Bad plastics

” I just want to say one word to you. Just one word…Plastics.”

-Mr. McGuire, The Graduate

As regular readers know, I recently injured my face in a serious bicycle accident. Fortunately, although I still look bruised and swollen, I’ve recovered to the point of getting out and about and going back to work. Through it all, what has surprised me the most is the reactions I’ve gotten when people see that I just don’t look right. I’ve been somewhat amazed that not one person has exclaimed “What happened to YOU?” I’ve seen a few double takes, but for the most part, people look, flinch a little, but don’t say anything until I offer the information.  Then I see the look of relief wash over their faces as they murmur polite commiseration or say things like “Well I did think you looked a little…different.” Until today.

Today, I walked into the skin care center at my dermatologist’s office, and the receptionist nonchalantly asked, “So, did you have your eyes done?”  My first response was, “If I had, I hope I would look better than this,” and “why would you think that?” Without missing a beat, she informed me that she sees so many skin care center clients coming in bruised and swollen after cosmetic surgery, that she naturally thought I had done the same.

Русский: Хирург Эльчин Велиевич Мамедов на опе...This all gave me quite a pause. First, I was horrified to think that all the people I’d met who politely said nothing about my hideous appearance just thought I’d had bad cosmetic surgery. Equally horrified to think that anyone who knew me before would think I needed cosmetic surgery, because, quite frankly I didn’t think I looked bad enough to have anything lifted, tucked, lasered or Botoxed. Cosmetic surgery is so far off my radar, that it would never occur to me to choose to do anything elective to my God-given face. Botox just seems plain silly to me, and why anyone would want their face paralyzed on purpose is beyond anything my sensible self can comprehend. Other than the necessary surgery I’ve had to repair my face, that I really had no choice about having, I plan to go out from this life with all original parts, wrinkles, lines, and everything else that comes from living life.

Still, society has accepted Botox and cosmetic surgery as a “normal” part of looking one’s best, and many people are no longer secretive about “having work done.”  What about you? Have you had anything nipped, tucked or cosmetically altered? Would you tell others if you had?

© Huffygirl 2013

Spin doctor

I’m on my bike, pedaling like mad, leaning over the handlebars. The wind is blowing my hair, making it fall in my face. I repeatedly push it back, thinking I really don’t have time for this. I’m too busy working hard at keeping up with everyone else. The cyclists around me seem to be cruising along without much effort, making this ride look really easy. This is one of the hardest rides I’ve ever done. Except, this time, I’m not on out on the road – I’m trying my first spin class.

Huffygirl, fit and ready to go!

I’ve actually attempted spin class before, many years ago, before I started biking.  At that time, I found out I was not fit enough to do an entire class, felt too uncomfortable on the bike saddle (seat), and couldn’t get the bike adjusted to fit me.  But since then, three things have happened: 1.) I’ve achieved enough cardiovascular fitness after four summers of biking, that an hour of spin class should be a cinch; 2.) my gym has gotten new spin bikes with better saddles and better adjustments; and 3) I have the right bike clothes and gear to make spin class easier that I lacked before – mainly cycling shorts and clip-in cycling shoes. Of course, it’s possible to spin in ordinary gym clothes and shoes, but much easier with. And, since I’m taking spin class to maintain my fitness until the next biking season, it makes sense to make spin as much like my usual biking as possible.

Cycling shorts and shoes? Check.

So, I’m giving it another go. Best husband helped me through the bike set-up. I’ve got my water bottle, bike shoes, heart rate monitor, so I should be good to go. This early morning class is a mix of serious cyclists, folks who just want to get their exercise over with before work, and some inbetweeners like me. I’m trying to go out hard and get a good work out, but not overdo it on my first class, but I’m having a hard time striking the balance. Instead of gears, spin bikes have a tension knob – left for looser, right for tighter. It’s hard to gauge how much tension to use for a good workout.  And I’m finding the movement and noise in the small room overwhelming. Everything is moving – wheels turning, fans blowing, people popping  up and down, cranks turning. I don’t know where to look and end up closing my eyes for a good part of the class. And the noise – fans blowing, riders chatting, music blaring. Give me a nice quiet ride outside anytime. But it’s cold outside, so for the next few months, I’ll have to make this class work, or end up riding my trainer in the basement again. Not much of a choice either way. I don’t want to look like a newbie or wuss, and I don’t want to give up and quit like last time, so I’ll have to figure out how to cope.

Did I make it through my first spin class? Find out later on “Spin Diary.”

© Huffygirl 2011

Back from Mayberry

I just got back from Mayberry. Well, not really, but it sure seemed like it. Today was Health Day at the county fair in the small town where I work. This was my first time going to this county fair, and I’m so glad I did. 

I ended up riding over to the fair grounds with my boss after the folksy directions everyone gave me like “turn at the building that used to be the old funeral parlor” escaped me. We parked on a grassy knoll, where high school volunteers in orange pinnies directed us. No charge for the parking, which I know at the county fair in my “big city” at home would have cost at least $7.00.

As we walked through the gate, half a dozen conversations were going on around us, to which we were automatically drawn in. It helps that my boss,  whom I’ve dubbed the queen of this small town, seems to know just about everyone. And people here are friendly, whether you know them or not. Folks talked about their blood pressure, vacations, and the cow their grandson is showing in the fair.

This is the prettiest fair I’ve ever seen – quaint old white barns with plank floors scrubbed clean and doors thrown open to show their wares. We ambled past a duck pond and  kiddie rides that made me wish my granddaughter was with me, so we could take a trip together round and round on a space ship. We passed through the homemaking building where a group of quilters beseeched us to buy tickets for the quilt raffle; past displays of homemade quilts that at least here people still take the time to painstakingly make by hand; past floral arrangements, potted plants, and antique displays. Past a tractor display, where parents and grandparents boosted toddlers onto tractor seats, and little kids climbed up on the big tires amid cries of “Look at me!” 

We reached the long narrow barn with the health fair booths and set up our table, cajoling passersby to stop for free toothpaste, candy and a chance to have their blood pressure checked. While I charmed farmers in plaid shirts and straw hats to let me check their blood pressure, my boss chatted with half the people in the town about the upcoming rotary meeting, which kids were going back to college soon, and all the mundane things that people in small towns know about each other. One lady whom  I cajoled into the blood pressure chair whispered that she knew her blood pressure was high, but couldn’t afford her medicine. While I tucked her arm under mine and pumped up the cuff, I told her about the cheapest places to go to get the medicine she needed, all the while marveling why her own doctor had not done the same. I asked the man in the square dancing outfit what he was all dressed up for as I coaxed him into the chair, to which he replied “For my date with you!”

I  told people who had so few teeth that it hurt to look at them about our dental clinic. I let a little boy listen to his heart with my stethoscope. I encouraged a portly man with a red face who told me he had already lost 60 pounds. I wrapped the blood pressure cuff around all sorts of arms – young, old, tattooed, tanned, and chatted and smiled with all sorts of friendly folks, the kind you meet in small towns and just can’t help liking.

At the end of the day we packed up our booth and walked back to the car park, juggling our glasses of hand-squeezed lemonade with our baskets of leftover freebies, slurping the last few delightful drops out of the bottom of the glass.

Next year I’ll be back. We’ll have more toothbrushes to go with our toothpaste. Maybe I’ll make a card to give to  folks with a list of where to get low-cost prescriptions. Maybe I’ll bring a play stethoscope for the little kids to use while I check their parent’s blood pressure. And I certainly will come early. I’ll turn right by the old funeral parlor, drive up to the grassy knoll and park by the high school volunteers.  I’ll chat with the people at the gate, enter the quilt raffle, buy a hot dog and a freshly squeezed lemonade. I’ll see the sheep and cows, look at the tractors and maybe even try a ride the next time I go back: back to Mayberry.

© Huffygirl 2011

A journey begins with 10,000 steps


A step-counting pedometer. (Image via Wikipedia)

You’ve heard that expression haven’t you? Well, probably not, since the actual expression is “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” attributed to  Confucius. But this journey, the 10,000 steps one, is about lifetime fitness.

I’ve been working on writing information for my diabetic patients on eating and exercise, and ran across some literature that advocates taking 10,000 steps (about 5 miles)  a day. I’ve read some different variations of this, and if you want to know the basics you can read here, or do a search on your own. The basic premise is that walking 10,000 steps per day (the rough equivalent of 5 miles for a person with an average stride) is thought to be a reasonable amount of exercise to maintain fitness and weight, and is something that an average healthy person should do just about every day. The suggestion is that one should take a brisk 30-60 minute walk for the first 5,000 steps, aka 2.5 miles, then accomplish the rest by one’s regular activity. If your regular day is sedentary, you’ll have to do more in the planned walking part to make up for it.

In researching this, I began to wonder if the average person has enough activity in a typical day to rack up 5,000 or so steps a day. I found a pedometer lying around the house that counts steps, and tried it out. Since my exercise is biking instead of walking, which my pedometer cannot record, my goal is to see if I can get around 5,000 steps during my typical day. Then if I add on the calorie value of biking (100 calories = one mile) that should be the equivalent of walking another 5,000, to bring the total for the day to 10,000 steps.  I’d probably have to bike 45 minutes to get the additional exercise I need. I do more some days, less some days, so let’s hope it all evens out. 

So here’s what happened.

Day 1: I hit the trainer in my basement in the morning, and didn’t clip on the pedometer until after I’d showered and dressed. I spent the day doing a few short errands, working around the house, and up and down the stairs several times doing laundry. Pedometer total: 5,580 steps. Not bad. Let’s see what tomorrow brings – I’ll be at the office so this might be tough…

Day 2: I was at the clinic all day. I do a fair amount of walking around there but it’s  a small building. Probably at least one-quarter to one-third  of my day is standing or sitting. Today I went out at lunch time, so that added some walking to the car, the restaurant, and back again. At home I did my usual evening activities, went to the gym to lift weights. Pedometer total: 5,443 steps.

Day 3: Thirty minutes on the bike, then doing some shopping, errands and work around the house. I had two appointments that required sitting for two-three hours, plus some time in the car. Did some up and down the stairs for laundry too. I thought with all the sitting I did that it wouldn’t be enough steps. But at the end of the day, Pedometer total: 6,506.

Day 4:First thing in the morning  I participated in a 5K (3.1 mile walk). At the end of the walk my pedometer showed 12,164 steps. It seems like my 5K walk should have recorded as 5,000 to 6,000 steps, which makes me think this pedometer is counting two steps for every one I take. Later, I did some more walking around town, shopping, and walked a little bit at a park. Pedometer total for the day: 18,349.

 After my four-day walking experiment, I’m starting to think that either: a) getting 10,000 steps a day is way easier than I thought it would be, or b) this pedometer is recording too many steps.  Perhaps  it’s recording any kind of side to side movement that I do as steps, or counting every step I take as two. It was not an expensive pedometer, so I guess I’ll never know unless I buy a more expensive one, or have someone else try this one and see what kind of numbers they get. But if my pedometer is correct, than it seems that even office-bound people should be able to walk at least 5,000 steps in the course of a day fairly easily.

So, at this point my four-day unscientific experiment has shown inconclusive results. The accuracy of the pedometer remains unknown. It would be interesting to hear from others who have tried the 10,000 steps per day to see what kind of results you’ve gotten. Meanwhile, maybe I can get someone else around here to give my pedometer a try to get some comparison numbers.

October is “Pink” Month

Giant pink ribbon on the corner of 5th and Mar...

Image via Wikipedia

Pink ribbons. Pink T-shirts. Pink comics in the Sunday paper (yes, some of us still read real newspapers.) Pink armbands on football players. Pink. Pink. Pink. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past three weeks, you’ve probably figured out that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The pink ribbons and everything else pink reminds us to think of breast cancer screening, treatment, and maybe someday, prevention. Breast cancer affects one woman in nine, so at some point in your life, you’ll be affected by breast cancer or know someone who is.

Because of  promotion of breast cancer awareness, a disease that was once barely talked about, (because after all, it’s mostly a women’s disease), is now destigmatized. Awareness leads to better screening and treatment, and better support for those dealing with the disease. Thanks to the tireless work of the Susan B. Komen Foundation and others, great strides are being made in awareness, research, and treatment.

In many areas, October is Pink Mammogram Month. Qualified women can get mammogram screenings at no cost. Look for information in your area for specifics, and check out the National Breast Cancer Awareness website for more information.

© The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

American’s Love Affair With Food: How can we break the cycle?

Courtesy of Google

 Fact: For most people, food is plentiful in our country. It is not always the best food for us, but in general, it’s out there. Except in remote areas, Americans are bombarded with opportunities to buy food through fast food restaurants with drive-up windows, convenience stores, gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and vending machines.    

Fact: Obesity is a rising problem in America, which brings with it long-term health problems, the most prominent being type-two diabetes mellitus.    

Fact: David Kessler and many others have found that certain foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt, trigger an addictive food cycle, that makes it difficult for people to avoid eating those foods, or to eat them in moderate amounts.    

So what do we do about it? How do we break the cycle that frees us from overeating or eating the wrong kinds of food? We know it’s not easy. David Kessler wrote a whole book about it, after an arduous quest to find his answers. The plethora of other diet and weight loss solutions available through books, videos, weight loss centers and online programs tell us that many are trying but not all are succeeding. With obesity rising towards epidemic proportions in our country, it seems that Americans are losing the battle.   

Where to start? Here’s some tips that may work.   

Identify your food triggers. Kessler did this by diving into the dumpster behind a restaurant to find the ingredient list for the food served there that he found addictive. Hopefully most of us will not have to go to that extreme. Think about what foods you crave when you’re stressed, lonely and depressed, and what restaurants you frequent at those times, what foods you just can’t pass us adding to your grocery cart, and what foods you eat even when you’re not hungry.  This will give you a pretty good start. What’s next – never eat these foods again? Avoid driving by your favorite restaurant (and all the signs advertising it too?) Probably not practical solutions and likely will lead to a sense of deprivation. Try something moderate instead – keep your favorite can’t-resist-food out of sight on a high shelf, and allow yourself one day a week to indulge it. In a restaurant, share the favorite dessert with someone else, or ask the server to remove it after you’ve eaten half. (Seems wasteful I know, but these are desperate times.) Try chewing gum or brushing your teeth after you’ve allowed yourself an indulgent taste of your addictive food. Take one bite and throw the rest away. Only allow yourself to eat your addictive food in the presence of others, which makes it less likely that you’ll over-indulge. All of this takes planning, motivation and some self pep-talks. You may need to start a reward system for yourself, whether it be new shoes, a day off, etc. Find something to replace the pleasurable sensation that you get from your addictive food. The trick is to not replace it with something worse, like alcohol, tobacco, or online gambling.    

If you’re able to exercise and not already doing it, start. Many people find walking a good way to start. Start slow and increase gradually according to your own ability. If you can’t walk but have access to a gym, an alternative is a seated machine called a Nustep – the user sits in a comfortable chair with feet extended onto pedals, and hands on handles, sort of combination stair-climber and recumbent bike motion. Add weight lifting on alternate days, or use resistance bands at home if you can’t get to a gym. (More exercise tips in previous posts in the “exercise and fitness” category.) Exercise, in addition to helping with weight loss and maintaining bone mass, can provide a sense of well-being similar to what one gets from eating pleasurable foods. In fact, some excessive exercisers have found this to be so true that they become “addicted” to exercise. Something to discuss at another time.   

Find a buddy. If you partner with someone else who is working to avoid addictive foods and improve weight, having an ally can be a life-saver. You can encourage each other and hold each other accountable. Can’t find a buddy? Try an online program, attend a class, or meet with a dietician.   

Avoid fast food restaurants – probably the biggest source of addictive foods. This takes planning. Pack a lunch to take to work. If you miss going out with your coworkers, limit yourself to one lunch out per week. Bring food along when you’re traveling. After my recent bad experience eating Subway food while traveling, (see “Do you want a gallon of soda with that?”) my husband and I planned ahead on our next road trip. We knew we’d be on the road at lunch time, so on the way out of town, stopped at a grocery store and picked up salads, snacks and water. No fast-food debacle and about half the cost of a fast-food meal.      

Avoid check-out impulse buys. The latte when you run into the gas station. The gallon of popcorn at a movie. The candy bar in the check out line. The pretzel at the mall. Make a rule for yourself – only buy what you originally went into the store to buy.   

Avoid diet soda. For many people, the artificial sweetener in diet soda triggers an addictive food cycle, that   

Courtesy of Google


leads to overeating other foods. If you’re a big consumer of diet soda, you’ll probably have to cut back gradually. The worst idea ever? The invention of Diet Coke. It seems to be the biggest culprit because it has the great Coke taste, few calories, addictive caffeine, and is the drink of choice of celebrities. If you’re old enough, think back to a time before diet soda was invented – aka the 1950’s and 60’s. Do you remember seeing so many overweight people back then?   

Get help. If you find yourself frequently treating feelings of sadness and loneliness by eating pleasurable foods, consult your health care provider.  You may have an underlying depression that would be better treated medically or cognitively (talk therapy).   

What else? Share what works for you.     

  © The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Why America is Overweight

Every day we hear about “the obesity epidemic.”Why people are overweight is multifactoral – a combination of genetics, environment, and unknowns.  I have a lot of theories about what contributes to Americans being overweight, obese, or in just plain language, fat. I’ll leave it to others to provide the evidence, and prefer to advance my theories based on opinion and observation, rather than facts.

There is so much to say about why America is overweight that I find I must break this rant into many parts. Tomorrow, part one: America’s love affair with cheese.

Hello blogosphere!

This is the inaugural post for Huffygirl’s Blog, a forum to rant about health, wellness and life.

Health care is broken. Despite great technological advances in diagnostics and treatment, many in the US lack adequate access to health care, in part due to cost, accessibility and insurance constraints. Although health and wellness information is widely available through print and online media, many Americans remain ignorant about basic self-care choices, such as diet, exercise, smoking, and illness prevention. Obesity and type-two diabetes are on the rise, as are other preventable illnesses. 

These concerns are widely debated. We can’t pick up a newspaper, search online, or listen to TV or radio without hearing something about our “health care crisis”, yet there is no easy cure-all, no easy answer. What can we do to help ourselves achieve better health in the midst of the health care dilemma?