Current Happenings

Plains & Pastures Bike Tour (2013)

I'm so proud to live here! Fredericton folks are just AMAZING!!!  Thank you one and all!!  My team raised over $2000.  The support was humbling.  What a great place to be!!!

Mind you, the journey isn't about me - it's about people who fight this horrible disease on a daily basis.  If you're reading this now, I hope you'll come back and sponsor me in the ride next time. 


Bike for Breath

Many thanks to everyone and their generosity.  The amazing people in my life supported me to the tune of $377.  Some days it is just great to be here!   (Fall 2012)


Entries in Weight (4)


Keep on keepin' on........

Einstein is often quoted in the weight loss world: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results."  While that's true, I find it rarely FITS in the weight loss universe because so few people TRACK what they’re doing and could repeat something if they tried.  

Over the past two months, specifically between March 21st and May 19th I lost a grand total of ONE lousy pound.  ONE!!  That utterly sucks.  I’ve been losing a pound every week for two years.  One measly pound in two months when I haven’t changed anything?  Surely I must be on a plateau??  Actually, NO.  

The calorie tracking, futile and unreliable as it might be, would have you believe that I should still have been losing.  I was in a caloric deficit throughout the time period.  The difference for me was sleep and stress.  Especially the sleep in terms of quantity and quality.

But the story doesn’t stop there.  I’ve got a long ways to go yet.  I have now finally reached the point where I left off in the winter.  OK.  We’re starting fresh.

Then I took some measurements.  In between the two months and that measly pound, there was a significant difference in body shape.  Now I just assumed that my bathing suit was stretching from the pool chlorine, well actually it was, but it turns out that wasn’t the whole story either.  I have also lost 3/4 inch off my waist, 1&1/4 inch off my hips and 1/2 inch off each thigh.  

So, the moral of the story according to me, if you don’t have a realistic and varied data set on yourself, you have absolutely no way of knowing if you’re on a plateau or not.  The scales are certainly not the ONLY measurement.  I can tell that my pants are fitting differently but since the fashion parade is pretty low on my priority list, it wasn’t something I was tracking.  I mean really, pants are pants.  I figure I’m doing good to pay attention whether or not they’re clean.  Anything else is not worth burning up brain cells.  

SO, any fancy guru trainer who tells you that you’re on a plateau after a paltry little two weeks had better be taking a boatload of different measurements to prove it.  Otherwise?  I call “BS”.  In defiance of anybody quoting Einstein, I just keep on keepin’ on with the same thing: eat, swim, rest, repeat.  Insanity is a completely different problem!


Alternate means to measure success

I’ve come down pretty hard on the notion that you have to face your scales.  If you can’t face the pure unbiased number on your bathroom scales, then you don’t have a chance of staring down a cheesecake when you’re tired.  Moving on.... 

I discovered a new measure of improvement today in the pool.  I sink!!  Now this might not be all that important for some people, but for me this is huge.  You see ..... fat floats.   When I was in the aqua-fit classes all the other people needed to put on float belts when they went down to the deep end.  I didn’t need one.  Fat floats.  

When you swim laps, the pool is divided in lanes with floating ropes.  I’m currently swimming in the medium speed lane which involves crossing a couple lanes.  This meant ducking under the ropes which wasn’t always such an easy task.  It actually takes some strength to push completely under water so you can make it under the rope.  If you don’t aim just right then you end up rolling it down your back as you come up the other side.  

It’s kind of funny, but this has gotten easier without me actually noticing it.  I did notice that I can walk through the water faster/easier, and I was getting under the ropes a lot faster, but I honestly didn’t clue in that it was easier.  I just asssumed it was practice.

There was only one person left in my lane when I finished today so I stood to one side and did my stretches in the water.  (Far easier than on land!)  I was totally comfortable and relaxed.... it was going fine.  I happened to completely let out my breath at the very end of a bending move, and dropped my arms to my sides.  Then the funniest thing happened .... I sank below the surface!!!  Of course I had to try it again .... and again.  (Much to the amusement of the lifeguards I’m sure.)  

What a blast!!  A truly novel way to measure progress (OK perhaps downright crazy) but it’s working for me!

Another thought struck me.  I probably hadn’t noticed the ropes since I’ve only been ducking across AFTER swims lately.  My knees have improved to the state where I can bend down & sit on the edge of the pool to get in. 

That’s another way to measure progress: some newfound bendiness.  Yes!  Novel new ways to measure progress and to experience more joy in movement.  It just gets better and better.

Here’s a recent kitchen disaster, at least according to my daughter.  It’s broccoli soup, and in my less picky opinion, it tastes just fine.  She is right however on ONE thing, soup is not supposed to glop like mayonnaise.  I quit using flour or cornstarch to thicken things, so I tried Psyllium fibre.  It’s soluble, adds zero carbs to the recipe and should thicken it up “a little”.  Here’s a newsflash: it thickens up “a LOT”!  Use teaspoons, not tablespoons and let the first one cook well before you add another!!


Because I said so!

Have you ever opened your mouth and to your utter horror you’ve heard your mother talking?   “Because I said so!!”  That’s gotta be the ultimate frustration level inside yourself when you hit the explanatory stone wall...... oh how do I hate that?  Let me count the ways.....   It’s always a shock when I hear it from myself.  Even more ironic, it’s like that proverbial red flag to a bull when someone gives it to me.  Tell me WHY or get out of my way.  I’ve hit that zone on exercize right now.

I’m at a waffle point: how much exercize should I be doing?  The correct answer of course begins with “it depends”.  OK - what are my priorities?

Weight loss - first and foremost.  Yeah yeah -- not the number on the scales but rather a healthy body fat percentage.  Listen closely:  I’m so far away from that ideal state that the number on the scales will do just fine for the next year.
Movement - ability to participate in normal healthy activity like dog walking, mild frisbee/softball games, getting back up again when my kid insists on snow angels.... normal life.
Ease - ability to bend my knees, walk without pain, have no need for a seatbelt extension on the airplane, buy clothes in normal stores, sit in folding canvas chairs at sporting events.    

Let’s be real here.  I’m not going to be setting any records or running anywhere at the moment.  I just need to keep the joints moving and the calories burning.  Yeah yeah - calories in / calories out is hogwash but not completely.  At some non-theoretical point, EXCESS calories DO matter.    On the flip side, in order to lose weight you have to burn fat calories no matter how many of the flipping little things are actually in a pound.  That is not a theory either.  You can’t just make a wish and have it fall off your butt.  You have to work it off.  Somehow you need to have a caloric deficit WITHOUT nutritional deficiency.  Hence, my bff in stable ketosis, but that’s another day.  This rant is about exercize.

I don’t have issue with essential notions for strength training: Stabilize joints, improve posture, facilitate movement, change body composition & therefore improve metabolism..... this is all good stuff.  HOW MUCH?  WHAT KIND?  Oh man.... things get hairy all of a sudden.  Too much exercize is just as bad as too much stress.

Leaning to do the “slow burn”  or even “eccentric” notions help clarify a little bit in that you build your muscles with controlled movement across full range of motion and smaller amounts of time than conventional pumping is recommended.  OK.  This makes intuitive sense.  Extend time & intensity of contractions and muscle will develop.  

However, when you listen to those resource people you start to scratch your head.  Fred Hahn who wrote Slow Burn Fitness Revolution and guests on “Ask the Low Carb Experts” with Jimmy Moore is talking in terms of 15-20 minutes PER WEEK in place of aerobics.  Likewise Jonathon Bailor talks about the nitty gritty of component muscle fibres in the Smarter Science of Slim, indicating one intense session per week with recovery time up to SIX DAYS!!!  Furthermore, in one of his interviews he mentions that he is sore for literally DAYS after these intense workouts.  

Yeah, no thanks.  This does NOT work for me.  It might confer metabolic benefits that are better than aerobics but it doesn’t meet my need for calorie expenditure.  Besides that, I still need to be able to walk on other days of the week.

The opposite end of the spectrum is not desirable either.  Colin Champ has an opinion post on extreme training with an embedded video of an athlete “hitting the wall”.  He has a fairly dim view of marathons!  

I can’t say that I disagree with him on the ultra-marathons either, but you know, the brag value of those things would be huge.  What a comeback to the snobs who look down their nose at me now eh?  “Yeah bonehead - I lost 200 pounds and finished an Iron Man.  What have you done?”  Somehow I think that might remain in the fiction category for just a while yet.  Mind you Joel Runyon would say I should just ignore those small minded morons and get on with the impossible.  Never say never.

Where is the happy medium?  If you listen to participaction commercials you will learn deep intrinsic truths like “One half hour of exercize is one less half hour in front of the television”.  Helpful?  NOT!  The short of it is that nobody I know has a good answer.  It depends...

You know what - I don’t know either.  I’m just going to keep on swimming on my lunch hour because I happen to like it, and I can do it without a whole lot of joint impact.  (The use of fins is addressing the shoulder imbalance.)  AND I’m going to continue biking to work until it gets too cold because that too is low joint impact and a beautiful ride.  I love the mist rising on the river in the mornings now, and the sound of the resting Canada Geese that I can’t see.  As long as the arse keeps melting and the knees don’t hurt, that’s all that matters at the moment.  Why?  Because I said so!!!!

Fred Hahn
Colin Champ
Joel Runyon Blog of Impossible Things
Jonathon Bailor, The Smarter Science of Slim, Aavia Publishing, 2012.


How could this happen?

Probably everybody in my situation ponders the BIG question: HOW did this happen to me?  And then you spend many unproductive hours mentally beating up on yourself.  If you're normal then you're also your own toughest critic and if you really work at it, you can drive yourself neatly around the bend. 

Denial is huge.  "It really isn't that much of a problem YET because I can still do ____." (insert activity of choice).  However, denial isn't a cause.  If you want to actually deal with it, you face the issue and you figure out what's CAUSING it.

Now if you're a smug university graduate with several nutrition & physiology courses on your fancy papers, then you will immediately assume that it is a balance between calories in and calories out.  To a certain extent that is true, but when you do the math, it is surprisingly simple.  In truth, I was VERY surprised when I looked at the calculations.

For the sake of argument, use 100 extra calories per day, 365 days per year, 20 years.  That comes out to a grand total of 730,000 extra calories.  One pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories, hence, that total represents 208 pounds.  The first time I looked at that equation the number "100" extra calories was just picked out of the air.  Compared to my target weight loss of 206 pounds, all of a sudden things got a lot clearer.

How much food is 100 calories?  Well, it is one single slice of multigrain bread (110 cals) or it is a precise 2/3 cup of cooked brown rice.  Those are healthy choices right?  How about 1 medium Red Delicious apple?  That's a healthy 90 calories.  OK how about some extravagances?  One tablespoon of butter is 102 calories.  Who doesn't butter their toast?  Or it is a grand total of 8, count them, 8 crackers in your soup.  That's only 2 of those little packages of crackers that come with your soup in a restaurant, and yes, they very often have two packages with a bowl of soup. 

One hundred calories is actually a very small amount, particularly if you are not keeping a food diary and especially if you are not paying attention.  And then there's biology that undermines everything.  Assuming you are not exercizing, then you will naturally lose muscle mass as you age.  This is a slow and rather small amount each year (200g or 8 ounces is one estimate from a hopefully reliable source).  The difference in energy requirement between muscle and fat is a highly variable set of conflicting numbers.  The most conservative estimate I've seen is that one pound of muscle burns 6 calories per day.  So even if you eat exactly the same amount of food that you did last year, a little bit more of that will be excess every year.  In fact, over 20 years, at 8 ounces per year, you would theoretically have 10 pounds less muscle.  All things remaining constant, you have no need for some 60 calories per day (which you have probably been eating all along).  All of a sudden that 100 calorie number pulled out of the air doesn't look so big at all.  Over a 20 year period you can now blame it on a half slice of UNbuttered toast and nature's cruel fate.

If you happen to be "pre-diabetic" then you enter a world of hotly contested sets of knowledge, theories and assumptions about the war between blood sugar and insulin that's going on inside you.  Insulin is critical for the management of blood sugar levels.  One pathway for managing sugar is to convert it into fat.  The higher the level of insulin, the greater amount of fat storage that will be accomplished.  That much is generally accepted. 

It gets more difficult to find straight answers when you want to talk about weight loss because the presence of insulin stops the burning of fat from happening all that easily (insulin is really good at keeping your body in storage mode).  Plus, when you have a lot of accumulated fat already, the body starts to lose sensitivity to insulin, and it takes more and more insulin to accomplish the job of cleaning sugars out of your blood.  The more insulin you have circulating, the harder and harder it is going to be to burn that stored fat.

I wish I had understood this insulin battle when I started exercizing and trying to lose weight.  I now know that I was having peaks of blood sugar after digesting my food, followed by probably huge spikes of insulin to deal with it because I was losing sensistiviy to insulin, and then the blood sugars would get wiped out and I would get the shakes, headaches and be absolutely starving again.  I honestly thought I was making it up.  I would think to myself that I shouldn't and couldn't possibly be hungry when I'd had 700 or 800 calories for a meal and it wasn't all that long ago.  Then I would exercize to use up some of calories that I was positive should be swimming around in my blood.  This would create an even greater drain of energy and I would feel even worse.  The first several months were hugely difficult.  Many days the only thing that kept me going was sheer stubborness: I do not want to use that cane again. 

Looking at my weight tracking charts you can see all the peaks and valleys as this internal war was being waged.  Obviously I had to be burning fat SOMETIME because I was losing weight.  However, every day was a new fight with myself.  I blamed it on intensity of exercize I didn't put into it, various states of dehydration, lack of sleep, quality of sleep, etc.etc.  As I learned more about the state of being "pre-diabetic" (or insulin resistant), (or carbohydrate sensitive) then I gradually started changing, reducing, eliminating all the total carbohydrates/sugars that I could reasonably avoid.  The difference in the way I feel is staggering.  Fewer headaches.  No more shakes.  Calmer.  Much less cranky.  The weight loss is much more steady and predictable.  The chart has fewer peaks and troughs now.  I have more energy during exercize.  All in all a much better state of being.


Fighting against nature: unrestricted carbohydrates

Learning to manage - maintain low & steady carb levels.

The whole history - 13 months