Sunday, August 24, 2008

Totally addicted to yo.

I'm madly writing this in between cat-feeding, furniture-shifting, chook-house-building and novel-writing-avoiding, so this may not be a perfectly balanced post.

Firstly, exercise. What I'm doing is doing interval training in the morning, five or six mornings a week, and gym stuff three times a week. The interval stuff in my case is one of those stepper machines, something we bought for Sarah back when she could use things like that. Basically, interval training means short periods of maximal effort (sprinting) alternating with short periods of lower intensity exercise (jogging or something). The gym stuff is to make sure I don't starve my muscles away, it's compound, mass-building exercises--

Christ, this is boring, isn't it? One problem I have, and one reason I am talking about this here rather than with most people I know face to face, is a lot of the talk that goes on around physical fitness/weight loss/muscle building stuff irritates the living daylights out of me. I find it difficult to read a lot of the stuff about exercise. Some of it - the medicine - the physiology, the anatomy, the right way to do stuff, the less value-laden stuff - I find that very interesting.

But if there was a "fitness magazine world" or something, I wouldn't want to live there. It's an unforgiving place, all blinding white-toothed grins, an almost manic joi de vivre, commandments adn prohibitions and judgements, ideas about the world as hard and flat and unyielding as the washboard abs you see on every page. It's difficult to articulate, but I feel that it's not that far from ginseng extract in the morning and preacher curls and three thousand kilojoules a day to something much less attractive - a horrible tight-lipped puritanism, an almost palpable self-loathing (the front of the magazines say "blast your shoulders! burn your thighs! shred your chest! thrust your genitals into the meatgrinder!"). And all of this on top of a weapons-grade narcissism that you'd worry about if you saw it in a psychiatric ward.

Anyway. I remember reading something once, the writer said it was a proverb. I can't remember if it was meant to be an African proverb or an Indian one or a Chinese one, but you can bet it was one of those places we say things come from when we want people to believe what we say is true and wise and unchallengeable.

The proverb said "Tell me what you boast of and I will tell you what you lack". So maybe I'll stop boasting about how unshallow and not-at-all-narcissistic I am and get on with the fat stuff.

So. The best way for me to exercise is that early morning interval training stuff I wrote about above, because for me that's the most enjoyable way of doing it. From what I understand, interval training gets better results per minute than any other type of exercise. I am a morning person, so it makes sense for me to exercise first thing. And I like the gym, I enjoy the solitude and the feel of the cold steel and the way the weights descend through an arc, the basic, functional look to them, and the gym is close, on my way to work, so that works for me too.

With the diet part, which is basically a fairly mild degree of caloric restriction, what works for me is one of those fundamentalist diets where they set out in fairly clinical detail what you are allowed to eat and what you must not. Again, from what I understand, having something concrete like this works better for most people than those "eat when you feel hungry" ad libitum diets, so that's what I'm trying.

It's an Australian one called the CSIRO diet, you can get the books. Ten cents from the sale of every book goes to buy some decent midfielders for my football team. That or a kilo of lithium for me.

And it is working. The other thing I did was get a checkup, get a decent idea of what my starting point was so I could work out how far I would have to go in what direction to get where I wanted to be - all that stuff others have mentioned. Initially I am looking to lose one or two kilos a week, get the waist:hip ratio down below ninety and knock the early stage blood sugar stuff on the head. And it is working.

Anyway - this is something I am uncomfortable discussing. I feel ridiculously greatful to my friends who have not brought this up when I am with them in the flesh. Eating, sex, prayer - things I like doing and do when I can, but feel deeply uncomfortable discussing. I should call my next entry "let's (not) talk about sex".

As an aside, I just got a blood test back and apparently there is a blood test for"Yo antibodies". Theoretically, this is what your immune system would produce after being exposed to even miniscule amounts of "yo".

Will write again soon. Thanks for listening,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I have ---'d on the --- of giants

First of all, thanks a lot for the comments, will attempt to reply later today. People have said stuff I am quite keen to respond to, and as soon as it calms down here, I will. I do find this whole issue an incredibly complex topic - each time I try write about it I get ten paragraphs of unfinished sentences. The topic itself is that horrible mixture of the private and the public.

I remember reading somewhere that the obese are unusual in that their sin is impossible to conceal and impossible to excuse. If you cripple the economies of small African countries you get lauded, if you spend every waking hour downloading hot Flemish porn you can at least lead a normal life, but if you really love pasta, you're marked out in a crowd. Obesity is hard to isolate one thing to talk about - every medical "fact" has social implications, emotional connotations, political connections.

But it's interesting. And six mornings a week I am getting up to struggle and blunder and lunge on one of those stepper machines, and each morning I am eating my low GI breakfasts and each night not having second helpings of anything non-carrotty, and all that. And it's working - incrementally, and it's early days yet, but it is working, and I do feel better.

Additionally, as part of a bargain with Sarah - she's a smart woman, but she has some really weird ideas, like "life should be enjoyable" and that "pleasure is not wrong" - I am cooking exciting stuff for us to eat, and doling it out with pathetic demands for oohs, aahs and fanfare. Anyone with any recipes that were too hard to get into "Really good exotic looking cooking for dummies" can send them hereabouts.

And it has been pointed out to me that measuring weight when you are concerned about adiposity (sounds like one of those mediaeval religio-legal terms, doesn't it? "In 1140, following the publication of his summa gastronomica, Bearneard of Cleauerviuaux was convicted of adiposity") isn't the most accurate way of doing things. So adjustments are going to have to be made, some kind of criteria which take into account body fat and physical measurements and so on. I might get one of those electrical scale things where they measure your body fat by sending an electric current through your feet. The good thing about those kind of scales is if my mood gets too bad, I can just strap a couple of them to my head and turn the voltage up.

Anyhow. We shall see. I was going to write something about boundaries - there have been a couple of patients who have sortof blurred the boundaries lately, patients where I have felt that things have slipped out of my hands, ended up in unknown territory - but I am at Central today, and the police have already been called to drag one of my patients away, and I am unlikely to be able to concentrate on something like that.

Instead, some ephemera. Here is a fragment of recent dialogue between me and one of our new patients:
Me: When you picked up the clean needle pack, there's this bit where you're meant to write down what you inject...
Him (defiant): Yeah?
Me: You wrote the letter "M"...
Him (incredulous at my stupidity): For emphetamines!

Additionally, I have in front of me a printout of blood alcohol results that show a 44 year old man presented to Florey last year with a blood alcohol of... 0.77.
That's not 0.07, that's almost ten times the old drink-driving cut-off. It's .15 g/dl higher than anyone else I've ever heard of. If this reading was not an artefact - the most likely thing I could think of is someone used an alcohol swipe to wipe his skin with and that somehow contaminated things - and if this was the Cirrhosis Olympics, this guy's Martin Phelps or whoever. Theoretically, 0.5 would kill most alcohol naïve people. I am trying to work out how much of this guy's blood you would have to drink to become drunk.

And as another aside, here is a fragment of conversation I had with two of my nurses. If anyone can explain where "first nurse" got her idea from, I will be very grateful. I cannot begin to make the connection.

Me (walking past): Jumpin' jack flash, it's a gas gas gas, do do, do do dooo do do dooo do do do...
Nurse: No, he's a porn star.
Other nurse: Bullshit. Ask John.
Me: What? Who? Why? Why me?
Nurse: Isaac Newton, he's a porn star, isn't he?
Me: Isaac Newton?
Nurse: Sir Isaac Newton. Big porn star. In porn movies.
Me: I've heard of a scientist Isaac Newton...
Nurse: What'd he do?
Me: Gravity. Optics. He was the guy who sat under an apple tree, apple fell on his head. First one to get a ray of white light, shine it on a prism, split it into colours.
Social Worker: Didn't he invent calculus?
Me: I reckon. Him and Leibniz, wasn't it?
Social worker: Horrible man.
Second nurse, triumphant: Nothing to do with pornography then?
First nurse: You're both full of crap. Sir Isaac Newton. He's a really big porn star. He's really famous.
Second nurse: What, so he got knighted for services to pornography?
First nurse: Go look it up. And then come back to me and tell me how right I was.

Anyhow. Sorry so little of substance, but there's been a lot going on.
Speak soon, and thanks for listening,

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Now, this will be a bit of an unusual post - thanks for reading. Any advice gratefully received. I could do with a bit of help, actually. The post has actually taken twice as long to write as usual, there have been multiple writings and rewritings and it sitill hasn't come out right. BUt at this rate, it never will. So: here goes.

I weigh ninetyish kilos, give or take a kilo or so.

That means on the days when I'm over ninety kilos I'm obese, days when I'm under I'm merely overweight. Some of that, obviously, is muscle and bone and the basic starter pack of internal organs, less of it than previously is hair, but a fair amount of it is fat.

Twenty years ago I was seventy kilos.

Now, I could go on at great length about how I feel about all this. I don't know about how valuable or interesting that would be, I suspect that my feelings about this are very much the same as many of the people I know, and that others have written much more eloquently than me about this. I've written and deleted, rewritten and deleted about how I feel about this, but for the moment, let us take it as read - I want to lose ten, twenty kilos.

So - what to do? Part of the problem is the psych medications - almost all the psych medications make you fat with a few exceptions that either let you go crazy or actually push you further along the way. I can't really change that. If I don't take the valproate I get too high (starting ten different martial arts at once) or too low (becoming a stromatolite), and that doesn't work. Plus I get detained, and the gym at Clearwater is crap.

So - from what I have read it is possible to get some of it back. People have done it. It is possible to lose the twenty kilos, to feel lighter, to have more energy, to be able to do more stuff more easily. That is what I want to do.

You know, by the way, thinking about obesity is an incredibly rich area. Every question, biochemical, sociological, philosophical, when examined diverges into new ones, like a fractal or a hydra's head. There are hundreds of questions here. And by the very act of asking particular questions, or answering them, you place yourself in certain positions along a curve, align yourself with blocs against other blocs - you start out thinking "these pants don't fit any more" or "my joints hurt" and three firing of synapses later you're a cocaine snorting nazi.

Anyway. From what I understand, people who lose significant amounts of fat seem to have certain core characteristics. The cornerstone is diet: they restrict caloric intake - low fat, low carbohydrate, low whatever, just low. There is tweaking - certain foods provide more of a feeling of satiety than others, meal frequency and portion size is important, dairy/calcium appears to make you feel fuller, stacking up on the pasta last thing at night seems to be a death sentence - but overall you lose weight when you eat less stuff.

The rest of the equation is exercise. People who lose sizeable amounts exercise as much as an hour a day every day. From what I understand preservation of muscle mass is nigh on essential, any exercise is good, more exercise is better, high intensity exercise is best of all. As far as I know interval training is the best method of exercise, but the type of exercise is secondary to actually getting out there and doing it.

And above all the diet and exercise, the mechanics of it, is the whole cognitive and behavioural stuff, the real interesting stuff. Obtaining and maintaining motivation and performance in a grossly obesogenic environment, tai-otoshi-ing a biological drive that is as old and smart and strong as the need for sex and the need to breathe. Starting and sticking to stuff that for every single one of your twenty trillion ancestors would have been suicidally stupid.

And it's not as simple as willpower. The more I read the less I believe in the whole "free will/free choice/we are as we make ourselves/we choose our future" thing. When I was a kid my best friend's father would quote "I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul" at every opportunity. He mustn't have ever gazed into the eyes of a pale-skinned brown eyed girl, or been jealous of a friend, or heard the blues, or drawn closer to a fire on a beach at night, or done any number of things. If your soul is your sense of everything beautiful, then we are not the masters of our soul, it is the master of us.

Anyway. We're not a blank slate when we're born, we're not a photographic negative waiting to be slid into the developing fluid, but the depressing truth is we're probably closer to the latter than the former.

So, what's the point of blogging all this?

I'm going to change what I eat and how much I exercise.

I am going to lose fifteen kilos.

I'm going to do it by midwinter next year.

I'm going to get back to seventy five kg.

I know I am going to do this because I am going to have motivation to burn, and all without spending a shred of willpower after Monday night.

Because Monday I am* writing a cheque to the Australian Liberal Party, our version of the Republicans/Conservatives/Daleks party. It will be a bank cheque, one that can't be dishonored, and it's for a sizeable amount, an amount that it will pain me greatly to pay, several hundred hours of my disposable income.

(For those who came in late, I loathe these people. At the rising of the sun and at its going down I have loathed them. I loathe what they have done and what they have failed to do, I loathe them in the morning and in the evening and I have loathed them at suppertime, I loathe what they think and say and do. I hated them in the beginning, I hate them now, and I shall hate them for ever more, amen. When John Howard, our ex-Prime Minister, dies I will dance on his grave in a red dress. A long red dress.

Something low cut. I was thinking maybe slit up the thigh, clingy, but classy. Nothing slutty).

As I said. It's a sizeable cheque. It's an amount that they would certainly notice, particularly as I have requested only some small public acknowledgement of my generosity, a mention in the Worker's Fiend or whatever fascist rag they bring out, printed on the skins of single mothers and written in refugee blood or whatever they use. It may be, for all I know, that my acknowledgement would come with a mimeographed letter of support from Tony Abbott or Philip Ruddock (he's on the left) or that ghastly little moral homunculus himself.

I am not sending the cheque to them. I am depositing the cheque witha lawyery kind of person, along with formalised instructions that should I fail to present to the offices of a particular place on a particular date and "weigh in" and weigh under seventy seven kilos, then that cheque will be sent off.

Now, obviously, the rest of it is up to me. Diet, exercise, all that kind of thing I will have to work out. But motivation? I've turned it up to eleven.

Additonally, I feel I can count on the support of my friends and colleagues, many of whom hate those bastards too, almost as much as I do.

I can count on the support of Sarah, once she has gotten over her horror.

I can count on the realisation that every excess morsel of food, every stepper-free minute of television can, and will, be used against me to bring forward the return of those grasping phobocrats from the limbo to which we so savagely dispatched them a few months ago.

Anyhow, I will keep you informed. Hopefully the next few months will be a gradual loss of surplus fat. Otherwise I'm going to be looking at that starter pack of internal organs and working out which ones are going to die for the cause.

Thanks for listening,

*As in "I am saying I will". At the moment this is one of those imaginary futury things. We shall see. And I don't know that full agreement on the wisdom of this plan is shared by all in the household - I may have several of the leading cats on my side, but the chickens are opposed and Sarah is still wavering.

Monday, August 04, 2008



We have moved. The long, toasty period of migration is essentially over. As we speak Sarah is driving the last horse-float full of cats along the winding dirt road, under the blazing stars, towards our new home in the bush.

At night now you can see the Cross, and from what I remember the Serpent Bearer, where one of the stars is a recurrent nova, and the Pointers. I remember years and years ago, standing on a low wall on the southern shore, showing a girl* how you could use the stars in the Southern Cross and the Pointers (Alpha and Beta Centauri) to find true south. You imagined the Cross and the Pointers were each the haft of a sword, and you followed the imagined blades with your eyes, and where the blades crossed there was south, the base of the earth, the frozen land. The southern coast at night is cold, and soft, and quiet. I remember the sea hissing and curling under us.

And I remember her being impressed at how I could navigate by the stars. And I remember her being less and less impressed when we tried to get back to the car but couldn't, because I could find true south using three hundred-year-old light, but I couldn't find the car park I'd parked the car in half an hour earlier, what with it being dark and all. And I remember us blundering about in the sand-dunes, increasingly cold and tired and sober, in the small hours of the morning, tripping over tussocks of wind-grass and stumbling down the faces of dunes and crunching miles along the mud, while the tide came in and the stars disappeared and it started to drizzle. I rang her a few days later and her mother said she couldn't speak to me because she had one of those old diseases you don't hear about any more - pleurisy, or rinderpest, or maybe the ague, something you got from long hours of neglect and exposure to the elements - and that she would call me back when she felt better.

She must still be sick.

Years later, on a different beach, but same hour of the night, in summer, I first kissed Sarah. And it all worked out very well, and nowadays I have a GPS.

Anyway. We have moved to the new house. The new house is in fact old - couldn't afford a new one, had to get a second hand one - all high ceilings and cellars and polished floorboards. Because it is miles from anywhere it is cheap, when I feel the reverse should be true.

The town is miniscule, a pub and a post office and, bizarrely, a stained glass window shop. Every Friday a hunched little white-haired old man appears like a figure from a fairy story and sells vegetables from a road-side stall. People gather half an hour beforehand to buy them, squeezing the capsicums like a lover's buttocks**. I suspect the old man buys the veges in Woolies and peels the stickers off, but never mind.

And in the new house we have electricity, and light, and heat, and several of the other fundamental forces (we're still waiting on the guy who comes around to install the weak nuclear force - at the moment our bosons are all over the place), and a few short hours ago we got the internet. And tonight I go shopping, and tonight - this very night I say! - we will eat something that will not be rye toast with peanut paste.

Life is so good it almost seems unfair.

I have even found a gym in the nearest town. It's the only gym in the area, and it's a convenient thirty odd kilometres away, but it's near the railway station, so every morning at seven thirty I am there. This means I rise in the darkness, potter about the house, drive my nanocar into town, and deadlift and bench press to my heart's (and other organs') content.

The gym is a country gym. it's full of old steel weights with measurements on them in the Imperial system, and eighties music playing on the radio. I think I saw Dee Schneider on the preacher curls machine this morning. The dumbells are beer-cans filled with sand and shot-gun pellets, the punching bag is a wool-bale slung on a hook, and the "boxing-for-fitness" class is three men in blue singlets going at you with pick-axe handles.

Not really. I shower and then catch the train into work. Everyone on the train at that hour is shell-shocked and silent, and my breath curls and steams in the cold air. There are sheep grazing beside the railway station. I lounge on the seat as the trains clacks and sways and read Ulysses, realising as I do that everything I have ever written is inadequate in ways I can't begin to describe yet. I missed my stop the other day because I was reading.

Anyhow. Sarah proceeds slowly. I have informed her that we are about to enter the fourth and final stage of wound healing. Classically pathology states that wound healing consists of four stages - inflammation, proliferation, maturation and remodelling. Like many pathological processes, several alternative physiological pathways exist, and the one we have chosen goes chocolate, cats, novels and seafood. We are now entering the seafood phase, and I am going to be prescribing therapeutic squid tds prn po. Seriously, she potters about and is lovely.

We have, by the by, a new answering machine message. On it you can hear Sarah's velvet tones enunciating her message, while in the background I imitate a horde of Siamese and oriental cats. And quite well, I might add. For those who do not know, these kinds of cats look fairly similar, but Siamese have points (darker colours on their ears, tail and feet), whereas oriental cats are comparatively pointless.

That may be it for tonight. I am going to bed because Mondays are twelve hour days, and I tend to get suddenly seriously tired, and when that happens I make even less sense than usual. I will go off to be and write more in the next few days.

Thanks for listening,

*Belle, the fundamentalist Christian teenage mud-wrestler, without word of a lie. I was young and religious and repressed and male and the testosterone was almost crystallising out in my blood. I learnt many things that night, and the one that stands out in my mind is that a very fast left-handed hane makikomi is not an erotic technique.

**I mean "squeezing the capsicums like they would squeeze a lover's buttocks", not "squeezing the capsicums like a lover's buttocks would squeeze them, were the squeezer so inclined and were the capsicum appropriately positioned". Nor do I mean "squeezing the capsicums which were like (i.e.: in some way resembled) a lover's buttocks".

That's probably enough from me.