Tuesday, December 29, 2015

337.2 lbs - the progress continues

337.2 lbs
The progress continues. At this morning's weigh-in I was 337.2 lbs (152.9 kg).

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Trying to like the snow - never say never

I was talking to my friend Jerri this morning about people taking care of their health. Without our good health, we have nothing. It's even more important than taking care of our kids (or, at least, it should be), and more important than our husbands/wives/girlfriends/boyfriends/significant others. It's too easy for us to sacrifice our own good health for the approval and well-being of others. But, if we're sick (or even just sicker than we could be) then we are doing them, and certainly ourselves, a dis-service.

Despite living in Montana on and off for almost 20 years now, I've never been a fan of the snow and ice and freezing cold temperature. These sustained periods of below-freezing daytime temperatures, with nighttime lows down to 0 °F (-18 °C - yes, that's MINUS eighteen Celsius!) are no fun.

Given my dislike of the cold and snow, plus my general state of physical fitness (i.e. my lack thereof), I've never tried - nor can I currently imagine enjoying - Nordic or cross country skiing. So, my aim for the end of 2016 (when I'm much fitter, and after the summer [when there's more snow back on the ground]) is to try cross country skiing to see if I like it. By then, I will have completed my 100-mile Pacific Crest Trail section hike (at the end of May). I should also be a lot closer to weighing only 200 pounds (90 kg), and my strength and stamina will be such that I can actually ski for 10 miles or more within collapsing from exhaustion. Maybe, in those new circumstances, just maybe I'll actually enjoy the snow for a change.

338 lbs (153.3 kg) this morning
On a separate note, I'm happy to report that the holiday season, from Thanksgiving (349 lb) until Christmas (338 lb) saw my weight loss journey continue, with no major upsets. Eleven pounds in a month isn't bad. At my weigh-in this morning, I tipped the scales at 338 pounds even.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Milestones falling, slowly but surely

339.6 lbs (154 kg)
After a few ups and downs, I finally managed to break through the 340 lb barrier (just) this morning. It hasn't been easy, with birthdays and holidays, and everybody overeating at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I tipped the scales at 339.6 lbs (154 kg).

Just for kicks, I decided to measure my waist circumference today too. I have actually lost an inch in the last month or two. It's difficult to tell exactly, because today was the first time I was able to measure in inches instead of feet! (Not really; well, almost). I've told people before, it doesn't matter that it's only an inch at a time. If I repeat the feat a dozen times I'll have lost 12 inches! If I only lose 10 lbs a month, it's okay. I just have to repeat it for another 16 months and I'll be back to normal. OMG, I haven't been "normal" since my mid-20s.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Back on track after a week off

I had a week off from going to the gym. Last week I was trying out some new "foundation garments" that were supposed to reduce chafing of the thighs. Instead, they caused a sore spot in a more delicate area. Not fun! Last night was my first time back at the gym and the swimming pool since then. It was a short workout, but much needed. My heart rate got up into the aerobic zone for a while, and the swimming afterwards felt great!
37 minutes - 1.5 miles
The result of my 'good' eating for the past week paid off this morning on the scales.
340.6 lbs (154.5 kg)
340.6 pounds is the lowest I've been in a while.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Slave to the little electronic gadgets - you bet!

For the second week in a row now I've been able to get to the gym twice already by Tuesday (thanks to G and to Ann. I couldn't have done it without you).

This evening I only did 1.5 miles in 37:38 minutes, but it was "interval training" where the machine automatically goes 'uphill' at certain intervals (it seemed like every five minutes). When I'd finished, I had only accumulated 9,950 steps for the day - oh so close to 10,000. Was I going to go outside and walk the extra 50 steps to get myself over the ten thousand mark? You betcha! It's funny how these little electronic devices (pedometers) can make you do things that you otherwise wouldn't dream of. And I've said before, for me, it's very largely a psychological game of tricking myself into doing it. If I need an electronic device to help me, I'm all for it. I think that's why so many health coaches recommend them, because they know that we all do it. We are all beholden to the influence of these plastic patrons.

In a previous post, I had quoted a Guardian article (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/05/put-off-death-by-ambling-about-a-bit-more-whats-not-to-love-about-walking) which said that pedometers are, "...your jailer, minder, boss and mum", and "move[s you] into the steps-bore A-league". It's true.

If you have an Android smartphone, you should take a look at the Google Fit app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.fitness) which tracks activities like walking, running and cycling in real-time, with no need for a $100 gadget (not when you phone has already cost you three or four times as much, right?) It integrates with other nutrition and sleep apps (I also use one called Withings Health Mate, for example). You can't beat the price (free!) and the functionality keeps improving all the time.

Beginning high intensity interval training

Okay, maybe not high intensity interval training; perhaps medium intensity interval training. There's a story behind that. Anyway, Monday was another day for doing 2 miles on the treadmill at the gym and a good half hour of swimming afterwards.

2 miles, with "hills" every 5 minutes
The results are still getting better:
342.8 lbs, a new recent low

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Third visit to the gym this week

2.4 miles of walking in a whole hour. Yay! That's the first time I've done a solid hour on the machine. Making progress.
2.4 miles walked in 60 minutes
There just wasn't quite enough time for swimming this evening, and my legs are very tired. I shall sleep really well tonight.

My weekly average number of steps has been steadily increasing, from 20,000 past 25,000 to over 30,000 in the past few weeks. As of this moment, I've reached 40,000 steps, and exceeded 10,000 daily steps three times this week.

Second visit to the gym this week

Yesterday was another chance to make up for my sluggishness the previous two weeks. 
Only 1.5 miles, but better than nothing
1.5 miles of walking followed by half an hour of swimming. Nice! 

That was my second visit to the gym this week. This evening will be the third time. It'll be interesting to see if it has any effect on my weight at the weekend.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Start small, be consistent

I was sharing some advice with a friend just now which I thought would be good for everyone who feels overwhelmed by the prospect of losing weight by increasing their amount of exercise. I said:
#1 tip - start small and be consistent. You don't have to be Hercules and make big changes on day one. The most important thing is to do the small daily things on a consistent basis.
It may seem like walking half a mile is nothing. It's not nothing - it's half a mile.
And tomorrow's half a mile makes a whole mile. Pretty soon, if you do it every day, you've have done 2.5 miles in a week, 10 miles in a month.
So, don't be thinking that you have to do great things immediately. If you haven't been very active in the past you need to start off slowly, but do a little bit each day.

345.4 - Made it past Thanksgiving and birthday okay

After several days of not going to the gym, I went last night (thanks, G) with the intention of walking for a whole hour and swimming for another half hour. As it happened, I could only comfortably manage 30 minutes on the treadmill and 30 minutes of swimming. My knees ached. Evidently, I'd left it too long since my last gym visit. I intend to remedy that this week.

Half an hour is better than nothing at all
This morning - much to my surprise - I tipped the scales at 345.4 lbs (156.7 kg).

345.4 lbs today
So, the downward journey continues.

End of year target is 327 lbs

Fermented products for better gut bacteria health

My diet has changed slightly in the last week or two. I'm still limiting carbs a lot, but have added more fat back in. I'm also taking in more fermented foods and drink (sauerkraut, pickles, kefir). I haven't started eating sourdough bread (carbs from the flour would be worse for me than the fermented dough), and I haven't started making miso soup for myself yet, but I will. I'm not brave enough to try kimchi yet. My daughter has been drinking kombucha (a fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drink) lately. It's okay. All of this is to improve and increase the numbers of "good bacteria" in my intestines. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Extra days off lead to excessive reading (a good thing)

** Originally written last week but only published on December 1st **

Yesterday was Thanksgiving day in the US, so I was off work and had lots of time to read. Some of the things I've been reading about food and nutrition lately talk about:

  • the value of fermented food and drinks (pickles, sauerkraut, kefir)
  • how the human gut is the second brain
  • the importance of fiber in our diet
  • the merits of intermittent fasting versus eating multiple smaller meals each day
  • low carb diets, high in fats (like Paleo), with or without grains and gluten
I remember when I lost a lot of weight once before, when I was living in England back in 2006, I drank a little bottle of Yakult probiotic dairy (sugary) drink each day. I wouldn't do that now, but I would be okay with other fermented foods and drinks. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Butter is back in favor, and high in flavor

If you only read one other thing today, let it be this:

It's an article by food journalist and author Mark Bittman, talking about the benefits of butter. After being told for 40 years that saturated fat in butter is bad for us, the consensus is shifting again back in favor of 'real' butter and away from highly processed margarines, etc. As Bittman says, "...the real villains in our diet — sugar and ultra-processed foods — are becoming increasingly apparent".

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

349 - my lowest in three years

Once again, I'm on a downward trajectory, which is good.
349 lbs (158 kg), my lowest in three years!
There were a couple of evenings in the past seven days when I didn't want to get up and walk, but I knew I had to to keep up the momentum. I'm glad I did. When I weighed in this morning I tipped the scales at 349.0 lbs (158.3 kg). I don't think I will make my target by the end of the month but that won't stop me trying to get as close as possible.

Today saw our first major snow storm of the winter season in this part of Montana. My walk home took 35 minutes instead of the usual 25 minutes, and my stride length was shorter, but that's okay. I'd rather get home in one piece than with a broken hip from falling on the slippery snow. It was a much harder workout than usual. It was really funny, in a way, to receive at least five offers of rides from work back to my apartment, only to turn them all down with an "It's okay. I need the exercise."

Knowing that, for me, most of the battle of losing weight and getting fitter is a psychological game I have to play against myself, I have also turned down all invitations to Thanksgiving dinner. It's probably the single worst time of year for overeating, which I already know I'm prone to. So, instead, I've suggested to my friends that I can come the following day (Friday) or at the weekend, when there's usually the same food left over, but minus the pressure to have two or three spoonfuls of everything when one is an appropriate serving size.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A sluggish week is behind me now

Last week was a bad one in terms of progress towards my goals. A couple of friends and I were celebrating our birthdays (mine is November 28th, thanks for asking), so I ate out a couple of times, which I haven't been doing much of lately. Eating out always means struggling with extra large portion sizes, a terrible lack of vegetables, and an extra load of carbs that I usually try to avoid. But it was for a special occasion, so I happily made an exception. It also meant not going to the gym a couple of times, which I really missed.

I also had a pulled muscle in my back, which made walking uncomfortable anyway. So I was delighted to be able to do another 2 miles on the treadmill last night, followed by a good half hour of swimming (thanks, G!)
2.0 miles in 48 minutes 22 seconds
I managed to get my heart rate up to 140 bpm and keep it there for most of the time, so I knew that the sweat and my rate of breathing were consistent with a good aerobic workout. By the end of it, my feet were a bit sore, so the swimming was a blessed relief.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Once more tomorrow and the weekly treadmill walking trifecta is complete

Yesterday, I was fortunate to get a ride to the gym for a couple of hours (thanks, Ann!) I walked on the treadmill for two miles, then swam for an hour. It felt great.
Tuesday's tally: 48:44 minutes and 2.0 miles
Today, I decided to try something different. Instead of walking on the level (or near level), I cranked the machine up to a 5.5% incline, which is akin to what the first five miles of next May's 100 mile PCT hike will be. That's steeper than when I walk home from work.
Wednesday's steeper grade: slower and not quite as far
I managed to keep my heart rate up at about 140 bpm, which is a good aerobic level for me.

When I walked back from the health center (which is just down the road from me) today, I made a point of slowing down slightly but not stopping altogether to have to catch my breath. I've got six months to train myself up to a point where I can easily walk uphill for several miles without huffing and puffing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Regular consistent application of small steps leads to big gains

When I first started walking to walk, in mid-June, I timed myself. Going to work took 22 minutes (it's downhill) and it took 28 minutes to get home from work (it's uphill - an elevation change of 100 feet over 0.7 miles). Gradually, week by week, those times have gone down from 28 to 26 to 25 minutes. Now, I can regularly get home in about 22-23 minutes. On frosty mornings, when I don't want to hang around outside (I leave at 06:15), I can now easily get to work in 15 minutes.

Yesterday, I had made arrangements to meet my friend Elaine at my apartment after work. Without the aid of my reading glasses, I had mistakenly thought that she'd said she would be there at 4.50. In fact, she had written 4.30 in her text message. When I discovered this (after donning my glasses), I thought, "Oh heck, I don't want to be late", so I deliberately walked home a lot quicker. I also didn't stop as much to catch my breath. Imagine my surprise and delight when I checked the clock upon my arrival back home and discovered that I'd walked UPHILL in 15 minutes! I couldn't believe it. That's a 2.8 mph pace up a 2.7% grade hill.

Then, today, I decided to try walking home a little bit slower and deliberately not take any 15-30 second breaks to catch my breath. Normally, I have half a dozen spots where I might regain my composure quickly before carrying on. Today, zero stops. I still made it in 23 minutes, which I'm okay with.

Even if the progress is measured in tiny steps, 100 tiny steps in the right direction are still equal to a whole lot of larger ones. As long as I'm constantly improving, measurably, I'm happy.

So close to a milestone - 350.2 lbs

350.2 lbs (158.8 kg)
After eating well (making good choices, not consuming copious amounts) for a few days and having been walking quite a bit recently, I was quietly confident that I might break through the 350 pound milestone when I stepped on the scales this morning. Doh! Missed it by that much! Now it's onward and downward towards my end-of-November goal of 341 lbs.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Cauliflower tortilla recipe

This versatile cauliflower tortilla recipe is super simple and allows you to "have your cake and eat it", so to speak, if you are trying to avoid wheat flour. The ingredients are very straightforward:

  • a large cauliflower, with the stem and leaves removed
  • one or two eggs (depending on how large your cauliflower is)
  • seasoning to taste
That's it! 
Then, preheat your oven to a moderately hot 375 °F (190 °C, Gas mark 5). 

Using a blender or a food processor, pulse the cauliflower until you get a texture finer than rice. Steam the riced cauliflower over boiling water or in a microwave for 5 minutes.

After letting it cool for a few minutes (so that you don't burn your hands), place the steamed cauliflower in a wet dish towel and squeeze out as much excess water as you can. You should be able to get out a lot of water; be really aggressive about squeezing it or you’ll end up with soggy tortillas later.
Cauliflower, eggs and seasong

Transfer the cauliflower to a bowl. Add in the eggs (one if it was a small cauliflower, two if it was large), salt and seasonings (you can use any spices you like). Mixture should not be sloppy wet. Use a rolling pin for thinner, larger tortillas.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, separate the mixture into 6 balls of equal size, and spread each ball out on a parchment-lined baking sheet to make six small circles.

Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes; then flip and cook for another 5 minutes. Allow to cool.
The finished product

Alternatives for flavoring water without Aspartame

Water flavor enhancers
After reading some more about the safety (or not) of Aspartame, I've decided to get rid of all the products in my apartment that contain it. The two things left were sugar-free chewing gum (more on that later) and water flavor enhancers.

Filtered water with lemon slices
I'm not opposed to drinking plain water but it's easier, sometimes, to drink it when it has some flavoring added. I still have to experiment with cold brewed teas. In the meantime, I will be trying out simple sliced lemon. It's not that my tap water at home tastes bad. I would just like some variety. I currently filter my tap water in a jug in the fridge but it's really only to get rid of the chlorine smell.

If you have any good recipes for flavoring water, please share them with me. If I get enough, I'll create a new web page with those recipes so that everyone can enjoy them. Happy hydrating!

351.6, a new low

351.6 lb
This morning's weigh-in was exciting for me. I tipped the scales at 351.6 lb (159.5 kg) which is right on track to meet my personal end-of-month goal. I was a bit worried that I would lose the momentum during my week of vacation if I was at home all day with a fridge full of food. Thankfully, I wasn't distracted from my mission. In fact, I'm more determined than ever to get out and do the exercise needed to succeed with the big hike next May (check out http://www.ergoob.org/pct2016 if you haven't already).

Walked a nice trail along Prickly Pear Creek

Yesterday I had the pleasure of discovering for the first time a cool little walking trail that goes along the Prickly Pear Creek. It's just off Route 518 between East Helena and Montana City, right opposite the Ash Grove cement works. There's a park called Sunderland Park, and a groomed trail that is just over 1 mile long. After parking your car, you cross a wooden bridge and head north and east. The terrain is winding and undulating. None of the little ups and downs are too high or steep. When it has recently snowed, which it had when I was there, one or two parts are a bit muddy and slippery, but it's generally nice to walk on with a lot of chipped bark. According to the Helena IR, it's part of a thing called the Prickly Pear Greenway. Very nice!

The Last Chance Audubon Society lists this as a good birdwatching trail in their publication: http://www.lastchanceaudubon.org/images/last-chance-hotspots-helena.pdf, citing; "Common bird sightings include swallows, American Dipper, Cedar Waxwing, Gray Catbird, Veery, and Song Sparrow." There are, indeed, lots of birds with very distinct calls there (although I didn't recognize them, sadly).

My walk was just over 6,000 steps, about two and a half miles, in about an hour and a half. Upon returning to the trailhead, I was glad of the rest at the concrete picnic tables and benches, although it was a bit cold to stay there very long after working up a good sweat. I'm sure it'll be a great place to go in the spring and summer. As I was leaving, one other person came with his dog, otherwise, no-one else was there.

It was a good workout for me, and definitely somewhere I'd return to when the weather is warmer.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Importance of lots of measured steps

I came across this story a couple of days ago: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/05/walking-benefits-increasing-daily-steps-linked-longer-life-study-shows; "Research that monitored 3,000 Australians over 15 years shows sedentary people who increase[d their] number of steps have significantly reduced mortality... A sedentary person who increased his or her steps from 1,000 to 10,000 a day, seven days a week, was found to have a 46% lower mortality risk. If increased to 3,000 a day five days a week, the person had a 12% lower risk." The average age of participants was almost 59 at the start of the study, so you're never too old to get started!

The Guardian also had an interesting article the day before: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/05/put-off-death-by-ambling-about-a-bit-more-whats-not-to-love-about-walking that was a bit more tongue-in-cheek, about how a pedometer is "a small device is now your jailer, minder, boss and mum", and "move[s you] into the steps-bore A-league". I decided to use my Android smartphone instead (saving myself $100 in the process), since the phone has all the same accelerometers, and I always have it on me.

I use both the Google Fit app, and one from a French company, Withings, called HealthMate. Withings makes very expensive hardware like pedometers, bathroom weighing scales and blood pressure meters. Their Android app also lets you manually track blood pressure, pulse and oxygen saturation (and, bizarrely, height - which I'm sure doesn't change that much from day to day, right?) The two apps are usually within a few dozen steps of one another at the end of the day, so I know they are fairly accurate. 

There's also an amusing article by Joel Stein in GQ called How to Get a Superhero Body in 90 Days or Less! Enjoy. 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

With expanding and contracting waistlines, a new medical problem

With so many Americans (and Brits) being overweight or obese, the sight of our "panniculus" is not so uncommon any more. That's the name for the apron of skin and fat that hangs from our lower abdomen and covers, to varying degrees, our pubic hair, our genitals, or (in extreme cases) our thighs and knees. If you are part of the one-third of people who are not overweight, you should do a Google image search (but, perhaps, not while you are at work!) It's quite disturbing sometimes. It's also knows as a FUPA, which means “fat upper pubic area”.

It can be especially frustrating for the 'owner' of the panniculus if it has come about as a result of a recent pregnancy or if you've just lost a lot of weight. After all, you've worked hard to get your body back into shape, and now you're left with an unsightly flap of skin which can make it difficult to fit into clothing properly, or ride a bike comfortably, or attend to other life functions without some inconvenience.

The good news is that with the rising popularity of bariatric surgery, plastic surgeons are becoming more and more adept at post-weight-loss body contouring, including panniculectomy and abdominoplasty (which is different in that it also involves muscle tightening and belly button realignment). For Americans who do lose a lot of weight and would like this procedure done, the question then becomes: will the corrupt medical/insurance system actually pay for the surgery? I know a couple of people who have had to go abroad, where it's much cheaper, to get this "cosmetic" surgery done because their health insurance wouldn't cover it. Outrageous!

Another successful Wednesday evening walk

Yesterday evening I was able to get to the gym again and complete another 2 miles (3.2 km) on the treadmill, followed by an hour in the swimming pool.
2 miles in 49 and a half minutes with a very slight incline
My heart rate got up to 145 bpm which is fine for me, getting my aerobic exercise. I was sweating and puffing and breathing heavily enough at the end that I could tell I'd just had a good workout. I was originally going to go for a whole hour, but was happy to see the machine tick over to the 2 mile mark, so I stopped a tad earlier than originally anticipated. 

I don't know why it is, but it always seem to take a couple of days for my good or bad behavior (lots of exercise or overindulgence) to be reflected on the scales. This morning I weighed in at 353.6 lbs, which is five pounds less than I was two weeks ago. With all the minor fluctuations up and down that come from obsessive daily weighing, it's difficult to accurately compare any one day to any other but that seems about right.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A week of intensive learning

I'm on vacation (holiday) this week. I was supposed to be writing a novel for NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing month. Instead, I have been learning a LOT about different aspects of diet and nutrition. Oh boy! There's a lot of information available, and a lot of misinformation. The challenge for anyone is to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

My biggest take away, the most striking thing I've learned, is just how evil refined table sugar is. Artificial sweeteners are just as bad, which makes me sad since I was a faithful user of stevia for years. And, even though the government says it's safe, I'm more convinced than ever that Aspartame is really evil and dangerous, and I'm redoubling my effort to eliminate it from my diet altogether.

I've been reading a lot, and watching YouTube videos, on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is gaining in prevalence in the population as a whole and, frighteningly, among young children. The number one culprit: sugar-laden drinks, whether they are sugary colas or "sports drinks" or even fruit juices (and most of those contain very little actual fruit).

I've been learning about the benefits of chewing gum after meals. Not as substitute for brushing and flossing teeth, but as an extra thing. The American Dental Association has information on its website: http://www.ada.org/en/science-research/ada-seal-of-acceptance/product-category-information/chewing-gum about how the mechanical act of chewing increases the flow of saliva in your mouth. If you chew gum for 20 minutes after eating, the increased saliva flow can help neutralize and wash away the damaging acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria on your teeth. Now my dilema is, do I use gums that are made with synthetic plastic and use Aspartame (No!) or go for something more natural, with the old-fashioned and more natural chicle as its base?

Since your mouth is the gateway to your gastrointestinal tract, it has an underrated importance in your overall health.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

We need honesty and clarity from the food industry

I have a growing amount of respect for my compatriot, Jamie Oliver, who gave an interview on Canadian radio earlier this week: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/schedule-for-wednesday-october-28-2015-1.3291976/jamie-oliver-challenges-our-mindless-consumption-of-sugar-1.3291979 in which he said that: "I believe, passionately, that people ... make good choices when they have clarity; and business and money and marketing ... it's murky...". The processed food industry is a $1 trillion business with unimaginable political muscle, able to buy off lawmakers at will. We need people's champions, like Jamie Oliver, to stand up for us, the consumers, and advocate for change.

One area that MUST be changed is food labeling. It has to be easier for consumers to recognize the HUGE amounts of added sugar in processed foods. Requiring that sugar to be expressed in terms of teaspoons instead of grams would be a good start. Then, your can of cola which has 40 grams of added sugar can be seen to have 10 teaspoons of white death. Much more easily recognized, even by people who don't know what a gram is! That healthy granola bar with 12 grams of added sugar, that's three teaspoons! Does three teaspoons of sugar sound that healthy to you!

Another thing that has to change is the recommended serving sizes printed on packages. Just for fun, I filled my breakfast bowl this morning with what I thought was a reasonable amount of a high fiber cereal. It was 1½ cups. Then I measured it and compared it to the nutritional label's recommended serving size.
Unrealistic serving size
What! ½ cup is totally unrealistic. So, instead of just 100 calories (including the milk), I've eaten 300 calories. At least I got 42 grams of fiber though, right? Serving sizes for drinks are the worst. They are all based on an 8 ounce cup, which babies and young children might drink. In the real world, adults drink from glasses that are 14 to 16 ounces large. If you have a tall glass of real orange juice, now you're consuming 10 teaspoons of sugar (40 grams) instead of just five.

And, please, don't buy Sunny D for your kids. 98% of it is water and evil High Fructose Corn Syrup, 2% is all the other chemical stuff (like; thiamin hydrochloride, natural flavors, modified food starch, canola oil, sodium citrate, cellulose gum, xanthan gum, sodium hexametaphosphate, sodium benzoate, yellow 5, and yellow 6). A small 8 ounce serving of Sunny D contains 27 grams of sugar (6½ teaspoons), and that sugar is from the HFCS, not fruit juice. So, Junior's big glass will have 13 teaspoons of sugar in it!

A healthy obsession (Part 2)

Alice follows the rabbit down its hole.
OMG! I knew this would happen. I started reading about the dangers of added sugar in our diets, and about the benefits of not eating so much meat, and now I'm hooked. I've been reading more and more, and watching so many YouTube videos, my brain can't process it all quickly enough. People who know me will know how much I like to follow tangential threads, like in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

So far, the two big lifestyle changes that I will be making are to eat less meat and more vegetables, and also to cut out the stevia that I had been using as a sweetener.

There is a growing body of evidence that granulated table sugar is actually REALLY BAD for us. Many places are considering removing soda/pop machines from schools, or introducing a "sugar tax" to help reduce consumption. A great resource, that I will be going back to again and again, is http://www.sugarscience.org, which is designed as an authoritative source for the scientific evidence about sugar and its impact on health. It is developed by a team of health scientists from the University of California, San Francisco.

When I started to delve into some of these things, I realized that improved health isn't just about losing weight per se. It's also about:

  • controlling fatty deposits on your liver, 
  • reducing insulin resistance, 
  • lowering your blood pressure, 
  • reducing the amount of abdominal fat we carry around our midriff. 

Visceral fat, that pendulous "belly fat", has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, with good diet and exercise it's possible to get rid of it.

I started to read about Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET), or simply metabolic equivalent, which is a way of expressing the "energy cost" of physical activities in a way that allows comparison of the effects of exercise between people of different weights. An activity with a MET value of 2, such as walking at a slow pace would require twice the energy that an average person consumes sitting quietly at rest. Raking leaves from your lawn has a MET value of 3.8. Backpacking or hiking has a MET value of 7.8. Running at 5 mph (12 min/mile pace) has a MET value of 8.3.

The more I've read, the more certain names keep cropping up again and again: Dr Rob Lustig, Gary Taubes, Cristin Kearns, Laura Schmidt, Joel Fuhrman. More and more documentaries and videos, such as Sugar Coated or The Secrets of Sugar, are coming out.

It's not just sugar that's bad for us, processed foods too can be damaging to our health. So, once again, Michael Pollan was correct with his 7 Rules for Eating: "Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce".

There's more to come ...

Friday, October 30, 2015

Number crunching - exercise heart rates

While I was walking my 2 miles on the treadmill on Wednesday evening, I was thinking about what my "target heart rate" should be if I want to achieve full aerobic benefits. There are a couple of popular formulae available on the Internet, a newer one (Karvonen) which takes your resting heart rate into account (as well as your age). The older formula simply uses your age. You calculate your maximum heart rate, then (depending on your objective) you use a percentage of that to calculate your target heart rate.

For me, being almost (be not quite) 50, the numbers work out as follows:

Old formula

Start off with 220. Deduct my age (so, 220-50=170). That's my maximum heart rate.
Multiple by the desired training intensity which, for me, is 70% (so, 170 x .70 = 119)

New formula

Start off with 220. Deduct my age (so, 220-50=170). That's my maximum heart rate.
Now, deduct my resting heart rate (so 170 - 80 = 90). That's my heart rate reserve. 
Next, multiply my heart rate reserve by the desired training intensity (so, 90 x .70 = 63)
Then, add back in the resting heart rate (so, 63 + 80 = 143)

For a moderate workout, where your breathing quickens but you are not out of breath (you can still easily carry on a conversation), and you get a light sweat after ten minutes, you should aim for a training intensity of between 60% to 70%. For a more vigorous workout, where you are taking deep and rapid breaths (you can't speak very much) and you are sweating after just a few minutes, you should aim for a training intensity of between 70% to 80%. Athletes in good condition can aim to reach 85% of their maximum heart rate. 

More to follow ...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Another good Wednesday

2.0 miles on the treadmill on Wednesday evening; plus an hour of swimming afterwards, and an overall total of over 10,000 steps for the day. Hooray!
49 minutes on the treadmill, walking 2 miles (3.2 km)
Afterwards, my feet and knees were sore, but I slept REALLY well last night.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Frankenfood (part 1)

I've mentioned Michael Pollan's name before on the main website (http://www.ergoob.org), but one of his 7 Rules for Eating is: "Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce".

So, I was in the cafeteria at work this lunchtime when I noticed that my "oven baked" Ruffles, with "65% less fat" had a horrific list of ingredients.
Cheddar and Sour Cream oven baked Ruffles with 65% less fat
Sounds healthy, right? With words like "oven baked" and "65% less fat", but look at those artificial and unpronounceable ingredients. Yikes!

I don't eat chips very often any more but it reminded me that about a year ago I made my own potato chips at home. Now, before you write to tell me that, technically, Ruffles are "Potato Crisps" and not potato chips, I know. The food industry is SO powerful that they can dance rings around regulatory authorities and get away with deceiving consumers on a MASSIVE scale, which leads their customers to have MASSIVE readings ON the scales. Kraft Foods are one of the worst offenders. People who know me well will know that I try as hard as possible to avoid buying Kraft products.

My homemade chips were made using a mandolin with real potato, a quick spritz of cooking spray to prevent them from sticking to the plate (it's fake, I know) and a few minutes in the microwave.

When you make them yourself, you don't need many actual potatoes to produce a huge plate full of chips. The Ruffles came in a bag whose net weight was only 0.8 ounces (22.6 g) - not even a whole ounce!

October target met!

356.2 pounds (161.5 kg)
356.2 pounds! I didn't think I was going to do it in time but I did. After being stalled for large parts of October, the momentum is with me again. Now onward to my November goal - 341 lbs by my birthday (November 28th. Hint: I love to receive cards in the mail).

The ultimate goal is to be a "normal" 178 pounds (81 kg) by my next birthday, when I'll be 50 years old. At 5'10" (1.78 m) tall, that would still leave me with a BMI of almost 25, but I don't care about that. I haven't been 178 lbs since I was in my early 20s, I'm pretty sure.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Overeating - It's a psychological battle

One of the things I am continuing to struggle with is overeating. I think I'm doing okay on the composition of the food I'm eating but sometimes I just can't stop myself from eating a lot more than I know I should. I haven't figured out the trick, yet, to moderating my intake so that I stop eating before I get uncomfortably full. Once I can do that, I'm sure the pounds will simply tumble off again.

A little bit like knowing (in my head) that sitting on the couch wasn't burning enough calories to help me lose anything - even though I was free to get up at ANY TIME and go out for a walk - this overeating thing is a mental game. I know that if I'm eating things that require more chewing I'll slow down and give my stomach's stretch receptors a chance to tell my brain to make me stop eating. Otherwise, I tend to eat too quickly and my body doesn't have a chance to shout STOP!

Maybe there are some rituals I can adopt that will help me slow down and eat less. Most of the time I'm eating on my own these days (sad about that, but that's a whole other story). During the week I usually take breakfast to work with me, since I leave the apartment at 06:15 and that's just too early to have breakfast. About half the time I'll take leftovers or something from home for lunch, which is from 11:00 to 12:00. The rest of the time I'm lucky to have a good cafeteria at work. Dinner is usually either a salad (which can be quite substantial) or something cooked - if I have/make the time to prepared it.

Divided dish
I have a couple of Corelle divided dishes which make it easier to get the proportions of proteins, carbs and vegetables right. That doesn't seem to help. I just fill it up twice!

There have got to be some 'tricks' that one can play on oneself that make it

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Losing weight again and making strides

Yesterday was a fantastic day for getting back on track with the weight loss, and for squeezing in a large number of steps.
Losing weight again and making strides

Four months ago I was just a tad over 400 pounds (181 kg). In the next three months I lost close to 40 lbs (18 kg) then got stuck for about three weeks at the 362 lb mark, give or take a pound or two.

Yesterday, I tackled a large number of stairs at work (see http://www.ergoob.org/get-out-of-breath/stair-climbing-stats), plus I went to the gym and walked on the treadmill for a while and went swimming for an hour. At the end of the day I had clocked up 10,200 steps! I haven't done that in a long time. Occasionally, I'll hit 8,000, but my usual average is about 6-7,000 steps. My feet and calves felt tired and I slept really well last night.

I know that if I'm going to achieve my goals for next year I'm going to have to do this many more times but I'm prepared for that. The stakes are too high to fail or to give up.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Climbing stairs

A week and a half ago I talked about stair climbing at work. I've been keeping track of the numbers of flights climbed up and down since then, and you can see those numbers at http://www.ergoob.org/get-out-of-breath/stair-climbing-stats. Today, for the first time, I timed myself going up and down all three sets of stairs and returning to where I'd started. It took 1 minute 35 seconds. That'll be my baseline from which I can measure all future progress. I suppose once I'm able to sprint up and down in under 30 seconds I'll have to change the challenge to be SIX flights (two complete sets) instead. But, for now, this will do.

It came in handy that I've started this stair climbing malarkey because we had our Great ShakeOut earthquake drill today, and I was able to keep up with everyone on the stairs as we all filed out of the building and all went back in. I still get out of breath but I expect that'll improve soon. I just can't give up!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dusting off an old wish list (part 2)

At the end of last week I posted about dusting off an old wish list, and mentioned things like dancing, and gardening, and marathon running, and bike riding, and climbing Mount Hood in Oregon. I never got to finish that story. If you couldn't already tell, I like to talk and I have a lot to say.

When I was living in England for the year between 2006 and 2007, I made some inquiries about learning to dance. I found someone who really wanted me to learn Salsa dancing. Apparently, it's a very high energy way to have fun and burn lots of calories. If I had stayed there, I might have pursued it. Now, it's something to aim for but I'll have to start with something a lot more gentle.

I have an ongoing interest in gardening too; both from a practical food supply point of view and from an outdoor, fresh air, activity perspective. At this precise moment I don't have easy access to a backyard or a garden, although I am maintaining quite a collection of indoor plants. My desire would be - some day - to have a large organic fruit and vegetable garden somewhere in the fertile Willamette valley of Oregon. When I was living in California, back in 2010, I started a vegetable garden from scratch, using a heavy mechanical tiller and manually turning over the soil with a spade.
Beans, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, lettuce and other things - Chico, Ca., 2010

It was hard, physical work. I will probably never be as prolific as my English granddad, or my dad, but I'd like to be able to manage it physically without my stomach hanging in the way, and without getting out of breath so quickly.

When I was in my 20s (two decades ago), I used to run for fun. My favorite places was in Nottingham (in England) which had some great canal paths and such next to the tranquil River Trent. I never entered any competitive races, just ran recreationally. I always imagined that my first 'race' would be the Robin Hood marathon in September. Maybe, one day, I'll do it. To begin with though I'll be content to do my hiking at a slower pace and work my way up to 26.1 miles steadily. There have to be some seniors' races that I will eventually qualify to enter, right?

I used to cycle to work when I was living in Chico, CA. IT was an 11 mile round trip from home to two local schools and back home again. It was a good workout, and the weather in northern California was always really good for it. I have a bike now (thanks to a dear friend) which is in a closet, waiting for the day when my stomach isn't dangling in the way. One thing for me to look forward to when : being able to increase my radius of operation, so that I can reach more places more quickly (quicker than I can on foot as a pedestrian, anyway).

Okay, so the Mount Hood thing might actually be beyond me, I don't know. I try to draw inspiration from adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who has achieved SO many great things, pushing himself so hard even at an age when other have retired and chosen a sedentary lifestyle. Check out his website for details: http://www.ranulphfiennes.co.uk.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

2 mile walk around Centennial Park today

I was pretty pleased with my walk today: 2 circuits (2 miles, 3.2 km) around Centennial Park in Helena. The last couple of times I had walked there, at the beginning of this year, I was only able to do a half mile, and I was having to stop a few times to catch my breath. Today, I stopped after the first circuit to have a drink but otherwise did it in one go in about 55 minutes. It was very cloudy and the temperature was in the low 70s °F (about 22 °C) with very little wind. I clocked up almost 5,000 steps, which is a good starting point from which to measure future progress. My plan is to do this weekly, going faster and/or further each time.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dusting off an old wish list

Years ago, I used to make lists of things I wanted to achieve in the coming months and years. It wasn't a bucket list, which sounds so terminal to me, but these weren't really New Year's resolutions either. They were just concrete examples of things to aim for. Number one on the list was always to lose weight, of course. Sometimes I would even write down my current (at that time) and projected future weight. Then there were the activities I wanted to do, either as a means of reaching the weight loss goal, or ones that would again be possible once I'd shed the 50 or 100 pounds needed to reach it. As my weight has fluctuated up and down over the years, some of these things have seemed more or less ridiculous. Here are some of them:

  • learn to dance (maybe ballroom, later something more energetic like Salsa)
  • have an abundant organic garden
  • run a marathon
  • ride a bicycle regularly, and a tandem would be fun
  • climb Mount Hood in Oregon
Now that I am "on the wagon" again - in a weight loss sense, not to do with abstaining from alcohol - it's time for me to dust off those lists and start thinking about a brighter future again in which these things are once again possible. For me, having an end in sight helps me on the journey to that end. If I want to run a marathon, for example, I know I'm not going to be able to hop out of bed tomorrow and run 26.1 miles (42 km) just like that. I know that I'll have to get into good enough shape that I can run at all without getting out of breath. Then I'll have to run 1 mile, then 3 miles (5 km), then 6 miles (10 km), then 10 miles, then a half-marathon (13 miles). Finally, after sufficient training, I will be ready to tackle the entire 26.1 miles.

I was never a confident dancer in my youth. Years ago (like, maybe, 18 years or so), I took some classes in Irish dancing. Michael Flatley I was not! (Michael Flatfoot, perhaps). Then, about six years ago, I used to take my daughter contra dancing (similar to square dancing). It required a lot of energy and stamina. I can't imagine doing it now - I'd collapse after about 30 seconds - but it's fun and a good way to burn up calories and energy.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Trying to get off this plateau

In my last post I had said, "I've hit a plateau. After 13 consecutive weeks of losing weight, down almost 40 lbs [18 kg] in three months, I've been stuck at the same level (more or less) for two weeks now". Here it is in graphical form.
The dots are the actual weight. The solid line is some sort of trend line (that I can't get rid of from the chart). I'm hoping that a renewed effort of not overeating, and some extra stair climbing and extra walking will enable me to get back under 360 lbs (163 kg). 

I was talking to a friend recently about the idea that you have to eat everything on your plate, and the psychology behind that. I was saying that in my dad's generation (my dad was born and raised in England just after WWII) there was still food rationing. Sugar was restricted to 8 oz per week until September 1953 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationing_in_the_United_Kingdom), nine years after World War II ended! I grew up in the 1970s, long after food rationing had ended, but in an era when our parents would say things like, "There are starving kids in Africa who would do anything to eat your leftovers". 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Getting outside but still overeating

From the South Hills of Helena, looking north
From the South Hills of Helena, looking north at dusk
With an ambitious plan to hike 100 miles in seven days at the end of next May, I have to really pull out all the stops to get myself into a physical condition to do it. That means NOT sitting on the couch all evening but actually going out for walks and hikes after work and at weekends, pushing myself physically. Right now, it's difficult for me to go uphill or up any stairs without getting short of breath quickly.

Having decided to make a 'game' out of climbing the stairs at work, today (for the first time in ages) I actually walked down and up two flights. It's not much but it's a beginning. From here on out all future progress can be measured and compared.

My Amazon Prime Pantry box
What's still disappointing is that I'm still overeating at dinner time. It all started two weeks ago when I took delivery of my first Amazon Prime Pantry box. It was $100 worth of groceries packed in a 4 cubic foot (max 45 lbs - 20 kg) cardboard box  for a flat fee of $5.99 (although my delivery fee was waived because of a special promotion). Then I went to Costco, which is great for large families and small businesses, but bad for single people who are trying to eat less. That cost me $100. I was still missing a few things, so I stopped at Safeway and picked up another $50 worth of groceries. Dang! $250 spent on groceries in one week when I normally spend only $100. Now, some of the extra food went into my freezer and some of it was cans and jars which will keep in the cupboard for a while, but my fridge was heaving with fresh food that couldn't be wasted and couldn't all be eaten. Ever since then I've hit a plateau. After 13 consecutive weeks of losing weight, down almost 40 lbs in three months, I've been stuck at the same level (more or less) for two weeks now.

Monday, October 12, 2015

First impressions - trekking poles

Last Monday I received my new trekking poles, so I've been using them for a week now. Here are my first impressions.

80% carbon fiber, very lightweight
Each pole weighs 8 ounces (220 grams). That was one reason why I chose poles that are made of 80% carbon fiber. They have EVA foam handles, not cork, which means they are slightly shock absorbent and allegedly sweat absorbent too, although my hands haven't sweated with them yet so I can't verify that claim.

Each pole has a pair of flip locks with large pressure-adjusting screws that let you change the length of the pole from 24" to 52" (61 to 132 cm). At 5'10" tall (1.78 m), I have mine set to either 46" (115 cm) or 48" (120 cm), which gives me a nice, ergonomic arm angle at my elbows. I've read that 2/3 of your height is about right, which is consistent with my own findings. If I'm going TO work (downhill) I'll make them slightly longer; if I'm coming home FROM work (uphill) I'll make them shorter. Either way, you can tell if they're too long because the tips will drag on the ground.

The first word that comes to mind, after using them for a week, is: stability. Having two extra points of contact with the ground, I feel much more balanced and steady on my feet - not that I was rolling around like a drunkard before, but I can imagine it will be a lot safer in the snow and ice of the coming winter. You can take off the rubber tips and leave durable tungsten steel tips that will be really helpful in staying upright.

The second thing I noticed: speed. With the consistent rhythm that you employ with your arms, you increase your speed, almost without noticing it. My time to walk home was reduced from 28 minutes down to 25 minutes one day, which was fantastic. I wasn't stopping as often to catch my breath because I was able to use some of my upper body strength to push myself forward. Carrying a heavy load was also slightly easier.

I wasn't sure how easy it would be to get a good rhythm going, and to avoid tripping over the poles. As it happened, the rhythm came naturally (two steps for every pole movement) and they are lightweight enough that they are easy to place accurately, even when walking at a normal speed. So far I've only had one minor incident when the flip lock wasn't tight enough (hence the adjustable thumb screw) and the pole shortened itself while I was putting weight (pushing down) on it. It was trivially easy to tighten the screw and flip the lock back and carry on.

I added some reflective tape to my poles since my morning walking, and soon my evening walking, is in the dark. At this time, I'd say that my $50 was well spent. The poles do what they were designed to do. Despite their super light weight they seem pretty durable. I shall continue to use them on a daily basis and look forward to taking them with me on the PCT next May.

A healthy obsession

Several of my friends have heard me describe my quest to lose weight and get fit again as an obsession but, pun intended, it's a healthy obsession. Almost everything I do these days makes me think of healthy exercise or healthy food or something to do with losing weight in some way. It's a bit like the old cliché of men thinking about sex every seven seconds. My challenge to myself (and you, dear reader, if you choose to accept it) is to turn that obsession into a tangible way of REALLY improving our health, in real life, not just in our heads.

I've been thinking about the stairs at my workplace. I work on the second floor of a three-storey building. There are two elevators (lifts) and two sets of stairs, one of which is almost right outside my office door. If I were being super health conscious, I would be climbing up and down those stairs all day long and never using the elevator. But, right now, the percentage of time that I use the stairs is, ... oh,... 0%! I know that if I climb up the stairs (down isn't too bad) I will be out of breath after just one flight. It'll take me a few seconds to recover. Two flights would be much more difficult. Three would be almost impossible.

Yesterday, I climbed the 200 foot high Buttercup Hill which is up the street from my apartment, for just the second time ever. I was with my friend Marie who must have wondered what the puffing and panting noise was. That was me. I hated to have anyone see me that way, but I know she is also a supporter and a friend who knows that it won't always be that way.

When I was doing the laundry at my apartment today, the washer and dryer are in a room on the floor below mine. As I was coming up the stairs, my neighbor (thanks, R) said to me, "Oh, you sound like me when I climb the stairs!" What! No way! ... Um, sadly yes. So, my course is clear,...

I'm going to have to start climbing the stairs at work during my morning and afternoon breaks. Perhaps only a few flights at first (and by "a few" I could mean just one or two, in the beginning). Eventually, the plan would be to increase my strength and stamina so that I can climb all three floors with no noticeable shortage of breath. It's not going to be quick but then, in this endeavor, nothing is ever quick. It can become a game - see how many flights of stairs I can climb in ten minutes, or how fast I can get from the basement to the top floor. The idea would be to improve my performance consistently over time so that I can eventually get to the top without sounding like I just ran a marathon. Watch this space!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

New shoes

Merrell Moab Ventilator hiking shoes
With the increased amount of walking I've been doing these past few months, and with winter approaching, it was time to get some new shoes. The choices were overwhelming, and I'd read tons of reviews of different brands. In the end, I plumped for some Moab Ventilators from Merrell. With an average Amazon rating of 4.5 stars, and 2,365 reviews, they are very popular; and they were available locally at our Base Camp ("Gear for the Great Outdoors") store, where I was able to try them on for size.

In the past, I've always struggled when buying new shoes. They never usually fit perfectly, or I resent having to spend so much money for them (I've actually had a lot of success in the past with $3 pre-owned shoes from the Goodwill store). This time, I saw what I wanted, I knew my size, and the first time I tried them on it was like a scene from a Cinderella movie. The fit was perfect.

Knowing that I am going to have a lot of hiking to do locally in preparation for my PCT adventure, I also bought a trail map of the Helena South Hills. This morning I walked up Buttercup Hill just up the street from where I live. The shoes performed really well, as expected, with no heel or toe rubbing or other discomfort. It was only a short hike, but a good initial test in the real world.

Excited that my daughter will be joining me on the PCT next May

I had mentioned to my daughter, Birdie, about a week ago that I planned to walk 100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in southern Oregon next spring and she was excited for me. I had casually invited her along too, not thinking that she would be able to take the time off work or be interested in traveling 800 miles just to go walking for seven straight days. When I spoke to her on Friday evening, she was really gung-ho about the prospect of going with me! I was thrilled. It'll be a great opportunity for us to build memories together and have some father-daughter bonding time. It'll also mean I don't have to hike the trail alone which will be safer for me. And I'll have someone to talk to during that time so that I don't go crazy.

Many of the hard-core through hikers of the PCT, 90% of whom will be travelling northbound (nobos), will still be roasting their hinies in California at the end of May, so I don't expect there'll be many other people on the trail when I'm planning to be there. Although the nighttime temperatures by then will be in the low 40s °F (mid-single digits in °C) there will still be snow in the ground in parts of the Crater Lake National Park in late May, I think; hopefully just not on the bits that we'll be on!

The bonding thing with Birdie reminds me that it will soon be ten years ago (it was Presidents Day, so mid-February) that she and I spent a couple of frozen nights together in a rustic Forest Service cabin in the middle of nowhere. That was fun too.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Walked 1.2 miles to Safeway and back

Normally, when I walk the 0.7 miles to work, and the same distance home again (except it's uphill then!) I can get about 6,000 steps in my day. Today, on a day off from work, I walk to my local Safeway and back (1.2 miles each way), including carrying a very heavy backpack on the way home (uphill, remember!). I managed to clock up 8,000+ steps today.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Appointment with exercise coach cancelled - I'm annoyed

I just got a call from the state employees' health center. My appointment with the exercise coach, scheduled for next week, has been cancelled. The only alternative now is a consultation over the phone. What kind of phoney baloney is that! I want to see a real live person so that I can ask them lots of questions and get answers that are easy for me to understand.

I wanted specific guidance on how best to use the new latex resistance exercise bands I have. If I wanted just generic advice, I can get that from YouTube and the rest of the Internet.  Well, I'm not going to let that stop me. I already have the bands, and I also have a couple of 1 gallon jugs (which used to have Arizona tea in them, sugar-free, of course), filled with water and weighing 8.6 lbs each. So, I can start working on a daily strength-building regime. As an experiment, I filled the jugs with dry sand to see how much they weighed - 12.2 lbs each. When my now self-devised weightlifting program calls for it in the future, I can add water to the dry sand and probably reach 15 or 16 lbs.

The idea would be to add an extra dimension to my exercise program. Walking and swimming are good, but I feel like I need to have some muscle building and shaping too.