That Weight Loss Thing

Several people asked about this when I revealed that I have lost over 40lbs since October last year.  My simple answer is “Ozempic” (which is true) but I need to give a little background, I think.

My long-suffering family doctor — a lovely man, by the way — has been hammering on at me about my weight for many years, yea even unto when it reached the upper-270s.  I’ve always responded flippantly to his worries, saying that I’ll do anything to address that concern as long as it didn’t involve

  • a change in diet, or
  • exercise.

Well, it all caught up with me when after studying the results of my last blood tests, he informed me that I was developing Type II diabetes.  He wasn’t kidding this time — I’d also developed the irritating-but-not-critical feelings of partial numbness in the soles of my feet, which is a symptom of diabetes and of advanced age (which is why you so often see old geezers wearing slippers around the house and sandals with socks outdoors — bare feet, apparently, are no longer an option lest one step on something sharp and doesn’t notice it).

Anyway, I still wasn’t interested in changing my diet or doing exercise, so he prescribed Ozempic.  It’s a once-weekly self-administered jab in the stomach.

What it did for me was reduce my appetite by about 60%.  Now I have to say that since my gastric surgery all those years ago, my appetite hasn’t been all that great anyway, but my food choices have been… deplorable.

What Ozempic did for me was reduce all food cravings — not eliminate them altogether, but make me less likely to eat (say) a whole slab of Dairy Milk over three days, and take two weeks to consume the same amount instead.

On regular foods, my portion sizes were reduced by about two thirds, and breakfast disappeared altogether, replaced by (maybe) a piece of cheese, a couple of grapes or a small handful of Honey-Nut Cheerios, and only if I felt really hungry.  (“Peckish” disappeared completely.)  I found myself becoming totally disinterested in feeding myself, much to New Wife’s concern.

Here’s the good part of all this:  I have been feeling better.  More energy, more stamina, and much less effort in just doing stuff like getting out of chairs or even just sitting up in bed.  Some people have reported that change in body shape has also resulted in change of personality, but that’s bullshit.  If your personality is going to change just because you’ve lost weight, then you have bigger problems to worry about.

Losing all that weight was a salutary event, but I was warned by FamDoc (and Doc Russia) that I needed to do at least some exercise because one of the side-effects of such radical weight loss is concomitant loss of muscle mass.

I’ve pretty much ignored that advice too, because to be frank, I’m heartily sick of my muscles.  I’ve always been a beefy kind of guy, even at Army weight (210lbs) — and I’m quite frankly sick of having to find shirts with an 18″ collar (since leaving high school), trousers that look like bell-bottoms (calf muscles) and shirts with sleeves that squashed my arms into stovepipes.  Cowboy boots?  Oy, I’ve been forced to get boots that are a half-size too big just so I can get my calves (again) into them.  Less muscle?  Fine.  I’m still as strong as I want to be — just this past weekend I helped Daughter pack some heavy stuff into her SUV, without any problems.

And so on.  My clothes fit better and feel more comfortable, and I’m using the first hole on my belts rather than the last one.  I may have to get some smaller clothes when I lose the last thirty-odd lbs I’m targeting, but then again maybe not.  Whatever.  If I end up walking around in baggy clothes, I don’t really care.  New Wife, however, may feel differently about it, but I have enough clothes that I bought when slimmer (and never threw away) that I shouldn’t need to change much.

It’s not all sunshine and light, however.  Belly fat has turned from a basketball into folds (okay enough under shirts, but ugh when uncovered), and my face has also become… well, droopy would be the best description.  (I know I know, exercise… shuddup.)

Anyway, that’s the story of the film so far.  Appalled by the cost of Ozempic, by the way, I switched to Rybelsus, which is a (foul-tasting) once-a-morning tablet, but it hasn’t worked as well, and I felt my weight starting to creep up again.  “Never mind,” says FamDoc, “I’ll just up the dosage of the Rybelsus.”

Except that the increased dosage of Rybelsus is more or less the same cost as Ozempic (~$220 per month ugh) so as of this very morning, I’ve gone back to the weekly jabs in the stomach.

(As an aside, I should point out that I am easily one of the least-squeamish people on the planet, and sticking a microscopically-thin needle into my own gut every week doesn’t bother me in the slightest.)

I really don’t care what people think of how I look, and maybe this is why I’m so blasé about this whole Ozempic/weight loss thing.  It was never about losing weight;  it was all about dealing with Type II diabetes, and that’s about it.

As with all activities of this nature, what has worked (or not worked) for me may not be the same for you.  So be my guest, if this is the road you want to walk down, but be careful.

Inspiration

I can’t remember whether I’ve ever told the story behind my first (published) novel, Vienna Days.

Here goes.

I’ve always been fascinated by how people’s lives are shaped and/or changed by massive societal change.  Back in the early 1990s, this fascination was focused on the Secession Movement of the late 18th century in Vienna, and I wondered just how it would have felt to be someone who was a typical bourgeois, but over time got subverted by the changing times.

Of course, I’d done a lot of reading about 1880s Vienna (which is what sparked the whole thing) and the first thing that struck me was the fact that the suicide rate among young people in Vienna during this period was the highest ever recorded, and the highest in Europe as a whole.  So naturally, that became the first sentence of the novel.

The second thing to strike me was that when Crown Prince Rudolph, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had committed suicide, his funeral procession was attended by tens of thousands of people because, as the story goes, nobody likes a good funeral more than the Viennese.  So of course that became the first scene of the novel.

A story idea then began to assert itself.  Imagine that a bourgeois young man became seduced by the non-conformist Secession movement, and in secret began to do something that, if discovered, would spell ruin for his career — but he did it anyway, because the allure of this new movement was irresistible.  But what could that be?

Luckily, I imagined that he would have considerable artistic talent, hitherto unrealized because of his studies, and that led him to secretly draw pornographic pictures.  But pictures of whom?

I had already put this protagonist into a coffee bar where he became involved with a group of ne’er-do-well artists, and one of the people involved with the group was a mysterious and beautiful young woman named Astrid.

I was rather stuck at that point, so I stopped writing to read about pornography of that period, in Erotica  (Charlotte Hill and William Wallace).

There I discovered the works of an anonymous Austrian artist, who had drawn his images in charcoal and cryptically signed his work “A1”.   Wait… “A” for someone named “Astrid”?  Why not?  All I had to do was change the time period of the art, from the 1930s back to the 1880s — easy-peasy.

So I wrote the rest of the thing in about two months (I still had an actual job at the time, which took out my writing time, damn it).

And here’s a sample of the “A1” charcoals:

Read more

Front Line Analogy

I like to think of Life as a journey to the WWI frontline trenches, said trenches being old age, where death is almost certain if you stay there long enough.  (Feel free to spin this out in your imagination.)

I was drawn to the analogy when reading about Bruce Willis being given birthday best wishes by his ex-wife Demi Moore.  Willis is suffering from aphasia , and has just turned 69.

I’m 69.

And here’s why I’m thinking of old age as being like being in the trenches.

There are so many ways to die, at any age, but if one dies at a young age it’s more a result of either a random tragedy (brain cancer at 39, or a heart attack at 18, and so on) or else the equivalent of playing Russian roulette, say by smoking a pack of unfiltered Camels every day, riding a motorcycle without a helmet or living in the South Side projects of Chicago.  (The WWI equivalent would be dying in a car accident while driving to the station or losing your head by sticking it out of the moving train’s window, i.e. going before your time.)

But once you’re in the frontline trenches — that being old age — there are any number of ways that can snuff out Life’s Little Candle, because the Boche are throwing all sorts of shit at you:  shelling, poison gas and snipers being the equivalent of kidney disease, aortic aneurism, stroke, heart attack, diverticulitis and so on.  You get the picture.

I have been extraordinarily lucky so far, in that pretty much all my ailments have been recoverable either by my own body’s healing function or else by medication.  (That said medication becomes more necessary is borne out by the fact that pills once taken for a day or two are now a permanent fixture and the morning routine involves something like a saunter along the Rx shelves at CVS.)  And my physical condition has actually improved recently in that I’ve shed a lot of weight — granted, through said medication, but whatever — and I’m reasonably spry as a result.

But there’s no fucking cure for aphasia, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease or any of the brain ailments which end one’s life horribly.  And sure, you can get those at any time during your life — but once you reach the Golden Years, those illnesses become more and more likely, and the Golden Years become more like the Golden Shower Years, where Life pisses on you from all directions.  (And I’m not even talking about extraneous squirts of urine like the IRS or Bidenflation, don’t get me started.)

What the hell.  So far, so good.  I’m in decent health for my age, the doctor tells me, and would be in better shape if I just quit eating all that shit that’s bad for me but which gives me such pleasure that I refuse to quit.

Screw that.  If there’s some Boche sniper out there loading up a bullet with my name on it, I might as well eat that piece of lovely, fatty boerewors, right?

And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my Breakfast Gin.  Cheers.

Never Not Ever No Way

Commenting on this post about my car issues, Longtime Reader Fred Z. asks:

“Have you considered a small motorbike for short trips and simple errands? Cheap to buy, cheap on gas, cheap to maintain.”

And easy to fall from, be struck by another car with, and a host of other dangers.  As the meme goes:

I’ve never ridden a motorcycle, was last on one (my uncle’s) at age 10 and never again since.  Ain’t gonna happen.

I’d drive an EV before a bike, but only if it looks like this:

Bright, high-visibility yellow.  No doors so I can jump out easily if the fershlugginer thing catches fire.

Kinda like riding a bike, except with four wheels.  I am aware of the irony, thank you.

Does that answer the question?

Catastrophe Update

Several kind and thoughtful people have contacted me to ask how things are going with my unforeseen catastrophe news.  Here’s the update.

Your kind and generous help has enabled me to get the following done:

  • the Tiguan’s back brakes replaced (the rear suspension turned out to be okay) and a hitherto-unnoticed oil leak fixed (while getting the oil changed)
  • the clothes dryer needed the bearings to be re-lubed, and another small electrical issue was taken care of, for well under replacement cost
  • the Fiat’s new tires have been ordered and paid for, installation to happen early next week
  • I’ve been able to make a small dent in the ObamaCare tax penalty, but there is still a way to go, so if I could make just a teeny appeal…

When the last has been taken care of, New Wife is going to become a U.S. citizen (yes!) and I’m going to renew my own U.S. passport… sheesh, becoming and remaining a U.S. citizen is spendy, so with y’all’s indulgence, that’s where the remainder (if any) will be spent.  Fortunately (or unfortunately), my prospects of actually using my passport to travel anywhere are minuscule to non-existent so the renewal can wait.

In the meantime, however, please allow me to thank everyone who has been so unbelievably generous in helping me out of this simultaneous catastrophe situation.  You have been wonderful, and as I so often say, I have the best Readers of any website on the Internet.

And finally, to Reader Matt G., who added this little note to his contribution:

“Excellence In Blogging Lifetime Achievement Award”

…my most embarrassed thanks.