Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Heavyweight Fight: Sugar vs. Fat

In the 1980's, our country started an experiment. Forty years later, we now know the experiment failed. In the 1980's, we were told that eating a low fat, whole grain diet was the healthiest way to go. Dozens, no hundreds, of low fat products glutted the grocery store aisles. People opted out of fat whenever possible and added whole grains into their diets. Did heart disease decrease? Did Type 2 Diabetes disappear? How about strokes? Orthopedic surgeries do to obesity? No. No. No. And again No.
Know why? Because fat was replaced by sugar (in some form). Also, if you don't already know this, carbohydrates of any kind are nothing more than complex molecular sugar chains. Your body does not know the difference between a Snickers bar and whole grain bread.  If you eat sugar in any form and you do not immediately burn it off, it will get stored in the fat cells. The fat cells become very happy, all plumped up and they don't want to let go of their new rotund shapeliness. So losing weight from these happy fat cells is hard to do.
On the other hand, if you eat a reasonable amount of fat (30% of your total caloric intake or less), your body can metabolize the fat as an energy source.
So stop avoiding fat and start avoiding sugar.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Selective Hearing

We hear what we want to hear.

This week, a "news" event caught my ear. It was reported that doing 5 minutes of running a day would increase your life span. What????? The reporter stated that just doing five minutes of running a day was enough exercise.
Of course, I had  to disagree, but before I completely dismissed the "news" report, I looked it up. The original study was reported in the New York Times and after reading the entire article, the main points were:
1. If you were not exercising at all, any exercise is an improvement.
2. The 5 minutes of exercise needs to be very intensive. In other words, you are running all out, as if a wild bear was hot on your trail, for five minutes. Try it. This is really hard to do.
3. Anyone attempting this 5 minutes of exercise should be careful of weekend warrior injuries. Running without the proper form can and will cause damage to knees, ankles, and/or back.
4. Other forms of exercise could be substituted for running, but also must be done at a high intensity.
5. The bottom line, running 5 minutes a day could increase your life span by 3 years.

The bad part about this news report is that people will hear that 5 minutes of exercise is enough, and the truth of the matter is that it is not enough. Five minutes of intense exercise MIGHT increase your life by three years, but it won't improve your cardiovascular fitness, it won't improve your bone density, it won't tone your body.
There is no easy way to improve your health. There is no magic pill or magic surgery that will improve your health. You want to be healthier? Two key elements are 100% essential - diet and exercise. We have heard this all our lives, but people only hear what they want to hear. And people want to hear that 5 minutes of exercise is all they need.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Three Months, But Who's Counting?

It has now been a little over 3 months since my diagnosis of Type I Diabetes. While I still can't believe it, I feel like I am getting a handle on managing it. I usually can keep my blood glucose levels within the appropriate range and I feel pretty good most of the time. Really, the eating and insulin are the easy parts of the routine.
For anyone who has a condition or illness that requires constant vigilance, the hardest part is the emotional drain that it takes. I know that this is not true, but somewhere in the back of my mind, there is this thought that this is temporary and that sooner or later I can return to my old life. Always before, there was an end date. If I got sick with a cold or flu or bronchitis, in a couple of days or weeks, I would feel well again and be able to breathe without coughing or eat without vomiting. If I was training for a specific event and was on a strict diet, I knew that after the event I could eat potatoes or lima beans again. Six to eight weeks after an injury, the healing would be well on it's way. But now, there is no end date. This routine of taking insulin, counting carbohydrates is eternal. And if I think about it too much, it is depressing.
One thing I can say that this experience has taught me, it is to be more tolerant of people who are really suffering. I have a dear friend who has MS and another dear friend with cancer and my heart bleeds for them. So what if I have to take a few shots a day. At least I still have use of my arms and legs. At least I still have all my hair. At least I don't have to go to the clinic for treatments every week.
I had been blessed with perfect health for a long time and now, not so much, but it isn't all that bad.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The New Normal

If you have been receiving and reading my blog posts, you may remember that the last one was about paying attention to what your body is telling you.
If you know me, you also know that I can be a bit stubborn and while I recommended to y'all to pay attention, I was not paying attention. I took a long time to visit with a physician when clearly there was something amiss. I was not sleeping. I was exhausted and weak. I had headaches. I was starving all the time. Sometimes I would be unbelievably thirsty. I had to pee all the time.
When I finally went to the doctor, I got the shocking news that I have Type 1 diabetes and that my pancreas was not producing any insulin. To further the shock, I learned that for the rest of my life, I would be insulin dependent (with needles). Every time I eat a meal I have to give myself a dose of insulin. Every time I exercise, I have to eat something. Every meal needs to measured out and I need to figure out how many carbohydrate grams I am eating, so that I know how much insulin to take.
It has been about 6 weeks now and I am just starting to get a handle on this. Fortunately, I am a certified nutritionist so I was already head of the curve in knowing what foods are good for me and which ones are off the list. I have also learned how to exercise so that my blood glucose levels don't go crazy. I will be honest, I am not happy with this and it really sucks, but for me, it is the new normal and if I want to live, I have to obey the rules.
I have also learned that while the doctors and dieticians are helpful and knowledgeable, they don't know me and they don't know how my body reacts to food and exercise. I have been running my own little experiment with myself as the test subject and have discovered some patterns that work for me. I have also learned that every person is different and that there is no diet that "fits all".
As I continue down this diabetic road, I am eager to learn more and would love to work with others in the same boat to develop a eating and exercise regimen that fits their personal needs.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pay Attention

We all have an innate ability to read our own bodies. You have a craving for an orange - perhaps you are low in Vitamin C. You feel like having a steak - maybe you protein or iron. You get the idea.
We also (if we pay attention) can tell when something is wrong with our bodies. If you are like me, anything that feels funny, such as an ache, I tend to ignore. I figure that whatever it is, it will go away if left unattended. Several years ago, I had a conversation with an oncologist who told me that we all have cancerous cells all the time in our bodies. This is not unusual. What is unusual is when our bodies don't slough off the errant cells.
Sometimes, the symptom may be something simple, like not being able to sleep or occasional heart palpitations. These symptoms may be nothing. These symptoms may be important. Pay attention to what your body is telling. Check in a couple of times a day and do inventory. Are you feeling good? Is your tummy calm and happy? How about your head? Sore muscles that don't go away? Cramping during the night?
If you sense any abnormalities in your own body and they don't go away right away, maybe it is time to see a professional. Learn to pay attention to your body and listen to what it is telling you. This temple that you reside in is the only one you get this go round on Earth. Cherish it and take care of it. Treat it well. Eat right. Exercise. Do something fun. Laugh. Love.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


On the third Monday of April, known as Patriot's Day, Massachusetts will once again host the Boston Marathon. The marathon began in 1897, making it the oldest annual marathon and it is one of six World Marathon Majors. Remarkably enough, it wasn't until 1972 that the first woman legitimately ran the race. By 2011, 43% of the participants were women.
The Boston Marathon is a qualifying race. This means that each runner must have previously completed in a timely manner another standard marathon course. The event attracts a half million spectators each year with an average of 20,000 runners. The Centennial Boston Marathon had record numbers with 38,708 entrants, 36,748 starters and 35,868 finishers.
Last year, in 2013, 26,839 runners were registered to run in the Boston Marathon. Three hours after the winners crossed the finish line, two bombs exploded; the race was halted, three people were killed and over 200 others were injured. Runners who completed at least half the course, but did not finish the race due to the bombings will get automatic entry in the 2014 race.
I wonder how many of those automatically re-entered will run. I assume that security will be greatly enhanced and that some people will feel that they have to run to honor those who were hurt or killed. But still, if I were running in the Boston Marathon, I would be super nervous. It is a sad state of affairs when our traditions and celebrations are clouded with thoughts of dying suddenly and unexpectedly at the hands of terrorists. The is the true tragedy of terrorism - that we live our lives in fear. I know that around the world, this is not an occasional thought or fear, but the first and foremost thought upon awakening and the last thought before going to bed. Thank goodness, for most Americans, we do not need to worry about being shot or having a bomb dropped upon our heads on a daily basis.
So, you runners out there and those particularly in Boston, thank you, good luck and Godspeed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Running Hot or Cold

I felt something pull in my lower back over the weekend while planting flowers.
I picked up the baby and twisted my knee.
I worked all day on the computer and now I can't turn my head.

These are all examples of how we can hurt ourselves doing ordinary things. Since we cannot avoid ordinary, how do we deal with life's aches and pains. Do I ice it? Do I put heat on it? What is a person to do?

Here is a quick rule of thumb. Use heat for chronic pain or an injury that is more than 2 days old. Overworked muscles are sore due to a build up of lactic acid. When an area of the body has been stressed or damaged, lactic acid does not get flushed out of the system and is soothed by heat therapy, which restores blood flow around the sore area. If you have a chronic injury, apply heat before exercise.

Use cold for acute pain or a new or swollen/inflamed injury. When you have an injury, the damaged tissue can become inflamed, which manifests itself in pain, swelling or redness. Ice and cold numbs the injury. The raise in temperature narrows blood vessels and slows down the blood flow that builds up in the injured area. Cold controls inflammation and swelling, but does not treat pain. Oftentimes the pain is a result of swelling, so you will feel better. Since the cold numbs the area, be sure to remove the ice once the area is numb.

I seem to be a bit swollen!