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Saturday, April 01, 2017

On Walking and Food and Life

Jean Sexton muses:

Weight has always been an issue with me. I love food and I love reading books, far more than exercising. That is a deadly combination. I slowly gained weight, developing issues with blood pressure and with diabetes. I had a breast cancer scare years ago (the surgical biopsy revealed no cancer). Then I had the very real endometrial cancer. Shortly thereafter my heart stopped twice when I was fighting sepsis. Risk factors for the cancer included never having had children and being too heavy. The former I could no longer change, but the latter was well within my control.

Last year was a struggle to regain the life I had led before my hospitalization. I came off supplemental oxygen and started walking more. I regained my driving privileges. (I had seizures when my heart stopped and that meant no driving for three months until my brain healed.) I told myself that I would continue to walk to the mailboxes and back rather than drive there. I came off the blood thinner that was supposed to help my heart not work so hard. One of my blood pressure medicines was dropped; the other slowly was lowered. My walks with Wolf got longer so that most days I was walking around the apartment complex three times. My stamina slowly increased. My muscles slowly returned in my legs. Finally my blood sugar dropped to the point where I was considered pre-diabetic and the medicine for that was discontinued.

Then the struggle with my weight resumed. I was cooking and baking again. I was fixing healthy food and eating it. I trimmed back on how often I ate out and how much bread I ate when I did. It didn't help that I came off the diabetes medicine at Thanksgiving when food I love is in abundance and continues through Christmas and New Years (not to mention the Super Bowl and Valentine's Day).

I took stock of things in February. I could not let myself throw away this life I was given. I decided to buy the cheapest Fitbit on the market. If I hated it, I wouldn't have wasted much money. If I loved it, maybe I would walk more. So at the end of February I bought myself a present, the Fitbit.

I discovered that the Fitbit was only as good as the work I was willing to put into it. I decided to put the work into it that it and I deserved. I found out I wasn't walking quite the distance I thought I was. I was getting in around 7,000 steps. I discovered that the support that Fitbit offers will track calories. I had done that back when I was first diagnosed with diabetes, so I knew I could do it again. That's when I discovered I was eating too much of my healthy food. I needed to change not only what I was eating and but how much I was eating. I also needed to increase the number of steps I was taking.

I do have a competitive streak and Fitbit feeds into that. Could I meet the challenges it gave me -- being active more minutes and taking more steps? Of course I could. Could I meet the calorie challenge by not eating as much? That I could. I added a premium service so I could compare myself with the "Fitbit world" of people. Fitbit showed I had 3,942 steps after lunch. I could take 60 steps and get over 4,000 steps. I slowly started losing some weight and walking longer distances. The turning point came one night when I had taken 10,000 steps and I decided it was a lovely night to walk anyway.

ADB has been supportive of my need to walk more. I get huge amounts of time walking with Wolf. He stops and smells grass, corners, bushes, trees, walls, and whatever draws his interest. That makes for time, but not distance. At ADB I can walk the length of the building and back for my breaks and get in a lot of steps and a few more active minutes. It is boring as all get out, but I remind myself of all the interesting time I had in the hospital. It is remarkable how quickly boring walking becomes more attractive. (Wolf thinks I am crazy to walk up and down when it is obvious that nothing has changed, so he sits where he can keep an eye on me.)

I got tangible proof that the walking is helping more than just my weight at the last doctor's visit. From that visit, the measurement of my blood sugar showed I was almost normal, just barely pre-diabetic. My blood pressure was so good that the last remaining medicine for that issue was halved. I got a well-done from my oncologist as he noticed the weight loss and assured me there was no sign of the cancer's return. One of my proudest moments was when a friend wrote that I was inspiring her to get healthier.

One of my saddest duties is to tell Steve Cole when one of our customers has transferred to the Black Fleet. I hope that it will be a long time before I join that fleet. Please do what you must to stay healthy, too. On my page on Facebook, I always finish my daily wrap-up with some variation of "And life is good." For me, it really is and it is getting better. May you feel the same.