Of course I was forewarned that there would be setbacks. Everybody makes a special point of telling you that, and yet I wasn’t prepared for it at all.

Maybe it’s the foggy weather. Or I might be coming down with something.

What I had expected was an unexplainable weight gain. Or some serious motivation issues. Wanting to slack off. That’s not it at all.

Instead, everything is hard today. It’s not that I’m especially tired or demotivated, it’s just that every move of a muscle needs just that extra bit of effort, just a little more exertion, just a little more sweat. It’s also just a little bit easier to get agitated.

The right way to deal with it is indeed to accept the limits, to still go for a walk choosing a gentler route, to not get carried away by ambition, yet still keep at it. I must not ignore the difficulties, but accept them, and concentrate on the small pleasures.

A week after I arrived in Alland we’ve settled into a routine of some sort. We get up for breakfast at 7.30 unless we have checks before that. Then therapy, lectures, lunch, more therapy, a walk, supper. After that, we mostly hang out in one of the common rooms and chat or play games.
Most of us have already lost several kilos. All is well.

The door that leads nowhere.
The door that leads nowhere.

Of course, there are setbacks. Nearly everyone has already had days where they’ve actually gained weight. Sometimes it’s really hard to make do with 1100 calories. Sometimes I just want to get away from it all and just lock myself in my room and be on my own. That’s part of it.

Luckily, the other patients know exactly how you feel in that situation. You wouldn’t believe how liberating it is that for once I’m not The Fat Guy, but simply a member of a group of peers.

Mind you, I have no reason to complain about my friends or colleagues. I’m used to asking and getting special considerations if I need it. And yet, here I don’t have to ask, because we’re all (roughly) in the same boat. Makes for a nice change.

I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to post daily updates. Soon I’ll be running out of topics. Many thanks to everyone who has read these pages and given me support.

Goodness, I’m tired. (Oh my Gosh! I’ll be darned to heck!)

SKA Alland Pond
SKA Alland Pond

I don’t know why, but I found it incredibly hard to stay awake today – and during one of the lectures I failed miserably. Awkward. It’s not that I didn’t get enough sleep last night, although the day started *way* too early for my. I don’t think blood taken at 6.30 is any better than 8.30 blood, but for some reason they keep insisting on that absurd time.
Maybe I overdid things a little yesterday.

The place I’m at isn’t exactly a hospital, but it comes close. The main difference is that they only treat chronic cases here instead of emergencies. This gives the medical staff a lot more time for each patient and allows for therapies that wouldn’t be possible in a regular hospital.

SKA Alland Grounds
SKA Alland Grounds
However, about the same rules apply. While you’re here, you’re on sick leave from work. The house has a certain responsibility for your well-being and therefore imposes a number of rules we have to follow.
Most importantly, we are supposed to be present at meals and are not allowed to leave the premises at all. (Well, technically, but we must not stray too far.) The house will be locked down at 10 PM every day, so you better be inside by that time.
Weekends are the exception from the rule. If your responsible physician agrees, you are allowed to skip a meal or two and go out.
I took the opportunity and went home today. There is a washer and a dryer patients can use, but I strongly prefer doing my laundry at home. That way, I could get rid of some stuff and bring a few things I had left at home the first time. And I could see a dear friend. Luckily I hadn’t been here long enough to be overwhelmed by the sounds and hectic life of the big city, so I enjoyed the day. I still tried not to eat too much, although it was a little more than I get here. We compensated by taking a pleasant walk through the city centre, so that’s all right, I hope.

SKA Alland
SKA Alland

Part of the therapy we’re getting here are all kinds of lessons that are somehow related to obesity or metabolic disorders. Today, for example, we had one about nutrition and one about the effects a large amount of body fat has on the organism.
The “teachers”, mostly physicians or other specialists they have on the staff, are doing their very best to make the time entertaining as well as educational, and I’m happy to say they are doing a pretty good job. Unfortunately, they need to start on a very low level in order to reach out to most of the people here.
I have a very low tolerance for ignorance. Not in the sense that someone fails to be in possession of a certain bit of information. No one knows everything there is to know, and everybody’s education is necessarily full of huge gaps. I’m aware of that. But how can people be morbidly obese for decades – no one gets it surprisingly overnight – and not have the faintest idea of what they’re doing to themselves and how?*
There are people here who need it explained what the basic food groups are! Or why a healthy metabolism is necessary for a healthy body. After all, a high glucose level or blood pressure doesn’t hurt. Neither can they tell, approximately how many calories a bar of chocolate has.
If you’re healthy and don’t know the answers to those questions, don’t worry. In fact, be glad that you never had to learn them. But it’s another thing entirely to remain ignorant of these things while this very ignorance is slowly killing you, or contributing to it. And it’s not even a head-in-the-sand thing. Instead, you hear things like “My wife does all the cooking.” I’m sorry, I didn’t know guns were dangerous. My wife does all the shooting.

On a happier note, I got a visit from my lovely big sister today. We went to the nearby town of Mödling and even ventured into the dangerous halls of a restaurant, the Casita. I had saved up some 500 calories from my diet over the week and it’s a tapas bar, so the portion sizes fitted my needs. I had three delicious meatballs and some alioli, and I’m certainly going to re-visit when I can actually have a real dinner.

* Maybe at a later date I’ll do a post on habits and addictions and explain why knowing isn’t the same as stopping.

On Friday I was surprisingly called in to see the head physician. Dr. Mario Francesconi appears to be somewhat of an authority when it comes to metabolic disorders, so I was quite thrilled to the the opportunity and meet the man.
Apparently my case is one of the more promising ones, so he made himself available personally to discuss my options. He was very direct as to the chances I have of losing all the excess weight I’m carrying around, which are about zero. I knew that already, although not physician has ever told me that clearly. We had a rather satisfying talk, touching on topics from medication to surgery, as well as the chances and dangers. I’ve been summoned back for a second talk the day before I leave, when we will decide on further measures I could take after I get home.

SKA Alland
SKA Alland

As to therapy, I had half an hour of ergometer training. It showed that I’m used to riding a bike, as I could work with a much stronger resistance than the rest of my group. Seeing others struggle where I’m doing fine helps me seeing myself differently. I’m not the complete wreck I sometimes think I am. Things could be much worse.
One thing I find irritating is that the staff automatically assumes that you have done this before. Even if you ask, you get very little in the way of explanation or introduction. Of course, I keep insisting.
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Finally the pace is picking up a bit. The day didn’t start as early as yesterday, albeit still at a time I like to call the middle of the night. I don’t believe in good mornings any more than I believe in fairies or yetis.
Anyway, breakfast looked a lot better today, even though it wasn’t, really. I seem to get accustomed to the meals, which is a good thing, considering that this is my main goal here.

SKA Alland
SKA Alland

After breakfast I saw my Doctor and we discussed the results I had bled for yesterday. Of course, not all is well, but I don’t have diabetes or anything, which is a great relief. The rest will be better as soon as I’ve got rid of some weight. I’ve already started losing some, so I’m on a path to success. Cross your fingers for me!
After that, I had pool gymnastics. I’m not a big fan of watersports, as a rule of thumb, but I’m determined to make the best of my stay here so I tried to get into it. A lot of the success here depends on the energy you are willing to put into it.
After lunch we met the Chief of Staff and the Managing Director of the house, who explained a bit of what they’re trying to do and why. The most interesting part was that we can get out on Sundays if we get permission from our doctor.
Later in the afternoon I had hay compresses, which help a little with the pain in my knees.
It’s been raining today, so I think if I’m going for a walk later I won’t explore the woods, but stay on paved roads and leave my camera at home.

Today started out at six o’clock (yes, A.M.) with giving blood (lots and lots of it, I was pricked a grand total of seven times). In order to work their magic, the doctors needed me to drink some solution of sugar and God knows what else. At nine we were finally allowed breakfast.
The first meal of the day consisted of one and a half slices of bread with margarine, which I left out, jam, and some yeast-based spread. Additionally, you could have as much vegetables as you like. They had only cucumber and kohlrabi left today, but it seems that was because we were so late. We were also allowed two pieces of fruit.
Between the meals most of us were completely free today, except if we needed any additional checks, which I didn’t. So I seized the opportunity and went back to bed after breakfast. Hey, don’t judge me, remember I had been drained of my life juice practically since midnight.

a typical lunch
Pork chop with a variety of mushrooms and noodles.

In Austria, lunch is usually the biggest meal of the day. As usual, we got our food served to our seats. The staff is competent and friendly, no complaints there. We had some kind of broth with eggs in it, a bowl of salad, a pork chop with mushrooms and noodles, and some kind of yoghurt jelly like substance that tasted faintly of lemon. Quite a normal lunch, just like you could have it at any cafeteria at work.
Still, I’m a bit surprised by the approach they take to the whole eating habits thing. All my life I had been told that dieting was bad, that several small meals a day are better than a few larger ones, and so on. Here they give you the feeling that, yes, you are on a diet (1100 calories!) and that you need to lower you expectations as to the quality as well as the quantity of the food. It’s not that it’s downright disgusting, but you can clearly taste where they left out those additional calories. So far, I’m not sure I will be able too keep it up when I’m out of here.
Since we had nothing special to do all afternoon, we went on another walk.
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Oh, yes, supper will be some bread and cheese. Just about what I would have had anyway, only less of it. After that I will get my schedule for tomorrow. Hopefully things will speed up a little.

SKA Alland, my home for the next three weeks
SKA Alland, my home for the next three weeks

Somewhere in the Vienna Woods, close to small town Alland, there is a rehab clinic that specialises in cases of obesity and diabetes. Since my weight has been exploding lately and my GP was really concerned, I saw no alternative but to check in. So here I am, hoping for a breakthrough.

The first day was close to what I expected. I had to be here before 10AM (actually made it shortly past 8, yay!) for various check-ups, which showed what we already knew. The highlight was a long talk with one of the doctors, who really took the time and listened to my rather long litany of ailments. I don’t think I’ve ever had the opportunity to tell all of them to a physician at once – there just never is the time. And I’m telling you, I’m a wreck!

Together we decided on a set of therapeutic measures I will undergo the next weeks. I’m here until the 8th of November, so there’s plenty of time. A lot of it has got to do with exercise – hiking through the woods, swimming, that kind of stuff. But there are also several therapies for my joints and a session in the kitchen. I’m looking forward to that.

In addition, they’re offering psychotherapy, since problems like mine are rarely purely somatic.

Of course, I also had to pay a visit to the dietician. No surprise there: I’m getting three meals a day, providing a grand total of 1100 calories. Except today, because I had no breakfast, so make that 900 calories. This better work, or I’ll be pissed.

Off we were to lunch, and that was it for the day, except for a 20 minute introduction and welcome speech. There will be another one on Thursday, BTW. I’m saying we, because I already met a few nice people.

That left the afternoon free for me to take a couple pictures. The woods are really beautiful this time of year.
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