The Trick Is To Keep Breathing

As the pollen explosion began to hit the DC area about two weeks ago, my allergies—like every year—went berserk. Normally I take 60mg of Allegra in the morning and am all right, but during this time of year by early evening it starts wearing off. There’s only so much one little pill can do.

So, as a stop-gap measure, my original plan was to up my dosage to the recommended twice-a-day level. (My feeling has always been that if I can get away with half a dose that I should do so. My physician thankfully not only agrees with me but still gives me the twice-a-day prescription for whenever things do get bad so that I don’t run out mid-month with no refill in sight.) But then I decided to try a little experiment. So in the evening, about an hour before bed, I’m now taking a Benadryl.

Early Morning Self-PortraitThe result has been nothing short of astounding. On the whole I fall asleep a little faster (except for last Friday night), and I do still wake up at least once or twice (drink some water and pass back out) but when I wake up in the morning—I actually wake up. For those who haven’t seen me in the morning, trust me when I say that it is not a pretty sight, to put it mildly. I am tired, I am groggy, I am slightly incoherent. I had to buy an alarm clock with an adjustable snooze alarm because 9 minutes would be too long and I would fall completely back asleep. (It’s currently set at 6 minutes.)

Now? When the alarm goes off I’m out of bed within 15 minutes instead of in the 45-to-75 minute range. This has been especially good for starting to go to the gym in the mornings again. I can get such an earlier start that it means I have time for a longer, more fulfilling workout; hitting half an hour on the rowing machine now means I still have time for a second half hour of something else. Or this morning, knowing I couldn’t hit my evening spinning class, I actually hit my first 6:30am class ever. Hopefully this will let me shed those five pounds of “winter weight” a little faster than normal. Maybe even finally help shrink and tighten my tummy a bit, that would be nice.

Once allergy insanity is over I do plan on some experiments to figure out what the key element is in the Benadryl solution. Do I need the allergy relief in the evenings more than I thought I did, and should go onto two-a-day for Allegra from now on? Or is it that I’m just needing that extra little nudge into sleepland and should perhaps look into something like valerian root or melatonin for my evenings? (I’m really curious to see what the end result will be.)

Either way, the end result has been just, well, great and exciting. I’ve really missed being able to wake up quickly in the mornings.


One way you can always spot a formerly-much-heavier person is by how much they obsess over their weight. That’s not to say that all obsessives-about-weight were once heavier, of course. But I’ve noticed that it’s a certain trait that is hard to ignore. Myself, included.

In the past six months or so I have very quietly put on a small amount of weight. Depending on the day, just 5-to-7 pounds. That’s really not that much, of course. But in my mind, it’s a huge flashing red light with claxons. Having twice had to take several weeks off of running and cardio in general certainly accounts for some of it. But not enough. Meanwhile, to confuse the issue, starting in January I’ve been actually using the weights at my gym for the first time in, well, ages. (I think one would have to go back to when I first joined a gym in 1997, in fact.) And as we all know, muscle does weigh more than fat. And I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but there has definitely been a change. I mean, I have bicep muscles now. I’ve never had bicep muscles that would show up if I flexed. It’s a noticeable difference, if admittedly just baby-steps.


At the same time, though, I do know that I have been eating… perhaps not badly, per se, but not as well as I could have in 2007. (January was a rough month and I never really got back on track.) Temptations that might’ve been avoided in the past are now, well, not so much. For lunch today I had a very sensible meal, and then promptly followed it up several hours later with a piece of chocolate and two cookies that were left over from a meeting in the office. Smooth, huh?

So where does that put me?

In an effort to figure out exactly where I am, I did break down and get (after extensive research) one of those devices that uses an electrical pulse to help determine what your body fat percentage is. I used it this afternoon, and starting tomorrow morning I will use it on a regular basis (complete with recording the results) so I can get a better idea of what’s happening.

To be fair, my pants still fit and that is more than anything else my big method of figuring out where I am. So I should be in good shape, no pun intended. (I only shifted from 31″ to 30″ with about 10 pounds left to lose, if I remember correctly.) But I do worry. After all, when I lost all the weight a couple of years ago, I was in a relationship at the time and I remember what started out as encouraging comments suddenly becoming less so. (And towards the end, a little negative. Never mind that when I hit my goal weight I was literally about 2 pounds from the official upper end of the weight range considered “healthy” for myself.) It all came flooding back to me today, what with being in a relationship now and suddenly having a weight fluctuation.

Now if I could just find my willpower, I can’t help but think that it would put everything in its place. And I have vowed to stop buying two pounds of prosciutto when I go to CostCo from now on. (It’s so good. I can’t stop eating it.) We shall see, right? In the meanwhile, I’ve been told that we’re going out for dinner tonight. And more importantly, everyone at work so far is having fun with the body fat scanner. It’s a game everyone can play! Just remember to look up what the “healthy” percentages for your gender and age are first, though. It can be a little distressing otherwise. (My super-skinny co-worker Laura just about had a heart-attack when she saw her percentage. Then she did some research and felt much, much better.)