Staying Healthy: My 1200 Calorie Life

Brett and my chief goal right now is staying healthy. We’re both in good health for the most part, and mainly are dealing with the aches and pains of growing older, although they are currently minor for both of us. Back in June my doctor recommended I lose 25 pounds. Sigh, the story of my life. I gained weight during our travels because although we walked a lot, I also ate a lot. Croissants and pastries for breakfast every morning in France, pasta in Italy, bakery visits in Japan, and hot cocoa and cookies every afternoon in England all came with a price.

In June I signed up once again for MyFitnessPal to track my eating, the calories and macros, and Brett and I got serious about walking every day, especially so once we decided to do a 11-day walking tour in 2022. MyFitnessPal has the biggest food & calorie list available online, and includes many, many brands. I have to do some research now and again to figure out which listing is the most accurate before I include it in my daily food plan, but for the most part I can find almost everything I eat on their lists, including things like Costco casseroles and desserts. Nothing is off the table for me as far as food is concerned these days, but I if I can’t fit it in my daily food plan or a serving means I have to go without a meal than it doesn’t get eaten.

Based on my age and fitness level at the time at the time I signed up, MyFitnessPal recommended I limit my calories to 1200 per day. Yikes! I initially wasn’t sure how this was going to work as I was sure 1200 calories would probably leave me feeling hungry all the time and I wouldn’t therefore be able to stick with it. Thankfully, after nearly five months that hasn’t turned out to be true at all, and I’m actually eating quite well these days, losing weight, and feeling great. Everything I eat these days gets measured except for vegetables – no eyeballing is allowed! Vegetables I allow myself to eat as many or as much of as I want.

Last week I took pictures one day of what a day’s eating looks like these days for me:

Breakfast: One cup blueberries, 1/2 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt, and two tablespoons of my much-loved Anahola granola. Total calories: 235. I typically have this five mornings a week (because I love it), sometimes substituting fresh papaya for the blueberries. On other mornings I’ll have a slice of unbuttered toast (Dave’s 21-grain), a fried or poached egg, and one slice of bacon, or one pancake with a tablespoon of jam. I usually eat at about 10:45 in the morning because I’ve found if I eat earlier I get hungry sooner and end up feeling hungry all day. I have just one cup of half-caff coffee in the morning. I miss coffee, but I’m doing fine with one cup, and it is savored.

Lunch: Three-fourths cup leftover pork fried rice. Total calories: 251. I usually eat leftovers in some form for lunch, and try to keep my calories at less than 300.

Afternoon/evening snacks:  I have one packet of Shelley Senbei rice crackers every afternoon. Total calories: 81. I always have these around 3:00 in the afternoon, and they keep me satisfied until dinner. My evening snack is always one tablespoon of peanut butter: Total calories: 90. I eat this fairly late at night – it keeps me from waking up feeling hungry or from being tempted to go out and eat whatever’s handy. If I get to feeling very hungry between meals, which thankfully doesn’t happen often, I’ll often have something like a slice of frozen dragonfruit which is low calorie (20) as well as fun to eat, like a popsicle.

Dinner: This day’s dinner was one Sabatino’s smoked chicken sausage with basil and cracked pepper, and a big serving of roasted vegetables. I do not count calories from vegetables, but I do count the oil used for roasting. Brett and I also always allow ourselves a small dessert each evening. At the time these pictures were taken we were still enjoying a Costco pumpkin pie (divided into 20 slices), but our typical dessert is a small two-inch piece of cake or occasionally some ice cream. Total calories for dinner: 456

Total calories for the day: 1113. I never thought I’d be able to do this, but well, here I am and it’s going well. I know these days and at my age what and how much I eat is important, especially for what we want to achieve in the future. That’s been my main motivation for sticking with it. I also know it will be easier to walk long distances when I’m not carrying around a bunch of extra weight.

I drink at least six 14-ounce glasses of water every day to stay hydrated. Brett and I have a cocktail three evenings a week: Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. We both enjoy gin & tonics, at 110 calories each, but I always fit it in to that day’s calorie allotment. I used to enjoy having a glass of wine, but wine can bother my stomach these days, and I tended to drink it too quickly while I linger over a G&T.

I take four daily supplements: two prebiotic capsules/day, two probiotic capsules/day, one multivitamin, and one additional vitamin D capsule. Although we get lots of sunshine here, the additional vitamin D helps facilitate bone health. The probiotic and prebiotic are for stomach health, and they have made a real difference these past few months. All are taken on the recommendation of my doctor. I also eat at two Tums each day, to make sure I get the recommended daily amount of calcium. 

Our walks provide me with an additional calorie allowance of 250-350 depending on how long, and how fast we walk (Brett burns more because he weighs more). Currently we’re walking 3.5 miles at 4.5 mph, a pretty fast clip. My meal plan and daily calories, however, are figured out the evening before, without the extra exercise calories added in because there’s always a possibility we won’t be able to walk for some reason (like today, for example). For now we’re walking for exercise, but once we get our distance up to five miles our daily walks will segue into walking for further distances and for endurance.

A year ago I could not have imagined doing this and enjoying it, but here I am. I’ve still got a few pounds to go to make my doctor happy, but after that I’m just going to keep going and see where it takes me.

Do I Look Fat in This?

My sister sent me the above photo last week. My brother has been transferring my mom’s photos to digital files and sent this one to my sister for some reason.

A little backstory on the photo: I am 14 and in my first year of high school. I am waiting for a boy named Jim to pick me up for the semi-formal Homecoming Coronation Ball, wearing an older woman’s orange cocktail dress that my mother made me buy because she did not want to pay for a semi-formal dress. I hated the orange dress and didn’t want to go to the dance wearing it. I actually ended up getting my wish because Jim never showed up. It hurt at the time, but looking back it was a blessing in disguise. I would have been miserable, and I didn’t like Jim all that much anyway.

The first thing I noticed about the picture though was how small I was, a mere slip of a girl really. I was almost as tall as I am now, but I was so slim. You couldn’t have convinced me of that back then though because I was already convinced I was fat. I was always on a diet because the message I kept getting over and over at home was that I was overweight. It started when I was in middle school, when my older brother came up with a nickname for me, “Super Oink,” to let me know he thought I looked fat. He eventually shortened it to “Super,” but the name still hurt me deeply. My parents laughed every time I brought it up and thought it was funny and told me to “get over it;” my brother was never asked nor told to let it go (my brother still calls me Super today, like it’s some endearing connection, but I refuse now to use or respond to it). The hurt was so deep at the time that I moved over to my grandmother’s home for a few months, walking to school every day and hitching rides with friends for choir practice and church on Sunday (my grandmother didn’t drive). My father got in on the weight shaming as well from time to time. For example, during the summer after my freshman year I practically starved myself and exercised daily to lose weight because I had been selected for the school’s drill team and thought I should be thinner for that. When I went to tell my parents one morning that I had reached my goal weight, my Dad’s only comment was, “Well, your legs still look heavy,” and there was no comment or rebuttal from my mother. I remember feeling crushed. By my junior year I was attending Weight Watchers meetings even though I had trouble convincing them I needed to lose weight.

When I look at that picture of my 14-year-old self now I feel angry, sad, and disappointed, just like that young girl in the picture felt that evening. I was not overweight, even by a little, but I had already been conditioned to think I was, already seeing the “fat girl” every time I looked at my reflection and constantly comparing myself to other girls I thought were thinner. I know now they weren’t.

Why did I think I was overweight? Why was I made to feel so ashamed of how I looked? That’s what makes me angry now, not just for myself but for so many women. Who did/does that serve? What did it/does it matter? What was/is the point? Back then I was a good student, read constantly, had nice friends, and earned my own money babysitting in the neighborhood. I was healthy and active. No one outside of my family seemed to care what my weight was or how I looked, so why did my family keep it up? Because of their judgements and remarks, and also because super-skinny models like Twiggy came to be seen as desirable and attractive at about the same time, I have spent most of my life obsessing about my weight and food, always asking myself if I “look fat” in something, always thinking things would be better if I was “thin,” and constantly following one diet or another and berating myself when my weight creeped up. For what?

That early conditioning has been more potent and ingrained than I ever imagined, and has stayed with me, impossible to get rid of. It has only been in the last two decades that I began to recognize and remember what had been going on and begin to change my attitude and how I see myself. I worked hard to raise my daughters differently so that they exercise and eat well for no other reason than it is healthy. I’m losing weight now for my health as well, so my joints don’t ache. I am no longer obsessed with food and I refuse to buy a scale. I accept that I will never be model thin, but again, so what? Sadly, I still stop at a mirror whenever I pass one and check to see whether I “look fat,” and I still see a fat girl most of the time, not what Brett, my children, or others see. I’m still healing, but I’m not there yet and sometimes wonder if I will ever get there. The scars of the past are deep.

Not a Poodle

bigstock-Standard-Poodle-7733433-Bigstock-Danielkz

(I’m still no longer trying to be a poodle, but I continue to find the message of the video below inspirational. I want to lose weight (again) because I want to feel better, and that’s all. I have accepted I will never be thin, but in spite of my average height I have a very small frame, and carrying around 25 extra pounds gets difficult, and can be painful at times, hence the doctor’s recommendation. This was originally posted on April 25, 2016.)

This past December, as Brett, the girls, and I were heading out to dinner with our son and his family, I made my usual obligatory remarks about my weight, that I had gained too much, that I was changing shape again, yada, yada, yada. The girls replied, “Mom. Stop trying to be a poodle.”

A what?

A poodle. Why, they asked, was I trying or wanting to become a poodle all of the time? We don’t expect dogs to change their breed’s characteristics, even though they’re all dogs, so why do we expect to be able to change our own?

I was not born to be tall or lean. I do not have long legs or slim hips and have always erred on the side of being overweight. I have small, wide feet. I have thinnish curly hair that grayed prematurely. I have blue eyes, fair skin with freckles, and I sunburn easily. Why couldn’t I be happy with who I am? the girls asked. They thought I looked terrific, and Brett agreed with them.

When we got home that night, WenYu shared the following video with me. She had used it as part of a presentation she gave on body image, and women’s seemingly unceasing need to make ourselves over into something we are not, pushed along by both science and society.

The video was a genuine attitude-changer for me and has helped me look at myself in a whole new light. I eat a wide variety of healthy foods, limit my alcohol intake, and get enough exercise. I am not obese. I am in good health, both physically and mentally. I have a loving family and good friends and am living where and how I want, with little to no stress. And that should be good enough.

It is these days. No more diet plans, no more scales, no more worrying about my size. It’s been positively freeing. I am not a poodle, I don’t want to be a poodle, and I am not trying to be a poodle anymore.

Recently, there’s also been some icing on the metaphorical cake (so to speak). Scientists now think that being overweight, or slightly obese, can actually protect your health.

Staying Healthy: New Rules

I’m grateful for views like these – they make walking a joy these days!

I had a great visit with my new doctor last week. She spent quite a bit of time with me going over my three biggest health concerns: my continuing stomach issues, beginning osteoporosis, and my weight. Together we came up with plans for managing all three, meaning some big changes in how I do things going forward.

I’m basically in very good shape for my age (68). My blood pressure and other vital signs are right where they need to be; my blood pressure is low. I am overweight though, and although my stomach issues have improved they are not doing as well as I would like. I am doing the right things to manage my beginning osteoporosis, but the doctor added a couple more things I can do so that the condition doesn’t deteriorate further.

Here are the new rules:

Weight

  • Aim to lose 25 pounds . . . again. Sigh. This is going to be the most difficult thing to accomplish of all the things the doctor and I talked about, but I am going to give it my all. Since losing weight takes forever these days, my goal is to reach my new weight by the time YaYu graduates in 2022.
  • Take in no more than 1200 calories a day, and pay more attention to the macros (carbs, protein, fat, etc.). I was previously eating around 1500/day (or a bit more), so I’m having to find ways to eliminate those extra 300 or so calories. I signed up (again) with MyFitnessPal – it’s free and does a great job of tracking everything.
  • Drink lots of water. I am already doing this, so easy-peasy. 
  • Walk at least two miles five days a week. We’re already doing this as well.

Osteoporosis

  • Add calcium, at least 1200 mg additional a day. I am making sure to take at least two Tums/day – each tablet has 650 mg.
  • Continue to take a Vitamin D supplement along with my daily vitamin. Even in sunny Hawaii, I need the extra now for bone strength.
  • Add a strength training routine to my day, and carry weights when I walk.
  • Continue taking medication to help increase bone density and reduce the risk of fractures. For some reason, taking this weekly pill is a real pain for me but it matters.

Stomach issues

  • I have developed a highly acidic stomach for some reason and probably also have a hiatal hernia. Keeping a food diary will help me figure out what foods seem to increase the production of acid (cookies, crackers, chocolate, and wine all seem to be triggers right now, for example).
  • Cut back coffee (half-caff at that) to one cup a day. SOB!!
  • Add a daily probiotic and prebiotic in order to regulate my gut flora.
  • Work to reduce my current prescription acid blocker through diet change to “as needed” rather than taking it twice a day.
  • GIVE UP DIET COKE COMPLETELY! Nooooooooo! I almost cried when she said I had to do this. I currently only have one can a day, in the morning, but it now has to go completely. We still have one and a half cases on hand and she said we could use those up (Brett is helping) but then NO MORE. She also noted that getting rid of it should also help me lose weight. I am heartbroken. I love Diet Coke (and am probably addicted to it) – it’s been my only “vice.”

So far MyFitnessPal is working well, and although I don’t enjoy planning in advance everything I’m going to eat every day, it does a very good job of helping me track not only calories but those macros as well. I just ordered a set of hand weights from Amazon and will start with one pound in each hand, increasing the weight as soon as they no longer provide resistance. The pre- and probiotics already seem to be making a difference, so I am happy with that, and I’ve gotten the acid blocker down to one almost every day, taking it in the evening before bed. My daughter-in-law is sending me a case of mugicha (roasted barley tea) tea bags from Japan – it will make a decent substitute for Diet Coke, and contains beneficial minerals, but no caffeine nor calories.

Grower older is no tea party, but I am determined to not only stay healthy but improve my health. Brett and I plan to travel again and we want to be in the best shape possible when we set out again. Coming back to Kaua’i was a good move for us in that respect – it’s easier for us to exercise year-round, we eat better here, especially adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet, and our health just seems to improve overall. 

So . . . onward, new rules and all!

Out of Shape, Into Shape

Two years ago we were in GREAT shape! (Buenos Aires, Argentina; August 2018)

A BIG goal for Brett and me during the next two years is to get us back to as close to the great condition we were in when we set out on our Big Adventure in 2018. Besides being a bit older and developing a few more aches and pains lately, we have not been as diligent about staying in shape.

The views from the beach path made it easy to walk.

For nearly a year and a half before we left, we walked at least two miles (almost) daily out on Kauai’s eastside beach path. We were careful about what we ate and avoided carbohydrates as much as possible. We kept up with medical and dental visits, and our medications.

During our travels, we walked a lot, usually three to four miles a day. We continued to watch what we ate, although we did add carbohydrates back in reasonable amounts (what’s the point of visiting France if you can’t enjoy a fresh, warm baguette or a pastry now and then? Or fresh pasta or gelato in Italy?). However, we overate during our time in Japan in 2019, with frequent visits to our neighborhood bakery. In spite of all the walking we did there, we gained weight. We could still fit into our clothes, but they were definitely on the tight side for both of us.

I spent last summer in Portland avoiding almost all carbohydrates except for fresh fruit, a weekly slice of pizza, and a glass of wine on Friday and Saturday evenings. We walked every day, pushing ourselves to get to 10,000 steps. By the end of the summer, we were both back in great shape again, although I’d only lost six pounds for all my efforts, and Brett had injured his ankle on a long hike. We continued to walk, watch what we ate, and stay in shape while we were in England until we got to November when days of rain kept us trapped inside and we comforted ourselves with w-a-y too many scones, shortbread biscuits, ginger nuts, and cups of Cadbury hot chocolate. We were back on the path to where we needed to be during our stay in Japan at the beginning of this year, but the stay-at-home order and some depression brought all of that to a halt.

Leaving England, we were in a different shape from when we started our travels. (Bath, UK; November 2019)

We’re back to the tight clothes stage again, but have two years to whip ourselves back into traveling shape, mainly because we don’t want to purchase new traveling clothes again! The pair of pants I’m wearing in the picture below is going be my guide for knowing when I’ve arrived. I can still get into them, but they are currently very tight – I want them to fit again like they did when we were in Australia.

My goal is to have these pants fit like this again (Sydney, Australia; January 2019).

Once again, we’re:

  • Walking at least five days a week, at least two miles, with a goal of getting to daily walks of longer distances (weather permitting). Boy, do we miss having that beach path nearby though – the views never got old and it made walking so easy! We’ve found a good route to walk nearby for now, but it’s eventually going to get boring so we are going to need to find some different venues to mix things up a bit. We’re also trying to make sure we don’t sink into a sedentary lifestyle around the house.
    Our current walking path is lovely but we miss the ocean views.
  • Being careful about what we eat. While I am not going low carb or Keto, at least not yet, I am limiting my daily carb intake. I’m never going back to cauliflower rice, but these days I measure and limit the amount of rice I take if I have it, or I just go without. We are keeping all chips, cookies, crackers, and store-bought bakery goods (except for bread) out of the house – snacks these days are nuts, fruit, and vegetables. We continue to take daily vitamins, and I’ve added a prebiotic + probiotic to help with my stomach issues.
  • Taking care of our health. We are still looking for a new dentist here, one closer to where we live now, but I already have an eye appointment for this week with our former ophthalmologist. We did take care of health check-ups last summer but haven’t done anything since. My stomach issues have not completely abated, so I want to get that fully checked out first when I find a new doctor, and Brett still needs the surgery that he had originally scheduled in Portland this summer – he’s already found an endocrinologist here and is working toward that. We are blessed to have great insurance, including vision and dental, so we have no reason not to keep up with all of this.

There really is no excuse not to get back in shape now that we’re back in Hawaii. The weather and opportunities to get outside as well as the abundance of fresh produce (and the expense of buying and eating a lot of meat and processed foods) make it easy to create a healthier lifestyle here and stick with it. We’re back on the path!

Livin’ La Vida Lo-Carb

Zucchini noodles (“zoodles”) topped with meat sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese

I knew before we arrived in Portland that I needed to change how and what were eating because both Brett and I had been steadily gaining weight ever since we left Hawai’i. During our time on the road we indulged ourselves in delicious bakery items, telling ourselves that other countries used less sugar so how bad could it be? We were in France, we told ourselves – we were supposed to eat pastries! We were in Italy – we were supposed to eat gelato and pasta! We enjoyed a big glass of wine every evening (because we were in Argentina! in France! in Italy! in Australia!), often along with a treat of some kind. We ate rice or noodles almost every day in Japan but told ourselves it was OK because we were walking a lot and also eating lots of vegetables and fruit.

However, in spite of all the walking we did, in spite of there being less sugar, it wasn’t enough to keep up with the calories and carbs we were consuming. We gained weight, for me to the point I was often very uncomfortable in my clothes.

I decided that once we arrived in Portland, we would try going back to low-carb eating once again. I had lost weight and shaped up when we lived in Hawai’i but only when I limited my carb intake, and doing so was much easier than counting calories or points or eating vegan or whatever. I also wanted to get back to drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, and make sure we kept up with our walking.

It’s now been eight weeks since we arrived in Portland and embraced La Vida Lo-carb once again. I have no idea whether we’ve lost any weight or how much, although my clothes seem to be less uncomfortable. I have more energy these days too.

Nonfat plain Greek yogurt with berries is a frequent breakfast – the peach was a special treat!

Sticking with a low-carb diet has been easier than it was back in Hawai’i. There is a wider array of foods to choose from in Portland that don’t cost an arm and a leg, and we can find substitutes for rice and noodles that could were often difficult to find on Kaua’i. I feel too that I can now better figure out how to make substitutions when we’re on the road again, and know how to include some higher-carb foods once in a while without going overboard.

Avocado on thin-sliced whole grain bread topped with a poached egg and red pepper spread from Trader Joe’s. I could eat the pepper relish right from the jar with a spoon – it’s that good.

My breakfasts these days are usually nonfat Greek yogurt with berries, a small frittata or other egg dish, or occasionally a piece of avocado toast made with thin sliced whole grain bread. Brett usually always has a bowl of oatmeal with fruit, and enjoys a bagel once a week or so.

Every once in a while I enjoy a “power breakfast” like this one: bacon, avocado slices, and scrambled eggs topped with corn & chili relish

Our lunches are often cheese and fruit or vegetables (I have to watch how much fruit I have though – it can be very high in carbs), a small bowl of vegetable soup, or sometimes leftovers. Now and then I sometimes have an open-faced sandwich on the thin-sliced bread.

Open-face tuna salad on thin-sliced whole grain bread with one cup of grapes

Havarti with dill cheese, cherry tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, and kale chips

Open-faced crack chicken sandwich with cucumber slices

We both substitute cauliflower rice now for regular rice, and zoodles for pasta or other noodles, and are fine with that. Gone from our table are bread, potatoes, cakes, cookies and other starches, although Brett still occasionally enjoys a couple of his much-loved graham crackers or Triscuits when he wants a snack. A handful of nuts are a more frequent snack for both of us these days. I make a homemade pizza on Friday evenings and enjoy one slice (Brett eats one slice and has the leftovers during the week), and we each have a small glass of wine on Friday and Saturday evenings. I measure absolutely everything these days though, and know exactly what I’m getting in the way of carbs. I’m not following any sort of keto or other low-carb plan, but I aim to keep my carbohydrate intake around 50-75 grams per day; Brett’s allowance is a little higher.

Zucchini frittata and sausages: a nearly zero-carb dinner.

All-beef Polish sausage, fresh sauerkraut and roasted zucchini is another almost zero-carb dinner.

A Mediterranean dinner with spanakopita, hummus, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes and cucumber had just 23 carbs.

I also include low-carb splurges for myself every day: heavy cream whipped cream is one of my daily indulgences as is a spoonful of natural peanut butter. We also discovered grain-free low-carb granola bars (11 grams each) and low-carb chocolate bars (12 grams each) at Costco, and I treat myself to one a few times each week. I’ve yet to feel like I’m going without anything.

Heavy cream whipped cream is very low carb (and fairly low calorie too) and a sweet treat every day.

Low-carb grain-free granola bars and low-carb dark chocolate bars are a once-a-week treat.

It’s been said that it takes 21 days to create a habit, but new research says it’s more like 66 days. We’ve been eating low-carb for over 50 days now, and this time it really does seems like it may stick. I know I will indulge again now and again once we’re back on the road, but hopefully never again to how it was during our previous travels. La Vida Lo-Carb this time around seems to be a better fit for us than it was before with all the choices we have in Portland and the fact that we don’t have to feed anyone but ourselves. We’re learning lots of new tricks this time as well. We won’t know for sure if we’ve lost any weight until we visit the doctor at the end of July, but for now we’re feeling great and that’s what’s important.

Closing Out the Books for October

There are two more days to go in this month, but from the way things look now we will end up just slightly over budget for the month. Considering how the month began though we’re very happy with where we’ve arrived at the end.

Our goal in October, as in September, was to keep our average daily spending to no more than $50/day. That amount is to cover daily food and snacks, transportation costs (other than train journeys between cities or countries or rental cars; those trips were prepaid), entrance fees and tours, and any other miscellaneous expenses that come up.

An Italian breakfast “burrito” for Sunday brunch to use up leftovers (gnocchi, meatballs, and pesto with scrambled eggs in an Italian “tortilla”).

We spent the first three days of this month in Switzerland, but even with carefully watching our spending the costs for that short trip had our daily spend average at $123.83/day by the time we got back to Strasbourg on October 4 – yikes! Thankfully Strasbourg was a very affordable city and we were able to keep our daily spending there to around $40/day or less, and brought the monthly average down to $54.78/day by the time we left for Bordeaux. Our time in that city proved to be slightly more expensive than Strasbourg though so our daily average didn’t move as much while we were there, but Florence has turned out to be an affordable place to live and as of today our daily average for October is down to $51.25/day, or $38.25 over for the entire month. We can live with that.

A frugal early afternoon treat on a stormy day: coffee with a couple of biscotti.

November will be one of our “long” months; that is, we will be covering five weeks versus four between our Social Security payments. There is some Christmas shopping we plan to do while we’re in Florence, which we have covered in the budget, but we’ve also decided on two other purchases we want to make here and will have to fit those in somehow. Thankfully we have already set aside funds for museum entrances in both Florence and Rome so those won’t affect our daily spending amount.

Thunderstorms and rain have allowed us to stay home and recharge for a couple of days.

A couple of other items, unrelated to current spending, have popped up this past month and are going to have to be dealt with when we’re in Portland in December. A slightly chipped tooth has been causing some minor pain from time to time, enough to be annoying, so I’m going to have to see a dentist and get that taken care of. Also, while we were in Bordeaux, continual walking on (uneven) cobblestones began aggravating the bursitis in my left hip something fierce, which in turn has ramped up my lower back pain. There are cobblestones everywhere in Florence, so I take Aleve every day which helps some, but the pain has definitely had an effect on how much I can walk (between two to three miles, but not much more). I was grateful for the thunderstorms yesterday because they kept us inside and allowed the bursitis to settle down a bit. However, I am probably going to have to get a cortisone shot (which I have avoided up until now) when we’re in Portland in order to be able to enjoy the rest of our adventure in 2019.

Our life in Hawai’i feels like something in the far distant past these days, but the reality is we’ve only been on the road for a little over two months. So far what we’ve seen and done has exceeded all our expectations, we’re having a grand time, and we’ve managed to stay within or very close to our budget. Brett and I have settled nicely into our travel-team roles, continue to greatly enjoy each others’ company and have fun talking about what’s going on and planning what to do each day (and what to eat!).

I’ve Been Moved To the Injured Roster

My lovely multi-colored, swollen, and very sore left hand.

Last Sunday evening I took a bit of a tumble during Brett’s and my walk. I was looking over at the remnants of a fair/festival that had been going on in the park by the side of the beach path and not watching my feet, and my right foot caught the edge of the path and boom! Down I went. I fell pretty hard too, but thankfully my head hit the grass and not the concrete path. My hand and rib were not so lucky.

I felt OK enough after the fall to finish our walk, and felt kind of banged up in the evening. But when I woke up Monday morning . . . yowza! My hand was swollen, bruised and hurt something fierce, and my chest hurt like crazy too, including when I breathed. So, off to the ER we went.

The bad news was I have a hairline fracture on the side of my finger. It’s not a major injury, but I’m splinted up for the next couple of weeks while it heals. The good news (?) was that while I didn’t fracture a rib, I did bruise one pretty badly. The doctor said it will heal faster than a fracture, but be more painful at first.

I’m typing this with one hand (and making lots of mistakes), so other than a post I had already put together for tomorrow I’m going to take a blogging break for around a week or so, and then will reassess how I’m doing, Poor Brett – once again he will be taking on almost all of the household chores, plus helping me dress, etc. for a while.

Life can change in a moment, but I’m so grateful and fortunate the injuries weren’t worse. I’m also very thankful for our insurance – between Medicare and Tricare For Life everything is 100% covered.

While I won’t be actively blogging I’ll still answer comments, and hope you’ll give me some time to get to them (and not expect the answers to be too detailed).

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Laura vs. Humidity

Spoiler alert: Humidity is winning.

To say I don’t deal well with humidity would be a gross understatement. In fact, after three-plus years here on Kaua’i, the humidity here has become more of a problem than the cold and wet ever were in Portland. It’s really the one and only thing I truly dislike about living on Kaua’i.

We were expecting to deal with some humidity when we moved here, but all our pre-move sources told us that it wasn’t really that bad, and that the near-constant breeze from the trade winds erased most of the effects of humidity.

What we’ve experienced over the past three summers has been anything but comfortable though; in fact, it’s been downright miserable, mainly because each summer we’ve gone through long spells each day with no trade winds blowing  . . . at all. During the first and second summers here the breezes seemed to stop in the late afternoon, just when it was time to prepare dinner, but pick up again in the evening. This past summer, the breezes have been stopping in the early evening, around 8:00 p.m. The temperature does cool off a bit, but when there’s no air moving slightly cooler temperatures don’t mean all that much. The air still pretty much feels like a warm, moist towel has been laid on your back.

Part of my problem with the humidity here is physical: I am post-menopausal, and my body now operates at a higher temperature than it did when I was younger. Remember the old saying, “Horses sweat, men perspire, and women glow”? Well, I sweat these days . . . a lot. I am perspiring constantly. Even though we have a powerful ceiling fan in our bathroom to mitigate the humidity, when I get out of the shower I start sweating. I haven’t taken a hot shower since we moved here – lukewarm to swimming pool cool is more my style these days. I can break out in a sweat just walking across the room, or washing the dishes, or sweeping the floor. I often feel like I’m drowning when I cook dinner on the stove, and I’m completely drenched after a five-mile ride on my exercise bike, even though I have two fans on high speed blowing directly on me, and I’m sitting right in front of the open garage door. It takes a long time to get my body cooled off as well, even with the help of cool towels or ice packs. I wish I could blame it all on something like my thyroid or some other hormonal issue, but I’ve been completely checked out by my doctor and everything is well within normal ranges. I drink more than enough including at least 64 ounces of water each day as well as other beverages, but I still retain a lot of liquid – during the summer I often feel like an over-wet sponge. I will admit my skin love the moisture – no lotion needed these days, unlike when we lived in Portland and I had to drench myself in it every day.

The high humidity here also affects us in other ways: glasses and bottles start sweating the instant you set them down. Our freezer cakes over with frost in less than a couple of weeks as warm, moist air rushes in every time we open it. Food can lose its crispness quickly, even in sealed jars or plastic bags. Clothes take longer to dry outside, even in the sun. We’ve discovered the humidity also has affected some man-made fabrics. We’ve had a couple of shopping bags disintegrate on us, same with the fabric on the bottom of our chair and sofa.

Yes, we could get an air-conditioner. But, electricity is expensive here – very expensive – and the cost of running even one air-conditioner would mean there would be much, much less left in our budget for other things. We want to travel, we want to be able to afford to bring our children home for the holidays, and so forth. On our income we can either pay to stay cool but stay on Kaua’i, or suffer a bit but go out and see the world and see our college-age children once in a while.

It’s also been suggested that we move to the north side of the island where it’s cooler by a few degrees, but YaYu is still in high school and none of us wants to deal with a daily 40 minute or more commute (each way) to school or her other activities. We like our little house and where we live now.

Most people in Hawai’i live without air-conditioning. And, I know that the humidity has been or could be far worse in other locations either in the U.S. or otherwise. Fall is coming, and then winter, and both will bring cooler temperatures and lower levels of humidity. The sun will continue to shine, and for a few months I will be able to forget my daily battles with humidity and its effects. Still, I know my nemesis will be returning next summer, and I’ve got to figure out ways of better dealing with it.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

One Month At a Time

7222384_origAs we get ready to enter the last month of the year, I’ve been looking back and assessing my one-month-at-a-time plan that I began last January. At the beginning of the year I put myself on a vegan diet, and added exercise. The goal was to stay with what I was doing for one full month, assess how it was going and how I felt, and then adjust as necessary when a new month began.

I have to admit that while I started out with the best of intentions, the exercise part of plan did not go well. I began the year with waking early to take a walk, but quit that in a couple of weeks because a) I hated having to wake up so early, and b) the walk was difficult because of the hills and the bursitis in my hip. I switched over to riding my exercise bicycle three times a day which went well until the humidity returned in the spring. Even with fans operating and breezes blowing I sweated enough to make the whole process exceedingly uncomfortable, and that form of exercise was given up. Exercise was changed to taking walks with Brett, but problems arose even with that when the bursitis in my right hip flared up to dangerous levels and didn’t subside. Injuring my back at the end of August sent me into what has become a three-month stretch of pure sedentary living. A couch potato probably gets more exercise than I have these past three months.

I’ve been happy overall though at how differently I approach eating these days because of the one-month-at-a-time plan. I’ve gradually added most things back into my diet, but am far more conscious now of what and how much I’m eating and how it affects me. I am aware of how little I need of some foods in order to be satisfied. Meat (poultry, beef and pork) remain the only things that have not returned, but probably will this month, in very limited quantities. I am going to follow Mark Bittman’s approach in the coming days, vegan/vegetarian before 6:00 p.m., and then a more varied diet at dinner, with meat included, if desired.

There will be some other new changes appearing on December 1:

  • Now that I have a recumbent bicycle for exercise, I am going to ride 30 minutes/day, in two 15-minutes sessions. The humidity will be dealt with somehow.
  • I am going to drink eight glasses of water every day.

Both of these will be tracked. When I complete both every day for a month I will reward myself at the end of the month, something a bit more special than a coffee at Starbucks or some such thing.

One other activity beginning December 1 will be to spend at least 30 minutes a day studying/reviewing Japanese, and 10 minutes each day learning another language, maybe Italian or Spanish (again).

One month at a time.