Tuesday, February 21, 2017

LAKE PLACID DIET: 'Best Legs in the Tri-Lakes'

Start date (Dec. 22): 480
Last week: 465
This week: 457
Total lost: 23 pounds

Last week, I mentioned winning a "Best Legs in the Tri-Lakes" contest 21 years ago, but I never explained the history behind it.

In the spring of 1996, I had transferred from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise as the Saranac Lake reporter to the Lake Placid News as the staff writer, and I was getting involved with the community I was calling my new home. I lived in the Olympic Village, in the back apartment above the News office on Mill Hill, from 1996 to 1998.

By July 1996, the American Red Cross was hosting the second annual "Mega Blood Drive Challenge" in the Tri-Lakes, pitting the Lake Placid, Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake communities against each other. The goal was to see which village could donate the most amount of blood in one day.

In 1995, Saranac Lake Mayor Tim Jock challenged Lake Placid Mayor Jim Strack and Tupper Lake Mayor Mark Arsenault, and Saranac Lakers came out on top with 145 pints of blood.

In 1996, Strack posed the same challenge to Jock and Arsenault ... this time with a twist.

In order to encourage more donors, they adopted a "Best Legs in the Tri-Lakes" contest in which all the donors would get a chance to vote in this friendly competition among the three mayors, media representatives and other Tri-Lakes VIPs. Since I was covering the blood drive and "Best Legs" contest for the newspaper, I decided to enter this male-only competition. The other contestants were Jim Rogers of WNBZ, Bill Kush of Radio Lake Placid, Chuck Damp of the Saranac Lake Kiwanis Club, John Ellis of Tupper Lake and Clarence Perry of the Tupper Lake Knights of Columbus and Lions Club.

The "Best Legs" contest had first been held in the region in Glens Falls and was subsequently picked up by the Tri-Lakes chapter of the American Red Cross. I wrote about the "Mega Blood Drive Challenge" in 1995, donating blood in my home town of Tupper Lake, so covering the challenge in 1996 seemed to be a natural fit.

Before the blood drive, the nine "Best Legs" contestants met at Lily Rose's restaurant in Ray Brook so our legs could be videotaped. Each of us walked down a runway, while music was playing, to show off our gams and we each gave a unique dance to woo the voters. During the blood drive, donors watched the video and voted on the best legs. In all, 244 people registered to donate blood, and 212 pints were collected to boost the low summer supply.

I tied for first place with Lake Placid Mayor Jim Strack. It was probably my fancy dance moves, not the sexiness of my legs, that helped put me in contention.

Thus ended my leg-modeling career for charity. Today, that would be impossible because my legs have been scarred by leg ulcers and are currently being treated by the Adirondack Health Wound Center in Saranac Lake. Two weeks ago, I began visiting the Wound Center doctor to treat an open wound on each leg, one on the front (left leg) and one on the back (right leg).

Treatment this week included double-wrapping my legs with compression stockings to decrease the swelling and promote healing. The ulcers — cuts that did not heal because of swelling and poor circulation — have been open and "weeping" since last summer. Weekly visits with the doctor include scraping dead skin out of the wounds to promote healing. If that sounds painful, that's because it is painful, even with a topical ointment to lessen the pain.

Needless to say, I have to elevate my legs as much as I can to get the swelling down. I deal with the pain and discomfort all hours of the day while the doctor and I work on the healing process. And I began walking last week to get the blood circulating in my legs. It will take months to heal, and then I'll probably have to wear compression socks for the rest of my life.

I wouldn't have these leg problems now if I hadn't gained all the weight back after losing 80 pounds a few years ago. It's clear that losing weight this winter and spring is more critical than ever ... for my health today and for the rest of my life.

Working hard to recover from my leg ulcers, and looking at the reality of the situation, I know I'll never get back to my "Best Legs" days. But that's OK. All I want are healthy, functioning legs so I can get back to a normal life, a better life. I'd also like to start training again for road races, with my eyes set on competing in a third Lake Placid Half-Marathon.

Monday, February 13, 2017

LAKE PLACID DIET: He's got legs

Start date (Dec. 22): 480 pounds
Current week (Feb. 9): 465 pounds

My legs have never been sexy, and I've never tried to sculpt them into chick magnets, yet I did win a "Best Legs in the Tri-Lakes" contest 21 years ago, back when I was 26 years old and not ashamed of wearing shorts and showing some skin below the knees.

That all changed about six months ago when I scraped the back of my right leg getting out of a car and the front of my left leg doing something else (I forgot what). Those scrapes have not healed since July, and they were getting worse before I saw my doctor two weeks ago.

Poor circulation in my lower legs runs in my mother's side of the family. The veins simply have a hard time pumping the blood back to my heart, so my legs, ankles and feet swell up. It's bad mainly because I am morbidly obese. Now, with poor circulation, swelling and thin skin on my legs, I have what they call venous ulcers — open wounds that "weep" fluid down my legs and take a long time to heal.

I've had leg ulcers before, and they healed on their own, creating scar tissue and discolored skin on the front of my legs. Then in 2014, I lost 80 pounds while writing the weekly "Lake Placid Diet" column for the Lake Placid News and my legs were finally healthy again. With the weight loss and all the exercise I was getting training for 10K and half marathon races in Lake Placid, the swelling in my legs, ankles and feet went away. And when I got scrapes on my legs, they healed quickly. I hadn't felt that good about my body — and my legs — in years.

Then I gained back the 80 pounds in 2016, plus 10 more pounds for good measure, and my leg troubles returned. Now I'm just fighting to walk, never mind compete in a half marathon again. I get around with a cane. When people ask me why I need a cane, I just say, "old age," and quickly change the subject. At 47 years, old age is not my problem, and that's why I've been too embarrassed to share my story.

Until now.

The main reason I lost 80 pounds in 2014 was because I held myself accountable by writing a weekly journal in the Lake Placid News each week, sharing my struggles and successes with weight loss and exploring the community approach to losing weight. I took off my mask and was open and honest about my struggles. Since I was recording my weight every week, I was obligated to lose weight to get healthy. And it worked, at least until June 2015 when I walked my second half marathon. After two years, though, it all fell apart.

Essentially, I went back to my old habits of overworking and overeating, and that's why I gained the weight back.

Even though I really want to keep my current struggles private, I've finally decided to share my story again on my personal blog. Maybe it will help again. After all, the Lake Placid Diet never really ended. After 18 months, I published the highlights of my newspaper column in the "Lake Placid Diet" book. Like I said at the end of the book, the journey continues.

After gaining back the weight — three years after the Lake Placid Diet began — this new chapter of the Lake Placid Diet is the story of healing and recovery.

Part of that recovery was wrapping up my legs Saturday, Feb. 11 so I could co-announce the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Gala Parade with NCPR's Brian Mann. We had a great time! Listen HERE.