Charting My Weight – Gaining Perspective

A friend, Tish MacWebber, manages the blog Trust Your Gut. This past week, I have been a guest blogger and am glad to share the post HERE. Just click and have a look at “Charting my Weight – Gaining Perspective.” The post looks at my learnings from over 40 years of weight charting. All my best … Alexandra

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Cycling through Scotland: What has changed since my ancestors lived there?

As I continue to travel virtually with Street View and cycle on my stationary bike through the countryside of Scotland where my three-greats-grandparents once lived, I ask: What has changed?

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DateDistance Traveled (minutes)From/To
Jan 2020Auchleven to Keig
Jan 2220Auchleven to Keig
Jan 2420Keig
Total Distance since Dec 30, 2021 250 minutes

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My three-greats-grandfather, John Clark, was born in Keig in about 1793, according to his military record. Between 1851 and 1861, he emigrated from Scotland to Nova Scotia, Canada. But modern Keig looks very little like a 18th century village. Keig today is a series of relatively modern houses along a asphalt country highway.

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There is one old church and associated cemetery, down a short side road. The church was built in 1834, before my relatives left Insch for Canada, so they may have known this church.

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They may also have known the much older church ‘nearby’ which the 1934 church replaced. To see some photos of the remains of this old church, see https://canmore.org.uk/site/18056/keig-old-parish-church-and-burial-ground

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There are maps of the old layout of Keig. The Ordinance Survey of Scotland (First Series) done in 1856 shows what has changed in 160 plus years. It is fun to follow the 1856 roads on the modern map and see how old farmsteads have survived (often rebuilt) until today. To see this old map, visit

https://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/maps/sheet/first_edition/1856-95sheet76

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So what is the same? The landscape probably has not changed and John Clark would recognize the terrain of the flat valley and distant hills. The course of the River Don and the Keig Burn are basically the same. The road pattern of 1956 is still visible on the landscape, although some roadways have fallen into disuse and some new roads have been built. The crossing of the River Don is at the same location. Curiously, the 1856 map shows the old church closer to the river and does not show the 1834 church. A landmark known as Castle Forbes is on both 1856 map and the modern map. A ‘stone circle’ marked on modern maps is not noted on the older map.

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Comparing old and new maps is one aspect of genealogy I enjoy. It gives hints about how much has changed and about what would still be familiar if my ancestors traveled forward through time.

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Enjoy your own exercise routine!

Alexandra

Still biking …

Last time I reported on my stationary biking, I was using Street View (Google Earth) to travel the roads of County Cork in Ireland. I travelled a long way with this method of motivation.

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I have since found a new way to motivate myself and track my progress. I use the ‘earn a free coffee’ card from a popular restaurant and stickers I have rescued from unused address labels. I get quite a few cards since I drink a lot of fast-food tea.

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Each time I use my stationary bike, I earn a sticker. I put the date and the time travelled on the back of the card. When I have earned eight stickers, I get a small reward, usually a new eBook.

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Sounds like kindergarten, but for me it works to keep my motivation.

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To pass the time on my bike, I read, or edit one of my books-in-progress.

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on the back of each card, I write the date and the time spent on my bike

 

 

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If you are having trouble with motivation toward exercise, this little method might help.

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All my best,

Alexandra

Scale of progress

For years scale-watching was the only way I measured how I was doing with respect to diet and weight loss. Weighing myself helps monitor progress in the long-term.  The problem with the scale? It does not measure progress on a daily or hourly basis – the scale fluctuates depending on water retention, how recently you have eaten, how much fluid you have ingested, and how recently you have gotten rid of wastes. 

There are other ways to keep track of progress – percent body fat, body measurements such as waist circumference, and so on. These each have their merits, but are still not tools for assessing how I’m doing ‘right now’.  

The ‘scale’ I like for assessing progress throughout the day is one that tells me if I am staying ‘on track’.

This is a simple scale to help me acknowledge how well I am considering my health and wellness at any time during the day. Without a scale for assessment, I find I just ignore or forget what I am doing, find a way to justify my actions at a particular moment or say ‘I’ll do that tomorrow’.

This is my scale for self-talk:

1: on track: eating well and exercising as I planned

instruction – keep going

Getting a good sleep
getting a good sleep

2: straying from path: sitting here is not getting me anywhere; choosing to eat that food, in that quantity, will slow my progress

instruction – get back on track, no excuses

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need to do better

3: not on track: overeating, not exercising

instruction – stop, think, adjustment required right now, get back on track, no excuses.

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time to make some adjustments

Self talk occurs anyway. Providing a measurement for where I am, right now, helps me stay objective about how I am doing. And helps me decide what to do next. A ‘1’ is great, a ‘2’ or ‘3’ means change is needed.

All people do not face the same wellness issues.  The scale above could be modified for any health regimen. For example, I can apply it to my knees and arthritis issues, modifying the scale to include stretching exercises and walking.

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As always, 

Alexandra

reducing the fat in my diet

One of my goals in December is to reduce the amount of fat in my diet.  The kind of fat I choose is also important.

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Canada’s Food Guide recommends 30 – 45 mL (2 to 3 Tbsp) per day of unsaturated oils and fats.  I can keep track of my servings of fat or I can watch the percentage of calories from fat using the pie-chart in the MyFitPal app.  http://www.myfitnesspal.com/

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I can also avoid saturated fats and focus on healthy fats.  The Dieticians of Canada says unsaturated fats are those in soft margarines, plant-based oils like olive oil, and some salad dressings.  Their website lists other sources of unsaturated fat – nuts, seeds, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, and avocado.  http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Fat.aspx?categoryID=19

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We use olive oil margarine and olive oil as our main sources of added fat.  I usually add margarine to foods like potatoes and rice because it tastes so good, so this will be one area where I practice restraint.  The main source of ‘bad’ fat in my diet is from fast food.  Even a baked potato becomes a caloric/saturated fat nightmare in some fast food choices.  We have tried to limit our fast food visits and, when we do go this route, asking for a plain baked potato and a pat of margarine is better than the bacon and cheese laden menu choice.

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So some guidelines for me to follow:

  1. continue to use olive oil and olive oil margarine to cook and flavour meals at home
  2. limit the addition of margarine to my dinner plate to 1 tbsp
  3. limit fast food visits to one per week
  4. order a plain baked potato or a salad with a low fat dressing if I choose fast food
  5. add good sources of fat to my diet, from fish, seeds, nuts and avocado – add them to the grocery list
  6. limit the amount of fats from nuts since these are high in calories

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fish

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Best always, Alexandra

One year later

So, my year aiming at wellness has come and gone. When I began this blog, I was convinced I had found the certain way to weight loss and a healthier me. Now, 53 weeks later, I can say … writing it down does not make it so!
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My long term goal was to lose 52 pounds. I didn’t reach my goal. This morning, I weigh exactly what I did one year ago.
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So, an evaluation of my year …

1. Although I didn’t lose any weight, I didn’t gain any either.
2. During the year, to improve my husband’s health, we went gluten-free. Although we had some challenges, we are now a gluten-free household. We have found products to substitute for our grain choices … cornmeal pasta, various crackers made by Glutino, and Domino’s gluten-free pizza. Otherwise we generally avoid gluten and my husband’s health is much improved!
3. I have continued to bike on my stationary cycle about 3 times a week.
4. I have added a set of stretches to my morning routine. After these stretches, I find I am more limber and I have avoided any new injuries to my knees.
5. Although I still face some problems keeping my blood sugars in control, I have had more glucose results in the 4 to 7 range as a result of controlling my after-supper eating. Keeping busy is the key to controlling this eating and lately I’ve been working on some quilt-making projects.
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Overall, the biggest improvement in my health has been to my overall stamina and to my knees. I can say with certainty that this has been the best ‘knee year’ in the past five!
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Best always,
Alexandra

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a healthy eating plan for me

My dietician has always encouraged me not to think in terms of following a ‘diet’.  Diets are somewhat defeatist.  They imply ‘temporary’, ‘drastic’ and (sometimes) ‘failure’.

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A better approach is to think in terms of a healthy eating plan that will last a lifetime.  I certainly like to keep track of what I eat, and a healthy eating plan gives me a guideline for comparison.

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I decided to design my own healthy eating plan.  I started by looking at Canada’s Food Guide to see how many calories I should eat per day.  Calorie intake varies by age, activity level, gender,  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/basics-base/1_1_1-eng.php  For my age, and low active life style, the chart says I should use 1850 calories per day.  I know from tracking my calorie intake on MyFitnessPal‘  app on my Ipad (http://www.myfitnesspal.com/), I am maintaining my weight with about 2200 calories per day.   I have decided to base my healthy eating plan on about 2000 calories per day.

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In designing my plan, I want to include the following things I know about myself:

  • evening eating is a huge problem for me
  • I have trouble keeping my morning blood glucose levels in check and so evening eating has to be minimized
  • my dietician told me a snack in the afternoon will help me combat evening hunger
  • I find I have more energy when I include protein in my breakfast
  • I like to have a snack mid-morning
  • I am in good control of my eating for both breakfast and lunch
  • I often don’t get enough milk products during the day
  • I have trouble limiting portion sizes
  • ‘red light’ foods for me are ice-cream, chocolate, chips, and (!) Greek yogurt

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Breakfast – usually cereal with milk or toast

Breakfast
Food Group Number of servings Sample serving
Bread  2 ¾ cup cereal
Milk  1 1 c milk
Fat
Fruit  1 banana, apple, pear
Vegetables
Protein  1 2 tbsp peanut butter

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Lunch – I usually have leftovers from dinner, soup and toast, or a sandwich

Lunch
Food Group Number of servings Sample serving
Bread  2 1/2 hamburger bun
Milk
Fat  1 mayo
Fruit  1 ¼ c dried fruit; 20 grapes
Vegetables  1 sliced red pepper
Protein  1 ½ c tuna packed in water

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Dinner – we have a healthy meal with potato, meat or fish, lots of vegetables and fruit for dessert.  At least once a week we have chili (good-for-us tomatoes and high fibre) or a salad-as-dinner  (green vegetables and fibre)

Dinner
Food Group Number of servings Sample serving
Bread  2 ½ cup canned corn, small potato
Milk
Fat  1 1 tsp olive oil margarine
Fruit  1 1/2 cup canned fruit
Vegetables  3 1 c lettuce, ½ c brussels sprouts
Protein  1 chicken breast; ¾ c beans

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Snacks – for me, a good snack is yogurt and crackers, a smoothie made with milk and fruit, crackers and cheese, or vegetable sticks

For my three daily snacks, I can choose from A, B,  or C:

Evening Snack A B C
Food Group Number of servings Sample serving
Bread  1 7 crackers
Milk  1  1 8 oz milk, 1 ¼ inch cube cheese,   yogurt
Fat  1 salad dressing
Fruit  1  1 1 cup strawberries; 20 cherries
Vegetables  1 1 carrot, ½ c broccoli
Protein

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Please note: my serving sizes may not be exact; for serving sizes, see Canada’s Food Guide (for example: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/choose-choix/fruit/serving-portion-eng.php)

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To summarize, this is my healthy eating plan for one day (approximately 2000 calories):

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Healthy Eating Plan Meals Snacks
Food Group Total Number of servings Breakfast Lunch Supper A B C
Bread  7  2  2  2  1
Milk  3  1  1  1
Fat  3  1  1  1
Fruit  5  1  1  1  1  1
Vegetables  5  1  3  1
Protein  3  1  1  1

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Best always, Alexandra

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blood sugar

As I have said in a previous post, I am a diabetic.  To control my diabetes, I take medication in the form of pills and I take a long-acting insulin twice a day.  I also monitor my blood sugars closely, taking my blood glucose readings at least once a day and having blood work done at the hospital once every three months.

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I also try to use exercise and diet to control my blood sugars.

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My ‘before-eating blood sugars’ have recently been in the range of 7 to 14 mmol/l (milimoles per liter) – they should be between 4 and 7.   My blood sugar readings follow along with the food I have eaten.  If I eat late at night or if I have a baked dessert after supper, I always find my blood sugars up in the morning.

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Before Christmas, my blood sugars were excellent.  They were responding well to my regular exercise (I bike on my stationary cycle once every two or three days)  and to my better eating habits.  However, in spite of the fact that I did not gain weight over Christmas, my blood glucose readings are higher than they should be.

unhappy Alexandra
unhappy Alexandra

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The chart below shows the difference.  For October (the first 25 readings) my early morning blood sugars did not go above 10.  For January 2014 (the next 20 readings) they are often above 10.

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blood sugars

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I know from past experience that blood sugar control is a bit like a fall down the stairs.  Once you start to fall, it is hard to stop the tumble and every step adds its injuries.  Once you get to the bottom of the stairs, you just lay there and it’s hard to get up and get back to normal.  Once I overeat one day and get a bad blood sugar reading, guilt and fear and avoidance take over.  Like falling downstairs, every day of poor control contributes to an overall pattern of high readings.  It’s like my body says, ‘Oh, high sugars must be normal for me. Give me sugar.’  Part of the problem is avoidance … when my blood sugars are high, I don’t take my blood sugar readings (fear?) and sometimes I conveniently ‘forget’ my medication (denial?).  It takes several days of control to get over the guilt and get my blood sugars back to normal.

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To regain control I must:

  • control my evening eating
  • take my blood sugar readings (don’t be afraid to see the readings)
  • take my medications (don’t stick my head in the sand)

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I’ll get my act together, and get back on track, and let you know how I do …

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Best always, Alexandra

Alexandra dismayed
Alexandra dismayed

keeping track

I am convinced, one of the best aids to aiming for wellness is ‘keeping track’.  This includes keeping a record of my weight and daily exercise.  It also includes making a list of what I have eaten during the day.

At the present time, I am using the food and exercise records in the MyFitnessPal‘  app on my Ipad (http://www.myfitnesspal.com/).

In the past, I have used other ways of keeping track of my daily eating.  I thought I’d share a few of these.  Perhaps one will work for you!

For almost a year, I kept track using index cards.  On one side, I fixed a label printed from my computer.  On the other side, I recorded my food choices for each meal.

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For a pdf file of the labels I used, click here: dietlabels

For a while, I used a small booklet of ‘strips’ showing the various food groups and checkboxes to keep track.  I used my own ‘diet’ of 5 servings of vegetables, 5 of fruit, three of meat and fish, 3 of milk and milk products, 5 of grains, 3 of fat and 8 of water.  To make the booklet, I cut strips from a printed sheet (see the pdf file below) and stapled them together.

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a booklet of strips for keeping track of the day’s food groups

For a pdf file of the strips, click here: food journal

Sometimes, just to bring myself under control, I have taken a rather manic approach to food and activity journaling.  For example, here is a week-end journal I used for a while a few years ago.

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a sheet to help keep track of eating on the weekend

Have fun using any of these food diary ideas, or invent one of your own.  Keeping track works!!!!

Best always, Alexandra 

what did I eat?

what I’ve been eating

I began my weight loss and wellness program on November 23, 2013.  Since then, I have been tracking my eating on most days using the ‘app’ called MyFitnessPal‘  (http://www.myfitnesspal.com/).  The ‘app’ helps me record what I have eaten and tracks nutrients so I will know at the end of the day if I haven’t had enough calcium or fibre.  Gradually it builds a dictionary of your usual foods, so entering the food gets quicker with time.  The ‘app’ also allows you to track exercise and the water you drink.

what did I eat?
what did I eat?

Last evening, I decided to have a look at what I have eaten to try and identify some patterns, to see where I have gone wrong, and to know what I have done right.  Since November 17, 2013 (one month ago), I have kept a record of my eating on 19 of 30 days.  A simple look at what I have eaten during those days shows me some interesting facts that I can put to work in my future wellness endeavors:

◊ during those 19 days, I ate ‘out’ on five occasions

on three of these, I kept my calories at the restaurant below 500 🙂

on one night, a dinner with friends, I made a bad meal choice followed by a high calorie dessert – I suffered with salt overload for the next five days!

one lunch meal – you won’t believe this one – we had a best poutine challenge (Dairy Queen versus McDonalds) – over 1600 calories wasted on ridiculousness!!! 😦

why do I do rediculous?????
why do I do ridiculous ?????

 

◊ I was within 200 calories of my goal for the day on 8 days 🙂

◊ on several days I could have saved about 300 calories by limiting my cheese serving size – if I had only 1 ounce of cheese instead of 3 to 4 ounces, I would still have met my calcium goal for the day and saved the calories, salt and fat.

◊ foods I seem to have a hard time limiting: chocolate, potato salad, chicken pot pie and cheese

we have developed a habit of eating salad once or twice a week, and chili con carne at least once a week – good choices, high in fibre and nutrients 🙂

◊ as I’ve reported before, I went to two parties during this time and ate responsibly at both 🙂

my potassium intake is below what it should be on most days – an increase in fruit and vegetables should fix this

choose foods rich in Potassium (K)
choose foods rich in Potassium (K)

Keeping track of my food intake has value beyond the day – weeks later, I can use the food diary to help me make better eating decisions!

Do you keep a food diary?  What has it taught you about eating well? 

Best always, Alexandra

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