It only matters what works for you.

Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Unico 20.87- Unplugged

 

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Riviera Maya let us unplug. That’s not to say that Unico didn’t have complete wireless access everywhere on the property. It did. They also assured me that they offered free long distance calls to the States and Canada. But we had agreed that we would treat it as a cruise, where internet or phone access is ridiculously priced so we opt out. I checked my email twice a day to see if there was anything from my cat sitters and that was it. We unplugged. No phone, no news, no social media.

I don’t realize how much all the frantic activity wears on me until I opt out of it. I ‘knew’ that I’ve found this year to be particularly stressful, but I didn’t really ‘know’ until I got away. And now that I’m back, I’m very reluctant to completely reconnect.

I really enjoyed reading for long hours. I enjoyed having good conversations with my Beloved, and several with the random other people I met in the pool, or at the spa. I loved feeling that I had plenty of time to just sit back and watch the clouds and listen to the wind.

Where do we balance our need to be informed citizens and the desire to participate with our friends and loved ones, even if only online, with the need for quiet introspection and space to just think? Daily meditation practice, even when I’m good about it, isn’t quite enough.

One thing that surprised me was how distressed I felt watching other people at the quiet pool be on their phones. Not talking, that would have been rude, but intent on their screens. I thought it was sad. To go to such a beautiful place and stay connected to the electronic tether. To miss out on the moment while glued to the every day world by screen. That may not be at all fair. Maybe they were e-readers and no different from my own vacation choices. Not that it was any of my business anyway, but it bothered me quite a bit. Such an amazing moment was offered, and it seemed like they were missing it.

The other thing I didn’t notice until we returned was how beautifully quiet it was. I live outside DC and even though my neighborhood is thoroughly suburban and could be anywhere, you can always just barely hear the sound of the traffic, of airplanes. Of neighbors tending their lawns. It’s always something. The only mechanical sound I really heard there was the constant hum of the air conditioners, and honestly, I’d have really missed those if they weren’t there.

I wonder if there is a way to find that quiet and peace at home, or if it really requires stepping out into another world? The holiday season is almost upon us, so I guess I’ll have time to experiment.

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Unico 20.87- The Quiet Pool

The quiet pool was really the focus of our vacation I think. After a leisurely waking and a nice walk to the breakfast buffet, we retired to the quiet pool. It was a bit cooler than the two main pools and it was tucked off to the side. The music was lower, easily talked over. There was no beer pong. All the beer pong was over in the main pool.

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This really sums up our vacation. The clear cool water of the pool. Blue sky with decorative puffy white clouds. Palm trees swaying in the breeze. The swim up bar opened at about 11, or maybe 10:30. But we didn’t have to actually swim to the bar because the amazing Bianca would come by every little bit to refresh the ice buckets keeping our water bottles cold and see if we needed another pina colada, or maybe another daiquiri, or a chi-chi, which is what Bianca told me a pina colada with grenadine is called, although Google differs.

When we got warm, just hop up and take another dip in the pool. Gustavo, a young man not long out of school and saving for University, was tasked with making sure our umbrella constantly moved to keep us out of the sun. We didn’t take advantage of the lunch delivery, but it was available.

Partway through the morning our Host, Leonardo, would come by to see if we needed anything. Dinner reservations? Spa reservations? Could I please have an electric fan in our room? Certainly! No problem. Everything we could possibly need, including change for a $20 on the last day to tip our favorite servers, he made possible.

They were running some great specials, so after a leisurely morning reading and swimming at the pool, and a late lunch, I took myself off to the spa. Daily massage has become a goal. Some were good, some were amazing. Volcanic hot stone massage is a favorite, but I tried some of everything.

One day Beloved took off on an excursion to see the ruins at Tulum. He came back full of excellent educational details. He said the quality of the excursion and the education was much, much higher than the cruise excursions we’re used to. I didn’t think I’d be up to the walking, so I was in the spa and then had a lovely reading day.

After the pool and the spa was always a leisurely dinner. Beloved made extensive use of the jacuzzi tub on the deck every evening.

But when I plug into the memory to relax and bask in the joy, it’s laying on a sunbed at the quiet pool in the breeze that is the strongest memory. That’s what I look forward to in our next vacation.

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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.

 

 

 

What an amazing thing

I’m sorry that I didn’t find time to write this post immediately after my second appointment with my new doctor. Because it was a completely new experience and I was so excited in the moment.

My new primary care doctor is amazing. An annual physical is not something anyone gets excited about, but I think it may have been the best medical experience of my life.

When I went in for my appointment, the first thing I said was “The most important thing for you to know about my health today is that yesterday my husband failed his angiogram and he needs to have bypass surgery.” And for a miracle, she agreed that was very important, and she spent a significant amount of time talking me through my side of the experience and helping me dial down my stress. Who does that any more?

Then she took the time to discuss and or address all the things on my relatively long list. It was only our second visit after all and I have a number of active health issues.

It is both horrible and wonderful to realize that for the first time I really felt listened to, and yet also supported. She didn’t dismiss anything I offered, but she didn’t hesitate to correct me when I had a misconception or suggest alternate ideas for me.

Finally, I don’t feel like I’m on this health journey alone without a map.

The importance of routine maintenance

We just had an up close and personal experience with why you should see your doctor regularly, and why it would be good if we had some kind of aggregate database for our medical records.

My last post was about my great new doctor that my husband and I really like.

We like her even more now. Because she didn’t say ‘lets see how this goes’, she said, you should go have a cardiac stress test, here’s your referral to the cardiologist.

My husband is in his mid 50s, works a sedentary job, but otherwise has never had any particular health issues. Which is good, I have enough for both of us. His cholesterol has always been slightly elevated, but more at the ‘we should watch this’ level than at the ‘why aren’t you dead’ level. But his visit to our new primary care doc was only his third visit to a doctor in 5 years, and one of those was urgent care for strep. So ‘watch this’ wasn’t very helpful, because no one was watching. Including us.

Last year when he was overly winded pushing the trash can around our row of townhomes and up a fairly steep incline, we just thought ‘fat and sedentary, of course he’s out of shape.’ And when he had much less energy than he used to when we were moving, well, we’re all older, and still fat and sedentary, so what do you expect? Fortunately, when he started having just a little tingling and tightness in his chest when walking to work in the mornings, that was new and different and he was actually my impetuous to get right on finding a new primary care doctor as soon as the move was over.

It’s a very good thing I did.

The referral to a cardiologist resulted in my husband failing his very first test ever, his cardiac stress test. And then he failed his heart catheterization. And then we were referred to a surgeon. It all happened very fast and was very shocking. All the usual indications were missing. He didn’t have a bad diet, high blood pressure, super high cholesterol, diabetes… If he were the sort to blow off health issues, he might have been part of a very nasty statistic.

According to the wall at the cardiologists, there are 600,000 heart attacks in the US every year.

50% of all first heart attacks are fatal.

Definitely a group we have no interest in being part of.

I will say that every part of our medical support team did an amazing job, and everything moved very fast. He saw the primary care doc in mid-October. His quadrupal bypass surgery was the first week in November. Election day, to be precise.

The care he got was amazing. We are very fortunate to live near a top cardiac hospital, and to have excellent insurance and a supportive work environment. Our story has a very happy ending.

But it makes very clear to me that routine maintenance for our health is critically important. So, when was your last tune up?

What do you get out of it?

Your food, I mean.

We’ve been told over and over that if we eat a healthy diet, then we’ll be healthy. I think most of the people who read this know it’s completely untrue, but it persists as a lie. Of course the average person doesn’t do it anyway, so does it really matter?

One idea is that we don’t need to take vitamins if we eat a healthy diet. Hence the war on vitamins and supplements. I’m not sure I really understand the government’s constant attempts to over regulate them. Someone is making money off them right?

Despite my new-found soup way of life I still came down with some severe low iron symptoms. I went through a period where I ate red meat twice a day because I craved it. How much of that was me not absorbing the iron present in the food? Thyroid can cause low stomach acid, as can age, and that would interfere with absorbing the nutrients.

It’s a little gross to discuss, but many people don’t chew nearly enough. Part of that is because our food is more highly processed. It’s also because we rush everything in the US so we’re eating in a hurry. It’s a problem. A friend who had bypass surgery told me that chewing was the number one instruction her doctor gave her as she recovered to make sure she didn’t have problems with regain. I constantly have to remind myself to slow down.

Then of course, there’s the idea that there is no food in our food. That the soils in the US are very depleted by modern farming methods so the trace minerals that we should be getting out of our healthy eating aren’t there to begin with and no amount of chewing and stomach acid will pry them out of food they aren’t in.

Even though I eat mostly organic, with healthy choices, my kitchen table is still covered with various supplements and I can tell you that I notice if I miss even one for more than a day.  Some times I wonder if buying the good stuff in the first place even matters, but then I remember the chemical taste of commercial fruit and remember that it might not be what I do get out of it, it might be what I don’t.

Drip.

We are having a cool wet spring. It has been 12 days since the last smidgen of sunlight.

I have lost any vestige of ability to be productive unless every possible light is on and the music is up slightly too loud. It’s a real challenge.

I have a friend in San Francisco. She gets a lot of grey weather too. We’re complaining-buddies. SAD buddies. When it’s grey for too long our will to live slowly drips out the bottoms of our feet, a little with each rain drip. Erm, drop. Possibly that’s a little melodramatic. It’s that sort of day. Drama produces it’s own energy.

Full spectrum lights help. If your vitamin D levels are low, certainly fix that immediately. But some people just don’t do as well.

I found this article. I think it’s hilarious.

People with Sad have an unhelpful way of controlling the “happy” brain signalling compound serotonin during winter months, brain scans reveal.

Unhelpful. Yes, a bit.

Lead researcher, Dr Brenda Mc Mahon, said: “We believe that we have found the dial the brain turns when it has to adjust serotonin to the changing seasons.

“The serotonin transporter (SERT) carries serotonin back into the nerve cells where it is not active – so the higher the SERT activity, the lower the activity of serotonin.

“Sunlight keeps this setting naturally low, but when the nights grow longer during the autumn, the SERT levels increase, resulting in diminishing active serotonin levels.

So not only does my body hoard calories, apparently we’re also socking away seratonin for…obviously not rainy days. What are we storing it for I wonder?

Sunshine is due to resume briefly on Sunday. I hope.