield between the outside world and the eardrum. When dust, dirt, and other things enter your ear, the earwax traps them so they can’t travel any further.

Apparently earwax will magically fall out of your ears without any action on your part. The same site says this explicitly:

If you want to get rid of earwax, here’s what you need to do: nothing!

I can do nothing quite well, so I am set. My doctor confirmed the same today (that no action is needed against wax, not that I generally excel at doing nothing) when I had both ears squirted repeatedly with a syringe of warm water to remove approximately two kilograms of embedded wax.

Before this squirting occurred, I spent 11 (!) nights putting drops of extra virgin olive oil in each ear before going to bed. Putting oil in your ears is as much fun as it sounds like. It generally didn’t dribble out, but laying on my side and waiting for the oil to settle/soak in for ten minutes night after night was not an experience I am eager to repeat. Much like ear wax itself, it was annoying and kind of yucky.

Speaking of, when the deed was done, I took a photo of the results floating in the container that I had to hold up to my ears to catch the water. It is kind of appalling to think that stuff was inside my body. Just thinking about it makes me not want to eat for the next week. Or year.

I thought about posting the photo here, perhaps behind a spoiler tag, but it’s just too vile. It will be my own special (?) memory. Maybe I’ll add some googly eyes to the container one day and then post it. For now, no one gets to see and everyone should be grateful.

Here’s to my ears not immediately clogging up again in a month’s time.

My life as a plank of wood -or- Another trip to the emergency room, November 2019 edition

This past Monday was Remembrance Day. While others were out paying respects to those who fought in all those great wars, I was at home, sitting on the bed, getting ready for a run. When I hopped off the bed, I felt a strange and unpleasant twinge in my lower back. I had spontaneously pulled a muscle. I’m pretty sure this is the same one I’ve spontaneously pulled before. I’m also pretty sure I know why this happens, but more on that in a bit.

The pain was immediate and my mobility curtailed just as swiftly. No bending, no stooping, no anything without being reminded that my back was no longer operating normally. I decided to take a Robax and suffer quietly. I went to work the next day. My suffering became less quiet. I took the following day off to actually give the back time to recover.

Fast-forward to Friday afternoon. The lower back is still a bit sore, which is annoying, but tolerable, and it’s not stopping me from doing things other than lifting heavy items, which I generally don’t want to do, anyway. I am planning to do a run on Sunday.

Before dinner I prop myself on the bed and color some of my sketches on the iPad. This is very soothing and relaxing. As I am doing this, the back muscle starts talking. At first it’s a murmur, but it becomes more insistent. I finally get up and now instead of feeling a little sore, it feels more like a pinched nerve, radiating waves of constant pain. This, I think, is not a good start to the weekend.

Apparently laying on the bed was a very bad idea. Who knew beds were so bad for you? (Our bed is kind of terrible, really. You almost need to leap to get onto it, for one thing.) I muddle through dinner. I take some Advil. I later take a T3. When I finally fall asleep I dream that I am flying, which is not entirely inaccurate based on my current medicated state.

By morning the pain has not diminished, and while I don’t think it’s an actual pinched nerve, there is no doubt it is hurting a lot more than before. I have breakfast and go to the nearby walk-in clinic. They tell me they can see me at 3 p.m., which is four hours hence. I imagine even the worse case scenario at the Emergency room won’t take that long, so I cross the street to Royal Columbian.

The triage area is curiously quiet. There are no injured people there spouting blood or holding out mangled hands. No one is barfing. An old man seems confused and I show him where to stand to be called forward. I am next after him. I answer all the questions, they take my blood pressure, temperature and tag me. When asked for allergies, I say, “Penicillin, sulfa and another antibiotic I can’t remember, but would recognize the name if I saw it.” The nurse consults my file to check. It describes my allergies thusly: “Penicillin. And more.” We give each other a look.

A young guy paces past saying to someone/no one that he is positive he is having a heart attack. He looks surprisingly hale for someone having a heart attack. I think I see a band on his wrist, so he’s already checked in, or has already been seen and is back, possibly due to the alleged heart attack. He wanders out again.

I am told to go to the Zone 2 waiting area. This is new to me, but it’s just another waiting area around the corner. There is a door to Zone 2 that requires a keycard and a sign that says a nurse will let you in shortly. I wait.

There are a few other people here, but I am again struck at how quiet it is for a weekend. The entrance where I came in is in view over to my right. I look out on the soggy gray day and the heart attack guy wanders in again, talking about the heart attack he is having. An intern and two security officers arrive and they all go through the sliding doors outside to discuss the heart attack. The heart attack guy leaves at the end of the discussion. Or maybe he goes around the hospital and sneaks back in through a different entrance.

A nurse takes me into Zone 2. I wonder how many zones there are. I again sit and wait, but this time there are no others in the chairs beside me. Conveniently there is a sign that tells me exactly where in the process I am and what steps lie ahead. Across the hall from me is an exam room with a number of beds and the curtains that provide a modicum of privacy. Another nurse waves me in to the leftmost bed, and tells me to take off my clothes, emphasizing that I do not need to remove my underwear. I can only imagine the stories. I put my clothes in a provided bag, put on the always-stylish hospital gown, have it sexily slide off one shoulder, gingerly try to make it fit better (remember, nearly every movement at this point is causing pain), then finally sit on the edge of the bed and wait for the doctor.

On the other side of the curtain is the old man I was directing earlier. He talks about burping a lot. I can’t quite tell what his issue is, but it seems related to not pooping because the doctor is telling him to make sure to drink lots of water and put some bran and green vegetables in his diet so he can go regularly. He mentions Metamucil as a last resort. He asks the old guy if he is feeling better now, and the old guy says yes. I am perhaps relieved (ho ho) to not get the exact details on why he feels better now. They then seem to repeat most of the conversation for reasons unknown.

The doctor comes in, asks me a bunch of questions, including if I have difficulty peeing or pooping. I say no to the former and that I hadn’t done the latter. I think he thought I hadn’t done the latter since Monday, which would be alarming. I assured him that I was “irregularly regular” (whatever that means) and that seemed good enough for him. He then did some pulling and prodding on my hands, arms, feet and legs. The left leg pull nearly caused a technicolor explosion to go off in my brain, as apparently the afflicted muscle directly connects to whatever muscles were being stretched in the left leg.

He said I had muscle spasms and gave me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory, and a pain reliever. He told me if I moved a lot, it would hurt more. Very logical. He told me to avoid laying down, as the muscle would stiffen. Also logical. I thanked him, got dressed and bumbled around for five minutes, walking into various rooms before finding my way back to the entrance. Some of these rooms were very close to people-holding-out-mangled-hands but I averted my eyes to avoid mental trauma to go with my physical trauma.

I headed to Save On Foods to get the prescription, and cookies.

While waiting at the pharmacy counter, a guy came up to me and asked a question.

It was the heart attack guy. He pointed to a shelf and asked which aspirin was the correct type to take if you were having a heart attack, because he was having a heart attack. He was actually pointing at the correct aspirin, so I confirmed this, he said thanks, gave me a fist bump and presumably paid for the aspirin and will go on to live a fruitful life.

I got my drugs and cookies and went home.

At home I discovered the pain killer is an opioid and it comes with a full sheet of dire warnings and precautions that basically amount to “BE CAREFUL WITH THIS KILLER MEDICINE, PAL.” The sheet mentions horrible side effects, addiction and uses the word “death” multiple times. I took one of these deadly opioid pills and my brain mushroomed through my skull and I saw the universe as I never have before.

Actually, nothing happened. It took awhile to kick in and now that it has, the pain is muted a bit, though that could also be the much less scary anti-inflammatory. I vow not to operate any heavy equipment, though, out of respect for all the dire warnings. We’ve hidden the keys to the bulldozer.

As I type this, I feel better than I did this morning and am cautiously hopeful that tomorrow will not be too bad, though there is no way in heck I will be running. I might look at treadmills, though. I’ve also promised to revive this year’s resolution to start stretching. I will be setting a stretch goal, if you will, because as the title suggests, I am as flexible as a plank of wood, and these sorts of muscle pulls/spasms are likely due to how inflexible I am. I need to stretch out. Literally. And I will.


In the meantime, I am quietly grateful that this emergency room visit was so surprisingly not bad. And I hope heart attack guy is okay.

October 2019 weight loss report: Up 4.1 pounds

Yes, it’s fair to say that October was more like Fatober, as I took up eating as a full-time hobby, while at the same time running less due to it getting dark by the time I got home from work and lacking super-spiffy night vision to allow me to run in the dark like a bat. If bats ran. Also, I think they use radar or something, anyway.

So yes, this past month was a disaster for weight loss, even allowing for the start of the month being unusually high, which should have given me an advantage. It did not.

In November I’m hoping we finish converting the spare bedroom into a combo computer/workout room with a treadmill. This will not only allow me to keep running through the winter, it will allow me to run any time at all, which might possibly encourage me to run a bit more. It could happen!

Also, I’m going to try a variation on the no-snacking rule: I can snack all I want on any given day, as long as I burn the same or greater amount of calories through exercise (not everyday activity, actual recorded exercise). We’ll see how well this goes come Fatvember. Er, November.

The lard-filled stats:

October 1: 165 pounds
October 31: 169.1 pounds (up 4.1 pounds) (note: ay caramba)

Year to date: From 167.5 to 169.1 pounds (up 1.6 pounds)

And the body fat:

October 1: 18.4% (30.3 pounds of fat)
October 31:
18.5% (31.2 pounds of fat) (up 0.9 pounds)

Fat is back

I don’t mean that plus-sizes are suddenly in vogue again (or if they ever were in vogue–I don’t really keep up on fashion trends, as anyone observing how I dress can see), what I mean is that last month when I was hitting 162 pounds and trending downward, I am now, in October, trending upward. Fatward.

This is likely related to a combination of running a bit less for various reasons (though I am doing 10K runs again, yay), along with no change in diet. The two in concert tend to lead to weight gain. A symphony of cellulose.

Upon stepping on the scale this morning, I got the weight equivalent of sticker shock. I was up, which is not uncommon after a run day. But I was up 1.3 pounds, to 167.5 pounds, which is the first time I’ve been over 167 pounds this year. Weight gain is not a good way to lose weight. I don’t recommend it.

More depressing still, I was recently looking for some old images on my backup drive and found a couple of screen caps from my iPhone 4 from July 2012. The caps were from the MyFitnessPal app, showing the tracking for my weight loss at the time.

On the day in question my weight was 144.8 pounds. That was 22.7 pounds ago.


To battle the depression I had a chocolate chunk cookie at Starbucks. Probably not the best plan.

Still, with our spare room cleaned up, we are that much closer to getting a treadmill, after which getting in a workout will be as easy as walking into the room and jumping on. I just need to make it past the couch.

So here’s hoping history doesn’t repeat itself, because this is pretty much exactly what happened at this time last year: the days get shorter, I exercise less, eat the same, and bloat up like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon. Maybe this time–we are only halfway through October, after all–I can reverse the trend and get back to svelte.

September 2019 weight loss report: Up 1.8 pounds

September started off with an unusual and dramatic weight drop down to 162.5 right on the first day of the month. This lead me to believe I would break below 160 pounds for the first time this year before the month was out.

I was wrong.

And fat.

Well, fatter…a little.

I was actually doing quite well for the first half of the month, dropping further to 162, but then the weight started to see-saw up and down and by the third week I was peaking at a devilish 166.6 pounds. Not good. Evil, one might say.

In the final week the trend resumed heading downward, but not in time to undo all the damage, so I ended the month at 164.3 pounds, up 1.8 on the month, but still down overall on the year to date.

Body fat remained virtually unchanged, so that’s good. Maybe I was just adding muscle thanks to all the running. Yeah, that seems plausible, sort of.

Given that I’ve only lost 3.2 pounds since January, I’m not going to venture a prediction for October, but I’m still shooting for sub-160. My goal of hitting 150 pounds seems unlikely to happen unless I get super-strict with my diet and keep exercising a whole bunch. This could happen, but so could world peace.

The stats:

September 1: 162.5 pounds
September 30: 164.3 pounds (up 1.8 pounds)

Year to date: From 167.5 to 164.3 pounds (down 3.2 pounds)

And the body fat:

September 1: 18.3% (29.7 pounds of fat)
September 30:
18.3% (30.1 pounds of fat) (down 1.0 pound)