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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From sheep to windmills

This week, I continued my exercise program, making the trip from Insch to Fyvie to the north. My three-greats-grandmother, Jane Cooper, once lived in Fyvie, according to the 1851 Census of Scotland. She lived there with her husband (my three-greats-grandfather), John, an older man named George (84 years old) who may have been her husband’s father (and my four-greats-grandfather), and eight children, at least some of whom were hers.

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DateDistance (Minutes)From/To
Feb 2720Insch to Fyvie
Feb 2920on the way to Fyvie
Cumulative Distance
(Since Dec 30)
290

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As I cycled north from Insch towards Fyvie, I saw lots of sheep, which made me think of spinning.

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And, as I thought of spinning, what should I see but a windmill farm, all of the blades spinning.

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Then, since spinning makes me think of balls of wool, I loved seeing these ‘balls’ (bales) of hay.

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Next time I cycle (spinning), I should reach Fyvie.

My best to all of you!

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Alexandra

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

stationary cycle and virtual travel

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DateDistance (Minutes)from/to
January 1120Insch to Auchleven
January 1320Auchleven
January 1520road to Keig
January 1720road to Keig
January 1920road to Keig
cumulative total (since Dec. 30/21)190

Continuing on my virtual travel in Scotland while on my Stationary Bike at home: this week I cycled every second day and increased my time to 20 minutes per session. Travel in the country side is very much like travel here in New Brunswick.

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Along the road are plants that seem familiar. This is probably a relative of our fireweed.

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Along the road are plantations of what I think must be Christmas trees. Acres and acres of Christmas trees.

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Back Burn near Auchleven

Crossed a couple of streams, called Burns.

Occasionally I see forested areas and I love the older, bigger trees. Perhaps some were there in the 1700s when my ancestors lived here.

On Friday, I will reach Keig, a possible birthplace of my third great-grandfather John Clarke.

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Stay well,

Alexandra

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

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

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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exercise, exercise

We are well into February and it is past time to reflect on my medium term goals for January …

Medium-Term Goals (one month)

Goal #2: To bike every second day for one month (January 1, 2014 to February 1, 2014).

Goal #3: To do 2.5 pound arm weight sessions on days when I am not cycling (January 1, 2014 to February 1, 2014).

Goal #4: To go for a short 10 minute walk outside every day (January 1, 2014 to February 1, 2014).

So, how did I do???

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Date Cycle Weights Walk Date Cycle Weights Walk
Jan. 1 Jan. 17
Jan. 2  # Jan. 18
Jan. 3 Jan. 19
Jan. 4 Jan. 20  #
Jan. 5  # Jan. 21  #
Jan. 6  # Jan. 22
Jan. 7  # Jan. 23  #  #
Jan. 8  # Jan. 24
Jan. 9 Jan. 25  #  #
Jan. 10 Jan. 26
Jan. 11  # Jan. 27
Jan. 12 Jan. 28  #  #
Jan. 13 Jan. 29
Jan. 14  # Jan. 30  #
Jan. 15  # Jan. 31  #
Jan. 16  # Feb. 1

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Biking:  I bike on my stationary cycle.  On January 30, I celebrated the anniversary of the start of my regular cycling program.  I have been cycling approximately every third day for a year.  During the year, I biked 143 days (an average of 30 minutes on each day) and over 530 kilometers.  I am so proud of myself!!  As for January, I biked 10 times.  This is approximately once every three days, but it took me a while to get started after the Christmas lazy period.  I still have a way to go to meet my goal of biking once every two days.

Weights: I did weights only twice during the month.  This puzzles me a bit because they are easy to do while watching TV and I certainly did enough of that last month!  In order to improve my likelihood of doing my weight session, I have moved my weights up to the living room.

Walking:  I ‘walked’ 7 times this month.  Considered with my biking, that doesn’t sound too bad.  However, I only walked outside twice (the cold weather and icy conditions have been very discouraging).  Instead I began to use a piece of exercise equipment left here by my son – the Tony Little ‘Gazelle’.  It is very easy to use.  I brings my heart rate up but I am uncertain about whether it achieves the weight-bearing value of walking.  I am also cautious because I don’t want to hurt my arthritic knees – today I am recovering from a hurt ligament (from not stretching before and after using the Gazelle).

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During February, I am going to concentrate on my biking:

Goal #2: To bike every second day for one month (February 1, 2014 to March 1, 2014).

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

increasing my potassium intake -results

Over the last two weeks, I have been monitoring my potassium intake, trying to understand how to increase it to a healthy level.  I have learned that many of the foods I normally eat are low in potassium.

During the 8 days I kept track of potassium, I tried to purchase and eat foods I know have lots of potassium.  Orange foods, such as apricots and cantaloupe, are generally potassium rich, so I made sure they were in my grocery order.

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As you can see, I increased my potassium intake but never achieved the minimum of 3500 mg/day.  That means I have to always be mindful of what I am eating to keep my intake anywhere near what it should be.  I realise having raisin bran and milk is a good breakfast, better than the toast and jam I sometimes have.  I am also going to continue to include cantaloupe and apricots as a regular part of my grocery order.  Grapes, bananas and nuts are also great choices!!!

Best always, Alexandra

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