How (Why) I Stopped Drinking Colas

For the last couple of years, I’ve gone on these several week-long spurts of giving up soda. When I say soda, within this blog post, I’m referring mainly to Coca Cola. I’ve always been a huge Coke drinker. We’re talking 4 to 5 a day, on a light day. When I say I drank Coke like it was going out of style, I mean I D R A N K the dang Coke, boys. 20oz. 6 pack was nothing to blow through. I think you get the picture, maybe can even relate.

I’ve proven to myself that I can stop anytime I want. I could give it up cold turkey and go a week or two without my caffeine of choice. I had it all under control, my friends. Now, even though I proved to myself that I could give up these drinks at the drop of a hat, the longest I ever went was a month. Four weeks is the length of time it takes to break through the withdrawal symptoms – in my experience anyways. The first week was tired and laziness. Second week was headaches and concentration issues. Third week, I could kill a person with my bare hands just for breathing near me. Halfway through the 4th week, I woke up and felt … amazing. It was like a boulder had been lifted off my shoulders.

Despite all this, I’d still order a Coke in a restaurant, pop open a 20oz at lunch time at home, and so on because, hey, I was in control here. I was weak, I still wanted to prove that I could control my cravings. That said, I sit here tonight and type that I haven’t drank a cola in about 3 to 4 months. What happened? Well, I’m not sure of all the medical terminology, but here’s what I can explain to you in my best of layman’s terms.

There came a point 4-5 months ago when I experienced severe constipation, horrific pain in my groin and up into my stomach, belly and up into my chest. My acid reflux was out of control and nothing could help it. I didn’t link anything directly to the cola at the time, but I read that constipation could be caused by dehydration. So I drank nothing but water for about a week, and my symptoms let up. As it let up, I began drinking cola again, and the horrible pain flared back up, the constipation came back, etc. It was a see-saw of back and forth pain. It took me about 2 weeks to associate the Coke’s to my issues.

So I quit drinking Coke’s about 4 months ago. I’ve had no more issues. I’m not sure what finally brought on this series of pains and bowel problems, but in the end, it brought about a change for the better. My mom bought my lunch the other day and ordered a Coke with it. I took one sip and nearly gagged it was so nasty. Water is my drink of choice, even in restaurants, but the occasional sweet tea graces my gullet once in awhile. I’m also fond of hot cocoa during these cold winter days. Since being sick the last week or two, I’ve also found out chamomile honey vanilla tea, brewed hot, is awesome for your throat and to ease your cough for a few hours. Just a quick tip 😉

Where was I? Oh yeah!

Turns out, there’s no better way to drop caffeinated beverages like having severe pain wrack your body to the point that you’re curled up in the fetal position and unable to squeeze so much as a rabbit pellet out of your rear. Hopefully, you never have to experience that kind of encouragement, but only if you take the steps now to end those bad habits, whatever they may be.

Have you broken a bad habit? How’d that go for ya? I’m currently working on eliminating several more, but they’re taking a bit longer. We’ll discuss those another day, maybe.


Grazing On Some Grass

After years of saying it was hogwash and you could pretty much do it any way that you wanted to, I’ve turned over a new leaf in my constant attempt at a healthier life. To be exact, I’ve made the following changes to my daily routine.

  1. I’ve started eating a light breakfast every morning. This is after years of not eating anything and skipping the meal completely. As a result, I stay full and satisfied longer throughout the day, it seems.
  2. I’ve replaced one meal a day (lunch or dinner) with a salad. The salad basically comes from one of the pre-bagged iceberg lettuce salad kits, and I add grilled chicken and shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese. No dressing.
  3. On top of the sodas that I’ve managed to continue avoiding (in fact, it’s to the point that if I even try to drink a soda, I feel sick and it tastes horrible), I’ve also added 99% of the breads and chips/snacks I used to eat. Once in awhile I’ll eat a couple of chips or have a snack (and by snack I mean sweet stuff), but not regularly or as often as I used to. If I eat too much sugar now, my stomach begins to hurt and I feel nauseas.
  4. To go with #3, I’m snacking on healthier stuff twice a day. I’ll have a snack after lunch, and maybe one with or before dinner. Those snack choices being fruits, veggies, or nuts of some sort. They help with the sweet tooth cravings when I get one, but are still no substitute at times for that heavenly processed sugar rush.

I’m ashamed to say, however, that I’m not exercising like I should. I walk an average of 4,000 steps a day, Monday through Friday, at work, but actually getting out and hitting the pavement for exercise is rare. As a result, I suppose, I’m not really losing any weight. I’m not eating any more than I was before I started eating healthier, but I don’t seem to be shedding the weight at all. I’m maintaining a 1,500 calorie or less goal a day, eating healthier foods, not eating junk or processed foods, walking a decent amount at work, but not seeing any results.

Most people lose 5-10 pounds just cutting sodas out of their diet, but I haven’t even had that result. Blood work and physicals all come back normal, so there doesn’t seem to be anything that’s detectable from those means that’s hindering any progress. So, is the lack of regular exercise causing my stalemate at weight loss?

Example of my daily meal:

Breakfast: 3 large eggs, scrambled, 3-4 slices of bacon

Lunch: I’m usually still full from breakfast because of my schedule, so I may skip lunch.

Snack: piece of fruit or recommended serving of nuts

Dinner: salad as described above

Snack: fruit or nuts

Once every other day, after work, I will eat a recommended service size of bran flakes because, well … to be honest it just helps me stay “regular,” if you know what I mean 🙂

Eye Openers: Heart Attacks and Diabetes

My wife is 36 years old. She is a stay-at-home mom of 2 kids (2 and 12), home schools the oldest, and babysits a couple of kids for extra money. She does the grocery shopping, attends church regularly, is stressed daily, and always seems to have 10 million things to do, and not enough time to do it all in. She’s also, as of Friday night at 9:45pm, a heart attack surviver.

For over a week, she’s been having chest pains and a heaviness in both her arms. She kept ignoring it, brushing it off as stress and anxiety. Wednesday night, when I came home, she was just sitting on the couch crying. I asked if she wanted to go to the emergency room, but she didn’t because she said, and I quote, “I don’t have time for anything to be wrong, and I’m afraid there is something wrong.”

Fast forward to Friday, I had been debating taking off work. Finally, at the last minute Thursday, I wrote my name on the calendar at work. My plan was to take her out to dinner and a movie, and just hope she could relax. I, too, had fears that she was having heart problems – heck, even our oldest son told her he thought she was having a heart attack. So I lined my mom up to watch the kids and we left the house about 7pm.

We made it to eat, but as we sat and ate, she started hurting again. We ate, she ignored it, and we finally got ready to go. By the time we got to the car, she was really hurting. She was almost in tears. I told her I was going to take her to the emergency room. No, she didn’t want to. She didn’t have time for the emergency room. I insisted, and she huffed and puffed. I started to give up and go home, but she started crying. Now, I know I shouldn’t have, but I got angry. I turned the car around and we went to the ER. She got out of the car at the door, came immediately back out and said we could leave because she didn’t want to wait. Wait time was an hour to be seen (yes, in the ER.)

I pulled away and drove around the parking lot trying to talk her into going back in. Finally I just parked the car and got out. I stood there, opened her door and told her we weren’t leaving until she went in to get checked out. She bawled the whole way in. We were there a minute, and they pulled her back immediately. within 10 minutes, she was in an ER bed and being hooked up to machines. They did an ultrasound on her chest, a cat scan, did 2 EKG’s, and told us she was being checked in to the hospital because she had fluid around her heart, her enzyme levels were elevated that signified a heart attack, and there appeared to be damage, as well as a blockage. Interesting note: the heart, being a muscle, lets off a very specific enzyme when it is damaged. It’s different from the same kind of enzyme our muscles let off when we exercise and they hurt because to build muscle, you have to tear it down by exercising, then when it heals, it’s a little stronger next time around, and you repeat.

By Saturday morning, my wife was already scheduled for an arteriogram. I’m not up to date on the procedure, but they run a tube up one of your main arteries, straight to your heart and check it out. While there, if possible, they can also repair damage by using balloons to widen arteries, and if necessary, use stents (metal mesh tubes that expand and lock in place,) to keep those arteries open for blood to flow freely. With my wife, they had to place 2 stents. The cardiologist assures us this fixed her issue, and she was good as new.

When they take the tube out that enters the artery, it requires a couple of people and several hours. One person has to hold pressure on the artery to make sure the person doesn’t bleed out. Another has to slowly pull out the catheter that is inserted into the vein. For 20 minutes the person applying pressure has to stand there trying to get the artery to clot. It’s a wild procedure to watch, and the whole time my wife wasn’t able to move or react. She had to keep her head still and flat for 2 hours after the fact. After that, she had to continue lying flat on her back and not moving an inch for 6 hours. It was horrible to experience, and she was crying, not from pain from the procedure, but from stiffness of not being able to move.

But that’s not all! The doctor also revealed that she has a “very bad” case of diabetes. She will have to contend with that, as well, when she comes home. Type 2, mind you, which can be controlled by a few different methods, and some say even eliminated with proper diet and exercise. The diabetes, he believed, was the cause of the heart attack because it had gone unchecked for so long. The reason being, if you haven’t guessed, is because my wife doesn’t believe in going to doctors for check ups and medicine and all the stuff you’re suppose to go to the doctor for. She gets that from her grandmother. The strongest medication she takes is extra strength Tylenol.

So, 36 years old, healthier than me I always assumed, and she’s lying in a hospital bed after having a heart attack. I felt that folks were looking at her, then looking at me and thinking, Wow, and yet you’re not the one laying here? It’s eye opening. It could very well be me. And all I could think was how she kept wanting to ignore the problem. What about our kids? What if she’d continued to ignore it, and I let her, and one day the kids just found her dead? I’d have so much guilt knowing that I should have done more to make her go.

Thankfully, I hope and pray this was one of those eye-opening events in one’s life that makes you reevaluate things. I’m seriously praying she’ll slow down, worry less, calm down and enjoy her time more.

And I hope it serves as a lesson for others – including myself – to pay more attention to warming signs our body gives us. They’re there for a reason, I believe, it’s just up to us to acknowledge when the “check engine” light comes on.

On a positive note, my wife says she feels amazing. She even gets to come home tomorrow, Monday. I just hope she comes home with a new mindset on her health and taking care of herself.

In All Honesty (It’s A Long Post)

I have to admit, when discussing all this stuff about being healthy, attempting to be healthy, and actually trying to be healthy, it had become a hit or miss deal. Sure, it sounds good in writing. Anyone can write a good speech, but when it comes to walking the walk, well … Getting hyped up about something is one thing, but I suppose many of us (because I know I definitely fall in this category) don’t take into account the backsliding, the trips, the stumbles, and just the unwelcome realities of everyday life.

For several years I have been on a mental journey, if I can claim any thing, of self improvement. I’ve detailed here on the blog my thoughts and experiences with coming to terms on personal growth, mentally and emotionally. At one point, I thought I’d be better reverting back to the person I use to be in my 20’s. At one point, I thought I had to change everyone around me because I was fine. At many points … I just didn’t get it. We are who we are. That may sound stupid, but it’s true. You grow, evolve, are shaped by the life you live and the things we experience. You can’t – and honestly, shouldn’t want to – go back to a person you were 20 years ago. It isn’t your job to change those around you. What is your responsibility is to be true to yourself, to make sure you are alert, aware, and being true to yourself.

So up until about the middle of January, this year, I’d written a good talk, but failed repeatedly to walk the straight walk. I’m not sure what snapped in middle January, but something did. I decided to try tackling one thing at a time. First thing I did was decide to drop my Coke habit. Coca Cola, to be specific. The first week failed miserably. I couldn’t do it, or so I told myself. But that just pissed me off more than anything. So I just said, that’s it. No more. I quit cold turkey. Had a refrigerator full of 20 ounce Cokes because my wife had just been to the grocery store. But I said I was going to quit, cold turkey, with all those drinks just sitting there, tempting me every second we were in the same house together.

In an attempt to be transparent, and tackle another item on my list of “things to do,” I started posting a weekly short video blog on Youtube. I just recently started blogging it here a week or so ago. The first week of ditching the colas was … weird? It was mostly a battle of will because I wanted nothing more than to walk to the ‘fridge and grab a bottle. About the third day, I did. I drank about 10 ounces of the 20 oz. bottle. The second week, I didn’t care much about getting a bottle and chugging it back, but man, the headaches started. I am surprised I didn’t overdose on extra strength Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Between home and work, I felt miserable because of the headaches, neck aches, just muscles aching all over.

For those that haven’t looked it up, there is a wicked list of side effects, should you ever quit caffeine long enough and get to the withdrawal stage. Headaches, nausea, muscle aches, etc. Just like detoxing off any drug, I guess, but the next stage I went through was probably the worst for everyone around me. That would be the irritable stage. Everything and everyone around me just needed to shut up and leave me alone. It was horrible, but I didn’t care at the time. The headaches were still coming, but by gosh, I wanted to just choke the living crap out of anyone that even stood beside me. Thankfully, this stage only seemed to last about a week.

As a side note, during the 2nd week, I decided to move another pawn into the game. I started walking. Don’t really remember my thinking this through, I just decided that I needed to do this, and I prayed daily for the strength to do it, work it into my hectic schedule and keep steady at it without missing a beat. My goal was to form a habit that I’d grow to just expect to do each day, like waking up, breathing, working … So I began walking. Some days a mile, some days 2 miles. Again, to keep myself honest, I track each walking session with Map My Walk and post my results on Facebook. So if I don’t walk, there isn’t a status update. For transparency, due to weather, I haven’t walked at all this past week. I plan on heading out to get 2 miles in today, though.

Mid-way through the 4th week, on a Wednesday, I woke up that morning and … I felt great! My muscles and joints didn’t hurt. My head didn’t hurt. I wasn’t grumpy. The world seemed brighter! I’m serious! Four weeks into kicking caffeine, I felt I’d come through the worst part. Three weeks into a regular walking routine, and I felt awesome. I hadn’t weighed in or anything, but I felt better all over. So I decided I was going to work in a weekly weigh-in.

The Friday of my 4th week, I stepped on the scale for the first time in some time. I weighed in at 359 lbs. Not sure if I’d lost any the last 4 weeks, but it’s possible that I’d weighed a bit more than that before the walking and kicking Coke’s to the curb. But this was what I was faced with right at that moment, and that’s what I was going with. I put my scale up for another week, kept chugging water, kept walking, and kept praying.

My 2nd week of stepping on the scale, I was happy, but also disappointed. I had only lost 2 pounds since the previous week. I’d honestly expected more because on the 2nd week, I began cutting back on my calories. Something I always talked about and tried in all my previous attempts, but always backslid on. But I had come to far in over a month, I felt. So I kept on.

I drank water like it was going out of style. 10 16 oz. bottles a day, at a minimum. I was bound and determined to flush my system out completely. I tried to keep my calorie intake down and under 1500 a day, but I didn’t stress or beat myself up if I went to 2000, which was still less than My Fitness Pal recommended. I walked, either at home in the mornings, or at night on my lunch break. I got a mile in if nothing else 5 days a week.

This brings us to this week. Well, this passed week. I was dreading my weigh in because due to weather, I hadn’t walked a single day. Tornados, rain, hail, cold temperatures … it’s been a sucky week as far as that goes. But, I’d kept off the colas, maintained my calorie goals, except for one day, and added another layer in my plan. This last week, I decided to work in 1 or 2 days of fasting. I’ll let my body decide what I need to do, I suppose, but I’m hoping to work at least one solid day of fasting in each week, and perhaps the 2nd day, just restrict my calories drastically, just enough to keep the hunger at bay. Nothing that’ll make me sick, don’t worry, I’m just trying it out.

But back to my weigh in. Due to not getting any exercise in, except for the walking I get at work, I was scared to see what numbers would pop up on the scale. Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised! 3 more pounds had been shed. I am now, as of yesterday, down 5 pounds since I started recording my weight.

I’m happy with my results, so far. In nearly a 2 month period, I’ve been able to work in the following:

  • Kicked the caffeine habit
  • Started a walking regimen and made it a regular part of my day
  • Restricted my calorie intake and have maintained it on a daily basis
  • Trying a one day a week fast
  • Started tracking my weight each Friday
  • Using My Fitness Pal and Map My Walk to track my results regularly, and to keep myself honest and accountable to my Facebook friends, at the least.
  • Started a weekly Youtube blog where I discuss my goals, and whatever else comes up.
  • Still treat myself once in awhile with food that is actually good/fun to eat (pizza, for example)

These may not be important looking bullet points, but they’re goals that a year ago I would have wrote about, then ignored as I continued to stuff my face and make excuses. I have a very good feeling that I can stick to these. I may not shed the weight as fast as I’d like, but they say “slow and steady” is the way to go to keep it off. I hope they’re right!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to make up for the last 5 days and get my butt out and walk. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you on the other side!