Sunday, May 1, 2016

May 1 Update

Today I am feeling a little down about all the stuff I've been dealing with in the background... things I don't share online because I respect the privacy of my family, and things I try to stuff in the background sometimes instead of dealing with them. But I've always shared my emotional state on this blog, and right now it is kind of defeated. Not about my health and weight, but about being 46 and maybe going through a bit of that mid-life crisis business. I mean, maybe it's the changes of years going by and kids growing up and moving out, and me trying to find new focus for my life... change can be hard. It's also about always being the caretaker and getting a little burned out sometimes. I am just tired this week, and trying to get my brain in a better, more positive place again. Probably hormones have something to do with this too.

Anyway, it's a brand new month and time to assess April and how I did with my goals. The nice thing about blogging and goals and working on my health is that it takes my mind off the other stuff I just mentioned and helps ground me and give me something concrete I can do to improve *something.* I do find joy in that, so I will try and focus on the good and bring my mood back up by taking good care of myself and NOT giving up.

Over the last month, I made some changes in my eating and activity. I wore my Fitbit to track my steps, activity and sleep and that helped me tremendously in being more aware of my activity level. My goals was 7500 steps/day minimum and hitting that goal each night wasn't a given; some evenings I found myself pacing around the living room while watching TV to get those last few hundred steps in! I learned that on days I go out and hike or do a lot of shopping, I easily hit and surpassed my step goal. Most days though, I had to make a conscious effort to walk twice a day. Going more than 2 miles at a stretch can sometimes aggravate my joints, so splitting it into two walks (one with each dog... one in the morning and one after dinner) worked well and always hit my goal. This is a habit I intend to keep. Now I know how much it takes to keep my activity level up and how far I need to walk each time, I can make it happen on a daily basis. I also am doing little things like parking far away from stores and pushing myself to walk a little further wherever I go. I love my walks! The only times I struggled with getting my steps was on days I was "stuck" in the house, in meetings, or in the car. I am always "busy" but somehow just don't get that many steps when the distances are short because I am inside or running errands. If I had to sit and do paperwork for 2 hours, or stand in the kitchen cooking for an hour, or sit in the car driving from bank to post office to school to appointment, my steps suffered and I had to work harder to make it up. Even my beloved yard work does not give me a lot of steps (pulling weeds, raking, trimming, planting... all get my heart rate up without giving me much in the way of steps). A month of working on it has given me the insight to know what it takes to surpass 7500 steps every day. I plan to keep up this level of walking, but I'm taking off the Fitbit because I find it kind of annoying.

I also made a goal to bike every day for at least 5 minutes. This was great! It got me back on my bike daily. It's amazing how you can convince yourself to ride when you REALLY don't feel like it, because "it's just 5 minutes" and even on the busiest day anyone can fit that in! Usually I'd get on the bike, hit 5 minutes and just keep going. Getting on is the hardest part. I was able to ride 30 minutes many times and built a habit of just getting on that bike! This is another thing I'm going to continue doing, but now that the habit is built and my riding time is up, I am going to let myself have a rest day every week. My new goal is biking 6 days a week. I'm also doing my strength training routine twice a week. It's mostly upper body, and only takes 15 minutes, but I feel good and again am building a habit. I plan to keep going with this, increasing the weight as I am able.

As for eating, I shared a lot of my lower carb meals over the month. I'd say I ate lower carb 80% of the time but still had some higher carb foods on occasion. I haven't felt deprived at all. I eat what I like, in smaller portions. More produce and protein, less processed food.

I started the month at 230 pounds and today I weigh 226. That's a loss of four pounds for the month. I had hoped for 5 pounds but hey, I will take a pound a week! I think I will cut back even more on the indulgences in May (without counting calories or going into a restrictive "diet" mindset) and see if I can take off another 5 pounds.

One more thing: I've signed up for a csa and starting in 2 weeks, I'll be getting a box of fresh, local produce delivered to my doorstep every week. I think this will really help me with eating plenty of healthy vegetables and fruits! I'll still hit the Farmer's Market for things I want but don't get in the box. I've been thinking about doing a personal challenge of eating *only* foods from the Farmer's Market sometime this summer. Wouldn't that be a fun thing to try?

Here's to another great month!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Test Results Are In

This week I got back the results of my blood work from the appointment with my endocrinologist. The tests were for two purposes: 1) to determine whether my lifestyle changes alone are enough to keep my blood sugar in normal range. I'd been taking Victoza injections to help stabilize my blood sugar but had to stop using it when my new insurance declined to cover it. 2) to check my thyroid levels since I stopped taking Synthroid a couple months ago and switched to a selenium supplement to try and manage my levels. I have Hashimoto's thyroid disease so it is important to keep an eye on thyroid function and go back on Synthroid if needed.


A1C measures average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months.
below 5.7 = normal
5.7 or above = "pre-diabetes"
6.5 or above = diabetic

In 2012, it was 5.3
Last fall, it was 5.4
In early February after several months on Victoza, it was 5.1
Now, with no medication, it's 4.9.

So apparently my new way of eating plus my walking and biking routine are doing a great job of stabilizing my blood sugar! This makes me happy. I'd rather manage things through lifestyle than with drugs whenever possible.

TSH measures thyroid hormone levels. Although 0.45 to 5.10 is considered "standard", Many people have hypothyroid symptoms within the standard range (I did). That's what led to further testing that diagnosed my autoimmune thyroid disease.

In 2014 my TSH was 2.12 and I was put on Synthroid to bring the number up. It did relieve symptoms at first.
July 2015 it was 1.94, even though I was still on Synthroid. My thyroid was making even less hormone in response to the medication.
This February it was 1.36. ... the choice given now was to raise the Synthroid dose or go off it and try a natural route (selenium).
Now, it is 2.52, This is the best it has been in testing history. I still have elevated antibodies indicative of Hashimoto's disease (which will never go away), but at least my thyroid is functioning better (and without drugs!)

Feeling great and still enjoying my walks, biking, strength training and eating things I enjoy. We had a potluck this week where pizza was served; I had a slice with a lot of salad and a chocolate chip cookie. In general (at home and when eating at restaurants) I choose low carb foods, but I like having the flexibility to enjoy whatever is being served when choices are more limited. Tonight I am going to make some wild salmon and vegetables, and a fresh fruit salad of cantaloupe and watermelon. It's been a great month! Here's to another in May.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Rosacea and Diet

Yesterday I had another visit with my endocrinologist for a check-up. She mentioned that since I am off injections (my new insurance won't cover them without a diabetes diagnosis) and trying to stabilize blood sugar by diet and exercise, and also because I am off Synthroid and taking some thyroid supplements instead, we needed to have some further blood tests. Hashimoto's disease does not just go away, so we have to make sure my thyroid function isn't suffering. She ordered thyroid tests and another A1C, which I had drawn yesterday and we're waiting for the results to decide what's next.

She also mentioned that it looks like I have Rosacea. I have mentioned this before on my blog: for years, my cheeks have often looked very red, almost sunburned. Sometimes they look rashy. No matter what I have tried to soothe my skin, the redness and rashiness has never gone away... with one exception. When I was on AIP, it was gone. My skin finally looked normal again and that was the only time when I did not need to use makeup just to have a normal, non-reddened skin tone on my face. When I went off AIP it came right back, even when I was gluten free. So I know diet could really help with this issue but I am not sure exactly which food is irritating my skin. No doubt it's a food that causes inflammation... maybe dairy, hard to tell. It's not just grains and not just sugar, since I have been very low sugar and grain free in the past and still had rosacea symptoms. For now she has me using some facial wipes twice a day that have soothing ingredients and tea tree oil to see if that helps at all. But part of me also wonders if I will need to do some diet tweaking to fix this issue. I really hate having reddened, rashy cheeks (and sometimes nose and chin) so it would be worth it to me to try and figure this out.

Not much else going on. Just doing my walking, biking, lifting. Eating well and getting excited about the Farmer's Market starting to bloom with more fresh, local foods soon. I've gone to some produce stands to get local asparagus, and to the local food store to get grass fed local beef. I buy my eggs now from a friend who has a yard full of chickens, so the eggs are wonderfully fresh and rich in omegas. I had a thought the other day when I wondered how fun it might be to try and eat *only* foods from the Farmer's Market for a month. That might be a fun project to try in the middle of summer! I'm mulling that over now.

There's only a week left in April so I'm making the most of it! Hope you are too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Make Some Changes, Go Ahead and Do It

This morning, I was out at a park helping a friend set some things up for dog training. Usually this involves a little walking and a lot of standing around, but this time, we were using a larger area. I was walking up and down a large parking lot, around grassy fields, and up and down a couple of small hills. I can tell you that even 2 months ago this would have been nearly impossible for me. I'd have hated it and it would have left me out of breath and sweating as I walked and in pain for several days after. But today, I really noticed a difference! I actually enjoyed all the walking, there was almost no pain, and I was able to keep going long past when I would have had to stop in the past. And it wasn't *hard*. My endurance and fitness is really increasing in a useful way from my walking and biking routine! I am really happy about that.

I remember the last time I was regularly strength training, and the very first benefit I noticed was when I was bringing in groceries from the car. I remember opening the rear window on my SUV and lifting out multiple, heavy bags and thinking, "hey! These are not even heavy! It is so easy to lift them!" And that was only after a few weeks of lifting! And then a week or so later, I had one arm full and needed to lift the baby stroller out of the car with the other hand. I was able to easily lift it out and set it down one-handed, no problem. I've just started lifting again and I can't wait to feel that wonderful improvement in strength.

Because I am eating better, I am also sleeping better now. My Fitbit One lets me know how long I sleep, how often I wake, and how much time each night I was restless; all of those numbers are getting better and better. I am much more well rested when I get up in the morning. I just feel better all around!

Small changes can yield big results. Maybe they don't *seem* big, but my quality of life is improved already in just the 2 1/2 short weeks I have been working my plan. What I want to share, most of all, is that SMALL changes really can improve your life in a huge way! If you are tired, obese, slugging along every day wondering how or when to change, trying to gather to motivation to "go on a diet" and "change your life" but just don't have it in you to "dive in" to something huge (like, say, joining a gym and going every day and counting calories and cutting out all bread and never having candy again and measuring everything you eat), please know that you can feel so much better and begin the change by doing something small. I really wish I could go back in time to when I was morbidly obese and tired and hopeless and miserable and say to myself, "Make some changes. Go ahead and do it. Small steps, it'll be worth it!" This is by far the easiest, happiest, most "non-diety" thing I have ever done to try and improve my health and lose weight. I love what I am doing. So simple:

Walk 7500 steps a day.
Get on the exercise bike every day, even if just for 5 minutes.
Eat whatever you like, just make it healthier, lower carb, and a reasonable portion.

Seriously. If I lose weight this month I will be dancing a jig and cheering because this is what I have been trying to "find" my whole fat adult life: something that doesn't feel like a struggle, that isn't white knuckling, that I won't burn out on. I have stayed off the scale because I want to give this a fair shot (and focus on what it is doing for my health and my quality of life) before possibly getting discouraged if the numbers are't great. But listen, if this is working in every way including weight loss, this will be a dream come true. Because THIS, I can do forever!

No counting. No measuring. No logging all my food.
Foods I enjoy.
Even a cookie or a piece of lasagna once in awhile.
Healthy vegetables. Plenty of protein. I'm never hungry.
I can go to social situations and eat whatever they are having without guilt.
No restriction.
No obsession. Very few cravings.

I say very few, because yesterday was PMS day and while I do keep 72-88% dark chocolate squares on hand, I really wanted a piece of milk chocolate. So I bought a bag of individually wrapped Godiva milk chocolate caramel squares and had one. The bag is in the kitchen and guess what? It doesn't call to me! If you have read my blog for long, you know how huge this is. I used to be UNABLE to focus on anything else if I had a bag of chocolate in my house. It would "bother" me until I ate it all. But now that nothing is restricted, it can be there, my kids can share some if they want, and if I feel like having one today I can!. This is freedom. This is "escape from obsession." It is a beautiful thing, to me.

Today's breakfast: decaf tea, 2 slices of bacon, 2 free range scrambled eggs, and a plum.
I think I will have some leftover BBQ ribs for lunch. Then I'll bike!

Enjoy your day!

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Lesson in Time Management, and Low Carb Cauliflower Au Gratin

I had a little problem yesterday with my exercise. I learned early on that in order to get in my 7500+ steps, I need to walk early in the day and again in the evening... not a problem, usually. I walk one dog in the morning after I take my daughter to school and walk the other after dinner. I also bike in the morning after I take the dogs out to play fetch in the yard, at the same time I am going downstairs to do laundry. It's a nice little system and it works. EXCEPT... when there is something else in the morning (like volunteer work or some other appointment), then I have to "make up" the walking and biking later in the day. Or if my daughter has a dance class in the evening, I walk while she dances instead of watching her or chatting with friends. But Sunday, I had a double whammy that I didn't plan for: no walking or biking in the morning (because of church) and no walking or biking after dinner (because we went to meet up with friends for a couple hours). We also had guests over in the middle of the day! I tackled the morning thing by walking quickly around the block a couple times after I dropped my daughter off to Sunday School before heading to the service, but that wasn't enough. Even with a short mid-day walk after my company left, I ended up with just under 6,200 steps... short of my goal. I'll admit there have been 2 or 3 evenings when I was short on my steps and I paced around the living room for half an hour while watching TV to reach my goal. But last night I knew I wasn't going to make it. I need to plan better for days like this! I did manage to get in the biking, at least.

Today's food, for those interested:
coffee with cream
avocado and bacon
Premier Protein chocolate shake
a chicken/apple sausage with spicy brown mustard and apple slices
Port Wine cheese (love this!) and a couple crackers
baked chicken thighs and cauliflower au gratin
square of dark chocolate
will probably have some low carb/high protein cereal with almond milk later

Yesterday's dinner was amazing! Everyone loved it. Barbecued country ribs, cauliflower au gratin, and steamed peas. For those interested, here's the recipe for the low carb cheesy cauliflower au gratin (no flour!)

Wash and quarter a small to medium head of cauliflower. Slice two quarters into slices about 1/4" thick or slightly thicker. Put them in a steamer and cook until just fork tender (not mushy). In another pot, warm about 4 tablespoons of light cream cheese (or full fat, if you prefer) with 1/4 cup of half and half and stir until melted. Grate some sharp cheddar (about 3/4 cup, more if you'd like!) and put about half of it into the melted cream cheese sauce. Stir and add salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste. Add the cauliflower and gently stir until coated. Place in a glass dish, top with remaining cheese, and bake at 325 until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 12 minutes.

Great stuff! Who needs scalloped potatoes? Enjoy!

low carb cheesy cauliflower au gratin

I've been getting a ton of yard work done and staying active and enjoying my food and my life. Hope you are too!