My H.E.A.L.T.H. plan – T is for Tracking

ID-10060518.maya pictureOne of the ways I have kept myself motivated while on my H.E.A.L.T.H. plan is tracking my progress. There is nothing better for inspiration than to see numbers going in the right direction. I am a bit obsessive with fine details when I set my mind on a project, and my good health became my project during 2015. Here are the things I have been tracking:

  • Weight. I weigh myself every day, record an average for each week and month. I have also been recording my weight every 31st January for many years. This gives me a better indication of any overall weight gain (or loss).
  • Body Mass Index is a measure which standardizes weight against height. The healthy range is BMI of 20 – 24.9, overweight is 25-29.9, and obese is 30 and over.
  • Waist measurement monthly. Excess around the waist is a risk factor for some diseases of affluence such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • Blood pressure. I have a home machine and measure this 2-3 times a week, more often if I have shown a rise and less often if it has been OK.
  • Blood tests. I have an annual check with my doctor who measures fasting glucose, blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides), nutrient levels (such as iron and Vitamin D) plus some other things she likes to keep an eye on.
  • Blood glucose. I am not a diabetic or prediabetic. However my mother and aunt were and some cousins are so I keep an eye on my own levels with a glucometer. I measure my fasting glucose level and sometimes take readings throughout the day.
  • Foods eaten. I do not count calories but I roughly write down foods I eat every day which keeps me on track that my ‘moderate’ (weekly) foods are not creeping into my daily intake and that my ‘tribal celebration’ foods are not too frequent. Every three months for a week I take a more accurate history and run it through a food analysis programme.

Here are my results:

  • Weight. Until 2010, my annual records showed a slow but relentless rise of about a quarter kilogram a year (half a pound). Not too bad. However, this ‘almost good enough’ for forty years meant I slowly gained ten kilograms. Another eight quickly followed in a crisis year and I was in trouble. Since my HEALTHplan commitment in January 2015, my daily and weekly weights have fluctuated but monthly average has shown a steady decline. It is now beginning to stabilize.
  • Body Mass Index. My BMI is now 22.5, in the middle of the healthy weight range.
  • Waist measurement. My waist measurement has slowly declined and is now less than half my height which is a criteria for being of lower risk.
  • Blood pressure. I previously sometimes had morning highs, and rises after stressful triggers. Now my readings are routinely low (110/70) and do not rise as much after stress.
  • Blood tests. My cholesterol levels were OK from the start and have improved even more. Readings are in fact now very low as is my triglyceride level. Iron levels have improved since menopause. I take Vitamin D sometimes as living in Tasmania doesn’t afford me enough from the sun in winter months.
  • Blood glucose. My fasting glucose levels have dropped 15% from the readings of a year ago. There is less spiking after meals and lower levels two hours after meals. I attribute this to modified diet, smaller portions, losing weight (thus lowering insulin resistance and improving glucose tolerance) and a higher activity level.
  • Foods eaten. The occasional detailed analysis shows I consume ~4500 kilojoules (1100 calories) on strict days; 5700 kilojoules (1,400 calories) on moderate days and 7500 kilojoules (1,800 calories) when indulging. I am very short 155cm and require less than taller people. On ultra-low days I average 50% calories as carbohydrate (153g), 19% protein (51g), 19% fat (23g) and 2% alcohol. Most fat is from cashews. My indulgence days were 42% carbohydrate (199g), 21% protein (66g), 25% fat (48g), 5% alcohol. Most fat from added fats and oils. Moderate days were between those figures. Percentages give a poor indication of my overall diet. During ultra-low periods I ate less and mainly ‘good’ stuff. During splurge periods I ate more of everything and more ‘bad’ stuff. Relative percentages overall mean nothing.

Overall, I am happy with where I am at the moment.

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ImageCourtesy[MayaPicture]FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

When home no longer feels like home

 

ID-100123089.Stuart Miles

Since my marriage collapse, my home has been my sanctuary, a bedrock of certainty; providing me with strength, stability and comfort. I have written about my need for stability and the comfort my home provides here, here, here, here, here and here.

Some time ago I wrote that I was now ready to move and make a new life somewhere else. It is interesting that since I made that decision, my home no longer feels like home to me. In part, this growing negative feeling has been been due to the sorting of the business documents which was a mammoth task and quite distressing at times – with painful memories and negative feelings surfacing as I reviewed records and documents. Then Christmas came and went. It was wonderful to have all the family home. I was back in my element with my home and family my comfort. But now, with everyone else back in their own life, my mood has changed again and the desire to move is very strong.

Over the past three weeks I have been away, spending two weeks with my siblings sorting through my mother’s things and a week with my grand-children. As I drove home, I started to become anxious and, once inside, instead of the usual comforting ‘home at last’ feeling that I would normally get, I felt suddenly and dramatically quite down. There are a few factors at play here.

Firstly, having had three weeks with other family members, the aloneness hit me hard.

Secondly, while sorting through things of my mother (who was a hoarder) I had thoughts that I should have a proper sort through of all my own things before I move. With that thought in mind, when I returned home and looked around at what that would entail, I became overwhelmed at yet another mammoth ‘sorting’ project ahead of me. I knew that if I sorted to my own ‘must do everything meticulously’ standards, I would be here forever.

Thirdly, I have been craving quiet time. I wondered whether I would ever get to that place of peace and contentment.

Enough of all this negativity!

I am actually slowly moving forward and doing well at the moment. I am taking baby steps, baby steps across this bridge that I must traverse in order to get to my new life.

  • I have organized a storage space for the business archives that need keeping for five years. I will be moving them out next week. That will be a load off my mind.
  • I have put my house ‘unofficially’ on the market and will formalize this once the estate agent gets photos done etc.
  • A friend of mine offered to help with some of the packing-my-house-up headache.
  • In a few months, one of my sons and I are going on a bit of a road trip to Sydney.
  • Mid-year, I will be spending more time with my siblings for the final sort of my mothers things.
  • Later in the year, I am going to spend some time in Canada.
  • I am getting excited about my new life around the corner and have been looking at houses and places I want to move to.
  • I am feeling really fit and healthy and that is great!

Here I go!

ID-100238072.suwatpo_______________________________________________________________________

Image courtesy[suwatpo]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

My H.E.A.L.T.H. plan – T is for Tribal Celebrations

ID-100380287.ApoloniaWith the best of intentions, previous stints of me trying to become fit and healthy (AKA ‘lose weight’) have come unstuck during periods of ‘Tribal Celebrations’, enjoying other people’s company with too much good food and other indulgences. Typically when the weight returned (as it inevitably did), I would feel like a failure and give up.

I needed a system that allowed me to improve my health yet allowed celebrations with family and friends – so important for my well being. This time with my H.E.A.L.T.H.plan no food is forbidden. Instead I focus on foods to include every day, foods to include weekly in moderation (with family and friends) and foods only for monthly ‘Tribal Celebrations’. There are also foods and drinks I do not specifically exclude but I do not consider any occasion worthy of their inclusion (and therefore never have them). This is my strategy:

The Fabulous Five
(foods I eat daily)

These foods are low in energy density (calories).

  • Green, yellow and orange vegetables.
  • Starchy water-based vegetables: potato, peas, corn.
  • Wholegrain water-based cereals ie cooked oats, barley, rice and pasta.
  • Legumes (peas, beans, lentils, soy).
  • Fruit.

The Moderate Middle
(skim milk I include daily, the others weekly with family and friends)

These foods are moderate in energy density.

  • Skim or low-fat dairy foods
  • Lean chicken, fish, eggs (at lunch or dinner with family or friends).
  • Bread (ditto).
  • Dry cereals or crackers (sometimes).
  • Nuts, seeds and oily fruit (olives/avocados) as snacks thrice weekly.

My Limit List
Condiments and high-calorie non-foods which add to the enjoyment of food

  • Alcohol twice weekly.
  • Sugar (small amounts twice weekly).
  • ‘Healthy’ oils (twice weekly, in small amounts).
  • Salt (occasionally).

The Terrible Ten

Tribal celebrations (monthly indulgences)

  • Full cream milk and dairy foods.
  • Red meat.
  • Sweet foods: ice-cream (my weakness), celebratory cakes, sweetened yoghurt.
  • ‘Healthy’ oils in higher amounts.

Foods I avoid

  • Deep fried foods
  • Baked fatty foods – cakes, biscuits, muffins, pastry, pies, croissants, doughnuts, ‘health’ and energy bars, crisps, corn chips, pizza, other snack foods
  • Confectionery, chocolate, dried fruit, jam
  • Margarine, coconut oil, palm oil, lard, butter, cream
  • Sweet beverages including soft drink, fruit juice, fruit smoothies, sports drinks
  • Processed meat, fatty meats

The reasons behind my choices

1. My ‘fabulous five’ are plant-based foods which are lowest in energy density and, in my opinion, foods to predominantly eat in order to maintain a healthy weight. However, I am not vegetarian and enjoy dairy foods, chicken and fish when eating with my tribe.

2. I include starchy vegetables and wholegrain cereals daily. These water-based foods are filling and low in energy density. While many lay-books advocate a ‘low carbohydrate diet’ for weight control, there is a lack of logic in that when you consider that countries with very low rates of obesity such as Asian cultures have high carbohydrate diets based on rice. I have lost weight including water-based cereals or starchy vegetables at meals every day.

3. In contrast processed dry cereals and breads are moderately high in energy density and I only include them weekly, basically socially. Being refined they are digested quickly which spikes blood glucose levels. Sugar is highly refined and high in calories. Thus I limit its use but there are small amounts in some processed foods I have such as soymilk and canned kidney beans. Typically about twice monthly I have a sweet dessert.

4. ‘Healthy’ fats (in nuts, seeds, oily fruit and oils) are not so healthy for me as they are high in calories and slither down easily, adding unwanted inches to my waistline. The concept fats supposedly blunt the appetite does not work for me. I put most of my weight on following a ‘healthy’ Mediterranean diet high in olive oil. I now limit their intake to an extreme but do enjoy snacking on nuts a few times a week, and the odd weekly stir-fry.

5. High-protein animal foods are moderately high in calories. In my heart I feel I should go vegan, but my tribe does not. Thus, I enjoy these foods as social indulgences.

6. Ditto for alcohol.

7. I do actually very occasionally have margarine, butter or cream, typically about six times a year at Tribal Celebrations. At those times, I enjoy those indulgences without guilt.

Everyone should seek advice from a doctor or dietitian as to what is best for them, so please do not take this as advice to follow. However, what has worked for me is the strategy of being strict, ultra-healthy and eating foods low in energy density (although I do not count calories) when on my own and having moderate and high calories foods only as indulgences when with family and friends. Using those techniques, I have steadily lost 20 kilograms in fifteen months and am feeling really fit and healthy. However, I do not feel deprived, am never hungry and I am enjoying my tribal celebrations without guilt.

Enjoy this scene from chocolate. Celebrations are, in the end, about people.

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Images.courtesy[Apolonia]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Reclaiming my SENSE OF BELONGING after divorce, death, trauma, retirement, financial catastrophe and other life changes.

ID-10073599. vladoLast year, in the fourth year after my marriage collapse, there was the business sale, loss of my mother, finalization of the marital settlement and my retirement. I am now in the fifth year and finally facing the full impact of the divorce with its financial ramifications, as well as other life changes. Sometimes I feel I am left with the shadow of the world I had five years ago as many people in that world are now gone from my life.

When my marriage collapsed, I felt my whole social network had collapsed with it losing my partner, family unit, friendships, his extended family and community connections. With the business gone, I have lost contact with work colleagues, contractors and advisers. My mother’s death means less contact with siblings, extended family and Mum’s community. Still to come for me will be moving away from this area and its community.

I have thought about those people in my old life and the differing levels of connection I had with them. I am striving to create or reinvent relationships at the same level I have lost in order to provide for me a sense of belonging. These are my losses and gains –

Level One – one on one.

No longer partnered, I have strengthened my relationship with work colleagues, friends, children and siblings on a one-on-one basis. I periodically still see work colleagues. Since the death of my mother, I have connected with extended family members individually. My siblings and I stay in touch. I do not need a ‘partner’ to provide me with deep connections.

Level Two – being in a herd, a close-knit group of three to eight people.

I have had several herds in each phase of my life providing me with strength, a sense of belonging and intellectual stimulation. My herds have been my two nuclear family units (children and siblings), foursome couple friendships, friends to share coffee or a movie, interacting with parents of my children’s friends, and mingling with work colleagues in small discussion groups or meetings.

My herds have either changed or disappeared and it is this loss I am feeling the most. I have adjusted to my changed family unit of me and the children, and I am adapting to having sibling interactions without our mother there. Happy times are still shared.

However –

I am no longer half a couple, working or financially secure. Being retired and alone, my situation is different from friends still working, retirees in a couple relationship or in an easier financial position. My regular contact with accountant, banking adviser, book-keeper and IT expert is gone. I have lost that ‘connection’ with those previous herds that I had.

I am endeavouring to seek out and interact with people in similar situations as myself, for example retired singles. I am developing some hobbies and seeking out people or groups with those same interests. It is early days and changes have been small, yet positive.

Level Three belonging to a tribe, a larger group with a common connection.

My past tribes have been classes at school or university, work-place, extended family, sporting teams, choirs and community groups. Not as intimate as herds, there is nevertheless a sense of belonging to people with a common interest. I am feeling the loss of my work environment, and my mother being the matriarch and ‘glue’ of my extended family. Whilst I am focussing on strengthening my Level One and Two connections, I look forward to seeking out community groups when I move. In the meantime, my blogging world has provided for me a sense of belonging to like-minded people.

Level Four – being part of society at large.

In the early weeks of a crisis we lean on community services – police, hospitals, medical and counselling services. I have also given back at the society level providing a health service business for 35 years. Whilst there is a feeling that I am not currently contributing at the society level, I am at least engaging by using library services, browsing shopping precincts, and chatting with people in that environment daily. I am grateful our society is a free one and I feel safe.

Level Five – belonging to a cause of national or global significance.

I was involved in an environmental cause with my family and that interaction was lost when my marriage ended (although my beliefs still stand). Over the past two years I have found a new ’cause’ and have been directing my energies into research on this. My aim is to eventually contribute to this cause in some way.

It is difficult facing several life changes at once. One step at a time for me is the best solution, becoming stronger as my own self, then gradually branching out at the higher levels of connections.

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ImageCourtesy[vlado]FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The Art Of Belonging. Hugh McKay

 

 

 

 

My H.E.A.L.T.H. plan – L is for Lifestyle

ID-10039860.digitalart“Unless you change your lifestyle for health, eventually you will need to change your lifestyle for illness.”

When an illness strikes, I make all sorts of changes to my lifestyle. I fit in doctor’s appointments, physiotherapy, getting prescriptions, taking medicines, having blood tests, hospital trips, surgery. I make adjustments to my routine, live at a slower pace and cut down on commitments. I accept that if I ever get something serious, I may need to accept being housebound, modify my home, or require a walker or wheelchair to get around. For both minor and major illnesses, there will be changes to my lifestyle.

Isn’t it crazy that we are willing to make changes to our lifestyle when we become ill, yet not willing to make such changes to keep our health. Most importantly, so-called ‘diseases of affluence’ (obesity, heart disease, diabetes, some cancers), can be prevented or delayed with changes to lifestyle.

The people of the world with the highest life expectancy and lowest rate of diseases of affluence live in five ‘blue zones’ of the world: Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan; and Loma Linda, California (Seventh Day Adventists). Of diverse cultures, they have certain lifestyle factors in common:

(1) A sense of purpose

(2) A routine to shed stress (moments out, praying, napping, or having a ‘happy hour’).

(3) Emphasis on engagement in family life and loved ones.

(4) Belonging to a ‘tribe’ that supports a healthy lifestyle or spiritual engagement.

(5) Moderate constant activity throughout the day.

(6) Moderate intake of calories.

(7) A plant-based semi-vegetarian diet.

(8) Moderated intake of alcohol.

(9) Low incidence of smoking

When I was younger I got away with all sorts of dietary and lifestyle indiscretions. Too much food. The wrong sorts of food. Not enough exercise. An overwhelming to-do list. Too much stress. Must-attend important meetings. Activities that went on all night, or for days, or weeks, without a break. Not enough sleep. Using food as comfort when angry, lonely or bored. Too much sitting, at my computer, at my desk, or watching soppy movies. Using alcohol as a crutch when in crisis (actually that happened when I was older).

Eventually all that took its toll. It wasn’t one thing in particular. It became everything in general. Lack of sleep made me tired, leading to a low exercise tolerance. I had a healthy diet yet, when stressed, I turned to food for comfort or I would sit watching soppy movies.

I became overweight. I was in good health but knew the risk factors were getting higher for me. This was why I began my H.E.A.L.T.H.plan. Whilst putting in place healthy eating and higher activity has reaped me the greatest benefit (and I am now in the middle of the healthy weight range), I believe it was changes to my lifestyle in the years preceding that set me up for that success.

(1) Developing a new sense of purpose and vision for my future. This included a vision of me as vibrant and radiant; with good health as a goal.

(2) Putting family first. This included caring for my mother in her terminal illness, and regular contact with my children, grand-children, siblings and extended family.

(3) Developing strategies for letting go of stress that do not involve food or alcohol or sitting like a blob. These include phoning a friend, journalling, visiting someone, going to the library, walking, getting outside, spending time in nature, or time-out in finding ‘me’.

(4) Simplifying my life. Getting rid of clutter and letting go of too many commitments has been easier since the sale of the business and the marital settlement. Nevertheless, it has become my mindset, to prioritize those things that really matter.

(5) Non-food rewards. Essential to my H.E.A.L.T.H.plan. has been celebrating each milestone of success by buying new articles of clothing as the dress-sizes have dropped, going to a movie or having weekend trips.

(6) Belonging to a ‘tribe’ that supports a healthy lifestyle. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink to excess. I have been encouraged in my more active lifestyle and in non-food rewards.

 

One remaining lifestyle factor, that of ‘tribal engagement’ in celebrations surrounding food, will be the topic of my next H.E.A.L.T.H.plan post.

All these changes in lifestyle combined triggered a massive change in attitude a year ago to one of optimism and a more positive self-image that put me on the road to success.

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ImageCourtesy[digitalart]FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The Blue Zones. Dan Buettner

Becoming an adult orphan

ID-100135811.supakitmodAn adult orphan is one who loses their last parent when they themselves are an adult. The first time I heard the expression was at the funeral of my mother. Someone described their own transition to that state as the worst time of their life. One would think one should be grateful for having had their parent into their adult years, rather than deeply mourning that loss. Not so. The more you have, the more you have to lose, the greater you feel that loss. So it follows the older the parent (my mother was 88), the older the adult child (I was 61) and the deeper the bond, the harder it is. In my case, here is why:

My mother was my constant

My mother was the one person who had been there for me all my life, who knew me completely, and who loved me anyway.

My mother was the reason for our frequent family celebrations

My mother was the reason for celebrations with my siblings. Now my siblings and I are having separate celebrations such as Christmas, proud to be the centrepiece of our own ‘new generation’. We will of course still see each other. However, it will not be the same as coming together for Christmas and birthdays and Mother’s day and having her there. This is more raw as the year before she died, we saw each other more often than previously. We will have new happy times. But it will not be the same. What we had is now lost.

My mother was the draw-card for extended family gatherings

At some family gatherings, my siblings and I would have members of our own families there. While each niece, nephew and children could not come to all gatherings, over the course of the last decade, there has been frequent contact with all of them. Now that my mother is gone, there is not the focal point for the next generation to meet as often. That frequent contact is now lost.

My mother was the glue that kept her own family in contact

My mother was one of nine children. In the last decade of her life, she was the oldest survivor and became the family matriarch. Everyone looked to her for words of wisdom and comfort. She kept in contact with her siblings, their children and grandchildren; and kept us informed of marriages, births, illnesses, crises. She arranged family gatherings for the descendants of my grandparents. During her illness, the extended family rallied behind her. We saw a lot of my uncle, aunt and many cousins. That contact is now lost.

My mother was the bridge to my ancestors

My grandfather passed away when I was seven, my grandmother when I was seventeen. My father when I was twenty. They have been kept alive by stories from my mother. Moreover, there were stories of her grandparents (my great-grand parents) that were so vivid, I almost thought I knew them. With Mum passing away, I feel I have lost three generations: parents, grandparents, great-grandparents. The link to my heritage is gone.

My mother was the road to a bygone era

Mum was born in 1927. She lived through the depression, World War 2 and the post-war boom. She knew life without hot-water, electricity, refrigerators, cars and telephones. She knew the value of friends, neighbours and family was worth more than any of those. With my mother gone, it is as if all life started in 1954. History has vanished.

My mother was the older generation

With my mother gone, I am now one of the older generation. I always felt safe and stable knowing there was someone there who was older and wiser. With my mother gone, I have no-one to lean on. In fact with my mother gone, others in the family are starting to lean on me. I only hope that I can be half as wise and empathetic as my mother was.

Mother, I miss you every day. I am grateful for the happy memories of family times and for all the extended family who remain and love me still. I draw strength from the values you instilled in me and am comforted by the fact that you live on within me.

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ImageCourtesy[supakitmod]FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

I feel the glow …

ID-100376345.M-PicsIn addition to my practical aims for the coming year, I have thought of a word to aim for in regard to my inner self. Last year I chose light. At the time I was just emerging from a very dark place and I felt that I wanted to focus on the emerging light. Mid-year after the death of my mother, who had always been my inspiration, I wondered how I would manage without her until I realized that before her candle went out she had lit my candle and that had become the light within me – her spirit. Furthermore, as the administrative tasks surrounding the marital settlement were gradually completed, I felt less burdened, I felt light with a spring in myself. The chosen word had indeed been appropriate for 2015.

Following on from a year of light, I now feel strengthening into a glow is appropriate for this year. Rather than simply light, or the first sign of hope, my aim will be to –

  1. shine brightly and steadily
  2. overflow with warmth, good health and confidence
  3. experience deep pleasure and pride in achievements
  4. emit light and warmth
  5. flourish and bloom
  6. radiate contentment and well-being

I feel the glow
The glow is me

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ImageCourtesy[M-Pics]FreeDigitalPhotos.net