Max's shop of horrors

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Month: March, 2016

The Weight Loss Entry

This week I’m going to do something I swore I’d never do; I’m going to embrace a cliché as profound as Australians wrestling crocodiles in Khakis and riding Kangaroos to school. It is to the blogosphere what superheroes are to Hollywood, zombies are to video games, and cheap cask wine is to Australia’s tertiary student population.

Because it’s such a tired cliché of the blogging medium, I’ve avoided discussing my weight loss in this blog for a long time. Over the last year, however, a lot of people have been asking me about it, so I figure that if that’s what people want to hear about, fair enough.

Growing up, I never had a problem maintaining a healthy weight. It wasn’t until I began taking risperidone and clonazepam at the age of 21 that I started to really gain weight. (I should note that despite this inconvenient side effect, these meds were immensely helpful in getting on top of my anxiety attacks)

Fast forward to the age of 24, and I was 14kg above my healthy weight range. (Yes, I know BMI isn’t perfect, but in my case it’s pretty spot on)

The main reason this worried me was that both my father and his father died relatively young of cardiovascular disease. Given this family history, I was terrified that the same thing would happen to me. It got to the point where I was actually scared of sleeping because that’s how my Dad went, in his sleep.

I resolved to do something about it, and over the course of 2014, I lost 20kg, dropping from 97kg to 77kg. As I write this, I weigh 75kg, which is smack bang in the middle of my healthy weight range.

So, how did I do it? I must have some amazing trick that I should write a book about and get rich, right?

Well, the trick is that there is no trick. Not really. There’s no magic bullet to painlessly shed 20kg overnight. All I can share with you is what worked for me. Keep in mind I have no formal training whatsoever when it comes to nutrition or fitness, I am merely speaking from personal experience.

Here’s what I did:

  • I cut down on the amount of sugar I was eating. The main culprits were sugary breakfast cereals and “low fat” foods that were often more sugary than their full-fat equivalents. I always check the “sugar per 100g” column on the packaging before buying food; the lower the better.
  • I did it slowly. 20kg may sound like a lot, but as I shed it over the course of a year, that’s only about 2kg a month. Crash dieting, starving one’s self, and trying to lose weight fast are generally bad ideas and can backfire horribly. Slow and steady wins the race.
  • I only eat party food at actual parties. If it’s somebody’s birthday or a family Christmas, I’ll have chocolate and soft drinks, but I don’t consume them on a daily basis.
  • I weaned myself off snacking between meals by replacing these snacks with coffee or green tea. I found that I was mostly snacking out of boredom, a craving for stimulation, and wanting to taste something and feel full. Tea/Coffee satisfied all of the above.
  • I exercised daily, but not as much as you might think. I didn’t jog for an hour a day or anything like that. I just made sure that I got at least some physical activity every day, whether it be walking for 30 minutes to work instead of catching the train, jogging around the block a couple of times, or just dancing badly to equally bad 90s music.

So yeah, nothing particularly drastic or extreme, and no secret gimmick I can get rich from. I can’t vouch that this method will work for everyone, but it worked for me.

And it wasn’t just my physical health that benefitted; not only was it a weight off my mind to no longer worry about having a heart attack, but exercise was a great way to relieve stress, and achieving my goals was an immense boost to my self-confidence.

I hope this was helpful for those of you who were interested. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a crocodile to wrestle.

 

 

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Kryptonite

When I was a teenager, and even in my early twenties, I used to think I was a weak person, because things like a discarded tissue or Band-Aid, or someone sneezing/coughing near me could instantly reduce me to a human-shaped bag of cortisol with all the mobility and logical reasoning of a beached sea cucumber.

It seemed simple enough logic; things that didn’t even bother other people could decimate me, therefore I must be weaker than them.

Then I thought about Superman. This bloke has superhuman strength, x-ray vision, he’s invulnerable to bullets, and he can fly unaided. Pretty incredible by anyone’s standards. Yet this mere rock, Kryptonite, can render him helpless. Does that make him weak? Of course not, he’s still amazing, he just happens to have this one specific weakness.

Likewise, having a specific thing that we find frightening or challenging doesn’t mean we are weak. On the contrary, the fact that we deal with such unpleasant stressors speaks to our strength.

And just like Superman, having a sensitivity or a phobia of something does not negate all the awesome things about us. Even superheroes have chinks in their armour. Our weaknesses may be a part of who we are, but that doesn’t mean they define us.

Proudly Autistic? Yes, and no

Okay, I realize that’s an incendiary headline, so please hear me out.

I completely understand and appreciate that many people feel a sense of pride in things they were born with. And if you’re one of them, more power to you. If it makes you happy, that’s awesome.

Personally though, I’m not really all that proud of traits I was born into, like my height, my eye colour, or my country of birth. The way I see it, it’s not like I chose them or did anything to earn them, so I guess I just don’t feel much responsibility for them either way. They were just kind of handed to me for free right out of the gate.

Many people on the spectrum declare that they are “proudly autistic”. This is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently. At the most fundamental level, I suppose I can’t say I am proud that I was born autistic, because again, it isn’t something I achieved of my own volition.

However, (and here’s where I blow my own trumpet a bit) I am proud of myself for working hard to cultivate the strengths it bestowed upon me. I’m proud of myself for overcoming the challenges that come with it. I’m proud of myself for learning to embrace and leverage my autism. And above all, I’m proud of the person I have grown to be, and I think it’s safe to say that without autism, I wouldn’t be that same person.

 

“Normal” doesn’t exist

Dating back to the mists of prehistory, there have been tales of a mythical creature, which most people believe still lives among us to this day. Sightings have been reported on every continent and country on the planet.

I’m talking of course, about the “normal person”.

This legendary being is said to be anatomically identical to homo sapiens, but it characterized as having no defining characteristics whatsoever; no fears, no passions, no secrets, no specialties.

Amazingly this entity is widely held up as a gold standard to which actual human beings should aspire. We should all, we are told, want to be devoid of idiosyncrasies or distinguishing attributes. (Which to me, is a bit like cardboard being held as the standard for all cuisine)

Here’s the thing though; like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, I have yet to see any concrete evidence that the “normal person” actually exists.

Every single person I have ever met in my life has had peculiarities that mark them apart. Everyone has phobias, strengths, quirks. I have never encountered a so-called “normal person”, and I simply cannot imagine that a human being could ever realistically attain such a standard of absolute nothingness.

Marianne Williamson once wrote that, “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

I believe that normality is a fictional construct designed to shield ourselves from this fear. It is a cloak we wear to dim the light inside us.

Don’t be afraid. Throw off that stifling cloak of normalcy and yet your brilliance shine. Help make the world a brighter place.

Back to the Future*

For the past two years, I’ve been working as a mentor for young people on the spectrum. Just this month, I started at a nearby High School, a prospect which frankly terrified me at first, because let’s face it, teenagers can be scary! (I actually tried a Diploma of Education back in 2012, where my attempts at teaching Year 9s went about as smoothly as trying to shave with a can opener)

But the one thing that struck me, and which continues the longer I work in this field, is that I keep meeting teens who remind me uncannily of myself at their age. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve had a student express to me the exact same fears I had in high school, or even the same interests, viewpoints, or experiences. It’s almost like encountering my teenage past self.

When I first got involved with autism advocacy back in early 2014, one of my first impressions was how much it would have helped me if I’d had this kind of support when I was a freshly diagnosed teenager. But as a wise old baboon once taught me, you can’t change the past; you can either run from it, or learn from it.

The programs I work with today may not have been available for me when I was in school, but through the power of hindsight, I now have the chance to make sure that these younger versions of myself I keep meeting get the support they need.

*DISCLAIMER: Once again, I plead poverty in the face of plagiarism that would make the guys behind Snakes on a Train and Transmorphers blush. To cover my (firm and sexy) arse, I hereby note that Back to the Future is the property of Universal Pictures.