Sorry no internet for the last month…

28Sept13- Disneyland 1

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The Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas

Having never had the opportunity to see a Cirque show, I jumped on the chance when my uncle took us to Las Vegas a few days ago. We had several shows to choose from and ultimately decided on the LOVE show which showcased The Beatles music.

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I was mesmerized from beginning to end. Sadly, I have no pictures of the actual show because flash photography is not allowed since it may cause the performers a distraction that could lead to injury.

One of the things that I loved about the show was how they incorporated some of The Beatles’ mega-hits and some of their lesser heard songs. Tunes such as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps“, “Blackbird”, and “Drive My Car” were mingled in with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “Eleanor Rigby” {a.k.a. All the Lonely People}, “Yesterday”, and “A Hard Day’s Night.”

However, it was one of the lesser heard ones that I thrilled at hearing.  “Blackbird” stands out predominately for me because I hadn’t heard it in so long that I’d almost forgotten about its existence.

Another aspect of the show that I loved was how the performance told the story of the era when the song was written as well as the story behind the song. It opened up with a depiction of London on the stage that was within minutes destroyed by the bombings of World War II, then moved on to happier times after the clean up and rebuilding of the city.

From there, they went on to show the pandemonium surrounding what became known as Beatle Mania. The performers put on a high energy show, particularly in the scenes depicting the 1960s. Then shifted to a more mellow vibe when depicting the Vietnam protests of the late 60s- early 70s. Then the performance sped up again toward the end.

I wish I could remember the order of all the songs played as well as the scenes which accompanied them, but alas only key parts stuck with me.

If ever presented with the chance to go see a Cirque Du Soleil show (this or another one), I highly recommend doing so because it is a delightful treat to the senses! 😀

LOVE was done at The Mirage Hotel.

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If you’re in the mood to listen to some of The Beatles now, HERE is a link to a playing of their 20 Greatest Hits. Enjoy! 😀

My Quest for an Optimal and Healthy Weight

Much of the American populace, and perhaps in other developed nations as well, have become obsessed with weight. Some say it’s a waste of time to worry about it because you can’t change it. Others say you can because it’s a simple math equation of calories in versus calories out. But is it really that simple?

Observations of My Own Journey

Throughout my childhood I was always underweight and petite in frame, partly due to having been born prematurely. At least that’s my summation. It didn’t matter how much I ate or how fatty the food was, I simply could not gain weight. As I became healthier in my teenaged years, I finally began to put on weight which scared me at first. When I hit 100 pounds, I cringed a little. Then I hit 115 pounds and thought, “Okay, this isn’t too bad as long as I don’t look at a scale.” You see, my body was finally taking on some shapeliness other than, well, flat… and I liked that, even if I didn’t like the three-digit number staring back at me from the scale. By the end of high school, I was 128 pounds…. but the clothes I bought were starting to actually fit better so I didn’t mind.

Did I think I looked fat? Not once. Did I do anything to try to lose weight or maintain my weight? Not a single thing, though some accused me in high school of either being anorexic or bulimic. A thought which grossed me out as well as offended because I didn’t understand how someone could look at me and assume the worst without knowing a thing about me other than what they could see. But I ignored it along with other taunts and teases and continued to eat what I wanted when I wanted it. In effect, grazing my way through life.

After high school, my regular pattern of eating got disrupted because I no longer had a school schedule to work around. When I had that schedule to work around, I ate breakfast before school; had lunch at school; then, when I got home I had a sandwich, ramen noodles, sometimes both or something else entirely; dinner with the family at the usual time; and some sort of snack before bed. Basically, I ate five times a day! And if I failed to have that snack before bed, I tended to wake up severely nauseated the next morning. Though, we didn’t know it at the time, that was actually an indication of a blood sugar imbalance. Because of my work schedule in the years following my HS graduation, I typically only ate 3 times a day. It only took a year after high school to realize something was wrong.

The doctors I saw, however, did not agree that something was wrong. And because the second doctor couldn’t find anything, he decided that because I was a woman and he couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with me that I needed to be on antidepressants. Dutifully, I took the pills… until I realized how much worse they were making me. What did he do when I went back after I stopped taking those pills? Why, of course, he prescribed me new ones. Did I take those? No. A year later, with continuing ups and downs in my moods, behaviors, and the way I felt overall, I ended up in the floor at work. Saw a third doctor. His diagnosis? Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. This condition is characterized not by a constant state of low levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood, but by peaks and valleys in the levels. It is the sudden drops from high to low which cause the problems. But what causes those drastic drops?

The way the doctor explained it at the time was that basically after I ate, first my body would overreact to the nutrients coming in and produce too much insulin. Not only that, but if I didn’t eat the proper balance of nutrients (say too many carbs and not enough fat and/or protein), then a dramatic crash would happen taking me down with a whole host of symptoms. These symptoms include, but are not limited to: external shakes, internal tremors, mood swings, nausea, dizziness, nervousness, anxiety, and faintness. It was horrible, I felt like I was on this crazy roller-coaster and I had no way of getting off or controlling its course… that is until my doctor told me I could control it through food. Now I did have several more ups and downs for the next 2-3 years after my diagnosis because the dietician I saw made a mockery of her profession by first giving me the know-how to care for my condition then concluding our talk by telling me, “But you can eat pretty much anything you want, so don’t worry.” I remember thinking (as perhaps only a 19 or 20 year old can), “What a crock! If I can eat pretty much anything I want, what was the point in telling me all that other stuff?” So what did I do? I continued to eat pretty much anything I wanted, except I cut back on my intake of sweets.

It took a while and some trial & error for me to realize that the talk with the dietician hadn’t been a “crock” after all. Because most all of my symptoms were back in full force nearly three years after my diagnosis, I decided something needed to change because I did not want to continue living like that…. especially since my doctor had told me that if my symptoms were not controlled it could lead to diabetes! So what did I do? I did some research and found this book titled, The Hypoglycemia Healthcare Handbook by Jeraldine Saunders and Dr. Harvey Ross. That book revolutionized not only my cupboards and eating habits, but my life. I was able to bring my body back into balance and once I detoxed from sugar it became easy-peasy to turn down sweet treats. Do I still have sweets? Certainly, just not everyday or every meal for that matter. It makes them all the more enjoyable to have them infrequently, in my opinion.

Couldn’t resist sharing this cartoon that’s been making the rounds for years on Facebook:

Funny Scale Cartoon

Beyond Hypoglycemia to Weight Gain… And Loss

In those younger years, I could have cared less about calories. Now that I’m in my 30s, they mean much more. Not only because I studied them as part of my education toward earning my Associate in Health and Wellness, but because I began to have trouble maintaining a steady weight in my mid-20s and again when I hit 30. But isn’t that normal, you may ask? According to some, “Yes, it is quite normal and to be expected and therefore there’s nothing you can do about it.” Others will tell you, “Yes, it’s normal, but you can do things to keep it in line.” What are those things?

First, be mindful of the calories you are ingesting versus the ones you are expending through your energy output. Second, don’t let a sedentary life drag you down until you are completely inactive! Thirdly, combine the 1st two into your daily life. When you go to the grocery store stick to the outer aisles where more of the whole foods hang out. Also, park farther away from the doors so you have to use more energy to get your shopping done. Compare food labels. While you may be a creature of habit always buying the same brand, you might be surprised to find another brand (including the knock-offs) may have fewer calories, sodium, and/or fat or carbs. Might be easier on your checkbook too. 🙂

What did I do when I put on unwanted pounds? All of the above. Plus, I went for a 30-45mins walks around my neighborhood at least three times a week. The weight I gained in my early-20s and again in my mid-20s took me up to 150 pounds each time and I felt so blah every day while I carried the extra weight. I had no energy, I was depressed, and I snacked constantly. But within five months of starting to watch what and how much I ate, and walking, I was feeling more balanced and not so sluggish… and my body leveled out at 132 pounds each time I lost the weight. (Perhaps, that number doesn’t mean anything without also knowing that I am 5’8” and have a small bone structure.) It happened again though. I put on a LOT of weight while in college these last four years, starting when I was 29. My weight just kept creeping up and I couldn’t seem to make it stop!

By the end of 2012, I weighed 170 pounds! Nearly 40 extra pounds! You want to talk about sluggish and blah feeling! It was way worse for me this time around. But I felt like there wasn’t anything I could do until after graduation because every time I tried I would lose a few pounds then put them right back on and I didn’t like feeling like a failure. So while working in Colorado this summer I worked hard and walked around camp. Before I knew it, I had lost an inch in my waist. Then, two inches. And I thought I must have lost a lot of weight (forgetting that muscle weighs more than fat) and weighed myself only to discover I weighed 165 (I weighed that before I made it to camp!). Once I reminded myself of the fact about muscle weighing more, I was able to placate my self with the fact I had lost two inches of fat. 🙂

As of this morning, I weigh 155 pounds! I continue to watch my calories in versus my calories out, the types of food I’m eating, and making sure to get some exercise. Before too long, I suspect I’ll be balanced out again. 😀 Of course, this much progress has taken almost four months, so I still have a ways to go. But I am determined!

Sound Teachings from Informed Authors

So determined in fact, I’ve been scouring the local library near my uncle’s house to find wellness and weight-loss books to help me out further. Two of the eight books I have checked out thus far have proved most helpful and full of sound facts.

Book #1

The American Dietetics Association (ADA) has a book out in its 3rd edition called The ADA’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. The author Roberta Larson Duyff, who holds a range of degrees and credentials, explains how to measure your weight, not just in terms of pounds but also in BMI. The BMI (or body mass index) is a chart used to determine if you are underweight, average, overweight, or obese. It only uses your height and weight to make that determination so it is not entirely an exact tool when you consider a body builder’s measurements. For the normal person though, it can prove a useful tool. It may be more useful to know your body’s fat percentage though, especially where the major fat stores are located. Fat around your midsection is extremely hazardous to your health. The more you have the higher your risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Another useful tool in the ADA’s book is how to figure your BMR, that is your basal metabolic rate which is the energy needed to keep your body functioning (the involuntary processes like breathing, digestion, etc.). “For most people, basal metabolism represents about 60% of their energy needs!” (25) To figure your BMR, take your weight in pounds and multiply that by 10 calories in women (11 in men). So a woman weighing 165 pounds would require 1650 calories to take care of her body’s involuntary needs. A body’s total energy use is 60% BMR, 30% physical activity, and 10% digestion & nutrient absorption. Although, the percentage for physical activity can vary depending upon a person’s activity level. An inactive person might only use 10-20%, someone who is moderately active could use 30-40%, and someone heavily active might need up to 60%.

So, using the woman example from above, let’s say that she’s moderately active. To figure energy needs, we would take the 1650 calories x 40%= 660 calories. Then we would take the 1650 + 660 x 10%= 231 calories. Then add that to the previous two numbers, 1650 + 660 + 231= 2541 calories for her total energy needs… and that’s just to maintain her current weight! To lose weight, she would need to reduce her caloric intake and/ or increase her activity level. To gain, the opposite would be true.

Book #2

To build on this further, the second book further expounds on the ADA’s information. In Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard’s School of Nutrition writes, “Three related aspects of weight- how much you weigh in relation to your height, your waist size, and how much weight you gain after your early twenties- strongly influence your chances of having or dying from a heart attack, stroke, or other type of cardiovascular disease… With increasing body mass index-…- the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, gallstones, and type 2 diabetes all steadily increase, even among those in the healthy weight category” (35). And a BMI over 30 further increases all of those risks, though health difficulties begin to arise around a BMI of 20 or so.

Look around. Our nation’s populace (even children) have been steadily getting fatter and sicker in the last several decades. Sure it’s good for the healthcare industry’s business, but it is detrimental for the people suffering under the multitude of effects excess weight has the tendency to bring as gifts to the party. In Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, Dr. Willett examines the many possible causal factors to our nation’s epidemic. He zeros in on fat intake fairly early on in the book and says,

In the United States, the gradual reduction in the fat content of the average diet, from 40 percent of calories to about 33 percent, has been accompanied by a gradual increase in the average weight and a dramatic increase in obesity (67).

Another factor is the fact that as a nation, we aren’t nearly as active as our grandparents and previous generations were, but have continued to consume tons of calories in a day which our bodies have no use for and simply store away as fat for possible future use.

This book (so far) is the best book on diet and nutrition that I have ever read! I’m only on page 90 at the moment, so I look forward to reading the rest. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on this subject as I continue to work on my weight and finish reading the book.

One thing to remember: Just as it took months and years to put on the weight, it will take months of hard work to make it come back off again. So don’t lose heart or hope on your journey. You can do it, no matter your age or where you are on the scale. Just take things one step at a time, don’t try to do it all at once. Pick an activity you like whether it be walking or swimming or some other thing, make sure to protect yourself from injury by not pushing yourself too hard, too far, or too fast too soon into your journey. “Slow and steady wins the race” is good to keep in mind.

Quick fixes and “miracle” drugs are not the answer to your weight woes, your diet and activity levels are. Here are a couple of videos from youtube of people reclaiming their health and vitality through diet and exercise:

First, Amanda lost 88 pounds and her story was covered by yahoo.com: both the video and story can be found HERE.

Then, today I saw a story (also through yahoo.com) on Tory Johnson who lost 60 pounds in a year: Her story can be found HERE.

Here’s my favorite story of all. It’s about Arthur Boorman, who lost 140 pounds with the help of Diamond Dallas Page (the wrestler) and yoga, and I would suspect a change in diet as well.

Pictures of my travels from Colorado to California (Part 2)

Let’s see…. I left off at the Grand Canyon last post. 😀 Here’s a map of the area.

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These are from Mather Point near the Visitor’s Center.

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I had to laugh when I passed this Squirrel digging in the dirt along the path at Mather Point. 🙂 What can I say, I’m easily amused.

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These are from Pine Creek Vista (off the Orange Line Bus):

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These were taken at Yaki Point (also off the Orange Bus line):

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And these were from Yavapai Point (Orange Bus line too):

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Now some pics from Tusayan to Kingman, AZ on August 16th, 2013:

First I said goodbye to Fred. Lol.

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Then on the 17th, from Kingman, AZ, to my uncle’s house in California:

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I was so happy to make it to the border and the desert….

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The desert was already wearing on me by an hour into it. It just stretched on and on and on. I was so glad when I made it to my destination.

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The one cool thing to see was the wind farm. 🙂

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Now, I’m here. 🙂 It’s only been a little over 2 weeks since I got here and I’m already itching to be on the move again to see some places on my way home to Missouri. Lol. Well, see you next time. I’ll cover something health and wellness related. 😀

Pictures of my travels from Colorado to California (Part 1)

Sorry for the delay, I haven’t had internet access since the hotel I stayed at in Kingman, AZ on the 16th. 😦

Even though my car lacks air conditioning, my trip was surprisingly comfortable with the exception of when I drove through the Mojave Desert. Lol. That may have something to do with the cloudiness of most of my trip and the bouts of rain. 😀

After doing a little hiking up to Chasm Lake on August 13th (okay, I didn’t make it all the way to the Lake because of hail when I reached the tundra… still I got some good pics), I drove down to see a friend in Colorado Springs and her new baby. Then spent the night in Pueblo, CO. Not much to show from Pueblo, but here are a few pics from my hike. 🙂

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Yep, see that mountain shrouded in cloud? That’s where I was hiking at. Lol.

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Then when I got back into town this view awaited me. Some freaky looking clouds if you ask me.

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Then on August 14th I drove from Pueblo, CO, to Albuquerque, NM, with a stop in Las Vegas, NM, for lunch. 😀

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Had the best biscuits and gravy at Charlie’s Spic and Span! 😀

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The 15th, I drove from Albuquerque to Flagstaff, AZ. And boy was there a shift in scenery!

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Guess what I sang and hummed for over an hour after seeing the following sign?! Yep, that’s right, The Eagles “Take It Easy”!15Aug13- ABQ to Flagstaff 58- Winslow, AZ 2

The 16th, I began to head toward Kingman, AZ, with a slight detour north to take a peek at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. 😀 I always thought the drive to the Canyon would be desert and primarily treeless, but apparently when you go to the South Rim you go through the Kaibab National Forest.

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Not sure what was happening on this land, but it looked pretty bad. 😦

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I decided to take the park and ride option at the little town of Tusayan. It worked out great, they’ve really got the system streamlined. It’s like a city transit system. And I was greeted by Fred Flintstone along the way, too. 🙂

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That’s all I have time for today. Part 2 will have Grand Canyon pics and the remainder of my trip to Cali. 😀

Thoughts on the National Geographic’s August 2013 Cover Story

I had intended to write a different post today but as I stood in line at the grocery store this morning this month’s issue of National Geographic caught my eye because the cover photo seemed a little out of the norm for them and after reading the article I changed my mind on what I wanted to post.

National Geographic- August 2013

The article intrigued me because I wanted to find out what angle the writer would take with their story, “Sugar: Why We Can’t Resist It”. The author, Rich Cohen, used a lot of concrete data to support his story, a real-life spin by talking about and to a student from Clarksdale, Mississippi, as well as school personnel, and kept my attention completely until he began to use prehistoric apes to illustrate what he was trying to explain about fructose. Overall, his article is well-written and constructed. He faces head on the links of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes with excess sugar consumption, plus details the history of the sugar industry and how it came to be. Fascinating stuff, really.

Mingled throughout the article are charts and pictures with more information about the various forms sugar can come in and how it can be snuck into the human diet.

Cohen does a superb job of explaining how the human body processes sugar through his source in Aurora, Colorado, nephrologist Richard Johnson. In particular, Johnson’s explanation of how glucose and fructose (the two halves of sucrose or table sugar) are processed is telling. Cohen states,

Johnson explained to me that although glucose is metabolized by cells all through your body, fructose is processed primarily in the liver. If you eat too much in quickly digested forms like soft drinks and candy, your liver breaks down the fructose and produces fats called triglycerides.

Some of these fats stay in the liver, which over long exposure can turn fatty and dysfunctional. But a lot of the triglycerides are pushed out into the blood too. Over time, blood pressure goes up, and tissues become progressively more resistant to insulin. The pancreas responds by pouring out more insulin, trying to keep things in check. Eventually a condition known as metabolic syndrome kicks in, characterized by obesity, especially around the waist; high blood pressure; and other metabolic changes that, if not checked, can lead to type 2 diabetes, with a heightened danger of heart attack thrown in for good measure (96).

In summation, too much fructose and not enough physical activity to burn off the excess calories lead to a fatty liver, high blood pressure, and a fast track toward having metabolic syndrome develop and later Type 2 Diabetes. Cohen goes on to state, “As much as a third of the American adult population could meet the criteria for metabolic syndrome set by the National Institutes of Health” which he unfortunately does not go on to detail (96). But after googling the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I found the info I sought. There are five conditions which the NIH uses to describe Metabolic Syndrome and they are as follows:

    • A large waistline. This also is called abdominal obesity or “having an apple shape.” Excess fat in the stomach area is a greater risk factor for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body, such as on the hips.

    • A high triglyceride level (or you’re on medicine to treat high triglycerides). Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.

    • A low HDL cholesterol level (or you’re on medicine to treat low HDL cholesterol). HDL sometimes is called “good” cholesterol. This is because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.

    • High blood pressure (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood pressure). Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage your heart and lead to plaque buildup.

    • High fasting blood sugar (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood sugar). Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes. (online)

Also, “You must have at least three metabolic risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome” (Web). According to the site, metabolic syndrome is on the rise because obesity is also on the rise and a lifestyle change is the best way to prevent or delay the onset of this syndrome and its subsequent after effects of diabetes and possible heart attack.

Current estimates show the average American consumes 22.7 teaspoons (tsp) of sugar per day! To give you an idea of equivalents the charts and diagrams on pages 84 & 85 says, “22.7 tsp equal the natural sugar contained in each of the following: 7 red apples ~ 454 eggs ~ 1,135 cups of rice ~ 27 ears of corn”. Could you imagine eating that much of any of those food items in a single day?! And yet many of us drink that in a day! Wowza!

In terms of your liver, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is more taxing because it is 55% Fructose and 45% Glucose. So try to cut out as much excess fructose out of your diet as you possibly can because that will help your body to balance out a little better. Granted some of the cheapest foods (the ones we often reach for) contain the most HFCS and other forms of fructose, so that means spending a little more to have higher quality foods. But if you switch to more whole foods and less processed foods, then you may not even notice too much of a difference to your pocket-book. I know people say produce and other whole foods are more expensive and that’s why they buy more of the processed stuff, but if you buy your produce while it’s in season and store it yourself (whether through canning or freezing) then it’s actually pretty inexpensive.

Okay, I know this ones a little shorter than normal, but that’s all I’ve got for now as I’m under a time crunch today. Best wishes to your health and wellness! Have a fantastic week! See you in another week or two as time allows. 😀