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.

Garden Stuff

A few days after I shared the pictures of the beautiful blooms of the flowering cherry, I went out for a walk, and this is what I saw:

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Fleeting beauty, that’s what plants are.

In the background you can see those tall money plants. I had eight of them planted in various areas in the garden. I could see all their “money” seed pods starting to grow. And I could see why they would spread everywhere and why some people considered them a weed. I did not want a whole garden full of money plants. When I bought the seeds, the seed packet did not make them look five feet tall. And I did not like them well enough to keep them. So one day last week, I went out and uprooted ALL of them. They were blocking the view of some of the plants I really wanted to see.  I re-planted three of them outside the garden, in the forest, and if they grow there, fine. I will have a whole forest full of flowers in a couple of years. More deer food 🙂

These plants are so pretty! Lime green leaves with deep brilliant purple blooms. They seem to do well without a lot of sunlight. Sorry, I can’t remember the name.

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I am working on replenishing the shade garden. And for some reason, Noah has chosen to dig large holes here. So this is my attempt to deter him. You can see the little half-stomped heuchera there. I have a hard enough time with heucheras without Noah stomping on them. I got a couple of “Kong” coleus at the nursery because they were colorful. And that fern there–I’ve got high hopes for it. Its a maidenhair fern, but its from Australia, and its hardy to -9 degrees! and of course I had to get some of my favorite corsican mint. I don’t think I’ve ever planted it here–we’ll see how it does. Those spiky things growing there are, I think, the mini calla lilies that I planted last year.

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And lookie!!! The foxgloves have started to bloom. And can you see the surprise bloom in front of them?? Its an iris that I planted about four years ago that’s never bloomed. I was going to dig it up and throw it away last year, but decided to give it one last chance. I can hardly wait to see what color it is–its been so long I can’t remember what I bought.

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Yesterday I took a quick trip to the bay area to see my mom. I managed to fit in a very quick stop at my favorite Livermore nursery, Alden Lane. Just a beautiful place to explore.

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I only bought one plant for myself–one more addition for the shade garden. Its called a Jacob’s Ladder, and evidently its supposed to have some nice blooms. I bought it because I like the foliage.

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I am keeping busy, moving plants and other heavy garden things. Endless weeding continues. Lots of functional exercise going on! Hopefully I’ll have more to show you in a week or two.

Garden Report

The cherry tree! I remembered how, when I worked, I would take a walk on my lunch break, and go and stand underneath these two beautiful cherry trees. Those two trees were the inspiration for me to buy this tree. So I went out and stood under my cherry tree and tried to get some good shots. This is a flowering cherry (no fruit) and the blossoms are huge and fluffy. And pink 🙂

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I got a better picture of the fringed tulip. These were spectacular. I will be getting more tulips and daffodils from that John Scheepers company. All of the bulbs I ordered grew and bloomed. The daffodil, Narcissus Golden Echo, lasted forever! I went back and re-read the description, and one of the things they said about it was that it was “incredibly long lasting.”

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Then I walked over to get a picture of the lily-flowering tulips.

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I found a few pansies that Noah had not plundered!

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I turned around and thought that I’d take a couple of long views of the garden to share with you. the Japanese maples just glow in the early spring.

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And lastly, encouraged by Shelley’s new purchase, I bought myself a bougainvillea! Put it in one of my leftover big pots, and placed it near the fence. MLG even pruned up a couple of low hanging oak branches so it could get more sun. It will be an annual here, because it is not frost hardy. We had one when I was a kid in the Bay Area, and it covered our entire porch! I loved it.

Oh, and I couldn’t get a picture of it without the “Pile of things we might need someday” in the background… if the bougainvillea grows well, it might be able to hide that pile 🙂

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And that’s the garden report for the week. A garden this size takes a lot of time in the spring. I have spent a lot of time weeding and pruning and raking in the past few weeks, and very little time planting. I’m definitely getting quite a bit of that functional exercise!

P.S. I have to share a couple of pictures of the little girls. Every day I spend some time in the studio. The girls seem to enjoy spending time in their beds snoring while I stitch. Sophie, Bess, and Chloe got new sparkly collars. I looked at tons of collars, and finally figured out that the customized ones with their names on them were the most economical option!

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Little Fuzz (Zoey) likes to have a bed all to herself if possible.

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Something New!

Last Saturday I did something I’d been thinking about for years. I went to a bonsai class. Now I’ve loved bonsai since I was a kid. And when I moved back to California in 1986, I took classes from a bonsai master while I was in the Bay Area. Then I moved up here to the foothills, where its hot and dry all summer. Between the heat and the deer, I eventually gave up on my bonsai. Periodically over the years, I would buy little trees, and in fact I have quite a few right now still in pots. But bigger pots, where the roots won’t dry out so easily.

There’s been a notice on the checkout desk at the local nursery for years–bonsai class fourth Saturday of each month. FINALLY, I remembered to copy down the phone number, wrote it on my calendar, and actually went to the class. One of the motivating factors was this new drip watering system that we’ve put in. (That’s the royal we–MLG actually put it in.) When I was buying parts for the system, I saw “misters,” and actually bought a package. Those would be perfect for bonsai, I thought.

Anyway, off I went to bonsai class, and it was more wonderful than I could have imagined! The flyer said the teacher had some nursery stock for beginners to buy. I pictured a table with about 5 straggly plants on it. NO! He had probably an acre of bonsai trees of every type and style. Of course, the first two I picked out were “not for sale” and $300.00. Then I settled down and picked out a nice little tree for $20, including the nice pot! It is a Norway Spruce.

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There was a young woman there who was so friendly. We ended up sitting together and chatting quite a bit. (Side note: she is a world class power lifter–her deadlift is 440 pounds when she weighed 130 pounds!!) I went looking at more trees with her, and picked up a little Dwarf Persimmon, just because it was so cute, for only $5.

The teacher was excellent–gave two demos, and then spent time with each student individually. He is about 70 years old, and has been passionate about bonsai since he was 14 years old! He told the story of going to the state fair as a kid with his sheep, and seeing a bonsai master giving demonstrations, and said he spent more time at the bonsai booth than in the barn! There was also a man there who had a lot of experience with bonsai and we chatted a bit. He mentioned taking his daughter for horseback riding lessons in a nearby town.

This whole experience was so energizing, I can’t explain it. After I left, I had the thought that I was going to ask Dr. P if I could take horseback riding lessons after my knee heals! Another childhood interest that I gave up on. And the next day, while sitting in church, I had the thought that I might get a cello, and re-learn how to play. I played cello from third grade through being a senior in high school, and then foolishly sold my cello. Although, thinking back, I’m not sure it was foolish, because it might have sat and collected dust for many years…

Anyway, I don’t often try new things. There is only so much time in life for various interests. But this was such a great experience, I just might be more open to new experiences in the future.

More Scientific Stuff

Another issue of the Nutrition Action Healthletter arrived. And I discovered that I am just like those darn scientists–I have theories, and I love it when other people agree with me!

So. I have pondered forever and a day about why we as a nation eat too much and so many of us fall into the obese category. I just can’t get on board with those who vilify certain food groups. Having been in the countries where they can ONLY eat grains, that can’t be the problem. And I had come up with a theory–it had to be the ABUNDANCE of food available in our country.

One of the things I’ve thought about lately is that ITS STILL THERE. Here’s what I mean. You can convince yourself that sugar is the devil. You can abstain from sugar, and you can even get to the point where “sugar is too sweet.” (I did this and thought this on a diet in my late 20’s.) Guess what? Thirty years later, sugar is still there. And it still calls to me.

Related to my abundance theory:  In my last diet attempt where I lost 25 pounds in a year, I noticed that limiting the amount of food I keep in my house helped me to limit what I ate.

So, last week the Healthletter arrived with a large review of many dieting trials,   concluding that no one method of diet restriction or food group elimination worked very well. Their theory at the end was the extreme availability of food in the marketplace seemed to be the main cause of obesity in the world today. I loved that they agreed with my theory of abundance. Now, their emphasis was on the availability of highly palatable processed foods–you know, that fat/salt/sugar combo. But I say that its just the extreme abundance of all foods. I am living proof that you can overeat really healthy foods.

This morning I looked in the fridge. I have a lot of fruit right now. And I get a feeling of pressure that I need to eat that stuff before it goes bad. I have a lot of lettuce. Ha! I can hear you all thinking, “she’s gone off the deep end. You can’t gain weight from lettuce.” No, but you can gain weight if the way you want to eat it is with a lot of higher calorie tasty mix-ins and some really great salad dressing.

I don’t really have a solution for this problem, except to think about what you need vs. what you want when you go to the grocery store. You don’t have to get ALL THE FRUIT on this trip. It’ll still be there next week when you go back to the store.

The Garden and the Chicken Coop

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Let’s start with some pansies! I got so tired of Noah (and now Chloe) eating all the pansies that I decided to haul this big pot outside the fenced yard. Better to feed the deer than be irritated at my dogs. I found a little piece of portable fencing to try to protect it from the deer. Within a few days, there were a million blooms!

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I am so happy that the lilac is blooming so well this year. Last summer MLG, with my direction, did quite a bit of pruning. They say that lilacs don’t particularly like pruning. I guess we did a good job!

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Most of the blooms are too high for me to touch, but this is the best its bloomed in years. I am happy.

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And now inside the yard and to the right. Those tall plants are the money plants. They are way taller than I thought they would be. Their blooms aren’t anything spectacular, but its nice to see blooms early in the season. I like the shape of the plants and the leaves are very pretty.

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Here’s a close-up of the fringed tulips in that bed.

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The flowering cherry is blooming.

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And the Japanese maples look so pretty when the leaves first come out.

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I can hardly wait for these foxgloves to bloom!

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Another view of more Japanese maples. You can see my car there, and a truck behind it.

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The truck belongs to J. the Contractor. Yes! The time finally arrived for the construction of the chicken coop. He and his helper were here for an entire week working on the house and yards! Here is the coop with the first yard that was built between the wood shed and the coop.

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Nest boxes can be accessed from the outside, and are built at just the right height for me–no need to bend over 🙂

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Nest boxes from inside the coop. The rail in front can be removed for easy cleaning.

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And a little ramp for the chickens to get outside each morning. There is a sliding door (that I can close from outside) to keep them safe each night.

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I started worrying that the yard we planned would not be big enough for the chickens, so I asked J. to build a second yard behind the coop. Both yards are connected by a simple gate. You can see my house behind the coop, so you know where its located. I like that I will be able to look out my kitchen window and my studio windows and see the chickens.

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And I thought I’d end with a lovely neighborly story. My neighbor is a wonderful gardener. Over the years she has shared many vegetables with me. This year she planted a lot of tulips. And twice, before a big storm hit, she has gathered some tulips and brought me a beautiful bouquet.

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I wanted to show you the white interior of these dark tulips–so dramatic! Tulips last a long time in the house–who knew?!

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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 🙂