My Healthy Life

Hmmm. I said I’d write this post weeks ago. I have thought about it ever since then, but avoided putting it to paper. I remember when I started this blog. I couldn’t stop talking about healthy food, exercise, weight loss, weight maintenance. It was a relief to have an online group of friends who were interested in the same things. I didn’t have to worry about people rolling their eyes back in their heads as I prattled on enthusiastically about all this stuff. Well, its been twelve years since I first darkened the W.W. doorway, and ten years since I started “maintaining.” Yeah, that maintaining is in quotes, because for me maintaining has been a bit of a roller coaster. Up thirteen, back down to 100 lost. Up 25, back down to 100 lost. Now, currently, up 40. So that’s still a net loss of 60 pounds. And I tell myself that that is a lot better than almost every study I’ve read, which usually ends with the participants losing an average of 17 pounds over a year’s time. Most of those studies conclude after that one year period. Their information is basically useless for me.  If you only study what helps people to lose weight without studying what helps them to maintain that loss, you are providing false hope for so many people.

So…about what is working for me now in living the healthiest life possible at age 62. So many of the good practices and habits that I have learned about and applied over the years has stuck.

Food: From W.W. I learned about the evils of high fat foods (I don’t necessarily believe this any more.) But eating low fat is a way of life that has stuck. I enjoy the fresh taste of most foods without added fat.

From my personal trainer, Vickie, I learned about so many new healthful foods. I got a little more adventurous in my food choices. And I learned that good fats make food taste better 🙂

From friends, the internet, other bloggers, books, maybe even Dr. Phil(!) I learned lots of new ways of keeping fresh foods available, new recipes, new healthy food combos. I love to cook and experiment with food.

So now, I still shop the perimeter of the store (where all the whole foods are kept,) I almost always eat fresh vegetables and fruit. The meat I eat right now is salmon, chicken, and ground turkey. Just my current fav’s.

I try to listen to what my body is asking for. I’ve noticed that I am not as hungry in the morning as I used to be. So my breakfast is usually 2-300 calories, and that is enough to satisfy me until lunchtime.

I try to have a vegetable with every lunch. If I remember, I like roasting green beans, cauliflower, beets, rutabaga, or butternut squash. Lately, my favorite lunch is a simple strawberry smoothie. I get it ready and drink it on the way to the gym. 1 cup yogurt, 1 cup strawberries, spinach, splenda, cinnamon and vanilla. Very satisfying! Oh, that reminds me. That is one thing I have changed. For better or worse, I changed to using whole milk for my homemade yogurt. And I started using real butter sometimes. Do you want to know what I still do with that? When I put a new cube of butter in the butter dish, I mark the top in 8 even slices. That way I know how much a tablespoon is, and I can use 1/3 of that marked piece for a teaspoon.

I look forward to my afternoon coffee break every day, and I will admit that I still have a protein bar (Quest or Oh Yeah) with that coffee. These bars have 20 grams of protein in them. So that means dinner is usually simple and light. Most nights its meat and a vegetable. Most nights dinner is about 300 calories.  But who’s counting? 🙂 I am not logging my foods right now, but there is always a running total going on in my head. I am eating between 1400 and 1800 calories a day.

Lastly, I really enjoy having one diet Coke, a bowl of Skinny Pop popcorn and a small piece of chocolate after dinner.

So, you can see that although my food choices are not 100 per cent optimal, I eat a very healthy diet. I didn’t talk about grains, but I do have pasta very occasionally, granola on my yogurt sometimes, and of course, almost always breakfast includes some sort of whole grain. I don’t try to stay wheat free any more (wheat tastes good 🙂 ), and I do have sugar occasionally.

Cutting back to lose some weight would be great. But that is not happening right now. So continuing to make healthy choices every day is a good thing.

Exercise: as I’ve said before, exercise is very important to me. That said, I will admit that my knee REALLY hurts, and many other parts hurt as well. So I avoid walking, and my walks with my dogs have become shorter and shorter. All this is a good reminder to me that I really do need that knee surgery. Which is scheduled for July! I decided that I really wanted to get my baby chicks first, and they are coming in a week! I can hardly wait (for the chicks 🙂 ) This will probably turn into a chicken blog very soon.

When I take a walk and everything hurts so much, that makes me feel bad about myself. It makes me feel like I am a failure and that if I kept my weight down, I wouldn’t hurt and would be a more successful person. Intellectually I know that is not true. But that’s what it makes me feel like. So that is one reason I have had trouble writing this.

I love going to the gym and exercising hard. The bike doesn’t hurt, and running in the pool and swimming doesn’t hurt. The weight machines don’t hurt in a bad way, and I am working on increasing my upper body strength in preparation for my knee surgery. I go to the gym three days a week, and I’m thinking about increasing that to four days until I have the surgery. It just takes a big chunk of time out of the middle of my day, so that’s why I only go three days right now.

Sleep: Well, that is hit and miss. I know that my older friends (haha, I’m fast becoming one of them) cut out caffeine more and more. So far I’m not willing to give up my afternoon coffee and my evening diet Coke. But I go to bed at a normal time and wake up at a normal time. I rarely set an alarm. It seems like 7 hours is good for me. Sometimes a take a melatonin before bed if my mind is racing or I have not slept well for a few nights.

For a retired person, I think I have a fairly disciplined life. I start every day doing some sort of housework. And then I spend a large amount of time every day working on my art in my studio. When I am done in the studio, that is usually when I go to the gym or take the dogs for a walk. I spend most of the evening working on my quilted embroidery. Of course, I work a bit in the garden every day. I could do a lot more out there, but bending over… well, you know.

I hope this review is helpful for someone. I know it was helpful for me to think about all the healthy habits I have worked on and maintained over the years. I personally think that it is much healthier to eat well, exercise, and get a decent amount of sleep even if you never achieve your “ideal” weight.

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Those Scientists!

Even though I don’t write about it much any more, I think about diet and losing weight and healthy living all the time. I watch you tube videos, read online and magazine articles, and sometimes even buy a book.

And I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but I get exasperated at those scientists! They are so gung ho on their theories that they present their information as FACT. They seldom use the word theory in their presentations. So even though you may watch two doctors giving two OPPOSING presentations about the best way to eat and lose weight, both of them will be presented as fact, not as theory.

I listened to one UC doctor who said that sugar was the enemy. His concluding thoughts were reasonable–stop drinking sugared soda. Then I listened to a very popular doctor who thinks that fasting is the solution to all our problems. As a nurse, he made statements of “fact” over and over that I know to be untrue. And aside from his enthusiasm for fasting, he actually adhered to a paleo diet.

Then, I decided to buy the book “Body Respect,” because I realized that I was having issues with feeling very poorly about myself and I did not like that. The title was something I was looking for. However, the author, who is also a doctor, presented pretty much the same message that she has in her previous book (Health at Any Size.) And as a doctor she presented many “facts” about why being overweight does not affect your health. To be fair, the goal of this book was to try to convince health care workers to be more compassionate in their care of the overweight person. But being very overweight does take a toll on your health, IMO. Also, to be fair, just reading this book, which did not really teach me anything new, did manage to calm myself down about how I feel about still being overweight.

And then I got my Nutrition Action Healthletter. Before I got it, I had thought that I would say that I still appreciate Marion Nestle’s advice about healthy eating. And there was an interview with her about how scientists can be swayed by industry funding and their own points of view! One quote from her: ” All researchers have intellectual conflicts of interest.” 

Bottom line: Read a lot, but don’t believe that everything in print is truth. Experiment and find out what works and doesn’t work for you. Later this week I’ll write more about what is working for me now in living the healthiest life possible at age 62 🙂

There’s No Path Back

Have I ever told you about my obsession with This American Life? Its a podcast on NPR, and somehow I discovered it. It is the perfect program to listen to while I am working in the studio. The stories are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes informative, sometimes poignant, and always detailed. I listen to the archived podcasts in reverse chronological order, and I have worked my way back to 1999!! That’s a lot of podcasts, and I will be very sad when I get to the end of them.

One day I was listening to a story about aging. And they were interviewing a brilliant man, a man with a graduate degree in physics. He had spent a good part of his life studying space, time, and numbers. And now he had Alzheimer’s.

They told about his appointments with his Alzheimer’s doctor. At the start of each appointment they had the patients do various tests to check their cognitive level, and to see if the Alzheimer’s had progressed. One of the tests that many patients dreaded was the “draw a clock” test. And then the day came when he could no longer draw the clock.

It bothered him so much. He went home and spent hours and hours trying to figure out why he couldn’t draw a clock. The answer he came up with was something I couldn’t even understand–something about it involving three planes of thought at the same time.

And the interviewer asked, “why was this so important to you, to figure out why you couldn’t draw the clock?” And this brilliant man replied, “Because there’s no path back. I have to figure out the best way to move forward.”

I don’t know if that hits you all the same way it hit me. Because it applies to all of us, doesn’t it? There is no path back from the ravages of aging. Its up to us to figure out the best way to move forward.

I often think about how I started my weight loss journey. I walked a LOT. And now I don’t like walking. I avoid walking. I do not park as far away from the store as possible to get a few extra steps in–I circle the parking lot looking for the closest space, and look enviously at the handicapped spots.

I told you I was extra stiff after this last trip. That has lasted a lot longer than I think it should have. There have been other aches and pains that were not exactly associated with my bad knee. I fear that this is just the way its gonna be–every day one more ache and pain. Do I have really bad arthritis? Is it something worse–maybe a blood clot or bone cancer (gotta laugh at myself 🙂 )

Whatever it is, there is the realization that there is no path back. I will never have the knees I had 10 years ago. Heck, I will not have the body I had 10 years ago. Its up to me to figure out the best path forward. Right now that means being extra conscious of getting in all the helpful exercise I can–my PT exercises, the bike and the pool at the gym, and some short walks with the doggies. It really makes me feel better to do these exercises.

For all of us, this man with Alzheimer’s has given us a brilliant piece of advice–There’s no path back. We shouldn’t waste a minute longing for past times, past health, or especially past beauty. Its up to each of us to figure out the best way to move forward with grace and dignity.

Two Loops

Lately I’ve had a couple of thought loops running through my mind. I think it has something to do with turning 60. The loops do not intersect. It seems they run on separate tracks, although they are about the same topic.

The first loop is this:

I am 60 years old. I do not want to spend the rest of my life obsessing about food and weight and weight loss and weight gain and weight maintenance. I want to live the best possible life, the most meaningful spiritual life that I can. I want to enjoy a meal with friends, accept a treat when offered. I want to celebrate with food occasionally. I want to physically be able to serve God and serve others. I think often about Dallas Willard (the author I loved so much.) He lived the life I seek. “Dallas Willard would not obsess over food decisions like this,” I often think.

I am not talking about gaining weight back. But to eat this way, I need to be content to maintain at a higher weight range.

The second loop is this:

My back hurts. It would help if you lost some weight.

Yep, that’s the whole loop. While my back would not be healed by weight loss, I know for a fact that losing weight does decrease pain.

For a while, these two loops went through my mind on a daily basis. Each of them I acknowledge as truthful statements. But each of them requires that I make a decision and act on it. That has not exactly happened. One day I will follow one loop, and the next day I will follow the other. This, at least, keeps me maintaining my weight at this higher level.

You know, the truth is, that by “not making a decision to follow one loop or the other,” I actually have made a decision. For now, the truth is that I have made a decision to not actively pursue weight loss. To hold life a little less tightly. To live with a bit of pain and a little less angst. To still eat from a very healthy food template and to exercise on a regular basis. But to understand and agree that weight will not be lost this way. And for now, that’s okay.

Thin Enough

“Thin enough.” That’s how I described myself after seeing the trailer for The Quilt Show episode that I am going to be featured in this coming Monday. There are so many layers to those two little words. Because “thin” is not a word any normal person would use to describe me. At 5 ft. 1/4 inch, with my weight regularly fluctuating between 155 and 168, thin just doesn’t come to mind.

But following up on yesterday’s post, I am working on being satisfied with the weight I am. I am fast approaching 60 years of age (I KNOW, I can’t believe it either 🙂 ). I don’t want to spend the next 20 or so years being unhappy with myself.

I also feel a little pressure to meet a certain expectation–after all, this blog is about “living a whole and healthy life.” And on The Quilt Show blog, I am a semi-regular contributor as “The Healthy Quilter.” I think that pressure is a good thing–a form of accountability that I can’t escape. So I was relieved to see that I looked “thin enough” (and healthy enough) on camera.

I went to the doctor last week. We talked about my ongoing knee pain (yay–finally got the referral to go back to the ortho doc) and I told her all the things I am doing–walking, riding the exercise bike, P.T. exercises. And she said mildly, “well, maybe you should lose a little weight.” I took no offense at her statement. Its a good idea. Its just a little more complex than that. Because really what she should say is “maybe you should LIVE at a lower weight.” And to live at a lower weight would mean restricting my food intake to a degree that I am unwilling or unable to do at this time. I reminded her that it was not on her computer record that I had lost 100 pounds before she became my doctor. I’m not sure that meant anything to her. And so for now, even as a person who is facing eventual knee replacement surgery, I am thin enough.

Anyway, it is a very good feeling (make no mistake, I don’t feel like this 100 percent of the time) to be content with the way I look. Sometimes I try to think about what my perception as a 20 year old was of what a 60 year old woman should look like. I think I look better than that 🙂

Thin enough is definitely a term that needs to be seen in perspective. For a woman who spent well over 20 years weighing 257 pounds, I am thin enough.

Perspective

I know a fine young man in Haiti. He aspires to be a pastor one day. And a lawyer, because pastors don’t get paid in Haiti.

This is his house.

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This picture is burned in my memory. I remember wondering at the time if he could even stretch out full length to sleep at night.

I live in a 650 square foot house (soon to be 870 SF!)–small in American estimations. One day when I was struggling with a financial decision (could I afford to be “generous” in this certain situation?) I came around the bend in the road and saw my house. And it looked HUMONGOUS. Perspective.

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Would it surprise you to know that much of the time I still think of myself as fat–as no different than that 255 pound woman from 9 years ago?

And then one day, while rifling through my closet looking for something nice to wear, I came upon the only pair of “fat pants” that I kept.

DSCN0714 Perspective. Its a good thing.

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A Gazillion Calories in a Single Day

Isn’t that a song or book title?? Anyway, that’s what Christmas day felt like. I decided early in the day that that was the way it was going to be. It was very fun, but I still have to work at not having guilty feelings or negative thoughts about eating whatever I want. I did only eat a small dinner, since I was pretty much not hungry from all the other treats I’d been eating. And by the time I drove home that night, I was SOOO ready to start my regular healthy eating the next day. I made a plate of goodies for my contractor and that pretty much cleared the house of Christmas treats.

Yesterday, I went back to my normal eating habits and logged all my food in Lose It. I ate every 3 or 4 hours, and made sure I had food that I enjoyed.

The thing is, its become more and more clear to me, that it is my INTENTION to eat healthily and stay as fit as possible. I have a very clear vision of what I want my aging life to be. I also have a very clear vision of what I do NOT want my life to be. Its been a while, but its still very clear in my mind how I felt every day when I weighed a hundred pounds more than I do now. I can imagine how that old body would feel with 9 years of aging on it.

So onward into the new year. I’m sure there will be lots of new (and old) advice and hopes for starting a newer, healthier life. I guess my wish would be for everyone to think clearly about living a healthier life, instead of a life at a certain weight or wearing a certain dress size or looking a certain way. None of those things has anything to do with a good life.