Not Mission Capable: Why I Have No Post This Week

I wish I could tell you there is no post this week because I have been hiking in the Rockies and enjoying the flare of golden aspens before winter comes.  Or because I have been scuba diving in the South Pacific.  Or because I have been traveling the world sampling exotic cuisines and learning about diverse cultures.

However, the reality is I am just sick and tired this week and feel too crappy to write a post.

The reality is that I don’t have the energy to leave the house, and I’m currently on a very restrictive diet that my allergist has assigned to help us determine my food allergies.

A friend, and fellow vet, sent me this video clip illustrating how crappy 2016 has been and it got me thinking…

So far, this year, I have seen the following medical specialists:

  • several PCMs
  • an orthopedic surgeon
  • several anesthesiologists & a CNA
  • an occupational therapist
  • a physical therapist
  • a neurologist
  • an allergist
  • a dermatologist
  • several radiologists
  • an optometrist
  • the NP who administers Botox shots
  • a PA in the VA wrist clinic
  • and various medical assistants (LPNs etc.)

I have had numerous diagnostic medical procedures:

  • an EMG/CNS
  • 2 MRI/arthrograms (elbow & wrist)
  • 1 cerebral MRI
  • numerous x-rays (elbow & wrist)
  • a cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram)
  • 2 allergy skin tests (skin prick and injection)
  • numerous blood draws
  • a 24-hour urine collection analysis

And I have had the following treatments:

Once again, I am tired to the bone.  It has been a long year, filled with poor health and weekly medical appointments, new medications with complicated regimens, numerous corrections of Tricare billing errors, and several rejected requests for therapeutic medical devices.  This is also the year I discovered that I have multiple allergies (I didn’t know I had any),  and these allergies require that I make significant diet and lifestyle changes.

On the bright side, I *do* finally feel that I am getting better quality of care.  I am slowly building a team of competent medical specialists to diagnose and treat my health issues.  I am learning how to get rid of the incompetent ones.  Spousal Unit and I are learning how to navigate the treacherous Tricare healthcare system more effectively.  I am getting diagnoses that explain my symptoms, and I am getting treatment to reduce my symptoms and hopefully address the underlying causes.

I tell myself to frame the situation positively.  Instead of telling myself I am broken, I tell myself I am healing.  Both are true.  But I choose to focus on a positive future, rather than a negative one.  I believe this will help me get better.

2016 has been a crappy year, full of debilitating health problems.

But I am healing.

Guest Post: The Importance of Sleep to Health and Weight Loss

I had been thinking about this one for some time, and then I saw the following blog post: Does Sleep Deprivation Really Impact Weight Loss?  The obvious answer being, ‘ Yes,’ and it covered nearly everything I was planning to write about, so I highly recommend clicking on the link to this post.

I’ve already talked about the poor food choices we tend to make when tired.  As I am now tracking my daily calorie intake, sleep, and weight the next morning, I’ve also personally noticed 2 nearly identical days of food intake and the next morning one will have a positive effect on my weight, and the other negative – the only real difference was having a good night sleep.

Another interesting study looked at eating late at night.  Your body starts releasing fat into the blood stream about 1 hour before your normal bed time, and does so continuously overnight.  This is to keep the cells nourished while you sleep.  So eating right before bed can not only give you funky dreams and heart burn, but go straight to fat.

Your body saves extra fuel in the blood stream as fat.  If you are eating at a time when your body naturally releases fat, you create an overload which goes right back on as fat.

Everyone’s cycle is different, so I can’t give you a rule to stop eating by a certain time.  I’m a morning person, so I found it is important to me to eat fairly early in the day and stop fairly early.  I try to stop eating food (and drinking any alcohol) by 6-7pm in the evening (yes there are special occasions when I don’t follow this).  My wife however, is a night owl, and she usually eats breakfast later in the morning, and stops eating later in the evening.

I found it surprising how many more calories I can consume and still lose weight, when eating good healthy foods, in the right combinations, at the right times of the day, and getting a good night sleep.

We all know far too well how the negative cycle works. Doing the right  things help get you into a positive cycle of feeling good, making good decisions, sleeping well, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Good luck! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at  [Crew Dog: Or comment below]

Crew Dog and the Case of the Faulty Health Paradigm

A paradigm is a model or example of something, or the framework or mindset we use to understand or make sense of things.  When we subscribe to a paradigm, it often means that we choose to see things in only that way.  What do you see when you look at the picture above?  Can you see it in more than one way?*

Often, in business, we hear people talk about a paradigm shift, which means accepting a new way of looking at or thinking about things.  The opposite of a paradigm shift is paradigm paralysis, which is “the inability or refusal to see beyond the current models of thinking.”

I was stuck in a paradigm, or suffered from paradigm paralysis about an aspect of my health for many years, and it basically took a whack upside the head (figuratively speaking) to make me change that paradigm.

The paradigm I was stuck in was this: I don’t have allergies.

I never had any health problems when I was growing up.  I was blessed with excellent health until my mid-thirties.  I didn’t wheeze and sneeze like the people in the allergy commercials.  Surely I didn’t have allergies.

Not only did I believe that I had no allergies, but the one time I went to a (military) doctor because I wasn’t feeling well and I described my eyes as “itchy” the doctor quickly reprimanded me to never say that, because itchy eyes were a symptom of allergies and aircrew could not have allergies.  Since I didn’t want to lose my aircrew status, I never again described my eyes as itchy.

Years later, I started having very concerning symptoms.  I suddenly developed vertigo, which was quite alarming.  I was sitting in a chair reading when, out of nowhere, it felt like I did a front cartwheel.  My inner gyros completely tumbled.  I felt like I had moved violently, even though I hadn’t moved at all.  I dropped my book, grabbed the arms of my chair, and tried to figure out what the heck had just happened.

As it turned out, it took quite a while to figure that out.  I saw lots of specialists during that time.  I had diagnostic tests to rule out brain tumors, inner ear tumors, and…allergies.  The allergist administered a skin prick test, left me sitting in the waiting room far too long, and had trouble reading the results on my arm.  I, of course, didn’t think I had any allergies, and wasn’t expecting them to find anything during this test.  I had noticed one area on my arm react strongly, but the allergist smugly informed me that that particular area had been the control – it was pricked with histamine.  Of course I had reacted to that, I was told disdainfully.

The allergist peered at my arm, ran their fingers over and over the area, and finally pronounced that I was probably allergic to birch trees and penicillium mold.  I asked if that meant I was allergic to penicillin (it runs in my family).  The allergist said it was possible.  [I learned many years later that being allergic to penicillium mold *does not* mean you will be allergic to penicillin the antibiotic.]**

I asked about the allergy to birch trees, and was told to just avoid being around them.  I was given no other information or guidance.***  I decided the allergist wasn’t very competent, and went on with my life.

Next I developed frequent excruciating headaches.  Eventually the headaches and the exclusion of other causes led to a diagnosis of migraines and migraine associated vertigo.

I began to learn about migraine triggers – things that can contribute to having a migraine, such as barometric pressure changes; bright, flashing, or fluorescent lights; and foods.  People with migraines have reported that they were more likely to have migraines after eating certain foods, although not everyone responds to all of the same foods.

Known culprits are red wine; aged cheeses; processed meats; chocolate; citrus fruits; and foods containing MSG or aspartame.  (There are more, but these are some of the biggest culprits.)

I started eliminating many of these foods from my diet, and my symptoms abated somewhat.

During this time, I had also developed a perpetually stuffy nose that seemed to get worse prior to and during a migraine.  I saw an ENT, and was diagnosed with chronic sinusitis.  For years afterward, whenever I mentioned to a new doctor that it seemed to be linked to the migraines, I was told that stuffy nose was not a migraine symptom, and the doctor ignored that symptom.

Fifteen years after my trip to the allergist, I had an allergic reaction to a medicine (Chlorhexidine) I was administered in a hospital.  Since Chlorhexidine is an antibiotic that is widely used as an antiseptic and disinfectant in medicine, dentistry, and  in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, I figured I’d better see an allergist to discuss how I was going to avoid Chlorhexidine for the rest of my life.  I also wanted to know if I was allergic to any other antibiotics, since I still didn’t know whether I was allergic to penicillin or not.

This allergist was very thorough, and asked me a lot of diagnostic questions.  We discussed my Chlorhexidine allergy.  And then he said, “You probably also have a mold allergy.”

Here’s where the paradigm paralysis makes me look pretty stupid.  Even though I had been diagnosed with an allergy to penicillium mold, and even though I had known for years that I was sensitive to mold in my environment (moldy basements, moldy government buildings, water-damaged areas in homes), it had never occurred to me that I was *allergic* to mold (because I don’t have allergies).

I didn’t even know that mold was a common allergen.

I told the allergist that I had never even considered that I might have allergies, because “aircrew don’t have allergies.”  He laughed, and said, “At least, not until after they’ve retired, right?”

My new allergist gave me a mold elimination diet to follow, for diagnostic purposes.  It sounds crazy, ‘cuz we don’t go around knowingly eating mold, right?  Well, actually…  That penicillium mold I’m allergic to?  It’s used to create Brie and Camembert cheeses.  Two of my favorites, that I started eating right around the time my migraines became frequent and have been eating ever since – because the first allergist *never told me* I should stop eating them!

Penicillium mold is also used to create “veiny” cheeses, including Roquefort, Blue, Gorgonzola, Stilton, etc.  While I ate these cheeses much less frequently, I did like to have Gorgonzola (often found in four-cheese blend) on my pasta.  Fortunately, these cheeses  were all categorized as “aged” cheeses, which I had eliminated from my diet early on because they are known migraine triggers.

Back to the mold elimination diet: Anything pickled, fermented, cured, aged, or cultured contains mold.  Dried products (fruit, nuts, coffee, tea) may also be contaminated with mold.

The cultured yogurt that I was eating because it contained “good” bacteria and was good for my health – was making me sick.  Before I began the mold elimination diet, I ate yogurt for breakfast one last time and my nose got so stuffy that I had to breathe through my mouth.

After three days on the mold elimination diet I could breathe better than I had in fifteen years.

After two weeks on the mold elimination diet, I felt better than I had in many years.  My energy level was much higher, and the incidences of “brain fog” were much lower.

I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that the mold elimination diet prohibits me for eating every food that is a known migraine trigger.  I am currently exploring the possibility that my migraines are linked to this underlying allergy.  [Update: see this Migraine diet]

I have subsequently returned to the allergist for two rounds of testing: skin prick and injection (blog post to follow).  Of the identified 100,000 types of mold (there are 1.5 million, but many are unidentified), there are allergy testing samples for 15 types.  I reacted to Penicillium and Aspergillus, which are both common indoor molds.

My allergist tells me that it is less common to do allergen elimination diets these days, particularly for something like a mold allergy.  In fact, it’s hard to find much information about mold elimination diet on the internet (see below).  I’m glad I happened to get an allergist who had this in his “bag of tricks,” because this diet has already had a radical impact on my health.

Are there assumptions or paradigms about your health that might be false?  If you are dealing with a chronic health condition and you haven’t had success treating it, it may be time to go back and challenge previous assumptions and paradigms.  After all, I “knew” I didn’t have allergies…

*This is a classic perception image.  You might see a duck facing left or a rabbit facing right.  Many people have trouble being able to see both, or switching from seeing one to seeing the other.

**NOTE: For more information on Penicillium mold, and supporting data that “hypersensitivity to Penicillium mold bears no relationship with hypersensitivity to the antibiotic Penicillin,” see this article.

*** My new allergist informed me that if you are allergic to birch trees, you may have cross-reactions to certain foods, including celery, apples, or carrots.

NOTE: For more information on mold in general, see these Centers for Disease Control (CDC) FAQs.

NOTE: For more information on mold allergy, see this page on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website or this page (and associated pages) on the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website.

NOTE: For more information on the mold elimination diet, see this example.  [This is not my allergist or ENT and I am not endorsing this practice or being compensated by them in any way.]

P.S. – Have I had a mold allergy my whole life, and just didn’t know it?  Or did it develop in adulthood?  I don’t know.  Either is possible, although adult-onset seems more likely, given the lack of symptoms prior to my thirties.  Here’s a good article on adult-onset allergies and asthma.  [Again, this is not my allergist and I am not endorsing this practice or being compensated by them in any way.]

Guest Post: Breaking Through the Weight Loss Plateau

[This is the next post in the series of guest posts on healthy diet and lifestyle from Dave Banko.]

My new diet is off and running. I’m disciplined and start losing weight. A couple of weeks in, and my weight loss starts to slow down, then stops all together even though I’m still doing what I did at the start.

Frustration sets in, and this is where many people quit.

Why?! I’ve hit the plateau!

This happened to me time after time.  I worked so hard, and only lost 10-15 lbs.  Months would pass, and I couldn’t get any further.  Eventually something would happen and I’d stop. I couldn’t get past the plateau.

Over time, with repeated trying, hitting the plateau, and not being able to break through, I became depressed and didn’t think it was possible to lose weight. When trying again this time, I set the goal of losing 100 lbs in a year, but given my past experience I didn’t really believe it was possible.

The ‘What’s the Right Diet for You?’ program, though, explained what the plateau was and how to break through it.  This time I was ready and armed with new information, and blew through each plateau as they started to happen!

What is the plateau? Here’s a link to a dietician’s explanation about a plateau. To try to explain it in simple terms, your body adapts to the changes made and your weight loss levels out.

I started off weighing more than 350 lbs, and let’s assume (I wasn’t measuring at the time, so I don’t know for sure) I was consuming 5,000 calories per day to maintain this weight. I start dieting, cut my intake to 4,000 calories per day and start losing weight.  At 350 lbs, my body needed the 5,000 calories per day just to maintain.  Since I reduced the intake to 4,000 calories per day, my body will start burning fat to compensate for the difference.  However, as I lose weight, my body no longer needs as many calories to maintain the lower weight, and at some point the weight loss will level out as I reach the point where my body only needs 4,000 calories per day to maintain itself. (You can probably insert a nerdy mathematical decreasing returns graph here.) 🙂

So what do I do? Cut further… go from 4,000 calories per day to 3,500 calories per day. When I reach the next plateau, I cut further again.

As long as I have fat reserves, I know my body has all the energy it needs and I can cut further.

What I don’t want to do is cut so far my body goes into starvation/fat preservation mode or is unhealthy because I’m not getting the basic nutrients I need.

The recommended average intake for a man is 2,500 calories per day (minimum 1,500 calories) and a woman is 2,000 (minimum 1,200 calories). This average has a wide variation, however, based on age, body size, activity level, etc. You really need to measure and experiment for yourself to find out what your value is.  I found mine, once I went below 250 lbs, to be around 2,200 calories per day, and, at this moment, as I am working on the last 10 lbs, I set myself the target to stay within 1,800 to 2,100 calories per day.

You might feel like you’ve cut really hard, well below the recommended value, and you’re still not losing weight.  Here are my recommendations:

  1. Did you cut as far as you think you did? If you aren’t tracking what you eat, you may not think you are eating a lot but would surprise yourself by how much you really are. In August 2015, I finished a project at a customer site and started working from home. I had already lost 100 lbs, and was doing well. After a week, I stopped losing weight, and, in fact, started to gain weight. How could this be? I was following my diet and hardly eating anything. This is when I downloaded My Fitness Pal and started tracking what I was eating. To my surprise, I was consuming much more than I thought. It was too convenient at home to have a bite of this and a bite of that, even good food. My calorie consumption had gone up, and my weight was climbing accordingly. I had to discipline myself to track EVERYTHING I was eating at home to get a handle on this. As soon as I did, I got my diet back on track. Another possibility is that you are having nice low-calorie healthy meals like salads, but the salad dressing you are using is so packed with sugar, unhealthy fat, and empty calories it completely outweighs the benefits of the salad.
  2. Did you cut too far and put your body into starvation mode? Remember, we need to consume a healthy minimum of nutritionally balanced food to kick-start our metabolism into burning fat for the excess energy we need.
  3. Are you drinking enough water? We need water to flush the toxins out of our systems, to properly use the nutrients we are taking in, and to release the fat into our blood stream for use. Be sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day.
  4. Adjust your ratios and the nutritional benefit of what you are eating. We need a balance of protein, complex carbs, fiber, fruits, and vegetables, but our body chemistries are all a bit different, so what may work for me won’t work for you quite the same way. This is fine tuning and will come into play more as you work off the last few pounds.
  5. Add or change your exercise regime. Exercise helps improve fitness and burn calories. We need to be careful about exercise when using it for weight loss however (see my previous post on this). Adding or changing your exercise regime while controlling your diet is another way to change the status quo and break through a plateau.

Here’s a blog post from My Fitness Pal with additional tips for breaking through the plateau.  [Hint: think of plateau-busting as troubleshooting.]

Plateaus are natural and will happen as your body adjusts to your new eating lifestyle. When you understand them, YOU CAN BREAK THROUGH THE PLATEAU! Breakthrough simply requires another change, further tuning your diet. You can do this!

Good luck! As always, feel free to contact me at if you have any questions or comments.  [Crew Dog: Or comment below.]