Pity, party of one

The six days since my oral surgery have been challenging.

My blood sugar was way up for the first day and that was scary but then it went back to normal and that was good.

I’m not allowed to workout. My normal routine is anchored by my daily workouts, so this has been challenging. I’ve taken a few VERY slow walks (~1.5 mph or less) with sitting down stops built in so that my blood pressure never rises.

I can’t eat much of anything. Tried rice but that nearly got stuck in the dental flipper/fake teeth thing that I’m not taking out until tomorrow morning at the dental appointment. Laughing Cow is a major win, though, as is Panera’s French Onion soup (no croutons or cheese). Went through a brief infatuation with Jamba Juice’s Peach Mango smoothie but having three in 24 hours was bound to end in antipathy.

But here’s the thing: I’m fine.

I’m a girl who likes my routine – hence sitting around quite happily for years without dealing with my medical & dental issues all while being 100 pounds overweight and diabetic – and this whole experience has been absolutely devastating in terms of my normal way of life. No morning latte. No trips to the gym. No brushing & flossing my teeth twice daily. No getting up and going to work. (Dread to think how bad my work inbox is after being gone for 10 days!) So I’m all over the place emotionally. And then there’s the whole “half your teeth are gone, luv – now what?” thing.

But I really, really am fine.

I forced myself to smile – really, really smile – at myself in the mirror this morning and oh-my-gosh, the fake teeth thing is beautiful. I’ve never had straight, even teeth before and wow, it’s sort of amazing. (Don’t want to think about what’s underneath the flipper and I don’t have to see it until tomorrow, so we’ll deal with that then.)

My blood sugar is right where it needs to be. No working out needed, just eating moderate portions of foods with plenty of protein and/or fat.

I lost about two pounds this week. I say “about two pounds” because I haven’t weighed in two weeks so I can’t be absolutely sure. I am sure that I weigh less now than I have in a very long time. I’m not exactly sure when I last weighed the same as I did yesterday morning but I think it was 2002. I definitely weigh less than I have the entire time I’ve been blogging. (Not just blogging here but also here.) I weigh less than I ever have in the time I’ve known my husband. I weigh less than my husband. (You can’t imagine how wonderful that is to be able to say!) The left-most number on the scale is so close to a new number that I nearly can’t breathe when I think of it.

In terms of Project Me, I’m only 5.5 points away from being merely Overweight on the BMI scale. I started February off 8 points higher than I am now and I still have six months left in the year! I had to send back a size 20 Petite jacket that I bought for FitBloggin (before I realized how blazingly hot it was going to be in Portland last week) because it was way, way too big. I just bought clothes from Gap, including jeans. Gap doesn’t have plus sized clothes, people!

This week is just another user story (aka mini-project) I needed to complete for Project Me. I am diabetic, I haven’t taken care of myself for many years including my gums, and 15 teeth needed to be removed so that I can be as healthy as possible. The depression tried to use this as a way to scare me into living small again, but I’ve seen through it and I’m gently reminding myself that I’m stronger than this oral surgery detour, that I’ve got goals for 2013 that I’m well on my way to achieving, and that part of living – really living! – is dealing with pain and fear and uncertainty.

me smiling 300x199 Pity, party of one

me, just as I am

So good news: I’m definitely alive. And even better news for me? I’m ready to write here again, so get ready to hear more about whatever comes into my head. I’m done worrying about what I ought to write and now I just want to tap-tap-tap everything. Ready?


The 13 minute catch-up post

I have 13 minutes before the next discussion session starts at Fitbloggin, so let’s see what I can tell you about my life in that amount of time.

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my view through the hotel window

  • I’ve done so-so with my June goals. I worked out most days this month but not a single strength training session and I never made an appointment with a trainer. I’ll do a real June Project Me review coming up soon but expect to see “work in some strength training” on my July goal list.
  • My blood sugar is fabulously under control. In fact, I’ve begun slowly reducing my nightly dose of insulin because I kept having yucky low blood sugar readings after (or worse, in the midst of) exercising in the mornings.
  • I’ve started an eight-week Learn to Crochet course and am looking forward to making loads of wooly things!
  • I hit the big four-oh. Forty pounds lost since February 1st. I don’t see it in the mirror but other people have started to notice, for what that’s worth. (I’ve also lost three dress sizes which is both gratifying and frustrating. Gratifying because I can wear clothes I’ve had stuffed into a box for three or so years. Frustrating because I forgot about those clothes for so long that they are now too large and have to go to the tailor. (Yes, too large is a nice problem to have.)

That’s all of the good stuff. For the not-so-good stuff…

  • Still battling the depression. It’s not going away but I’m still working out and still eating properly – I just do it with a piss-poor attitude and lots more whinging.
  • I will be having 15 – yes, really, 15 – teeth removed surgically on Monday. Turns out that diabetics have a much greater chance of developing periodontal disease, which would have been good to know when I was diagnosed in 1996 but whatever, and also that both my mother and grandmother have had major gum problems. So I have to have 15 teeth removed and I will have a temporary partial (aka a “flipper”) for 6-9 months that will look acceptable in normal life but cannot, under any circumstances, chew food. In other words, I will  not be able to chew food in public until after Christmas. I’ll pause a moment to let that sink in. OK, so now I have to figure out how to keep myself moving forward with my diabetes self management while I can’t eat food in public. Or chew meat at all, really. Definitely will give this more thought and words here.

How was your June? Any big plans for the upcoming Independence Day holiday (if you’re in the US)?

Project Me: April retrospective and review

My goals for April were:

  1. Make appointments with my optometrist and a periodontist – DONE. My eye appointment was on May 15 and my periodontal appointment was on May 22.
  2. Take 10,000 steps per day at least 5 days a week – DONE. (Note that this was before The Depression kicked in.)
  3. Cook one meal at home in April – if I can’t manage that, I might just give up on cooking entirely. I think I’m ready to call Uncle on this one. The problem, as far as I can tell, is that I don’t really want to cook at home. I have been successfully improving key areas of health and happiness in my life for three months now without cooking at home, so I don’t really have enough motivation to overcome my dislike for all of the hassle, planning, and MESS that comes with cooking, either. So I’m officially stating for the record that I am no longer beating myself up for not cooking at home because I am making great food and eating choices while eating out and I can afford it, too.
  4. Make an appointment with my hair stylist for highlights – DONE. My appointment was on April 19 and I just love the sunny look of my hair now. (You almost can’t see the gray at my temples. Almost.)
  5. Do something fun at least once a week – I might have accidentally had some fun every week in April but I didn’t really concentrate on it, as I’d intended to do when I set up my goals. This definitely requires more focus!

You might have noticed the date on this post – May 30 – and wondered to yourself, “Why has it taken Denise an entire month to update us on her progress?,” or even, “What happened to May???”

What happened indeed!

The short and simple answer is that I have been fighting with a major depressive episode for roughly the last six weeks. This is not the usual blip on the radar that passes through my universe every month and then goes away without doing much damage, rather this is a terrible beastly thing that devours my happiness, my self-esteem, and any desire I might have to be creative and clever.

Lots of good things happened in April/May, too, especially in regards to my health. I was able to tick off several of my overall health goals for the year before the end of the first third of 2013, and I’m so happy & proud to be able to say that. (Related Note: Look for a reassessment of my 2013 Project Me goals coming soon!) The scale was kind, too, and although I am trying very hard not to let that be the primary barometer of “how I’m doing”, it’s hard to miss the fact that I’ve donated five large trash bags of clothing and shoes to charity since February 1 because things keep falling off of me.

I truly hope that I’m turning the corner and am on my way out of the worst of the depression, so I ought to have my Goals for June up by the weekend. Bless your hearts if you’re still here and still reading!

Little, tiny, baby steps

I started nightly injections of insulin a few days ago and have already had to increase the dose by 50% because the lowest dose isn’t effective. I could cry about that fact and beat myself up about my unwillingness to make the lifestyle changes that would make my own insulin effective enough to control my blood sugar, but the fact is that neither of those actions will take me in a positive direction. Once I find the right dosage, insulin will absolutely help get my blood sugar levels back where they belong and that’s just a simple truth.

At the appointment with my doctor where he prescribed the insulin, we talked about increasing my dosage of a non-insulin oral medication I’ve been taking for months, or going back to the Weight Loss clinic so they can prescribe a combo anti-seizure/amphetamine drug that’s supposed to make you forget to eat (the amphetamine option has already not worked for me), or changing up one of the six other medications I take on a daily basis. And a little voice inside my head started to scream, “Stop playing around with your health, Denise. Do what needs to be done and get on with it!” (It might have been my grandma’s voice I was hearing, to be honest, since that’s definitely what she would have told me had she been alive and in the room with me.) and so I stopped the doctor mid-sentence and told him that I’d like to start taking insulin.

5552023473 5ca5d3b410 z Little, tiny, baby steps

Wintersteps into the unknown by Stefán Freyr | Skyzography, on Flickr

Insulin isn’t the cure-all super-duper fixer-upper for my problems but it will get my blood sugar under control almost immediately (once I get to the right dosage) and that’s the big thing right now. Stop the damage that high blood sugar is doing to my body first then focus on making the rest of the changes that I need to make – eat better, exercise daily, control my stress.

As we sat in the car in the line at the pharmacy drive-through, I thought about what I need to do in order to get my diabetes under control: I just have to put my big girl panties on, take my insulin, and start making small changes for the better.

Small steps, people. Small steps.

Because I’m worth it

I haven’t been showing up much lately, not just here but in every way that matters for my emotional, mental, and physical health.

Work is going well, Junior League is going well, I keep up with the laundry (not ahead of it but at least it’s done and put away), and I haven’t missed a sewing class yet (last one is tomorrow), but I started a “30 days of yoga” program last week and have managed not even one minute of yoga thus far. Nor have I gotten in any activity above my daily minimum required to go about my life. I have time for hours of TV and web surfing every day but no time to walk for just 10 minutes at a low to moderate intensity? Really? I call baloney on that.

So I got up this morning, took care of Al the Wonder Pug, showered, and then went to a Weight Watchers meeting where I found out that I’ve gained 0.8 pounds since my last weigh in three weeks ago. Hardly surprising since I’ve done nothing positive for my health and I’m surprised the gain isn’t more.

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Scale by vividBreeze on Flickr

Now I know where I’m starting – 242 pounds, in case you’d like to keep track with me – and where I want to go – 141 pounds, which is the very top of the healthy weight range for my height, so now it’s down to figuring out how best to get from here to there without becoming too obsessive and while still incorporating the parts of my current lifestyle that are serving me well.

For this week, I’m focusing on walking for 10 minutes each day which will give me one WW Activity Point per day and that translates into 1/2 of a small, nonfat, sugar free vanilla latte. (Yes, I work best with the rewards system!) I’ll report in on my progress as I’m able and will definitely be here this time next week for a full update on the week.

For those that have busy lives and lots of people depending on you, can you share how you make time for yourself and for your health on a daily basis? Any suggestions for how to fit 10 minutes of activity into a day?

A post almost 45 years in the making

I told myself I’d write something here every day for a week but I forgot to write yesterday, so I guess I’m a failure and I’ll just throw this whole blogging thing out. Or maybe I’ll just write twice today to make up for missing yesterday. Perfection, perfection, perfection: nothing but 100% perfect is OK.

Sounds crazy, right? But that’s precisely what I’ve been thinking since I remembered that I hadn’t blogged last night before bed. It’s such an ingrained part of me, the need to be perfect at all times, that the insanity of it all takes a while to filter through all of the dysfunctional parts of my brain. After a tea latte this morning and some time spent wandering aimlessly around FitBloggin – surrounded by excited, happy people jumping around and shrieking with joy while Zumba-ing, mind you! – I finally remembered how unhappy I become when I shoot for 100% perfection. I mean, really and truly, the chances of being 100% perfect for the rest of my life are slim and none so why do I do this to myself?

I think it might be part of a bigger craziness whereby I think that if I can make myself perfect in every way except this poor, abused body I wander around with, then I’ll be acceptable. I can’t even remember when it started, the desire to be perfect, to never do anything bad or wrong, but it’s so much a part of me now that I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s why I spend a fortune on my hair and clothes and shoes and purses and jewelry and everything else that I can make perfect: I can buy perfection for material things but my perfect body can’t be bought, it has to be earned.

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Perfect newborn daisy by Mukumbura, on Flickr

I don’t have the perfect plan for how to get from here to healthy but at least I know how I won’t make it happen. No more quest for diet and exercise perfection for this girl – this isn’t a race and there are no medals for finishing quickly but the rewards for treating my body with love and kindness again will be tremendous.

Self revelatory

“I’ve had a revelation,” I leaned over to tell Shauna. “Go on then,” she said in her supportive way. “I don’t want to be overweight any more,” I said calmly. “Not in a crazy or self-hating sort of way, I just think I’m finished with the unhealthy food. And maybe I’ll move around a little bit, too.”

photo e1348194561127 225x300 Self revelatory

Find a better way – ANY way!

I have no delusions that it will be that easy and that the weight will magically fall off – although wouldn’t it be nice if it did? – it’s more of a quiet but determined feeling deep inside that the time of abusing my body with crappy food, burying my feelings with inappropriate eating, and just generally sitting on the sidelines of life while the world passes me by because my body is so stiff and sore from lack of use needs to be behind me.

I’m not banging the drum here, people, just hoping to live into my fifties.

How to choose a knife: A guide for kitchen novices everywhere

I don’t cook. I know a lot of people say that they don’t cook when what they really mean is that they don’t cook often or don’t cook well but I, very literally, do not cook. My family and I either eat out every meal or we throw something pre-prepared on the barbecue or in the microwave. I confessed to this terrible secret on my blog not too long ago and then resolved to make changes, so I signed up for a 5-week Basic Cooking from Scratch class which started last Wednesday.

muppet chef 300x180 How to choose a knife: A guide for kitchen novices everywhere

muppet-chef from FilePlanet

As I was chopping a carrot for my first assignment, my teacher came by and stopped to give me a correction in how I was doing it. When she picked up my knife to demonstrate proper technique, she quickly wrinkled her nose and pronounced, “This is a bad knife.”

Great, so not only am I a complete failure as a mother, wife, and woman because I can’t/don’t cook, but now my knife is sub-par, too.

Over the weekend, after discussing my in-class experience with my husband, we tootled off to a local cooking store – where I also registered for an upcoming hands-on cooking class – to choose a new chef’s knife. I thought this would be a simple and straightforward task but I learned there are several things to consider before making a purchase.

 How to choose a knife: A guide for kitchen novices everywhere How to choose a knife: A guide for kitchen novices everywhere

  1. Do you want a ceramic knife or a steel one? Ceramic knives are much lighter and almost never need to be sharpened because they are made from the second hardest substance on Earth so they hold their edge exceptionally well. They will also cut as well if not better than a steel knife. On the other hand, they are not as tough and hardy as a steel knife – if you drop it, especially tip down, it can chip, and they are not intended for cutting through tough substances like frozen foods or anything with bones. I decided on a stainless steel blade because I tend to be a bit of a klutz and I didn’t want to be in a constant state of anxiety over breaking the tip off of my knife but the ceramic knives might be a really appealing option for more experienced and confident kitchen ninjas.
  2. How long do you want your knife to be? The two most common sizes are six and eight inches. The gentleman who helped me at the store reminded me that the knife is supposed to be an extension of your arm so that your cutting motion flows smoothly through your whole arm. Given that I have relatively short arms – I’m a short person! – I was leaning toward the six inch, and that instinct was proven right when I tried both lengths out.
  3. How much do you want to spend? This is a sensitive subject, I know, but there is definitely a wide array of pricing options in the knife world and I’m not even taking into consideration the ultra-cheap knives you might be able to pick up at your local discount department store. If you choose well, you’ll have this knife for the rest of your life, so don’t skimp. On the other hand, you don’t have to spend a fortune or buy a big name to get good quality. Make sure that the grip feels good in your hands, that the same metal that forms the blade also extends all the way to the end of the blade (under the handle), and that the handle is riveted to the blade, and the rest is just personal preference. You should also shop around to see if there are any good sales going on in your city or town – my knife was less than 50% of its normal price and they threw in a blade guard at no extra cost when I mentioned that I would be toting it back and forth to class each week. (I think they might have felt sorry for me with my woefully bad knife skills!)

Probably the most important thing I learned in this process is that a real test drive is absolutely essential because the best, most expensive knife in the world is not going to be up to the job if it doesn’t work for you. Ask for a cutting board and a vegetable to be cut, and go to town. Was it embarrassing for me to put my fledgling knife skills on display in front of the sales man and my husband? Oh yes it was, but I’m so glad I did.

Armed with what I’m certain is an acceptable chef’s knife, I’m ready to go back to class next week to open myself for more learning. At least I know I’ll be properly equipped this time!

Addendum: Classes were much easier after I started bringing my new knife – my teacher was SO right! If you didn’t spend more than $20 on your primary kitchen knife then chances are good your knife doesn’t hold a sharp edge well and is actually making your cooking tasks tougher. You don’t have to spend a fortune if you do some comparison shopping and check for pop-up sales online.

Eating well for diabetics: Six things NOT to eat

Just as there are guidelines about how to eat for diabetics, there are also recommendations about what not to eat if you’re diabetic. (I’d like to point out that non-diabetics probably wouldn’t be hurt by following these “don’t eat” commandments, too.) I found these from Everyday Health:

  1. Donuts.Whether glazed or jelly-filled, these little gems are full of saturated fat, tons of sugar, and not a single positive nutritional contribution to your diet. Just say no! Substitute a piece of low-glycemic fruit
    snacks to skip on diabetes diet 03 pg full 300x300 Eating well for diabetics: Six things NOT to eat

    My nemesis (from EverydayHealth.com)

    (apple slices, half a banana) with organic peanut butter.

  2. Cheese. Oh man, this one kills me! I love cheese so much that it hurts, but it’s just chock-full of saturated fat and we already know that’s a no-no. I don’t know of a really good substitute but the article mentions Greek yogurt which might work if you like Greek yogurt (it’s not a favorite of mine yet but I’m still trying).
  3. Anything breaded and fried, including chicken fingers and fish sticks. Not only are these saturated fat bombs, they generally have way too much salt, too, which can contribute to high blood pressure. Substitute an ounce of nuts, just be careful to portion it out because if you’re anything like me, nuts can lead to overindulging.
  4. Potato chips, crackers, and tortilla/corn chips. Wow, this is another tough one. I love chips and salsa SO MUCH. These nutritional miscreants not only raise your bad cholesterol and add too many calories to your diet, they are also a “gateway” to high fat dips or other enhancers. Le sigh. Substitute baked whole-grain crackers with salsa instead.
  5. Packaged baked goods, like cookies. High in sugar, fat, and calories, they also fall into the bucket of carbohydrate sources that are quickly converted to sugar because they have absolutely no fiber to slow digestion. Good substitutes include baked whole grain crackers or fruit. I sometimes find that a hot cup of tea with non-fat milk and sugar substitute will satiate my craving for sweet junk food, too!
  6. Processed cereals. I am lucky that I don’t like, and never eat, sugary cereals. As a matter of fact, I rarely eat cereal of any kind. These diet demons are packed so full of sugar that there’s no room for any fiber – a bad combination. A better option for breakfast would be non-fat Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and just a light sprinkling of a cereal that has whole grain listed as the first ingredient.

There are a few of my all-time favorites on that list, so I’d better get to the store tonight to stock up on some alternate snack ideas. I know what to do, now it’s time to actually do it.

What are some of your “no-no” food items and what strategies do you employ to avoid them? Or do you include them in your daily life in moderation? Do tell!

Five tips for better diabetic eating

I had an appointment with my endocrinologist (diabetes specialist) on Friday. We discussed several different options in terms of changing my medications to try to get a better handle on my diabetes, but ultimately the best thing I can do is eat less, of better quality foods. I wish this was something that came easily to me.

2914816320 85eef876fb 300x225 Five tips for better diabetic eating

Image by Atila Yumusakkaya on Flickr

The basic rules for healthy eating when you are diabetic are not really so different from those that apply to everyone. In a nutshell, here are the top five tips for better diabetic eating (with help from the American Diabetes Association’s website):

  1. Eat a good variety of foods. Include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, non-fat dairy products, healthy fats, and lean meats. Notice that candy, cookies, and white rice are not on the list? <Deep sigh.> The variety of food you eat is important not only because it keeps you from being bored with your meals but also so that you can get most of your necessary vitamins and minerals from what you eat instead of having to take a supplement.
  2. Don’t eat too much at one sitting or too much of any one type of food. For instance, binging on Girl Scout cookies is discouraged. Smaller portions are important because your body won’t have to work as hard if it only has to digest a small amount of food at a sitting rather than an enormous meal.
  3. Space your meals out throughout the day and don’t skip meals. Ideally you would eat reasonably sized meals every four hours so that your blood sugar never gets low. (Low blood sugar can make you ravenously hungry and less apt to make good food choices. See the bit about not binging on GS cookies in point #2 above.)
  4. Eat fish with your meals 2-3 times per week. Why does everyone keep talking about eating fish? It’s a lean protein option, with very little saturated fat. It’s also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower cholesterol and triglycerides and might even lower your risk of certain types of cancer.
  5. Get your five daily servings of fruit and vegetables. For best glycemic control (defined as the measurement of how well your blood sugar is being managed), limit the amount of starchy vegetables – like potatoes, corn, peas, and winter squash, and choose fruit with lower glycemic index values like cantaloupe, apples, apricots, and plums. Again, a good variety of fruit and vegetable choices is important to make sure you’re getting the best nutritional bang for your (grocery) buck.

Of course, it’s one thing to know what to do and another thing entirely to make sure that you do it. I asked my endocrinologist for a referral to a nutritionist for help in putting together simple yet inviting meal plans for my whole family so that I can – gasp! – start eating mostly at home. While it’s certainly possible to eat well while eating out, it’s sure a lot easier when you prepare everything yourself so you know what’s going in the pot!

How do you make sure that you and your family are eating well and getting the nutrition you need? Any time and/or money saving tips you’d like to share?