Las Vegas and a Bone Graft

The view from our hotel room in Las Vegas

This past weekend, my wife Sherry and I went to Las Vegas for a Valentine’s Day weekend. We arrived Friday and immediately set upon having a great time. We ate a very reasonable and tasty lunch, but that all went out the window at dinner. We had a large dinner as a Valentine’s day package, and while it was all healthy (save for the dessert), the volume of food was monumental. Suffice it to say that we didn’t eat it all; that would have been impossible. We did sample the desserts, and they were yummy, but again, we couldn’t eat it all.

I actually won at the Golden Nugget playing Blackjack. I really enjoyed this place, and the people working there were all very nice!

The next day, Saturday, started off with a healthy breakfast in the MGM Signature’s Deli. We both had scrambles that were both delicious and normal in portion size (for us). Afterward, we hit the old Downtown area of Las Vegas and did a walking tour which we greatly enjoyed. We even stopped in at the Pawn Stars TV show’s actual pawn shop location. It was neat to see it in person after seeing it on TV for years. For lunch. we ate at Pizza Rock. I know; pizza is not Paleo, but we ate the cracker thin Chicago crust, and the pizza was delicious! We ended up skipping dinner that day. We also visited the Mob Museum, and that evening, we saw Gwen Stefani! It was a great show, and a great end to the evening!

Gwen Stefani on stage at Show 46 of her residency in Las Vegas.

Sunday morning was to be our trip home, but our flight was delayed once, and then a second time when the gate crew notified us that we should find other flights home. Sherry quickly booked us a flight that would get us home later that night with one catch; we had to fly through San Francisco. Fortunately, that flight left on-time, and when it arrived in San Francisco, we were relieved to find that the departing flight to Houston was in the very next gate! We ate a quick healthy dinner and boarded our flight home. We arrived home at 11:30 p.m., but that was okay. We were home, safe and sound.

Our formerly assigned plane (broken down) as seen from our plane bound for San Francisco.

All in all, it was one of the best weekend trips Sherry and I have taken. We did a lot, saw a lot, laughed a lot, and loved a lot. It’s weekends like this that make all the time in-between working worth it.

Then came Monday: bone graft and implant.

Maria, the dental assistant, numbing me up for a bunch of shots.

Four months ago, I had a severe abscess that required removal of a tooth and some jaw bone material that was infected. I had to wait the past 4 months for bone to grow back into the area enough for my dentist to insert an implant for a future implanted tooth. Since the bone loss in the area due to the infection was pretty great, it was also necessary to do a bone graft.

Dr. Caldwell, Maria, and me (with my mouth open.

The procedure went well, and the doctor said that everything went perfectly. Honestly, it was the least painful experience I’ve ever had with a dentist. Seriously. I was shocked that I felt nothing at all. I was a little nervous this time (unlike during the extraction; I’ve done many of those before), so I asked for nitrous oxide. I’m glad I did; it made me feel intoxicated, and took away my anxiety. The best part is that when I was done, 10 breaths of fresh air later, the intoxication effect was gone and I was able to safely leave the office and drive home.

All in all, I did gain a few pounds back after the weekend, but that was to be expected (and I had planned for it). I rested yesterday and ran in the afternoon and felt good. Today, I will restart my weightlifting regimen and see how it goes. If the shoulder can handle it, I’ll be back to working out 6 days a week which will help with burning calories required for a calorie deficit. I’m also back to eating home-cooked food, and tonight, I plan on making something to hold us over for lunches over the next three days.

18 lbs in 49 Days

I found a sweater vest I received for Christmas that I’d forgotten about. Thankfully, it’s cold enough for me to wear comfortably.

Sherry and I started our last Whole30 on January 5th, a day ahead of schedule, because we’d had enough. We had been eating horribly for a month in December, and our bodies were reeling from it. Bloated, overweight, and sluggish, we couldn’t endure another day of eating poorly. Sure, the food was delicious, but we’d gotten to the point where the novelty of eating “Anything” had worn off, and honestly, the flavors weren’t worth the horrible feeling we were experiencing. We’d gotten used to our bodies feeling “Good.”

The Whole30 itself was a success. I had reset my portions, kicked the new addiction to sugar, and I lost 12 lbs. The initial weight loss of 10 lbs happened in the first week. The next 2 lbs came the following week. And then? Nothing. Plateau.

I finished the Whole30 happy with my success. Even though I was in a plateau, I was happy. Everything was looking up. I knew I just had to keep doing the right things, and the scale and the way I felt in my clothes (NSV) would reward me. Sure enough, two weeks after the end of this last Whole30, I’ve lost 6 more lbs bringing 2020’s total to 18 lbs.

Yes, my clothes all feel much better now; back to normal. My mind has regained its clarity. My runs are getting easier, not only because I run every other day, but because it’s easier to run when you’re lighter. Best of all, I feel so much better overall. It’s just a great feeling to not be bloated, sluggish, and feeling as if in a mental fog.

This journey is one that requires perseverance and patience. In the beginning of our Whole30, I was lamenting the fact that it was taking forever, and Sherry threw my words back at me: “Didn’t you just write something about patience?” She asked. “Well, yeah, but…” She just raised an eyebrow at me. She was right. I needed to heed my own words.

And I did. In the evenings, after my runs, I have a habit of talking to myself in the mirror as I wait for the water to reach a comfortable temperature for me (which Sherry says is cold. Not everyone likes to shower in water fit for a lobster, Sherry!). No, I don’t answer, but I motivate myself. I tell myself things we need to do to continue to make progress, or sometimes I just congratulate myself for a good workout. Most days in the past two months, it’s been, “Keep doing the right things. You’ll get the results you’re looking for.” It feels good when it finally starts to happen, day after day.

I think back to my first weight loss adventure four years ago when I was losing, on average, 10 lbs per month. I remember how great it felt week after week seeing the numbers go down, and even being confused once when it dropped so much I thought I’d remembered my previous weight incorrectly (I didn’t). That’s how it feels now being in the mid-180’s.

Moral of this long post: stick with the plan. Even if you’re not seeing the results you want, keep doing the work. Continue to analyze what you’re doing, and make small adjustments if you think that an improvement can be made. Also, be realistic. Science is your friend. Sometimes, it’s possible you’re getting too LITTLE to eat, or that you just need an extra half hour to sleep. Maybe the portions are a little too big, or that extra handful of nuts in the afternoon should be reduced or eliminated. Some little things can make a big difference.

Avalanches

Feeling good this morning, even if I look like I’m not smiling in this picture. I am. It’s just a slight NCO smile.

It struck me today as I stepped on the scale and found that I’d lost 3 lbs; weight loss is like an avalanche. Very rarely in my experience does weight drop steadily. Sure, if you look at a trend over weeks and months, the weight will come off pretty steadily if you do the work and follow the plan, but day-to-day, weight typically bounces up and down a bit with an overall downward trend, but rarely will you see actual drops. But when you do, they are pretty big.

This morning was one of those “Pretty big” drops. 3 lbs.

Why does this happen? I’ve read that it’s because it takes 30-45 days for your body to flush fat cells that are no longer being used. This is why you can’t “Burn” fat cells. They don’t go away. They deflate like a balloon. The human body is very smart, and it doesn’t immediately get rid of fat cells once you’ve depleted their stored energy. The body figures you’re going to fill those cells back up, so it holds on to them for a while until you’ve proven that they will no longer be needed. Then, and only then, does the body flush them.

I remember seeing this when I was on my first-year 110 lbs weight loss journey. I would drop a lot, then plateau for a few days, then drop a lot, etc. The cycle continued for a solid year. It was annoying and exhilarating at the same time. I hated the plateaus, but each time the weight dropped, it was exciting and motivating.

That’s how I feel this morning: motivated. Finally, I saw the first big jump on the scale. Then it hit me; losing weight is like an avalanche. The weight sticks around until it’s no longer sustainable at the current caloric intake levels coupled with activity, and then, the body has to flush the excess cells it’s no longer using or has use for. Then… WHOOSH! Weight loss.

It’s an amazing feeling. My pants also feel a lot looser this morning, and I generally feel better. I know that the psychological effect is playing a big role in that this morning, but that’s okay. This is what it’s all about. These are the non-scale victories (NSV’s) I enjoy the most: the ones that make me feel good. The ones that put me into a good mood.

Just a few more months, and I’ll be right back where I want to be. Just a few more months of hard work in the gym, and I’ll be back to where I was before my multiple injuries. I just need to stay smart, take it slow and steady, and not overdo it. My shoulder still has pain from time to time, and I’m waiting it out like I did with my heel.

In the meantime, I’m going to do a happy dance for the weight loss. I’m back in the 180’s again. Finally.

Back from Training

The start of an early day at drill.

I’m back!

I had a week-long drill with my National Guard unit last week which always puts a damper on my writing for this blog. As you would guess, we’re busy from sun-up until past sundown, with not much time in between activities to write blog entries. In the past, I would pre-write blog posts, but this time, I did’t think I’d need to. Lesson learned.

I ended my Whole30 during this drill, and while I wasn’t able to weigh myself on that last day, I did weigh myself when I got home. Total weight lost: 12 lbs. Not the 15 lbs I’d hope for, but I’ll take it. I do feel a lot better, and I wake up more energized. I have lost a bit in the waist; not as much as I need or wanted, but it’s a step. Glaciers don’t melt in a day. I have 20 lbs more to go, and I know it’s going to take a lot of time and effort.

I ran HIIT for the first time since hurting my Achilles heel back in August. It went far better than expected, and I’ll be introducing HIIT into my weekly routine starting this week. I will also start concentrating more on abs on my non-running days starting this week. My unit introduced me to a bunch of exercises that I’ll be able to do without using my hurt shoulder, which is great!

As for eating, I continued to eat well using nut bars for breakfast. My unit is very accommodating when it comes to my Paleo Diet, and I am proud to say that they ensured every lunch they provided me was Paleo-friendly and actually strictly adhered to the diet. My dinners were also Paleo compliant, as I had control over those. This allowed me to feel good throughout the week. Sleep was something I was careful with as well, and I was able to get 7.5 hours minimum each night.

I have to say that this last drill was my most Paleo-friendly drill ever. It helps when the people around you are doing everything they can to help you succeed. That pours over professionally; I feel like my unit cares, so I put 110% effort into everything I do for them in return.

Whole30 Number 5 Complete

As luck would have it, I’m not at home on the day that I complete my Whole30, so I can’t weigh myself to see how much progress I’ve made. The last weigh-in I had a few days ago had me at -12 lbs from when I started, and I’m happy with that. I’d have been happier with 15 lbs, but I’ll take what I can get.

I feel better, my appetite has been adjusted, and I’m eating healthy foods which makes continuing down this road to better health easier. I’m running again, too, and although my shoulder is still injured, at least I’m able to run.

I have noticed my clothing feeling a bit better again, and my sleep is improving. Most importantly, I’m back on track 100%. I have no desire to eat off-plan, and the fire within me to keep going and to continue eating well (and avoiding alcohol) is burning hot within me. I’m no big drinker, but every little bit sets me back. I won’t have that.

I have a solid goal I’m working toward, and I know it’s going to take me another 3-4 months to get there, but I’m motivated and I’m going to continue to work hard. I will be seeing a doctor about my shoulder again to find out if there’s anything long-term wrong with it. The pain should have been gone by now; it’s been almost 3 months since I injured it. Fortunately, I don’t need my shoulder to eat well and to run.

So, here’s to a new start. Although the end of this Whole30 means we can get back to Paleo, I’m going to stick to the tenets as closely as I can for the time being. I need to continue to be strict and reject anything not on the plan.

My Backup Plan for Food

I’m currently at drill with my National Guard unit, and we were told we were having lunch at a local establishment. It was a fixed lunch, and basically, we will be getting served whatever they serve us. They made it sound like we won’t have the ability to pick and choose what we eat which will likely mean a very carb and grain-heavy lunch.

To prepare for meals like this, I always pack a bunch of food with me. I’ve done three annual training exercises (known as AT’s) this way as well as just about every drill weekend for the past three years. Here’s what I put in my food bag

RXBars. These are a staple. I eat them very slowly, and they are filling. They come in at around 210 calories, and for breakfast, I’ll typically eat one RXBar with some nuts or a fruit. At lunch or dinner, the RXBar will be augmented with another bar.

Grain Free Granola Bars. In this case, I’m using Autumn’s Gold, and these come in at 210 calories also. They taste good and are pretty filling in the morning coupled with a few small beef sticks.

Country Archer Beef Sticks. Each one of these little sticks has 50 calories, so I typically eat two of these with a breakfast if I don’t have nuts or fruit to eat with a bar.

Cave Man Dark Chocolate Almond Coconut bar. They are 220 calories of chocolate goodness that I put into meals when I need to sate a chocolate craving. I’ll use this as a finishing bar when I’m eating a dinner meal.

Nuts. I like almonds, but any real nuts will do. I’ll typically eat a handful (small handful), and I eat these very slowly. Nuts are dense in calories, but also very healthy, so I eat these sparingly.

Fruit. I am very careful when it comes to eating fruit because although fruit is naturally high in fiber and good for you, it’s still a lot of sugar, and I try to reduce the amount of carbs I eat. I enjoy an apple or orange with a nut bar from time to time as fruit is available.

Today, I’ll have an RXBar, a granola free bar, and a beef stick with me in my pocket just in case. I typically have two to three weeks’ worth of food with me at any time in one of my ruck sacks, and it gives me a safe way to refill the fuel tank with good, healthy foods and not be forced to eat high-carbs and non-Paleo foods.

Starting the Week with Knee Pain?

Me after my run on Friday afternoon.

My first thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” The last thing I need right now is knee pain. I’ve been making great progress on my runs, and I’m finally at a point where I can run and not feel pain after a run; just a nice, even “good” burn. You know, the way your muscles are supposed to feel after exercise.

But this morning, I have a bit of pain in my right knee. It started actually on my last run in the last tenth of a mile. I was lucky that it was the end of my run, so I didn’t give it much thought. I figured it was just me being tired at the end of a run, and the pain went away completely until just before bed last night when I stepped wrong or did something (I honestly don’t remember) and the pain shot back. I took a Motrin and went to sleep, hoping it was an anomaly.

Nope. Still hurts.

I’m being careful on it, and against what some would call better judgment, I will try to run on it later today. I will take a very slow pace (much, much slower than usual) to just try to move for 30 minutes. I have drill this week and I will have to run a few times for sure, so I can’t just stop running.

Pain comes in three varieties for me. They are exercise pain or what I call phantom pain, bad pain (injury), and good pain (“The burn”).

Phantom Pains are those that pop up just after I start a run. These manifest as a pain in my shins, my knees, ankles, heel, or other areas of my legs that mimic injuries, but aren’t. They’re my body’s way of being sneaky and saying, “Dude. We don’t need to do this. Running isn’t something we should be doing right now. Let’s chill.” Fortunately, I know what my legs are up to, and I don’t trust them, so I keep running. Sure enough, the pain goes away, and I’m able to run normally.

Bad pain is an actual injury. If something starts to hurt, but not really badly, I know it’s a phantom pain. If the pain is very sharp, hot, and shooting, then I know it’s an injury, and I stop immediately. These indicate a serious problem, and sometimes medical attention. The bad pain is what I try to avoid at all times and is why I’m especially careful with my progress to keep from pushing too hard.

Good pain is what people call, “The Burn.” This is the good feeling you get after a good workout. This is what people chase when they start getting addicted to working out. It’s actually a very satisfying feeling, and I get it. There’s also the good pain you get while running: exerting your muscles beyond normal daily usage can bring about a soreness while you do it, but again, it’s a good pain.

The pain I’m feeling this morning is more like phantom pain, but I won’t know until I start running. Once I run, if it’s an injury, it’ll shoot through my knee like a bolt of electricity, and I’ll stop immediately. Otherwise, I’ll run through it, and once it goes away (hopefully), I’ll increase my pace and run out the rest of my scheduled run.

Today looks like the weather will be nice, so I may actually run outdoors today. I could have run outside all week last week, actually, but I’ll have to be honest that I preferred running on the treadmill in our gym because it has a TV in front of it, and I was watching a series on Overlanding which is very interesting to me right now. It also felt a bit safer in the event I needed to stop running for some reason; I’d just have to jump off the treadmill and I’m already home.

Health and fitness go hand in hand. Even though I lost 110 lbs without any exercise, I felt much better once I did start running. My body composition improved greatly, and it transformed the way I looked from “Soft” to a more fit me. There was even a distinct change in my face about two or three months after I began running even though my weight didn’t change much.

Use those muscles. Do something. Anything. I’m not asking you to become a marathon runner or a weightlifter. But I am asking that you do something active. You will learn to enjoy it, and you’ll definitely appreciate it. Best of all, your heart will be better for it, and it’ll even help you psychologically.