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Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Wall Ball, the Kettle Bell, a Focus Group and Me

It's fun to have so many people following my wellness journey, the support and interest have been wonderful. I admit the road has been filled with challenges and changes, but I learn something new every day. Changing the way I think and speak about wellness has not been easy but I am determined to change.
What I do know is it doesn't matter how much I can do, it only matters that I keep doing what I can and the results will follow. This week was easier because I have seen improvement, and improvement  (no matter how small) gives me hope.
  • Last Sunday night I realized I wasn't as tired as usual. Tremendous fatigue has plagued me since my surgery so the extra energy is easy to feel.
  • My knee doesn't hurt as much as it did.
  • I move better and faster....I literally walk faster without thinking about it.
  • I inherently know I can do more and now when I have a full day ahead I don't dread it as much as I did.
Also I have something called morning hypertension. My blood pressure is higher in the morning than any other time and it must have contributed to my aortic event. For years I thought my blood pressure was fine because I only took it at the doctors office and not when I first wake up. I started taking my husbands blood pressure when we woke up and I just took mine out of curiosity. It was a shocking discovery, his was fine but mine was pretty high. This morning it was substantially lower, relief!

Another thing I learned about is we all have challenges with exercise and diet.  During the focus group for Biometrix the number one thing the other members stated is without the constant support from the trainers and other staff members they wouldn't be doing what they are doing. We all need accountability and support, and I thought it was just me....

This innocuous item is called a wall ball. my children talk about wall balls all the time, it's no big deal, right? But then I did it.

It's easy he said.

Just pick it up and throw it against the wall while you squat he said.

Piece of cake he said.

I took a deep breath and picked that sucker up and as I threw it against the wall my finger got caught in the little tab on the side causing it to go flying behind me the entire length of the gym. As I chased after it I kept thinking,"this isn't how he showed me, this isn't how he showed me, this isn't how he showed me".

You'll notice I did not put that on my bullet list of improvements.

I have been using the kettle bell this week and it makes me feel like I am spraying incense each time I swing it and each time I swing it I wonder the same thing..."whose idea was this?"

I spent time with the dietician earlier in the week where I mentioned I need more accountability.

"What does that look like to you?" he asked.

"A SEAL team with time on their hands and the ability to restrain me in an enclosed area. They will need guns equipped with night vision in case I attempt to eat what I shouldn't, but only when I'm awake."

"No really"


Food is just a challenge, I eat when I'm hungry, when I'm mad or happy. I eat with friends, alone and with strangers. I eat because I'm bored or I want to avoid something. What can I say? It's a weakness, but weaknesses can become me!

Speaking of sharing and when don't I? What is your favorite healthy snack and best breakfast? Help me write this story...

Ready? Go!!

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Cooking Shows!!!

My husband watches cooking shows...most of them...I do not.

There is nothing wrong with cooking shows but in my convoluted mind food is to be hidden as we eat it, as in in "who ate the last piece of pie?" or sometimes..."who ate the pie?" But on the food channel they are eating all day, all the time, right there in front of everyone. There is a guy who regularly eats food prepared by people who look as though they cook for a carnival on a show called "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives". And the food is everywhere! Here is the down side, inevitably they will make something my husband will want the recipe for and that problem turns into a Fellini movie every time. He starts yelling at me to come to the den. I race in to find he can't get the TV to record so he can watch it several million times in order to make it. A huge fight ensues complete with hand gestures because of his very loud concern he will miss the entire segment and the recipe for fried whatever, or glopped whatever or sauce poured over something will be lost forever, and of course that would be my fault....

As far as cooking shows go he used to like Giada but then after making some of her food they broke up. (Not enough flavor)  He never liked the "Pioneer Woman" because, well, he is from the East Coast and until he met me had no idea what grits were or that a steak could actually be "chicken fried". He has great respect for the Barefoot Contessa. Her food language is compatible with his, basic delicious food with lots of color and flavor. And the fact she looks as though she enjoys her food is the last piece of perfect for him. With the exception of Bobby Flay he does not trust a skinny chef.

Then there are the PBS shows he tapes to watch when his insomnia takes over. Martha (and her staff of thousands) has a cooking school he loves. He is always trying to make his food better and bless her heart, Martha is a great teacher. Sometimes I wish someone would tell her to just calm down, but she is good at what she does. I don't think I will ever cook like her or garden like she does, I probably won't ever build anything, refinish anything or organize anything the way she does, but one day as the Universe is my witness....I will have a staff like she does.

I believe his favorite show personality is Lidia. She is a PBS girl and looks like his mother and her sisters. Her accent takes him right back to 6 year old Ray Ray listening to his grandmother speak Italian to his father and his father speak English back to his mother. Lidia's recipes are familiar to him and the instructions are filled with words and food he remembers as a little boy. Her food to him is eating at its best, delicious and comforting.

Lidia Bastianich

Food is not complicated at our home, it is the focal point of almost everything we do. It is how we socialize, bond, and how we make a living.

Ray Ray is an artist and his pots, pans and platters are the canvases.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Journey Continues...Meeting a Challenge

 My dear friend told me after going to Biometrix for awhile that she learned a lot about herself. I kept that thought and wondered what I would learn about myself. 

Today was my first big challenge because I didn't want to go, I didn't want to work out.....I had so much to do, and I went back to my old tapes that told me work was first....

I used to listen to those tapes, but today I didn't and worked out anyway.  

After getting there I was very honest with my trainer. I told him I had forced myself to come because I had so much to do. How do I justify working out first? Isn't this hopeless anyway? Who am I kidding I can get into shape? He tells me it isn't a hard day, but a "challenging" day. He then shows me how to do today's exercises, but when I try to do them it takes several times  for my brain to formulate a plan. The first time through the circuit is usually filled with additional instruction so the process is humbling. And then I wonder how did I let myself get so far out of shape? However he never lets me speak badly of myself or give up. In the past those two things have been my go-to exercise mantras. 

It isn't easy to trust a new voice, is it?

Today this exercise reminded me of cirque du soleil performers and it kicked my trash. I thought I would fall right on my back and I did not want to do it...but....

I did it...

I am starting to believe in myself. And each time I finish a workout I feel such an accomplishment!

The other day I did the ropes which always makes me feel powerful! I conjure up JJWatts and go for it! 

This process has been challenging because I haven't done anything like it in years and it takes time to reeducate mind and body. There is a difference this time, in the past when exercise became challenging I just gave up. Now I understand what a mistake that was. 

This week I met with the doctor at Biometrix to go over my blood work. The panel is extensive and quite different from what my other doctors have asked for. My doctors have different concerns so my surgeon, cardiologist and primary care doctor ask for different panels, since they don't get together they don't all know what is going on with me. The panel this doctor requested was for everything.  As I sat across from her I was amazed, and heartened, at what she now knew about me. 

She told me my vitamin D was so low that she recommended injections to get it back up to where it should be as a hallmark of D deficiency is fatigue, and since vitamin D contributes to the absorption of calcium she said that was another reason to make sure I get that number up. But then on my own research I found Vitamin D, in addition to preventing brittle bones, breaks in the bones and development of osteoporosis, it does a lot more for overall health. The article I found suggested it helped reduce the risk of certain types of cancers (colon, breast and prostate) and also helps reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Vitamin D also helps to improve the function of lungs and mood. I found this online and I didn't see if their cancer research was footnoted, but honestly my doctor had me at "fatigue".

The rest of my numbers were ok....cholesterol was 20 points too high and my good cholesterol was a bit out of line but that can be easily managed with diet and exercise, so overall she was happy except for one number. And that number frightens me also. It is the CRP or C-reactive Protein. Not to put too fine a point on it but it is a marker for inflammation in the body. Numbers above 3 are alarming and designates a substantial risk for heart disease. With my history, getting that number down is imperative and it was 4.5.  Something to work on for sure. 

I have said before I feel my surgeon and cardiologist are keeping me alive and I am grateful for that, but I want something more. I know as I continue this program I will get where I want to be.

My fitness goals for the coming week:
Meeting with the dietician for a revamp of my diet and then following it. (We are working with several ideas to find what will be best for me.)
Working out 3 days 
Yoga 1 day
Walking 2.5 miles 2 days
Taking all my vitamins and minerals

Personal assessment of program so far:
Knee pain almost gone
Getting up from a sitting position has significant improvement 
Strength returning in my right arm from a nasty fall - at first I couldn't even lift from that side.

I am getting better, and I will continue to get better because my long term goal is not to get into my jeans again, but to live as vital a life as I can. I have begun looking at health as my most important job, because without health nothing else will matter very much. 

Biometrix is compensating a portion of the monthly fee for my participation in the program.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Big Reveal!!

So the big reveal!

I have been given a wonderful opportunity to get into a better place physically and I am going to chronicle the entire journey.

My physical decline started when we began our business during the recession in 2011. I am sure you can relate to a life changing experience that enters your life causing everything else to reshuffle. Exercise was the first to go and eating was whatever and whenever. Our focus was our business.

Then I tore my meniscus. It took months for it to repair as I didn’t opt for surgery. I just couldn’t, my insurance was garbage and the doctors could not reach a consensus. It felt risky at best and foolish at worst. After about 6 months I was walking again and did what I did...ignored it.

Then the heart thing...

After a conversation about health with a dear friend last February I started a new line of thinking. She was leaving the country for 3 years and felt a strong impression to get stronger and healthier. We talked about it a lot but she did something about it while I kept talking.

She transformed her eating and exercise. When I tell you she simply looked incredible after a few months I am not exaggerating. And my definition of incredible is how strong and vital she became. And the enemy to all people, fatigue, was less, she simply felt so much better.

She told me about the place she was going to that brought about this change. It is called Biometrix. She explained to me that it was like a team of people completely invested in your well being.... truly a Wellness Center. People who worked together to get the most comprehensive and personalized plan you could have to help you feel better.

Part of my problem (aside from inertia) is every time I think about working out I wonder what I can do. The doctor keeps telling me my heart thing could happen again, so how far do I go? I had no idea and it was a perfect excuse for me to not do more than walk.

Everything my friend described to me sounded like what I needed, accountability, structured workouts and a nutritionist/dietician. What I was most concerned about was having people around me who knew what to do with my particular physical challenges. Before I even stepped foot inside the gym I had all my blood work done right on the premises with their specialists and their equipment. They did a full blood panel including thyroid, vitamin levels, metabolic panels, hormones and what she called preventive markers for inflammation. Want to know what inflammation looks like up close? My feet are swollen most of the time causing a resemblance to my Aunt Eunice.

Next they did an EKG, (test I am very familiar with) and then a full on dexascan which they said would not only show my bone density but BMI....body mass index or “the true reveal”. Turns out my number was pretty high, making me practically a solid. Each test was given by a patient trained specialist. I am a veteran at tests but up to this point I had not gotten any tests that were preventative. My focus is now on prevention. I had a Dexascan test last year as part of my take-every-test-there-could-possibly-be-year, but they only checked to see my bone density.

Next was my fitness test which I desperately wanted to run into the dark Nevada night to avoid. Everyone who worked there kept telling me this was my beginning. Who cares where you are right now except to have a starting point? I reluctantly agreed with them but it sadly didn’t stop me from seeing how far I was from the place I wanted to be physically. My fitness evaluation was a series of aerobic tests, with the infamous bike, heart monitor, weights, and timed tests. Suddenly I didn’t care how well I did with the tests, but concentrated on surviving the tests...which I happily did.

Now they had enough information for me to get started working out. In the gym I have someone who watches everything I do which gives me the confidence to work much harder than I ever would have. My trainer takes my heart rate several times during the workout which gives me another level of confidence and he never lets me do anything that could hurt me. They have evaluated what I can do and that is what I do. The workouts are different every time I go, incorporating aerobics with strength exercises. We have used a kettle bell, heavy ropes, weights, rowing machine, elliptical, treadmill, heavy ball, bands, that big body ball and I have only gone 5 times! One of the best parts is how quickly I am able to finish. From beginning to end it is never more than 55 minutes...often 45 minutes, three times a week. This is a huge plus for busy folks who have to carve out time for themselves.

I am only two weeks into this and what I have learned is why (I am so embarrassed to admit this) I have a difficult time getting up from a chair. My quads are so weak it is hard to hold my frame up without help. Sad? Actually scary. Also my core is so weak from the surgery I had I know it will eventually lead to back problems. And last but certainly not balance. Balance is what keeps you from falling and mine is very tenuous. Another personal marker of fear for me.

And one more thing....a therapeutic massage is included each week. The masseuse has your workout sheet for the week and she knows everything you have done. So those are the muscles she works on. Was I sore the first week? Yes I was but it was a controlled sore and not a “hurt”. I have always looked at massages as a luxury, now I see them as part of the plan of getting well.

A wellness plan for Donna and I have only scratched the surface. Each week I will honestly share my journey, and there is a great deal more to this program but I am just starting. I see my health as a job now, a true responsibility.

Biometrix is subsidizing a portion of my monthly fee for an honest assessment of the program.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Chapter 1

The last 18 months have been wonderful and challenging. I say wonderful because we are blessed to have had a wedding and 2 grand babies and our business continues to expand. 
Challenging because the opportunity to expand the business comes right after a serious heart event for me and an equally difficult health experience for my husband. 

We were familiar with “survivor mode” and simply pushed through. After all, we lived and wasn’t that the most important thing? 

Yes and no. 

Using what was left of my energy for work left me too tired to exercise. Soon I began to notice the consequences of ignoring the physical side of life which was fatigue, difficulty lifting heavy things and unsteady balance. With any health situation ignored it becomes worse and that is what happened to me. I discovered the walking I was doing for exercise was not accomplishing any of my health goals and besides I wasn’t consistent. In order to make the needle move I needed something more, something far more structured to commit to. My whole life I have been doing the same thing in embracing a new regiment. “This time! This time I will listen to my better angels! This time I will eat correctly. This time I will exercise.” And then I would let anything get in the way. From a holiday, to a cold to a sudden need to eat stale bread. I found a way to give up. To put it off yet again. Even Oprah was an excuse I used. (sorry O) but I would say to myself “if Oprah with all her money can’t do it, what makes me think I can? And besides I have a defective aorta.”That was my big excuse....”It could happen again”. Something my surgeon told me every time I went in to his office.

My doctors were keeping me alive and I appreciate that, duh, but I wasn’t really living because I was always uncomfortable. The unsteady gate as I got up from a chair was depressing, my balance that was slowly (rapidly) disappearing frightened me. And the fatigue I felt was overwhelming. Until that moment I thought this was the way getting older was supposed to be. And then I 


I can do better than this. I am better than this!I kept thinking there has to be an answer. Then a friend told me about a place she had been going to. She was getting ready to leave the country for several years and felt a need to get stronger. I congratulated her on how great she looked and then she began to explain the science and philosophy of her new regiment. One thing she said several times is how much she had learned about herself and after she learned those things she felt she could make real change in her life and keep the change. Change is hard. Make no mistake it is hard. If it had been easy I would have done it years ago. But then I began to mentally make excuses why this wouldn’t work for me. My cycle was still intact I was determined to stay stuck. 
Then I realized this quote was me...

The constant pains in my knee, my inability to easily get up from a chair, anxiety/depression and constant fatigue is not what I want, although it is certainly ‘what I got’.

Obviously what I have been doing is not working.

I have tried to find a new lifestyle path over the years I could live with, but all my diets have ended in a trash heap with resulting extra weight. Except for a time period between my second and third child, all exercise attempts have ended in failure also. 

I’m pretty confident you are feeling my pain because so many of us follow this same I right?

Over the next three months I am taking you along on my personal journey of health, exercise and change. I admit it will not be easy, but nothing worthwhile comes easily. I intend to chronicle my successes and my set backs in an honest and sincere way. 

Monday is my beginning “chapter”. See you then.