Hidden Dangers of Being a Writer

Over the weekend I had a number of health scares.  I began experiencing some pain in my right shoulder and arm.  This eventually escalated to waking yesterday morning to extreme pressure on my chest.  It felt as him something had been sitting on my chest.  I tried to dismiss it (mistake number one) and attempted to go to work.  But, my wife (who is clearly much smarter than I) insisted I go to the emergency room.  They rushed me back, fearing I was having a heart attack.  Lucky for me, my EKG was “unremarkable” and my later blood tests dismissed the cause as being my heart.  But, it really had me thinking.

There are a lot of hidden health danger to being a writer.  It is a stationary job.  With the exception of your fingers moving across the keyboard there is little movement involved.  Add to this the fact that my job also requires I sit at a computer all day.  And, like most Americans, I tend to work right through my breaks and lunch.  I sometimes sit 16 hours a day, with only a quick break to walk to my car and back.  This all adds up to the risk of a blood clot.  That lack of movement can result in deadly clot that can eventually break free and travel its way to my heart or brain.

But, this career can also trigger weight gain.  And a lot of it fast.  I won’t pretend I was skinny before I took up writing.  I’d say I was probably down to about 240 (from 270) when I took up writing seriously again.  I am now 285, gaining about 10 pounds in the last month and half.  This is directly related to when I started taking on editing too and increasing my sitting time.

Another thing that writing can cause is a lack of social activity.  I’ve heard it argued that writers are anti-social anyway.  But I can’t believe that.  Writers are diverse.  Sure some may be more social and others may be less social, but we all need to spend time with our friends and family.  Being a recluse will not help you.  It can hurt your writing and your health.  I’ve found myself locked away in my office or at work for weeks on end.  With Facebook and Twitter being my illusions at a social life.

So with all this doom and gloom, you might be thinking I would suggest giving up this lifestyle.  But, I won’t stop writing and creating.  The creative aspect of your mind needs stimulating as well.  Writing is good for you too.  But perhaps we all need to strike a balance.

I’m not a Doctor, so you should always consult one before making any big changes.  But here is what I am going to do to protect myself from more health scares:

First, I am going to limit myself to two hours of sitting at anyone time.  After that I will take a break and walk around for ten or fifteen minutes.  My work has a trail outside I will use, and when I am at home I’ll walk around the block or something.  But I need to get myself moving from time to time.  Get the blood flowing, literally.  Eventually I hope to work myself up to actually exercising for weight loss and not just movement, but this is a start.

Second, I need to give up the junk.  Not completely, but moderation is the key here.  I tend to go a bit overboard with the fast foods.  This is for two reasons:  One, it is just good.  I like it.  So I eat it when I can.  Two, I often write right up to when I need to leave for work.  Leaving me little time to make lunch, resulting in hitting the drive-thru on my way in.  I’ve already started bringing more lunches and keeping them in the work freezer.

Third, I need to socialize more.  Despite the name social networking, Facebook and Twitter are not a satisfying social experience for me.  My work co-workers (well most of them) are a lot of fun to talk with too, but it isn’t the same.  Time with my family and friends is important.  I need to take time from everything I am doing to spend some time with them.  I’ve also been keeping very active in my community.  This has allowed me to meet with and socialize with a group of people for a little bit.  It is also a commitment that requires me to break away from my writing for a minute and get out of the house.

Writing is a fun activity, but too much of anything is bad.  I need to look for a change in my lifestyle so that I can continue writing for many more years into the future.  I think I’ll go for that walk now.

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Exercise

I think I am going to deviate a bit from my usual topics of writing and talk about exercise.  I have to say I have a few people who have got me thinking about my own health and exercise.  A post by Michael McDuffee (here) got me thinking about my own health issues, weight issues, and how to change it.

Watching my kids play their first season of soccer these past few months reminds of the time when I used to be in shape.  For those that don’t know, soccer is played in two 45 minute halves.  I used to play a game and referee three or four in a day.  That is a lot of running.  Of course, now I would be lucky to run to my fridge and back without getting winded.

Me in 2000

Of course, that didn’t last.  It didn’t last for two reasons:  Diet and Exercise.  I kept eating fast food.  I love that crap and I keep eating it.  It was fine as a young man because I exercised more than enough for the calories I was taking in.  But, when I got out of High School, I stopped Soccer.  So, I also stopped exercise.  I had a job where I spent my days walking.  But I slowly was promoted to a job that required I spend more time behind a desk.

Fast forward to June 2009, I was 275 pounds and gaining.  I was also getting sick to my stomach all the time, to the point of being to sick to work.  It was a job I loved so I didn’t like missing the work.  But also, I hated getting sick.  The Doctors still have no answer for it, other than my weight.  And while it is now a manageable issue, I still have this issue.

Me 2009 at the Ribbon Cutting for my business.

My response in 2009 was to cut out a lot of things from my diet.  I gave up fast food.  I stopped drinking Coke (my favorite, and I still miss it now).  I was drinking almost exclusively water.  I also participated in yearly walk for education.  And it was working.  Within around six months I was down to 255 pounds, and a few months after that I was down to 245.  It was great.

Me at the 2010 VPEF Loop the Lagoon Walk

Well, that was June 2010.  For some reason, I tried to eat fast food again.  Big mistake, because it didn’t make me sick.  So guess what I started eating.  Well here we are now, December 2011, and I am 272 (as of this morning).  And, guess what is getting worse.  My health.  Like back in 2009, I am feeling yucky way more often.

I have a gym membership, but I haven’t been in nearly three months.  I get very upset with my lack of motivation on this topic.  I want nothing more than to lose the weight and feel healthy.  But, I just can’t get my but in the gym.  I just can’t seem to give up the foods I love (though I still haven’t had a Coke since June ’09).  People tell me the trick is not to give it up, but to use moderation.  But, I am not sure I know the meaning of that word.

I have a friend, Jeanne, who talks of going on runs and hikes.  I’d love to be able to go hiking but I could never keep up with most of my hiking friends (including Jeanne) because they are at another level.  The running life style is something that always has intrigued me.  I’d love to be a part of it.  But for some reason I lack to the motivation.

I have always preferred exercise with friends.  I like the company, and I also like the knowledge that someone else is depending on me to be there.  It makes “canceling” had for me.  I don’t like to miss out on anything.  Another friend of mine, Allen, is a gym fanatic.  But again, he is far above my level.

These are all just excuses.  I know this.  I just have to go to the gym.  I need to eat better.  I know it.  After all, what am I paying for?  I suppose the real purpose for this blog was to motivate me in a way I know how.  Writing about it.

It is that time of year for New Years resolutions.  So, my resolution is to change my diet and hit the gym.  Fingers crossed that this time next month, I will have already be down the right path.  I’ll update you all then!