Sunday, December 20, 2009

Barriers to Exercise for the Overweight

I've been having an interesting conversation on Twitter with Bill Yates, MD (@wry999). He made an excellent blog post about exercise attitudes in the overweight at:

I posted a reply complimenting him on the post. I added that most obese women will not swim, even though it is one of the safest and most effective exercises for large people, because they don't want to be seen in a swimsuit.

He replied, saying that I had a good point. Did I have any suggestions for breaking through these attitudinal barriers?

I've found that classes where all the participants are large seems to help, especially if they’re in an area with little foot traffic. Exercise videos that people can do behind closed (and locked) doors also help. Our culture's shaming of the obese is not helping the problem. We often use shame as a motivator. These people often have a motivation to exercise, but their fear of public exposure and criticism is a stronger motivation to avoid it.

I didn't realize how little I care about the opinions of others until I began interacting with other people on . I was willing to do the swimming, the public walking, the struggling with weights in front of college-aged men. I even did a few sessions of hip-hop and Zumba classes with slender young things wearing official exercise clothes (I was wearing baggy shorts and old T-shirts). Most hardbodies aren't cruel, and the young men at the YMCA even cheered when I managed to get the overhead press over my head. My flat feet and weak back stopped my progress on several occasions, but never embarrassment.

I realized, as I mentioned this, that there is another barrier to exercise for large people that was not mentioned in the study Dr. Yates reviewed: most exercise videos and classes are geared to the already fit, not the beginner and/or the obese. It takes longer to learn the moves, we don’t move as quickly due to our size, and we are slamming a lot more weight on our joints than most people. Some people drop out, discouraged, while others (like me) wind up in physical therapy (I'm a three-time 'winner' in PT). I have videos on my shelf that I tried once and put away because I knew they could injure me (including one Tai Chi video that did injure me).

I've lost about 70 pounds. Most of that was done through eating less, but it was also done through walking, public swimming, strength training at home without weight machines, and Leslie Sansone/SparkPeople videos. The shaming needs to stop, and more exercise programs need to be tailored to the special risks of the obese.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I've mostly been dealing with Xmas preparations instead of writing stuff recently, but someone asked me how long I’d been writing fiction and I realized that I started shortly after reading.

I started writing when I was very young, although my first stories centered around horses (intelligent talking horses at that!). I wrote and drew the stories; an early love of mine was comic books. When I started doing comics starring humans, I began with Betty and Veronica and worked myself up to the X-men. My dream during my teenage years was to work for Marvel Comics. Instead, I got a degree in journalism.

My first forays into written print were fanfic and in conjunction with another person. My best friend from high school and I handwrote a 10,000 page saga that should have been titled, “Meet Your Favorite Prince of Amber and Boff Him”. We did another saga based on the Darkover series, but we weren’t nearly as prolific with it. Eventually I started writing on my own, and creating stories with my own characters set in my own worlds.

I started writing an occult mystery/horror novel in the early 1990s, but wasn't sure where to go after I killed off the old tycoon. I was in grad school at the time, which didn't help (although the Greek and Latin I was studying provided lots of fodder). I also met a wonderful woman who chased me until I caught her. She wrote, too, but we weren’t interested in writing when we got together.

I limited my imagination to FRP gaming for some years. Finally, with the encouragement of my wife, I ventured into short stories and got a couple published. I completed my first book (vampires!) a couple of years ago and began shopping around with agents. Didn't have much luck. I'm thinking about revising that book and attempting to sell it now, since Twilight has made the genre popular.

The book I've been working on this year is more of a suspense/thriller novel (psychologist vs. serial killer) with a dash of the supernatural. The writing has been slower than molasses and not nearly as sweet. I know the ideas are strong and the story could be a great one, but I think it hasn't gelled yet in my head.

The path from talking horse stories to serial killer novels has been a strange and twisted one, but it has been fun and it’s been my own.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The War on Christmas: Politics or Personal Problem?

I’m still finding the identity of this blog. Yes, I write, and I post my writing updates here, but you guys probably don’t need to be barraged with repeated samples of literary solipsism. This is especially true because my writing life moves slowly.

Today, I’m going to write about something that cheeses me off: the so-called "War on Christmas" by liberals like me.

Just so you know: Yes, I’m a liberal. Screw that ‘progressive’ business; that’s for chicken liberals who came along after Nixon made the word a pejorative term. I’m a liberal raised by liberals. I’m also a Pagan. For the uninitiated, that means that I hold nature sacred and, in my case, worship pre-Xian gods. Xian=Christian, but is shorter to write. I use Xian because I'm lazy.

I've bitched at length about the pretend War on Christmas a few times on my Pagan blog, but I will give the Reader's Digest version of my views here:
Ask yourself: since when did acknowledging that other people have winter holidays equate attacking Christians? If one of your children claimed that you were attacking him every time you mentioned his brother, or used the phrase 'my children', you'd think he had a serious ego problem. Is this really that different?
December hosts several different holidays. Our government is supposed to respect the entire collage of faiths represented within its borders. It only has a limited number of options: it can celebrate every holiday, a costly proposition, celebrate no holidays, which means no special time off for anyone, OR it can use blanket recognitions like 'Happy Holidays'.

Merchants have the additional option of honoring specific holidays for specific faiths. Some do specifically recognize Xmas. Other merchants, however, don't want to miss out on Jewish money, Yule dollars, Kwanzaa cash, solstice spending, etc. Considering how our economy has slid into the crapper, though, many also opt for the 'Happy Holidays' banners. It's cheaper. And it's not meant as an insult.

Chill out. And Merry Christmas, if it applies to you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pulmonary Hypertension (PH)

Today is Pulmonary Hypertension Blogging Awareness Day. Sorry if this isn't a detailed enough entry, but I thought I just had to be 'aware' this month, not blog about it.

Trust me, though, I am always aware of PH. My father has it. Not only does he have it, he has it secondary to sarcoidosis, which is a rare complication of a rare disease. I always knew he was exceptional, but he should have limited himself in this regard.

What is pulmonary hypertension? It is not the 'regular' hypertension you see in the drug commercials on TV, and it can't be measured by an arm cuff. Basically, pulmonary arterial hypertension is high blood pressure in the artery that takes the blood from your heart to your lungs... you know, where it gets the oxygen your body needs. The general cause? Narrowing/blockage of that artery or in the blood vessels of the lungs. Your body WANTS that oxygen, it NEEDS it, but the pipelines are blocked. The heart pushes harder. The blood backs up and the pressure increases. Honestly, it's easier to understand if you think of it as a plumbing problem.

Consequences? Shortness of breath and feeling faint are common symptoms. You're trying to get more oxygen into your body, but the problem is really that the blood has slowed to a trickle. Your heart may try to beat its way out of your chest or you could develop chest pain at even minor exertion. Taking oxygen helps. Dad has one of those little rolly oxygen concentrators now.

Plus, EVERYTHING tires you out. You don't have that much oxygen to work with, so your energy burns out quickly. This sucks, especially if you're impatient, a workaholic, or a general Type A person. What sucks even more? Some people with PH need medication delivered directly into their hearts. They carry a pump on their person at all times, and it has a tube that literally goes INTO your body and enters your heart! What sucks the most? Eventually, the high blood pressure will damage your heart.

Dad was diagnosed with sarcoidosis when I was 16. I'd like to say that only five years had passed since then, but you've already seen my picture. At the time, they told him that he probably had 10 years to live. He made liars of them; he's still around. In 2005, he was diagnosed with PH. The pulmonologist wasn't much help: shortness of breath? That's to be expected, considering the number of granulomas (my father calls them 'granolas') in your lungs. Come back in a year. If it's worse, we'll try prednisone again.

Bull. This wasn't the shortness of breath Dad was used to. He went to a cardiologist. The cardiologist ran various tests, and then proposed a stress test. A friend's father had died of a heart attack brought on by a stress test, so I wasn't too keen on the idea, but Dad did it. Walking? He'd done that all his life, fat or thin. Soon into the test, the cardiologist stopped him. He said he wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't seen it. My father had PH. The doc had only read about it.

Most docs don't know a lot about pulmonary arterial hypertension because it's so rare. The cardiologist didn't know much. It was a pulmonary problem, so he referred Dad back to the pulmonologist. This was the same fellow who had ignored the rapid heartbeats, the chest pain, and the drowning feeling. Dad wasn't going to go back to that 'idiot'. Since I work in CME, he thought I might be able to find better information, or at least a better pulmonologist.

My father doesn't really spend a lot of time looking up his ailments. That would involve thinking about the ailments, which causes him stress. The regular world offers us enough of that. For me, though, research eases stress, even when a quick cure isn't available. I Googled medical sites like WebMD and, and learned what I could about the subject. Eventually, I found the PH Association webpage. This is a support group primarily for PH patients and their families, but they also work with healthcare professionals to provide physician education on this rare disorder.

The site is great! It has understandable information about PH and its treatment, contact information for support groups across the country, news on PH research, and reading material you can order if you need more in-depth info (for example, for people who developed PH after taking Fen-Phen). They also had information on PH specialists, and I found one my father could see.

Since that time, which was scary as hell for everyone, my father's condition seems to have stabilized. He uses oxygen, but doesn't require a Flolan pump as of this writing. The current life expectancy for PH after diagnosis is five to fifteen years; Dad is chugging along at four. Let's hope he makes liars of the doctors again.

For more information, check out the PH Association's webpage.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Monkey Dancing at Bouchercon

The first night at Bouchercon, we went to the Thursday Evening Extravaganza at Gameworks. All the games were free, plus there was music with a live D.J.

Well, I'm half Greek. You may not know this, but Greeks are compulsive dancers. Once Austin Camacho and his squeeze took the floor, I quickly followed. The evidence is below and, mercifully, quite dark. Just look for the moving stripes.

Friday, October 23, 2009

NaNoWriMo is Nearly Upon Us!

(Don't know what National Novel Writing Month is? Click on the Web badge to learn more!)

Once again, I teeter on the edge of the cliff. Last year, I entered NaNo with a good story idea and a rudimentary outline (unusual as a SEG starting maneuver). I'd even 'interviewed' two different characters to take the lead role.

It sounded good in theory, but in practice, I wrote a very small amount. I didn't even break 7500 words. I haven't even doubled that in the year since. To say that I was discouraged and disappointed in myself would be an understatement.

Here I am again, though, preparing to try another Nano with this story and these characters. Yes, it's scary. What do I have this year that I didn't have last year, besides more existential angst?

(Yes, this is a rhetorical question. I figure no one else reads this blog but me, so I might as well talk to myself).

Well, at Bouchercon (pics to follow one day), I got some encouragement. I took part in Hallie Ephron's plot-writing workshop, and she said she liked my story concept. No, I am not going to reveal it here, since we have already established that I am talking to myself, and I already know what the idea is.

I've had another year to work on backstory. Unlike my vampires, who cavorted around in my head for years before I began writing about them, I entered NaNo last year with an entirely new cast and story setting. I'm still getting to know these people.

I also got some hints and advice from people at Bouchercon. Liz Zelvin helped me figure out some questions I should be asking about my character, and several of the panels addressed my story concerns. I also had a small epiphany or two, since my subconscious spent some time stewing on the subject.

These are the positives I must remind myself about as November approaches. I will need them to get past the mental blank-out I experience when I open my manuscript.

Good fortune with your writing!

Friday, October 09, 2009

My NaNoWriMo Confession

My tale of woe: I use National Novel Writing Month to 'grow' whatever novel I'm already working on. The frenetic pace, the write-ins, and the 'shut off your inner critic' approach help a lot. Yes, I know that's against the rules, and I never claim 'victory' no matter how many words I've written unless I actually STARTED the book during NaNo.

The latter case only happened once, and I didn't win that year. Hell, I still haven't 'won' with it, and that's part of why I haven't posted here in a long time. I liked my first book, my friends liked it, some of my not-so-close friends liked it. I couldn't sell it to an agent, though. So, I came up with a NEW idea, new characters, new plot. I sat down during NaNo to work on it, and was totally blocked. It's not nearly as much fun as the first book was, and I use that term (fun) very loosely. This was when I identified a very important problem in my nature:

I'm lazy.

I view my time and effort as an investment. It's very, very hard for me to write fiction. It's like pulling teeth - the front ones, where all the nerves are. It seems like no matter how many shots the dentist gives you, you can always feel the pain. I have no problem stringing a couple of sentences together, but creating something out of nothing is a lot harder than typing words on a screen.

Writing and being unable to sell the product is a bad investment, in my -er- book. No matter how interesting and fun the character is to me, I just don't have that much lifetime left. It took me 3 years to complete my first book. I understand, from other authors, that about 7 books need to be published before the process really start paying for itself (unless you hit really big, natch). I must reiterate here that I AM LAZY. This means I'd really like to retire BEFORE I qualify for Medicare.

I could quit, I suppose, and stick with my day job. NOT writing, though, drives me nuts. Sometime in elementary school, I decided that I wanted to be a writer. That hasn't changed. NOT having a story in the works makes me feel useless and fills me with existential angst (Google it if you're that concerned). A palm reader once told me that I had a "finger with an agenda". Writing is that agenda.

If you have a suggestion for resolving this dilemma, go ahead and comment. Sympathy is also welcome (telling me I'm a whiner isn't going to be news). I wasn't expecting people out there to solve the problem for me, but I feel better for explaining it to you.

Write anyway. I plan to.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


I've been away, but not sitting on my hands. Well, okay, SOME of the time I was sitting on my hands.

My new novel with new characters and a new angle: can we say writer's block? I knew you could. It's easier to write a story when you already know the people well. I'm still getting to know this group.

Short stories: I will probably have something in the next anthology coming out from my chapter of Sisters in Crime, but that's a bit down the road. However, I WILL have a story in the first-ever SinC Guppies anthology! My story was chosen out of a large number of submissions, so I feel very flattered. The Gups are looking for a publisher now.

In other news: I have lost nearly 70 pounds. I'm not where I want to be yet, but it's been at least 15 years since I was this slender.

I hear your wheels screeching now. Screw what she's writing, how did she lose that much weight? I did it through a combination of old school and new tech: I ate less, exercised more, and logged it all at