My Suicide Attempts.

September 29, 2011

When I was 16, I tried, on two occasions, to kill myself.  While this isn’t news – I talk about it on the “My Story So Far…” page in very broad strokes – it is a period in my life that I haven’t really addressed on this blog.  And lately, it’s been a period in my life that I’ve been thinking an awful lot about.  I thought about it as I wrote and practiced the motivational speech I gave last week (although I ultimately decided not to mention it during the speech).  Then I watched a wonderful episode of Anderson Cooper’s new daytime talk show where he interviewed his mother, the legendary Gloria Vanderbilt, and I burst into tears when they talked about the day that Anderson’s brother, Carter, killed himself (watch a clip here).

All this activity has created these waves of memories, some that I haven’t thought about in a decade, that keep splashing around in my brain.  Last night, they kept me from getting a good night’s sleep.  I need to process some of these memories, and to do that, I’m going to write about them.  I don’t know where this post is going, but I’m just gonna write, and hope that it’ll help.  Somehow.

Me and my pet ferret, around 1995 (age 16).

Thinking back 15 years, to my junior year in high school, before those two suicide attempts, what strikes me is how terribly afraid I was and how terribly alone I thought I was.  A darkness was quickly settling in, and I was powerless to stop it.

I can’t pinpoint what, if anything, started this mental descent, but I started thinking, as my junior year began, that people didn’t understand me.  That I was different.  I couldn’t articulate why, because I didn’t understand it myself.  Knowing what I now know about myself, I’d say it was probably due to a number of things.  Because my own developing passions, for creative endeavors and the arts, were different from the emphasis on academics that my parents stressed.  Because my lack of interest in team sports seemed so bewildering to others (I had recently quit playing water polo, which everyone seemed to have an opinion about).  Because I had a body raging with hormones, yet girls weren’t popping up on my radar (it would take me another year or so before I figured out that other boys caused the radar to light up).  At the time, I wasn’t able to recognize any of this.  I just felt different.

My self-esteem was also low.  I didn’t think much of myself to begin with.  I already thought I was ugly, weak, and that my excess weight was hideous, and then I started realizing, on top of all that, that I was different, and I didn’t like it.  Different was shameful, different was embarrassing, different was bad.  Different meant I didn’t belong.  I didn’t fit in.

At first these feelings were occasional and merely confusing at worst, but they soon increased with frequency and strength.  I was sure that something wasn’t right – that I wasn’t right – and there was nothing I could do about it.  I couldn’t even describe what was going on, let alone have the wherewithal to ask for help.  As these feelings increased and become more pervasive, the confusion they brought gave way to dread.  Why am I constantly feeling so shitty about myself?  Why won’t this ever stop?  I don’t think I’ll be able to overcome this.

As I spiraled downward, the fog of depression got thicker, and my self-worth plummeted.  I convinced myself that normal people don’t suffer because of their own thoughts, that I don’t deserve to be happy, that this is something I must soldier through alone.  After all, who would sympathize with someone as weak and worthless as me?  I was sure I was beyond help, a lost cause.  Because I felt so alone and certain that no one would understand, I started focusing on making sure no one knew.  I had to keep this private.  I couldn’t draw attention to myself.  When I was around other people, I smiled and laughed and pretended to have a good time, but I grew to both look forward to and hate being alone: I looked forward to dropping the act that I was happy and things were fine, but I knew the second I was alone, these terrible thoughts would instantly began swirling again in a vicious tornado that would wreak havoc within seconds.  It was downright terrifying.

1996 or 1997 (age 17)

My own mind was poisoning me.  I didn’t love myself, and before long, I convinced myself that no one else loved me either.  I told myself that my family’s love was obligatory, and therefore didn’t count and wasn’t true.  I had friends – good, close friends – but they all had lots of friends, so they couldn’t possibly care about me.  I internally spun everyday conversations into evidence that I was right: anyone’s compliment became back-handed, any gesture of love towards me became an outright lie.  Sometimes it felt like a puzzle, and I would relish replaying someone’s kind words in my head over and over until I could figure out the malicious and hateful intent behind them.  Most of the time, though, it felt like a beating, like I was continually being pummeled from all sides with these ideas that I wasn’t worthy: worthy of friends, worthy of family, worthy of kindness, worthy of living.  I cried myself to sleep many nights, often ruminating on a new thought:  Maybe I’d be better off dead.

Death.  I don’t remember exactly when the thought of death first entered my mind, but in the throws of a major depression, it was something I could latch onto, a beacon of some sort, a way out.  At first, the thought of dying terrified me, but it kept popping up in my head, often in dreams that involved car accidents or falling from high places.  My thoughts on death evolved, as all my thoughts did, and over time I started comparing death to the life I was living.  Was death so much worse than living, when living meant wandering through my days, feeling alone, haunted by the thoughts in my own head?  So much of my life felt out of my control, but suicide… well, I’d be in control then.

The first time I tried to kill myself was by swallowing 200 extra strength aspirin tablets.  It was late at night, and afterwards, I laid down on my bed, not sure how my body would respond, and hoped that I wouldn’t wake up.  I did wake up, violently ill, and puked all over the bathroom.  It took me forever to clean up.  It was clear the next morning that I was ill, but my mother presumed it was a flu of some sort, and I didn’t correct her.  I stayed home from school that day, spending a good deal of it hunched over the toilet, and in between the retching, I became resolute:  I was going to have to try harder.  This was one thing I couldn’t fail at. 

The second time I tried to kill myself was by poison.  I found a bottle of pesticide in the garage, and it was potent stuff: you were supposed to dilute a tablespoon of it into a gallon of water, and that was all you needed to spray a whole acre of land.  I drank what was left in the bottle – around 6 ounces.  I laid down on my bed, and my memories of the next few hours are fleeting and incomplete, like a series of polaroids that provide details but not the whole story.  My sister found me, convulsing and unable to talk, and she got my parents, and they called an ambulance, and at the hospital, the ER team pumped my stomach and stabilized me.  I spent three days in the intensive care unit, and then was transferred to an adolescent psych ward, where I stayed for another three weeks or so.

June 1997 (age 18)

I can’t begin to describe all that I learned during those three weeks and the months that followed, when I was seeing a psychiatrist.  It was a lot of work, but being around other kids with similar problems and learning even the basics about depression were enormously helpful.

Compared to that year in my life, the fifteen years that have passed since then have been relatively smooth.  I’ve had a few rough patches, and I expect the occasional rough patch ahead of me, but I’m armed with so much more knowledge and so many more resources (especially in my own head), and I know I’ll figure out ways through them that don’t involve resorting to the drastic measures that I once resorted to.  That shows a confidence in myself that I didn’t have when I was 16.  I’m a lot of things now that I wasn’t at age 16.  And for that, I’m proud.

I’ve spent most of the day composing this post – thinking, remembering, editing, crying – and I do feel better.  I’m not sure why all this was so important for me to share right now, but after thinking about it for the past couple weeks, I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  I also feel pretty vulnerable, but that will go away as soon as I click the ‘publish’ button.  I’m sure for many people, this wasn’t an easy read – but I can assure you it wasn’t easy for me to write, either.  But I felt I had to, and I’m glad I did.

Keep it up, David.

PS.  If you need help, there’s always someone who will listen at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.


My Weight Loss Highway

September 28, 2011

If you’re looking for a metaphorical post that compares my weight loss to a highway, you’ve come to the wrong place.  I titled this post “My Weight Loss Highway” because I’m gonna talk about an actual highway.  A concrete and asphalt road with on-ramps and off-ramps and five lanes in each direction.

When my friend Katherine was in town a couple weeks ago, I had just hit 232 pounds on the scale, which marked my lowest weight to-date – 170 pounds lost.  She picked me up one day and we spent the afternoon with her two sons at the zoo.  I was helping with directions in the car when we had this conversation:

Me:  “Okay, you’ll make a right up here, and then we’ll get on the 170 going south.”

Katherine:  “Your weight loss highway!”

Me:  “Huh?”

Katherine:  “Didn’t you just say on your blog that you’ve lost 170 pounds? And now we’re getting on the 170 freeway. It’s your weight loss highway!”

Me:  “Why didn’t I realize that on my own?

Yep, the highway that is closest to the home – a mere blocks away – bears the very name number as the number of pounds that I’ve lost.  Well, up until yesterday.  My one-pound gain means I’ve lost 169 pounds instead of 170, but that’s OK – it just means that instead of being celebratory, this post will be motivational instead!

This photograph of the 170 was taken within a 5-minute walk from my house:

California State Route 170 is a short freeway in Los Angeles – only about 8 miles long, all of them in the San Fernando Valley – but it’s an important one, especially if you’re leaving Hollywood with the intention of heading north out of town.  It’s actually called the Hollywood Freeway, as is the stretch of the 101 that goes from downtown to the 101/170/134 junction.  Here’s the 170 on a map:

Fun Fact for all the Angelenos out there:  The 170 was going to be, at one point, much longer than it ended up being.  Fifty years ago, it was proposed that the 170 continue south, following Laurel Canyon Boulevard over the hills, then La Cienega through West Hollywood, continuing all the way to the 405 near LAX.  It would have been called the Laurel Canyon Freeway.  Had the freeway been constructed as planned, the map would’ve looked like this:

That freeway would make my life so much easier!  So who killed the Laurel Canyon Freeway?  The movie stars, hippies, and bohemians that lived in Laurel Canyon in the ’60s, that’s who!  They vehemently opposed the freeway, and ultimately, they got their way.  One portion of the freeway was actually built, though, and it’s the stretch of La Cienega Boulevard by all the oil rigs south of the 10 that has four divided lanes and on- and off-ramps.

But I digress.  I am, and forever will be, a student of maps and geography, and I couldn’t let that little nugget of information go unshared!

Where was I?  Ah yes – the 170 is my weight loss freeway. 

Thanks to my friend Emily for taking these great photos of me!

If I compare my weight loss to other freeways around town, then man!  I’ve conquered lots of them!  The closest freeways to my home, besides the 170, are the 101, the 134, and the 5.  I’ve lost all of them.  In the other direction, there’s the 118.  Lost that one, too.  Other freeways that I find myself on with some regularity include the 2 (which I’ve lost many times in a good week), the 10, the 110, the 60, and the 105.  All of those?  Lost ’em!

In all likelihood, I won’t lose any other local freeways, either.  Next on the list, numerically speaking, is the 210 (which I take every time I head out to my aunt and uncle’s place), and if I lost 210 pounds, it’d put me at 192 pounds.  That’s within the “normal range” for my height, according to the BMI scale, but it seems awfully far away, and maybe not even possible for someone with my build.  I could lose the 405 or the 710, but then I’d weigh -3 pounds or -308 pounds, respectively… and while that’s a feat that might land me the cover of People Magazine, it would also cause me to disappear completely.  And that’d be no bueno.

I love Love LOVE the idea that I can claim ownership, weight-loss wise, of the freeway closest to my home.  And with my one-pound gain this week, I’m only one pound away from doing it again.

170, here I come!

Keep it up, David!

Chart Update (I Blame The Weekend)

September 27, 2011

Two blog posts in one day?  You lucky ducks!  (If you missed the first one, click here.)

I could have waited until tonight to publish this post, but I’ve decided to just write it and get it over with.  It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time to update the chart.  And when I gain, I don’t feel like blogging about it.  That’s why I’m writing about it now, instead of waiting, so I can get it off my chest and move on.

Usually I try to build some tension before unveiling my chart updates, but I’ve already shared the outcome, so… um… I’ll just show the chart.

Up one pound.

OK.  Since I weighed myself this morning, how I’ve felt and how I’ve wanted to feel have been two completely different beasts.  I wanted to succeed at what I’m been working on over the past 6 months: not beating myself up, not labeling myself a failure, not allowing myself to feel depressed, trying to remember all the positives.  There are a lot of positives:  This puts my weight loss at 169 pounds.  169 pounds!  I’ve worked out the past nine days in a row, and am going to Richard Simmons’ class in a little while (tomorrow will be a rest day).  I passed up cake and ice cream and a birthday party over the weekend and had a banana instead.

Although I’d really like to focus on all this awesomeness, all I’m actually thinking about is that pound.  I wasn’t surprised by it, to be honest – I had a hunch I might gain.  My hunch was due to my portions spiraling a little out of control over the past week.  Even though I skipped the cake and ice cream at that birthday party, I did eat a giant piece of lasagna that had three types of cheese in it and a giant piece of bread.  The night before, I went out with my buddy Tavi to a Middle Eastern restaurant, and even though we ordered only from the appetizer menu, a lot of food came our way, and I indulged.  There was a lot of oil in that meal, and I didn’t stop when I should have.

So, let’s recap.  I had a week where I made some poor choices, and knew I might gain, and sure enough, I did.  Why am I stewing over this?  Why can’t I just embrace all the good I’m doing, get back on track, and move on?

Part of it might be because before this gain, it seemed like I was on a roll.  It had been a good solid two months where I either lost or stayed the same every single week:

Since my last gain in mid-July, when I packed on three pounds in one week, I lost 7 pounds in 9 weeks.  Two of those pounds were when I was on vacation, for fuck’s sake!  I have a lot to be proud of.

And yet my mind still keeps wandering back to that pound.  Annoying.

I know what I have to do.  I need to buckle down with my portions.  I need to plan heartier, healthy meals at home on the days when I’m eating out, so I won’t be so hungry at restaurants.  At those restaurants, I need to set aside food on my plate to either save for another meal, or just not eat at all.  I can do all those things.  I’ve done all those things before.

What I really need to work on is my attitude.  Remembering that it’s just a pound, and that I’ll lose it.  Remembering that one pound in one week doesn’t change me, make me less of a person, make me a failure.  Remembering that I get nothing out of beating myself up.  I don’t benefit from these shitty thought cycles.  Remembering to just move on.

So I’m moving on.  There’s one more picture I’m going to share.  I took it a few days ago, while driving on the freeway (kids, don’t try that at home), and then forgot that I took it, until I uploaded the above chart pictures onto my computer, and there it was.

When I was a boy, I loved trucks.  I remember a preschool project where we had to draw our favorite kind of truck, and I drew a car carrier, which fascinated me (they still do).  If I had to do that same assignment today, instead of a car carrier, I might draw this truck:

JERKY TRUCK!  Never seen one of those before, and I took the picture because I had the thought that I might not ever see one again, and I wanted evidence that they exist, so nobody looks at me funny when I tell them about it, like it’s a leprechaun or unicorn.  Jerky trucks are real.  And I presume that they’re filled with jerky.

Maybe I’ll spend the rest of the day creating a story in my head about the jerky truck: where it’s going, where it’s coming from, who ordered a truckful of jerky, and what they’re going to do with all of it.  That’ll keep my mind off that goddamn stupid pound.

Keep it up, David.

Midnight Swim

September 27, 2011

It’s after 1am as I write this, and I’m gonna try to keep this short so I can go to bed soon, because it’s been a long day.  The main thing that needed to be checked off my to-do list today was the finishing of some work for a little freelance gig I have, and my plan was to have it done by 6pm.  Well, thanks to both my underestimation of the time needed to complete the task and my ability to be easily distracted by things like the internet and television, I wasn’t finished by 6pm.  I didn’t finish until just after 11pm.

I was tired when 11pm rolled around, but all I could think about as I finished up my work was how I hadn’t exercised today.  And I had really wanted to exercise today.  On Saturday, I had gotten a 3-day free guest pass to the new 24 Hour Fitness in my part of town (read all about it here).  I didn’t use it on Sunday, as I went running with my cousins, and if I didn’t use it on Monday, well, that’d be a waste of a 3-day free guest pass!

Luckily for me, this 24 Hour Fitness location is, like its name suggests, open 24 hours a day.  It was around 11:20pm when I threw some stuff in a bag and headed down to my car.  In forty minutes, it’d be midnight, and my 3-day free guest pass would expire.  It was just after 11:33 when I walked into 24 Hour Fitness.  It was 11:37 when I entered the pool area.

Yep, it was time for a midnight swim!

It’s been nearly a month since my last swim – when I swam with my sister at her YMCA in Colorado – and the pool was the thing I was most excited to try out during my free few days at 24-Hour Fitness.  The pool I normally use in Los Angeles is outdoors, and for most of the summer I avoided it during the day, as it got so freakin’ hot, so having access to an indoor pool was a rarity.

There was an open lane waiting for me, so I got in and started swimming my normal pool warm-up: 200 yards free, 200 yards IM, 200 yards kick, 200 yards pull, 200 yards IM.  It seemed like a fast pool, which is to say I felt fast swimming in it.  What makes a pool fast is hard to pinpoint; it’s different for everyone and usually stems from a combination of water temperature, depth, and turbulence (or lack thereof), but I felt good in it, and that’s what matters.  I felt surprisingly good, in fact – I walked in the door feeling sluggish and tired, and wondering if I’d be able to make it all the way through a workout at this late hour, but those thoughts went away as soon as I hit the water.

As I was completing my warm-up, I started thinking about what I would do next.  This is when the long day took its toll.  Even though I have a bunch of different types of sets that I like to do, none of them seemed appealing.  I realized I didn’t want to think.  I just wanted to swim.  So after my warm-up was over,  I did 2 x 500 yards – that’s 2 x 20 lengths of the pool, without stopping.  I went at a good pace – aiming for about 70% exertion, and had the theme music from The Amazing Race stuck in my head.

After I finished those two 500s, I warmed down with an easy 100 breaststroke, and called it a night.  2100 total yards, completed in about an hour, including a few minutes in the hot tub at the end.

My eyes are now really heavy and I’m seconds away from letting my head hit my pillow, and when that happens, I’ll be glad I got my workout in for the day!

Keep it up, David!

…And An Exercise Update

September 25, 2011

This weekend was all about getting back to basics on the blog.  In my last post, I talked about food, so now it’s time to talk about exercise.

I’m on a nice little roll with exercise: I’ve worked out the past 8 days in a row, and 5 of those workouts had a significant focus on weights.  On Saturday, Richard Simmons didn’t teach his normal class (because he was booked to teach a giant class at the AARP convention), and I wanted to do something different than go to my regular gym.

So I went with my friend Emily to her gym, instead!  It was a brand-spankin’-new 24 Hour Fitness located less than 10 minutes from my house.  It’s on a main road called Lankershim, although the entrance is in an alley off a sidestreet:

I had printed a free 3-day pass off the internet, and got a tour from an employee named Chris.  It’s a huge gym.  It might be the biggest gym I’ve ever been in.  The space used to be a huge grocery store that shut its doors less than 2 years after opening (I’m not surprised that people didn’t flock to a supermarket accessed from an alley), and 24 Hour Fitness gutted the space, added a second floor, and turned it into a ginormous beautiful gym.  Here’s the weights section:

The cardio section on the second floor, and there’s tons of machines: around 20 ellipticals, 30 treadmills, 10 stairmasters, 20 Adaptive Motion Trainers (which I love!) and 15 or so bikes.  Some of their treadmills are super fancy and can incline up to 30 degrees (treadmill standard is 15 degrees):

Underneath the cardio area is… ta-da! A pool!

The gym opened its doors about two months ago, and everything is new, clean, bright, and spacious.  Great locker rooms.  Towel service.  Full-sized basketball court.  It’s a great gym.

I started my workout with a warm-up on one of the fancy treadmills, and over the course of 6 minutes, I ramped up the incline to 30 degrees.  That is not easy, my friends.  For the last minute, I set the incline at -3 degrees, because you can also set the treadmill to walk downhill, too!

Then I moved downstairs to the weights area, and spend 30 minutes lifting weights.  Their machines were different (newer, fancier) than the ones at my gym, and there were a couple that didn’t quite feel right to me, but I got a good workout in.

Finally, back up to cardio, where I did 22 minutes on the Adaptive Motion Trainer.  If you’ve never been on an AMT before, you are missing out!  I first tried one last year in Colorado, and in my blog post about it, I described it like this:

It kinda looked like an elliptical, but different.  I was curious, so I jumped on.  It was tough to figure out, and then it was a blast.  You move your feet in a circular motion, like an elliptical, but you can vary how long your stride it – you can keep it nearly vertical, mimicking the motion of a StairMaster, use it like an elliptical, or stretch your stride out so it’s like you’re making long bounding leaps.

I’d wanna come here all the time, except for one thing:  it costs more than twice as much a month as my current, no-frills strip mall gym.  My gym is a dump compared to this 24 Hour Fitness, but my gym has done me just fine over the past few years.  And unfortunately, I can’t afford to join another gym right now.

I think my favorite part of the whole day was something that Emily said.  Let me provide a little backstory first: A few years ago, I went with Emily to the gym she went to at the time and got a guest pass, and during the week that followed, I got a few follow-up calls from staffers interested if I wanted to become a member (which I didn’t).  On Saturday, anticipating another week of me getting calls, Emily said:  “I have an idea that will make them stop calling.  The first time they call, tell them you’ve been in a horrible accident, and you had to have your leg amputated, and so you’re not interested in a gym membership at this time.  They’ll feel so awkward that they’ll never call again!

On Sunday, I had plans to go for a run.  I thought about waking up early and hitting the gym to do some weights, but that never happened.  The run happened, though!  It was  with my cousins Aaron and Macrae – I spent the afternoon hanging out with the family in the suburbs, and we celebrated Macrae’s birthday.

While I’ve done a little running on the treadmill in recent weeks, I haven’t gone for an actual run in about a month, since the last time I went running with Aaron (read about it at the end of this post).  Like last time, we headed up the street to Aaron’s school, where Aaron practices all the time (he’s on his school’s cross-country and track teams).  Like last time, Aaron left me in his dust within minutes.  So did Macrae.  Like last time, I found my own routes through the high school campus – around the many buildings, up and down every row in the student parking lot, up and down the rows in the courtyard pavilion.  Unlike last time, I went a whole 48 minutes without stopping!  Last time I ran 35 minutes.  Like last time, I have no idea how far I ran, so I can’t update my running chart, which I just realized has not been updated since June.  Yikes.  I should do something about that!

Two good workouts in two days?

Keep it up, David!

Silver Lake Breakfast

September 24, 2011

Because I’ve been so wrapped up in preparing for my motivational speaking gig and getting my business cards made (and, oh yeah, there was the matrixectomy too), this blog has veered in recent days from two of its main focuses: eating and exercise.  So this weekend I’m going back to basics.  I’m gonna write a little about food today, and a little about exercise tomorrow.

OK.   So, food.  Hmmm….

Well, I’ll be honest:  My eating at home has been super boring this week.  I’ve done nothing that warrants a blog post: no new recipes, no RediSetGo usage, no new types of produce. I’ve been eating lots of veggies and fruit, lots of lean proteins (mostly eggs and protein shakes), some yogurt, so oatmeal, and absolutely nothing that I find at all interesting or worthy of sharing.

But I did try a new restaurant the other morning!  It was the day after my speech at Whole Foods, actually.  My friend Mat invited me to breakfast in Silver Lake, his super-trendy, hipster-filled Los Angeles neighborhood (it’s where I got my awesome new glasses).  “There’s a couple super-vegan places I’ve been wanting to try,” Mat said, coining the word ‘super-vegan’ in the process.  I’m not vegan, but I love vegan restaurants, because they tend to be creative and interesting and have fun things I’ve never heard of on the menu.  “I’m in!”  I responded, and at 9am, I was knock-knock-knocking on Mat’s door.  A few minutes after that, we took off on foot for a super-vegan breakfast.

The super-vegan breakfast establishments had other ideas, though.  One turned out to be not a restaurant at all, but a juice bar.  The other one was closed.  Apparently super-vegan hipster restaurant proprietors can’t be bothered to open for breakfast on weekdays.

We ended up at Madame Matisse, a tiny little corner cafe:

Their breakfast menu was full of delicious-sounding options, from Chocolate Stuffed French Toast to five different kinds of Eggs Benedict (five!) to a dish called Chef’s Revenge, which has a great menu description:

“A scramble of eggs, corned beef hash, rosemary garlic home fries, pork sausage, bacon, cheddar, and salsa with a side of toast.  Don’t ask for a vegetarian version because it doesn’t exist.”

I love breakfast food, and I was really tempted to order something that I normally don’t eat, like one of those Eggs Benedicts (maybe the one with brie, leeks, and black truffle oil) or their Homemade Belgian Waffle, but I was good, and made a healthy choice.  The thing with breakfast food is that when I order smartly, by the time my food comes, I stop missing what I could be eating, because all breakfast food is delicious!

I chose the Build Your Own Omelet option from the menu, and got it with egg whites only, and filled with tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, and chicken.  I had them replace the home fries with fruit, and got rye toast, no butter, on the side.  Mm-mmm!

I had never seen ratatouille on a breakfast menu before, but they offered a Ratatouille Skillet, which was ratatouille with two eggs on top, sausage and toast.  That’s what Mat ordered:

I’m pretty sure both of us renewed our memberships to the clean plate club…  I know I did.  I love a good omelet, and that was a good omelet.

We walked back to Mat’s house, and before I took off, Mat and wife Maggie let me raid their little herb garden (I raided their tomato plants earlier this summer).  They have a giant sage bush and tons of rosemary, and I helped myself to a few sprigs of each:

That’s all sage and rosemary in the background!

As I drove home, I had a light bulb moment about how I would use my herbs.  It involves picking up a few things at Whole Foods (which I’ll do today) and also using one of the items in my kitchen that came all the way from Sweden…

a brand-new recipe is in the works!  Stay tuned… I’ll be sharing it shortly!

Keep it up, David!

I’m Now a Motivational Speaker!

September 22, 2011

Last night, I slept like a baby.  It was great, especially since I didn’t sleep nearly as well for the two nights prior.  I had been anxious.  I had been nervous.  I made my debut as a public speaker last night, and for the previous two nights, my mind kept wandering into negative places.  I was excited, certainly, but that’s not where my mind goes as I’m trying to drift off to slumberland.  My mind makes a beeline to: what if you can’t remember anything and you stutter and stammer and what if people get up and leave midway through and what if nobody shows up and what if you accidentally drop your notes in an industrial paper shredder seconds before you’re supposed to start and what if what if WHAT IF!

Not all my fears are rational, but that didn’t stop me from thinking about them!

Last night’s sleep, however, was virtually thought-free.  It was restful.  It was wonderful.  And that’s because my little speaking engagement happened last night.  It’s over.  I am now a motivational speaker!

If this happens to be your first visit to my blog, than 1) Welcome! and 2) You missed my seemingly-nonstop plugging of my first speaking gig.  It took place at the Whole Foods in Porter Ranch, and, if I may toot toot toot my own horn, it was a success!  Here I am in action:

Joyce, the Marketing Supervisor for Whole Foods Porter Ranch, and I had started talking about this event a few months ago, but I didn’t start writing my speech (which was supposed to be 15-20 minutes) until I was in Michigan a few weeks ago.  At the beginning, there was a lot of distractions.  After a couple not-very-productive evenings (thank you Facebook, Twitter and YouTube), I finally put my laptop away and pulled out paper and a pen to tackle it longhand.  I left my folks’ house with a complete bulleted outline, and, on the plane back to California, I fleshed out most of the speech on my computer.  I spent the next few days finishing it, then editing, rewriting, and tweaking, and then I started practicing it out loud.

On Monday, I invited Tavi (you know Tavi) over for a dry run with an audience.  I spent most of Tuesday working further on the speech.  I went back through it, paragraph by paragraph, and shortened everything to bullet points and keywords.  I didn’t want to feel tethered to a script, and I wanted my talk to appear more conversational and personal.  I ran it a few more times, using only my bulleted note cards, and by Wednesday morning, I felt very comfortable, and very prepared.

The event was at 7pm.  I wanted to be there early, so Tavi came with me and we got to Whole Foods at 6pm.  The event was held in the cafe part of Whole Foods, at the front of the store, right inside the entrance.  Joyce was working with a couple other Whole Foods folks to set up the tech stuff: a projector and screen, some speakers, the microphone.  We tested the microphone a bunch of times to determine optimal speaker placement.  Joyce distributed some materials on every seat, so when people showed up, they got some info on Whole Foods and a box of coconut water.  I added my new business cards, so everyone got one of those, too:

Soon, people started filing in.  It was a great mix of friends that had come out to support me and new faces.  It took a good 15 or 20 minutes for people to file in and get seated.  I had a hunch that I would get most nervous during that time, but really, that time just flew by, and soon Joyce was welcoming everyone and introducing me.  Before I knew it, I was standing in front of the crowd.  All eyes were on me.


I had a plan for this moment: I would pick a spot on the wall just behind everyone, and focus on that.  I would rely on my index cards as much as I needed to.  I would find a way to get through it.

When I finally started to speak, though, I found myself much more comfortable than I was anticipating.  I suppose that’s not a huge surprise as I look back on it, because I was talking about my own story and life, but in the moment, it was a quite the welcome revelation.  I quickly dropped my plan to address the back wall, and found myself trying to make as much eye contact with as many people as possible.  I didn’t want to just tell my story, I wanted to engage with the crowd, and connect with them.  There were times that I needed to glance at my cards and get my bearings, but often times I found myself not needing them at all.

Here are a couple more action shots, all taken by my friend Robyn, who I roped into being official photographer about 5 minutes before showtime:

I spoke for over 20 minutes, and, quite honestly, it’s all a blur now.  I’m pretty sure I hit all the topics that I wanted to.  My talk was basically my story with weight, fit within a motivational framework.  I talked about a lot of the stuff that I’ve talked about on this blog: my life before this weight loss adventure, my life now, what I struggle with, what I’ve learned, what anyone can do to start on a new path towards health, and what anyone can do when you start to stumble on that path.

There was a great round of applause when I was done, and we opened up the floor for questions.  It had occurred to me (over and over and over again) that there might not be any questions at all, but there were about a dozen, and they were great.  I hope I had some great answers for them, too!

After the Q&A, Joyce and I raffled off a door prize: a bag full of groceries and a $25 Whole Foods gift card, and my friend Mat (you know him, too) ended up winning.  Woo-hoo groceries!

Here’s me and Joyce, in front of the poster she designed:

As soon as the evening ended, I felt a whole sense of relief.  It’s over.  I did it!  And people really seemed to have a nice time!  There were a LOT of really wonderful compliments that come my way, and I definitely got the feeling that the folks in attendance were able to take something away, and that was the whole point.

It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces in the crowd, too.  A big group of my friends had come out, from all over the city, and it meant a lot to me that they braved rush hour traffic to get to the other side of town to hear me talk about something I tell them about all the freakin’ time.

Now, nearly 24 hours later, a new thought keeps popping up over and over again in my head:  I can’t wait to do it again!  So… who needs a motivational speaker?

Keep it up, David!

Under the Knife AND Chart Update

September 20, 2011

Wednesday’s the big day! See the details and RSVP to attend my public speaking debut at Whole Foods Porter Ranch here!  I probably won’t post again until after it’s over, but come back on Thursday to read all about how it went!


I had a little procedure yesterday.  Yep, I went under the knife.  I finally got the DD breasts I’ve been dreaming about.  No, no, I’m kidding.  No breast implants for me.

I did, however, have a matrixectomy.  That’s a real word.  You can look it up.  Insert your own good Neo/Morpheus/Trinity joke here; I wasn’t able to come up with one.

A matrixectomy is a common procedure where part of your nail bed is removed.  My matrixectomy was performed on my right big toe.

I’ve had a bunch of matrixectomies over the past 8 or so years, because I’ve had serious and annoying ingrown toenail problems.  I didn’t even really know what an ingrown toenail was until the first time I had one, and at the time, I was a complete dum-dum and waited waaaaaay too long to get to the doctor – I waited until the pain was pretty severe, and, as I soon learned, until my entire toe was swollen and infected.  No bueno.

Since then, I’ve had matrixectomies on both sides of both big toes.  You’d think after the first infected, swollen toe, I’d have learned to get to the doctor a little earlier, but nope.  That was a lesson I sadly needed to learn two or three more times.  Now, I make it a point to visit my foot doctor every six months or so for a routine check-up, and, earlier this summer, my foot doctor, Dr. Plotkin, took a look at my right toe, and could tell there’d be trouble down the road.  The matrixectomy was scheduled.

I seriously considered photographing the entire procedure, but decided against it, because while I might be interested in sharing how part of my toenail is removed (and ‘interested’ doesn’t do it justice; I’m fascinated by it), it is a little bloody, and it involves some sharp instruments, and I thought it wise to not gross anyone out.  I don’t wanna be known as the blogger who disgusts his readers.

So, I did the next best thing.  I made drawings!  (If you didn’t know I could draw, you obviously didn’t see my post with the sexy waffle doodles.)

Here’s how the matrixectomy was done.

For reference, a normal toenail:

In my toe, part of the nail was growing into the side of my toe, under the skin.  The dotted line marks the edge of my toenail:

You can see how the ingrown part had a jagged edge, which was causing a little discomfort and a little pain.

The first thing Plotkin did was give me a local anesthetic to numb my toe.  This was administered by a syringe that had a 3-inch needle, and Plotkin poked my toe in about 4 different spots to hit all the nerves, at one point, pushing the needle all the way into the middle of my toe.  This is always the worst part of the whole shebang – not the needle itself (I don’t mind needles), but the pressure from Plotkin squeezing the liquid from the syringe into my toe is quite painful.  “Are you breathing?” he asked me, mid-squeeze.  “Barely,” I said, clenching my teeth.  “I’ll tell ya,” he said, as he poked me in a new spot and continued squeezing, “this was a lot easier when there was more meat down here.”  What’s this?  A weight-loss compliment mid-procedure?  I’ll take it!  That’s right: I’ve lost weight in my TOES.

A few minutes later, Plotkin’s pinching and squeezing my toe, and I can’t feel a thing.  The anesthetic doesn’t take long to kick in!  Then Plotkin went about removing the wayward-growing nail:

The first thing he did was shove a little tool that looked like a little tiny shoehorn above and below my nail to separate my nail from the skin.  He wasn’t gentle – he was shoving it down in there like Elmer Fudd shoving his spear down the rabbit hole in What’s Opera, Doc (go to 1:30 in the video).  I started to bleed, but couldn’t feel a thing.  Then he took what looked like a little tiny tree trimmer, and cut down the length of my entire nail (the bold dashed line in the drawing).  My toenail is thick, and he had to apply quite a bit of pressure.  Once he had made the cut all the way down the nail bed, he took tiny little pliers and removed the ingrown part of my nail in one big piece.  He put it on the table next to my foot:  “That right there is what was bothering you.”

Next step:

Time to kill part of my toenail root (labeled with the skull and crossbones), so the part of my toenail that was growing ingrown doesn’t grow back.  Plotkin did this chemically, with a cotton swab dipped in a chemical and then shoved into the void where that part of my toenail used to be minutes before.  Then my whole toe was gauzed and bandaged, and I was sent on my merry way.  The whole thing took 10 minutes, and when the anesthetic wore off a few hours later, it throbbed like a sonofabitch.

By today, the throbbing was gone, and while it’s not painful, it is tender.  But I didn’t let this little procedure disrupt my exercise plans.  Last night, about 7 or 8 hours after the procedure, I did 54 minutes on the exercise bike in the little gym in my building – I picked the bike because it’s no-impact and no weight or pressure on my feet.  Then, today, I did 45 more minutes on the bike, including 30 minutes where I was doing intervals of a variety of upper-body exercises with 10-pound weights in each hand.  Tomorrow, depending on how my foot feels, I may venture and do something else besides the exercise bike, and by Thursday night, I should be able to dance again at Slimmons.  I didn’t attend tonight’s class on account of my foot, but since it is Tuesday, I did step on the scale, which means…

…it’s time for a chart update!

Last week, I updated my chart for the first time in three weeks, and I was down two pounds.  How did I do this week?

I stayed the same!  No loss, and no gain.  I held steady at 232 pounds, which is a weight loss of 170 pounds.  I’m not disappointed nor surprised – it turned out that I missed a few workouts last week.  Monday of last week was a planned rest day, since I was traveling from Michigan back to Los Angeles, and I was planning on that being my only rest day.  But then I somehow let Wednesday get away from me without a workout, and the same thing happened again on Saturday, when I spent a good part of the day at the baptism in the hills.  That means from Sunday 9/11 – Saturday 9/17, I only worked out 4 of 7 days.  My standard weekly goal is 6 workouts a week, with 5 being acceptable, so last week fell into the ‘unacceptable’ range.

But you know what?  OH WELLThere’s nothing I can do about it now, except to get back on track, and I’ve done that – I’ve worked out every day since my rest day on Saturday.  I’m back on track for 6 workouts this week.

Another reason I’m fine with my weigh-in this week:  I was looking back over my chart, and over the past 9 weeks, I’ve lost 7 pounds:

That’s pretty awesome.

Keep it up, David!

Business Cards!

September 19, 2011

First, an apology for my erratic blogging over the past week or so.  Usually, I like to post at the end of the night, so everyone has fresh content when they wake up in the morning, but it seems like lately I’ve been posting at random hours throughout the day.  I’ve been a bit scattered and a bit busy (preparing for my public speaking debut on Wednesday… are you coming?), so thanks for bearing with me.  I suspect I’ll get back into my blogging rhythm in a few days.  By which I mean after Wednesday.

Now that that’s out of the way, I have a quick little visual aid that goes along with my last post, which was all about the baptism I went to up in the hills, the land of mountain lions, bears, coyotes, wildfires, and mudslides.  The baptism was at my friend Katherine’s cousins’ house, and one of her cousins, Debbie, sent me this YouTube video of a mudslide on her street! This happened in early 2010.

Yikes!  Hey Debbie, got any videos of mountain lions in your ‘hood?

OK.  On to today’s post…

I feel very official, because I have business cards now!  The sole purpose of the cards are to help me spread the word about this blog, and I think they’re pretty sweet, if I do say so myself.  Take a look!

The front:

The back:

I’ve been toying with the idea of getting business cards for a while now, but haven’t ever gotten around to doing anything about it.  It wasn’t until I was asked to speak at a local Whole Foods (on Wednesday… two days from now!  See the details, including how to RSVP, here!) that I decided that now was a great time to actually follow through and get some cards made.

My first call was to my friend Lisa.  Well, I didn’t call, I actually saw her in person.  Lisa is a wonderful friend and a very talented graphic designer, and I asked if she’d lend a hand with the design.  And she did.  She put a lot of time and effort into a few different design schemes, and we ended up going with the one above, and I love it.  LOVE IT.  So big thanks to Lisa!  (If you have your own graphic design needs, shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to pass you along to Lisa.)

Now I have 500 of these bad boys:

Do you want one?  Do you want ten?  Seriously, if you want a few business cards to spread amongst your friends or to stick on the bulletin board at your office, then shoot me an email, and I’ll pop a few in the mail for you.  Mom and Dad, no need to shoot me an email, you’ll be getting a shipment soon!

And come back tomorrow to hear all about the little, um, procedure I had earlier today.  Yep, I had to go under the knife.  Don’t worry, I’m fine.

OK – off to work on my speech for Wednesday.

Keep it up, David!

New Before and Current Pics

September 18, 2011

The other day I mentioned my amazing friend Katherine, who’s in town from Sweden with her husband Peter and their two young sons, and who brought me all sorts of fun Swedish foods to try.  Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with her and the family, plus a handful of other friends.  The occasion was the baptism of Katherine and Peter’s younger son, Kai, who’s 4 months old.

I was looking through some old photos of Katherine and me, and it seems like a great opportunity for a new Before and Current photo comparison!  Yeah, I know, I kinda sorta did this yesterday, too.  Sue me.

The baptism was held in the lovely and lush backyard of Katherine’s cousins, who live up in the hills not too far from me, and have a beautiful home (with a jealousy-inducing enormous kitchen).  I got all excited when I drove up, because I passed this sign as I entered their neighborhood:

Mountain lions?!?  I should call my realtor and see if I can afford anything up this way (news flash: I can’t).  Mountain lions aren’t the only cause of danger in these parts.  There are also black bears and coyotes, and also wildfires and landslides.  These folks are always on their toes!  Two years ago, the enormous Station fire, which burned 250 square miles of these mountains, came within 100 yards of where we were.  Because all the vegetation above them was torched, on the rare occasions that it rains, mud flows freely down their street, so the city installed these barricades to keep the mud out of peoples’ homes:

The barricades will stay up for a total of five years, until enough vegetation has taken root on the mountain to help curtail the erosion.

Anyway, I digress.

The baptism was beautiful.  The ceremony was led by a Swedish priest, a lovely woman who conducted parts in Swedish and parts in English, and there was a guitarist who provided musical accompaniment for the hymns, as well as “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” which were worked into the service because Kai’s older brother, Stellan (who’s 2 years old), loves to sing and they wanted him to feel included.

Katherine’s cousin prepared a delicious lunch (salmon, two types of salads, and a zucchini casserole), and we spent the rest of the leisurely afternoon talking and catching up with everyone.

Before I get to the Before and Current photo comparison, one quick pic of me and Stellan, who is my Godson:

OK, on to the photos I promised in the title.  Here’s a picture of me and Katherine from July of 2008.  We’re on the beach in Malibu:

And here we are yesterday, with the addition of little Kai:

So much change has happened for both of us in these three years:  I’m down 170 pounds, and Katherine has gotten married and has had two adorable kids!

The side-by-side:

Keep it up, David!