About Denise

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The Future

When I started to blog, close to 12 years ago, my life was very different. Even in the last year, things have changed a lot for me, in so many lovely ways.

  • The need to lose weight is no longer a constant companion – I lost just under 100 pounds and am happy (most days!) with the way I feel in my body
  • My diabetes is well controlled
  • I have achieved a balance that works well for me between saying yes to social activities and taking time for myself
  • I am taking classes for a certification in Digital Marketing, something I have been interested in for some time and would like to explore professionally in the future

The good news about these changes is that I am so much happier now – not every minute of every day, but more often than not – and I enjoy my life tremendously.

For this blog, the changes in my life have led me to think about whether writing here is still something I want to do. As I mentioned earlier, I weigh all of my commitments carefully to make sure that I don’t overwhelm myself – even with things that would be fun – and this blog used to be a major commitment of time for me.

In thinking through things, I’ve come to a few conclusions:

  1. I still want to write. Writing makes me happy and I enjoy it, so that’s good.
  2. I don’t want to write about my personal life anymore – it’s pretty boring at this point anyway but more than that, it just doesn’t feel like a good use of my time.
  3. The story of how I went from a morbidly obese, seriously depressed couch potato with out of control Type 2 diabetes to where I am now is interesting to a lot of people who don’t know me in real life.
  4. I don’t see a lot of people writing about how to manage Type 2 diabetes, depression, and obesity – I can bring a fresh perspective to the online discussions about these topics.

So, I’ll be writing here regularly from now on, with a focus on how to manage chronic diseases and live a healthy life. My initial goal is to post at least once a week for a month and see how that works with the rest of my life.

I am grateful beyond measure for the support many of you have shown me as I’ve struggled to make sense of my life; I hope you’ll still find something worthwhile in what I choose to write in the future. If you’re interested in more of the personal side of things, you can always follow me on Instagram, where I share lots of goofy things that happen to me during the day.

Diabetes and exercise: A powerful combination

The biggest factor for me in taking control of my Type 2 diabetes has been making moderate physical exercise – primarily walking – a part of my daily life. While changing what I eat has certainly helped that effort along – it takes less effort for my body to burn off smaller amounts of food than it did when I used to binge eat with every meal – it’s the regular exercise that has made the biggest difference. Alongside eating less, getting exercise in daily makes it easier for my body to metabolize food without boosting my blood glucose levels in response.

This video describes an annual public service campaign aimed at increasing both blood glucose testing and short amounts of daily activity for diabetics of all kinds, including Type 2. Next month, November, is National Diabetes Month and diabetics of all kinds, from all around the world will participate in the Big Blue Test to prove – to themselves, their followers, and the folks who love them.

If you or a loved one are diabetic, please see this link for more information about how you can take part.

Exercising for diabetes control: Doing something scary

This time last year, I was dealing with pre-race jitters and preparing for my first duathlon. Tomorrow morning, I’ll complete my second duathlon and, while my preparation has been lackluster at best, I’m in a very different place than last year.

I remember being absolutely terrified that I either wouldn’t finish the event or would finish dead last. This year I have some of those same thoughts but they dissipate when I focus on what’s really important.

What’s important:

  1. My health & happiness – my blood work is amazing, my endocrinologist doesn’t want to see me again unless something changes, I’m being fitted for my permanent dentures next week because the dentist is finally satisfied that we’ve saved my remaining teeth, my life is generally filled with things that interest and energize me, and I have so much energy that even a really tough day at work doesn’t leave me wanting to bury myself in a hole and sleep for a week.
  2. My family – TCB and I have never been happier, I spend plenty of time with my mom and dad, and all five of the kids are doing well for themselves.

What’s not important:

  • The opinions of 899 women I’ve never met and who have no idea who I am, where I’ve come from, or how fabulous my life is.

So, if I have to walk more of the second running leg than I’d planned, who cares? If I’m the last person into the Transition area after the run and the last one back in after the bike, who cares? TCB and Candace will be at the finish line, waiting for me, and there will be yummy brioche French toast and Deep Stretch yoga class afterwards. It’s approximately 90 minutes of my life and I will survive – how else should a 47 year old with a full-time job, a husband, five kids, two grandkids, laundry to fold, and a house to clean look at an endurance event on a single day in the middle of an amazingly happy life?

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Happy Sunday (by the time you read this), friends!

Living With Diabetes: Remembering to take medication

I was approached by The American Recall Center to participate in “Talk About Your Medicines” month, a public service effort during the month of October. I received no compensation nor other consideration for this post and the ideas expressed are entirely my own.

talk about diabetes medication Living With Diabetes: Remembering to take medication

For several years, I took between five and nine different medications at a time as part of my Type 2 diabetes treatment plan. While I am currently able to control my diabetes with careful attention to what I eat and a physically active lifestyle, I know how vital it is to take medications as directed for effective diabetes self management.

I used several key strategies that helped me remember to take my medication:

  • Some of my medications – including Metformin, one of the most common medications for treatment of Type 2 diabetes – were to be taken twice daily, with food, so I purchased a small container with 14 separate compartments, to allow me to see at a glance if I’d taken my breakfast and dinner medications.
  • For my injectable medications – including Victoza and, later, insulin – I used a small, pre-filled pen device to inject myself once a day. The easiest time for me to remember to inject myself was at night, as part of my bedtime routine: I washed my face, brushed my teeth, moisturized my skin, and gave myself an injection in my abdomen, all before I went to bed.
  • My husband usually ate dinner with me and, if he didn’t see me take my pills, he’d ask if I’d forgotten about them. (This one can be touchy, depending on how you feel about others being involved in your diabetes treatment plan, but it worked well for us.)
  • I couldn’t take my medications as prescribed if I didn’t have them available, so I took advantage of my pharmacy’s automatic renewal service, which not only filled the orders before I ran out but also called our house phone with an automated reminder when it was time to pick them up. Combine that with the convenient Pharmacy drive-through window and it was nearly impossible for me to run out of my medications.

Living with Type 2 diabetes is stressful, regardless of whether or not you are taking medications as part of your treatment plan, and having strategies that work for you is critical to achieving control of your diabetes symptoms. Do you have techniques you’ve incorporated into your diabetes self management plan to remind you to take your medications as prescribed?

Diabetes & Depression: All in your head

It’s estimated that as many as 30% of diabetics also suffer from clinical depression. While the “which came first”/”which causes which” argument hasn’t been settled at this point, it’s clear that treatment and care plans for diabetes should make provision for the complicating factor of doing what needs to be done to avoid diabetic complications while simultaneously managing a serious mental illness.

For me, I believe the depression came first although the very nature of that disease – the distorted thinking, the lack of desire to do much of anything, the belief that I’m not worth the effort it will take to keep me happy and healthy – make it difficult to say for sure. I’m pretty sure that I was depressed in college, possibly even as early as my teens, and I wasn’t diagnosed with diabetes until age 29, so it’s likely that the depression pre-dates the diabetes for me. Given that I use(d) food to soothe myself when l’m in the middle of a bout with depression and that nearly all physical activity other than chewing and breathing used to stop when I was depressed, I would even call depression out as one of the “causes” of my diabetes.

Regardless of how and when they started, I deal with both diseases regularly: diabetes every minute of every day, depression at least once a month – every month – without fail. As exhausting as it is to keep my diabetes management mojo going on a good day, when I’m depressed it’s a whole lot tougher.

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Over the last 19 months, as I’ve focused on Project: Happy/Healthy Me, I’ve learned a few things that help me deal with my depression more effectively. Tactics that work for me include:

  • Recognizing that it’s back and that I’m depressed again is a great first step. When it’s really bad, this can take me anywhere from a few days to a week or more. If you have never experienced it, it’s tough to explain how that happens but remember that depression means that my own brain is working against me, creating thoughts that aren’t true but feel completely valid. Once some part of my brain breaks free to see that it’s just the disease talking, I can implement better coping techniques.
  • Keeping up my healthy daily routines as much as possible. I get quite a lot of physical activity and track my food intake every day, so I try to keep those habits going even when I’m dealing with the crazy thoughts that would have me stay in bed and eat simple, starchy carbohydrates for the rest of my life. That’s not nearly as simple as it sounds but it’s easier now that I make natural and planned physical activity so much a part of my everyday life. When the depression hits, I still go out before work each day but I might take a simple walk instead of incorporating jog/walk intervals. Both diabetes and depression benefit from exercise and walking is such an easy way to get my day off to a healthy start. Once I have a walk under my belt, it’s much easier to continue making good choices for my health even as I put up with my depression symptoms.
  • Calling myself out when I start giving small things more importance than they deserve. I overreact on a good, non-depressed day and it only gets worse when you add in the disordered thinking that accompanies depression. Suddenly, the fact that I haven’t completed any of my duathlon training planned workouts in a week means that I’m a terrible person and am destined to re-gain every pound I’ve worked so hard to lose. The truth is that I’ve been very active in ways other than running or biking and my fitness level will carry me through the event next month even if I never follow through on another workout from the training plan. (Not that I plan to skip another month of workouts, but with depression, anything is possible.)
  • Treating myself kindly, as I would a friend who was suffering with a chronic illness; skip the self-abuse. While it’s easier said than done, taking excellent care of myself while I’m depressed pays off almost immediately with improved mood and cognitive function. For me, this could mean going to bed a little early, using a favorite body wash with my shower, or scheduling a massage. If I pretend that it’s a friend who is suffering, this becomes more natural and less awkward.
  • Incorporating more mindfulness into my daily activities. Whether it’s yoga, quiet meditation, focused breathing, or simply focusing intently on my surroundings with each of my senses, the more I am present in the here and now, the easier it is to keep an even keel.

Even with these strategies, there is no “cure” for depression. Some months the symptoms are worse than others and at those times I call my therapist for a check in – somehow just talking with her brings a better focus on what’s real and what is not.

If you suffer from depression, know that you’re never alone, no matter what your brain might be telling you to the contrary. You are lovable and loved more than you know, so when things get scary, reach out and find help.

  • To find a therapist in your area, use this helpful website
  • Psych Central hosts an online depression support group which includes both message boards and weekly chat sessions. Depression tries to isolate us so being around others – even virtually – is a great way to put the disease back in its bottle
  • If it’s all too much and you just can’t bear another minute of feeling this way, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – it’s staffed 24/7/365 with trained professionals who will help you. Nothing – absolutely nothing! – gets better if you hurt yourself so don’t let this stupid disease win!

Just as with my diabetes, I know I’ll need to continue refining my depression self management plan for the rest of my life. There is no cure for my diseases but with careful planning, strong partnerships with medical professionals, and a little bit of luck, I’m confident I will live a long, healthy life.

Gaining weight and self knowledge

On June 14, before starting a 10 day trip to the southeast followed by a 5 day trip to Seattle, I stepped on my scale to find that I’d officially dropped belong 150 pounds and 26% body fat, representing a loss of 95 pounds and a 50% reduction in how much of my body is composed of fat since starting this journey in February 2013.

When I weighed myself last Thursday, seven weeks later, I saw 154.1 pounds and 28% body fat on the display; I have regained 7 hard-fought pounds and that weight is pure fat (as opposed to increased muscle mass). Given the way I’ve been eating lately, this was not a surprise to me, but it was – and still is – difficult to accept. One thing I’ve realized in the last 18 months, though, is that the lessons I learn when the path becomes bumpy are those that stick with me and form the structure of a healthier, happier life if I focus on finding the lesson in the experience rather than beating myself up for not being perfectly perfect.

So what will I do differently going forward?

  • Stop mindlessly eating sweets before bed – I convinced myself that I could have hundreds of calories of dessert every night because it was all low-glycemic and wouldn’t affect my blood sugar. While that’s absolutely true, extra calories add up over time and they aren’t doing my body fat percentage any favors. I’ll focus on fruit and nuts after dinner instead and see where that gets me.
  • Stop watching television with Mick after dinner – school starts back up in a couple of weeks anyway, so I need to get into the habit of reading and/or writing before bed anyway. Mindless eating while doing something mindless doesn’t align with my goal to live a happier, healthier life, so it needs to be replaced.
  • I’ve started taking one yoga class a week – anxiety is a regular part of my life that I’ve used mindlessness to “treat” for most of my life. Yoga encourages being present in my body and observing myself without judgment; I need more of that.

I’ve also been giving a lot of thought lately to what my goals are in terms of a happy, healthy weight and when to shift from weight loss to weight maintenance. At a Fitbloggin’ session this year, I was confronted by these questions as well as this troubling (for me) thought: what needs to happen inside my body for me to feel satisfied with where I am physically? I still haven’t wrapped my head around that one yet and it feels like a great topic for a session – or several – with Dr. Jennifer, my therapist; let me make an appointment to find out what wisdom she has for me.

Look, I wrote a whole post in MS Word without getting overwhelmed – perhaps there’s hope for this blog yet!

Giving it a go

I compose blog posts in my head while I walk in the mornings. While they never seem to make it to the screen here, trust me when I tell you that they’re filled with angst and wisdom, and would probably make great reading. The process of getting them from my brain to the blog just seems like too much effort most days, in a life where every decision about what to do (and what not to do) starts with the question, “Will this thing that I am contemplating help me create a happier, healthier life?” When held to that standard, many activities that previously formed the routine of my life have fallen off my plate, blogging included.

It didn’t used to be that way, though, so what’s changed? Well, I have changed, for one. I’m not a single girl with no one at home to spend time with. Running, biking, Pilates, walking, and now yoga take up the majority of my discretionary time. Blogging has changed, too – so much focus is put on publicity and writing about things that will appeal to the larger audience. Back when I started blogging, it was about sharing your thoughts about life with whoever showed up to read them, with emphasis on the honesty and quality of what you produced, rather than how many people commented or tweeted or shared it on Google.

For a long time, I’ve allowed myself to be distracted by the shiny blogging objects that surround me when I sign into WordPress to write: SEO, categories, tags, keywords, featured image, publicity options. I get so overwhelmed with all of this that I tell myself “it’s too much work to blog, let’s do something fun instead”.

But then the thought occurs to me that if I pretended that I was back in 2003, ignoring all of the distractions, and just wrote things down without worrying about who is reading or what they think of me? I used to compose my posts in MS Word then cut and paste into Blogger (my original blog lives on that [much simpler] platform) – I could do that again to see how it feels.

Until next time, then.

Project Happy/Healthy Me: June Review and Goals for July/August

My goals for June (and half of July) were:

  1. Work back up to run/walk workouts three times a week - Done. I’m jogging 3/5 of a 5K three times a week and it isn’t totally awful most of the time. We’ll call that a win!
  2. Continue to concentrate on clearing out one quarter of the garage, by myself, for 30 minutes per week – Umm, not much was accomplished on this one but then I never added the Google calendar reminder, either. (Let me take care of that right now.)
  3. Put myself on a clothing, shoes, and accessory spending freeze for the entire month of June. I did fairly well with this one, surprisingly, with only one small purchase – $15 shorts from Target when I realized that the shorts I’d already bought months earlier for my trip to Raleigh/Wilmington/Charleston/Savannah were now falling off of my hips – for the whole month. I’m now halfway through July and I’ve been trying to keep with it – only one dress from J. Crew (originally over $100, I got for $25), a souvenir tee shirt from our visit to Seattle (marked down from $80 to $25), and tops and shorts for yoga (used gift cards and rewards points).

Looking forward, my goals for 2014 have been published and they include:

  • Achieve a healthy Body Mass Index by weighing 140 or fewer pounds,
  • A waist circumference measurement of 30 inches or less,
  • Body fat between 23 and 33% (done – body fat is hovering around 26%)
  • Complete a 10K event in 75 minutes or less,
  • Park both cars in our garage at the same time

What I’ll work on for the remainder of July and the entire month of August:

  1. Take one yoga class each week. My hip flexors and hamstrings are SO tight and it’s affecting my running, Pilates, and overall happiness; hopefully yoga can help.
  2. Work in the garage for 60 minutes at a time, at least twice in the next six weeks. – I’ve put the reminders on the calendar, now let’s see how I follow through.
  3. Put myself on a modified sugar detox. All of the vacations we’ve taken recently have been wonderful and I’ve enjoyed the heck out of all of them, eating very well but not necessarily wisely. Nothing to worry about in the long term, I just need to get back to basics for a little while and focus on whole foods with as little added sugar as possible.

OK, your turn: what small things are you going to work on for the next 46 days to make your life happier and/or healthier?

Project Happy/Healthy Me: March review and goals for June

My goals for March were:

    1. Keep up the run/walk workouts three times a week - I was doing well with this one until the training rides for the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure bike event started getting longer and more intense. I found that my hip flexors were very painful when I tried to combine running with the high intensity and/or long distance biking workouts, so I chose to focus on just the biking until after the event. I was ready to start back with the wogging (walk/jogging) last week when I developed a mysterious shin pain accompanied with some really alarming, unexplained swelling, so I decided to take the week off. At this point, I’m hoping to resume walking workouts and my beloved Pilates Reformer classes for this week and see how I go before putting the wogging back into the rotation.
    2. Continue to concentrate on clearing out one quarter of the garage, by myself, for 30 minutes per week – Oh dear, this one has really not gone well – I haven’t had a decluttering session since February. Some of the reason for the slacking was the long bike rides I was taking every Sunday for my Tour de Cure training but the root of the problem really is my reluctance to deal with the unpleasantness of sorting through all of that useless clutter. I have a bad habit of just ignoring things I don’t want to face – hence the need to lose 110 pounds! – so this is just another manifestation of the same problem. As with my physical health, the cluttered mess of my garage makes me actively unhappy and is a silent reproach each time I drive in, so this must be dealt with.

Unfortunately, I never reported in or set any goals for April or May, so we’ll just move on to what I’d like to focus on for June. My goals for 2014 have been published and they include:

  • Achieve a healthy Body Mass Index by weighing 140 or fewer pounds,
  • A waist circumference measurement of 30 inches or less,
  • Body fat between 23 and 33%,
  • Complete a 10K event in 75 minutes or less,
  • Park both cars in our garage at the same time

So, where to focus my energy for June (and possibly July)?

  1. Work back up to run/walk workouts three times a week - As I explained above, I haven’t done any wogging since March, so I’ll need to ease back into it so as not to hurt myself.
  2. Continue to concentrate on clearing out one quarter of the garage, by myself, for 30 minutes per week – This one is proving to be very challenging, as I discussed above, but it’s simply too important not to keep trying. For June, I’m going to put my 30 minutes on our Google calendar so that I’ll get a reminder and TCB will see it as well. Once something is on the calendar with an electronic reminder, the chances that it will get done increase exponentially.
  3. Put myself on a clothing, shoes, and accessory spending freeze for the entire month of June. It’s bad, people – really, really bad – and it must be curtailed. I don’t know if any of you loved to play dress up with your dolls when you were a kid, but I did. I loved to pick out the perfect outfit, mix and match different pieces to see how they’d look, add just the right purse and shoes, then style her hair just so. For all but 18 months of my adult life I was morbidly obese and forced to make do with whatever the plus size clothing manufacturers deigned to offer in my size, so I focused my obsession on my accessories – let’s not talk about my jewelry, purse, and shoe collections! – because I had no other outlet. Now, however, I find myself blessed with my very own walking, talking fashion doll and I don’t want to stop buying her every adorable outfit that crosses my path. My side of the walk-in closet is packed in as tight as it can go even as my bank account dwindles, so this cannot continue.

OK, your turn: what small things are you going to work on for the next 30 days to make your life happier and/or healthier?

Dear Comrades: It’s been a little while since last we spoke

Way, way back, so long ago that it hardly seems real now when I think about it, I used to write blog posts as naturally as if I were casually checking in with a friend every day. Heck, I sometimes posted more than once a day if I had a particularly interesting – at least to me! – day. I didn’t worry about what anyone wanted to read, or about how it all came out, I just let words tumble onto the keyboard and the blog page. Somewhere along the way I lost that mindset and writing here became something I had to do and it had to be done properly, with tags and pictures and search engine optimization and all of that rigamarole.

I have a couple of lovely friends with whom I am supposed to check in every day to report how I’ve done on my Healthy/Happy Me routines, so I wondered if I could use the blog to do that since there can’t be anyone left reading here who isn’t a friend at this point. (Who but a friend would indulge me my long, unexplained absences?) So, with that, I give you my check-in for today:

Dear Comrades,

Where to start? It’s been a tough week, with lots of changes at work and odd pain with swelling in my shin, but I think I’ve done pretty well in staying focused on taking care of myself. The scale at Weight Watchers said that I lost 0.8 pounds this week but more importantly to me, my blood glucose testing results show no rise in my sugar levels even though I haven’t been able to walk or get any sort of real exercise since last Monday’s walking 5K – huzzah!

So, what have I done to keep my sanity – and maintain healthy blood sugar levels – without physical activity?

  • I’ve cut out nearly all carbohydrates other than fruit and vegetables from my eating. It’s not that I eat a lot to begin with but they’re completely gone until I can exercise enough to burn them off.
  • Keep close watch on the sugar content of the packaged foods I do eat. For instance, I have Greek yogurt every morning and used to scarf down 17-20 grams of sugar with the brand I was eating. Since I’ve been paying more attention, I’ve reduced that to 10-15 grams instead. Small changes add up, particularly with sugar and simple carbohydrates.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Water, tea (iced and hot), non-fat/skim milk (at least 8 ounces a day), and decaffeinated iced coffee are all keeping my body humming along nicely without the false hunger cues that can sometimes pop up when I’m actually just thirsty.

TCB and I are off to watch The Book of Mormon this afternoon and I still need to take a shower, so I’ll close here. Hope all is well with you and that you’ll share how you’re doing – any challenges coming up or recently faced? – in the comments.

xoxo Denise