Sunday Support Group: Woo-Hoo! Past the Impasse (OT)

This post is by Michael Johnston from The Online Photographer

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I've thrown my back out. Day three.

Everything that goes wrong is an opportunity to learn or practice how to handle it. You can have gratitude in the face of anything if you look at it in the right light. (Sometimes it's difficult, yes.)

In this case, it revives my compassion for people forced to live with chronic pain. Never-ending pain must be wearing on the body, but also on the soul and one's peace of mind and mood; it must make it doubly difficult to maintain a steady, mild outlook and a pleasant frame of mind. As in

famous "Chinese water torture," I imagine it might not take much; what would get to you is never getting any relief, never getting a break. I've had renewed sympathy for those suffering such afflictions over the past few days. I'm grateful I don't have to live with pain all the time.

I've been through this before with my back. It's so difficult to remember not to lift things, especially off balance or out of symmetrical position. You're right there, the job is in front of you, it needs doing, and you feel fine. So you just do it.

With me, at least, the trouble might follow a day or two later—I'll do something innocuous and blang! With a sudden, familiar, unmistakable twinge, my back's out. It's very distinct when it happens. I remember once playing frisbee once in the park in D.C. for hours one Sunday. The next day I was standing talking on the pay phone (that dates it) down at the 7-11, and shifted my weight. That was all it took. Crutches, then a cane, three weeks in all. Or was it six? Maybe it just seemed like six.

Weighty matters
Meanwhile, some good news. I'll be doing a deep dive into my 2020 eating experiment on the 19th of December, which will be the experiment's one-year mark. In the meantime, though, a little update on the weight front—

I learned last year that, in empirical studies, researchers found that those who lose the most weight weigh themselves twice a day, morning and night. So that's what I've been doing. (You can do whatever you want to, so don't feel obliged to defend yourself to me. I'm not the boss of you.) It's interesting data. One thing I've learned is that weight loss is a matter of fits and starts. I'll lose some pounds, then hit a plateau and stick there for a while.

Anyway, most recently I've been stuck at just above 200 pounds for almost two and a half months, the longest plateau I've experienced yet. My body just wanted to maintain that, and seemed to be sticking to it doggedly.

In reading about it, I learned that in most cases, compliance is to blame. We think we're still 100% on the diet, but actually we've started to cheat a little, and then a little more, and then a little more. Strengthening compliance is what's needed then. One key for me was getting rid of added table sugar in my morning oatmeal. I couldn't find a way to eat oatmeal without sugar. I just never liked it any other way. I tried banana slices, but that didn't do it. And although I eat blueberries every day, I don't like them in oatmeal.

Finally I learned the trick. In a separate bowl, I mash a ripe banana with a fork. The more you mush it, the more liquified it becomes. When it's good and soupy, mix it with the cooked oatmeal along with a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon. (I use old-fashioned Quaker Oats, mixed 1+2 with water and microwaved in a much larger bowl for six minutes.) Along with six ounces of a berry and mango smoothie with lots of goodies in it (ground flax, a little turmeric root, a few whole walnuts, etc.), it's a nice, easy, enjoyable breakfast.

Anyway, if you've been trying to "healthy up" your eating and your effort is in the doldrums, try evaluating your compliance. Look at everything carefully and figure out if you're getting lax or have given yourself permission to cheat in some way. For example, maybe you decided to eat meat once a month but you've slipped into indulging three or four times a month. Maybe you tell yourself you're walking three times a week but when you study your records you find that sometimes you do it only twice or even just once. I suspect I'm going to need to "tighten up my program" every so often like this as I go forward.

I first saw 1xx on the scale a few days ago, and I've seen 196 once. I really hope I've left the 200's behind. Back on track again!


Original contents copyright 2020 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:

MikeR: "Back out = six weeks. At least it is for me. But, as you say, each time it is a lesson…some folks live in pain every day. One thing it does make me feel is old. Even when I was forty or fifty, having to use a cane and shuffle along and walk gingerly made me feel as though I were eighty.

"I'm keenly interested in your diet exposition, having been fighting a similar fight. I'm finding that it is very easy to kid oneself into believing that one is eating what one says one is eating, and not getting the exercise one is proclaiming that one gets. ('one' happens to be me.) Best wishes on the back spasm recovery."

Mike replies: Thanks. Heating pad right now.

Dan Khong: "You said, '..those who lose the most weight weigh themselves twice a day, morning and night.' That describes me. I thought I am the only obsessed one. Thanks for the thumbs up. Without a weighing machine—a cheap one will do—weight management is impossible by guessing."

Mike replies: You need data!

John Camp: "I broke my upper right arm on July 24 and since then, the pain has been diminishing, but constant. It's not bone-break pain—the bone has healed—but the scar tissue around the torn muscle and surgical incisions. I have to stretch that tissue out, and work on that daily, or I'll never have normal range of motion, which is pretty critical if you're right handed. (If you want to throw a ball, or swim, or lifted things off shelves above your head.) The physical therapy itself creates the stress that results in the pain. I've been told that a couple of more months of PT should do it, but the inability to escape the pain, even with fairly heavy doses of painkillers, drives me crazy. Even sitting absolutely still, unmoving, in the most comfortable position, and I still hurt, not terribly, but in a nagging sort of way. I didn't whine too much the first month, because I figured, you know, break your arm, it's gonna hurt. I may have whined a bit more the second month, because it was really starting to drag me down. Now, I don't know how my wife lives with me—I'm grumpy all the time, I whine, I make excuses for not doing things that I really probably could do, because of 'the arm.' Chronic pain sucks."

SteveB: "Good luck with your back, Mike. I've had occasions when my back went out. The first time it was just bending over to pick up a tie I had dropped getting ready for work—bent over and there was no way I was going to straighten up—had to shuffle over to the bed and sit. Went to the doctor and he said time was the main thing—I had to grab both sides of the cubicle I worked in to stand at work for a while but in time it went away. Then I had back pain for years; it just kind of grinds you down over time. In the end it turned out it was from a kidney stone; after having the stone blown up and it passing, I haven't had that kind of back pain in years. But just the other day I did have another back pain/spasm that took about a week to work out.

"My wife has had rheumatoid arthritis since she was 19 (we're both 68) and that's a constant and sometimes debilitating pain she's lived with. She says you just do things in spite of the pain, otherwise you wouldn't be able to live. She has had both shoulders replaced and one knee. She's an amazing woman."

Mike replies: There was a girl in my photography program whose mother suffered from chronic back pain. I never met the mother, but our friend described a semi-invalid who was "grumpy all the time" as John says, never in a good mood, always angry or needy, and who was sometimes in agony. It sounded like the pain was almost a fourth member of the family, another character in the drama. Pam's description was vivid. It made me really appreciate the difficulty of living with chronic pain. 

Nigli: "I've had back issues on and off since I was about 23. What has worked best to prevent it from reoccurring is going to the gym, 2–3 times a week, and doing core strength work. I takes about an hour to an hour and a half per sesssion. I could do many of the same exercises at home, but I don't. So to the gym it is."

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