Thursday, March 24, 2011

Perspective on loss

I wrote last week about the people of Japan. The situation continuous to be precarious with no “fix” insight and the well being of many lives on the line. This was an eventful week for my family and I, however, the plight of the people of Japan and those in Libya, among others, remind me of how important it is to keep one’s life events in perspective.

We lost our family hobby farm house in Mankato on Tuesday morning to a fire. We are so VERY fortunate that no one was home. The fire was very hot and the house filled quickly with smoke. We are grateful to the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office and the Saint Clair volunteer fireman and women from three units that came to our farm to put the fire out. Because I am on sabbatical, I spend more of my days in Minneapolis than I do at our farm. Normally I would have been there on Monday night… Thanks to the work of the fire crew we were able to save my grandparent’s dishes and some of the pictures. Everything else was a total loss. It is hard to lose a place like this with so many, many memories for so many and varied people that visited over the years. We made a video of the house right after the fire that also tells some of the story of the many events this lovely rural property hosted. The video is more personal, which is more than I usually like to share on a weight loss blog, but then again, this was not a normal week and I thought you would like to know.

Today (Thursday) we went back to the farm to pick up a few more things and just take it all in. The house had dried out and was no longer seeping water everywhere. Now there were some ice crystals formed in the debris hanging from the ceiling. So weird that the house is still standing but is such a wreck. I also think the enormity of all the “what ifs” are weighing in on me. We were really lucky that no one was there. If you see the melted clocks and TVS, you understand how hot the house was. The firemen estimated that it smoldered for hours before it really started. If we had been there, we would have been asleep in those wee hours when it was smoking. Would our smoke alarms have worked? We will never know. Sobering. At this point it looks like the origin of the fire was in the furnace. We should know by next week.

We are doing okay. We will be okay. We are lucky. I wish the folks in Japan were as fortunate as we are; property lost, but no lives.

Finally, check your own smoke alarms, teach your kids what to do in case of fire and make sure you know what to do, too. You never know when a fire will break out.

Over the next couple of weeks, I expect that I will be taking care of many post-fire details so my presence on blogger will not be as consistent. Stay strong my friends. TTFN, Michele

Monday, March 21, 2011

A plan in better tune with my life

Alan had a couple of great posts last week. If you do not know his blog, check it out: thoughtful, insightful and creative regarding weight loss and getting fit measures. Last week he posted about his ten lessons learned, a post that started my ruminations wheel. The statement: "A plan that's not in tune with your life can never work" really caught my eye and here is why.

You all know that I am following the adage of Marion Nestle: eat less, move more, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and go easy on the junk food. Good advice, right? Yes, for me, I am closing in on almost 30 pounds. But, guess what? I have been closing in on that thirty pounds since January 28, 2011!?!?!? In other words since January 28th, I have not lost a pound. Not a pound. Sure the scale fluctuates a pound or so here and there, but I do not count pounds off until I get a recording of the same weight over a at least three weigh ins. What I figured out is that my plan is really not fine tuned for my life style, especially the one I have now while on sabbatical and doing more travel than usual. My exercise has been great, but my eating less, not so much, especially when traveling. Yes, I eat less, overall, but my goal is to be between 1200 and 1700 calories a day. I lose weight when I eat about 1200 calories a day, but maintain my weight when I am at 1700 calories or so a day. I realized that I have been maintaining my weight over these past two months. This of course is something that is overall good and another indication that I will be able to hold on to a target weight when I get there. But, I have another 40 pounds to lose. So, maintenance is not yet welcome.

I know, too, that it is the travel that makes it easy for me to stay at the 1700 (or more) calories vs. the 1200. My challenge is to figure out how to continue to lose and move toward fitness when I travel. With several more trips coming up in the next couple of months and the current trajectory I will find come my birthday (May 22) that I am still at the weight I was on January 28. That of course is not my goal, nor desirable.

Time to fine tune my plan. Here is what I am going to do:

First: Preparation for travel begins at home. I plan to pack my little lunch box cooler in my bag. When I have this it makes it easy for me to carry along a yogurt (100 calories), a salad, and a couple of other snacks, all in the 100 calorie arena. I am also going to make sure that my hotel room has a refrigerator or I can access one so that I can keep some salad ready at any time. I really like salad. Love it actually. So, this is easy. I will plan to pack some nuts, raisins and a few other things that I like to throw in my salad in my suitcase.

Second: When I travel, I eat out as a function of the professional nature of the work I am traveling for. Even if it is personal travel, eating out is part of the vacation. I am going to check menus online before I go out to eat so that I know before hand what I will be able to eat. This goes for drinks, too, the tasty ones especially.

Third: Like I did when I went to LA early on in my journey, I am going to plan for a few food items that I really enjoy and budget them in. This worked well for me when I went to In and Out and it worked well for me at one of my grandbabies birthdays this weekend.

Fourth: Water: When we went to San Francisco, I forgot my regular refillable water bottle. I am cheap when it comes to water bottles, I won’t buy them, so I refilled an OJ bottle several times. But, it was only 10 ounces and I drained this often before my thirst was quenched and did not have access to water.

Fifth: Cut myself some slack. But, not, too much. This is about losing weight, not maintaining after all.

Sixth: Enlist your help for other suggestions. What other tips do you have for staying the course, especially when you travel and do not have access to the eating routines you usually do?

Thanks for reading. Stay strong and TTFN,

PS: Chubby McGee if you read this, let me know how to get to your new blog!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fifty humans

Well, you all know that I am just back from a great trip and conference in San Francisco. I am privileged to be able to be in a profession that allows me to travel. You all know, too, that a great Earthquake (9.00 on the Richter scale) hit Northern Japan and resulted in a Tsunami. All of us in San Francisco were lucky that the wave did not amount to much, but that was not the case in Santa Cruz a mere 45 minutes drive.

It is the folks in Japan though that takes my breath away. Not just the misery, the desperation, the devastation, but something else. Fifty people have “volunteered” to stay at that nuclear power plant. Fifty humans are more than likely donating their own lives for the sake of others. Fifty people who are really no different than any of us. I am sure they have families who are VERY worried and concerned about them. I am, too. To me, they represent the best of the human spirit and they take my breath away. In a time of unparalleled challenge, they stepped forward, or that is what I believe.

Whatever maybe your spiritual center, it is time to pray for those fifty as well as all of Northern Japan. Then send money. Lots of it. But head these guidelines.

The story and events of Japan hit home to me as a weight loss and going to be fit blogger and humanitarian. The vulnerable, including the elderly and the young are always at high risk in natural disasters like these. But what the news does not report on are the vulnerable people, like me about 7 months ago, who because of their unfitness (not sure that is a word), were at high risk, too, and would not have had the strength to take cover, run, climb or lend a hand, or even more, where it was needed. I hope I never experience a natural disaster like they are in Japan, but if that happens, I want to know that I am as fit as possible to help others and lend a hand. I DO NOT want to be the one carried out because I cannot. I want to step up like those fifty. I would bet that you do, too!

Keep those fifty and their families and of course all the others in your thoughts and prayers.

Take care my friends, Michele

Monday, March 14, 2011

Parting shots of San Fran

We will wind up our trip to San Francisco today. The conference I attended was informative, illuminating and inspiring! SF is a great city for walking. Since I arrived on Wednesday, I logged 26 miles of walking most of that up and down hills! Today is rainy, so hopefully I can get in one more walk before we head back to Minnesota. A few parting shots.
This one is the Bay Bridge at sunrise.

Surfer's bay and our surfing son!
Switchbacks that I tackled three different times
on a trail following the topography of the edgewater.
Last, a few pictures of wildflowers.
Hiding behind that rock are my favorite flowers and a sure sign of spring,
California poppy.

Make it a strong day everyone! TTFN from SF! Michele

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy Friday from San Francisco

Greetings from San Francisco the city with lovely spring tulips!

How about a nice early morning walk before the conference up and down some hills?
Well, let’s start by going up Powell Avenue.
Now that was not too bad going up the hills, was it?
Next get the reward of going downhill.....
Let's walk all the way down to the water. Okay?
Look at the fog rolling in.
Yep, that is Alcatraz.
Round trip we did about five miles. Excellent start for the morning!

You guessed it: it is GREAT to be in San Francisco.
The views outdoors are unparalleled even in the early morning.
I will add to the 25 miles that I walked already this week. I am being mindful of what I eat while here and making good choices, although I know I will allow myself to enjoy some delights.

Have a great weekend everyone. Stays strong and TTFN from San Francisco!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Inspirational read

If I am so fortunate to live to a ripe old age, I hope I have the physical stamina of JoAnn Krause. JoAnn did not start jogging until she retired when she was 70 and decided it was time to start to “push herself” “Once I turned 70 I retired and decided to start pushing myself. I started jogging -- up to 14 miles, and now in winter I cross-country ski three or four hours a day. I don't get tired. I can go all day cross-country skiing, and then I'm game to go out and dance at night.” You won’t find JoAnn in a gym either. “I don't need health clubs, personal trainers or any equipment. I call my health program "green." I don't have to drive to exercise; I just leave from my back door. If I have errands to do, if they are within 6 miles, I walk. Us "youngsters" might want to reconsider how we push ourselves!!

I am off to another conference. This one will be fun-no paper or any presentation, just going to learn! San Francisco here I come!! I am looking forward to hiking those hills and "pushing myself!" Stay strong and TTFN, Michele

Monday, March 7, 2011

Scaling up and scaling back

I spent the weekend up in northern Minnesota on the North Shore of Lake Superior at an environmental learning center called Wolf Ridge (WRELC). The north woods features our only “mountains,” beautiful deep lakes and mixed forests of deciduous and coniferous trees. A great place for some early morning hiking each morning.

Here is a lovely archway of balsam firs on Saturday morning.
built a number of stairs and walkways to ease the erosion
and make it more accessible to all hikers.
The path below is sanded to make navigating the ice easy.
Early morning sunrise over Wolf Lake.

Sunday morning we had a gentle and light snow.
Even though we are approaching 80 inches of snow in Minnesota, it is still beautiful.
Below are some of our Minnesota mountains.
Good thing I have on my YakTrax.
They make it easy to see the trail and the way back with the falling snow.

Over the years I have taken groups of college students to WRELC many times. It is a great place to experience outdoor learning in a pristine environment. What could be better? Well, a lot, especially if all the times you took students you were obese like me and in poor shape. Despite my love of the place, I truthfully always dreaded the fact that I would be hiking up the hills and all THOSE stairs with my students. Now that I walk most days between 4-7 miles and have lost weight, I was curious as to how my body would respond to the challenge of the hills and stair climbs.

You already know from seeing the pictures above that I went on two early morning hikes so you know that I was successful. I won’t say I skipped up the trails, it was snowy after all, but it was easier than I ever imagined it could be. A breeze. Fun. Exhilarating. Another tangible reminder to me of how far I have come.

Scaling those hills and stairs was an achievement for me that even 6 months ago would have been tough and draining. They are also a reminder to me of how much more I am able to do physically. I am becoming physically fit. It will be a while until I am really fit, but I am well on my way. I am actually enjoying this journey; enjoying finding out more about myself and what I am capable of.

Scaling those hills has recommitted me to scaling back and staying the course. This was just what I needed. I am only 1/3 of the way to my fitness goals and I could see myself beginning to waiver in my resolve to be strong. But, not any more. At least not for today. What about you? What new NSVs or physical activities have recommitted you to moving forward in your own getting healthy goals?

Make it a strong day everyone! TTFN, Michele

Friday, March 4, 2011

Happy Friday and Weekly Summary

This week I made good on one of my (unpublished) goals to make some new recipes. I made couscous for the first time! I followed the recipe on the back of the package so it was easy. When it was done I added in sliced zucchini and tomatoes, a little garlic, olives and some cumin. Voila: Couscous salad. I also made a zesty yogurt sauce that topped off hummus with Joseph's pita bread. I forgot to take pictures. BTW: If you do not know about Gina's Skinny recipes, you should. She posts daily with healthy and yummy recipes just made for folks like us on our fitness quest.

March is a finicky month in Minnesota. At the beginning of the month we are more like winter and at the end of the month being more spring like. This means throughout the month we have snow melts and icy sidewalks and roadways, making walking tenuous at best. I did not get as much walking in this week as I did last week: 21 miles; I am happy to report no slips or spills for me on my walks (hope this continues!). I took my bike out once and had a five-mile bike ride.

A couple of noteworthy reads to share with you. The first one hits home with me, although I am not diabetic, I am at high risk. Diabetes: New research published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine points out that folks with diabetes over age 50 are trimming their life spans by 6 years. They found that those with diabetes had double the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke, compared to those without the disorder. "But they also found that diabetics had a 25 percent higher risk of dying from cancer and were more likely to die from a variety of illnesses including infections, lung and kidney disease as well as falls. Exactly how diabetes raises those risks isn't clear, but in the case of infections, it could be that diabetes weakens the immune system, the researchers said. Diabetes can cause vision problems and loss of feeling in the legs, which may be the reason for falls, they said. Danesh and his colleagues also estimated diabetes' effect on life expectancy. They calculated that a 50-year-old diabetic without heart disease dies about six years earlier than someone without the disease, with 40 percent of the difference due to cancer and conditions other than heart disease.”

Fit at Fifty at Beyond: Okay, I am in that club and proud of it (!!).A good read about tips for staying healthy and fit over fifty.

One more thing: if you are looking for another good blog about getting healthy and fit, but a host of other important life fitness aspirations, take a look at Leslie's.

Have a great weekend! Stay strong! Michele

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Greetings Everyone!
March is here and that means spring is around the corner, even for those of us in the still Frozen North! On Tuesday we had highs in the upper 30’s, plus the streets were relatively free of ice, so I took out my bike. Was able to get in another 5-mile bike ride!!
Many of you know Alan’s blog and know that he is prepping for the Big Climb and raising money for the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society with each step. Well, Alan, you have inspired me, too! I am going to participate in the Tour de Cure. This is a series of cycling fundraising events that raise money for the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The ADA's mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. A number of my family members have diabetes, both Type 1 and Type 2. My obesity puts me at a high risk, too, for diabetes, making this a great organization for me to support. Second, the day of the race, May 21, is the day before my birthday. I don't think there is a better way to celebrate my birthday and my achievements toward better health than a 31 mile road trip on my bike!! This will be my first challenge of this nature that is dual purposed: support of a cause and physically challenging. You can learn more about the Tour and my goals by visiting my Tour website. I would, of course, welcome your support, but, you might consider doing this yourself. This Tour will occur in 43 states. I am betting there is one close to you!! Getting fit and generating support for a worthy cause. Can't beat that! Stay strong everyone and TTFN! Michele