body, health


Exercise by sanchom, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  sanchom 

Exercise. I just can’t get enough of it. No, I don’t mean that I love it and spend inordinate amounts of time exercising. I mean that I know I should spend at least 30 minutes each day exercising, but I just can’t find the time to to it. More precisely, I just don’t want to find the time. There is always something more appealing to do, even if it is just sitting on the sofa watching an episode of “Murder She Wrote” that I have seen multiple times before.

Yesterday I decided to take action. I got up earlier than usual for a Saturday morning and went out for a 45-minute walk. That was 15 more minutes than I had set out to get, so I did a little happy dance when I got home. Later, my husband and I decided to take a drive. We went to a town about 25 miles from home for breakfast. We stopped at a local market and wandered around for half an hour, looking at local handcrafts and produce. About 30 minutes after we headed out of town, my leg cramped. Really cramped. At home when I get leg cramps, I stand up and force the muscles to ease up and I drink lots of water, especially tonic water. There was no water in the car and I couldn’t get into a position to force the muscles. My husband couldn’t get the car off the road safely for another ten minutes. Fortunately, when he did, there was a small restaurant that had tonic water. Two bottles of tonic water, a bottle of water, and a five-minute walk around and we were able to continue driving.

Exercise. Sometimes I get too much of it.

When I got the results of my first bone density test, I was told I had osteopenia and I should take 500 mg of calcium twice a day. But I was also told to be sure to get weight-bearing exercise each day because without the exercise, the calcium wouldn’t make it into the bones. Initially, I took the calcium and made sure I walked at least 5,000 steps a day. My goal had been 10,000 steps per day, but not meeting that goal felt like failure, so I adjusted the number down to what I was sure I could make. But in a few months, I stopped keeping track of the number of steps. It was too depressing.

Exercise. I know I need more, but it is just so difficult.

My next challenge came when my doctor told me he was concerned about my cholesterol levels. After seven years and a friend’s scare with cancer, I stopped my hormone replacement regimen. As the protecting effects of estrogen disappeared, the levels of bad cholesterol increased. The solution, my doctor said, was watching what I ate and more exercise. Or I could take a pill each day. For a year, I tried the better diet and exercise option. But my resolve waned, my cholesterol levels continued going up, so I opted for the pill option.

Exercise. Why is it so difficult?

Next, my weight increased. To address that, I joined Jenny Craig. The program emphasized that eating right, including eating the right amounts, along with exercise was the key to losing and keeping off the weight. Each week when I checked in with my counselor, she would ask how much exercise I got in each day. In response to I my honest answer that I didn’t get in as much exercise as I knew I should, one counselor asked me if I had done any housework that week. Was I honest when I said I had? My husband would laugh because he knows how little I do around the house. But my counselor’s answer has been my excuse ever since. She described housework and gardening as “natural” exercise. So each time I shoved clothes into the washer or took them out of the dryer and hung them on hangers, I celebrated that I was getting in natural exercise that day.

Then, last year, I was diagnosed with type II diabetes. A consultation with a diabetic nurse again emphasized the importance of exercise. This time it was the insulin receptors that need the exercise to be able to absorb the insulin and improve my health.

Exercise. I need more than I get for oh so many reasons. Of course the biggest reason is my laziness.

Years ago Mom explained how I could make the bed without having to go back and forth from one side of the bed to the other. She said it was more efficient. Instead of placing the bottom sheet first and then the top sheet and then the blanket and then the bedspread, having to walk from one side of the bed to the other with each layer, she showed me that I could fold each of the sheets, the blanket, and the bedspread in half lengthwise, and then place all layers on just one side of the bed at a time. Once all layers were in place on one side, I walked to the other side of the bed and placed the bottom sheet, the top sheet, the blanket, and then the bedspread in place on that side. For years that’s the way I made the bed, minimizing movements.

Now, however, as I continue to face my need for more exercise, I’ve started reversing Mom’s advice. Instead of doing things to minimize movement, I’ve been doing things in the least efficient way. For example, instead of pulling the clothes out of the dryer in one large armload, I pull out a few items at a time a walk with them to the bedroom to dump them on the bed and go back for more. Then, once all the clothes are on the bed, I go to the closet to get just one hanger, walk back to the bed to put just one item on the hanger, and then back to the closet to hang it up. That way I get ten or even more times the natural exercise each time.

As much as 5 minutes more every week!

Exercise. I just can’t get enough of it.

body, happiness, health, mind

bliss point?

I used to be able to eat anything I wanted when I wanted to. Every now and then, I read some promise that I can do so again by following just one wierd trick. I know that isn’t going to work. Nothing is ever that easy. But I love to find evidence that weight gain isn’t my fault. Like this article describing the bliss point that food labs and scientists seek.

An excerpt:

We’re fundamentally responsible for our own decisions, healthy or not. But in ways many of us don’t appreciate, the companies that produce our favorite snacks are using science and a deep knowledge of our vulnerabilities to get us to eat more than we intend, sometimes even fooling us into thinking we’re making healthy decisions.

I am looking for solutions, not shortcuts. And since I was recently advised that my blood sugar and A1C tests split on whether I meet the diagnosis for diabetes – my blood sugar levels are too high, but my A1C test is below the threshold – eating right and getting exercise every day is more important.

My nutritionist advised that the exercise doesn’t have to be sweat-inducing in intensity, so I can live with her advice that I get in at least 30 minutes a day. But turning down all the food temptations is a much bigger challenge. It isn’t just that I have a loving husband who feels it is his job to offer me something he knows I like several times a day. It is that developing a habit takes consistent effort. Some resources say that consistent effort must continue for at least three to four weeks. I can see that developing the habit of doing something new, like getting at least 30 minutes of exercise each day will take a month or more to form. But getting rid of a habit – like eating whatever I like when someone offers it to me – isn’t so easy to get rid of.

So I did more research. According to PsyBlog, the much touted 21-28 day timeframe is much underestimated. In a study that followed individuals who attempted to establish a new simple habit – drinking a glass of water each day – the average length of time required was 66 days. That’s the average. In some cases it took as long as 254 days for the behavior to become automatic, i.e., for someone to perform the action without thinking about it. That same study had a kernel of good news, however, in that skipping a day now and then didn’t appear to be detrimental in the long run. I will keep that in mind so that if I slip up one day and don’t get that 30-minute walk in, or accept that one treat out of the half-dozen my husband has offered me, I can stave off the feeling of guilt or failure.

My nutritionist told me the story of one of her patients who arrived for the first session seriously overweight and then arrived one year later having lost much of that excess weight and much better blood sugar test results. She asked the patient how she had done it. The response was that she followed the nutritionist-provided diet six days a week and then on the seventh day she took her mother out for dinner and had whatever she wanted to eat. That plan gave her something to look forward to each week, a reward for sticking with the plan the rest of the week. That’s a success story I can emulate.