Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Taking Personal Responsibility for My Decisions

Now that I'm sixty years old, I have a bit more time on my hands to think about stuff than when I was working full time and raising my children.  I've been thinking about my health lately.

In 2005, when I moved to New Mexico, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and prescribed medication.  I've always had optimal blood pressure so I didn't connect it to my diet or activity level so much, but rather assumed that it was elevated from the higher elevation where I lived now (I had moved from San Diego, California at Sea Level to 7500 ft. elevation in New Mexico). My cholesterol was still too high even with medication but I've had that for more than 20 years so I just took that condition for granted.  My doctor told me to lose weight and exercise.  Having begun a wonderful love affair in 2005 and marrying him in 2006, I was enjoying the good life: dining out, traveling vacations, taking a cruise, eating tasty but heavy New Mexican food, and drinking too much alcohol.  My weight just kept creeping up and I wasn't paying attention to it.

Me at 54 years old in New Mexico (I weighed about 172 pounds)

With my boyfriend, Ron, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, April, 2005

Jemez Springs, New Mexico, July 2005 (175 pounds)

On our Wedding Day, January, 2006 (181 pounds)

Mexican Riviera Cruise, October, 2006 (194 pounds)
Vacation in Cabo San Lucas, May, 2007 (197 pounds)

Vacation in Montreal and New England (October, 2008) 191 pounds

Thanksgiving Day, November, 2009 (195 pounds)

My 60th Birthday, December, 2010 (186 pounds)

Cop-outs and Blaming Others: The Self-Denial Delimma 

In 2009, my doctor diagnosed me with Metabolic Syndrome, a pre-diabetic condition. She asked me to check my blood sugar regularly, take 500 mg of Metformin, restrict my intake of carbohydrates and calories, and exercise regularly. I bought a great book called The Diabetes DTOUR Diet by the Editors of Prevention magazine and tried to change our menus at home. I actually prefer a vegetarian diet and fish, but my husband is a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy. He loves cooking and his favorite menus include Polish dishes, pasta dishes, chile, fried meats, mashed potatoes or buttered noodles,  pastries and desserts.   He did not care for many of the healthy food choices I made for meals. He also chose to not get more active, so I did some walking, hiking, bicycling and snow-shoeing, mostly alone or occasionally with a friend.  Eating together was an important part of our relationship but I found myself  consuming "unmindfully" in contradiction to my personal Buddhist beliefs.  Trying to please your spouse in food choices doesn't help your own self.  I found myself making excuses to the doctor when my blood sugar and blood fat numbers weren't going down. "Oh, my husband doesn't like low calorie food"..."I don't have anyone to exercise with"...you know the excuses.  What a cop-out!  No one is responsible for your own behavior and bad choices but yourself!  I didn't make the necessary permanent changes and continued to gain weight. When I visited the doctor earlier this month for a six month check-up and he told me that I have diabetes mellitus type 2 and osteoarthritis, I finally decided to do something to effectively improve my living habits and overall physical condition. I had steadily put on weight in the past 10 years, more than 50 pounds, since I broke my leg skiing in December, 2000.

I've seriously dieted in the past. In 2000, after participating in Kaiser Permanente's Positive Choice Program,  I weighed about 145 pounds and was physically active and had normal cholesterol levels.  The Program taught me the tools I needed to remain fit and healthy for life. I looked and felt great:

In May, 2000, I weighted about 145 pounds.

My daughter, Amanda, and I at the Grand Canyon in May, 2000 

But life happens. In 2004, I experienced an emotional loss of a loved one, and my children were away in college and I was alone. My life was rather stressful as I was in an MBA program at night while working full time during the day, and then I was laid off in December of 2004 from my job of 27 years.  My life had become more sedentary. My eating habits were undisciplined.  I consumed a lot more alcoholic beverages than I should have. I sold my home in February, 2005, and retreated to a quieter and simpler life in New Mexico where I knew only one person and her family.  Meeting Ron (now my husband) early in 2005 was a new life-changing event.  A new relationship brings new challenges to personal beliefs and choices as you become a couple.  Certainly one of those challenges for me was the role of food in my relationship.

This summer as I was facing new health issues,  my neighbor, Linda, helped to motivate me.  She had lost more than 40 pounds on Weight Watchers and through regular exercise at Curves and Zumba classes.  She invited me to join Zumba classes.  The Zumba class is a solid hour of active movement, combining dance and hip-hop music moves for great aerobic conditioning and flexibility. Sure I feel like a total klutz because I really can't follow the dance steps and coordinate my arms and feet, but no one seems to care (just keep moving). It's fun, inexpensive, and effective. My doctor told me to do at least 150 minutes of exercise a week at a rate of 30 minutes at least five times a week or 40 minutes at least four times a week. I also walk several times a week.  I decided that I can blame no one but myself for my eating and drinking habits. Now I eat a lot less, control portion size, eat mainly vegetables, protein and fiber, eat less than 170 grams of carbohydrates a day and less than 2 grams of sodium.  I have eliminated alcoholic drinks. Lots of calories and carbohydrates in those and when drinking in excess of a glass of wine or two a week, the alcohol is deadly to the human body. I try to drink at least 64 ounces of water everyday. I avoid salty and sweet snacks. I've lost 15 pounds since January, 2011 and 25 pounds since I was diagnosed with "metabolic syndrome". My goal is to weigh 140 pounds. I feel good about my choices and that I'm going to make that goal and maintain a healthy life-style.

Me in August, 2011.
Today I weigh 175 pounds and still losing

Getting fit and healthy is a personal responsibility 

It's a social responsibility, too.  I don't want to be a burden on my family as I age and I don't want to contribute to sky-rocketing medical costs when I become eligible for Medicare when I am 65 years old. We Americans are, on average, quite overweight because of over-consumption due to the availability of abundant and cheap food,  fat-ladened fast food and snacks.  We also have a more sedentary life-style than in the past.  Our next generation, in particular, is at risk as studies show childhood obesity is epidemic in America.  We as a people should be conscious of our consumption habits and the negative effects on the rest of the world.  Americans represent about 5% of the world population, but consume about 25% of the world's resources. I also feel responsible to my family in that I have contributed to their own consumption habits in a negative way.  Parents are the first role model for their children.  Shouldn't we think about these things as well as our personal happiness? 

Update (9/27/13)
Today I weigh 167 pounds and am still losing weight as I continue a vigorous diet and fitness program using the WebMD Food and Fitness Planner.

September 27, 2013

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Grandchildren Come to Visit

Will, Milla, and Anne
We were delighted to have Ron's daughter, Anne, and her children visit us last week.  Milla is 3 years old and Will is 8 years old.  The kids live in Chaska, Minnesota (near Minneapolis) and it was their first visit to New Mexico (well, Will had come with his mom when he was 3 and we were living in Rio Rancho then, so I don't think he remembers anything about New Mexico).  I had cleared our less-than-an-acre lot of all prickly things and trimmed the points off the yuccas by any path that they might take.  We had put in a new flagstone patio two weeks before their visit.
The Bacas from Anton Chico supplied the flagstone and built it for us

Almost done!

On their arrival day, their plane was circling the Albuquerque airport in the middle of a thunder storm.  It couldn't land because of lightning so off they flew to El Paso, Texas to refuel.  Finally, two and a half hours later, they deplaned and we took the tired family to our home in the mountains east of Albuquerque.  After some food and a good night's rest, the kids were outside playing the next morning. I had put in a sandbox and tire swing under the old juniper in front so they could have something to do while Mom relaxed.

Ron and daughter, Anne, relax with morning coffee

Perhaps a budding Entomologist?
Will loves to find bugs and identify them.  He delighted in our Cat Face Spider capturing flying insects in its web during the evening hours. I have previously posted about the Cat Face spiders we've had at my house here.

We took a day trip to Albuquerque to visit the New Mexico Natural History and Science Museum and the Sandia Tram. Both of these activities were "hits" with the kids.
Anne, Milla, and Will on the Tram going to the top of the Sandia Mountains

It was raining as we glided upward in the gondola but we still had a great view of Albuquerque.  The temperature dropped from 95 degrees F. at 5000 feet (Albuqerque)  to 55 degrees F. at the top (10,375 ft.). 
 During their stay, we had a BBQ so my daughters, Amanda and Mary, could see their niece and nephew.
Will and Mary

The days were hot. Everyone cooled off in the hot tub.Will even tried out snorkeling.


 We headed up to Doc Long picnic ground in the Sandia Mountains on Saturday.  The forest closure order has been lifted now that New Mexico is getting the monsoon rains to reduce the fire hazard.

Mom helps Milla climb up a hilly path

Will enjoys a cool drink
After five days, the kids and Anne left on Sunday.  When we arrived at the airport, the kids exclaimed "Green grass! Look at the green grass."  Coming from such a green and wet state such as Minnesota, they take for granted lawns and endless greenery.  Although New Mexico isn't a dry, flat desert covered with Saguaro Cactus (Saguaro cactus only grow in Arizona) that everyone seems to picture when they think of New Mexico, still our high desert and arid mountains were very different from Minnesota. 

Will and Milla are great kids.  I look forward to their next visit to New Mexico.