Mario Villalobos


When Problems Are Really Solutions

Bessel van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score:

[Dr. Vincent] Felitti points out that obesity, which is considered a major public health problem, may in fact be a personal solution for many. Consider the implications: If you mistake someone’s solution for a problem to be eliminated, not only are they likely to fail treatment, as often happens in addiction programs, but other problems may emerge.

One female rape victim told Felitti, “Overweight is overlooked, and that’s the way I need to be.”


“The idea of the problem being a solution, while understandably disturbing to many, is certainly in keeping with the fact that opposing forces routinely coexist in biological systems… What one sees, the presenting problem, is often only the marker for the real problem, which lies buried in time, concealed by patient shame, secrecy and sometimes amnesia—and frequently clinician discomfort.”

When I read this yesterday, I felt deep, deep shame. Up until the end of 2011, I always battled with my weight and my self-image. I ate all the time, even when I wasn’t hungry. I ate when I was bored, when I watched TV, when I was with friends. I ate when I hated myself, when I wanted to die, when I wanted to numb the pain. I’m 5’8”, and at my heaviest, I weighed over 230lbs. I had failed so many times in trying to keep my weight in check, and each time I failed, I ate and ate and ate.

But then that all changed. I wish I could remember the mindset I was in when it did, but I can’t. Not really. One day it just clicked: I want to lose weight, and I want to live healthily, and if that means a pound a week, a few pounds a month, so be it. This isn’t something I wanted to do in 10 days and then just stop; this was something I knew would be a lifelong endeavor, and at time time, that made complete sense to me. So I just started.

Slowly at first. I only worked out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and I did simple resistance band training. I did what I could, knowing that I was in it for the long haul, and I decided to only weigh myself once a week. What I wanted to see was a steady decline in my weight, regardless of the number. My arbitrary goal at the time was to lose a pound a week. It didn’t happen the first month. I think I only lost two pounds that first month, but I had a month’s experience under my belt, and that made the next month a bit easier. I started to feel stronger, healthier, and more excited to start my next workout. That next month I lost the four pounds I wanted to lose, and then it snowballed from there.

From December 2011 to April 2012, I lost over 60lbs. Each new milestone propelled me to the next one, and I’ve been living healthily ever since. I’m at my ideal weight range, which is in the mid-170s, and I have no intention of ever stopping. I have over 10 years of experience built into my system now and stopping means sadness, means depression, means death. During the past decade, I have noticed myself stopping when in front of a mirror because 1) I like how I look, but also 2) I sometimes don’t recognize myself.

I felt shame when I read that passage above because I have sometimes thought to myself, whenever I’ve seen an overweight person, why they don’t do what I did and just lose the weight. I know this is awful, and my hands are trembling a bit as I’m writing this, unsure whether I should just delete this section or not, but it’s true. I only remember the results, the consistency, the routine of it now, but I don’t always remember all the pain and hardship I had to endure before I decided to make the change and how everyone is different. How everyone is battling their own demons, their own personal hells.

And then I read the next section:

But when the ACE study data started to appear on his computer screen, he realized that they had stumbled upon the gravest and most costly public health issue in the United States: child abuse. He had calculated that its overall costs exceeded those of cancer or heart disease and that eradicating child abuse in America would reduce the overall rate of depression by more than half, alcoholism by two-thirds, and suicide, IV drug use, and domestic violence by three-quarters. It would also have a dramatic effect on workplace performance and vastly decrease the need for incarceration.

In early 2020, before I ever heard of the coronavirus, I befriended a little girl named Zoe. She is the sweetest person I’ve ever met in my life, but what I didn’t know when I met her was her past. When she was much younger, she witnessed something truly horrific, something that no one should ever ever see. She and her brother were both taken from their parents and adopted by a lovely family, but the memories of whatever she saw infected her in ways that make her a “troublesome” student. She lashes out in class sometimes, and other times she just shuts down without any discernible reason.

So I bought The Body Keeps the Score because I wanted to learn more about trauma, specifically childhood trauma, but then the coronavirus shut the world down, and I didn’t see any of the kids, particularly Zoe, for months and months. So I kinda forgot about the book. Last spring, I did attend a Zoom meeting that dealt specifically with childhood trauma, and I earned a certificate and everything, but without putting it into practice, I kinda forgot what I learned. Like others, I focused on other things, and when school started again in the fall, we were all more concerned about wearing masks and social distancing than paying attention to the mental states of our students.

Throughout the year, I’d been checking in with Zoe more and more, and to me, she seemed okay. She even gives me hugs whenever she sees me. It’s funny because there was one time last week when she saw me, she said, “Just give me a hug,” and she wrapped her arms around me and hugged me. It was so funny and so sweet that it was then that I remembered this book. I wanted to know if there was something in what I was doing that was helping her in some way. I’m about halfway through the book now, and I may be getting hints here and there about how to help children with childhood trauma, but I’m not quite there yet, so I’m not sure if what I’m doing is helping. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. All I know is that I’m committed to this topic and to Zoe and other children like her.

This is a lifelong endeavor, and I’m in it for the long haul.

Progress Update

Four months ago I set a goal to lose five pounds. That might not seem like a lot, but for me, I didn’t like the trajectory I was heading in, so I needed a goal to change things. As of today, I’ve lost six pounds, and things are looking up. My Apple Fitness+ trial ends soon, so next week I’m going to hit the weights and do 8 weeks of LIIFT4. After that, I’m going to do 6 weeks of 10 Rounds then 8 more weeks of LIIFT4. This will take me into mid-August or so (assuming I don’t waver once). I’ll see how I feel then to determine what I might do. Maybe 10 Rounds again?

I’m not sure which fitness subscription I like best. I’m used to Beachbody On Demand, but I liked Apple Fitness+, too. Again, I’ll see how I feel then, and I’ll figure it out.

I’m on my final two weeks of my Apple Fitness+ trial, and here’s my upcoming schedule:

Day Workout
Monday Strength
Tuesday HIIT
Wednesday Yoga
Thursday Strength
Friday HIIT
Saturday Rest
Sunday Rest

I’m using 25lbs dumbbells for the strength workouts, which for some workouts has been at the limit of my strength. I keep a pair of 20s close by, just in case. I haven’t done a HIIT in a couple of weeks because I’ve been focusing on Strength, so returning to it should be interesting.

So far, I really like Apple Fitness+. My conundrum is that I have a year’s subscription to Beachbody On Demand that doesn’t expire until October. I do like it, and I know the next one or two workouts I want to do in BOD once my Fitness+ trial is over, but that won’t take me into October. I want to subscribe to Fitness+ but my “responsible” self is telling me to wait. So for now, I’ll wait.

I Got My First COVID-19 Vaccine Shot Today

And I feel fine. It was the Pfizer one, so in three weeks, I have to come back and get the second shot. The entire process was quick and easy, and I couldn’t be more proud with Tribal Health and the entire health staff that helped get all this setup. I live on tribal land, so of course the vaccine clinic was setup at one of our local casinos. Funnily enough, this was the first time in my entire time I’ve lived in Montana that I’ve entered this casino, but getting the chance to get a vaccine was one bet I was happy to make.

After I checked in and filled out all my paperwork, one of the nurses led me to the nurse who would be giving me my shot, and to my surprise (and relief), it was my old friend Hope. I hadn’t seen her in years. We used to fight fires together, and she was actually my first squad boss on my first fire. When I knew her, she was an EMT, but now, she’s a few months away from becoming a nurse. It was really good catching up with her, and I was very glad she was the one to give me the shot.

She told me about some of the side effects I most likely will feel tomorrow, but I’m not worried about it because I’m pretty good with pain. Once I got the shot, I was directed toward another nurse, and she gave me a timer with 15 minutes on it. I sat on a chair and waited the 15 minutes, and since I felt fine, once the timer went off, I went home. At the moment, I still feel fine. In fact, I feel ecstatic. I’m so glad I’m getting vaccinated from this godforsaken virus, less than a year since Montana first went on lockdown. Modern science is incredible.

This is a working draft of my planned Apple Fitness+ workout schedule:

Month 1 Week 1-2 Week 3-4
Monday HIIT Strength
Tuesday HIIT Strength
Wednesday Yoga Yoga
Thursday HIIT Strength
Friday HIIT Strength
Saturday Rest Rest
Sunday Rest Rest

Each workout is the 30 minute version, and I’ll add a Mindful Cooldown if the workout was particularly intense. In month 2, I’m thinking of mixing it up between HIIT, Strength, and Yoga, and maybe doing the 20 minute versions of these workouts and adding 10 minutes of Core to the end of them.

I’m really just thinking aloud here, but I’m really absorbing the benefits of showing your work, even if it is my workout schedule.

I love HIIT workouts. I love the fast-pace and the buckets of sweat. In school, I ran the 100, 200, and 400-yard dash. I wasn’t the fastest and I didn’t break any records, but I loved it all nonetheless.

Over the weekend I had some weird dreams. Checked the Health app and saw this:

My resting has been in the mid-40s for years, but I’ve never seen it go down to 34 bpm. That’s crazy! Okay, time for some yoga.

I decided to fully test out Apple Fitness+ this week. On Monday and Tuesday, I did two 30-minute HIIT workouts and felt great after each one, but today I’m sore as hell. I think today will be a good day to try a yoga session before finishing the week with two more HIIT workouts.

Page 1 of 2