FOUR YEARS LATER: An Update on The State of My Health

Photo courtesy of



THE STATE OF MY WELL-BEING (at least physical, anyway) SINCE MY HEALTH SCARE IN 2014

It’s been four years since I visited the emergency room at Kaiser Permanente in West Los Angeles with the right side of my head feeling like a rubber ball being squeezed and not having much feeling in the side and bottom of my right hand.

Four years since I was told that a stroke may be imminent, my blood pressure being 300/200 as I was put on an IV with my arm being squeezed every 15 minutes to monitor any progress.

Four years since that stroke scare resolved me to change  the way I took care of myself once and for all.

For anywhere from four to six days a week since, I exercised like crazy, doing cardio and designating Wednesdays as my “Weight Day”, when I hit the Nautilus machine in the downstairs gym at the clubhouse in my townhouse complex.

I also said goodbye to goodies like pizza, hot dogs, cold cuts, burgers and other red meats as well as to places like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell.

Not to mention sweet goodies like donuts and candy except for dark chocolate, even though I allow myself a little indulging on holidays like Halloween (which is today) and Christmas.

And taking two types of blood pressure medicine and a cholesterol pill, as my levels were high there, too – three medications in all.

Make no mistake, that health scare motivated me for one simple reason:

I didn’t want to die.




I have been eating more of this stuff the past four years. Photo courtesy of



OK, fast forward to 2018 – yesterday to be precise…

After getting some blood tests done the week before, I went to my doctor’s appointment at Kaiser to follow things up and to get a flu shot and a needed tetanus shot, as it had been a decade since the last one.

I had gotten my blood test results back a few days earlier, and they looked good, so it wasn’t like I felt I was walking to a diagnosis of doom and gloom.

The first thing the nurse did was weigh me, and after the four years of hard work in trying to improve my cardiovascular health;

Well, I’ll put it like this…

  • My weight on October 18, 2014:  330 POUNDS
  • My weight on October 30, 2018:  281 POUNDS

I had lost nearly fifty pounds in the four years that I have partaking in my health endeavors!

And I was fervently hoping and praying the previous night that my weight would be at under 300, because I wasn’t 100% sure!

When the nurse checked my blood pressure, well…

  • My blood pressure on October 14, 2014:  300/200
  • My blood pressure on October 30, 2018: 112/69

It just goes to show that the saying “Hard Work Pays Off” isn’t a lie!

The doctor and I chatted about my progress, I got a prostate exam (all clear there, too, which is good because my grandfather and my uncle died of prostate cancer) and my flu and tetanus shots, and went home.

The good news about my weight and my health have encourage and motivated me to keep going; today is my “Weight Day” as well as my stair master day, where I spend nearly a half-hour on that machine.

What has most motivated me to keep going in this health progress, as much as anything else if not more, are the pictures of me on Facebook taken during 2014 and before, where I look like Fat Albert, with my face all puffy like some king of obese monster.

My one predominant thought whenever I see shots of me during those days…

“Never Again”



A chicken and veggie bowl (which is my main choice) from Flame Broiler, a place that has helped me in my quest to get healthier and which I recommend. Photo courtesy of



Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not my intention for anyone to think of me as some kind of zealous health nut – I still partake in the occasional bag of potato chips, though I try to choose the lower sodium kind.

And whenever I see any ads from places like Tommy’s or In-And-Out, even though I gave up red meat, my mouth waters.

What has helped me is substitution, which I think is a personal key…

  • Sparking water – I prefer black cherry because it helps with gout prevention – instead of sodas
  • Fat free, sugar-free organic cookies (once in a while) instead of the regular, Chips Ahoy kind
  • Low sugar protein bars instead of the regular Snickers/Reese’s/Three Musketeers kind
  • Making sure I have some kind of vegetables every day, because I didn’t before.
  • Choosing to eat at places like Subway, El Pollo Loco and Flame Broiler, places that have healthy, lower sodium options rather than the Jack In The Box/KFC places


As for future goals, I’d like for my weight to ultimately be in the 250s to 260s pound range.

And for my blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels to not get as high as they were before I partook in this health and fitness program of mine.

I suppose there’s not much left to say, except to hold good thoughts and prayers for me.

And by the way, before I forget…

Happy Halloween!

Being that today is All Hallows Eve, you know I had to say that.

And yes, I’ll probably have a few of those fun size candies; I can’t lie there.

Though I don’t plan to have too many…


The fitness room that I work out in every week looks sort of like this, though it’s like a sweat box for much of the year and I look like I swan in my workout clothes afterwards. Photo courtesy of



My Weekly Fitness Routine in a Nutshell

Photo courtesy of




It’s been four years since I was in the emergency room at Kaiser Permanente with an IV in my arm, being well over 300 pounds with the doctors trying to lower my blood pressure of 300/200 down to prevent, what with the numbness in my hand and the squeezing sensation in the side of my head, what I saw as an imminent stroke.

Since that October night, when I was prescribed medication and was essentially ordered to exercise and change my diet,

While I’m not going to state that I’m a completely different person, I have made a real effort to change my lifestyle and eating habits, partaking of a workout routine covering the majority of days in the week and giving up processed meat and red meat altogether – no more burgers, hot dogs (even Dodger Dogs!), or even turkey (because I have a gout condition that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, the pain is so pronounced) for me, folks, although my mouth waters whenever I see a Tommy’s ad.

As well as all candy, donuts, and other processed sugar foods, going with the sugar-free/fat-free/sodium-free cookies at the “Healthier For You” table at my local Ralphs’ supermarket whenever the need is overwhelming.

One of the first things I did as part of this health improving endeavor was to give up eating at nearly all the big name fast food places like McDonald’s, Burger King and Jack In The Box; Flame Broiler, El Pollo Loco, and Subway – where I choose the healthier options like chicken and egg white breakfast sandwiches – are good alternative options there.

Oh, and I make sure I always eat some kind of salad during dinner time.

As well as partake in this weekly exercise/working out routine…


MONDAY: 800-1000 abdominal crunches, a set of 22 push-ups (in honor of the 22 military veterans who reportedly commit suicide each day) and 20 minutes of walking, mostly up a hill next to my house.

TUESDAY: 700-800 abdominal crunches, and 32-35 minutes on the exercise bicycle.

WEDNESDAY:  700 abdominal crunches, 24-25 minutes on the StairMaster, and (being that Wednesday is my designated Weight Day) 30 minutes lifting weights on the Nautilus machine, working on my upper body – biceps, triceps, forearms, chest, back, and shoulders.

THURSDAY:  800 abdominal crunches, running 45-50 minutes on the hill next door to my house, going up hill three times and climbing stairs three times.

FRIDAY:  My “Easy” day; around 200 crunches and walking 20 minutes to my local library and back.

SATURDAY:  I play a weekly pick-up softball game whenever I am able; I aim for at least 30 games per year. I also do about 40 minutes of walking.


And yes, I drink lots of water, the sparkling kind as well as the regular kind, as well as green tea.

Over these four years, it has gotten to the point where I feel that I’m missing something, or I’m neglecting something, or that I’m doing something wrong that can dearly cost me, if I don’t follow this schedule.

I do not and will not pretend to be a complete health nut, however, as the occasional bag of potato chips are still a vice of mine  – though I do make effort to choose the low sodium kind, and will continue to do so.

And as commendable and admirable as that lifestyle is, becoming a vegan is not for me as I would go through too much withdrawal from the chicken and fish that I opt to eat to get my protein; I feel that becoming a vegetarian or a vegan is strictly a matter of choice, and that no one should be judged if they choose not to be one.

When I was weighed six weeks after my initial hospital visit in 2014, it was discovered that I had lost 22 pounds, the doctor encouraging me to keep going.

I like to think that even though my body type precludes me from ever getting rail-thin, that my weight is now under 300 pounds as my clothes fit looser on me and I no longer look as much like Fat Albert in photos as I used to.

As far as weight and overall health are concerned, I know that I’m not where I should be, but I also know that I’m not where I used to be.

Which I think is a good thing.

I suppose the best description of my progress in this area can be summed up in four words…

“I’m working on it.”



I make sure I do this at least once a week, sometimes twice if I have time. Photo courtesy of



The Foods I MUST Have, No Matter How Broke I Am

Photo courtesy of




I’ll get right to the point, as there’s no reason not to do so…

Miracle Whip Light is on the top of my list in this category, as I use it on and in most of the foods I eat, light being my choice due to the fewer calories and fat.

I don’t eat canned tuna or chicken, or make any sandwiches that don’t include peanut butter, jelly, jam, or a combination of the three, without this condiment.

It can get costly, the average price being $3.50 to $4.00 at the grocery store I frequent.

But as I’ve said: I don’t care how broke I may be, I must have my Miracle Whip Light salad dressing, or else I feel deprived.

Salsa is another food type/condiment that I absolutely need regardless of lack of money, preferably the hot kind.

It’s been an essential staple of my diet for many years, and I’ve pretty much forsaken ketchup and barbecue sauce in favor of salsa in recent years because with tomatoes being the main ingredient, salsa is healthier for you; it has less sodium, sugar, and fat than ketchup, BBQ sauce, or any other condiment or sauce.


Another food I can’t do without. Photo courtesy of


Which is good news for me considering my hypertension condition.

I usually buy my salsa in jars at the supermarket, but there are two places where the salsa is so delicious, I consider it a true treat when I obtain it…

Campos, a Mexican restaurant chain which has several branches in the Westside region of Los Angeles, CA (where I live) and whose food I grew up on in its original location in Santa Monica, has salsa that I can just eat all day, it’s so good.

So much so that I get at least four cups of the medium-hot salsa every time I go get food there.

The other place where I buy salsa is a place that I don’t get to go to as often as Campos, just a handful of times a year, but whose salsa matches Campos’ in it’s level of deliciousness;

The salsa at Burnt Tortilla, a Mexican chain in the South Bay area of Los Angeles.


The third of my main food staples. Photo courtesy of


I go to the main branch of Burnt Tortilla in Gardena, where a friend of mine lives; every time I visit my friend and her family, I make it a point to go to Burnt Tortilla and get two large Styrofoam cups of their salsa, which lasts a few days.

Those large cups are not exactly cheap, costing $6.00 each, but it’s money well spent as far as I’m concerned.

Of course one can’t have salsa without tortilla chips, which is the third food I must have regardless of how little money I have available.

As tortilla chips generally have less sodium and fat than regular potato chips, it’s been one of my go-to things to eat as a snack, or even as a main meal when I don’t feel like spending any time cooking.

Eating chips and salsa, especially salsa from Campos and Burnt Tortilla, is something I can do all day if given a chance, and if it’s guaranteed I won’t get sick from eating too much.

Another thing I often do for nourishment is to mix light Miracle Whip into a combination of canned tuna and chicken, then get a bag of tortilla chips – Mission Tortilla Chips are my preference as their chips are sturdier – and go to town.

It makes for a simple and satisfying meal.

There isn’t much more to say about this, except for something I was wondering…

What are the foods that YOU absolutely MUST have, no matter how broke you may get?


My number one go-to food for snacks and (sometimes) meals. Photo courtesy of



GOUT (and other pains) AND ME, PART TWO

Not a lot of worse things than painful joints in this part of the body…


Being reminded that I’m a middle-aged guy, I’m not invulnerable, and that nothing is forever, particularly life on earth.

The past six weeks have not been fun for me physically.

At all.

It all started about a week after Easter, when I had a big chicken dinner late one night.

It was probably too big a dinner, (the reasons in a bit), but I was hungry and hadn’t eaten for roughly twelve hours.

Since chicken is my main meat staple as I had given up red meat and eschewed pork for years, I didn’t think much of any consequences – until the next morning when I experienced something I hadn’t experienced in three years:

Excruciating pain in the upper joints of my left foot.

As I had suffered gout attacks in 2014 and 2010, I knew what to do; I got busy drinking cherry juice and assumed that it would all be over in a few days.

Except it wasn’t, as although I not only cut way down on the chicken – which, as it turns out, while it doesn’t have as much purines (which is prevalent in turkey and which I gave up after my first gout attacks in 2010), the level of uric acid in the purines is enough to cause attacks – I cut down on eating in general, the gout pain not only persisted over the next several weeks, it manifested itself in two subsequent attacks.

A good example of the disability that gout causes was the fact that I couldn’t run, which ended any opportunities to play in my weekly pick-up softball games on a regular basis; I tried to play games twice; one game I had to have somebody run for me and the other game I had to leave in the 6th inning when the discomfort affected not only my ability to run, but altered my hitting to the point where I wasn’t effective.

In other words, I had to put myself on the “disabled list”, which I researched ways to get rid of my gout issues as fast as possible on the Internet.

One method, putting two or three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and drinking that concoction at least three times a day – gave decent results.

As did eating cherries, which is what I did last night after a dinner which featured a little chicken.

Thank goodness that I woke up this morning being able to walk better than I had before, because for much of the past several weeks I was limping like crazy and even needed a cane at times.

And gout was not the only source of pain as there are some mornings where I wake up and the area just below my right knee hurts, usually after I’m out and about as I walk a lot.

The pain usually goes away after I put some ointment on it and take a few steps, but make no mistake – it’s arthritis.

Thanks to research, I compiled a list of foods that will now be an essential part of my diet (some of them I’ve already been eating) in order to prevent gout, which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy it’s so painful…

  • Cherries
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Salads (increase consumption of these)
  • Lemon (add to water)
  • Green tea/Cherry juice
  • Low Fat Cherry Yogurt
  • Potatoes

I made it a point to schedule an appointment with my doctor, but if this improvement continues, I will be able to cancel it.

Which is my hope.


The big lesson learned here:

Not that I didn’t know this already, but now I completely,  wholeheartedly and emotionally understand that the older one gets, the more work one must do to take care of oneself and maintain health.

Along with the hypertension and high cholesterol, which I have been taking medication for, I am no exception to this general rule of thumb.

As such, I plan to exercise today.

Being that my 50th birthday is in less than three weeks from this writing, I think it’s essential that I continue to do what needs to be done in order to not die before I’m ready to.

Which I certainly hope will be a long time from now.


Some thing that I haven’t eater in seven years; a roast turkey – makes for Thanksgivings where I have to be a bit creative…




A good image of how I’ve spent much of my waking hours for nearly a decade now. Photo courtesy of



I reckon it’s true…

Time really does fly by.

I know it’s a bad cliché, but it also really does seem like yesterday that I was commemorating one year of this website.

In fact, the past few weeks have been full of commemorations as far as this Hartland Chronicles site is concerned as I’ve marked my birthday, written my 100th article, and am now – as of today as my first post was on July 7th, 2014 – marking my second anniversary of having my own blog.

I suppose it’s a good accomplishment and milestone, as I’ve been writing online for the past eight and a half years on various royalty and sports sites and merely felt that it was time to do my own thing and start my own site.

I’ve voiced my opinion on many topics, ranging from Asperger’s Syndrome and the progress of “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, my book detailing my experiences of having that form of autism in a non-autistic world (going OK) to movie reviews (specifically the Hunger Games series),

To stating my experiences and opinions on education and the teaching profession,

To political and racial issues,

To being a Christian,

To offering final farewells to folks I admire like Robin Williams, Prince, and Muhammad Ali.

Not to mention detailing the health scare that I went through in October of 2014, a scare that changed how I did things in my life.

Some may say that what I’ve been doing is not too much different from having a journal or a diary; indeed, before I immersed myself in the ways of the internet I kept a journal, writing about my life and my day-to-day experiences and happenings, for a ten-year period – 1993 to 2003 to be precise.

I realize today that it was essentially a diary, only I had no objections to sharing what I wrote.

I like to think that my writing has evolved since that time as when I look at what I wrote in those notebooks back then, as well as the stuff I did online for sites like Hubpages and Bleacher Report, I want to completely rewrite and overhaul more or less all of them, they seem so self-indulgent and “poor me” as far as my articles on Hubpages and Triond and too “rah-rah” as far as my sports posts are concerned.

I think my writings are better now, more objective and a little less emotional – except when it’s an emotional and/or personal issue, of course.


As for the future…

I don’t have any major plans for Hartland Chronicles as this blog is not going anywhere; though my sports fan blog, SoCal Sports Annals (here’s the link: gets much attention and a certain priority as it’s my business for all intents and purposes,

Hartland Chronicles serves a good purpose as it’s my way of expressing myself, getting my thoughts and feelings about topics and issues – personal and otherwise – out there and letting the world know that a (by American society’s standards) middle-aged African-American man with a high functioning form of Autism Spectrum Disorder named Derek Hart existed.

This site, my SoCal Sports Annals blog, and my WALKING ON EGGSHELLS book will be, for lack of a better term, the legacies that I will leave after I’m dead and cremated with my ashes scattered.

Which I hope is a long time from now.

In the meantime, I’ll go ahead and feel a sense of accomplishment over celebrating its two-year anniversary.

As well as look forward to its three-year birthday next July 7th.




I don’t know what my mental and emotional state would be like if I wasn’t able to do this. Photo courtesy of



THE UPCOMING HOLIDAY SEASON: My Weight and Health Challenges as Thanksgiving and Christmas Approaches


A Thanksgiving cornucopia with a quote that needs to be remembered. Image courtesy of




I suppose for anyone trying and working hard to lose weight, get healthier and stave off conditions like hypertension and diabetes, Thanksgiving and Christmas are by far the biggest challenges to one’s health ambitions.

As for me personally, I’m glad to say that my exercise regimen has not only stayed strong over the past year, it has recently increased as I have added another day of cardio to my weekly routine; I’m now doing some kind of running – either on some kind of machine or running around West Los Angeles College, which is built on a hill – five days a week as opposed to four with a day off.

The challenge I have is this time of year, which actually started on Halloween as I partook in eating a little more candy than I intended and continued doing so for several days.

As well as eat some wonderful egg nog cake.

Which is why although I didn’t get on a scale – and I make it a practice of not doing such as I prefer to go by how loose my clothes feel – I felt that I gained a few pounds over the past couple of weeks.

Here’s my point:

A significant reason I have increased my cardio regimen is so I can better battle the temptations that come with the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with regards to the enormous amounts of delicious food that will be readily available, especially between November 26th and December 25th.



Unless I want my foot/toes to swell up like a Macy’s balloon with extreme ice pick-stabbing pain coming from it, I can’t eat but maybe a teeny tiny amount of this during these upcoming holidays. Photo courtesy of


While I will be eating a very tiny amount if turkey if at all due to the fact that I have a gout condition and eating turkey causes excruciating pain due to that, plenty of other high-calorie comfort food goodies such as stuffing, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cookies, cakes, and pie, will be abundant.

And with my history of loving to eat, it will not be easy to avoid indulging myself in the bliss that the holiday yummies will bring to my taste buds.

Even though my meat of choice will overwhelmingly be chicken and tofurkey it it’s available, it will be at least a bit difficult not to overindulge in those delectables, too.

Putting it another way:  There’s a reason why gym memberships seem to increase after January 1st.

Perhaps if the only thing available during these upcoming holidays was fruitcake, a food I cannot stand and which I consider the only thing about Christmas that is bad, I would not have any problem with the possibility of overindulging.

In fact, I’d probably lose at least a few pounds.

Since that won’t be the case, however…

This holiday will be a test of sorts, as up until perhaps last year at this time, when I was just a few weeks into my exercise and diet routine, I ate whatever I wanted to more or less my heart’s content.

If I want to maintain whatever fitness level I’ve achieved over the past year and not have my weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol rise, stuffing myself with yummy goodies can’t be an option.

And with God’s help, to not eat too much will be a doable goal.

If there’s anyone out there who has any suggestions of how to not give in to the temptations of over-indulging myself with all those luscious foods this holiday season about significantly damaging my diet regimen, I’m very much open to hearing them.



Christmas lights in Merrow

Christmas lights in Merrow

Check out this Christmas light display! Photo courtesy of








Pondering My Mortality







For the past several months, I have been working very hard to improve my health by working out four and five times a week and changing my diet to include more vegetables and fruits, along with  cutting way down on, if not out entirely, foods I have enjoyed for years such as hot dogs, hamburgers, cured meats, and anything else with high amounts of sodium and fat.

This has been the case not because I’m some sort of health nut like those folks you see on TV, or because I’m vain or anything like that.

It was a fear of death that got me going on what I should have been a part of my life all along, as a stroke scare caused by extremely high blood pressure “woke me up”.

Though I had made progress – a check up in December revealed that I had lost over 20 pounds – after I had taken some blood tests it was also revealed after I had high cholesterol and was pre-diabetic.

And on top of everything else, I have been unable to properly walk these past few days as a gout attack has swollen the toes on my right foot and have rendered it painful to get around.

All of this has led me to think about something that I’m sure everyone has given thought to at one time or another, something that’s increasing pondered as one grows older:


Along with taxes, it’s something that I fully understand that every living being eventually experiences.

In fact, like I suppose everyone else – except for those unfortunate youngsters with cruel diseases like cancer or cystic fibrosis – for the longest time I knew in the back of my mind that I would eventually stop breathing, but because of my youth I never really considered it in the grand tradition of young people thinking they are invincible and immortal.

In the midst of experiencing these health issues of mine – which I reckon I’ll continue to have to deal with – more than ever I have realized that while I definitely have no plans or desires to die for at least another thirty years, these issues I’m going through has inevitably led me to consider the possibility that I may not have as much time left on earth as I would like.

Like Dr. Martin Luther King stated in his last speech before his assassination in Memphis…

“…I’d like to live a long life, longevity has its place. But that doesn’t matter to me now. I just want to do God’s will.”

With the greatest respect, I differ with Dr. King with regards to longevity as I admit that still matters to me.

But I’m in complete agreement with him in that I am doing, and continuing to do, what I can to improve my health, and after that do something else that is of the utmost importance:

Leave it to God.

Which is all I can do.

In other words, if the Good Lord decides that my time is up despite all my efforts to stick around, there’s nothing I’ll be able to do about it.

In the meantime, I’m going to eat some things that an article on the internet said will help get rid of this gout pain and swelling that I currently have, as well as do some abdominal crunches, which will tide me over until my foot is back in shape and I am able to do cardio again.