Exercise (revisited, yet again)

This morning I got up and took care of all the overnight work email and customer requests, as usual. That took almost all morning.

Then there were some important security server reboots I wanted to hang around for, to make sure they all went well (they all did).

I also took a short break and watched Mon lay an egg. Too bad I didn’t have my iPhone with me to record it. I’ve only seen it live once before! Monta has been leaving her in peace while she uses the left nest for egg laying this time. He hangs out on his swing, while Mon has been building a nice sized clutch this month. All infertile of course. But I digress.

Then I had a leisurely lunch and watched the season 3 finale of “House of Cards.”

After lunch I did some more work in preparation for a customer call this evening at 6:00 pm.

Around 3:00 pm I finally ran out of excuses. So I poked my head out door, thinking it must be awful winter weather. But it was the most beautiful day of the year so far. Blue skies with wisps of white clouds, and the temperature was a relatively balmy 14 degrees C (57 F).

So that was it. I was truly out of excuses.

I got on my bike and cycled to the river, which I haven’t done for a while. I’m happy to report I haven’t lost all my cycling muscles yet, and was able to take all the hills, even the big one leading up to the river bank.

As you can see, the cherry trees are not quite budding yet, but there seems to be something going on. (If you click on the photos you can see them larger.)

 

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A little ways down the river, after going over one bridge, I come to a park and you can see the Katsushika public sports center ahead on the right – that big white building.

 

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I’ve been there before – to their pool – but I’ve never gone this way, and I’ve never been to their gym, even though I pass the sports center on ever river bike ride. This time I decided to stop and check it out.

Here is the entrance to the main sports center where the gym is.

 

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The people couldn’t have been nicer. Everybody was all smiles and welcoming, from teenagers to senior citizens. One of the staff took me on a tour. They let me take one picture to post of the main gym room.

 

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As you can see it is bright, with high ceilings, and loads of modern fitness machines of all kinds.

I decided I’m going to quit the private gym near my house, which I just joined in December, and start coming here instead. I need to let the private gym know by the 10th to avoid paying for April.

My reasoning is this:

  • This public sports center has all the same machines and more than the private gym does. I can’t login to the machines with my iPhone, but it reports out all the needed tracking data, so I can still log my workouts.
  • It’s further away from my house, but it’s a very pleasant ride along the river to and back, so I get in extra cardio just going there. It’s only 3 km away, so the bike ride is only about 10-13 minutes. And 25 minutes round-trip along the river goes by much quicker than 25 minutes on a cycling machine. I still don’t actually like exercise.
  • The hours are very good too. It’s not 24 hours like the private gym, but they are open 9 am to 9 pm every day. The woman who gave me a tour said they are least crowded from 1 pm to 5 pm, which fits in well with my work-at-home schedule.
  • They will give free advice on a training program, while the private gym charges extra for that.
  • They have free key lockers, while the private gym charges ¥1,000 per month extra for that, so I’ve been leaving my stuff in an open locker. (It’s Japan, so I wasn’t particularly worried about that point.)
  • Cost-wise the public gym seems better too. Each visit is ¥300 for up to two hours. The private gym is ¥6,800 per month, which is very reasonable. But I would have to go more than 22 times per month to make it less expensive than the public gym. 22 times per month is a lot, and I know I won’t always make that goal. So why not use the public gym instead?
  • There seemed to be a nice mix of people there, so maybe I’ll be able to talk to people and make some diet/exercise friends.

Of course during rainy season, or other really bad weather, I won’t be able to cycle there.  But there is a bus from my corner right to the sports center if I was determined to go on a bad weather day.

Anyway, the atmosphere was really nice and welcoming, and I’m ready to try something different, so I think I will give that a try. My private gym membership, meanwhile, is still paid up through the end of this month.

On the way home, I took this nice photo along the river. The sun was reflecting so much off the water I just pointed and shot and let my iPhone take whatever it wanted. But I think it turned out well.

 

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Diet dilemmas

I went for my quarterly hospital check-up today, and there was good and bad news.

Good news

The good news is that my cholesterol values total, LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol) as well as triglycerides are all well within the normal range, and the electrocardiogram also showed everything is fine. And my blood pressure remains normal.

Bad news

The bad news is that my HbA1c blood sugar value is way up again – back to almost where it was after I got out of the hospital. It’s really very high.

The doctor wanted to put me back on blood sugar medication, which I’ve been off of for almost 3 years now, but I know from multiple times in the past that medicine isn’t necessary. I can control it with diet if I can just lose the weight I’ve regained. So the doctor agreed, without much argument (I think he was just in a rush to see the next patient) and has given me 3 months, until my June 1 appointment, to get my blood sugar under control by myself.

I also had a meeting with the dietician, but she admitted that by now I know as much as she does about all the diets there are and the best advice at the end of our meeting she could give me was to try to drink green tea instead of eating between meals. Not a bad idea I guess.

What to do now?

The problem I’m left with right now is I don’t know what to eat to get my weight under control. I mean I know theoretically what to eat. I just don’t know how to stick with it. And weight control is the key to everything for me. If I lose weight my blood sugar goes down. If I’m too fat my blood sugar goes up. For me, it’s as simple as that. It always has been.

While on the Ornish “heart disease reversal program,” which is basically vegan, no-added-oil, no nuts or seeds I fairly quickly dropped 88 lb. That’s the program I went on after getting out of the hospital.

But after 700 days or so, as with every other diet I’ve been on my whole life, my will-power weakened and I started gaining weight. For a long time, I was able to restrain my weight gain to about 15 lbs or so. But since getting back from St. Louis my weight started creeping up again and I’ve regained a total of 35 lb so far – about 20 lb since getting back to Japan.

I’m still about 50 lb or so below from when I started, which  is a good thing. And I haven’t gone off the wagon to the extent that I’m eating fried chicken on skid row. So I’m somewhat relieved I’ve managed to prevent a total rebound this time. So far. But things are still in a precarious state, and I know things can go either way.

Things I know about diets, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc.

Here is what I know so far from my own experience with dieting, and also after monitoring of my blood test results every quarter since starting in May, 2012:

1. How long I can diet. I seem to have initial success on just about any diet I try, and I tell everybody about my success with great enthusiasm. But the success always only lasts for about 700 days, about two years. During those first two years I seem to have perfect will-power. I never ever go off my diet. I never have the urge to go off my diet – really! I can follow whatever the diet rules are, I can keep my calories under control, and I lose weight.

2. The 700 day effect. No matter what the diet is, “something” happens after about 700 days and my will-power weakens, and something (a combination of biology and psychology I think) causes me to start overeating again, and my weight creeps up, and I can’t stop it. I start flailing around from diet to diet trying to find a combination of eating tricks that works, but I can’t. Usually this ends up with me completely going off the wagon and a complete rebound.

3. Not a complete rebound so far but… So far I’ve been able to avoid a complete rebound this time. I’ve avoided fried foods for one thing, which I know is the worst of the worst for me. Yet my weight is still slow creeping up and I keep compromising about the limits I’ll accept: First I won’t allow my self to get above this weight. Then I won’t allow myself to get above that weight. Then I won’t allow myself to get above this other weight. These limits are getting dangerously high now, and it’s seriously depressing. I have to admit it has been weighing (as it were) too much on my mind lately.

4. What causes high cholesterol? As far as cholesterol goes, I just don’t don’t believe Ornish or Esselstyn or any of the vegan-no-fat people anymore. When I started my diet, my cholesterol was higher than normal. 6 months into the diet it was still high. It wasn’t until I started taking one statin each evening that my cholesterol dropped to the normal range. Since going to St. Louis in the summer, I haven’t really been vegan any more. During my two months in St. Louis I had some fish for lunch every day and some skinless chicken for dinner ever evening, and my weight stayed under control. And when I got back to Japan and had my next blood test a month later, my cholesterol was still low. And on December 1 my cholesterol was still low. And even today my cholesterol was still low (LDL of just 81 with a normal range of 70-139). So I think the recent U.S. government guidelines which now say the cholesterol you eat doesn’t affect your blood cholesterol are correct, at least for me. In other words, I don’t think it matters if I am vegan or not as far as cholesterol goes. I think probably eating olive oil in small amounts also doesn’t hurt either as far as heart health goes.

5. So should I eat more animal products? For me, there is a “feel good” limit in eating animal products since I went vegan. I can tolerate a little fish each day, or a little chicken. But beyond that I just don’t feel well at all. If I try eating beef or pork I get nauseous. So my sense is that no matter what I do going forward that it won’t involve a lot of animal products. But I see no reason in being fanatical about being 100% vegan. If there is a little chicken or fish in an otherwise low-calorie product, I don’t see any reason to let it bother me. The new guidelines also say eggs should be ok, but I’m a little hesitant about eating them again. If they are safe though, they are really great for weight loss since they are so low calorie, high in protein and satisfying.

6. Calories are key. I think it basically always comes back to weight and calories. I’m sure if I lose the weight I regained my blood sugar will go down again. From past experience with this, my blood sugar isn’t affected by the kinds of food I eat so long as my weight goes down. And to lose weight I have to restrict calories. There is no way around that basic fact.

7. And what about exercise? Exercise plays some role, but maybe not a big role in all of this. My exercise has slacked off lately I admit. I’m hoping as it gets warmer I will pick this up again. I haven’t been going often to that gym I joined, unfortunately. I was enthusiastic about it at first, but have not used it much since then.  I’m thinking instead of that gym I should just cycle over to the city sports center, which is along the river and only 3 km away, on the route I always take for bicycle runs. In other words, I’ve been cycling right past the city-run sports center for over two years now and not using it! I could use that gym for weight training exercises to help build muscle mass, and then cycle back. Maybe do that two or three times a week (i.e. setting a realistic goal). That would save money over the private sports club, and I would get in extra cycling by just getting there and coming back. Still, I don’t think this is the solution to my overall problem. The main thing is losing the weight I’ve gained. But I think I will cycle over the sports center and see how it is and maybe drop my membership in the nearby private club. I do sit at my desk way too much every day.

8. Addictions and what diet to follow. I’m still lost as to what diet to try to follow next. I’ve tried everything there is to try so far. There is nothing new that anybody can tell me about diet plans. I guess everybody has to find their own personal “bag of tricks” to psychologically control what they eat. Different people have different addictions. Some people can’t stop smoking. Others have alcohol or drug problems. Some people have gambling addictions. I’m fortunate to not fall into any of those categories. I smoke one cigarette every 10 years (next one in 2023), only drink alcohol 3 or 4 times a year and never have an “urge” to drink, and have never had any other addictions except for food. Unfortunately, unlike other addictions, food addiction is the only one where you can’t go “cold turkey” (as it were) and just stop eating altogether.

9. Depression. I have to admit this is bothering me excessively lately. People around me, like people in the neighborhood, have begun to notice. Even today, while walking back from the train station on my way home from the hospital, a neighbor I’ve never spoken with called out to me and said, “So what is happening with you? You used to be very fat. Then you got thin. But lately I think your weight is going up again, isn’t it?” (People in Japan can be surprisingly direct about saying things like this!) And so I talked to him for a while. He was very friendly and sympathetic about it, and said to keep on trying and we’ll talk again. People at Hibikinokai, where I do volunteer work on Sundays, also have noticed this for a while now, and have mentioned it to me.

Anyway, I’m just rambling at this point. I’m still not sure what to do, and I have to do something. I’m wary of grains – even whole grains – because I think they are all excessively high calorie, low protein and trigger hunger pangs. But I bought some brown rice at the supermarket today. I’m wary of legumes, because they just don’t sit well with me. But I bought some tofu today also. And some more non-oil salad dressing and some salad vegetables.

Ideally I would like to start a very calorie restricted diet (e.g. < 1500 calories a day), do some moderate exercise 3 times a week or so, avoid eating between meals if possible, and see how it goes for a few months. During this time I should avoid things with added sugars, simply to avoid hunger urges. Maybe I should restrict fruits? I am not sure.

I’m just talking out loud and not necessarily asking for advice. I think I’ve already tried every diet there is, including diets which won’t call themselves diets and instead call themselves “lifestyle changes” or whatever. Every diet works, and every diet doesn’t work. It’s easy to convince yourself something is working and get all caught up in it, then 700 days later find yourself rebounding.

I need to get back on a weight losing path somehow. It’s just difficult.

 

One thousand days

My diet has had it’s ups and downs and ups and downs, but at least I keep tracking. Today is Day 1,000 of tracking on MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal is also linked in to my gym machines, when I manage to go over there.

My weight has been “stable” lately, but I need to lose a lot more weight. At least I’m not gaining and remain more than 50 lb lighter than when I started.

 

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