Sunday, November 25, 2012


First of all, on a non-health related topic, to me Thanksgiving is a religious holiday, a time not just for family and food, but also a time of gratitude towards God.  I have a lot to be thankful for over the last couple years.  My mother is now out of pain and resting with Jesus.  My new stepmother and her family are a pretty cool bunch of people.  I am very close to getting my dream farm (planning to close in January.)  My health has improved greatly.  Thank-you God.

My friends are less religious, but I still enjoy cooking for them, so I hold a "Turkey is on Sale" dinner near Thanksgiving for them most years.  (It's not Thanksgiving to me, but it is to some of them.)  Between all the prep for Thursday (just a few dishes and a lot of cleaning) and Saturday (the whole dinner), I was on my feet for large parts of four days.  I went to bed with sore feet each night.  The first couple mornings I woke up refreshed and ready to do it again.  Saturday morning the daily abuse had caught up to me and I was sore to begin with.  I'd work a half hour and rest a half hour until the guests arrived and the pace of food prep sped up.  It went well, but I was pretty much just in the mood to direct my guests rather than be a good hostess by the time dinner was served.  I wasn't so sore as to be grumpy though.  I went to bed an hour early, and got a good night's sleep.  Today one foot seems recovered, but the other is still sore.  Note, I didn't take any of my fibromyalgia medication, my improved sleep quality seems to be enough to help fix me up at night.

One thing that was a bit disappointing about Thanksgiving is that pigging out is not nearly as fun as it used to be.  My stomach has shrunk, and I tend more towards the filling fatty and fibrous foods instead of the fluffy carbs, so I was full before I finished my first plate at both dinners.  Took my time chatting and picking until I cleaned my plate (like my Mommy taught me.)  Seconds had no appeal for me, although I did manage a bit of pie with real cream a few hours later...  I guess it will be easier to not gain weight over the holidays if I can't undo a month of dieting in one day any more...  I suppose that's another thing to be thankful for!

Friday, November 16, 2012


I often characterize Fibromyalgia as a sleeping disorder.  The doctor that diagnosed me explained that Fibromyalgia patients don't get enough fourth stage sleep, which in turn does not allow their muscles the proper amount of rebuilding time at night.  The medication I (now only occasionally) take helps me sleep deeper and longer, and allows my muscles more time to heal during my sleep.

The last few days a strange thing has been happening.  I have woken up and been alert after 8 hours of sleep, about a half hour before my alarm clock, an hour before I normally get out of bed.  Was my hip adjustment that helpful?  Or is this just an odd phase brought on by the changing of the clocks and a couple early morning appointments?  If this continues, will I still have Fibromyalgia flare-ups when I overdo or get emotional, or will my body have a better mechanism for keeping up with other stresses?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Still Adapting - Hips

Last month I had a rather drastic and quick adaptation to my knees.  Yesterday, I was clambering around in the back of the tuck herding loose groceries towards the tailgate.  As I got myself down, I was feeling grateful for my improved flexibility and balance.  Then about on the second load of bringing groceries in from the car, my "good" hip started complaining in a whole new way.  Felt like a pinched nerve or something.  I let hubby take my last armful so I could hobble into the house without extra encumbrance.  In about 15 minutes later, it passed, and then later in the evening my "bad" side took up the cause.  It also eased in a little while, and I got a good massage in before bed in the evening.

Today the "bad" hip started up again, although not as strange a pain this time, more like it was just under some odd stress.  I tried rocking away to take the weight off it, and it screamed, so I leaned more weight over on it and it felt almost normal.  I always used to lean to the right, now with this adjustment to my hip I'm standing straight up (so says the pendulum) although I feel like I'm leaning to the left.  It will take time to get used to this...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Long Weeked

My latest test of my new health was the Rhinebeck fiber festival.

First came the 5 hour drive in hubby's slightly sporty car with uncomfortable sporty seats.  I struggled with some back pain at first, but after the first couple hours I found a combination of posture and stretching that seemed to do the trick, and the deep fog in the last hour of the trip became my only major problem.

Then I got to my cousin's house, and we stayed up late into the night trading crafts.  I decided if I was going to spend the next two days walking I should stop playing with her spinning wheel before I felt sore, but I probably spent an hour at it.  I fell into bed and slept lightly (as I usually do when traveling), but the mattress was nice and firm, and I'd brought my flat pillow-substitute towel, so I was pretty comfy and well rested for the amount of time I slept.

Off to the fiber festival, from about 10 AM to 3 PM we walked through all the vendor booths.  I got a couple sitting breaks, but the only long one was at lunch.  After lunch I did a little Tai Chi to align my hips and knees, which made walking a bit easier than it had been.

I was pretty beat a 3 PM, when we got back to my cousin's I actually took my meds for a change, we played with our new toys while supper cooked and then I fell into bed at 9 PM.

Sunday morning I woke up refreshed from my 9 hours of soundly drugged rest.  There was a little soreness in the muscles from the day before, but it was not as bad as I expected, and it felt good to keep moving and stretching those muscles.  I decided I was good to go for a second day of it.

My shoes had gotten damp and not quite dried by morning, so I threw on some wool socks to keep my feet toasty in the mild autumn morning chill.  I was starting to have issues with my feet, that immediately resolved when things warmed up and I took the thick socks off...  (I feel like the princess sleeping on the pea sometimes.)  We had more sitting time on the second day, as we watched a silly leaping lama show as well as finding a table for lunch.  I was spared having to be the wet blanket two days in a row by my cousin's husband who needed to get some sleep before his night shift, and I was in fine shape to do the drive home.

The drive home was much more pleasant than the drive out, with the exception of the political commentators beating a dead horse.  (I probably vote the same way they do, but for Pete's sake there are much more important things to discuss than the president's unwise echoing of the poor wording in a question.)

Sunday night I stayed up too late washing all my travel clothes and playing with my new toys, which left me tired today, but I have only mild soreness, and had no night cramps.  Perhaps tonight I can get hubby to take me to the track and hot tub...

Overall I'd call it a success, with room for further improvement.  Next year I'd like to be able to go from open to close without begging for a bit of sit-down time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Android HRMs

After I obtained my first heart rate monitor, and GPS I obtained an android phone.  With the GPS built in and lots of apps to go around, (plus being a developer I could, in theory, make my own apps) I immediately started wishing for a Bluetooth HRM, but didn't really have justification for the expense.  Then I started learning about HRV, and thought that would be a great way to calibrate my training zone that I use with the HRM, but I needed a fancier HRM to do that.  Looking around at fancy HRMs with integrated GPS, it seems that I'm a whole lot better off with my Android phone.

Here is my full listing of Android apps I found that support HRM (Compiled October 2012, I don't intend to keep updating it.)

If you are a developer, your best bet is Zephyr HxM™ BT Software Developer Kit. For $79 you get the hardware, and the developer's kit to get you well on your way to making your own software.  You can also download the developer kit free separately from the hardware.  While you're developing, there are several existing applications that can support your exercise or meditation needs, although I'm currently not aware of one that measures HRV.

If you're not a developer, you'll find many more applications available for Polar Wearlink®+ Transmitter With Bluetooth®.  It retails at $79.95, and is a well respected HRM company.  Beware though if you want to develop for it, I've only heard horror stories about contacting the company for an SDK.  The MyTracks application supports it and is open source, so you should be able to pull implementation details out of there, but I'd rather support the company that supports open development.  There is one app for it that I found that supports HRV.

There are a variety of little gizmos that plug into the audio jack of your android device that receive analog HRM data from your existing strap, but they generally only have one supporting application, and no SDK.

I'm planning on going for the Zephyr product myself...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Still Adapting

It's been about two years, you'd think my body would be done adjusting itself, but I did have a long way to go when I started.

Sunday morning when taking the dogs in, I turned while going up the stairs, and there was a loud pop in my left knee.  Ow!  Well, it stung for about 10 minutes, and then that knee felt more limber than it had in a long time.  It moved freely while my right knee still creaks when I bend it under load.  I found it interesting and forgot all about it until Monday morning.  Monday morning when taking the dogs in, I again turned while going up the stairs, and again heard the loud pop, and again felt fine in 10 minutes.  But for several days afterwards, I felt what I categorize as adaption pains.  Things stretching more than they used to, gait changing, putting stress in different places than where it was before.  I think it's a good thing, but only time will tell.

It doesn't help the experiment that I'm wearing new shoes.  The ghillies gave up the ghost last week, so I accelerated the almost done pair and started wearing them soon after the first popping.  (In fact, I was grabbing them out of the glue press and bringing them inside when the popping occurred.)  So I don't really know if any of these adaptation pains are my feet feeling muffled by the new thinner rubber I'm trying.  (I usually only wear leather, but leather just wears out too quickly.)

Only time will tell what's going on here.  I'll keep an eye on it.  If the pain moves into the left hip I'll have to make another pair of moccasins with no rubber to try again.  If things settle out and I'm a bit stronger by the end of it, then it was just adaption pain and a good thing after all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Modified MAF Test

I'm doing low HR training, as it is easy on my joints and muscles, allowing me to circumvent the potential fibromyalgia flare-up after a workout that is too hard.

My Zone

My preferred training zone is slightly under my calculated MAF zone.  I had not actually heard about the Maffletone Method when I bought my HRM, and developed my training zone by testing various zones and deciding if how I felt during and in the 24 hours after my workout was acceptable.  My goal was to pick an intensity that I could do every day.  I started with some formulas I poorly understood, and quickly realized I was not going to cut it at that intensity.  The bottom of my search zone was my heart rate while walking.

If you have to determine any number experimentally, it is worth learning the binary search algorithm.  It's commonly known among programmers, but there's a kids version that works just as well.  Try to guess a number I'm thinking of between 1 and 10, and I'll tell you if you're too high or too low.  If you're trying to make the fewest guesses, you're going to start by guessing the middle number, in this case 5.  I say "higher", then the middle number between 6 and 10 is 8, so that's your next guess.  Now no matter what my answer, you've narrowed it down to 1 or 2 numbers.  I say "lower", and you know the answer is 7 or 8.  Now in a guessing game you'd have to ask one more question to get your answer, but when determining my heart rate training zone, the lack of precision in my ability to stick to a zone, and the variability in my body's responses keeps us from getting a perfect final answer, and a zone will do.

145 was too hard, 125, too easy, so I try to train in the low 30s.  I hope to improve this over time as I get more fit, but I feel I am still in a recovery period where my muscles, joints, and tendons are still re-aligning and strengthening, and this nice easy pace works well for me.

According to the Maffletone 180 formula, my training zone should be close to but not over 180-34(my age)-10(recovering from a major illness  or are on regular medication) = 136.  That's just a bit over what I train at.  (Before I learned about the correction factor system, the calculated 180-34 was way too high for me.)

Ideally for maximum fat burning, I'd get a respiratory quotient test on a treadmill with a specialist to tell me what HR to train at, but formulas and experimentation by feel are reasonable methods to get reasonable (if not quite perfect) training zones.

The MAF Test

I've heard a lot about the MAF test, but everything I've heard previously focused on a five mile plus warm-up run, which is not yet very practical at my level of fitness.  This discouraged me from bothering to make any measurements other than the maximum number of laps I could do in a session.  But as I read the full article on the matter, I realize that any exercise and any standardized measurement will do, that relative progress is all that is measured, unless you're contemplating a 5k race and want to use those tables to estimate a good race pace for you.  So I'm thinking of creating a modified MAF test for myself.

The Couch Potato MAF Test

Start with an indoor track 200m, or a outdoor track (400m).  If running the outdoor track, divide the track in half.  Start with a warm-up, which for me is a little Tai Chi and a 200m walk.  Use the same lane every time you take the test as the curves are significant part of this short test.  Move up to the heart rate training zone as you approach your start mark, and start your lap timer when you cross it.  Time 5 200 m laps, or as many as you can do if that's less.  Try to stay in target HR zone.  Record the times and actual HR, they should be considerably lower than standard MAF test times, but show similar progression of slowing down with each lap.  If the pace does not slow down at that heart rate over time, then either the training zone is too low, the warm-up too short, or the distance is too short.

I think this could be adjusted for anyone at any level.  Maybe you run 20 miles a day, maybe your MAF test should be 5 2 mile segments instead of 5 1 mile segments?  Maybe you're still moving up to couch potato levels of fitness (like I was) and laps of the driveway is all you measure.

The only downside to this flexible standard is that when my fitness level improves to the point where I should be doing longer MAF tests, then all my old data will be fairly useless.  Even the five segments together of the short test are not up to a mile, so I can't even average the paces and compare them to mile 1 pace later.  However, I think some data at this point is better than waiting until I can regularly churn out the required 5 miles.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Button Pusher

Yesterday I spent a few hours at Empire Farm Days.  Although there were some resources for a potential small farmer, most of the money in the displays was on mega-farming equipment.  The kind of stuff you need to farm more than a thousand acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, or hay, or milk a few hundred cows.  There's lots of economical structures, and tools, but the big thing in the biggest booths is automation.  Bigger tractors that do more at the touch of a button, conveyors, pumps, sensors, automatic clean-out pipes...  It occurs to me that in that place there were many men seeking to become chair-sitting button-pushers.  I'm doing financially quite well as a chair-sitting button-pusher, but the health effects of chair-sitting are not acceptable to me, so I'm seeking a more active career.  I'm sure if I had a long talk with those other farmers, they'd think I'm crazy...

The other conclusion I made at the trade show was that if a small farmer is going to compete with the big boys, the small farmer should not bother selling corn, or soybeans, and hay and dairy were questionable operations.  I think there is still a niche in beef if the small farmer does direct sales and offers grass fed or other custom finished cattle.  The big farmers all sell by the tractor trailer load and don't have time to work directly with customers.  But the small farmer really needs either a niche product or a large variety feeding a vegetable stand.


I'm in my mid 30's, and my father noticed this weekend for the first time that I've inherited his freckles.  Before I changed my diet I was never able to tolerate enough sun to bring them out.

Yesterday I spent 5 hours at an outdoor event, and only my left arm that had gotten extra sun on the hour drive over felt overexposed.  I took my hat off and started shading that arm with it, and I'm just a little pink there today, with no pain, so it should heal up quickly.  I'm wore long sleeves when I doing yard work after the event just in case.

Speaking of my outdoor event, I spent most of that five hours walking around the event, and I think I did pretty well.  I'm a bit sore today, but nothing extreme.  I still did yard work and helped move some boxes after the event.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Connection between Fibromyalgia and Oxilate?

Hrm....  More meat and cheese in this house!  I don't eat very many carbs because of my hypoglycemia, so  I've already cut back on potatoes, and carrots, and have seen improvements, but this puts a lot more on the no-no list.  I really need to learn how to prepare organ meats in a way I can stomach with so many other foods moving off my diet.  Organ meats can provide all the vitamins needed that most Americans get from vegetables.  As my diet currently is, I often crave a bit of veggie and have a big roast veggie meal, or a salad or some such.

Thanks for pointing this out, fellow bloggers:

A critic of this low oxilate diet suggest the failsafe diet, which has so many no-no foods that it's ridiculous.  Everything but meat is counter-indicated in someone's interpretation of the diet, and a few think eating only meat is too much protein.

I think only self-experimentation, considering one food at a time can really give me good data on what is or is not a problem...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Progress Pictures

November 2010

April 2012

Not really a huge difference.  You can see the little toes have straightened some, and are spread further apart.  The major change that does not show up well in the photos is the lack of callous tissue.  I used to have callouses on the bottoms of my feet and the sides of my third and fourth toes which are now gone.  I have a little bit left on the big toe of my left foot, because I'm still battling a wart on the pad of my foot that affects gait.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pizza, I Love You So Much, Why Are You So Cruel To Me?

It started out simple enough, the boss wanted to reward us for our dedication to an annoying task, and offered a free pizza and wings party. Of course I went, free food and social time with co-workers is a good thing, right? Well I had a pile of wings and two small pieces of pizza (each a little bigger than a deck of cards). Then I rushed off to my lunchtime appointment. First, it was just a little tummy rumble. Not that big a deal, I just overate, right? Two hours later, I'm hungry again. (Huh? you just overate?) I rationalized that I had eaten lunch way earlier than normal and needed a snack to tide me over to supper and had another piece of leftover pizza. Two more hours go by, I'm at home and hungry again, so I grab an ice cream sandwich to tide me over to supper. Two more hours, my normal supper hour, I crash. Shakes, feeling hot, constipation... I asked hubby, "Did I used to live like this?" "You used to have a lot of pain", he responded. I managed to get supper together and recover a bit. The stomach distress continued through the night. I don't sleep very well, and in the morning I woke up with major sinus issues. (Last time I'd had such sinus issues I'd had 3 desserts the day before and overloaded on sugar, I don't think it is a co-incidence. Some people actually recommend paleo dieters eat more carbs to increase mucus production.) But pizza is just soooo tasty... Pizza is my weakness, was long before I went low-carb. I would always eat too much when pizza was available. I don't really miss pizza when I make a meatza, but when pizza is present I just can't leave it alone. I'm drugged up now, and should be able to get through the day. Before I went low carb I took these allergy pills every day and coped pretty well. Denise's Mexican Meatza: Take 2 lbs of quality ground beef (mine came from a grass fed steer). Grab taco seasoning mix and look up how much they recommend putting into one pound of beef, and mix that into the raw meat. Spread out on a stoneware baking dish (one with sides, not a pizza stone), making it a little bit thinner in the center than at the edges. When adding toppings, leave a half inch bare all around the edge, as the meat will shrink more than the toppings in cooking. Top with salsa, onions, peppers, and cheddar cheese. Meat toppings are completely optional with meatza, as you've got plenty of meat in the "crust". Bake 400 degrees for a half hour. As soon as you take the meatza out of the oven, use a turkey baster to pull out the excess juices, then let it rest 10 minutes while the cheese congeals before serving.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why I'm Not Afraid of Butter

I'd seen evidence before, but now there's a review of the science in the European Journal of Nutrition:

Wisdom of the Masses

The paleo diet folks often talk about evolution, and how humans are not able to evolve as fast as our environment changes, but I hear little about the evolution of ideas with respect to diet.

Sometimes science comes up with startling new revelations that just so happen to be what an old culture has been recommending all along.  How did this culture come up with such an obscure idea?  Well, because there's not just one culture, there's hundreds of cultures.  India alone has 212 cultures recognized by it's government.  Even within a culture there is great variation from family to family.  Each of these subcultures is an experimental vessel for ideas.  Some idea catches on in a culture, and it either helps the members of that culture succeed or not.  Nearby cultures with better ideas will out-compete the ones with poorer ideas, until the cultures with poorer ideas start to copy the successful ideas into their own culture.  Any culture with all the wrong ideas will die out.

Therefore it stands to reason, that any diet or medical practice that exists for centuries within a culture has some value to that culture.  That benefit may be something we can understand and scientifically validate, or it may simply be a part of the cultural bond between members.

Bloodletting for example is a very ancient practice.  It has fallen into disfavor due to misuse and overly wide applicaiton, but studies are starting to show that blood donation (a more controlled and sterile form of blood letting) may have positive effects on the health of some individuals.  Back in the era of lead based make-up (a cultural choice that did not last long since it had a detrimental effect on the members of that culture) regular blood letting may have reduced the impact of lead poisoning by forcing a constant renewal of the blood.

How can we apply this information to our own life choices?  We know that just because a choice is popular does not make it correct, but the longer a choice has been popular, and the more people and more generations that have held an idea, the more likely it is to be correct absent any other scientific evidence.  Ideas long held by multiple cultures make excellent candidates for further research and experimentation.

For example, in India, a large amount of yogurt is consumed by many of it's subcultures, and has been for hundreds of years.  You may wish to find out if yogurt prepared in the traditional Indian way (as some random person suggested) is good for your digestive issues.  You could easily research this idea, and find: evidence that yogurt is good for most people, yogurt is bad for most people, or there is little evidence about the health effects of yogurt.  As long as there is not strong evidence that yogurt is bad for you, this makes an excellent candidate for a self-experiment.

On the other hand, if one guy you know swears by drinking blue dye to cure bad eyesight, you might do research and not find any scientific study showing this is bad for you, but you should be suspicious of his claims since he is the only one to have this positive outcome, and no cultural wisdom backs up this idea.

The plural of anecdote is not data, but it is worthy of further research.  Popular and old ideas are not truth, but they are worthy of your interest.  In the end, even if science says that eating more broccoli prevents pimples in 95% of people, you don't know if you're part of the 95% or 5% unless you try it yourself.

Is Wheat Evil?

This morning on the radio, the health reporter gave a summary of this article from Berkeley about "Wheatophobia".  

I won't pretend to know everything about both sides of the issue, but there are some basic problems with the Standard American Diet with respect to wheat.

How many meals a week does the average person eat that contains either bread, pasta, pizza, or cereal?  Look at the canned and boxed products in your cupboard.  What percentage of them contain corn syrup, corn starch, or corn oil?  Is it really good for us to get such a huge percentage of our calories from one food?  Even just giving a little love to buckwheat, rye, and barley might be better for us than the wheat and corn-centric diet most Americans eat today.

Apples are great for you, but if you were living primarily on applesauce I'd have some concern for your health.  If it was not intuitively wrong to you, I might point out how apples contain trace amounts of arsenic, and how arsenic was bad for your health.  Now most of us have at most one or two apples a day, and this arsenic level is not a problem.  Some studies even show a little bit of poison is actually good for you, and you may also be familiar with the phrase "the dose makes the poison".  

Wheat may contain proteins that are bad for human health.  The dosage required to cause a negative response may be different between different people.

I suggest that if you don't test positive on blood and stool tests for wheat antigens, but you suspect you have a problem with wheat, (let's say you're having trouble loosing weight, lack endurance, or have persistent digestive problems,)  first identify the symptoms that you have, take a log for a month or so of your symptoms.  Try to come up with an objective scale to rate your problems including frequency and intensity.  Then, go on an at least six week elimination diet.  Get rid of all grains, including corn.  Be careful of products such as sauces and beverages which are based on grain derived vinegar or alcohol.  Some would suggest going dairy free at the same time you go grain free, but personally I love my dairy, and I became less sensitive to it after going low carb.  Some people say that it can take six months for intestinal damage to heal after wheat stops aggravating the problem, so if you see a slight or no improvement you might consider extending the experiment to six months.  Keep up your journal during this period, keep referring back to your objective standards of frequency and intensity of your problems.  At the end of this trial period, re-introduce grains and once again measure your symptoms.

If you need a little help developing a grain free diet, try following an established diet like Perfect Health Diet, GAPS Diet, or find a Weston A Price Foundation chapter near you.  The Perfect Health Diet is strictly anti-grain, while on the other end of the scale Weston A Price Foundation focuses more on fermentation and nutrient dense foods that you might be switching to in place of grains.  Each of these diet groups has a different take on what foods are good/bad for you, but if you're not confident about formulating your own grain free diet, it may be best to follow in the footsteps of hundreds of others who have tried an experimental diet before you.  (More on wisdom of masses in a future post...)

It may be easiest to go on a diet like this in mid summer and fall when there is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables at your local farmer's market.  Who misses bread when you have a truly ripe tomato or a root veggie roast?

If you have a problem with grain, you should show a clear pattern of improving on the elimination diet, and backsliding when you return to your old diet.  Once this clear pattern is established, you can repeat the experiment with more variables to find a long term diet you can live with.  Are x servings a week tolerable?  Does well fermented grain (home made fully fermented sour dough) have a different effect?  Does corn give you the same issues as wheat?  As you do these experiments, you may become familiar with early warning signs of a reaction and be able to do shorter reintroduction tests, but always give your body time to fully heal on the stricter diet between experiments.

If you don't show any improvement on a six month elimination diet, then you probably have no problems with  grains.  Although it might not hurt to put a little more variety in your diet, choosing different grains and avoiding eating mostly processed products that are mostly wheat, soy, and corn.

In my case, wheat itself does not seem to be a major issue, but carbohydrates and vegetable oils in general are.  Since cutting back on these foods, I've stopped gaining weight, (lost a little bit) I can tolerate more sun/heat, and I've stopped having low blood sugar attacks except on vacation when I'm eating other people's cooking.  Vegetable oils don't cause me any real measurable problems, but they sit very heavy in my stomach, while animal fats I seem to be able to digest quickly and efficiently without packing on weight.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More on Healthy Sun Exposure

My severe sunburn is mostly healed.  I spent 3 hours by the pool in my new swimsuit, with some usage of a wrap when sitting by the pool chatting, and no additional damage was done.  Before the big 3 hour stretch, I several times put on my new swimsuit and spent 5-10 minutes outside getting moderate non-damaging exposure to accustom my skin that was covered by my old swimsuit to the sun.

I think the minimalist runner mantra of "Listen To Your Body" applies to sun exposure as well.  When I burned two weeks ago, my skin felt like it was heating up and loosing it's ability to self-regulate, but I put off getting into shade because I was having fun and kept wanting to do just one more thing...  Sunday at the pool I kept my wrap handy and covered my shoulders and head at the first sign of heat in the skin, and gave it a little time to recover before getting more sun.

I've also been considering what I've already read about sunlight and melanoma risk.  Statistical studies show that people with a history of sunburn are more likely to get melanoma, but they have had trouble reproducing this in the lab rats.  What else to people with a history of sun burn do?  They avoid the sun!  Is the burn itself, or the avoidance of sunlight that does more damage?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sun Exposure

Last summer I spent more time outside than any summer since childhood.  I wore a floppy hat and a T-shirt, but no sunscreen.  I never burned once.  I attribute some of my success to avoiding vegetable oils and taking Vitamin D supplements in winter.

This year I got cocky, and went to the water park with no sunscreen or cover.  Every place normally exposed by a T-shirt was just fine.  I don't think of myself as tan, but I had just enough of a hint of color that my skin had natural defenses against the sun.  However, my pasty white shoulders got a pretty bad burn in 2 hours of exposure.  So I renewed my research a bit.  My burn may increase my chances of getting melanoma, but overall it may not be a total loss.  Regular moderate sun exposure (such as working outdoors) actually prevents internal cancer, and general overall health.

My new plan is to try to spend at least a few minutes outside each day in either my swimsuit top or my sun dress.  I don't really find sunbathing pleasurable, and I don't want a deep tan, but I need to get my pasty white shoulders a little bit of defense against longer special occasion sun exposures.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Farm On Hold

Just a quick update, the farm purchase is on hold until next year.  The local credit union in a farm area is fine with us buying a farm, but the big national PMI company does not like the idea of getting stuck with acreage, so we will be saving up a little more so as to not need PMI.

FYI for anyone else looking into this, Farm Credit requires 30% down, but may take farming education and potential farming income into account when extending credit.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Feeling Stronger

My old life (2009) :

  • Work all day in pain on sitting or standing, bite back the tears and bad attitude
  • Get home, lay down long enough for the hips to relax
  • Try to get up and get a few chores done, stop when legs are too sore to hold me up
  • Take painkillers and muscle relaxants to help me sleep.
My new life (yesterday):
  • Get up and do 5 minutes of exercise with Wii Fit.
  • Go to work, take frequent stretch breaks
  • Get up and walk the 1/4 mile trip to the other building and back while waiting for tests to run.
  • Go home, do a bunch of chores
  • Do another 5 minutes of exercise with Wii Fit for a break
  • Do more chores
  • Do another 5 minutes of exercise with Wii Fit
  • Go to bed without any pain meds
I'm hardly a runner or fitness guru, but for me it is worlds better.  I'm actually a little bit sore from yesterday's burst of activity, but at no time did I have to stop because of pain, and I can still do my minimum 5 minutes today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Changes in the Wind

The shoes and the diet have made a huge impact on my health, but I still have yet to make the big change.  The BIG change.  Although I seem to be the only one that sees it as such a huge deal.  You can judge for yourself.

Big Change Part A:  The Farm

In about a month, we will be ready to apply for a mortgage.  That mortgage will be on a sizable piece of property in the country.  I intend to start growing more of my own food, vegetables and meat.  Chickens, sheep, and goats are on the early consideration list.  Pigs are awfully tasty and will therefore probably be a part.  Cows are just sooo....  BIG.  I'm going to try out smaller livestock first and get a handle on that.  I already have some experience growing my own vegetables, but I expect the first year or two to be a bit of a break-in period if the soil is not already well amended.

Our city home is 100% paid for.  No matter what happened to us, we always had a place to stay (assuming we could manage the minor city tax and avoid a tax lien.)  The farm is considerably more expensive, some places we're considering an order of magnitude more so.  In this rough economy is getting a new mortgage a wise idea?

Will I be able to handle this extra commute and extra work load?  Will I get calls at work that the sheep are out of their pasture again?  Will I totally freeze up when it's time to slaughter and eat Lambchop and Chicken Dumpling?

Big Change Part B: Giving up my desk job

Some time after we move (couple months?  years?), I will be quitting my desk job and becoming a full time mother/farmer.

This is the really scary one.  This is the one with no going back.  Once I get out of the workforce we will go from double income to one, and after a lapse in employment it's very hard to get back to your previous income level without starting over at the bottom.  Having my first child without my mother around is scary by itself.

Will I be able to handle motherhood and going into business for myself at the same time?  Will I be able to make any money off pastured meats and fiber crafts?

Mixed Emotions

For a long time this is what I said I wanted.  This is what I've been doing most of my reading for.  I have a notebook full of figures and notes.  And yet...  Now that it's on the horizon, I'm scared more than excited.  So many unanswered questions, so many other choices I will have to abandon...

Nothing to do but pray about it for now.  I'm waiting for hubby's new salary to show up on pay stubs, and  things to calm down where I work.  (Doing as much overtime as I can manage is not compatible with setting up a new house a forty-five minute drive away.)  Time to sit back, wait, and be patient.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Inuit Boots

It seems the Torguud are not the only ones to think of using a leather overshoe to protect a warmer boot. These Inuit boots show similar design, although most have the over-soles stitched on instead of tied on as in the Torguud boots. Materials might make the difference there, the wool not being as sturdy as the leather boot and more likely to let stitches pull out.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Practical Boots

Although listed under a particular sub-ethnic group of Mongols, this seems to be the practical cheap version of the Mongol boot


Pretty Boots

I'm always looking for better alternatives for winter footwear.  I'm currently enamored with the Mongolian boot (Gutal)

Here's an interesting selection of Mongolian boots a museum employee saw while on a collection trip to Mongolia:  Bata Shoe Museum Mongol Boot Collecting Trip

I especially love this one, a royal consort's boot.  I'd leave the symbol in red off my pair.  The design is so intricate, I don't think I could really manage.  I'd want to do embroidery on felt rather than applique on leather as was probably original.  Although I might be able to do stamp and dye...

I worry a bit about the pointed toe.  I'm not sure how far beyond the foot the shoe extends.  If the toes rest near to the ground and the rest of the point is decorative, I think I could wear these.  If the ball of the foot is the last part resting on the ground and the toes are pointing up, that wouldn't work too well for me.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

How to Change

I struggle with my lifestyle changes, sticking to them.  I love the shoes, would never go back to the old ones, but I slack off on the exercise, I cheat on the diet.

For my birthday I whipped up some apple crumble a little too quickly.  In my attempt to use less flour, I used way too much sugar, and once added to the cookies my co-worker brought, I was in sugar shock most of the day.  At the end of the day was my birthday feast at a Chinese restaurant, which included a bit too much sweet and sour to appeal to my less adventurous friends.  The next day I was hungry all day long, eating a snack every couple hours like in the old days.  I think I'm mostly re-balanced now, but it was a reminder of how important it is to stick with the changes and not backslide.

A couple articles of interest in this area have come up lately.  The first is How Exercise Can Prime the Brain for Addiction.  In the related study, mice were given exercise wheels then exposed to addictive substances and withdrawal.  The mice introduced to exercise just prior to the addictive substance learned really well about the addictive substance and had a hard time quitting later.  Those first given exercise wheels during the withdrawal period learned very quickly that the addictive behavior was no longer profitable and got over it the fastest of all groups.  The the mice also had brain scans showing increased brain cell growth when exercising, explaining why they learned more quickly after beginning to exercise.

The second article sounds a bit more ominous: Change or Die.  But the point of the article is not to fear what will happen if you don't change, but look for positive benefits if you do.  Nine in ten heart surgery patients don't make the lifestyle changes their doctors suggest, and most suffer from the exact same problems again after surgery.  Find support in your change, make drastic changes that will have bigger effects on your life rather than small ones, and re-frame your options in a positive light.

I'm not sure what this means for me today.  I'm crazy busy with work right now, and have little excess energy for more radical changes or joining any support groups.  I am making my changes in light of better function and happiness rather than out of fear of diseases that killed my mother despite her healthy* life choices.

* what is healthy was not agreed upon between Mother and I.

It does give me some hope though about becoming a farmer.  My biggest fear is that I won't be able to hack it.  I'll buy the farm, and let it grow up with weeds, and spend my free time in the farmhouse in front of my computer just like I do in my city house.  But how much more radical, more exercise, and more immediate benefits can I package into one change?  It can be done, I just have to have to finish saving up my down-payment, get a little more time in my schedule, and push that ball up the crest of the hill before I can see if it really will roll down the other side.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What is Health?

Spring has sprung, and I'm not really getting outside much more than I did in the depths of winter.  However, I'm working ~10 hours of overtime a week and giving my house more cleaning than it has in a long time.

My coaches on my journey with minimal shoes are real athletes.  But do I even ever want to be an athlete?  Sure it would be great to show off to doubters my Boston marathon entry, but I'm really not interested in spending hours and hours of my life to exercise just to exercise or to get shiny medals.  My neighborhood is a dump, I take no pleasure in walking through it, and my life is already too busy to manage to schedule trips to the park.

We are getting financially closer to being able to move to the country.  I'm hoping that will help my exercise levels.  Gardening season is getting underway sooner, which will definitely eat up a good share of my free daylight hours.

I am pretty happy with my new normal for activity.  I've given up on the local endurance race due to lack of true interest.  (I may still go photograph runners for them.)  I'm still slow, but my activity is rarely limited by my ability, I live with much less pain.  But am I healthy yet?  No, not really.  I feel 90% better, but there are still nagging occasional pains, I may still throw out a shoulder next harvest.  What should be my next move towards health?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fourth Belt Hole

This guy weighs the same as me.  Does he need to loose weight?
I don't pay much attention to the scale, it's a horrible measure of fitness. However, I do pay attention to my belt, and before making some changes, it was getting a bit too snug.  In addition to loosing the shoes and being a little more active, I've also dropped a lot of the grains from my diet.  Refined grain products are generally very low in micro-nutrients and provide nothing but calories.  They also provide most of their calories in the form of carbohydrates.  Being hypoglycemic, when I eat too many carbohydrates , my insulin quickly spikes and stores all that excess carbohydrate as fat and brings my blood sugar low, making me hungry again in a couple hours, despite my liver having plenty of glycogen on board.  My new diet has replaced the missing carbohydrates with more fat.  The body can convert fat into keytone bodies, which function like  carbohydrates in most body tissues, but do not cause insulin spikes.  I still eat my fruit, veggies, and dairy products, so I have just enough carbohydrates to keep running those parts of the brain that need them.
Eat More Bacon, Loose Weight

This on the other hand is a big no-no
I'm not religious about my diet.  (I had 4 biscuits when we went out to dinner the other night, and I still eat my breakfast wrapped in a tortilla every morning.)  Sometimes though, not being fanatical about your diet is necessary to stick with it long term.  I can cheat now and then and still overall keep on trending my menu planning in the right direction.  But now that my liver is not constantly overloaded with glycogen, I can tolerate the occasional carbohydrate load better than I used to.

The major benefit of this diet is that I'm not hungry all the time.  It is really easy to control portions and excessive snacking when you're just not hungry.  My blood sugar is stable, I'm meeting all my micro-nutrient needs, I'm eating tasty food when I do eat.  I used to bring snacks to work, and I'd eat them about every two hours, and be hungry enough to be watching the clock ready to pounce on that snack/meal as soon as I could allow myself.  Now I eat about every 6 hours, and I occasionally skip a meal if it doesn't fit in my schedule.

And this morning, I hit the fourth hole on my belt.  I expect to waver between three and four for awhile, but that is a lot of progress from when I wavered between hole one and not wearing the belt...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Still Slowly Improving

Last week I walked more regularly than I have since High School:

02/02/12 0.5 miles
02/01/12 0.25 miles
01/31/12 0.5 miles
01/30/12 0.5 miles
01/29/12 0.37 miles
01/29/12 1 miles

And I was just slightly sore and tired.

I don't have something worthy of going into my DailyMile log every day, but I'm making a lot of little changes, like standing up in meetings, or while working in the lab, doing squats while I have a minute of downtime waiting for something, getting more housework done.  These little changes are nearly impossible to measure, so it's hard to say how much I've improved of late, but it's moving in the right direction.  As the weather warms this spring, and we start to get evening sun back, I need to make a regular habit of walking the puppy after work and really see more measurable improvement.

I've given up on Mind the Ducks this spring.  I've not done enough work this winter, not really increased my maximum mileage at all, although I've improved my ability to recover after a walk and repeat again the next day.