Monday, February 23, 2015

Better Health: What It's All About (and the answer isn't dieting...)

Sorry to be so absent. Busy, busy.

I thought it would be worthwhile posting a link to this article, "What if we all just stopped trying to lose weight?", yet another article that skillfully decouples health from weight loss.

The basic idea is that weight loss is a possible side-effect of healthier habits, but that "dieting"--in other words, the conscious reduction of calories or strict adherence to a special way of eating (no sugar, paleo, etc.)--is not, in of itself, a healthy habit. I think, in fact, that the boomerang effect of acting as your own "food police" often causes a lot more bad than good. For the vast majority of people, dieting is akin to holding your breath. Eventually, you have to take in some oxygen, often in great gulps--sort of like bingeing after restriction.

If you're interested in good health, WALK, SWIM, EAT FRUITS AND VEGGIES, LOVE YOUR FAMILY, MEDITATE, TAKE A TRIP TO PARIS (hmm, I know someone who's going to do that pretty soon...). And let the weight settle where it wants.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"Food Sobriety"

Once in a while--OK, more often than I should--I check out some very intense weight loss blogs.

Today, I spent a few minutes reading a blogger who proudly announced how many months she has maintained "food sobriety." If it works for her, it's not my business. She seems to be happy. But there are so many people for whom "perfect eating" becomes a constant source of self-hate, because most people just can't stay perfect all the time. I feel for them deeply.

Food: the new danger. Gag me with a spoon (what an appropriate metaphor!).

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

End of Year, New Year Post

Over the past few months, I've written a gazillion posts in my head and posted none. So, if I want to keep my blog going, even feebly, I'd better do something before the end of the year.

The impetus for this post comes from Crabby McSlacker's recent post on being fit and fat. Personally, I admit to finding it really hard to walk the talk and accept that I will never look like a supermodel. But then again, the VAST majority of us don't. We just weren't born that way and no matter how much we wish and pray, it just ain't gonna happen! However, what we can do (should we accept to take up the challenge) is eat mindfully and move joyfully. Fitness IS something that most of us have a little more control over.

I've found the past few months really interesting from a weight point of view. One of my readers wisely pointed out that I should not expect the weight loss I experienced after surgery to last. And yes, she was basically right. I might now weigh a pound or two less than my post surgery weight, but essentially, I'm back to where I was weight-wise.

For about two months post-surgery, I just wasn't hungry and ate very little. It's really interesting to just not have much of an appetite. That's not part of who I am. I'm not a voracious eater. I'm not a binge eater. But I like food. I know people who don't really like food--they pick at the food on their plates, they play with it, but they don't eat much. And guess what? They're thin. That's not my thing. I even lost my liking for sweets for about two weeks after the surgery. That was practically an "out of body" experience. I remember looking at a piece of chocolate bread on my plate, sitting at a cafe with a friend of mine who had come to take me out after surgery, and thinking "blech." Wow, it was amazing. However, the distaste only lasted a couple of weeks. This does not mean I now sit for hours stuffing my face with sweets--far from it. But sweets have returned to their special place in my life.

I also remember not being hungry for lunch until about 3 p.m. in the afternoon. And then only having a toasted tomato sandwich, hold the mayo. And feeling completely full until supper. Woah, Nelly. That's just not me.

And now I'm back to my old self, and my old self desperately wants to go back to my old weight.

On the health front, though, there has been a lasting change. I didn't realize the extent to which my knee was affecting my gait and my back. After about two months of on and off back pain after surgery, my back is better than it's been in years. My (operated) hip is not great, but it's no worse than it was before the knee surgery. I have gotten my walking back up to where it was before the surgery (an average of at least 10,000 steps a day, and often more, per week) and I've added biking to the mix. I bike less than I did a month or two ago, due to my hip, but I'm still trying to bike at least twice a week, which is something I could only dream of doing before the knee surgery. In short, I am very, very happy with the knee surgery. And more than a bit relieved!

With this, I wish you all a very happy holiday season, whatever tradition you celebrate.

And a wonderful 2015, filled with good food, and happy movement. Be healthy and happy, one and all!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Twelve Weeks and Counting

Well, I see that it's been about two months since my last post. Lots has happened.

New Knee (aka NewMe) has been busy healing. I'll be celebrating the twelve week mark this Thursday and all I can say is that I've come a long way...and still have a ways to go.

I continue to exercise every day, though a number of the original exercises have been left by the wayside while I've added a few new ones to the mix. I'm now doing two yoga poses, not every day, but quite frequently...just because I now CAN.  They are Warrior I and Warrior II. Let's just say that before surgery, when I bent my affected knee, the crunching sound was not very pleasant. Nor was my knee stable. Now, it's stable as a rock and there's no accompanying soundtrack. When my operated leg is out straight, the hamstring is still a bit stiff, but I continue to work on that. Here are photos of the two poses. First, Warrior I:

and Warrior II:

I'm sure that anyone who's ever had challenges of any kind can appreciate how exciting it is for me to do these poses.

Another exciting activity I practice every day is biking on my stationary bike. Well, exciting isn't totally the right word. Sweaty is more like it. I usually do about 25 minutes and bike 7-8 km. The "before" picture was 1 minute, followed by several days of extra pain. Needless to say, I'd stopped biking. A little aside: I was working out of town last week (more on that below) and went to the hotel gym to use a stationary bike. Unfortunately, all they had were spinning bikes. I didn't realize that these bikes are different from regular stationary bikes. To use one properly, you have to bend over and take a racing position, which is absolutely terrible for me, due to my back issues. So I only did 10 minutes a day, with my arms just hanging down. It was tough.

And finally, I'm back walking. On days when I'm not working, I usually do over 10K steps. Yeah!

Last week, I did my first days of work. It was good to be back in the saddle, but a bit difficult. I can't do a full day of work without making sure I get at least some exercise in. Otherwise, I feel quite stiff.

Now, on to the not quite perfect things. My knee still usually feels like I'm wearing a fairly tight Tensor band around it. It "feels" stiff, although the range of movement is good. Sometimes, it actually hurts and I'm still taking an Advil or two a day. Part of my knee (on the outside) is numb. This may lessen, but it will take time. Although I can walk a lot, I'm still not able to do all the walking I did pre-op. I'm quite sure, however, that by the time I leave for Paris in May, I'll be more than able to walk as much as I want.

My gait--in other words, the way I walk--has improved, but that means my body has to adjust. I therefore am feeling a bit of sciatica as my back gets used to this new way of carrying myself. I see my osteopath once a week and am getting some acupuncture treatments too.

Full recovery takes a year. I've only just begun, as the song says.

What about my weight, you might ask. In my last post, I commented on some surprising weight loss. I usually associate any "easy" weight loss with a malfunctioning thyroid and as I watched my weight drop, I was becoming more and more concerned that my thyroid was to blame. The good news is that my thyroid is fine!!! The weight loss has slowed to almost nothing. I'm really not sure if there's going to be anymore. I am eating slightly less now (I think) and exercising slightly more, though all that biking probably doesn't amount to much more than 120 calories burned. I've lost about 5% of my "starting" weight, which is a trivial amount, but on someone of my VERY petite size, it really makes a difference. Last week, I tried on a dress that was very vavoom...even with a great honking scar on my knee. I didn't buy it, just because I really don't have anywhere to wear it, but it was a fun experience. By that silly measure, the BMI, I'm still fat, but boy am I getting in shape. That's what's important.

My sweet tooth has indeed returned. I manage it exactly as I have in the past: two squares of dark chocolate after supper and the odd small cup of gelato from time to time. We have a terrific gelato place a block from our house:

So, there you have it. NewMe's New Knee update.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Side Effects"

I celebrated my new knee's three-week anniversary a few days ago.

Things continue to move forward, although the pace of recovery has slowed a bit. I am exercising twice a day, but some of the numbers (degree of extension and flexion) are a bit stuck. I guess my body's still playing  catch-up with all the work (exercise) I'm doing. My mood is generally good. It really helps to know that all is fine. Having had unsuccessful surgery in the past, my thankfulness for a good surgical outcome knows no bounds.

Interestingly, I have noted a couple of physical side effects of the surgery that have absolutely nothing to do with my knee.

The first side effect is the almost total disappearance of the chronic cough that has bothered me for about TEN years. I have gone through numerous tests and tried all kinds of products (both over the counter and prescribed by specialists) to get rid of the cough. Nothing worked. But the minute I came out of surgery, the cough was practically gone. The only reason that I can imagine for this quasi-miraculous event is that something was somewhat out of kilter in my throat and that the tubes they no doubt put down my throat during surgery (I had to have a general anesthetic due to back problems that made using an epidural a less than optimal choice) pushed things back into place. I have coughed a couple of times in the last three weeks, but probably no more often than the average person coughs. Extraordinary!

I have also lost a bit of weight since surgery. I suppose this could be viewed as not particularly surprising, although I have also been extremely limited in the amount of movement I do (I normally average about 10K steps a day; now, the number of steps is so low, I'm not even wearing my Fitbit), There's not a lot of calorie burning going on, though as I type this I wonder about the effort my body is going through to simply heal. Up until recently, I've taken most of my meals in bed, since sitting for any period of time brought on further swelling and discomfort. But I definitely have not been trying to limit the amount of food I eat. I just eat what I feel like eating and admittedly, it does seem like somewhat less than what I usually eat.

I also found that during the first ten days or so after surgery, I felt absolutely no desire to eat sweets. As a rule, I am very fond of sweets and I therefore tend to "watch" my consumption fairly closely. My cousin came over with a box of gourmet cupcakes a few days after I came home from the hospital and I was downright disappointed to see them. I at a half a cupcake during her visit and I think I had a bite more of another one in the days that followed. My husband and kids ate the rest. My younger son's girlfriend baked me a lemon cake and I just adore anything with lemon. I was literally able to eat only a crumb of it. The rest was enjoyed by other family members. As time goes by, my friendship with sweets is coming back. I have enjoyed a square or two of chocolate after supper from time to time. I don't think this aversion to sweets will last very long!

I am somewhat curious and slightly concerned about loss of muscle mass due to inactivity. However, although I am still passing a lot more time than I normally do in bed, I think I can honestly say that this is a far from inactive recovery. I am doing some very demanding exercises twice daily--yes, even on the weekends and statutory holidays! So I'm not going to let this concern get to me too much. I'm sure I'll be fine.

Recovering from a total knee replacement is quite the adventure.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bionic Knee Adventures

Knee surgery has come and gone and of course, there's lots to tell. I've been doing almost daily updates on my Facebook page, but not all my readers here are following me on FB, so I owe you all a long update.

The surgery itself went very well. This, in itself, was such a relief. I had a total hip replacement 11 years ago that had to be revised only 8 months later, so I went into this surgery with a great deal of trepidation. Of course, this time I had a different surgeon at a different hospital and the surgery was on a different joint, but it was difficult not to be scared. Long story short: everything was fine and I am flooded with relief.

My surgery was on June 5 and I was already home on the afternoon of June 8. They had me up and walking the day after surgery on a walker and I left the hospital on two canes. I never even went through the crutch phase. Again, this was a huge difference between this surgery and my hip surgery, where complications were such that I wasn't even allowed to put my foot on the ground, much less weight bear for several months...twice, due to the two surgeries. Today, with my new knee, I'm already walking a little bit around the house without a cane AT ALL! I am taking showers on my own with the help of a tub transfer bench (though I could probably do it without the bench at all) and I am easily navigating the stairs both inside and outside the house.

Now, all of these wonderful things don't mean that a knee replacement is a walk in the park. Far from it. In fact, a normal hip replacement is vastly easier to recover from than a knee replacement.  My knee is very swollen and it feels like it's being held in a vice grip. I'm still sleeping half the night in a rather uncomfortable leg splint to make sure I don't leave my knee bent for too long.

And the exercises I have to do twice a day! If you hear someone screaming, it may very well be me! It's absolutely normal to feel intense pain while doing the exercises. You are instructed to faithfully take your painkillers 40 minutes before exercising no matter what. The painkillers are morphine based. This is serious stuff. Fortunately, I know that I am not developing any addiction to the pills. When I don't need them, I feel no need to take them. Hopefully, the exercise pain will lighten sufficiently within the next 5 weeks or so and I will be able to rely on Tylenol Extra Strength alone.

So that's the update. I'm back, pretty happy and working super hard.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Knee Day

About two and a half years ago, I was scheduled to have a knee replacement. The surgery was cancelled practically at the last minute (OK, less than 48 hours, which is pretty last minute in surgery terms) because a blood test showed that I had had a relapse of Grave's disease  (hyperthyroidism). The very calm endocrinologist, with a slight Spanish accent, said to me (and this is almost a perfect quote): "My dear, I suggest you cancel the surgery. You could have a stroke on the operating table." Surgery cancelled.

I have been on medication for my thyroid since that day in November 2011. I'm now down to a tiny, tiny daily dose, but since we're not taking any chances on a relapse, I'll probably take this dose forever...and keep my own, slightly wonky thyroid. I much prefer this to having my thyroid removed. It still pretty much does the job and I rather like it.

Now that I'm in solid remission (it's been well over a year since I got down to this practically symbolic dose of medication), I'm once again scheduled to have my knee replaced. Contrary to my thyroid, my left knee is a true mess. It was a long time coming and the mess is an unfortunate combination of heredity and a barbaric medical treatment that I, and thousands of other children, underwent in the early 1960s.

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was a child, children who were pigeon-toed underwent a treatment called "bars and boots" to make their feet turn outward rather than inward when they walked. For several YEARS, I slept on my back, wearing little boots that were screwed on to a bar to keep my feet from pointing inward. The treatment worked beautifully...on my feet. But it did a bit more than it was designed to do and pulled my legs out of alignment too. Today, if I stand with my feet turned in (pigeon-toed), my knees face forward. When I stand "normally", my knees are turned outward. It doesn't make for beautiful legs, but beautiful legs are not a pre-requisite for a healthy life. Good knees and good hips are.

The upshot of this is that my knees don't "track" properly. Exercising on the bike or the elliptical trainer just makes things worse. Most days, I'm alright walking, even fairly long distances. But last years, for instance, I had to walk down a long escalator that wasn't working. Escalator steps are much deeper than ordinary steps and, being metal, they're much harder on the joints. Result: I could barely walk for several days. Recently I did--well I don't know what I did to set my knee off, but again, I was in severe pain for several days. This is not a life.

So, on June 5, I will be celebrating "new knee day". After having a total hip disaster almost 11 years ago, I feel somewhat apprehensive, but that's to be expected. I'm going with a different surgeon this time who has, as said to me after looking at the X-rays, "devoted his life" to knees like mine. Apparently, ballerinas often suffer the same problem--that's about the only thing I have in common with a ballerina!

Knee rehab is much harder than hip rehab. Apparently the pain is something else and you are highly encouraged to take your oxycodon or percocet (very addictive drugs aka "hillybilly heroin) religiously, especially before going for physiotherapy. I have no worries about addiction. I've been on percocet before and all it does is dull my pain. When the pain starts subsiding, it gives me major headaches. I hope to be off the stuff within hopefully a few weeks.

Please do not tell me about your hairdresser's brother's friend's sister who had a knee replacement and is now doing competitive dancing. I heard too many wonder stories about hips before I went in for a new hip and came out much worse than I had started, resulting in a second, mediocre surgery.

All I ask of my little band of intrepid readers is lots of good wishes, good vibes and, if you're of the religious persuasion, prayers for a successful surgery and healing.

Thanks!