It’s summer, 2011. The kids are just getting out of school, Solstice is another week away, but my summer is already half over. Two months ago, I was wrapping up a stressful semester, and two months from now, I’ll be starting up another semester (likely to be equally stressful). I had goals for the summer. Challenges I set for myself, things I wanted to achieve. So let’s have us a little check-in.

A month ago, I started using a  treadmill. Bought it from a guy on Craigslist for a hundred bucks, it’s a little rickety, and it’s in the basement. But it tells me time and distance (although the speed feature doesn’t work), so I get the information I need, and I’ve been keeping records. I’ve been gradually upping my pace — really gradually — and now a normal round is an hour in which I cover just a little over 4 miles. Yes, I’m mostly walking, but I jog some of the time. I break a sweat, I get the heart rate up a little, and I always need to stretch plenty afterwards. Looking at the log, it seems I’ve been doing something more or less like this four nights a week (five, some weeks) for the past month.

I’ve gained a pound.

I feel like a tank. Like an old, slow, flabby, saggy, out of shape tank. Weightwise, I’m ten pounds over my “pretty good” weight, fifteen over my “pretty hot” weight. How can fifteen pounds make this much of a difference? I’m telling you, I look awful, and I feel bad too — slow, creaky, weak, generally pretty gross.

And zappy. Zappy? Zappy is a side effect of going off of Prozac, and it’s unpleasant. This brings me to challenge two of this summer. I wasn’t just going to get back to my “pretty good” weight by adopting an exercise routine and adjusting my diet to get the sugar and snacks out. No, more than that: I was going to go off Prozac. At the same time. This has turned out to be pretty difficult. I’m fairly certain that the Zac had a lot to do with my weight gain in the first place: I gained ten pounds in the past year. I’ve been on 20 mg/day for almost two years now, and in the first year, I could feel that it was helping. Most importantly, I wasn’t depressed any more, and overall I just felt more awake, more in tune with the social world. The icing on the cake was that my perpetual carb cravings evaporated within weeks of going on the drug, and as a result I lost weight. That’ll perk you up! It’s a good thing to like the way you look, to be able to check your rear view out in the mirror in a new outfit and say, damn, I’d tap that. OK, like I say, that was a fringe benefit, and after a year, it had dissipated. The cravings came back, I let more and more of the crackers and the desserts become a normal part of my life. And I’ll admit, a little bourbon or wine on a fairly regular basis make my life a little happier as well. I’ve never had a problem with drinking, and during the academic year I’m usually too busy to drink on weeknights at all, since even a glass of wine with dinner would put me to sleep earlier than I prefer, costing valuable late night work time. But on the weekends, and after evening classes, I do like a drink or two. Then when the term ended, every night was basically a weekend night. So as I was tapering off the medication, the carb cravings increased, concurrent with being at home most of the time (in a small house, you’re never really far from the kitchen) and having no pressing reason not to have wine with dinner or a late beverage with my reading time. Hence: No weight loss so far.

I am, however, pretty close to being off the drug. I’m down to 10 mg every third day, and not very zappy at all anymore (very mild, only in the hands, and usually only for a few minutes at a time). I had hoped the treadmill time would help curb the cravings, and maybe they have; God knows how bad it would have been without the exercise, right? And I’ve actually been feeling a little better in the last few days. Good enough to step it up a little.

This weekend, I moved a little further towards a solidly low-carb diet. I’m doing much better with avoiding the starchy snacks, and I’m replacing mealtime starches with low-carb tortillas and quality multigrain bread. The next step will have to be to cut the alcohol. I see it as a minor indulgence that adds to my quality of life, so I don’t want to give it up entirely. For the time being, I’ll say I’m going to keep it to the weekends, and we’ll see how that goes.  Let’s see if I can lose some weight this way.

I’m also stepping up the exercise. It’s kind of dishonest of me to think of what I’ve been doing on the treadmill as “cardio;” it hasn’t really been that much of a cardio challenge. I’m going to try to pick up the speed on the treadmill nights. In addition, I’m going to see how much strength and flexibility work I can get into the mix, in the form of calisthenics and yoga.

A year ago, I tried diet blogging, mostly to get the blather out that’s always circulating in my head when I’m trying to lose weight, in hopes I wouldn’t inflict it on other people if I could get it out in writing. I didn’t stick with it (although I did lose some weight). I’ve been wanting to get back to keeping a journal. Writing in general is a very important part of my life that I have been neglecting for quite some time. I have to write quite a bit for my job, but it’s not the kind of writing that you can just lift out of context and show someone else. Moreover, it’s been for a particular kind of audience: mainly, young folks with limited experience, who might not even want to be there, and who I need to get positive evaluations from at some point. When you have a certain audience in your head, haunting you because you’ve been writing for them for so long, it seems likely that the could severely alter your ability to write for anybody else, unless you really work at it. I haven’t been working at it. Writing is work. You have to keep yourself in shape. Diet blogging may not have much in common with serious writing, but it’s forming sentences, right? Constructing arguments? Refining a voice? It must be good for something, even if it’s mainly to write for someone besides the ghost freshmen in my head.

And I need to get writing again, I need to feel like writing is my friend again, like I can communicate somewhat fluently this way and not have to labor over my every little phrase. Because the most important challenge of the summer, the big one, is this: this is the year I’m doing something I have been working towards since 1997. I am applying to go back to graduate school. This is pretty terrifying - not the application part, since I test and interview pretty well. What’s terrifying is the idea of having to write, and write well, and follow through with difficult and complicated ideas in writing, as the very substance of my life for a while. I don’t know if I can do it. See, I’m already choking, these sentences are a mess.

So much is involved in this. I have to prep for the GRE, for one thing, and while I’ve taken it before, it’s different now: you have to write! On demand! On a timer! For a score! Ay yi yi. And of course, there’s the writing sample I’ll have to submit with my application in January. It will have to be an article, and it will have to be pretty good. Original. Not just well written, but pulling together some sources and building up some ideas. At this point, I don’t have anything remotely resembling an idea that I think I could turn into an article in a few months.  I’m going to have to come up with one. And to do that … is going to take more than diet blogging. But this is still a good thing to do.

Hello, World

June 8th, 2011

Greetings from my big bad bumpus.