Health/weight-loss update of Nov. 16, 2017

My weight-loss plateau is finally broken. After months of hovering around the same weight, I’ve dropped pounds substantially in the last month. At today’s medication clinic visit at Ontario’s Woodstock Hospital, I checked in 9.2 pounds lighter than the two weeks prior, weighing 309.2 pounds. That follows a seven-pound drop on the previous visit. I told my nurse, who administers a shot of fluanxol – one of the medications I take for my bipolar disorder – to me at each session, that I’m on the ketogenic diet – she had some health concerns about that, particularly about my kidneys (the ketogenic diet involves getting about 70 per cent of your calories from fat, 20 from protein and 10 – or less – from carbohydrates). She suggested getting a blood test three months into the diet to make sure things are OK. However, she was pleased that I haven’t been drinking alcohol for three weeks.

I team up the diet with intermittent fasting, which, for me at this point, involves eating only between 2 and 6 p.m. I eat two healthy meals in that window with no snacks. My aim with this is to reduce the amount of insulin in my system, since insulin is the fat-producing hormone – each time you eat, that spikes insulin production in the body. These efforts, along with exercise, seem to be working.

I’ve always struggled with my weight but it skyrocketed after starting lithium in 1998 when I was diagnosed with bipolar. Various medications I’ve taken over the years have helped pack on the pounds to the point where I was at around 400 pounds. I recently found out that at least one of the medications I’m on, quetiapine, increases insulin levels. Oh well… it just means I have to work that much harder to take off the weight until I get to my goal of 240 pounds (or less).


Health/weight-loss update Oct. 30, 2017

For months now, my weight-loss journey has plateaued (after losing about 80 pounds, from my all-time high of about 400 pounds, I’ve been stuck around the 320-pound mark). This is despite making some initial gains on intermittent fasting, through which I only eat between noon and 8 p.m. Perhaps my bipolar medications are part of the problem – indeed, my weight began to steadily go up years ago after starting on lithium. Maybe that means I just have to try harder, or try different things, to put a dent in my weight loss. It’s time to shake things up.

So, I’ve been studying the ketogenic diet, which boils down to a high-fat, low-carb way of eating. It might seem weird that eating more fat can help you lose weight but I’m learning more and more that “fat does not make you fat, sugar makes you fat.” Under a ketogenic diet, eating about 70 per cent of your calories from fat is recommended (with about 20 per cent from protein and 10 per cent from carbs). I’m also cutting out alcohol (once again… I know, I ‘ve tried this before) as part of my lifestyle arsenal – when you drink alcohol, you basically put the brakes on fat burning as your liver deals with the alcohol first. Snacking is also out… these days, I’m just eating two healthy meals in the eight-hour (or less, depending on the day) window. Of course, exercise is part of the package as well.

I’ve only been doing this for a few days, so I’m not holding my breath for a quick fix (from what I’ve read and watched, it can take up to three months to go into ketosis or fat burning). Wish me luck.

Suicide Prevention Day

It was tough but it was worth it.

My wife Marilyn and I attended the Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day event in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada’s Southside Park today. I had been invited by Jenilee Cook, A social worker at the Oxford County Community Health Centre, to publicly read a portion of the first book I had published in print, Don Quixote Versus the Devil. Part of the book deals with the suicide of a close high school friend of mine in 1987, which led to my first full-blown bipolar manic episode (although I wasn’t diagnosed until 1998).

The event included various displays from groups ranging from local police to agencies dealing with youth suicide and there were at least 100 people in attendance. I knew, from reading the portion of the book to Marilyn earlier, that reading it at the event would be difficult.

Finally, the time came for the reading. I approached the microphone and began, my voice quaking with emotion while I flipped through the pages. It hurt to read.

My eyes were glued to the book and, at last, the reading came to an end. Jenilee thanked me and hugged me at the conclusion.

Afterwards, Marilyn told me of one woman who watched me read from the back of the crowd. As tough as it was for me to read, it was tougher still for this person to hear it. The woman “had tears streaming down her face… she was bawling her eyes out,” Marilyn told me.

It was tough, to be sure. But hopefully it helped as much as it hurt.


Revisiting Don Quixote

This could be tougher than I thought.

I’ve been invited by the Oxford County Community Health Centre (in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada) to read a portion of the first book I had published in print, Don Quixote Versus the Devil. The reading will take place in Woodstock’s Southside Park as part of Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10 at noon.

I was asked to do this reading because part of the book deals with the suicide of a close high school friend of mine in 1987. The suicide sparked my first full-blown bipolar manic episode (although I was not diagnosed until years later). I’ve been dealing with subsequent books in more recent times (Don Quixote was published by the Oxford branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association in 2014) and I haven’t given Don Quixote much thought lately. So, I picked a few pages of the book and read them out loud to my wife Marilyn.

Even this was tougher than I thought.

Memories flooded back as I read the pages aloud and I had to pause a few times, choking on my words. The death of my friend still hurts and I can relate to other people who have had to go through the pain of of a loved one’s suicide. This is particularly true in Woodstock and the surrounding area, as it was not too long ago that a series of youth suicides rocked the region.

It will be tough to read on Suicide Prevention Day. But if even one person on hand feels their pain lessen – knowing they’re not alone in facing this most sad form of death – then it will be worth it.