At 53, I’m Leaner and Stronger Than Ever

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As a kid I was always a physical fitness derelict. While I loved hiking and walked everywhere I could, I did not enjoy sports (I was clumsy and had poor coordination) and hated gym class. From the age of 10, a macaroni-fueled spare tire was a constant companion, sometimes rather large, other times deflated, never gone completely (till now!). By the time I was a senior in high school (1975), I was not so much chubby, as skinny-fat.

When I turned 18, right before I went away to university, I discovered running, which I did off and on until I turned 41. I started weight training when I was 22, Nautilus, which I also did for a year, and then started up again in 1982 with Nautilus workouts until I finished grad school in 1988.

My life changed dramatically once I started teaching full time and driving everywhere. In 1990 or thereabouts I started running again, no more than 3 x 10K per week, and joined a local gym. In 1994, because the gym where I had been working out was closing, I switched to what turned out to be a better gym, learned to do exercises with free weights and began to research diet regimens. I was also a major consumer of supplements of all kinds. It was while I was learning about weightlifting in the mid 90s that I discovered the Zone diet. What persuaded me, besides the biochemistry angle, was that Barry Sears’s family medical history and mine had one crucial feature in common: both our fathers died young of heart attacks (my dad was 52). I managed to do OK on the Zone diet, as long as I tweaked it (not enough protein; I kept losing muscle mass). The downside: when it was time to eat, it was time to eat. Zone-hunger made me a grouch.

In 1997, I moved to Norway permanently to be with my partner, and continued my diet and exercise regimen there: Zoning, plus weight training 3-4 times a week, and running 8-10K 2-3 times a week, with stationary bike for cardio in the winter (at 39 I was too old to take up cross-country skiing) and Body Pump once a week. By 1998 I was in the best shape of my life till then.

However, in 1999 (at the age of 41), I had a setback that began my “lost decade”. I suffered an acute psychotic episode (from which I recovered quickly), followed a month later by a severe clinical depression, triggered by a “translation job from hell”, which lasted from July until October 1999. As a result, I began to take citalopram (the antidepressant of choice in Norway at the time), in addition to 2.5 mg olanzapine (as a mood stabilizer, even though at the time this was an off-label use). I stopped taking olanzapine in November 2001, but after I stopped taking citalopram in March 2002, I had another psychotic episode and was put back on 2.5 mg olanzapine, which I took until May 2010.

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