Sunday, April 20, 2014

Out of Steam...?

I haven't gone running in six weeks.

Six weeks.

I really want to start up again, but the lingering affects of the vertigo are really kicking me in the butt. I have slowly been able to build up my speed and distance over the past few years. I currently max out at 3.33 miles, but considering I could barely run .25 miles when I started I am not complaining. I did learn to place a public restroom at around the one mile mark lest I mess my shorts during the run.

On a more positive note, I have been able to restart my workouts at a much slower pace than before.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"6 Shots of Espresso is NOT a lot of coffee!" or "How I Gave Up Caffeine - Part 2"

Around 2008, life changed again as work took on a life of its own. I was so busy. So busy that I wasn't getting sleep and I needed to stay awake. I had been doing rather well with my 2pm cut-off for caffeine, but that can only last so long before an artificial lack of sleep causes one to look for methods to fill the gap. It was at this point that I learned that I could add shots of espresso to my coffee. I also learned that I could order shots of espresso alone as a drink. So I did what any good consumer, workaholic would do and started to add shots to my coffee in the morning. I also started drinking cortaditos throughout the day. A cortadito is an espresso shot in Miami for those that have not visited this little country at the tip of Florida.

Like most drugs, my body would start to tolerate the current level of caffeine and I would up the dosage. This continued for a little more than a year. At my height, I would drink 12oz of coffee with 3 shots of espresso in the morning. Another of the same in the afternoon. And then 1-3 random shots of espresso through the day. People in Miami have little diners everywhere selling cortaditos and so they are VERY easy to come by. One morning I looked in the mirror and saw a sullen face. I was so tired. I had hit a plateau and I could no longer substitute caffeine for sleep. I was taking in so much caffeine, and it had never occurred to me that there would be a point where it would no longer work. The decision to remove a big chunk of caffeine from my diet came at this point; the decision was helped along by my stomach and frayed nerves.

I gave up all caffeine cold-turkey. Bad, big mistake that no one should EVER make. The next day I was hit with an exhaustion I have never known in addition to a splitting migraine. It didn't matter how much will power I had, I was not going to make it through this going cold-turkey. I decided to be a tad more realistic and decided to wean myself from caffeine in a slow manner. I decided on a plan of action:
1. No more lone shots of espresso.
2. Reduce my afternoon shots to zero
3. Remove all caffeine after 2pm (again).
4. Reduce my morning shots to zero
5. After allowing my body to equalize, remove the morning coffee and any remaining caffeine.

I just went slowly removing the caffeine, bit by bit. Always making certain that the transition was minimal. I knew that it wasn't going to be easy to break the habit, but I had no idea that it would take me three years to get to step 5. Let me repeat that: Three years to get to the point where I was only drinking a small cup of coffee in the morning and nothing else. The amount of pull caffeine has on the body is amazing. And then to feel the yearning for caffeine for three months after removing it entirely from my diet; it makes me wonder how such an addictive substance can be legal.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Round n' round n' round you go...

Today was an abysmal day for me. I felt it coming last night, but I was not expecting to be hit as hard as I was. When I woke in the morning, I was hit with vertigo. I learned the hard way that I was fully immersed in vertigo when I got out of bed and immediately fell to my left and to the floor. For those unaware, vertigo is chronic dizziness. When experiencing vertigo, your body loses sense of which way is "UP." As I settled in for my slow-motion adventure of the day, I was able to pin-point that my body thought that "LEFT" was "UP."

For someone that has never experienced prolonged dizziness and vertigo, it can be a bit difficult to understand. To better understand the feelings and sensations, try holding yourself on a rope at different angles. At each of these angles, you will notice a weird feeling as your body tries to tell you to correct yourself. Hold yourself so that the left side of your body is pointing toward the sky; that is how I am feeling right now, except that no matter which way I turn or lay down my body still thinks that the left side of my body is in the up position. This obviously causes me great anguish and limits my mobility. I cannot walk without assistance and I find that I must prop myself so that I don't fall to the left.

I have been experiencing vertigo since I was young and have been unable to pin point the cause. I can only assume my recent trips coupled with an inability to sleep and early 5am rise on Monday contributed to my current predicament. I would really love to hear if others have had to deal with vertigo, how they have managed, and if anyone has found a cause for it. I know that I do not have peripheral vertigo, which is caused by the ears. I can hold my neck and back of head and alleviate the vertigo, which leads me to believe I experience central vertigo.


Monday, April 14, 2014

"PLEASE LET ME SLEEP" or "How I Gave Up Caffeine - Part 1"

It has now been two years since I gave up caffeine. I'd be lying if I said that I haven't had any caffeine in the past two years. Every now and then, I do have a small 6oz cup of black tea. I think I have had three cups like this in the past year. I am truly amazed at how such a small portion of black tea can make me feel so energized. Three years ago, it used to take me drinking an 8oz cup of coffee with three shots to feel as much of an effect as I feel now with just the small cup of black tea. This realization is what keeps me away from almost all things laden with caffeine. Not going to lie, there are some days that I feel so dog-tired and contemplate getting a cup of coffee in the morning. On those days, I push through it with yoga, jogging, working out, getting in the pool or something else to get my blood going. 

I look back on myself in 1997 and remember all of the foods and beverages that I ate and drank. The amount of caffeine that I ingested was staggering. I would continuously drink Coca Cola, coffee, tea, and other caffeinated soft drinks throughout the day in a non-ending stream. It didn't matter that the foods were laced with caffeine. I just "enjoyed" the flavor and kept on taking these foods into my body. As much as I took in, I was always tired and I always wanted to sleep throughout the day. When it actually came time to go to bed, it was so very difficult to go to bed. As tired as I was, I suffered from insomnia.

I started reading about what I could do to help with this situation. There are a lot of interesting postulations, theories, hypotheses, and opinions out there. Of everything I read and learned, the one item that resonated with me the most was stopping caffeine after 2pm. There were many people that wrote about how this self-imposed rule helped them sleep better.

I tried and I failed. With high school and then college, I needed the "energy" to get me through. Had I known what I know now I might have kept with the reduction. It wasn't until 2005 that I actually made myself follow the rule. It was very difficult to only drink non-caffeinated beverages after 2pm. Caffeine was in everything and was hawked without a second thought. I eventually managed to keep myself to this rule and eventually found that I did sleep better. At this stage in my life, I had been giving myself B12 injections for 3 years; I think that this gave me real energy that allowed me to break through part of the caffeine chains.

I would not break this rule for several years.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

FDA Approved!

Everyone in the USA has heard of the FDA. For those that haven't heard of it, it is a federal agency better known as the Food and Drug Association. Like most other governmental agencies, the FDA is populated by a large number of people from myriad backgrounds. At its inception, I can believe that this agency was focused on helping and advocating for the general populace. I can believe that in its time this agency has done a lot to set standards that have improved the health and eating habits of many. Unfortunately, I can see what worked, even a few decades ago, is not viable in our current world.

Big corporations have learned how to purchase their own rules while also lobbying for legislature to create loopholes. I am not anticapitalist, but I am in favor of full disclosure of any information pertaining to the food I eat. When I read about GMO's, time-bomb foods, addictive additives, nutrient stripping, it does give me pause. All of those cheap foods are created using methods that make them empty. Yes, they are cheap by themselves, but one must still purchase all of the singular nutrients that were stripped out of the foods during processing. Are those foods really cheaper when you have to purchase all of the components separately?

The minimum standards set forth previously, while good as a stepping stone, have become a benchmark for measuring health. The minimum standards were set as a means to measure for everyone to know what was necessary to just get by in life. These standards are far below what is necessary for most people to live well or even to thrive or be active. That's right, there are minimum standards and then there are healthy standards. Unfortunately, healthy -- or maximum -- standards are not so easily quantified and we, as a society, are lazy.

Everything is based on calories and singular components. Why are we so focused on calories? We are starving ourselves of nutrients by worrying about the number of calories we eat. This calorie counting is only exacerbated by the fact that our foods have been processed down to the singular components listed as necessary by the FDA and then laden with sugar, salt, and artificial fat devoid of any nutritional content just to make those foods palatable.

I think about these points and realize that FDA approval no longer means, "Safe for consumption." Instead it means "According to these corporate sponsored studies, we are assuming this untested food is safe." I read about ingredients that are banned in other countries across the globe. I read about these same ingredients require warning labels in California. How can something be considered toxic in England or California but be safe according to the FDA. I despise over-legislation and rules for the sake of rules; but something tells me that the FDA is not going away any time soon. It would be wonderful if big business was removed from the equation. Let them pay for the studies by putting money into a lump account that funds all studies for the FDA, this way it becomes a true double blind study.

The more I read and learn, the more I just want to live on a farm and grow my own food.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Where I am...

Hello everyone and Happy New Year. I am still here and still chugging along. I wish I had more time to write, but life intervenes. I am just writing to let you know that I am still here. I have had some ups and some downs over the past year. I learned that quinoa is the grain of death in November, but on the upside I have increased my running distance from 1/10 of a mile to 3 miles (5k) over the course of the year. As I have time, I will upload additional postings. I am hoping there will be more posts in 2014 than there were in 2013.