Tag Archive for health

Nature Has Selected Me to Die

Okay, so maybe it’s not that bad.

Here’s the deal: I have several friends who get all choked up when the plants start having sex. The trees and grass start spraying their loads in the air, and these poor bastards start coughing and wheezing and sneezing. I often tell them, “Nature has selected you to die.”

Now it’s my turn. A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with a handful of food allergies. Actually, the nurse’s exact words, “I’ve never seen this many positive reactions before.” Broccoli is on the list, which made happy (never could stand the stuff), but so are things I’d been eating most of my life, like tuna, salmon, soy, and even tomatoes.

Understand, I was raised on pasta twice a week and pizza at least once a week. When we moved out of the Chicago ‘burbs and couldn’t get good pizza, my mom drove the good stuff an hour home after work. When the pizza joint found out what she was doing, they gave us one of their delivery warmer bags, free. If there’s anything I’m immune to, its should be any member of the nightshade family.

Yet here we are. The short version is when I eat stuff I’m allergic to, my esophagus has the same reaction as my friends’ windpipes when they inhale pollen: white blood cells rush to defend our body from the wicked invaders and everything swells up. I’ll get heartburn, and if I keep exposing myself to these things, my esophagus can swell up to the point food gets stuck. Too much swelling, and I’ll have to hit an ER to have it extracted.

Fun, right? Oh, and if it goes on too long and goes untreated, there’s always the possibility it could turn into esophageal cancer. Metal. \m/

The treatment after my initial diagnosis was to avoid all the allergens, take Omeprazole, and to use the same inhaler as the pollen-allergic crowd. Instead of inhaling it, though, I swallow it. Within a few weeks the swelling was gone and I had no trouble eating. The follow-up endoscopy a couple of months later showed a clear, healthy esophagus. Score.

But I’m stubborn. I eventually strayed back to old habits. I still avoid tuna and salmon, and might have a little soy at a Chinese restaurant or sushi joint, but like I said, I was weaned on pizza and pasta. Avoiding tomatoes is a tough ask for me, even when most of the pizza around here is garbage. So here I am, two years later, getting food stuck from time to time.

Stupid natural selection.

Last week, I decided it’s time to get disciplined again. I’m gonna avoid all the stuff that triggers my allergies. For reals this time.

I’ve already blown it twice.

First, we had fish (tilapia) on Wednesday. I was working out after dinner, trying to figure out why I had such bad heartburn. Then it hit me: the tartar sauce is made with soybean oil. I checked the label and sure enough, mystery solved. The second time I screwed up, I had ketchup with a meal, and I just didn’t think about tomatoes. (Visiting Mexican joints is also fun when you’re avoiding tomatoes.)

Which leads me to my next point: If you don’t already have food allergies or sensitivities, you have no idea what a pain in the ass it is to shop around this stuff. I got a small sense of it when we scaled back on our sugar intake and avoided high-fructose corn syrup, but man, soy is in a ton of stuff. Mayonnaise, tartar sauce, and salad dressings are largely made with soybean oil because it’s cheap and it’s stable (it won’t spoil on the shelf).

Try it sometime. Pick something to avoid like soy, wheat, or high-fructose corn syrup, and start reading labels in your kitchen. Good luck! I even tried to make gluten-free chili for a potluck, and only found out after the fact that chili beans have wheat in them.

Beans, man! It’s a good thing I pulled the can out of the garbage before taking the crockpot to the event. Two people attending have gluten-free diets, one by choice and one by doctor’s orders.

Which leads to another problem: the food crazies. I went surfing for a mayonnaise recipe, and while there are several, I had to suffer through a couple tirades about the evils of soybean oil to get through them. I’m all about exploring the flavors of the original tartar sauce and mayonnaise recipes, or making something cheaper than packaged goods, but holy hell, I don’t need a tirade about subjecting my kids to the nefarious soy and gluten agendas of Monsanto and Conagra, especially when it’s attached to some shady pseudo-science even the recipe writer doesn’t understand.

For example, one said, gluten is “like glue for your intestines.” Um, no. You want to go paleo, keto, vegan, whatever, knock yourself out. There’s nothing wrong with making choices out of fitness or morality, or even with making a statement against some conglomerate’s marketing and/or competitive practices. Just spare us the junk science and bullshit conspiracy theories.

Anyway. I have to avoid pizza for a while again. And tonight I learned the hard way that extra-virgin olive oil does not make good mayo (too strong), so I need something lighter. Props to Boar’s Head for not putting soybean oil in their Pub Style Horseradish Sauce, giving me an alternative for sandwich at lunch.

Here’s to not letting food kill me any time soon.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

How Our Bodies Betray Us

Too many of my friends lament their age.

I’m not even sure why. I mention some small ailment or injury, and the older guys will say, “Just wait.” They act as if there’s some demon lurking in the background, biding its time until I hit some predetermined age.

Then, it pounces! “Happy birthday! Welcome to hemorrhoids and scoliosis!”

It’s hard to blame those guys. I’ve been on and off statins already. I’ve learned I have a mild food allergy, and I just finished a prescription treatment to clean up my esophagus. I’ve also learned my thyroid has slowed down, a condition I’ve inherited, and now I have to take a pill for it every day for the rest of my life.

As I type this, I’m sitting in a dentist’s office waiting for my kids to have their teeth cleaned. An elderly couple just rolled their even-more-elderly mother in with a wheelchair. It took them five minutes to get her out of the car, and thanks to a rather loud conversation in the lobby, I learned she lives in a nursing home and the dentist is about to yank her remaining teeth.

This is how we picture old age: a slow decline into physical and mental incapacity. To hear most people tell it, this decline starts at age 40.

I haven’t quite hit that mark yet (it’s coming soon), but I just don’t feel it. Are the bumps and bruises and the joint aches from karate a little slower to heal? Sure. But I’m still on the mat doing it. I’m as strong as I’ve ever been—probably stronger—and I’ve completed the Warrior Dash twice. The key word to my statement about statins is I’m off them again because I’ve managed to get the problem under control through exercise.

I often tell my friends to chill, we’re only as old as we feel. They’ll immediately start bitching about back pain or a tricky knee or chronic heartburn or whatever is bothering them at the moment, and they need to slow down and then can’t do this or that anymore.

“Just wait, Mike. Just wait.”

In 1532, most of us would already be dead. Putting aside minor (by today’s standards) illness or infection, the things we’re surviving now as an inconvenience would probably have killed us. A close friend not much older than I has already had a heart attack. Statins, thyroid meds, and insulin? Forget it. Hell, just twenty years ago this food allergy I have would have been misdiagnosed as an ulcer or chronic reflux.

If I’ve still got half a lifetime ahead of me, I’m not going to let some inconvenience slow me down. By 1532 standards, I’m on bonus time. I’m not going to wait for it get worse, I’m going to work with what I’ve got. I plan to still be running kata when I’m 83, not confined to a wheelchair. If some major illness slows me down, then I’ll find some way to work around it, too.

We say life is short and our average life expectancy is approaching 80 years. If we skip out on activities just because it takes a little longer to get the joints warmed up in the morning and we have to take a few pills to regulate one bodily function or another, then why pad out those bonus 40 years anyway? “I can’t run like I used to” doesn’t mean stop doing it.

Our bodies betray us. We know that. Suck it up and move on.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

We Should Encourage Health in One Another

I’m going to have a direct conversation about fat acceptance.

Across several social networks, I often see some skinny or muscular person make a crack about fat people needing to get in shape. Then someone—generally someone larger or who has difficulty cutting weight—takes them to task for their attitude. This is then followed by a swarm of posts offering support and encouragement to the larger person, telling them, “we love you for who you are.”

I can’t blame them. I hate seeing those arguments, too. The problem is the defense does not encourage a change in health.

Let me be clear: this does not mean said large person deserves scorn or derision. Fat people do not deserve to be belittled any more than anyone deserves to be teased for their race, sexuality, culture, or religion.

One of the saddest photo projects I’ve ever seen is Haley Morris-Cafiero’s Wait Watchers set. After a chance photo catching someone making fun of her weight behind her back, she set up situations to catch this happening over and over. Some of it is tough to look at because most of us have been guilty of this at one point or another.

Hell, I’m guilty. I’m down fifty pounds from my heaviest and I’m still a big guy. I shudder to think how large I could have gotten without a course correction. My friends tease me about my size or my eating, yet I’ll still make a fat crack now and again. Is it a defense mechanism? Is it just plain funny? Or am I just an asshole? (Probably the latter.)

This brings people down. We all know this. It makes fat people feel worthless, and if they’re already working on a fitness program, it makes them feel like they’ve failed. This is where the angels swoop in to tell them, “It’s okay, we love you for who you are.”

This is true. We do love you for who you are. We accept you. But we don’t have to accept your health situation. Overcompensating for the assholes pushes the problem of inaction to the opposite extreme. Instead of feeling like they’ve failed, the fat person feels like they don’t need to change their situation after all.

I think back to the number of people we’ve lost in the writing community. I think about dead friends and family members. About dead co-workers, both current and former. It’s not just fat people we’re talking about now, it’s a general lack of health. Heart disease. Diabetes. Cancer. Sometimes it’s drugs, alcohol, or depression, but for the most part, we’re talking preventable problems.

And I think about how those losses tear us up.

Would you ever tell someone, “I love you, and I can’t wait to see you in an early grave?” Hell no you wouldn’t. But that’s the behavior we encourage. I can’t count how many people I’ve seen show up on Fitocracy, bitch about how tough working out is, get an outpouring of empty support, and then disappear altogether.

There will always be assholes, and there will always be bleeding hearts. We need to do our best to find the balance between them. Here’s how:

1) Understand that the people who say shit like “fat people are fat because they’re lazy” aren’t being real or telling it like it is, they’re being tactless assholes.

2) Understand that general fitness is more important than size or weight. Seek good health, not a number on a scale. The latter tends to follow the former, but not always.

3) Understand fat jokes are funny. Yes, they hurt sometimes, but don’t read into them too far. Change the channel, browse to a different web page, ignore the trolls, and move on. If your friends are being intentionally hurtful, it’s time to find new friends.

4) Understand your friends and family absolutely do love you and accept you. Instead of seeking validation, ask them for help. A workout partner is by far better for you than an emotional crutch.

5) Understand that change is going to be difficult. There will be pain, sweat, and hunger. The payoff is worth it. Trust me.

6) Understand that you’re neither Jared Fogle nor a Biggest Loser contestant with monetary support and a trainer. You may not have a miracle transformation. Your change will take more time and effort than a thirty-second commercial or a one-hour special would have you believe. What works for them may not work for you.

7) Understand that your friends’ compliments and looks of surprise after your changes will be much more encouraging and affirming than false “it’s okay that you’re fat” sentiments.

In the end, we should all be encouraging good health in one another. We don’t need to beat one another over the head with it, but it should be made clear that we’re here for one another.

If you disagree with me, that’s fine. Please refer to #1 above. Otherwise let me know how I can help.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

And So It Begins

Started the running program tonight.

Did not die.

Actually, it felt pretty good. The alternating run/walk routine was easy to follow without completely wiping me out, and a quick blood pressure check afterward showed a small spike in my systolic digits but the diastolic was fine. I’ve got a slight tightness in my shins, otherwise no pain. Even the late hour, which I worried about at first, proved quiet and relaxing.

My dog, however, thought I was nuts. He may not get invited Wednesday night.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Need for a New Maxim

Is anyone else sick of “No pain, no gain!”

I thought that died in the early nineties, but occasionally I’ll hear it pop up again. In most cases it’s at a gym or similar workout setting, and it always makes me think of some steroided-out musclehead getting in someone’s face, thinking it’s going to pump them up. It works for other steroided-out muscleheads, but the rest of us just want to reach for a towel and wipe the guy’s spittle off our face.

Not to mention the idea of pain makes Average Joe all the more reluctant to get off his duff and start working out. It’s exactly what makes a lot of people say “To Hell with this! I’ll eat what I want and die happy.”

There is truth in the quote, though. It comes from Nietzsche’s “What does not kill me makes me stronger.” In fitness, if you’re not getting outside your comfort level, you’re not doing yourself any favors. You need to get outside of that comfort zone, to force your body to adapt to new levels of activity, if you want to see any improvement.

Working on the stretching machine in karate class last night, however, it occurred to me there’s a fine line between discomfort and pain. When I cranked the machine out to the point my legs were just a bit tight, I was at still in my natural range of motion (albeit the limit of that range). I can already do it, so stopping there isn’t going to make me any more flexible or get my kicks any higher. I cranked the machine a bit further and I started to feel a strong pull. It was uncomfortable, and sure, a little painful, but bearable.

It was outside the comfort zone, and a sign I’m pushing for a new limit. Now I’ve got something to adapt to, without it being so unbearable that I want to quit. On this machine, we start at that point, stretch, and then we crank the machine another notch and do it again.

The machine has a handy measurement of the angle of your legs. As I pushed for that third click, I was fine halfway through. When it clicked into place, though, I had a jolt of pain and let out a grunt. It would appear 125 degrees is my absolute limit at the moment, and if I had started there I have no doubt I would never want to put my ass in that machine again. It’s not going to do me any good if I’m afraid to use it.

So I propose a new maxim:

“If you’re not feeling it, you’re not fixing it.”

There’s no reason to be in pain. But if you’re not breathing heavy or working up a good sweat while you’re working, you’re not going to change anything. If you’re not sore in the morning — I’m talking discomfort, not in pain so terrible you can’t move — your body’s not adapting.

Get out there and feel it. Find your limits and exceed them, without killing yourself.

I hope I can remember that when I start that 5k run program next month…

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

2008: The Year to Come

It’s been an interesting start to the year already, but there’s a lot on the horizon.

For starters, Muy Mal is officially back, complete with a rockin’ new look provided by Russ Dickerson. John and Weston have already posted their first contributions and mine won’t be far behind. I’ll be wrapping up Down Vendetta Road and sometime this Spring I’ll tackle the next volume of Bastard Precinct. Our plan is to tie up all the loose ends on the site by June.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve got two book releases due. The German edition of Deadliest of the Species, Das Tödliche Geschlecht, will be released soon, and I’m writing a novella to go on the back of a second book that I’ll be able to announce soon.

I’ve signed the signature sheets for both In Laymon’s Terms and Brimstone Turnpike, so we should finally see them on the market. It’s been so long for both of them that I’m a little worried they will no longer be representative of my current writing style (especially In Laymon’s Terms), but that’s just part of the business. I dug around, and it turns out I was hoping to see the release of both books at least three years ago. Argh. ILT contains a short story and Brimstone has a novella.

I actually made progress on the To Fight With Monsters front, completing To Confront the Enemy over the fall. To Rise from the Ashes is next, and the whole package will go to a publisher as soon as possible.

There’s a spark of interest in Powerless, which I’ve decided will be my next novel. I’ve written two other novels since Deadliest, but I’m really not happy with either and they’d just about have to be rewritten from the ground up. Given I’m more excited about Powerless and it needs the same amount of work, I may as well pour my concentration into it. At the moment, all I’ve written on it so far is printed and waiting for me to edit and reintroduce myself to. There’s at least one chapter that will be excised, one that will be chopped in half, and then I need to tweak the location and geography throughout.

Last week I sat down with a publisher and discussed several things. It’s too early to announce anything, but we had a great conversation and we’ll be getting together again soon. Our conversation includes Wounded Gods and at least one other project which I’ll slap with the working title The Shattered Man. I’m excited about the direction we’re headed in, and if it continues I’ll be talking a lot more about these projects soon.

That’s only the projects already lined up, of course. The next step is to build toward the future, to put together some more sales and make sure 2009 will look as promising as 2008 does.

On a personal note, I’ll be continuing my karate training. If I work hard, I could (and should) be a purple belt by the end of the year, which is two ranks from my current blue belt. I’m also going to try to attend more kendo classes at my school, and I may even explore aikido in the fall if a local community college continues to offer it.

I’ve officially changed the Fatty post category to Fitness. I think losing 30 pounds last year has earned me that much. This year I’m setting a smaller goal to cut 20 more. When the weather warms up, I’m going to try to motivate myself to try the Couch-to-5K-Running Plan. It’s a long shot because I hate running, but I’m realizing it’s the best way to both cut weight and improve cardiovascular health. I’m trying to think of it as a good way to improve my endurance for karate class and sparring matches, too.

I’m going to try — again — to do more with my camera. I consider myself an amateur photographer at best, but I really do enjoy taking and sharing pictures. I’ve still got a lot to learn about digital post-processing, so that’s one of the areas I’ll concentrate on this year. It’s also high time I start saving up for a good DSLR camera and dump my aging, point-and-shoot PowerShot G2. If I get active enough I’ll start a Photography category on this blog.

That about covers it. I’d say it’s more than enough to keep me busy this year, too.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.