It only matters what works for you.

Archive for the ‘exercise’ Category

Unico 20.87-The property


Unico 20 87 on the beautiful Riviera Maya is where we spent our amazing vacation. The 20 87 are the longitude and latitude, although it may be the other way around. It’s about an hour outside of Cancun, and the property is owned by the same people as the Hard Rock resorts. But it’s their latest upscale idea.

Oh boy is it up scale.

It’s new. It’s beautiful. Someone put a LOT of thought into how it looks and what their clients need. As you can see, the property is built in an arc so everyone has good access to the restaurants in the main building, the pools, and the beach. The buildings are narrow, so almost all the rooms are ‘good’ rooms with great views. Most of the ground floor rooms are ‘swim up’ rooms, with a little river area you can access right from your room. Many of the upper floors have enormous jacuzzi tubs on the balcony. This was ours.



The rooms are big and luxurious. The floors are textured concrete, I think. They look like stone, but they had a rougher texture. I didn’t ask anyone so I can’t say for sure. They were lovely and cool after coming in from the warm outside. There were heavily textured rugs around the seating area and bed. I think everything was designed to wear well in a hot humid environment, and yet still look and feel expensive.


I think the rest of the world uses some other size for ‘king sized bed’. We technically have a king sized bed at home, but this bed was possibly the most enormous I’ve ever slept in, much bigger than the one at home. We’re both big people, and we never touched at all when sleeping if we didn’t do it on purpose. The mattress was really deep. The sheets barely fit. It’s just the mattress on slats, but it’s so thick it was one of the more comfortable hotel beds I’ve ever slept on. No trouble with sleeping and the linens were soft and silky. And all the pillows you want. I requested extra.


But my actual favorite part of the room was the shower.


Textured floor so it isn’t quite so insanely slippery. Check. Bench for sitting on while I was my waist length hair and bask in endless warm water. Check. Shower wand and rainfall overhead fixture, check. You can’t see it, but it’s there. The shower wand fixture swiveled in multiple directions. The bath products were so fantastic I tried to bring them home. (The bottles are slightly too big, they didn’t make it through security.) I have permanent shower envy. I’d also like to point out the safety bar on the wall. Just in case. The water pressure was good and the wand head was adjustable. My favorite shower ever!

We didn’t take a picture, but the toilet closet was generously sized. I hate the ones that have 4.2 inches on either side of the commode and the door almost touches your knees. This one had plenty of space so it didn’t feel claustrophobic, even to me at my size.

There was bottled water everywhere. 2 bottles every morning in the bathroom to remind you not to drink the tap water. Half the in-room fridge was full of water. And then gatorade, wine, beer, and eventually the Fanta I requested. It was restocked every morning. There was a drawer of snacks just in case you needed a nibble instead of going out to one of the many amazing restaurant options or just calling room service.

I really liked the feeling of space. I had a nice bench to sit on at the end of the bed to put on my shoes or just to sit. The couch was firm so I didn’t have trouble getting up off it.

I talked to some managers. They put a lot of thought into making the place accessible to those with mobility issues. Except for the pool, I don’t think I climbed any stairs the whole time. The pool had wide stairs and a sturdy railing. My one very minor complaint was that with some of the distances, it would have been nice if there were a few more benches, maybe strategically placed so people could sit and watch the fountains. There were sun beds everywhere, but those are very low and hard to get off of. But other than that minor issue, I was able to get everywhere I needed to. They put a lot of effort into being accommodating. I would return here without question any time, and I definitely recommend it.

They were also particularly accommodating with the food. Which is up next.



Is it giving up or living the fullest?

We just got back from an amazing trip to Mexico, so of course I’d like to talk about wheelchairs.

Let me back up. Last year I finally saw pictures of my arthritic knees. Poor knees. They need replacing, but I am both too young and too fat, so that isn’t an option right now. What I may, or may not be doing about that is for a different day. Today is about how can I make the most of life with the knees I have today.

First step involved the cane I got for my trip to visit family in Missouri. I got the cane last year for the trip that got cancelled in favor of my beloved having heart surgery. So I was able to use the cane for innumerable trips back and forth to the hospital. And everywhere I’ve gone since when I’m concerned about how far I’ll really need to walk. It makes a surprising difference. I thought it would just help for things like stairs, but it makes me much more stable and limp less. Who knew?

Next stop was upping my regular workout at the pool. Walking mostly. Stretching. Practicing range of motion with my weight and gravity taken out of the equation, although the inertia is higher, so that’s an adventure. Walking in water gives the same benefits as land walking in terms of joint mobility and gaining strength without stressing the poor damaged joint. The goal is 45 minutes 4 days a week.  I usually get close to that.

Next up, extend the timing out a month and get my quarterly cortisone shot in October instead of September, two weeks before leaving so my knees are at their best. It does the job for now.

My insurance covers a certain amount of physical therapy, so I asked my doctor to send me. I got really lucky with my therapist and he did much better work than the people I saw last summer. He explained that my worse knee doesn’t fully extend, and he was able to dramatically improve my range of motion in just the number of visits my insurance would approve. And he gave me stretches and exercises that will help me continue improving on my own going forward.

And then there was the wheelchair. That’s a tough call to make, because it trips some sort of mental switch. My beloved is pretty unhappy with the idea. But it works like this. I can use up everything I have and all the work I’ve done struggling through airports, or I can accept help, get rolled through concrete floors and have a place to sit for long lines, and save my endurance for walking to the pool, to the spa, and to lovely places for dinner.

So it is not, in fact, ‘giving in’, it is making the most of what I have. Can I just point out that Beloved’s step counter said he walked about 3 miles yesterday. Just dealing with airports.

There are lots of places the same lesson applies. Figure out what you can do, and what you can’t do, and then figure out how to close the gap. If you need a wheel chair, or a wheel barrow, or whatever, get one.

Dear young self

If I could go back in time and tell my young self one thing, it would be to not diet, no matter how many people told me “If you just…” and other annoying untruths. Because the science is clear now. While short term a diet can and often does improve some health markers like cholesterol and blood sugar, over the long term what repeat dieting is mostly likely to do is make sure you stay fat.

And if you think about it, really, would dieting be a multi-gazillion dollar industry if it actually worked long term? Of course not. If it worked, you’d do it once, the weight would stay off, and that would be it. They make all that money because you have to keep going back and doing it again longer and harder.

I found this article written by a neuroscientist to have some interesting things to say.

The root of the problem is not willpower but neuroscience. Metabolic suppression is one of several powerful tools that the brain uses to keep the body within a certain weight range, called the set point. The range, which varies from person to person, is determined by genes and life experience. When dieters’ weight drops below it, they not only burn fewer calories but also produce more hunger-inducing hormones and find eating more rewarding.

Evolution designed us around periodic famine. If too many died too quickly, then we’re a failed experiment. So those who had some way to slow their metabolism when necessary are the ones who didn’t starve to death. Fat is important for survival, if you don’t live in a world with a McDonald’s and a Starbucks on every corner. Your basic functions do not believe that a size 2 is more desirable than a size 22, and every time you ‘starve’ (ie Diet) it is more convinced that you need all the help you can get to survive.

On my most serious diet, in my late 20s, I got down to 125 pounds, 30 pounds below my normal weight. I wanted (unwisely) to lose more, but I got stuck. After several months of eating fewer than 800 calories a day and spending an hour at the gym every morning, I hadn’t lost another ounce. When I gave up on losing and switched my goal to maintaining that weight, I started gaining instead.

The author’s own story mirrors mine. There was a joyful time when I quickly and fairly easily (if you consider involuntary vomiting easy) lost 100 lbs in just a few months. I was on a strict low carb diet, and I was being introduced to my soy allergy. Soy is in everything, so every salad with soybean oil dressing, every handful of snack nuts roasted in soy bean oil…a huge list of common every day foods caused me to be violently sick almost every day. It took me quite a while to figure out why. It wasn’t intentional, but I took the weight loss gratefully. But then I got down to a certain point and that was it. Nothing else I did over a several years following ever took me down below that point. No matter how dramatic.

The causal relationship between diets and weight gain can also be tested by studying people with an external motivation to lose weight. Boxers and wrestlers who diet to qualify for their weight classes presumably have no particular genetic predisposition toward obesity. Yet a 2006 study found that elite athletes who competed for Finland in such weight-conscious sports were three times more likely to be obese by age 60 than their peers who competed in other sports.

I find this particularly interesting. Devoted athletes, no genetic predispositions, and yet repeated dieting seems to cause overall weight gain over time.

But our culture’s view of obesity as uniquely deadly is mistaken. Low fitness, smoking, high blood pressure, low income and loneliness are all better predictors of early death than obesity. Exercise is especially important: Data from a 2009 studyshowed that low fitness is responsible for 16 percent to 17 percent of deaths in the United States, while obesity accounts for only 2 percent to 3 percent, once fitness is factored out. Exercise reduces abdominal fat and improves health, even without weight loss. This suggests that overweight people should focus more on exercising than on calorie restriction.

And here’s the real winner. Despite the media telling us what a horrible drain on the system fat people are, the data actually shows that it’s being sedentary and out of shape that is the issue. Sure, those often go together, but our sedentary life style is the real problem.

So if I could go back an talk to my young self, I’d ask her to take another dance class. To ride her bike every day. To ignore how she thought she looked in sweats and go to the gym anyway.

So this January, don’t start another diet. Find something physical that you enjoy, and put your time and attention to that instead.




When duty calls…

When duty calls, what if you can’t answer?

Jury duty, in this case.

I know a lot of people like to groan and complain about jury duty. I’m not one of them. Sure it’s inconvenient, and it’s lost work time and extra parking fees. But it’s also a right and a privilege that lots of people don’t have around the world. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than a lot of others.

A few months ago I got a summons and I put it on my calendar and didn’t think anything of it. And then a few days before I thought about parking. I live in a big metro area so parking is always a problem, but government buildings always have something so I called the accessibility line listed and asked the nice lady on the phone what the options were.

“Oh,” she said. “The public parking is kind of far.”

Now when a normally healthy person thinks it’s a bit of a walk, that’s going to be completely out of my reach right now. But there weren’t any better options. The disabled lot is nice and close, but you have to have a DMV issued tag to park there. The public parking is a 10 minute walk for the lady who walks it every day.

Now what am I going to do?

For your reference, if you have health issues it isn’t difficult to get a waiver for jury duty. You just have to have your doctor request one, so I wouldn’t recommend trying if you don’t really have problems. My doctor’s office was willing to have me excused. I also got a signed form for a DMV issued parking tag that’s good for 6 months so I can try and sort out what’s wrong with my leg. And after a bit of thinking, I realized that I have a friend who lives pretty close, and I could probably park at her house and take a cab from there to the Courthouse and get dropped off at a more-accessible-to-me location. So the physical issues were all sorted and I have a plan for the future.

But it was another unpleasant example of the restrictions my current health has me under. Another example of the frustration of trying to do the simplest, most mundane tasks of daily life. Another opportunity to be demoralized by something I’m working to change, even if I can’t quite seem to get ahead.


But what does it do?

A few weeks ago this really disturbing and distressing article appeared in my Facebook feed.

It wasn’t disturbing because of violence, it isn’t distressing because fluffy kittens were suffering. It really upset me because it is a high profile example of how completely the USerican public has bought into the belief that thin is the only thing that matters.

The author, Lauren Fleshman, is a professional runner, and a new mom. She got to walk the runway for NY Fashion Week and has a fantastic picture of herself looking ripped and tan on the runway.

And then she took some other pictures of herself on a regular day when she isn’t in a crazy posture and posted them so people could see that in every day life, even runway models don’t look like runway models. And she wrote a blog about the whole thing. Which she then took weeks to publish, because even she, with an amazing athletic body that has also generated a beautiful tiny human, has body image issues.

Friends convinced her that she really, really needed to share her article, and eventually she did, and the response she got was pretty crazy, so then she wrote the follow up article that sparked my post.

Her body is strong, and healthy and lets her do what is important to her. She gets to inspire others, and she brought a life into the world, and she’s got a body that many of us would kill for, and still, STILL, she has body image problems.

Are you disturbed and distressed now?

Happy Spring

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything. I didn’t wander off and get distracted. I just haven’t had anything positive to say.

Back in November, I posted about a medication change that went horribly wrong. In 3 weeks (I have notes) I gained so much weight that I crossed the weight limit on my scale, needed to purchase new clothes in a bigger size, and felt practically immobilized. Wait, cross off ‘practically’. It’s very fortunate that none of the endocrinologists who say that adrenal fatigue isn’t really a problem crossed my path. It wouldn’t have been pretty. Or at least it would have been  very loud.

If you don’t have cortisol, you don’t have thyroid hormone uptake. If your thyroid quits, you gain weight. If you’ve ever seen a website that talks about ‘sudden weight gain’ as a sign of thyroid issues, I bet you don’t think in the range of 50 lbs or so. I can’t say for sure, as I mentioned, I exceeded the limit on my scale, so it’s all guesswork.

It was really and truly awful, and also scary how quickly I crashed, how hard I crashed, and how long it’s taken me to feel decent again. I distinctly remember a conversation with a very dear friend who called one day and asked “so how are you?” In the usual fashion of friends. And because she is a very dear friend, I answered completely honestly “I feel as though I’ve been beaten and left for dead, thanks for asking. How are you?”

It’s taken me most of 4 months to get my weight back to what it was in October. (A number up 30 lbs from my previous longtime steady weight.) I still haven’t regained the strength I lost, and I’m still having crazy problems with insulin resistance, which I recognize from a diagnosis I got in 2006.

I’m back on a pretty strict, controlled carb paleo diet. It’s boring, but it doesn’t make me feel bad.

I’ve been going to the pool, but I think I’m finally to the point where I can get back on the elliptical, even if I can only do it in 3 minute bursts, which is where I started back in 2007. I think I can also do some basic weights. I need to build up my muscles, both for ease of movement and because that’s the best way to reverse insulin resistance. That and controlling insulin in the first place with a controlled carbohydrate intake.

My allopathic doctor wasn’t helpful. I found an acupuncturist who also uses a lot of really non-traditional modalities that seem to be helping.

So in case anyone noticed I was gone, that’s where I’ve been. Limp and tired and hurting and despondent about my poor health. I had nothing positive to say, so I thought I’d keep it to myself.

But now recovery is definitely in place and progressing, and we’ve turned the corner to spring even though we in the DC area are expecting more snow this week. I’m feeling optimistic, so let’s get back to the things I love to do, like helping people raise a fuss about health.

Back in the saddle

Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, I was in pretty darn good shape for a really fat lady. Not an athlete by any means, but I was able to do a three mile hike that involved climbing in and out of Bryce Canyon. I wasn’t speedy by any means, in fact I clearly remember being passed by a herd of geriatric German tourists, but I did it and I enjoyed it.

For several years I worked out regularly. I got myself from pre-couch potato up to something I consider ‘decent shape’.

Then my adrenals tanked, and my thyroid tanked, and I could either have a good work day, or work out, but not both. It was a very sad thing. And then I moved and had a nice long bout of depression to go with my insular and sedentary life style.

So here I am, with my adrenals more or less supported, my thyroid meds working great, and the time to go work out. Unfortunately, I also seem to be starting from scratch again.

I could choose to be really upset with myself for loosing all the ground I worked so hard for.

Or, I can acknowledge that, as annoying as it is to be here again, the way things worked out, I couldn’t really have managed things any differently. So I can just buck up, put on my big girl…bathing suit, and get back out to the pool, which is the best place for really fat people to start (or restart) exercising. The pool is both aerobic and strength building (at lower fitness levels especially) and it has the advantage of supporting a lot of your body weight while you regain some strength.

A lot of very fat people have hang ups about bathing suits. Here’s the thing. Everyone already knows you’re fat. It isn’t something you can hide. When I’ve suited up to go work out in the pool? I’ve never had anyone ever be anything less than encouraging. Sure, it’s a different story at the beach maybe, but in a work out situation you’re either there, or you’re not there. No one cares what you look like. Just that you show up.

So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get suited up for water aerobics.