posting after a hiatus

I haven’t posted to this site in a long time, but I have, to me, interesting news about my health and weight. I recently weighed myself after a long absence from the scales. In August 2021, I weighed 223 pounds. On December 31, 2021, four months later, I weighed 214, a loss of 9 pounds. If you read other posts in this blog, you will find that I have had a life-long problem with weight. I last weighed 214 in 1980 when I was 26 years old.

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So how did I lose this weight? I have continued my efforts to lose weight but I have also had a number of health problems that have contributed to the weight loss. In April, I was diagnosed with a cancer associated with the salivary gland. The prognosis for this type of cancer is good, so I began treatment by having the gland and associated lump removed. Then, to reduce the likelihood of recurrence even further, I underwent five weeks of radiation therapy.

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During the radiation, I was monitored closely by my team since undesirable weight loss is sometimes a result of the treatment. By the end of the treatment, in August, I had lost only 2 pounds. For the first time in my life, they clapped when I did not lose weight.

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However, since then, a couple of results of the loss of a salivary gland have contributed to my eating less. First, my taste was strange for a short time, perhaps two months, after the radiation treatments ended. I still have problems with the taste of cold sweet things, removing popsicles and ice cream from my diet. Second, I have lost my appetite, perhaps also a result of the lower saliva. Working with food to prepare it has become a distasteful activity and my husband says I eat only a small amount compared to past days.

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There is another contributor to this puzzle. I am a Type 2 Diabetic and take several medications including insulin. My sugars have been under good control since I started taking a medication called Forxiga. This medication is associated with some weight loss and certainly contributed to an initial loss when I started taking it a few years ago. It may be that the medication is still contributing to some of my weight loss.

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Weight loss can be bad for someone my age, especially if the loss is of muscle rather than fat. I definitely have some muscle loss due to a lot of sitting around in the hospital during my treatments. When I came home, for example, I noticed climbing stairs was no longer easy. I am happy with the weight loss since less weight will help my diabetes and my arthritis, but I have to take steps now to improve my muscle status.

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For this reason, I have recommenced my program of stationary biking. I did a lot of stationary biking from 2015 to 2018, but then I became involved in other uses of my time. My goal now is to do 15 minutes of stationary cycling every second day until it becomes a little easier for me. Then I can consider increasing the time or frequency.

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For that reason, I will start to post my experience with the biking. Being accountable helps me realize my exercise goals.

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Until next time, take care of yourself!

All my best,

Alexandra

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meet a character in my book!

I haven’t posted in a very long time, but I have been busy. Last November, I decided to take my writing in a new direction. Since then, I have published three books, in a science fiction adventure/romance set on the planet Meniscus, far from Earth.

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My main character in these books is a young woman named Odymn. She is 28 years old and was brought to the planet Meniscus as a slave. Although she has endured hardships, she has strength and endurance and she has escaped to freedom, to live in the wilderness of Meniscus.

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Physically, she is very different from me.

I have arthritis in my knees and have difficulty walking …

Odymn is athletic, an expert at the art of parkour. Parkour is a way of moving through the landscape in a series of runs, jumps and climbs. Parkour promotes strength, flexibility and endurance.


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In knowledge, she is a bit like me.

I am a botanist and know the names of many of our local plants. I also know a lot about the edibility and toxicity of plants …

She has learned, by listening and asking questions, the names and characteristics of many of the plants on this alien planet. She has also learned, partly by trial and error, the best plants to eat and those to avoid because of toxins.

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If you’d like to learn more about my parkour-loving heroine, the books in the series are available on Amazon here.

Meniscus: One Point Five is available free at WattPad here.

All my best,

Alexandra

Virtual biking in Ireland, Phase Two, Day One

Still virtual-biking along the south coast of Ireland. On Day One of Phase Two, I biked from Rathmore to Creagh. 15 minutes, 2.0 km.

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This trip followed the Bay, but the landscape was dominated by those charming tunnel-roads seen so often in the British Isles.

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I also saw so many side-roads, some gated, some open to explore!

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Watching carefully for leprechauns as I travel!

Alexandra

taking away stumbling blocks

I have done regular exercise on my stationary bike since February of 2013. Regular means 30 minutes every second day. Sometimes I falter at this goal (we all do) and I have to find ways to put myself back on track.

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About six months ago I realised I was biking less and less frequently. When I looked at the reasons for this, it came down to one thing. I didn’t like going down to the basement to do my biking. First, even though I made a nice space for my stationary bike, the basement is so isolated from the rest of the house going down there was very unappealing. Second, when I do go to the basement, I felt I should take the opportunity to start a laundry, empty the drier, sweep the floor, clean the cat’s litter box, etc. I was tangling exercise up with work I have to do. The sum total – I was finding all sorts of excuses not to go to the basement and put a half hour on my bike!

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Alexandra dismayed

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My exercise bike is super heavy, so moving it up stairs ourselves was not an option. So I took what seemed a ridiculous step. I phoned a moving company to come and move my bike from the basement to the top floor. Two strong men arrived at the door and carried my bike to the top floor without a pause for a rest!

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Now my bike is in a convenient place where I can use it without excuses. I am most motivated to exercise when I get up in the morning and there it is, right in the path on the way to the rest of my day. Since moving my bike upstairs, I am using it more often and getting lots of reading done (it is brighter upstairs too!).

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Alexandra proud of herself

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If you encounter a stumbling block to your best daily routine, I hope my story will help you to put yourself back on track.

  • analyse the problem and determine a solution
  • put the solution into action, even if it involves some input of energy or money

At the time, my solution seemed radical, even silly. But in the long run, my health is my most important consideration!

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All the best,

Alexandra

keeping busy in the evenings

Well, two weeks into my new wellness challenge, I have lost two pounds.  This makes me happy because loosing the weight slowly is the best way to allow my habits and body to adjust.  My morning blood glucose readings have also been great for these two weeks, always less than 8.0 .

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I attribute my loss to limiting my evening eating.  Instead of sitting, watching TV and making trips to the kitchen every five minutes, I have focussed on making small lap quilts.  These are easy to handle, quick to do and the finished quilt helps me stay warm on a cold evening.

I think this works to curb my evening eating because:

  • it keeps my hands busy
  • the work demands my whole attention
  • snacking as I am sewing is almost impossible
  • the result (the finished quilt) is very satisfying

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My quilt-making would not win any prizes.  As you can see below, my stitches are quite irregular.  But it ‘works for me’ and the result is quite durable.  I start with a small fleece baby blanket (30″ by 36″) and sew small patches on one side, using top stitching.  Then I add a backing and sew the layers together with more stitching.  By the time a quilt is bound, it has taken about 5 evenings or 15 hours.

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Best 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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Best always, Alexandra

a new goal

A year ago, I decided that losing one pound per week over the next year would be a good goal. After all, one pound per week is not so hard. Right??? Right.
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Although setting a goal was a good thing, I may have been unrealistic in my expectations. When it comes to weight loss, one year is a big chunk to tackle. I have read that aiming for a 5-10% loss of weight may be a more realistic, attainable goal.
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So, my new long term goal is to aim to lose 5% of my weight during the next three months. That would be 13 pounds.
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To do this, I will do the following:
1. reduce the amount of fat in my diet and eat more fruit and vegetables
2. keep track of my daily eating and exercise using MyFitnessPal http://www.myfitnesspal.com/
3. keep up my routine of morning stretches and stationary cycling
4. reward myself for progress
5. weigh myself once per week (Wednesday) and report my progress here (see Weight tab above)
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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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going gluten free

A new complication has arisen in our household … my husband has been told by his doctor that he has to go on a gluten-free diet.

I will not add to the huge number of postings out there on the topic of gluten-free eating.  But I will say a little about the implications for me and my healthy eating plan.

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1. I think this could be a help to me.  Even at this early date I can see that thinking carefully about the food we eat and reading food labels will help me be more aware of what I eat.

2. I was not certain at first if I would try to follow the diet too, but I think I will.  The game changer was the toaster.  Gluten-free means my husband should not eat even a crumb of wheat bread.  Cleaning out our toaster was a major challenge and even after a session with the vacuum cleaner, we may have to buy a new one after all.  Two toasters and juggling two different kinds of bread is too much for me to cope with.  So I think the household will now be gluten-free!

3.  I am finally going to buy a book I have known about for a long time.  It advocates a different approach to healthy eating and elimination of wheat from all our diets.  William Davis, 2012, Wheat Belly.  I will let you know what I think once I have read it.

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Perhaps someday I will be able to say, the toaster was responsible for it all!!!!!!!!

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Best always, Alexandra

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February exercise

So, we are into March at last.  There are still two feet of snow on the ground where I live, but there are small signs that spring is on the way.  The sun is up by 6:30, the roof is dripping in today’s bright sun, and I have some things for April in my calendar.

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Last month I pledged to go on my stationary cycle every second day. Hmmm.  I am proud that I continued to exercise during the month, but I fell short of my goal.  I biked 11 times during the month, a little more often than every third day.

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I think my goal will stand for March – I will plan to bike every second day.  Perhaps as the ice melts and the snow goes, I will do some more walking too.

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Best always, Alexandra

Alexandra reading, not eating

Date Cycle Weights Walk Date Cycle Weights Walk
Feb. 1  #  # Feb. 17
Feb. 2  # Feb. 18
Feb. 3  # Feb. 19  #
Feb. 4  # Feb. 20
Feb. 5  # Feb. 21  #  #
Feb. 6 Feb. 22
Feb. 7 Feb. 23  #
Feb. 8  # Feb. 24
Feb. 9 Feb. 25  #
Feb. 10 Feb. 26
Feb. 11 Feb. 27  #
Feb. 12  # Feb. 28
Feb. 13 March 1  #
Feb. 14
Feb. 15
Feb. 16  #