Weird Science #2: Oh No. Exercise Helps?

Look at my progress this past week — over 2 lbs lost — and my activity level.

Well, shoot.

Now, I am not jumping with both feet into the assumption that exercise is mostly responsible, not yet, but I am somewhat concerned.  Pleased with the apparent loss, yes, but I have been around this block enough times to know that I need to go around this block a few more times to know that it’s actually working.

I was hoping that for me, exercise of the kind that I don’t really like and don’t really want to do would not really be a critical success factor.  After all, some sources say that exercise isn’t a factor at all — look at all of the fat people who pay for gym memberships.  Like I did, before they invented teenagers to mob the gyms and use up all of the air conditioning.

Then again, I acknowledge that I am probably not quite the Genius that all of the Internet IQ tests say I am.

I am a reasonably intelligent person, don’t get me wrong.  But when it comes to some topics, like politics, power tools, and of course, physical fitness, I am a member of an entirely different demographic …   Sort of like the one described by Jim, the Waco Kid, to Bart, the new Sheriff of Rock Ridge in Blazing Saddles (1974) :


Jim:  You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West.  You know … morons.


Dense as clay I can surely be when the topic is right, or when it is convenient.   I was thinking all that is needed is for my body to get accustomed to new food while keeping up with the regular farm chores.   Not starving anymore, it would start shedding pounds by the dozens without any more exercise than I normally get as a simple farmer.  But four weeks of doing that, pfffft.  Add some periodic heavy breathing in the target heart rate zone, ta-daaaa.

Maybe.  We shall see.  In the meantime, I will keep up with the exercise.  Because I like the WTF? head-tilt I get from Lulu when I am on my recumbent bike.  And because exercise keeps me from going stiff while I read.   I have found, in spite of my fears to the contrary, that I can have both Kindle and bike electronics going simultaneously without playing the guest-star victim of spontaneous combustion in my own episode of The X-Files.

Shall we rumba?

To set unrealistic expectations and then see them unrealized just as expected is so reassuring.

I am assessing my progress, three weeks into FFFF.  I expected to lose 6 pounds by now, which I know is wholly unrealistic.  I have not lost 6 pounds.  All is right with my planet.

Almost exactly ten years ago, 2002 New Year’s Resolution:  To lose weight and get fit.  At that time I weighed about 15 pounds less than I do now.  I changed my eating habits.  I joined the local gym.  I got myself a professional personal trainer, who I later discovered was also a waitress and bartender at a local Mexican restaurant.  I pretended not to recognize her, thinking she might be thinking it incongruous if not downright hypocritical that she served tequila, rice, masa, and lard to one of her fat clients.  Who, come to think of it, as a person carrying too much lard already, really had no business being a customer of a Mexican restaurant and/or its bar in the first place.  Which, I suppose, made us even.

Anyway, in January 2002,  I lost 10 lbs the first week just drinking water, not eating rice and lard anymore, and getting my TV fix while remaining stationary on a stationary bike in the gym’s cardio room.  I didn’t have TV at home at the time, so it was quite a treat.

Even though my intellect acknowledges that the scale is fickle and on any given day it will display whatever weight it feels like without any sense of obligation to actually measure my real weight,  I am feeling a teeny bit betrayed by the scale’s display of a half-pound gain.  After all, I have been doing darn good on the eating part of this project.   I am starting Week 4 and still haven’t seen a tortilla.  On the other hand, my activity level has been, admittedly, not very.  I have some pretty good excuses, as far as work and other demands, but I did promise 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.

Being the analytical type, I launch an analysis of my project and look for overruns and underruns.  The big glaring underrun is exercise.   The only overruns are coffee and sugar.  But I might be getting all of 30-40 grams of carbs per day even with sugar or Splenda/sugar mix.  That is pretty darn low carb, if I ask me.

The next thing I ask myself  is  “What else can I be doing that can help jump-start some real weight loss around here?”   From the corner of my bedroom my recumbent bike answers, forlorn, sniffling.   “And what am I, chopped liver?”    I promise the bike I will pay it a visit, sometime soon, but first I need to do some research.  I head to my computer in a different room, thankful to be out of range of the bike’s doleful stare.

I start googling.  I google middle-age weight loss, menopausal weight gain, how to get 30 minutes of exercise without actually doing it, homeopathic remedies for low metabolism, how to get effective physical exercise from anxiety disorder and panic attacks, and finally homeopathic remedies for anxiety and panic, which gets me some links to YouTube.

In my planet’s year-round summer carnival, YouTube is the official Fun House.   Where the weird and creepy parts are the fun kind of scary.  Where you go in and then find yourself in a hall of mirrors and then can’t find your way out.  Where I get to watching videos of people exercising their anxiety away, which leads me to people dancing their anxiety away, then to people dancing the Argentinian tango, then to Latin dancing in general, and finally to my all-time favorite episode of I Love Lucy, “The Diet”, where Lucy and Ricky do the “Cuban Pete” number.

By the time I finally stumble out of my research, I have picked up a lot of interesting information.  The most interesting and useful to me in my present mindset is that some anti-anxiety/anti-depressant medications cause significant weight gain.  The medicinal culprit most interesting to me is Paxil.  This is because Paxil is one of my favorite companions.  More on why later.

The news is disappointing, but oddly not defeating.   This is just going to be harder than I thought.

Step Four – Move More and Fun with Math

Math Quiz: How many wild horses does it take to drag a beached whale from its contented repose in the warmth of sunbaked sand, back out to the frigid waters of the Pacific where it is expected to join other whales on their arduous migration north, thousands of miles, to the even more frigid waters off the coast of Vancouver Island, B.C., where my fabulous friend Lynda owns a B&B?

The answer in a moment.  But it is approximately the same number as the number of wild horses it would take to drag me into a Regular Exercise Program.

Although riding my horse a few times a week is some exercise, it is not apparently not enough.  After all, I have been riding regularly for several years and look at me.  The pork packs on no matter how forcefully I am able to make assertions as to the moderate level of horse-driven physical activity I enjoy.  Or am terrorized by, depending on the kind of day Mo the horse is having.

To be fair to myself, 2011 was not a great year for riding. I sprained an ankle during a riding lesson in January. Pop-zing, a little swelling, recuperation with a few weeks.  Then in May, I sprained the same ankle again twice within a span of about 2 weeks.  Full ankle inversion with searing pain both times.  Summer spent with podiatrists, xrays, an MRI – diagnoses:  sprained ankle, torn peroneous longus tendon.  Orthotics and physical therapy for ankle instability and foot supination.  Significant decrease in the amount and difficulty of riding I could do. Getting better, slowly, I think, with the help of splints, braces, arch lifts, and heel tilts.

But I’m ambulatory, insofar as a penguin is ambulatory, so no excuses.  I must get more exercise.

Since I am forbidden from joining a gym, I take inventory of the equipment I have laying around that could be useful for my personal exercise program:

  1. Recumbent bike in my bedroom.   But I need the extra storage space for clothes that haven’t yet figured out how to put themselves on hangers and go into a closet on their own.
  2. Set of hand weights.  But it is filling in for the love seat’s missing leg.
  3. Hula hoop.  But it is busy being handlebar decoration for the recumbent bike.
  4. Yoga DVDs.  I don’t know.  Haven’t gotten past the first scene.  There was this girl, clad only in her underwear, sitting cross-legged and chanting about ohms and who knows what else.  Gave me the heebie jeebies.
  5. A large pile of oak pieces that need to be carried to the house and stacked next to the woodstove.  Again and again and again.
  6. Two dogs.  Both glued each to her own couch at this moment, but I’m thinking W-A-L-K might get me some doggie brownie points.
  7. A wheelbarrow and some horse manure begging for a ride in it.  Again and again and again.

Next I take inventory of the outfits I have for exercise.  Pajama pants to wear for yoga.  A visor for the recumbent bike.  A men’s wifebeater tee-shirt, 3 sizes too small, for the hand weights.  Leotard and leg warmers for the hula hoop.

The leotard and leg warmers are circa 1983.  Too bad my body is circa way bigger now …

Speaking of whales, the answer to the question is 160 wild horses.  I had to break the No Recreational Math rule for this one.  If the whale is a blue whale it can weigh 400,000 lbs.  A well-trained two-up team of Belgians or Shires (big draft horses) can pull over 4000 lbs.   I’m guessing that a two-up team of really wild Belgians or Shires can pull more like 5000 lbs,  just because of the adrenalin rush that horses appear to get when someone puts a harness on them while they are still wild.

Ok, now on with it already.  30 minutes per day of something, five days a week.  I promise.