This Is Some Heavy Reading

It’s not a big secret to those who know me well that my weight is something that I have battled with for about 25 years now. Well, perhaps battle is not the most accurate term. After all, the word battle implies that one has put up some kind of a fight. There have been times over the years where I have faced someone or something in an effort to protect my family from harm. After all, that is what any decent father or husband would do. It is ironic then that this same type of fortitude and tenacity has been temporary at best and absent at worst as it pertained to my weight. Pound by pound, I let it slowly creep into my life and did little to nothing to stop it.

I think part of it was by allowing myself to use euphemisms to label the issue. When it first began, I referred to my gut as a spare tire or perhaps even a pot belly. This is probably largely due to the fact that I pride myself on having a sense of humor and such terms add levity to the situation. I can even remember at one time referring to my weight as a bulge in my equator. Well, over the years my equator shifted resulting in a total eclipse of my toes. Yes, even now, I use some levity because that is just part of my personality. Well, the reality is that what I have is morbid obesity. This means that I am at least 100 lbs. above my ideal weight for my height.

This condition has not come without expense to me. For example, I can buy myself a nice outfit that fits me properly and may even look very nice on me. Still, not matter how properly the garments fit or well well I dress, I will still look like a morbidly obese man. Personally, with the exception of my wife, I couldn’t care less of someone else’s opinion about my appearance. Still, when I look in the mirror, I truly dislike what I see.

The other expense is the potential damage my weight brings to my health. I already have hereditary risk factors for heart problems and diabetes. I also have high blood pressure (controlled by medication). My weight increases that risk tremendously. In addition, being so obese is truly hard on the bones. Without the proper muscle tone, a body is just not designed to carry such weight without risk to the knees and back. This goes hand in hand with an increased risk of injury. It’s true. Those that are bigger DO fall harder.

Quite possibly the hardest consequence for me to accept is the development of sleep apnea. This means that I can literally have episodes where I stop breathing while I sleep. This results in increased health risks, a chronic feeling of fatigue (due to the lack of quality sleep), sore throats (due to the harsh snoring), and looks of worry on the faces of your family (due to the fact that they actually witness these episodes of apnea).

There is some relief to be provided from this oxygen deprived, brain addled state. I can use a machine that will force humidified air into my airway via Controlled Proximal Airway Pressure (CPAP). This machine is not free and covered 50% by my insurance. It makes me look like a SCUBA diver on a mattress. It does truly provide relief  though. While this is a better way, it is not without it’s trappings. Gone are the days of taking catnaps on the couch. If I travel somewhere requiring an overnight stay, the CPAP machine has to travel with me. I fly to Georgia once a year. This means I have to take the CPAP machine through the security check and the machine requires extra scanning by security.

My only consolation is that I KNOW there is some hope. Several doctors over the years have told me that with significant weight loss, I could very possibly become independent of the CPAP machine as the weight loss could resolve my sleep apnea. The weight loss could also reduce or eliminate the need for medicine to control my high blood pressure. The reality check in that glimmer of hope is that it would require a loss of at least 60 – 70 lbs.

Given that I think of myself as a humor writer, my readers may find it curious that I would write about all this. First of all, writing about it and publishing it helps hold me accountable. Secondly, I hope and pray that anyone in a similar issue will do what it takes to resolve it. Consult your physician. Get into a weight loss program or a gym membership. I hope and pray that, in short time, we are all in better states of health not just living life to the fullest but living it for as long as possible.


Johnny Weissmuller, What Is Your Sleep Number?

I have addressed many things as well as the effects of those same things on me and/or my family. Such topics include (but are not limited to) the following: mall shopping, higher education, communicable diseases, and libraries. For the purpose of this writing, I’d like to focus on an issue that has become very important to my wife and me after 17 years of marriage – sleep.
Before your mind begins to wander (or wonder), let me be clear. I am not going to address the marital perspective of our sleeping quarters. After all, this is a family show. I am here to talk about the rapid-eye-moving, excessive-pillow-drooling, Metallica-stops-recording-their-new-album-because-your-snoring -is-too loud state of sleep. I am talking about that state of rest between the point where your head hits the pillow and the palm of your hand slaps the alarm clock with the force of a Hank Aaron homer. There are two entities that greatly assist my wife and/or me with getting a good nights sleep: a CPAP machine and a sleep number bed.
The CPAP machine, though a blessing to both of us, is primarily for my benefit. I have a condition that many people suffer call sleep apnea. To describe this as succinctly as possible, without the benefit of my CPAP machine, I will literally stop breathing (multiple times) during my sleep. This can result in many less than restful nights, extreme fatigue, and horrendous snoring that has threatened the structural integrity of the windows in my house. Needless to say, we LOVE having this machine in our lives. Mind you, the machine also requires me to be tethered by a nasal mask connecting me to the machine. This forces air into my airway while I sleep so that I don’t stop breathing. I am of the opinion that breathing while sleeping is good. I may look like an alien SCUBA diver but I’ll take breathing over vanity any day.
The sleep number bed, though a blessing to us both, is primarily for my wife due to a back injury she suffered some time ago. The mattress is essentially two long bladders of air (one for each side of the bed). We each have a hand controller that allows us to set the pressure for our side of the bed to a specific number (ranging from 0 – 100). We each have our own sweet spot, or sleep number, to have a comfortable night’s sleep. My wife sleeps comfortably with much less aggravation to her back injury. Needless to say, we LOVE having this bed in our lives.
However, having two different sleep numbers has proven to be problematic every now and again. My sleep number ranges from around 55 – 80. My wife’s sleep number is considerably lower. Part of the problem is my wife’s sense of humor is similar to my own. If I get out of bed and leave the room for more than five minutes, she inflates my bed to 100. This means that she gets to watch me come back into our room and plop myself into the equivalent of an eight foot long brick. She then giggles while I am now reaching for an ice pack. The other problem occurs when one of us leaves the bed while the other is sleeping. If I am out of bed and my wife rolls over toward my side, she ends up with her nose firmly pressed against a wall of air mattress. This gives her the sensation that can only be compare to those stuffed kittens you see on the window of a station wagon. On the other hand, if my wife is out of bed and I roll to her side, the end result is quite different. I fall into the deep chasm that is my wife’s side of the bed. Since I am tethered to my CPAP machine, I look something like Tarzan trying to pull himself out of quicksand. There are two key differences: a) since I have forced air blowing into my lungs, I will not suffocate and b) no one is likely to confuse me with Johnny Weissmuller.
I pull myself back up by my CPAP tubing back onto my side of the bed sweaty and hyperventilating (with forced air pouring into my lungs). My wife comes in shortly thereafter. She notices my perspiration and heavy breathing and asks me if I am feeling OK. I beat my chest and tell her the lord of the jungle is fine. She giggles at me with confused oblivion. She then rolls over and falls back asleep like a newborn child. Like I said, we LOVE having this bed in our lives.