Friday, March 27, 2015

The End of Overeating

A few weeks ago I wrote about a book I was reading called Vitamania.

I finished it the other night and, I have to say, it was a fascinating read.

There was enough science in it to keep the geeky part of me really happy. It's been 18 years since my last university biology class and books like this one remind me how much I loved learning about anything biology-related and how much I miss being immersed in that kind of brain-expanding knowledge.

You might remember that I talked about hearing an interview with the author of Vitamania on NPR during our road trip and that was how I learned about the book. Well, during that interview, the author mentioned another book called The End of Overeating - Taking Control of the Insatiable North American Appetite. The author is Dr. David Kessler.

I downloaded both books onto my iPad and, now that I've finished Vitamania, I'm moving on to The End of Overeating.

I wasn't sure what to expect with the second book but, within the first few pages of reading, I thought "this man is on to something". In fact I had a slightly creeped-out feeling that he has been following me around, hanging out in my head and analyzing how I think about food.

He writes about the challenge that many people in North America (and perhaps elsewhere) face around food. He writes about how people lose the ability to focus during a meeting if there is a plate of cookies or a bowl of M&Ms on the table. About how much time many of us spend every day thinking about food, starting off the day with noble goals of eating healthy, convincing ourselves that we don't need to eat something that's unhealthy (like the office meeting cookie), breaking down and eating it anyway, feeling guilty about it, and then having another. And another. And waking up the next day and doing it all over again.

I'm not too far into the book yet but the author has moved from writing about our relationship with food to writing about how the food industry has learned to develop foods that trigger a response in us that has nothing to do with actual hunger. We no longer eat food because we are hungry. In fact we often continue to eat well beyond the point of being full. Dr. Kessler is arguing that we eat food because of how our body responds to the combination of sugar, salt and fat in the food that we eat.

Having type 1 diabetes already puts me in a difficult position when it comes to food and hunger. Low blood sugars have forced me to eat when I am full more times that I want to count and high blood sugars have prevented me from eating when hungry just as often.

My life is often a matter of eating when I have to or when I can rather than eating when I want to and blood sugar readings often supersede feelings of hunger or fullness.

So I will be very interested to learn what Dr. Kessler has to say about the North American diet in general,
the food industry and the unhealthy relationship between the two.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Waste of a Good Spoon

A colleague of mine shared an article the other day about spoons. 

Click here for the link to the full article (which is worth a read) but I'll give the Coles notes version (for those of you who remember Coles notes).

In the story, a conversation happens between two friends, one of whom has lupus. The girl who has lupus is asked by her friend what it's like to have lupus. The friend is not looking for a scientific answer, she is looking for what it's really like to live with lupus every day.

So the girl gives her friend 12 spoons. And she tells her that these are all the spoons she has for the day. And that every time she does something (like take a shower, or make lunch or meet a friend for coffee) it will cost her a spoon. She then makes her friend talk through an imaginary day and her friend quickly realizes how much it 'costs' to simply get out of bed, shower, get dressed and have breakfast. She was down to 6 spoons before she even left the house.

It was a pretty powerful way to describe the decisions and the compromises a person has to make when, for whatever reason be it physical or emotional, they struggle to do what most of us do without a second though.

I read the article and it really got me thinking. After a while, I sent a response back my response. I borrowed the spoon analogy but tweaked it a bit to see if I could use it to describe diabetes.

I said that living with type 1 diabetes is like carrying 10 spoons around all the time.

Each spoon represents a question that needs to be answered. And all 10 spoons (or questions) must be answered before you move on to the next activity in your day be it getting into the car to drive to work, having lunch, going to an afternoon job, or even just going to bed for the night.

1. What is your blood sugar?
2. Is it going up or going down?
3. Do you still have insulin in your system from your last bolus?
4. Have you eaten something recently that has carbs?
5. Have you done any activity today that might affect your numbers?
6. Are you going to do any activity later that might affect your numbers?
7. Are there any other variables that might affect that number? (illness, what phase in your monthly cycle you are in, stress, extra sedentary day, bad sleep the night before, not enough water to drink etc etc).
8. Do you need to do anything (take insulin, eat something, drink water, lower basal insulin) before undertaking whatever thing you're about to do?
9. Do you have enough insulin left in your pump to get you through to the next activity with enough left in reserve in case you need it?
10. Do you have emergency carbs with you in case you answered any of the above incorrectly or in case the diabetes gods are feeling frisky?

Once these questions are answered, you can move on to the next activity in your day.

My colleague responded with a rather shocked-sounding email. "I had no idea it was that complicated". To which I responded "I think that's why I don't get worked up about most things. It's just not worth wasting a spoon."

Not worth wasting a spoon.

What an interesting way to look at your day.

If you only have so many spoons in a day what would YOU do with them?

What activities would you stop doing because, when it comes right down to it, they really are a waste of a spoon?

And which activities would you make sure to prioritize because they are totally worth the cost?

And since we have no way of knowing how many spoons other people get for their day, maybe we could cut them a little slack sometimes eh?

On a funny note, I went online to see if I could find a funny picture of a spoon to include in this post. I found two that I really enjoyed. Hope you like them too!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Ups and Downs of a Sunday Workout

I haven't written too much about diabetes lately because, for the most part, the diabetes god have been pretty well behaved. They still throw plenty of highs and lows my way but they've been pretty predictable and easily remedied.

Sunday morning was a different story and I was not impressed with their shenanigans. I guess, in hindsight, I was partly to blame but I'm still disgusted by their behaviour.

I woke up on Sunday morning to Rose vibrating next to me. I had just dipped under 4.0 (3.9) after a long slow descent over the last 5-6 hours. To deal with the low, I had four Dex4s. I also turned down my basal rate by 40% for 3 hours since I knew I was going to the fitness centre once I got up.

By the time I was up and dressed and down in the kitchen, my blood sugar was 9 and climbing. Seemed pretty dramatic after only having four Dex4s but I figured it would come back down once I started erg'ing. In fact I knew it would drop down so I had half a banana for good measure.

Ten minutes later I was on the rowing machine and, after 30 minutes of hard work, my blood sugar was 10.4 and dropping. Looking at Rose I could see that I had climbed to 11.5 during the workout before turning south again.

I figured 10.4 was a good number to start my weight training at and that I would probably keep trending downward. I did indeed keep trending downward and got all the way down to 9.0 before heading back up again.

Sixty minutes of weight training later I was 13.5 with an arrow heading straight up. It didn't make sense at the time, After my workout I bolused two units and headed home.

I kept climbing, double arrows up, until I reached 16.9. By then I had 6 units of insulin on board, was starving for breakfast and unable to eat.

I guzzled water, showered, and patiently waited for the insulin to kick in. After an hour, it finally did and my blood sugar did exactly what I expected it to. It tipped downward, gathered speed and within 30 minutes I went from 16.9 to 10.

I started making breakfast, which was technically now my lunch. By the time it was ready I was 6.4. I ate, my blood sugar climbed up and back down the way it normally does when I eat my breakfast and things were fine for the rest of the day.

Doug asked me why I went so high during the workout.

I guessed that it was because I was lifting weights. That used to happen years ago when I weight trained but I had forgotten.

The combination of 30 minutes of cardio (which usually drops my blood sugar) followed by 45-60 minutes of weights (which apparently brings it up) will take me a few weeks to figure out.

I'll start by not lowing my basal insulin next week and see if that helps avoid the awful high without triggering a low.

Good thing I like to exercise, love numbers and don't mind experimenting. Otherwise I can see how it would be pretty tempting to just stay in bed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Heart Rate Update

I think it's about time for a heart rate update. Seeing as how I track it pretty religiously these days, I might as well report back in case anyone out there is thinking about training using your heart rate.

Since running is the sport that I do the most (3 times per week rather than just 1 or 2) it's the activity that I am getting the most practice with in terms of figuring out heart rate.

What I've been trying to do is to keep my long runs under 160 beats per minute while keeping my shorter runs under 165. Last week I started doing speed work again and I'm planning to get back into hill workouts this week. For those I just go full speed ahead and then check what my heart rate is at the end. For the speed work I peaked at 174 beats per minute and for hills I'm guessing I'll max out at 180 since that was my max last fall.

Here is an example of how things have been going:
Saturday I ran 14k. I tried very hard to keep my heart rate between 155-160 and it stayed there easily for most of it but kept creeping over 160 during the last few kilometres. That being said, I ran 14k without too much effort and I did not stop once. Not even for 15 seconds at a red light. I just started running at the end of my driveway, ran 7k, turned around and ran back to my driveway. Best part was that I didn't want to stop. It felt easy enough that I knew I could do it so I did.

The tradeoff is that I'm slower than I used to be. Not by a lot but still slower.

That being said, I'll take 15 seconds per kilometre slower if the tradeoff is that I can run for 90 minutes with no great difficulty and feel completely fine for the rest of the day.

I'll be ramping up the mileage over the next few weeks as I train for my spring half marathon. I'm running 16k next week, 18k not long after and then I'm in the 20s for a few weeks in a row. If I can keep my heart rate down and glide through those distances too, I'll be completely sold on this new way of running.

On to other activities!

I have used the erg (aka rowing machine) four times now at my new fitness centre. I've tracked my heart rate each time as well as my distance. During my first two 30-minute workouts it was a struggle to get 6000m done. On the third one I did 6400m and just this past Sunday I was able to do 6650m. So I'm obviously getting the hang of this thing.

My heart rate numbers are pretty similar to my running ones. Once I get going I'm hovering in the high 150s, up to 160, for the rest of the workout. Strangely, that heart rate makes for a pretty easy run but it makes for a pretty intense erg session. At the end of 30 minutes I'm dripping wet, panting and exhausted.

For cycling, I can't seem to get my heart rate up to 150, never mind above it. Even when the dude on the video is yelling at us to climb faster or spin faster or push harder, I tend to hover around 145bpm. I feel like I'm working pretty darn hard but it's not reflected in my heart rate.

Tracking my heart rate during a swim is not an option at this point because I don't have the waterproof watch to do it.

Lessons learned so far?

1. Running using heart rate works very well for me. It might not work for the speed demons out there who like to give it their all during every run but it works for me as I try to find a way to run long distance races feeling strong from start to finish.

2. A given heart rate (say 155bpm) is easy to reach during some activities, hard in others and seeming impossible in others still. Yet the effort I'm putting out is different for each activity.
- 155bpm = pretty easy running
- 155bpm = pretty tough erg'ing
- 155bpm = I've never reached that on the bike so I'm guessing it might kill me if I do

Heart rate training may not be for everyone but it's definitely a tool I'm keeping in my fitness toolbox.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Getting My Pool MoJo Back

I'm back at the pool now and am getting into the swing of it again.

I swam last Monday and again last Friday.

Those will be my swimming days for the foreseeable future and I say them out loud to Doug the night before so I can't change my mind.

Both times I went last week I swam for an hour rather than the hour and a half I used to do in the master's class. An hour feels much more reasonable and I can get about 2500m done in that time.

When you consider that I'm training to swim 1500m max this summer, it doesn't make much sense for me to do twice that distance and more every time I get into the pool.

In addition to only swimming for an hour, I also decided to buy a three-month lane pass rather than sign up for the next Master's session.

So I'll be swimming with the regular folks and fighting for my spot in a lane rather than swimming with the crazy folks and having a lane almost always to myself. It's a bit of a tradeoff but I'll try it for a few months and decide if I like it.

What kind of workouts am I doing now that I don't have a coach writing them down on a whiteboard for me? Good question.

Luckily, I was a very keen student and I went home after every master's class and wrote down my entire workout in Training Peaks. Complete with goal times, actual times and instructions.

Which means that I can be my own coach.

I pulled out one of my small moleskin notebooks, tore out a few pages and wrote out four workouts in dark black ink. I put them inside a plastic sealable snack bag. Every time I go I just pick the one I want, put it at the front of the baggie and I'm good to go. Some are distance workouts, some are speed. Some are a bit of both.

It's now even easier to figure out what lane I'm in. Just look for the black flip-flops with sparkles, the sports bottle filled with NUUN and two ziplock baggies, one with two tubes of Dex4s in it and the other one stuffed with workouts.

Friday, March 20, 2015

No More Excuses

The piles of snow are (almost) melted and the streets are clear and dry. The temperatures spend more time hovering above the freezing mark than they spend below it and I've dropped two layers of running clothes already.

So basically I have no more excuses.

It's time to get back into hill and speed training again.

I tend to avoid it during the cold winter months because a) the freezing air wreaks havoc on my lungs when I'm gasping for breath and b) the roads around our home always have some degree of snow or ice cover and it feels a little too dangerous to be tearing around a corner at breakneck speed in the dark over unpredictably slippery roads.

So I don't do it and, to be honest, it's a nice break.

Like most cyclical activities though, after a bit of time away from them, I'm ready to get back at it.

Yesterday morning I got up early, pulled on my running clothes and filled a water bottle. I strolled to the end of my driveway, put the water bottle on the top of my car, and headed out for an easy 1.5k warmup around the neighbourhood. At exactly 1.5k I was back at my car. I hit 'lap' on my watch, stretched my calves and sipped water for two minutes and then hit lap again as I headed off for an 800m sprint.

I love the fact that one time around my block is exactly 800m. I start at my car and end at my car and don't have to do much thinking other than to remember to turn the corners.

I usually do 6 or 8 times 800m when I do this workout but I figured I'd start with 5 since it has been months since I've run this hard.

It went something like this.

Sprint 800m. Hit lap on the watch. Check out my time and my heart rate. Try to get my breathing back under control while I stretch my calves. Do it again once my two minute rest was up. After the 5th one I turned off my watch and headed inside for breakfast, feeling energized and strong.

My 800m times were:

My heart rate at the end of each interval was 174 beats per minute. Since my max heart rate (based on my hill running experiment last fall) is 180bpm, I was running at just under 97% of my max before I dropped back down to 115 or so during the rest break.

Each 800m felt pretty tough and I don't think I could have gone much faster but they didn't kill me. I spent the day feeling energized rather than exhausted and nothing felt tight or sore afterwards.

Next week - hill training!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ladies' Remedial Golf League

I came home tonight to find a letter from a golf course on my desk.

It's the golf course that me and a few of my girlfriends played at most Monday nights last summer.

A little par 3 course that had a pretty sweet ladies' night deal.

We called ourselves the Ladies' Remedial Golf League and there was only one rule. If you're too good, you can't be part of our gang. It says a lot that none of us came close to being kicked off the team.

I liked the course because it was easy - allowing me to focus on my game rather than just desperately trying to get to the hole. I loved it because every hole was a possible hole in one. And I want very much to get a hole in one.

I tried every single time to not just hit the ball but to hit it onto the green so that it rolled into the hole.

Several times I made it to the green. Just as many times I made it into the nearby woods, fields and water hazards.

We laughed at ourselves and each other and we slowly got better.

The letter from the golf course reminded me that it's time to dust off our clubs and gather the ladies together again for the 2015 Remedial Ladies Golf League.

The Remedial Ladies (minus one) decked out in our fabulous matching jackets at the end of season banquet.