Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tomorrow!!!

Tomorrow is a "goal" day so Diana and I will be taking our fasting blood glucose levels. I think we will be happy with the results! :D

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Busy

I have several entries that I want to make here, but it seems my days are so full I am lucky if I can squeeze out a few words or a link! Things are going good here though. Maybe my time for some peace will be coming up soon...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Diet Power Update

Things are going well here at Faerie Gardens. I am still successfully tracking all of the food that both I and Diana eat. It is not always easy, but I believe that it is worth it.

I am still only getting in 4 or 5 days a week of my exercise walk. I want to do better, but we have so many other things that we need to do that it is very hard to find the time.

I am looking forward to April 1 when I will see how well we have met our goals.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Should you supplement with Vitamin D?

According to the results of two new studies it may be a good idea to at least have your levels tested.
The researchers found that patients who boosted their vitamin D levels to 43 nanograms per milliliter of blood or higher reduced their rates of diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure and heart disease. They were also less likely to die during the study period.

Check out the link for the full story as reported by HealthDay News!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Learning to Walk: The Barefoot Movement

I have long had a problem with shoes. I remember well the joy of summers as a kid when my feet were only forced into shoes on weekly trips to town and most of my time was spent running free in my bare feet. When summer would come to an end, my shoes would be long outgrown, and a trip to the store to purchase a new pair or two for school would be called for.

Oh, how I hated those trips! Shoes never fit me right. They were uncomfortable. My feet were too wide and fat and short. I hated arch supports. They were so uncomfortable, and it seemed that all of the shoes but the cheapest would have them, and the cheapest shoes were so unfashionable, and in my school, people with the wrong shoes were teased mercilessly.

Fast forward to my adult years. With weight gain and stretched connective tissue from six pregnancies, my feet were harder to find shoes for than ever. Add to that, the fact that I am a pedestrian at heart, and you can start to see where my problem with footwear comes from. Dress shoes are impossible to find. For ages, I have been wearing white or black sneakers with my dresses on fancy occasions. Even wide width sandals aren't wide enough for my feet, and although I have been able to find some sneakers that I can wear, they have never been comfortable.

A couple of years ago, something happened that changed the way I viewed footwear. My girlfriend offered me the chance to wear her slightly too large slip on shoes one day at the beach when I didn't have my shoes with me. They were slightly too narrow although a couple of sizes too big, but stretchy enough that I could get my feet into them. Wow! They were comfortable. They had extremely flexible soles, and it was almost like I wasn't wearing shoes.

Unfortunately those shoes wore out, and I couldn't find anything similar. In my search for perfection, I wandered into the men's section and found some size 9 black slip on's that would have to do. They didn't have flexible soles, and they felt rather like I was wearing a cardboard box on my foot, but they were large enough that I had enough width and a couple of inches past my toes to get that barefoot feel. This spring they were wearing out, and I knew I needed something new, but I couldn't bear to buy another pair of those "cardboard boxes."

Enter Soft Star Shoes. My very generous girlfriend purchased a pair of adult ramblers for me. Wow! They are unlike any shoes that I have ever worn before. I will be doing a more detailed review in another entry, but I just want to say that wearing them is awfully close to going barefoot with the protection and grip of a rubber sole.

Since getting the soft star shoes, I have been doing a little research and have found that it is now known that shoes basically make you walk wrong, even high tech running shoes (especially high tech running shoes.) If you want to know more, check out this link!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Exercise

I am still holding steady at completing my walk in 32 minutes. I find it very frustrating that I can't go faster.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Exercise Goals Revisited

As I stated before, I have a rather informal goal to be able to walk 4 miles in one hour by the first day of autumn. I have broken that up into smaller goals.

Right now, I am walking 1.4 miles as many days a week as I can fit in (usually 4 but I hope to increase), over half uphill, some rather steep. My best time is 32 minutes, but usually I make it in 33. When I can do it in 28 minutes, I am going to increase my daily walk to 2.1 miles. (I am using interesting landmarks and places to go to make this more fun for me.) Those are my short term goals.

Inspirational Reads

In 1999, I found myself a recently separated woman with four very young children and a precocious 11 year old in low income housing in the center of a declining mid-size northeastern city trying to live each day with positivity but often struggling inside myself to be OK. One of my greatest pleasures was my every other week trip to the downtown library sans kids while they visited their father. The library has a browse-about section where the books are group by genres or topics, and I, being who I am, felt it necessary (and enjoyable) to browse every single section every single time I was there. One of those sections was devoted to self-help books, and occasionally a book there would catch my eye and find its way home with me.

Most of those books couldn't hold my attention. A few I read but found not so much of the material applicable to me. A couple stood out. I thought I would share those today.

The first is A Gift of A Year by Mira Kirshenbaum. The premise of this book is that we can each improve our lives by choosing to devote a small amount of time on a regular basis to an activity or goal for a year. For example, you may choose to take weekly piano lessons and practice each day for an hour if you have always wanted to play the piano. Your gift need not be so simple or so obvious though. One example in the book is of someone who has owns a restaurant and spends a lot of time running it. Her gift to herself was to dedicate a certain amount of time each week to properly training others to take over many of her responsibilities ultimately giving herself more free time.

Although I did not exactly follow the plan presented in this book, I did incorporate many of the ideas presented into my life, and when I feel stuck, I often think about this book wondering if there is a gift that I need to give myself. I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially to those of you who feel stuck in some way and may need a plan or even permission to give yourself a gift that can increase your pleasure this year.

The second is Wishcraft by Barbara Sher. Barbara Sher has written a host of excellent self help books, and this is her first, and in my opinion her best. This is not because it is the most polished or even has the best advice, but because it is written so soon after her own struggle to find her niche and to create a happy life (which included finding her own career calling - being a career coach). The book just vibrates with realism, and is optimistic and positive without becoming too fake or flakey. Working through many of the exercises in this book helped me cement goals, drop goals, and achieve goals. I can't recommend it enough!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Diabetes and Coffee Consumption

Several studies have shown a correlation between drinking coffee and having a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes. The first study of this type was done in Finland, and the results were published in 2004. This particular study kept track of how much coffee people drank and controlled the groups for body mass index, age, blood pressure, alcohol consumption, tea consumption, education, occupation, and amount of physical activity. Even after controlling for all those factors, there was a graduated correlation between coffee consumption and decrease in the rate of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during the 12 years that the study took place. This means that not only were coffee drinkers less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, the more coffee they drank, the less likely they were to develop it. Those who drank 10 or more cups a day had the smallest risk.

No one had a reason for this outcome. It didn't seem to be related to caffeine intake because it didn't matter if the coffee was caffeinated or not!

As a follow-up, there was a look at the data from the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals' Follow-up study. These were huge studies with well over 50,000 people involved mainly through validated questionnaires over an 18 year period. When that data was looked at the results were the same as the Finnish study. That is that coffee drinking correlated with a decreased risk in type 2 diabetes, and the more coffee the subjects drank the less the risk. Because of the large number of people in this study, they were better able to look at those who drank only decaffeinated coffee too. Although those people also had a decreased risk, it was not as great as for those who drank regular coffee with caffeine. Also looked at was caffeine intake in general. This showed a graduated decrease in risk too with those taking in the most caffeine on a regular basis showing the greatest decrease in risk.

There are two theories surrounding this phenomenon and both may be part of the reason that we see this decrease. The first is that regularly drinking coffee correlates with other things that are also decreasing the diabetes risk. Those who drink caffeinated coffee are likely to fidget and do other small types of physical activity that would not show up on physical activity level charts. Also if you are drinking coffee, you are less likely to be drinking high carb beverages that might be worse for you. Coffee acts as an appetite suppressant, and those who drink it may have better control over their food choices also. The second theory is that the quinines in coffee are providing this effect. Quinines have been shown to increase insulin sensitivity in rats so that the rats do not need as much insulin to process blood glucose properly.

Either way, should everyone drink a lot of coffee to reduce their risk of diabetes? Well at this point, I do not recommend it. I think each individual should eat and drink the things that make him or her feel the healthiest. If you already have a coffee habit, and it doesn't cause any problems in your life, go ahead and enjoy knowing that you just might be doing yourself some good.

I personally drink between 12 oz. and 32 oz. of caffeinated coffee each day just because I like it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Type 2 Diabetes: Is it for life or can you recover?

This is a tricky question. There are people who are diagnosed with with type 2 diabetes who lose a lot of weight or significantly change their diet and then no longer meet the criteria for the diagnosis of diabetes. If one of those people was to go to a new doctor with no history of their past, the doctor would not say that they had diabetes.

My previous stance had been that these people no longer had diabetes. I have changed my stance though. After much thought, research, and experience with those who have type 2 diabetes, I think once you have hit the fasting BG of 120 or higher point, you have diabetes for life. The thing is, you may be controlling your diabetes by keeping your weight down or by eating less carbs, but if you go back to your prior weight or eating habits, your blood glucose will go back up again.

This is useful information too. It is important that those health care professionals that you come in contact with know that you have had a problem with high blood glucose in the past and that you are controlling it with whatever methods you are using. For one thing, when your blood glucose was out of control, you could have developed the beginning stages of complications that your doctor will be able to diagnose more easily with this information. Also, if you are admitted to a hospital (even for something totally unrelated like a broken leg), you will want to make sure that those taking care of you understand how important it is to maintain your chosen diet.

Having said all that, I do think that is it is possible for most type 2 diabetics to control their blood glucose through a carefully chosen diet and exercise alone. I also think that with weight loss their symptoms might diminish to the point that they don't have to worry so much about the level of carbs that they are eating. That doesn't mean that you don't have diabetes anymore. It just means that you are successful at controlling it through keeping your weight down.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Supplements Revisited

Using an analysis of what we are eating and current research on the benefits and possible side effects of various supplements, Diana and I are currently taking a 600 mg calcium plus 400 IU vitamin D supplement morning and night, and 400 IU of vitamin E each morning. We may add fish oil for both of us and iron for Diana in the future.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

To Nap or Not to Nap

I hate naps! It doesn't matter how tired I am or how much I am falling asleep while I try to do other things, I resist naps as hard as I can. Not only do I hate spending some of my daytime sleeping, I always feel horrible when I wake up from a nap. I am the crankiest that I ever am! It just feels like everything in the world is wrong! So I am opposed to naps for me.

On the other hand, lots of research shows that naps are good for people. They are suppose to refresh you and give you extra energy in the second part of the day. Regular nappers are smarter, quicker, and more alert. All I can say to this is that perhaps we are just not all the same.

So if naps make you feel better, go ahead and take them, but if you are like me, don't feel guilty about getting all of your sleep at night even if you sometimes get tired during the day.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Exercise

If you hang around so called weight loss experts, nutritionists, and various exercise specialists long enough, you will hear a lot of conflicting information about the benefits of exercise. I find it extremely frustrating that so many people spout information as if it is fact, when at the best it is an educated guess and at worst it is completely false. So I am going to list some of the benefits of exercise, and then discuss the available data that supports or doesn't support these benefits as well as exactly what sorts of exercise really will lead to a specific benefit.

1. Exercise reduces levels of depression. There have been a lot of studies that show that when someone who is depressed begins a regular exercise regimen, their depression lessens. The major problem with these studies is that they often do not include a control group, and that those depressed patients who choose to follow an exercise regimen are possibly at the point where they were about to move out of depression anyways and that those who choose not to are not.

After reviewing the available research, I conclude that longitudinal studies show that those who participate in regular aerobic exercise (defined as 3 periods per week of exercise in which the heart rate is elevated to at least 60% of one's maximum heart rate for at least 30 minutes) are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, or the effects of stress. This is not quite the same as saying that exercise cures those who are already depressed. I certainly don't think it can hurt though!

2. Exercise causes weight loss. Everyone knows that exercise leads to weight loss, right? Burn more calories than you have been, and you are bound to lose weight! The truth is that it is not quite so simple. Our bodies are complicated, and many variables are involved in how our metabolism works and how we digest and use our food. The real stickler is that exercise makes you hungry! The results of several studies the have been published in the last couple of years have shown that not only is there no correlation between exercise and weight loss, people who exercise more consistently eat more also.

Before writing this article, I was aware of some of this research from Diana's diabetes training, but I have gone and read a lot more today, and the results of these studies are shocking! In one study, approximately 500 overweight women were randomly assigned to four groups. Three of the groups worked out with a personal trainer for varying times each week. The fourth group was a control group. All of the groups filled out food diaries (although they were not told to change their eating patterns) and had their weights regularly monitored. The study lasted 6 months. All four groups lost some weight, but there was no significant difference between the groups. Basically you could say that simply filling out the food diaries and having weights monitored were the causes of the weight loss. Those in the various exercise groups ate more than the non-exercisers and those exercising less.

In another study, children who went to three different elementary schools with different intensities of physical education programs wore a special monitor for one month showing their overall activity levels. They wore the monitor during all of their waking hours. This study lasted a month. At the end of the month, it was found that the actual activity levels of all of the students were the same. Although those students with a longer and more intense physical education program were more active during the school day, they were far less likely to be active in the after school hours, than those students with less physical activity during the day. It seems that not only does an organized exercise program make us more hungry, we are also less likely to be normally active at other times to make up for it!

Those were just the tip of the iceberg. It surprises me that we don't hear more about this in the media. Now, how do I feel? It does seem that people who are normally active people are more likely to lose weight than those who tend more towards sedentary activities. So although you don't need a hard and vigorous exercise program to lose weight, it is a good idea to choose active play on occasion over sedentary play.

3. Exercise helps maintain an ideal weight. Although exercise may not help you lose weight, several longitudinal studies show that those who are the best at maintaining a weight loss are those who exercise for at least 60 minutes everyday. Note that this exercise did not seem to need to be aerobic nor did it need to involve weight training. Simply brisk walking was good enough. This correlation is a good enough reason for me to recommend that everyone try to be active for at least one hour a day.

4. Exercise reduces the risk of heart disease. Another thing that everyone knows is that exercise reduces your risk of heart disease. The most common recommendation is to perform aerobic exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes at a time at least five times a week. This recommendation is supported by research. Note that there needs to be aerobic intensity for the actual cardiovascular benefit to occur. Those who exercise longer and harder up to 90 minutes a day, 6 days a week have even more improvement in their cardiovascular health, and adding 30 minutes a week of strength training decreases the risk of heart disease even more.

My feeling are that for the general population 90 minutes devoted to cardiovascular exercise most days is an unrealistic goal and could even lead to an overall decreased quality of life. I do think that regular aerobic exercise at least five times a week for at least 30 minutes is a good idea especially if you have other risk factors for heart disease.

*****
There are other purported benefits to exercise such as increased energy levels, better sleep, and an improved sex life, but I think that I covered the main four above. As you can see, advice can be conflicting, and it can be difficult to know what is the right path to take. I really think each individual needs to assess their own situation and think about what is best for them. Be aware of yourself, and how you respond to exercise. Choose activity over inactivity, but before choosing a more formal program, weigh the pros and cons allowing yourself to make the decision that is best for you!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy and an Interesting Article Link

My life seems to have taken a busy turn, and writing here everyday has not been doable lately. I have continued using the Diet Power nutrition program to track my food and exercise, and that of my partner. We are both showing modest weight loss, and I have shown a blood glucose reduction. Next month, we will know how my partner is doing in that area.

I saw an interesting article today. The results of yet another weight reduction study have been released.

I quote:

MONDAY, March 1 (HealthDay News) -- Three years after going on a diet, obese men and women on low-carbohydrate "Atkins"-type plans had gained back nearly all their weight, while those on low-fat diets continued to lose, new research finds.

Neither group ended up model-thin, however: Three years out, the low-carb dieters were a mere five pounds thinner and the low-fat group about 10 pounds slimmer than when they began.

The study is published in the March 2 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.


The complete article can be accessed at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_95861.html . The thing that interests me the most about this article is that both groups lost less than 10 lbs. in a three year period. All of the articles that I am finding about this study are emphasizing the fact that the low fat diet beat out the low carbohydrate diet! My point is, should anyone be following either of these rather extreme diets in the hope that they might lose 5 or 10 lbs. in three years?

I also want to note that those in the low carb diet were encouraged to follow a very strict low carb regimen (less than 30 carbs a day.) This is extremely difficult to do in our society. Most people with type 2 diabetes can control it with a much more moderate low carb diet (75-150 carbs a day.) This is a more realistic solution in the face of a deadly disease with complications that can greatly lower your quality of life.

I would like to see more studies that focus on comparing diets in relation to factual health markers (blood glucose, serum cholesterol, high blood pressure, kidney function) as opposed to weight loss. Our society's obsession with weight loss has blinded us to the things that truly matter.



Thursday, March 4, 2010

Goals

I am still getting in the habit of helping Diana with her food and tracking it on the Diet Power program. That takes up quite a bit of my time, and I find myself with not as much time to write here. I also have started walking more regularly. (The spring weather is calling to me.) That takes up another 30 - 45 minutes. While I was out walking yesterday, I started thinking about goals.

I don't think I wrote my goals for this month here yet. By April 1, I would like to be under 288 lbs. (I weighed 292.4 this morning.) Also I would like my fasting blood sugar to be under 110. Those are modest goals I think. Especially since I have been cutting my carbs way back this month to match up with Diana.

I was also thinking about an exercise goal. I am not yet up to a point where I want to think that I will be walking any distance at any speed any particular day. (I am a great walker for endurance, but with my short legs and extra pounds, my default speed is only 2 mph. It can be worse if I am going up a lot of hills.) I would like to see myself able to walk 4 miles in an hour. That would be pretty speedy with my short legs. I am thinking in my head that it might also be an attainable goal by the end of the summer. Maybe before the autumnal equinox. This is not a definite goal, with consequences, that I am really holding onto, but just something that I think I will be working on.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Yesterday was the first day that I used Diet Power to keep track of Diana's food intake. It was a bit of work, but I feel like I am more getting the hang of it and learning to flow today. We had challenges both days. Yesterday we got up far earlier than either of us usually do and went to get our car inspected and then grocery shopped. Today we had company for an impromptu birthday party for dinner. I don't mind the challenges because this is how the real world works, and any nutrition plan that doesn't work in the real world doesn't work period!

Diana is working hard at keeping her carb total under 85 grams everyday. It is not easy yet, but she has seen success and even had a weight loss her first day to encourage her to continue. We have also exercised together both days. It makes me feel great to get moving even when aches and pains occur. I just feel so alive to be outside in the early spring with my heart rate rising, and the sun shining on my head as the wind stings my cheeks.

I saw more weight loss today with a morning weight of 291.2 lbs. I think it is surprising that I am losing so much weight so easily. I am for the most part still eating over 2000 calories per day. I am not sure if it is the slight calorie reduction or the low carbs that have helped, but I am so glad for whatever it is!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Yay!!!

Today I weighed 294, and my blood sugar was 117. I call that a success!