Freeing the ring but insulting the knee

By Dave Gathman
Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted4/30/2017 7:20 AM

When I get weighed in along with the four Fittest Loser contestants every Saturday, I have consistently gone down a pound or two per week.

And as I wrote last week, this dieting and working out have given me a general feeling that my back and abdomen seem stronger. But the most explicit evidence that Fittest Loser has been paying off in my body came from a finger.

I was sitting in the living room one night with my wife, Patty, watching "The Americans" on TV and fiddling with my hands. Suddenly I noticed that I could easily slip my wedding ring on and off.

I haven't been able to do that in years, at least without a lot of twisting and turning and the use of a crow bar. The knuckle on my left ring finger has become too fat to slip the ring past it like I could when we were hitched 43 years ago.

"I can get the wedding ring off!" I said joyfully to Patty.

For some inexplicable reason, she didn't immediately share my joy. But I figured this meant that my general level of body fat has shrunk enough to make that finger smaller in diameter.

Or, if trainer Josh Steckler is right about his "go natural and cut out the processed foods" diet theories that I have been partly following and partly ignoring, maybe the overall level of "inflammation" in my body from eating things like dairy products and artificial ingredients has gone down enough that the finger bone has shrunk.

On the other front, however, I remain sidelined with respect to workouts due to an injury.

As explained last week, a tough Saturday boot camp followed by doing dozens of squats and burpees the following Monday left my problem-prone right knee swollen, stiff and painful by the following Tuesday.

A doctor advised me not to do anything "extracurricular" with the knee until the pain and swelling subsided. I stopped going to workouts for a week.

That doesn't mean I didn't continue to go up and down stairs a lot in our 1928 Sears kit house, where we sleep on the second floor and do laundry and put recyclables in the basement.

But under Patty's stern supervision, I resisted the temptation to walk a mile to the neighborhood mailbox to send off our 2016 income tax returns. (Besides, after working for a year as a freelance writer with zero income tax or Social Security or Medicare taxes being taken out of my paychecks, just filing that 1040 was painful enough.)

I was less obedient to Patty's urgings that I stay in a reclining chair with my right leg up and keep applying ice packs.

Gradually the knee began to feel more normal as I skipped the twice-weekly workouts but attended the April 15 boot camp as a mere observer. And as I drove to Elk Grove for the Challenge 22 event on April 22 -- in a building erected on land where my great-aunt ran a farm 70 years ago -- I considered actually joining my four comrades and the 150 or so other participants in doing 22 situps, 22 pushups, 22 jumping jacks, etc.

I finally decided not to join in. But I did spend a good 90 minutes standing up, taking notes on the proceedings and interviewing people. That was followed by another two hours covering the 125th anniversary of Washington School in Elgin, which involved standing up and talking to people the whole time and frequently going up and down staircases.

And then back home, with repeated stair climbing as I washed a load of laundry.

The payoff on Saturday night: that right knee was more swollen, stiff and sore than a week before. So I'm refraining from workouts for awhile.

Meanwhile, my weight loss has gone on -- but slowly. As of the last weigh-in, I officially had shed 14 pounds.

That's progress. But it's also painfully obvious that my loss of poundage has been less than that of the four contestants.

Driven by a passion to win the contest (which I am not eligible to do), sticking more conscientiously to the dieting plan or even going beyond it, they each have shed between 25 and 35 pounds so far.

On the other hand, they also all started out weighing 25 to 50 pounds more than me. So when I lose four pounds, it's the same as Denise, J.D., Russ and Tony losing five or six pounds.

At least that's what I tell myself …

• Dave Gathman is a Daily Herald correspondent who is undergoing the same physical workouts and nutritional counseling as the Fittest Loser contestants as he writes about their journey.

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