Sunday, 18 March 2012

Ten Tonne Terrible.

Weight is a big issue for me at the moment. Currently (and for the last couple of years) I weigh about 12¼ stone. Back in 2006/07, at my healthiest and most active, when I was climbing very regularly and pushing myself, I weighed about 10½ - 10¾ stone. So I've put on at least a stone and a half. For a 5'8" midget this is A LOT. Is there any need to explain why this is such a big issue for a passionate and dedicated climber?? I thought not. What is more useful to explain is why I am in this state, and what, if anything, I can do to get out of it. There are several possible reasons why I might have put on so much weight, but which ones are the real reasons??

Some people have said, in a semi-resigned and slightly teeth-sucking way, "Well that's what it's like getting old". I don't really see any evidence or reasoning for this in my case, and since there are extremely clear reasons for my weight gain that exactly coincide with when it started, while "getting old" has no specific coincidence nor abruptness of change in the last few years rather than the previous few, I am certain it is not a factor.

Several people have speculated, seriously or otherwise, that my "Glasgow diet" is the cause of my weight gain. The truth is quite simply that my diet has improved since I moved to Glasgow, because I have been more careful with it - I eat less unhealthy foods and less wildly varying portions than before.
Sheffield - often sausages and pastries for breakfast;
Glasgow - usually have cereal and/or toast.
Sheffield - used to buy packs of mini-chocolates for snacks;
Glasgow - usually buy packs of fruit and nuts.
Sheffield - would sometimes have Scotch Eggs and pork pies;
Glasgow - never eat them.
Sheffield - would often have creamy puddings / treats;
Glasgow - usually bio-yoghurt if at all.
Sheffield - used to eat badly/sporadically in the day and have huge evening meal;
Glasgow - eat more regularly and try to reduce meal sizes.
Sheffield - would have starter/main/rice/bread for curry, and attempt to eat them all;
Glasgow - only have 2/3 of the previous and never stuff myself for the sake of it.
There are a few exceptions: I tend to have takeaways slightly more often, albeit with smaller sizes, I sometimes have a Snickers bar as a daytime snack, and I often have diet soft drinks instead of fruit juice and fizzy water. BUT the improvements I've made far outweigh those. Diet is not a factor, if it was I would have LOST weight in Glasgow.

I have been on Citalopram since late 2009, just after my DVTs. This is anecdotally known (and possibly clinically proven) to affect weight (usually weight gain) by affecting metabolism. The period of weight gain exactly coincides with the period of being this medication. Furthermore, even before I was aware of this as a possible cause, I was aware of a change in my metabolism as my body temperature (previously running fairly warm) had been fluctuating wildy, from hot and sweaty in bed to often surprisingly cold outside (especially my hands - not affected by DVTs). Although not proven, my gut instinct this is definitely a main factor.

Inability to exercise:
My ability to do simple calorie-burning, weight-reducing CV exercise has been HUGELY reduced by having DVTs. Back in 2008 when I had my elbow injury, I wasn't out climbing much and started putting on some weight. I started running, which was hard at first, but I improved well, used the simplicity of going out for a run to get regular exercise and lost weight. I simply cannot do that any more. With sealed iliac and pelvic veins, when I run or walk uphill, my legs cannot return the de-oxygenated blood quickly enough through the adjacent superficial veins, my heart cannot pump around blood that isn't there, my lungs can't supply oxygen to a system that isn't moving, and I quickly grind to an exhausted halt. This is an absolute mechanical limit, irrespective of previous or current fitness. I tested myself once, and while previously I could comfortably do a 40 minute road run, my current absolute maximum is 10½ minutes. This similar applies to walking uphill (simple exercise, usually as part of a climbing day out). I estimate I am working at 20-25% of my previous leg fitness. Imagine going for a 4 mile run around Burbage and only being able to do 1 mile as the utterly exhausting limit. Or imagine walking up to Stanage Plantation and having to rest just after the plantation trees otherwise you would collapse. That is exactly what it is like. Then imagine facing that for the rest of your lift, with no possible surgical or medical intervention, and almost certainly no improvement ever. This makes it EXTREMELY hard to do enough CV exercise to reduce weight, and it is definitely a main factor, probably THE main factor.

Less regular climbing:
Although I cannot do the most simple and beneficial CV exercises, I have found that the regular active climber's lifestyle has definitely caused periods of minor weight loss during the last few years. In particular, 12 days in Sweden, even with their minimal walk-ins, had me at the healthiest and lightest I was all last year. I think this is partly due to lots of climbing but partly due to the general level of activity on a full day out climbing. Unfortunately in Scotland this regularity has proved hard to find, mainly due to the often consistently wet weather that prevents it (the best areas for regular climbing are in the wet West, and there is too little local climbing for regular mileage). Particularly given how bad 2011 was, this is definitely a factor. Actually, thinking back to 2008 and how the temporary cessation of climbing increased my weight then, it too is a main factor.

Less active scene around me:
Related to both of the above, the climbing scene around Sheffield and the Peak District is strong and diverse (if curiously reluctant to escape the Peak itself) and I usually had enough people to climb with and friends to train with and even do fitness stuff with, which was of great benefit to keeping me going and keeping me motivated. In Glasgow the climbing scene is insular and limited and it's been a struggle to find friend people to fit in with. Eventually I have found a few people to regularly climb and train with, but not so many of them, and no-one to do fitness stuff with. When I do have people encouraging me and inviting me out and sharing mutual syke, I know it helps me keep active (beyond just having people to do routes with), so this is definitely a factor.


Age, Diet - NOT factors.
Inability to exercise - The MAIN factor.
Medication, Less regular climbing - Other MAIN factors.
Less active scene - Additional factor.

Next time: What I can and am doing about this. Or trying to.

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