About Us

May 2010
My name is Aaron Morgenstern, and I’m a 30-year-old music teacher in Billings Montana.  I’m married to a wonderful wife and we have a two-year-old son.  I play in two bands, one as a saxophonist in a ten-piece classic rock band, and as a guitarist in a Celtic/Bluegrass/Whatever-We-Want-To-Play band.  I also sing in a semi-professional vocal ensemble.  These three activities, being a father and husband, and my day job take up most of my time, much to the chagrin of my wife.  View Blogger Profile

October 2010
I have made very little time over the last eight years to take care of myself.  I wasn’t in great shape in college, but I was young enough to be able to rock climb on a regular basis and play Ultimate Frisbee with my friends twice a week, eat pizza, and still keep my weight reasonably low.

That all changed when I started my career.  Being a band director is a great job.  I love working with high school students, crazy, I know.  Unfortunately, music at the H.S. level is a HUGE time commitment.  It’s not uncommon for me to be to school by 7:30 in the morning and not get home until 10:30 or so in the evening.  Between concerts, pep band, and other music trips, the hours can be quite long.  I still love it, but it has caused me to pay very little attention to my health.

I weighed somewhere around 200 pounds when I started teaching.  This year, at the end of the school year, I tipped the scale at 230 pounds.  YIKES!  I didn’t feel all that well anymore, and when I would play ultimate frisbee or rock climb I could hardly move the next day.  There was also my my wife and son to consider.  Being a parent has completely changed my perspective on life.  I love being a father and I love my son.  I realized that if I didn’t do something now about my health, my son could potentially lose me to some horrible disease long before he should.  There is a strong history of type 2 diabetes on both sides of my family.

My wife has gently be prodding me to do something about my weight and health for several years.  (Ahem.  The Editor, I mean, wife, wasn't exactly gentle.)  My biggest excuse was not having the time to do it.  Sounds familiar, right?  My doctor has a great quote in his office:  “People who don’t make time for diet and exercise now will have to make time for illness later.”  That was me.  So, I finally decided to do something about it.

My sister in-law had a copy of Tony Horton’s Power 90 fitness program.  She lent it to me and I’ve been using it for about a month and a half now.  I was going to buy his P90X program, but it’s hard to say no to free.  I’ve actually been able to stick to it.  It was hard at first, I was a lot more out of shape than I thought I was.  I was pretty much constantly sore the first week.  I felt just like I did after I would go out a play a game of frisbee or some other physical activity.  But it kept getting better, each week I wouldn’t be quite as sore and I started to notice that I felt better.  I had more energy, which is good for keeping up with a two-year-old, and the workouts have gotten easier.

I finished Power 90 at the beginning of August and as of October 18th I've lost 32 pounds!  Figuring out how to keep healthy habits during the school year will be tricky between eating fast food on every pep band trip and trying to make time for workouts in an insane schedule.

But, I finally feel up to the challenge.  Getting in shape has become a bit of an obsession.  ("A bit?" the Editor asks, thick with sarcasm.)  My younger sister just ran a half-marathon.  I’m starting to think it might be possible for me to do that at some point in the future.  As of right now I’m very motivated and excited about how I’m feeling and starting to look.  Good luck to all of you on your own journeys.  Let me know how you are doing.

(The Editor) Janet

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "to talk of other things...."

Just like millions of other people, I've always been at least husky, and lately, I'm overweight.  I managed to get out of Obeseland last summer when I got all of the baby weight off, but I'd still like to get to a healthier weight.  Just warning you, I'm not making fun of fat people.  I've almost always been one, and I have to find the funny side, or else I would cry.

Even as a grade schooler, I wanted so badly to be skinny like the other little girls.  They made fun of my identical twin and I a great deal, as were not only bigger than them, but my Mom made all of our clothes and I let my dad come up with my show-and-tell items.  "This is a model of a carbon dioxide molecule," I said in a little voice.  "Notice the single bond between the carbon and oxygen atoms...."  Looking back, I was a pretty normal size, but I didn't see it that way.  I saw my grandmother and mother struggle so much with their own weight that it was constantly on my mind.

My BMI was on the high side of the normal range all through junior high and high school, but the difference between me and my peers was even more obvious.  Gym class was hell.  It always made me achy to run, and I was so tight and uncoordinated.  In no other class do the teachers demand that you fail spectacularly in front of a crowd of kids who are sharpening their wits by coming up with devilishly wicked descriptors of your ineptitude.  Did someone write The Gym Bible and I missed the memo?  “Thou shalt maketh thy fat kids, nerds, and geeks climb ropes up to the heavens, for they shall be purified by humiliation.  Woe to ye who have mercy and pickest them for kickball first.  Thou shalt humble them by picking them last, lest they grow confident and sure and no longer help thee with thy math homework out of the vain hopes of making friends.  Yeah, though you tread through the valley of the shadow of obesity, thou shalt fear no doughnuts, for they have all been devoured by thy chubby ones.”

The pain that had been irksome in gym class began to spread and intensify in college.  First I lost the ability to tilt my head back.  Then my wrists and hands were painful.  I had sciatic nerve pain racing down my legs.  The muscles between my ribs would spasm so hard I couldn't breathe.  All this began while I was still a healthy weight, though, so I couldn't figure out what was going on.  I had tons of diagnoses:  TMJ, malformation of the spine, depression, anxiety, tendonitis, etc.  I was seeing a chiropractor, which helped, but the relief never lasted very long.  I was plagued by poor memory.

A few years and another surgery later, I'd had enough and went to see a spinal surgeon.  He said I was indeed deformed with a minor type of spina bifida, but I shouldn't even notice it.  He sent me to a rheumatologist.  Finally, I had a diagnosis that explained everything:  fibromyalgia.

What's fibromyalgia?  It changes depending on who you ask.  Remember how achy and stiff your muscles felt when you had a very high fever?  That's how I always feel.  Medication helps, but doesn't keep me symptom-free.  I've been doing exercise programs for the last few years.  It's incredibly difficult.  If I do too much, I don't feel it for several hours, so I have no way of knowing at the time that I need to slow down or stop.  If I do too much for too long, I have what's called a flare, when the symptoms are so out of control that I can barely move.  Flares typically last a week or so, and it makes working as a general music teacher hell, especially since I have to travel to all of the teachers' rooms to have my classes.

I am able to do the Sculpt circuit on Power 90 without much difficulty because it is low or no impact.  I just have to be very careful with push-ups to keep from flaring my shoulders.  The Cardio circuit is another thing all together.  Bouncing, especially side to side, sucks, so I ride a bike or go swimming on the cardio days.

It's hard, but it's worth it.  I'm not getting a dramatic transformation like Aaron, but I do feel better.  I'm so impatient to transform into the woman I want to be, and it can be very discouraging to make no progress.  So, if you're out there and struggling, I feel your pain.  I hope you can reach your goals, just like I hope to reach mine. 
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