Tag Archives: health and fitness

Lifestyle changes are working!

Today, I have officially lost 10 pounds since I saw my doctor January 5, after my little blood pressure incident at Christmas.

My BMI has dropped from 28.7 to 27.1, so I'm still in the "overweight" zone, but my clothes are starting to feel loose and I'm feeling leaner!

Thirteen more pounds will get me to a BMI of 25, which would be dandy, and I'd be at my lowest weight since well before I had children.  My oldest is 18.  

I've been watching salt, reduced my wine intake, have been walking for 30 minutes every day with the dog, and am just eating less.  No big secret. But this is a significant milestone for me, and the blood pressure was perhaps just the wakeup call I needed.

Seven Quick Takes Friday


Welcome all Company Girls!

The last couple of days have been rather nerve-wracking, health-wise.  The night before last, I woke up at 3 am with stomach pains that wouldn’t go away.  They continued all day yesterday and pretty much prevented me from doing anything….I only managed to take Wilson around the block, and I drove to the library to drop off and pick up books.  My blood pressure was also up. Quite a bit.

I kept reading these websites about how heart attacks in women can mimic indigestion, etc, and was getting a bit freaked out. We didn’t have anything in the house for stomach ailments, and I didn’t really feel like eating.  I forced down some plain yogurt and a couple of bananas over the day (and a cookie)  and basically lay on the sofa with a book.

My stomach was still bothering me last night when I went to bed, but it’s all better this morning.  I have a headache, and my bp is still up, but hopefully it will subside as I start to feel better.  At least I’m up for errands and housework today.  And dinner out with friends tonight.

One of the “benefits” of being under the weather is getting some reading done.  Yesterday, I read the Philip Roth novella The Humbling


.  Very dark and intense story of a successful, aging actor who can no longer work.

I also got NutureShock: New Thinking About Children:


by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman from the library (again).  This is the third time I’ve checked it out but I’ve never been able to get it read before having to return it.  I”m halfway through and it’s a book that I wish I’d had when my kids were young.  So many important insights, but mainly it’s a debunking of many of the prevailing child-rearing tenets.  Like praise.  Like talking about race.  Like gifted testing in the early years. Like TV makes you fat.   Highly recommended reading for all parents of all ages.

I have a couple of resolutions from the book above regarding Michael.  First, it is imperative that he gets more sleep every night.  To that end, the laptop, iPod, and phone will be turned off at 10 and  left outside his room at night.  Second, he needs to understand that his brain is like a muscle, and the more he uses it, the more it grows.  He needs to start doing more work at school, more than is required by his teachers, if he is to keep it growing.   He has decided to drop Japanese for the rest of the year….he was quite far behind and unable to catch up, so we have let him stop going.  In it’s place, we’ve registered him in the Saturday Science and Engineering Academy at University of Toronto.  Their spring program is ten weeks, starting next month, and he’ll be taking the Math and Physics for Engineering program for students in Grade 9 and 10.


There are a couple of new TV shows that we’re enjoying.  The Republic of Doyle is a charming hour-long detective show set in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  The main characters are a father and son, who share a house with the father’s lady-friend and the son’s daughter.  The son is going through a divorce and his soon-to-be-ex-wife is also featured prominently.  The dialogue is fast and funny, and the scenery is gorgeous. The show has a retro buzz about it and is thoroughly engaging.

We also watched the first episode of the HBO production of Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, an adaptation of the Giller award winning book


of the same name by Vincent Lam.  The show really pulled us in, and is complex with flashbacks, fantasy scenes, and unanswered questions about why certain things are happening.  Another one for the PVR.

This Saturday, Z, Michael and I are heading to Koerner Hall to see Quartetto Gelato and Ethel.  Should be a high energy evening!  Check them out:


The online Declutter Group I’ve joined starts on Monday!  I”m looking forward to having a focussed approach to getting the house in order as well as the accountability of doing it in a group.  There are still spots, if anyone’s interested in joining me!

That’s all for today!  I”m off to get my house in order and run some errands.

Book Review: Experimental Man


David Duncan is a journalist and Director of the Center for Life Science Policy at UC Berkeley.  He’s written a fascinating book called Experimental Man: What One Man’s Body Reveals about His Future, Your Health and Our Toxic World 


about his foray into the world of the body, specifically the new technologies that allow us to test and assess our risks for disease and disorder.  Using himself as a subject, he submits to batteries of tests that examine his genes (for markers of disease), his blood (for toxins as well as naturally occuring molecules like cholesterol), his brain (for structural and functional attributes), and some other miscellaneous items (for example, he is one of the 25% of people who cannot taste bitterness).

With intriguing section titles like “Idyllic childhood in Kansas, except for the toxic waste dump” (which explores his high levels of PBDEs) and “Greed, gambling, and why my brain loves Dodgeball, the movie” (which examines his MRI and fMRI brain scans, the latter while performing some gambling tasks), the book is very readable and a great introduction to the technologies that may fundamentally alter the way medicine is practiced.

With their full consent, Duncan also includes family members in some of the genetic testing, looking for shared traits, and in particular, some information about his brother’s congenital bone disorder (osteogenesis imperfecta).

There is a website that interacts with the book (and can also stand alone) called The Experimental Man Project as well as a blog that provide updates to the book, which was published in 2009.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in these sorts of technologies and how, for better or for worse, they will affect our quality (and quantity) of life in the future.

Seven Quick Takes Friday


Welcome all Company Girls!


The resolutions are going pretty well.  I have pretty much stopped eating after 8 pm, with one exception one night when I grabbed some chocolates from a tin that Alex had left in the living room. And last night I gave in to a fruit and nut bar in my bedside table, just before bed. Without even thinking about it.  But I’d received it from Santa in my stocking, so I should get some credit for over two weeks of self-control.   But to be honest, I’m not really missing no food after 8.

I’ve been getting a brisk 30 minutes of walking in every day with Wilson.  He’s a pretty good companion, although he does a lot of recreational peeing and doesn’t like all the salt they put on the streets.  I bought him some little balloon-like slippers called Small-Pawz


at my local pet store.  I haven’t tried them on him yet though…maybe today.

I’ve been hitting the sack every night at 10 pm, although not turning the light off.  I can’t fall asleep without reading before bed, and can’t seem to get myself INTO bed before 10.  Maybe I’ll try for 10 minutes earlier per day, so that I’m prone by 9:30 and lights out by 10.  But I”m really liking the extra sleep and am much more energetic.

I’ve been successfully keeping a running to-do list on my iPhone and feel like I’m accomplishing things in a more timely way than before.  I”m using an app called Task Pro from the iTunes store and it’s working well.  It allows me to split larger tasks into sub-tasks which is great.  I’m working on remembering to put stuff in it, to keeping my brain empty of to-dos and having them all in the list.


Organizing:  This is going a little slower, but now that our house guests have gone, I’ll be able to get down to business.  I’m using ideas from the weekly Clutter Diet program, Home Sanctuary’s Small Things, and My Simpler Life’s Declutter Calendar.  My resolution is to do (at least) one of these things each day.  I’ll also be participating in a Declutter online group starting January 18th.

My hypertension management goals are to reduce salt, go down to one cup of coffee per day, and ditch the alcohol for a couple of week.  So far, it’s been four days and I”m feeling okay.  I wasn’t a big coffee drinker to start with, so it wasn’t a huge deal to reduce my intake from two cups in the morning to one.  I felt mildly disappointed that I couldn’t have a glass of wine at 5 pm yesterday, but had a(nother) glass of ice water and the feeling passed.  I’m avoiding my regular trail mix snack (for the salt), dropping deli meat and reducing cheese.  We don’t eat a lot of other processed food, and I don’t add any salt at the table, so I think I’m okay there.

This has been a fun week for contests.  I only enter those that are really easy and don’t require onerous activity on my part.  I won a family 4-pack of tickets to preview the new Jackie Chan movie The Spy Next Door.  It’s tomorrow morning, and we’ve invited some friends to see it with us as our kids are otherwise occupied.  These were courtesy of a new radio station that I’m enjoying, Vinyl 95.3.

Then yesterday, I won a pair of tickets to a preview of High Life, a Canadian comedy set in the 80s that looks really funny.  Except I have a Catholic Women’s League executive meeting that night, so probably Z and Michael will go.  A hard call:  toker-movie vs Catholic service club meeting.  LOL!  Here’s the preview.

Blood Pressure Update

Saw my family doc today about my little blood pressure (bp )incident on Christmas Day.  At the time, I was reading 195/110.  When the Urgent Care doc let me go, she handed me a prescription for 25 mg of hydorchlorothiazide and advised me to see my doctor in the next week or so, and to monitor my bp in the interim.

My daily bp log shows me reading on average 145/90 which is borderline high. When the doc measured my bp in the office today, I came in right around that.  He advised me to try some lifestyle modifications, to continue to take the meds and to see him in 4-6 weeks.  He strongly advised cutting back on salt (although I am not a big salt eater, and most of our foods are homemade and don’t contain much salt.)  Also, to try cutting out alcohol for a couple of weeks to see if that had impact on my readings, and to cut back to one cup of coffee a day (from two).  I don’t get much other caffeine in a given day as I drink mostly herbal tea later in the day, or just water.  He also suggested a modest 5-10 pound weight loss, and to focus on cutting carbs.

My salt intake will definitely go down in the next few weeks as my mother-in-law has been doing most of the cooking over the past month and she uses a quite a bit in her wonderful middle eastern repertoire.  No issues for me in getting off the bottle…while I enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the day, it’s not a must-have.  The second cup of coffee in the morning will be more difficult I think!  I’m hoping my increased exercise and some moderation around food will help me drop at least a few pounds before I see him next.  I’ll add a daily weight reading to my bp log and the cold hard facts written in my journal should be motivation!

The bottom line is that I may need to be on bp meds permanently.  I have a rather significant family history of hypertension, and I’m at the age for the familial component to be expressed (or whatever the terminology is).  But we’re hoping that the lifestyle mods can get my pressure down and that I can stay on this low dose of a very standard medication.

Obligatory Post about New Years Resolutions

Yes, I’m making some.  But I’m easing in and taking it slowly.  My theme for the year is “Peace”.  Peace in all it’s forms:  peace with myself, with those around me, with the world, with God.  Bringing peace to others and building a peaceful sanctuary in our home.

But that’s kind of the overarching goal.  To get there, I need some feet-on-the-ground strategies around the many day-to-day struggles that I face as I move into the next calendar decade, as well as a personal milestone:  turning 50 in July!

My main source of inspiration over the past week has been Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project


.  In particular, I like how she focuses on one area of her life each month in an effort to establish some positive habits and I”m going to copy her themes, at least for the first few months.

In January, she chose to focus on Boosting Energy.  Rightly, she argues that boosting her vitality level would help her with future months in her happiness projects, and that makes sense to me.  Like Gretchen, I hope to develop some habits around both physical and mental energy.

On the bodily energy side, I need to work on getting more sleep and more exercise.  I aim to get to bed by 10 pm each night, at least Sunday to Thursday.  With my recent blood pressure incident, I need to bump up my exercise level to a minimum of 30 minutes per day.  I have started with doubling Wilson’s daily walks from 15 to 30 minutes and keeping to a brisk pace.  My 70s music mix keeps me engaged and moving.  Today’s playlist included Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke


“, Captain and Tenille “Love Will Keep Us Together


“, and Ian Thomas “Painted Ladies”.   I’m also going to go back to Oprah’s advice (actually, Bob Greene’s advice I think) about not eating two hours before bedtime.  Now, I’ve been known to do a lot of mindless eating in the evenings, and so this is a good one for me.  So, no eating after 8 pm.

On mental energy:  I need to create a calm and organized home.  If I see order around me, my stress level goes down and I’m able to relax and enjoy my family much more.  I have a number of great resources on this front, but for the purposes of setting a resolution, I want to spend some time each day following suggestions made by one or more of The Clutter Diet, Home Sanctuary, or My Simpler Life.  I also pledge to keep a running To-Do list, or bucket, per Getting Things Done‘s “Collect” phase..  I think of this as a brain dump, a way to manage stress by getting all the free-floating to-dos out of my head and onto a list so that I don’t forget them, and spend my precious mental energy trying to remember stuff.

Finally, I commit to blogging every day.  I did it in November, and the first part of December, and loved it.

I’m using an iPhone app called Touch Goal to manage my goals, and am currently using the built-in iPhone To Do list (which isn’t very good).  It doesn’t let me assign a start date or due date to items, so it’s a bit lame.  But there are lots of apps for that.  I just need to sort through them.

It seems like a lot, as I write it all out, but many of these habits are already (or have already been) part of my life at one point or another.  To summarize:

Body:  no food after 8 pm, in bed by 10 pm, and exercise 30+ minutes per day.
Mind:  one declutter task per day, running to-do list, blog every day.

Seven Quick Takes Friday


  1. My sister and her family are coming from Ottawa to meet our new niece.  They’ll arrive this after noon and stay until Monday.  While they’re here, we’ll have a party for new niece’s older brother who turns four in a couple of weeks.  So today I’m cleaning and shopping and making beds!

  2. It’s been cool these past couple of weeks, just the way I like it.  Hovering above freezing during the day, but lots of sun.  It’s great weather for my stage of life and it makes me feel energized.  My mom was a little concerned about me just wearing a light leather jacket out every day, but understood about the internal heat generation that’s been going on.

  3. I’m trying out some contact lenses; must be that mid-life crisis thing again.  I went for a regular eye exam yesterday and came out sporting contacts and a new pair of over-the-counter reading glasses (bright red!).  I wore them for about four hours yesterday and will try for five today.  Dr. Tang, my wonderful optometrist, gave me two mono-vision lenses, left eye optimized for distance and right eye optimized for reading.  The reading is not great yet, but maybe my brain has to be trained for that.

  4. Just got tickets for Fiddler on the Roof, another Mirvish production opening shortly in Toronto.  I’m taking my mother there for Christmas and am really looking forward to it.  She’ll be in town for the holidays and it will be a fun outing that I know she will enjoy.

  5. I can’t say enough about this Gary Taubes book I’m reading: Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health

    . I got it from the library after watching him give a lecture (in a video) and now I’ve added it to my Christmas wish list

    .  I’ll post at length about it in the future, but it’s refuting a lot of conventional wisdom about diet, is compelling and thoughtful, not sensational at all.  I will definitely be making some significant dietary changes, mainly cutting out refined carbohydrates.  I highly recommend this as required reading for anyone concerned about their health and the nutritional foundations.

  6. I have most of my out-of-town shopping done and am caught up on all the birthday shopping from the past few months.  I know what I’m getting for everyone remaining, and that’s the biggest hurdle.  My mother-in-law is arriving for a month on Monday and I want to be able to have a peaceful and relaxing time while she’s here, and enjoy the Advent season.

  7. This Sunday after the main mass, the chapter of the Catholic Women’s League that has been newly re-established in our parish will be installed and blessed.  I’m on the executive, and it’s great to see our efforts coming to fruition in this formal acknowledgement of our chapter status.  We’re having a potluck lunch afterwards for members and their families, and I have signed up to bring bottled water, 6 dozen rolls, and butter.  The busy woman’s offering!

More Seven Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary today!

Mother’s Little Helpers

I’ve been thinking about gratitude, and all the little things that make this late-40s female life bearable.  For my male readers, you may wish to move along somewhere like here, unless you have a female special someone in my age category and are looking for some sensitivity training (or gift ideas).

In no particular order, the things I can’t live without these days:

Clinical Strength Anti-Perspirant
In the last six months, since I went artificial-hormone-free, I sweat. Back of the neck, armpits, and everywhere touched by undergarments.  Put me in a wool sweater and my entire body drools.  This little miracle in a twist-up tube keeps me smelling fresh and my pits dry.  Never thought I’d need it.

My current pain relief/mood management cocktail consists of a daily Cymbalta, Zomig as needed for migraine, and Robaxacet for the post-migraine muscle ache.  I’m hoping that once I am past this stage of my life, the need for these will disappear.  In the meantime, I’m just cozying up to Big Pharma for a while.

Unscented hairspray and hair management tools
External manifestation of my mid-life crisis mainly consists in growing my hair out.  I’ve not had long-ish hair since my 20s, and I’m kinda liking it.  More hair management is needed though, particularly in the frizz department.  I’ve started using conditioner, a product I didn’t need when I had short hair.  I use a blow dryer and round brush, and styling cream.  For the grand finale, and so as not to annoy fellow theatre-goers/choir members, I invested in a big ol’ can of unscented hairspray.  This hair-fixing time has had to be integrated into my morning routine and so I can’t be showered and dressed in ten minutes anymore, my lifelong claim to fame.  I am starting to pine after a flatiron…something like this



Boot cut trousers with lycra
They just keep everything tucked in and balanced out.  More or less.

The public library
This is my virtual reading list.  When I see a book I want to read, I stick it on my “hold” list at the library and sooner or later it wends it’s way to me.  I often forget why I added it to my list, but no matter.  It keeps me supplied in good reading.

Brita water filter / Kleen Kanteen
My little drug habit above means perpetual dry mouth.  I travel with a water bottle (outside the house) and a glass of water (inside the house).  The Brita means it’s cold and virtually tasteless, just the way I like it!

Bedroom air purifier
I bought one at Costco because Z was whining about a bad taste in his throat due to pollution/dog hair/construction debris. “Whatever”, I thought.  But once we started using it in our bedroom at night, I noticed that I was waking up with cool, unclogged sinuses and no morning headache.  I assumed everyone had a headache in the morning.  Apparently not. I have one like this.


Vitamin C
Plagued by quarterly UTIs, my family doc suggested I try acidifying my urine by taking 3000 mg of Vitamin C per day.   I’m only taking 2000 mg because I just can’t remember to take a pill at noon. (I already have a morning and nighttime med routine.)  But it’s working, glory be.

iPod Touch
This little piece of power


 keeps me organized and on schedule.  It also contains hours of podcasts that I can listen to when walking the dog, stuck in traffic, or headachy and unable to read.  It also has tons of music for every mood, and some game to keep me occupied when I’m stuck in a giant line at Costco and for some reason, don’t have a book in my bag.

Moleskine diaries
I love these notebooks.  I have a ruled Pocket Moleskine


 for lists, miscellaneous information, dimensions, phone numbers, scraps of information that I’ll need to refer to in the future.  It fits in pretty much any bag.  I use a Large Ruled Moleskine


as my notebook/memory book.  I use it in class, for quotes, for longer lists of things I need to organize, and I paste ticket stubs and other ephemera in it.  It’s more like a diary-cum-scrapbook.

Light Half and Half
I don’t know what they do to it, but it tastes like 10% cream, but is only 5%.  Glory be.  I use it in my coffee and on berries.

I wish I could say that I can’t live without a gym bag, or my fat-measuring scale, or my carpet steam-cleaner, but, well, I could.  Easily.

Sunday Journal

Today, we were to host my family for a group birthday party:  my mom, my husband, and my sister-in-law all celebrate birthdays in the last 10 days of November, and we invited extended family to celebrate with us today.  Z wasn’t feeling well last night, but I figured I could manage on my own.  I awoke this morning with a sore throat and achy glands, and that germy feeling in my mouth and sinuses. Z commented that he had the worst sore throat he’d ever experienced.  We decided that hosting a party with three octogenarians and an infant plus two toddlers was probably not a good idea, so my brother is having all the non-sick ones over instead.  It also meant that I missed mass and choir on this first Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday of the new liturgical year.

Earlier this week, I was at my local Catholic book store (Pauline Books and Media) and I picked up a book of readings for Advent earlier this week featuring scripture, readings from Thomas Merton, and prayers for each day of Advent and Christmas.  This will be my companion through the season.  There are similar books in the series featuring readings from Padre Pio, G.K. Chesteron, Thomas Aquinas, C.S. Lewis and others.

The preface to the book is a wonderful quote:

Advent is a time of waiting, of expectation, of silence.  Waiting for our Lord to be born.  A pregnant woman is so happy, so content.  She lives in such a garment of silence, and it is as though she were listening to hear the stir of life within her.  One always hears that stirring compared to the rustling of a bird in the hand.  But the intentness with which one awaits such stirring is like nothing so much as a blanket of silence. – Dorothy Day