Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Great Birthday Party Camp-Out Extravaganza

Yesterday (October 27th), was my daughter Cailyn’s 10th Birthday.   I generally try to throw some sort of shindig for my kids on their birthdays, with mixed success over the years.  Generally, my basic theme is “Fun but Cheap!”  Yes, I’m classy that way.  

Last year Cailyn had a really successful Harry Potter themed birthday party.  It was tons of fun, but ended up costing WAY more $$ than I had originally intended.  I blame the Quidditch pitch.  Some photos from last year:

Yes, this Quidditch pitch doesn't look like it should cost much,
but I had to buy enough plywood, and PVC pipe,
and fittings and hula hoops for six hoops.  It added up!

Potions!  Kids LOVED this one.
And check out Hermione!

So this year, still shooting for the “Fun but Cheap” theme, we decided to do a backyard camp-out.   Being the tomboy that she is, Cailyn has as many, if not more, guy friends as she does girls, and wanted to invite all her friends.  I figured since they’re only 9 and 10, we should still be relatively safe from boy/girl type naughtiness, but just to be safe, we’d have a boy tent and a girl tent.  

I’m still a little vague about how the numbers shook out, but we ultimately ended up with 17 freaking kids at this party!  17!  Happily, only 13 stayed the night.  (Only 13!)  Of course, those included my 3 and the 3 grandkids, so it really wasn’t too out of control, right???  Yeah. 

Our little home away from home. 
Anyway, back to party prep!  We own an 8-man tent approximately the size of a NYC studio apartment, but without a kitchenette or loo taking up valuable real estate inside.  Another friend was kind enough to let us borrow their 10-man tent for the party.  Their tent was awesome!  I question its’ classification as a 10-man tent, as I think it was smaller than ours, but it was plenty big enough for all us girls, and the best part??  It was a pop-tent, which set up like magic in less than 5 minutes.  For realz.  Our tent is not quite so user friendly, but I’ve set the sucker up enough times that I know what I’m doing and even it doesn’t take too long, provided you have a second set of hands to help out.  Plus, my oldest son has his own 3-man tent (seen in a previous post, set up in my dining room), which he intended to use for the evening with his “nephew” and buddy, Caleb. So, tents? Check!

Going along with the “Cheap” portion of our theme, I had planned to bake the cupcakes myself, with a little help from Duncan Hines, as I don’t pretend to be much of a baker. But when Saturday rolled around, and I had already set up three tents, and was still in the process of cleaning the house, folding laundry, and washing bedding, my enthusiasm for saving a few bucks by baking the party cupcakes myself flew out the door.  Happily, my kids are awesomely (is that a word?) laid back, and Cailyn was completely fine with me bailing on her and buying some Publix cupcakes.  Only problem was we were too late to special order anything, so we ended up with Halloween Cupcakes, for the win!  So happy my daughter is completely cool and wasn’t bummed to not have a “theme” cake or something.  So, cake? Check!

When my daughter begged me to take them to Phantom Fireworks to pick up some smoke bombs, I thought, why not?  I figured it’d give the little hoodlums something to do until the sun went down and we could get the campfire going.  Maybe not one of my wiser decisions, in retrospect.  Because we didn’t just get smoke bombs. We also got firecrackers, bottle rockets and sparklers.  Yes, the foreshadowing is strong here.  Do you get a feeling of doom?  Do you get the even stronger feeling that I’m completely insane???

 How I Met Your Mother photo Cuckoo.gif

When a bunch of the kids had arrived, we hustled them outside to preserve the sanity and noise levels in our house, and they began doing the fireworks. Even though I was out there supervising, it got nuts! Too many kids.  Too many fireworks.  It was a crazy 15 minutes or so and I spent the time trying to control the chaos and limit the number of rockets going off at once and generally making sure the neighborhood didn’t go up in smoke.  There were some close calls.  And (I have to admit this is funny in retrospect), one mom showed up to drop off her son right in the midst of the worst of the chaos, and she had 3 smaller kids, who were all a little wild-eyed at the noise, and the poor mom seemed to be questioning her judgment in letting her kid stay the night.  I tried to be all mature and reassuring, but was also trying to supervise the craziness.  As I alluded to above, in retrospect, 10-year olds and fireworks at a party?  Not a good idea.  But we all survived and so did the neighborhood.  Yay!

By then, I calculated that everyone had arrived that was coming, so we hustled everyone back inside for the cake, ice cream and presents.  Nothing like sugaring up the lot to get ready to party!  And, I should say that Cailyn was LOVING being the center of attention.  She was lapping it up.  I was happy about that, though I calculated I’d only narrowly escaped a nervous breakdown during the firework portion of the proceedings.

My daughter with her badass tatoo sleeves.  She's unconventional!
Onward to the campfire! Smores! Our telescope! Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the darned thing to focus on the moon.  It’s a relatively cheap telescope and wobbles a lot.  Plus, there just wasn’t enough peace and quiet to try and set it up properly. There were kids all crowded around, trying to see through. I was bummed, though; it would have made a good teaching moment!



Ultimately, we tried to get everyone to start settling down, with limited success. It was funny, throughout the early portions of the night, the boys kept trickling inside for one reason or another. Finally, all the boys were inside, and all the girls were in the "girl" tent.  Except Cailyn, who ended up sleeping in her bed - what can I say, she's an early-to-bed-early-to-rise type and was tired! I was outside with the rest of the girls, and though we all stayed up WAY TOO LATE. It was fun.

I was actually up until about 2:45 am, and God’s honest truth?  I think that’s the latest I’ve stayed up since my singleton party days.  And back then there was usually large quantities of alcohol and dancing involved.  Ah, the good old days!  This time I was trying to prop up in the tent, reading on my tablet (you didn’t think I was without my technology, did you?) and doing my best to convince six 9-12 year-old girls to stop chatting and go to sleep already!

But though I didn’t get enough sleep, it was a good party.  I think everyone had a good time.  Maybe even me.  We’ll see if I have selective amnesia the next time I propose another one like this!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tree Hugger Tip of the Day

Ah, water.  How do I love thee?
See this awesome glass bottle?

I use these glass bottles instead of plastic water bottles. It's my little contribution to reduce-reuse-recycle.  These were once tea bottles (think Honest Tea, Snapple, etc.).

I drink a TON of water every day.  Well, not a ton - that's a unit of weight, not volume (nerd gene kicking in).  But honestly, I drink between 80 and 100 ounces (that's between 2 and 3 liters for those of you cool kids who live where the metric system still rules). Anyway, I was feeling seriously guilty about the number of water bottles I was going through on a weekly basis, so I started using these glass ones, which are awesome because you can just wash them in the dishwasher and refill from the fridge water filter. Easy, cheap and good for the environment.

I know what you're thinking.
But, this is green tea.  Not pee.
I also brew my own green tea and fill them up in these babies.

I cannot tell a lie; I still buy the plastic bottles for the kids. Connor doesn't like the taste of the fridge water (I know, it's ridiculous). And they can't take glass bottles to school. But plastic is religiously recycled in our house. Woe to the resident who throws recyclables into the trash can; the Wrath of Amy will fall on their heads. Yes, I know if I were a bit more militant about the environment thing, I'd stop buying the plastic bottles entirely, but at this point, I'm more concerned with just getting my kids to drink more water.  You've got to pick your battles, you know?

Also, in what is almost certainly not the healthiest choice, these Jolly Rancher drink packets are insanely yummy. I couldn't believe it myself, but they really do taste like Green Apple Jolly Rancher candies (my personal favorite flavor). Yes, they have Aspartame and artificial coloring.  But I'm thinking as long as I don't drink like 3 per day, they shouldn't kill me, right?  Oh and I should add: if you try these, you probably want to only use about half a packet in each bottle of water - they're just too sweet, otherwise.

This is yummy.
Yes, it's fluorescent green and looks like it comes from Chernobyl.
But it's really yummy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tuesday Stuff

S’up?  It’s been a week of busy family stuff for me, and not enough feet on the running trail!  Planning to hit the road tonight for the first time in about a week.  Yes, I know – way too long between runs.  And running really does help the mental sanity thing.

So what have we been up to?  Here’s a few shots of life this past week.

Blue Heron on retention basin outlet structure at work this morning.

Yellow Flowers on my walk at work this morning.

Adventure Landing Arcade.  Kids had a friend party on Saturday.

Cailyn at Adventure Landing Arcade.

Our Front Door, Halloween Style!

Connor's Global Warming Experiment - demonstrating how ice from glaciers and ice sheets (think Antarctica) would cause the sea level to rise if they fall into the ocean.

Cailyn's "rock" experiment, using milk chocolate, white chocolate and peanut butter chips.
Yummiest experiment of the week.

Blue sky rainbow. 

If it's Florida at 6 am, there must be slugs.  Today's critter count while walking the dog?  3 toads, 4 slugs.  

Stuff I do all day at work.  I know, exciting, right?

Venus, Mars and Jupiter

Any sky-watchers out there?

If anyone is interested, Venus, Mars and Jupiter are REALLY easy to see in the morning sky right now.  Takes almost no effort at all and I can almost guarantee ANYONE (even non-space types) will be able to identify them.  Interested?

1.  Go outside when it’s still dark.  I’ve been seeing my planet pals around 6 am, whilst walking the dog.

2.  Look east .  See the super bright “star”?  That’s Venus.  It’s the brightest object in the night sky other than the moon, and for the last couple of days, the moon hasn’t been out there in this area.

3.  Now look a couple inches (in your mental view frame) below and to the left of Venus.  See that other fairly bright “star”?  That’s Jupiter.  It’s really bright right now. 

4.  And now look slightly above Jupiter and you’ll see a dim red dot.  That would be Mars.

Three planets in one shot!!  Now get out there and look!

How the planets will be arranged on October 17, 2015.
This morning Mars was a little more above Jupiter than shown in this image.
Image credit: Skymania, using Stellarium, a free software planetariuim.

And just think. We could be ON that little red speck in just 15 to 20 years!!! AWESOME!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

My Weekend - Is Fall Finally Coming to NE Florida?

This past weekend was lovely.  We FINALLY had our first hint of fall – the temps were in the low ‘60s in the mornings and the highs were in the 70s.  I was seriously ready for it.  Don’t get me wrong; I’ve always been a warm-weather person.  I absolutely hated winter when I lived in Indiana and Tennessee (though I will confess that’s less because of the cold and more because it’s just gray for 3 months straight – yuck). However, I reached the point when I was sick of the excessive heat in August and was just ready for summer to be over already.  Here in North Florida, we do actually get a winter – it just isn’t as severe as up north.  Temps will occasionally drop into the 20s or 30s, but its really rare to see snow.  At any rate, I’m happy we at least have some relief from the 90 degree days.

Cailyn came with me on my run.
She was biking and it worked out well.  
Saturday morning I had an excellent (for me) 4-mile run. I’d have used the term bad-ass, but lets face it – it was only 4 miles! Still, I really pushed myself longer and harder than I have in YEARS. Ran a mile, walked a couple of minutes, ran another 10 minutes, and then I ran / walked intervals until I got back. My overall pace was 13:56 min/mile, which included all the walking. For anyone out there who knows running – you know this is SLOW. But it’s all good. My run pace is a little under 12 minutes per mile (also slow), but my goal at this point is to just build up my endurance. I’ll worry about speeding up once I’m able to run multiple miles straight again. And honestly, I’m really not concerned about competition – just improving my stamina and speed for my own sake – more competing against myself, rather than anyone else.
Heck yeah!

After the run was the highlight of my weekend  - we went to see The Martian. I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I heard they were making the book into a movie. And it was excellent. I think anyone (not just space freaks) would enjoy this movie. I guess my only disappointment (and its really minor) is that the character is WAY funnier in the book. There was a lot of humor in the movie, but honestly, the book had me cracking up out loud while reading it - of course, I am kind of a dork :-). Still, I HIGHLY recommend this movie! Took the whole family and everyone loved it – even my youngest, and I was afraid he’d be bored during some of the slower parts (when they were building story and such). But afterward he said he loved it, too. And none of my kids have nearly my interest in (obsession with??) space. They all like science (particularly my oldest), but they aren’t really into space. So I think their approval is a good indication of how folks who aren’t space-nerds would enjoy the movie :-).

New shoes! 
Another awesome weekend thing? New running shoes! Yes, that's right, I was due. Probably overdue. I always know when I need new shoes. First off, I'll start getting soreness in my feet after running. In my case, I have what is probably minor arthritis in the joint of my big toe on my right foot. It where you'd get a bunion if you wore high heels all the time. And frankly, mine might be from the heels I used to wear to work regularly back in the olden days. At any rate, it never bothers me except when I'm walking or running, and usually only if my shoes are getting old. Also, I ALWAYS rub through the padding on the back of my heels. I guess I have bony heels, because the padding on the back of the shoe almost always rubs through before I think the soles are worn out. This time I went with Asics. Can't wait to try them out!

The rest of the weekend was just yard work, house work, and relaxation. It was lovely.

With that, I’ll give you a little photo roll – stuff I saw while running, walking the dog, just enjoying the weekend, etc.
Saturday night dining room camping with Connor's new tent!

Monarch butterfly next to our house.

Our dog, Sky.

Random butterfly in the Outback, what we call the FPL powerline easement that cuts through our neighborhood, and where I often walk Sky.

The Outback :-).

Another random butterfly.

Sea of flowers.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

My Fitbit

I preface post this by saying that I’m a cheapskate.  At least when it comes to spending money on myself. 

A few months ago, I was talking to a friend at work about needing a new heart-rate monitor watch (my old crappy Walmart HR watch was going on the fritz) and she told me about her Fitbit.  Obviously, I’d heard of Fitbit – I don’t live under a rock, after all.  But as usual, I’m just about the last kid on the block to jump on the technology train.  However, after looking into it on the internet, debating with myself, and waffling back and forth about the expense, I took a deep breath and clicked “Place Your Order” on for a shiny new Fitbit Charge HR.

And the verdict?

As someone who’s not a hardcore athlete - yet (note the optimism!), I love my Fitbit. It’s exactly what I needed in this early stage of my health and fitness reboot.  It provides me lots of data to be distracted with (I’m an engineer – me likey numbers) and helps keep me motivated to be active throughout the day.  I know that sounds like a commercial, but honestly, that’s exactly how it’s been for me. 

Fitbit makes lots of different gadgets, but I ended up getting the Fitbit Charge HR, which is a heart rate monitor, pedometer, sleep monitor, it tracks the flights of stairs I climb in a day, and – best of all – actual calories burned.  Did I say I loved this thing?

This is the screen you see on your computer desktop that summarizes everything.  This is me last Thursday.

The top part of the display you see on your phone.
The most obvious function that everyone looks at first is the pedometer.  It measures REALLY accurately how many steps you take in a day, with the goal typically being 10,000 (though you can change your goals if you want).  I was pleasantly surprised to see that I’m actually much more active than I had originally thought.  Even on days I don’t work out, I almost always exceed the 10,000 step goal.  I often have nearly 5,000 steps before I even get to work.  Walking the dog, walking with the kids to their bus stops on some days.  Running around the house getting everyone going in the mornings, apparently it all really does add up.  Happy surprise for me!

That said, my favorite function is the one that shows “calories burned verses calories consumed”.  For the last 30-ish years of my life (since my very first diet back when I got chubby as a teenager), I hadn’t really bothered myself with how many calories I was burning – it was all about how much I ate.  I’d see various recommendations about how many calories a girl should take in, and try minimize that amount of food I ate without going under the absolute minimum the “experts” recommend, which is usually 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day (for a girl).  I knew there were formulas for estimating the amount of calories burned, and I used them from time to time to try and estimate the amount of weight I should lose with a given calorie deficit, but it all seemed very vague to me.  The formulas were based on assumptions and there were always caveats that the “real” value would vary for individuals. 

The bottom part of the display you see on your phone.
Check out the water consumption - and this was at 4:30 PM!!
Well, the Fitbit Charge HR has pretty much convinced me they know what they’re doing when they estimate the amount of calories burned.  According to the Fitbit website, the calorie burn estimate that Fitbit provides takes into account your basal metabolic rate (BMR) , the activity recorded by the tracker (based on heart rate calcs and steps) and any activities that are manually logged (which would include things like swimming or biking that aren’t tracked as well with the device).  The BMR is calculated using the standard MD Mifflin-St Jeor equation, which is based on gender, age, height and weight. 

And how does this little do-dad track the heart rate?  Well, when your heart beats, your capillaries expand and contract based on blood volume changes. PurePulse™ LED lights on the tracker reflect onto the skin to detect blood volume changes and finely tuned algorithms are applied to measure heart rate automatically and continuously.  Wicked cool, eh?

I’m not going to write a detailed review of this device.  If you want a detailed review (of this device or any other fitness device, for that matter), I HIGHLY recommend the blog of DC Rainmaker. Here is a link to the page in which he reviews the Fitbit Charge and Charge HR in depth.  And when he says “In-Depth”, he MEANS “In-Depth”!  And if you’re interested in fitness and you’ve never stumbled across his blog yet, um, get over there!!  Really a lot of useful information, motivating stories (he’s a triathlete, as is his adorable wife), and travel (they live in Paris and he travels all OVER the world for his work and writes prolific and detailed posts about all the places he goes).  I seriously can’t recommend his blog enough!

But I digress.  Where was I?  Oh yes, this little post of mine isn’t a detailed review, but in my short time using this baby (got it August 18th), I can testify that it’s been extremely accurate in predicting the amount of weight I’ve lost.  I compared the amount the device says I burned verses the amount of calories I consumed (tracked on a different website).

The goal in using this device as a weight loss tool is to set a “calorie deficit goal”.  So for me, since I need to lose mumble/mumble/mumble pounds, I set a rather aggressive deficit goal of 1000 calories per day.  What does that mean?  It means if I burn 2300 calories in a day, my goal intake (calories eaten) is 1300 calories.  And FYI, 2300 calories is approximately the amount I burn on days I don’t run.  On days I run the amount burned surges up to around 2800 calories per day, and thus, my goal intake is 1800 calories.  Easy-peasy, right?  And it’s worked for me.  At least on days I stick to the goal.  And on days I don’t stick to my calorie intake goal, it’s still good, because it shows me my absolute maximum I should take in.  If I’m burning 2300 calories per day, I’d better not exceed that amount on a regular basis or I can expect to gain weight.  I think what I like about this function the most is it sets reasonable calorie goals, so I’m not trying to keep my calorie intake to a ridiculously low level, especially on days I’m working out. 

Another neat function of the device is its ability to track your sleep: it tells you when you fell asleep, when you got up, and how many times you were awake or restless in the night.  Cool, right?  Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to use these gems of info to actually improve my sleep quality.  But it does make me feel righteously justified when I’m dragging in the morning if I know I had a legit crappy night’s sleep.  That’s worth something, right?

My sleep chart - the top one was when I got all the sleep!  That's unusual for me . . .This has demonstrated that I typically only get between 6 and 7 hours a night.  And I need 8 to be a really happy camper.

Now I’ll be the first to say that the Fitbit Charge HR is NOT a workout watch.  It doesn’t have a stopwatch/timer function and no GPS (sad face).  For those items, you (and I) will need a specialty running watch. Currently I burn for a Garmin FR620 or even the older and clunkier Garmin 310XT, but I’ve been making do with some cool phone apps to track my distance and time.  They’re not perfect, and I feel like I’m not part of the cool kid group of runners that have badass running watches, but they’ve been adequate for the time being, primarily because I’m essentially a newby runner and haven’t been training long enough to need additional detail with my paces mile per mile, etc..  I want to do that type of tracking, but I just haven’t justified the expense yet – those babies aren’t cheap.  And, as previously mentioned, I am a cheapskate.  For realz.

So, long story short?  I recommend folks just starting to get in shape or trying to lose weight to look into the Fitbit Charge HR. It’s cool. And if you’re into tracking data like me (I’m an engineer, what can I say?), it’s awesome!

And lest you think I'm a sell-out, I wasn't compensated in any way to do this post.  I just really dig my fitbit :-).

Friday, October 2, 2015

Water on Mars

Did you guys all see the NASA news?  They’ve basically confirmed that there is actually flowing water on Mars during the summer there!  Pretty darned cool!

This isn’t entirely a shock.  The rovers found ice, so it stands to reason that there could potentially be water, too.  But the thing to remember is Mars is CRAZY cold.  To actually see evidence of flowing water is pretty amazing. 

To think that not long ago, most scientific types thought that while Mars may have once had water, it was long gone, evaporated into space.  Now we’re finding that it’s still there.  At least some of it is! 

What makes the scientists so psyched about this is the fact that on Earth, where there’s water, there’s life, and they think that might be the case on Mars as well. 

Now, I’m really less interested in whether there’s life on Mars than I am about the presence of water on Mars being a HUGE help to any future colonizers.  If the water weren’t there, we’d have to bring it or make it.  The fact that water appears to be present and accessible will just make it that much easier to colonize.

Unless they find life.  Right now there are rules in place that keep our landers and rovers away from any areas that could potentially have existing Mars life because they don’t want to contaminate it with human microbes.  That issue is actually something that’s going to need to be discussed (and probably argued about) in the near future as scientists want to get more probes and rovers to Mars to look at things closer and as future colonists (I’m looking at you, Elon Musk) want to go there in person!  

NASA scientists figured out there was water by noticing the dark, narrow, 100-meter long streaks (called recurring slope linea, or RSLs), which are flowing downhill on Mars.  They confirmed these were water by using an instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (which is currently circling Mars).  The MRO detected certain hydrated salts at the same location where the RSLs were seen on these slopes at Hale Crater.
Image Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Thursday Food and Fitness Update (read: boring stats all about me, me, me)

View on my run / walk.
Today's post is going to be one of the boring ones where I just relate some of my fitness and calorie stats.  I don't think I'll be doing these all that often, but I want to put some out there just so I have accountability.  This is about yesterday, Thursday, October 1, 2015.

I did another 4-mile run / walk after work.  It went ok, I suppose – I always enjoy getting out and doing it once I get going. I didn’t feel like I was really doing all that well stamina-wise while underway, but when I reviewed my heart-rate numbers later, I saw that I actually had it elevated into the peak zone (above 85% of my calculated maximum heart rate - or HR) for 34 minutes!  Not too shabby after all.  And I got 4-miles on my feet.  I’m REALLY looking forward to going for another run on Saturday morning – the temperature is supposed to be about 60 degrees.  HEAVENLY!  Fall is finally coming to NE Florida, and it’s about time in my opinion! 

My HR chart for 10/1/2015
About heart rates:  it might seem that with my heart rate so high for so long, I was working out too hard, since "they" say you should generally aim for between 65% and 85% of your max HR. One thing I remind myself is my "personal" max HR is definitely higher than the value calculated by the standard formula (220 - Age).  Max HR is a personal thing - I've seen my HR as high as 183 bpm when I've been really pushing myself (which probably means it actually can go higher), and my calculated max is only 176 bpm. In addition, I've heard that the Fitbit (which I use) isn't all that accurate when you're working out hard.  For real accuracy you need a "real" heart-rate monitor.  Finally, I’m really not enough of a motivated badass to push myself to keep going at max pace once I become uncomfortable.  When I feel like I can’t hack it, I walk.  So I’m really not too worried about me ever working out “too hard”. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, but it’s a bridge I haven’t seen on any of my workouts so far :-).

In other news, I got almost 9 hours of sleep last night!  Yes, you read that right!  This almost never happens and certainly not on a weeknight!  Back story: I had to leave work early to pick Connor up from an after-school function, so I was able to get my run in early – at like 4 PM.  Following that I cooked up dinner – and was THRILLED when 2 of the 3 kids actually went to town on it.  Tilapia, pasta and broccoli.  Plain, but yummy (plus, they dump lemon juice all over everything anyway).  Anyway, after helping Cailyn with her homework, I had a slight headache and was tired, from both the run and not getting enough sleep the night before (story of my life), so I took some medicine and went to bed early.  I was asleep by 8:45 pm, and I didn’t get up until almost 6 am this morning.  Needless to say, I feel AWESOME today.  There is nothing like getting a good night’s sleep to make one feel great.  Wish it happened more often.  And without medical assistance :-).

Stats for yesterday:       
1690 calories consumed
2766 calories burned
17,557 steps
110 active minutes

As you can see, not particularly low in calories, but it’s cool.  I always try to keep my calorie intake to about 1000 below the amount burned.  So in that respect, I was actually under on my calorie goal.  This kind of contradicts the principles of calorie restriction in terms of longevity goals, but since I’m still chubby I want to make sure I’m losing weight at a reasonable pace while not screwing up my metabolism by going too low.  And it really makes so much easier to stick to an eating plan when I don't have to stress over what I ate when I see that I burned so many calories over the course of the day. 

All in all, a good day.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

On Health and Longevity. . .

Hi everyone! Hope things have been going well out there in the world. I’m doing fine. Work is good. Kids are good. It’s all good!

Today I want to talk about longevity. Specifically, my longevity.

I’ve been interested in the field of longevity since I was in my 20s. Read a lot about it. Practiced Caloric Restriction for a while, which may be a way for humans to live longer, potentially much longer, lives. Read everything about and by Dr. Roy Walford, who was a pioneer in Calorie Restriction and apparently a really cool guy as well. Remember Biosphere 2? The cool glass greenhouse structure in Arizona in which they closed 8 people to try and live in an enclosed "biosphere" for 2 years back in the early '90s? He was one of those 8.  Really. Cool dude.

Roy Walford, MD, back in the day - presumably inside Biosphere 2.

Anyway, despite my interest in living long and healthy, I kind of fell off the longevity wagon in my late 20s to early 30s.  Had kids.  Drank too much wine and ate some LOTS of pasta and cheese and other stuff.  Put on some weight.  Didn’t work out as often as I should.  Put on some more weight.  Only did sporadic yoga.  But I was still interested in longevity.  Read about it, followed longevity news on the internet.  Of course, closely following the subject intellectually while not practicing the health principals that might actually let me extend my life just left me feeling like a giant health failure :-).  I’ve always been active and tried to get my nutrition in, but I never pulled it all together to live a consistent full-on healthy lifestyle.  I guess I’m just not OCD enough to really make it stick the way some people do.

And then I hit my 40s.  With each trip around the sun, I’m realizing it’s beyond time to get my act together.  I’m sure I’d be looking way better and would have better health if I’d stayed consistent with my health habits from my 20s until now.  But better late than never, right? 

I consider myself really lucky (so far - knock on wood) in that my poor health habits haven’t really bitten me yet (decent genetics, maybe?).  Even though I’m still overweight (though have lost 10 pounds in the past month!), my last physical showed excellent numbers for my blood-work.  I still have regular to low blood pressure.  Don’t take any medicines on a regular basis.  No real aches and pains - other than when I trip or otherwise injure myself from my extreme clumsiness (this is actually a longevity issue that I really do need to be concerned about - I'm not joking about being clumsy).  So I feel lucky so far.  I know a lot of people who deal with a lot more than me on a day-to-day basis health-wise, even at age 44.

That said, I’ve SERIOUSLY lost a ton of flexibility in the last 10 years.  I used to be really limber as a kid.  I wasn’t a gymnast or anything, but felt fairly flexible nonetheless.  I miss that feeling.  And I’m sure I’m not the only 44-year old who looks in the mirror and sees things I don’t like.  For me, it's primarily the bags under my eyes.  GAAHHH.

Given the above, I’m trying to tackle the whole “Get healthy / Get fit / Live longer” thing on multiple fronts.  Running.  Walking.  Yoga.  Weights (hate weights).  Pushups.  Planks (hate planks, too).  Extreme nutrition.  Drinking tons of water. 

And how’s it going, you ask?  So far so good.   I’m down 10 pounds!  Have built up a wee bit of stamina in my running.  I do push-ups and planks in my office at work (more days than not).  I almost always hit my 10,000 step goal for the day – and on running days I’m way over that.  I’m not going to claim I’ve been 100% good, but I’ve been more good than bad!  I call that a success, because I tend to be an all-or-nothing person.  I have to fight the urge to completely throw in the towel when I’ve been naughty, or skipped a workout or something.  I'm getting better at accepting that moderation is ok. 

I’m particularly proud of my nutrition.  I’ve always been fairly diligent about tracking my intake with online diet tracking software.  Even when I wasn't really “dieting” and when I knew I’d be going home to wine and pizza (or other naughty foods), I’ve almost always tracked my intake during my work day (generally using, more on this later), and my nutrient intake has almost always been quite good.  

Sparkpeople Nutrition Page Screenshot for today.  In addition to the macro-nutrients, it will also track the vitamins & minerals, water, etc. as well as the exercise, and other stuff.  I can't say I love Sparkpeople, but its the best for me so far in nutrition & fitness trackers - and I've tried out a BUNCH of them. 

I try to get most of my nutrients from my diet, because I'm notorious for not remembering to take my vitamins on a regular basis.  I’ve always made a point to include the power foods in my daily “quotidian” diet – things like almonds, Greek yogurt with blueberries or blackberries, sardines, salmon, spinach or kale, green tea – these are in my diet almost every day.  

Today's lunch salad on the digital scale in my kitchen.  Romaine, spinach, red & yellow bell peppers, tomato, edamame, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, almonds, banana peppers, cucumber, and I have some chicken breast I'll warm up and add at lunch time.  This is honestly my normal every-day lunch, except when I'm running late and forget to pull it together or something.  I LOVE salads.
My focus now is to be more consistent: cutting back on the wine and other splurge foods except on special occasions or off days (so I can drop the excess weight), and making the running / yoga / weight training regular parts of my schedule. I'm not going to lie: consistency is my struggle. It's why I'm overweight in the first place. But I know I've got to pull it together. I'll be 45 years old next month (OMG). And for those of you who just have this health stuff all figured out and you're thin and fit and eat what you should, I salute you! Honestly, and no snark at all. Those peeps are the ones whose blogs I follow regularly for inspiration. I sort of see my blog as an example of a work in progress - meaning me. I suppose I should have figured this crap out by the time I'm 44, but it is what it is, right?  

Obviously, even if I’m better at my consistency, that’s no guarantee that I’ll live any longer than the next person.  I could get cancer.  Alzheimers - dementia is a very real and scary thing in my family.  But I figure if I’m living a healthy lifestyle, I’ll have better odds than if I don’t, right???  And, honestly, none of this should be a major hardship.  The key for me is to try to limit the splurge foods to designated “off” days – and not eat (or drink!) them every day!  Truly, if I can be good in the evenings, I'll be golden :-).

Wish me luck!