Monday, June 30, 2008

Weekly Stats, June 30

Michael: -3.52 lbs, 485.1, total loss since January: 58 lbs.
Nina: -.0 lbs, 278.84, total loss since January: 23.3 lbs.

We we both higher mid-week, lower yesterday, so all in all, not bad, although I'm still pretty stalled.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Eat More Slowly. Watch Portion Size. Stop Screwing Around and Pack the Car

Words to live by, kind of.

I have been paying BIG attention to what I've been eating the last couple of days, and on my biggest food issue, mindlessly quickly shoving food into my mouth, not even realizing what I've eaten. And I've been rewarded a little; my weight is the lowest that it's been in a while. Let's see what it is tomorrow when I post stats...

The hardest thing for me, in a lot of ways, is to be mindful about food. I'll spend hours prepping food, and then I'll shove it all into my mouth in 10 minutes. That's not the way it's supposed to be, and I think that long-term weight control must involve retraining myself about this particular thing. It is really not easy.

Tomorrow we start on a two-day drive to Maine, where we'll spend some unknown amount of time, depending on how comfortable Michael is there. Originally we'd thought that Mom would come up, that all the family would be there. Seems beyond unlikely at the moment. So we will have this little bit of time there... it's the first time I've been to my family home in probably five years, maybe more... since I realized that there was no point to going somewhere that only made me unhappy. But that was a different time, a different set of circumstances, a different marriage. I'm hoping that this will be better.

I'm also hoping that I can make sensible food choices both on the way and when we get there. Weight is going well this week, and I don't want to screw it up for the sake of travel. It's just not worth it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

More Grim News

My mother's been in the hospital all week, heart issues (periocarditis) on top of everything else. And they drained off some of the fluid around her heart and found bits of tumor in the fluid. Which is really bad news.

I want to believe that there's a happy ending here, but I don't. They haven't even decided if they're going to continue the chemotherapy at this point. I really have no idea what's happening in the grand scheme of things, but it's looking increasingly like we're talking about a matter of months.

I don't know what to do, really. How to think about this. What I am supposed to be doing. I just hate it. And I know that on top of everything else, my role in this is already fixed. I'm going to have to be the strong one, the person who stays put together. I don't want to be. I want to be comforted. I want someone else to deal with this. I want to be someone else. And none of these things are in the choice set.

I don't think that there's any way to ever be ready for this kind of thing.

It's all not exactly a low-carb, weight loss topic, but in a weird way, it kind of is, too... I mean, sustaining weight loss is about doing it even when the rest of your life is happening, not just when all the things are lined up to make weight loss easy. Easier anyway. And that's part of the challenge here... how we are going to get through whatever happens next, while trying like hell to do the things that we need to do to save our own lives.

Michael is frustrated and discouraged, anyway. We went to the physical therapist last week, and she gave him a set of exercises to strengthen his legs... and apparently he overdid it, more pain, one more thing. I know that at some point this will get better, that the curve will reach a peak and things for him will get better rather than worse. But it is so hard to watch him, angry and frustrated and sad. I can't help him, and I can't help (apparently) being dragged into it... I mean, how can you watch someone you love being miserable and then just go on and do your stuff? I can't. I just don't know how to.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Doctor Irritation

Yesterday was Doctor Day... a round of seeing just about everyone, I think. Only good thing about it was getting it over with all in one day... although we're having an unexpected trip to the physical therapist today.

First up was our GP, who I have to say is, on the whole, a lovely guy. BUT he's a huge cholesterol cop, and the thing that he's pushed from day one is treating Michael's high LDL. And so we did, in the days before low-carb. We tried a bunch of statin drugs that didn't do much at all but ended up causing such joint pain that Michael found movement just about impossible. This killed about a year for us. We tried some resin thing... I'm not even going to try to spell it because it's not worth looking up... with no particular effects at all. Admittedly, we did not do a good job of taking it regularly, but chugging tons of this stuff only seemed to make constipation an issue. And in the end, we decided, to hell with it. Diet and exercise will help. A low carb diet will increase HDL and reduce triglycerides, and that's the important thing, anyway.

So, yesterday, he again pushed this. I/we said, we have decided not to treat this at this time. And, wow, you could see the temperature in the room change.

Yes, I know that we all get stuck in our own paradigms. I know that he really believes that this is a mistake. I know that he is genuinely concerned about this. BUT it would be nice if he'd display a little interest in something other than this one thing. The slightly worrisome rise in Michael's A1C. Weight loss. The things he's actually having a problem with. Managing diabetes better. The awesome triglyceride drop.

We were both annoyed and dismayed.

I get a little tired of having to fight about this all the time. The most tedious thing about the whole low-carb lifestyle is that some days, you just feel like you're fighting everyone.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Stats, Week of June 23, Breakeven

Michael: -1.1 lbs, 488.68, total loss since January: 54.78 lbs.
Nina: -0 lbs, 278.88, total loss since January: 23.3 lbs.

It's hard to call that really an inspiring result, but I'm not unhappy with it, given that I spent four days in Baltimore pigging out on dried fruit and too much cheese, and Michael spent four days alone here, just eating too much. Both of our weights were up considerably on Friday, and so pretty much a break even result is good.

We go to Maine a week from today, so this week needs to be a good week... we've already lost two summer weeks to travel and, I don't know, just not having a great food week. We're not going to make our June 480/270 goal... pretty far off that really. So... well, undaunted, let's think pushing that goal back a month, trying to be really careful about eating this week, and even more mindful on "vacation" or whatever this trip really is.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Low Carb in Novels

During my Baltimore trip, I rattled through two novels, both of which I enjoyed, but... the second one I read was Anita Shreve's Body Surfing. Now, I have to say, I really enjoyed this book on the whole; Anita Shreve writes beautifully and atmospherically... I think I've read and enjoyed nearly all her novels, and this one was no exception.

But right in the beginning, when she introduces the only character in this book who is pretty much totally unsympathetic... prejudiced and petty and pretentious would all be good descriptive words for her... she also characterizes her as being on a low-carb diet. Note the following excerpts...

"Unlike Mrs. Edwards, who counts her carbs religiously and seems to be hastening herself to an early death with the eggs and meats and cheese she eats in quantity. Even the low-carb ice-cream bars she snacks on at night seem, with their thick, viscous shine, to be depositing cholesterol molecules directly into her bloodstream." (p. 14)

"Ben attacks his lobster with relish. Jeff breaks the soft-shell claws with his fingers and eats the sweet meat without butter. Mrs. Edwards drenches even the smallest shreds in the yellow liquid. No carbs in butter." (p. 19)

"'Bread?' Sydney offers, picking up a basket.
Mrs. Edwards stares. Mrs. Edwards does not eat bread." (p. 23)

Now, possibly, these excerpts aren't really conveying what I'm trying to show, but... well, first of all, there's that media notion, so at odds with all the actual scientific evidence, that a low-carb diet is a ticket to high cholesterol and fatty arteries. That ignorance bothers me. It's like an acceptable prejudice... like, 150 years ago, people would say, oh, Negroes are lazy... and it would be, oh, well, of course they are.... because doesn't everyone think that? Of course a low carb diet causes heart disease. Everybody knows that.

The second part that bothers me is the clear association between a low-carb diet and a character who is implied to be gluttonous. The drenching of the lobster with excessive butter. The quantity of meats and cheeses. It's more "media Atkins", the notion that everyone eating a low-carb diet is pigging out on vast quantities of fatty food.... and that there's something wrong, something vaguely distasteful about it.

I don't think that I've ever read a novel before in which the diet that the person had chosen seems to be saying something about them... and the message was, someone you would like would not eat this way. It really bothered me, this casual, ill-informed perception. It offended me in the same way that I'd be offended if someone said anything that lumps all people together in their characteristics and choices... all redheads are bad-tempered. Wives always nag their husbands. Americans are ill-mannered overseas. Things like that. Things that group people into distasteful things, things that associate innocuous choices with not-so-innocuous behaviors.

As I said, I'm probably making too much of this, but it really bothered me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Well, here I am in Baltimore. I'm tired and uncomfortable, and I've eaten too much. It's early morning on Wednesday, and every bone in my body aches after two nights on the sofa, and there isn't a chair in this house that I find really comfortable. I'm hoping that I remember this the next time I get some yen for leather furniture... pretty to look at, comfortable for a while, but after a while... sticky, and for me anyway, just not comfy. Some of this is probably my fault; there are sleeping alternatives to the couch, but they all seem like A Lot of Trouble, and so I go to sleep on the couch... and wake up with my legs cramped, and tired and grouchy. And there are these stupid wind chimes, which I am about 10 minutes from throwing over the balcony...

And I'm not eating right, not really. Too much food in general, but also sitting here late-night and reading and eating dried fruit... better, I suppose, than some other choices, but high in sugar, high in calories, definitely not on plan. I feel... well, stuffed and ready to roast. Like the pork I'm cooking today.

Mom is... I don't know. Nauseated a lot of the time; that's the chemo. Frail. It is frightening when you suddenly realize that your mother's hands look like your grandmother's. When did this happen? When did she get this old? It's hard to really know what's happening here, how much of this is the chemo and how much of it is the cancer. Hard to know much of anything. Hard to have any idea what to do, what to think, what to feel. She's more herself than she was last summer after the surgery, just sick all the time... but I have no idea what the next step on this path could possibly be.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Stats, Week of June 16, Not Great

Michael: +1.76 lbs, 489.7, total loss since January: 53.7 lbs.
Nina: +0/88 lbs, 278.88, total loss since January: 23.3 lbs.

It's been a very strange week. Among other things, we were in Rochester 6 out of 7 days, and although we ate ok, relatively speaking, while we were out, it threw off our schedule, and we ate a number of things that, while not exactly off-plan, were not what we normally would have chosen. I've felt out of whack all week, tired and bloated, and Michael's still on the mega-dose of naproxen, which doesn't really help anything.

So, fine. You shrug and plan for next week to be better... and I really need it to be; I'm off to Baltimore this morning to see my mother, and it's going to be difficult all around, particularly making sure that the eating stays where it should be while I'm gone for 4 days... for Michael, too. The fact of the matter is that both of us do better from every point of view when we're in the same place. This is the longest that we've been away from each other since we've been married... and it's only 4 days, but still.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It's not going to be a Good Week

I don't know what's happened to this week, really. As much as anything, it's just been incredibly busy, lots of errand-running and little things that have made it chaos all the time. Yesterday my son had his birthday party... we still have a bunch of 14 year olds strewn randomly around the place. And I've had a few college kids working odd jobs and so on... and I've been to Rochester every day this week, which is at least 4 days too many.

And food hasn't been great. Except yesterday when we did indulge in a slice of pizza (just one!) ordered for the party, it's nothing you can really put your finger on. Just a lot of days of eating not quite right, not quite often enough, not the right portion size, things like that. And I think it's all going to weight out to not good at all. I might be wrong, and there are still two days in the week, but I'm not optimistic. And bracing myself.

Everything I post these days seems to be stressed and dismal, but it's how I feel. Things have just been hard lately, lots of nagging things that need doing, the situation with my mother, and a persistent fight that keeps coming back up every couple of days, making us both feel bad without being able to get any kind of resolution on it. It makes all the food things hard, too. Easy though it is for me to maintain this way of eating, it's even easier for me to eat too much... and what I want right now is a kind of comfort that I can't get, that doesn't exist really... but yet that some part of me thinks can be found in food. I want to curl up with a book and... something... and shut out all the persistent negative and sad things in my head. No, it doesn't work. No, I'm not going to do it. But, yes, it seems like it would feel good. And maybe it would, until it was over and, as always, the piper has to be paid.

So we pick up and tidy up the pieces and go on. Make some tea, figure out what my student odd-job kids are going to do today, just move on with it all. And eventually it will feel better.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Stats, Week of June 9

Michael: -1.98 lbs, 488.4, total loss since January: 55 lbs.
Nina: -2.4 lbs, 278, total loss since January: 24.2 lbs.

All in all, a very good week. Michael was actually a few pounds lower mid-week, but the leg doctor has him on a course of naproxen that tends to make him retain water, so he's a little bloated.

Today is my son's 14th birthday!

What's for dinner? Either his favorite meal, salmon and asparagus, or perhaps we'll go out for Japanese food.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

It's Saturday Already?

Wow, I just realized that I haven't blogged since Tuesday, so unlike me! It's mostly been just busy here, plus this sudden Northeastern heat wave that makes considering doing anything at all seem insane. And it's been another week of doctor's appointments, and since that always involve a trip to Rochester, it's also the chance to run all the errands that I can't so easily do in my little town. So that was Wednesday and Friday, and Thursday we had a work "retreat"... which is, I think, a polite euphemism for "all day meeting that no one could figure out how to schedule during the regular year." Oh, joy...

Anyway, the good news is that we went to the leg guy yesterday, and he can find nothing structurally wrong with Michael's legs... not even anything degenerative in the knees. The bad news part of that is that he also doesn't know what's wrong... doesn't know why he gets so much pain in that leg. Thinks that it isn't his back, probably... maybe inflammation of the lining of the kneecap... put him on a course of steady anti-inflammatories, come back in 3 weeks. Ok. Michael feels better and worse, I think... better that it's not a lot of things, but worse because... well, what is it? Plus the doctor pushed and pulled his knee around a great deal, didn't hurt at all at the time, became incredibly painful later. Probably the unaccustomed motion, I would guess, but let's hope it's better this morning. (Yes, he's still asleep...)

I don't know. I think that a lot of the bottom line on this is that the only thing that is really going to help a great deal is weight loss. And he is losing weight at a reasonable pace... but yet "a reasonable pace" takes a while when you have a lot to lose. Hard to be patient when its so incapacitating. Hard to be patient when you want to be more active, but more activity just hurts. And you read all these stories of people who lost a lot of weight, and at some point, everyone walks, everyone exercises... and how do you do that when walking for more than a few minutes is so painful?

I am just finding everything in my world so depressing lately, and it's hard to shake. Hard to pick up another day and do the next thing on the list. I have to, but right now, it all just seems like a lot of impossibly hard work.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Of Fructose, Hares, and Darwin

Once you stop eating sugar for a while, the thing you really notice is how sweet a lot of things are. And if that sweet thing is a prepared food, you can just bet that one of the major ingredients will be either sugar or, far worse, high fructose corn syrup. I was making a salad dressing today, thinking Michael would be a little less bored with another salad lunch if it had a creamy dressing rather than my usual olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar. Put in some mayo, put in some sour cream, put in some crushed garlic, a little salt and pepper, a little dill, a little chipotle chili powder... yum! But I thought, this needs some bite. So I added some of a product I've used for years, Marukan seasoned rice vinegar. Never thought very much about what it was seasoned with, until my dressing turned sickly sweet. Turns out, right toward the top of the list is high fructose corn syrup. Sigh. Another product I won't be buying any more (at 5 carbs per tablespoon, and all of that from sugars).

The dressing actually wasn't bad on the salad, although it would have been better if less sweet. Reminded me, a little weirdly, of this horrible dish that my mother used to make, a sliced hardboiled egg with Thousand Island dressing over it. I think this is one of the things that people made in the 60s, along with Jell-O molds with fruit and whipped cream. It was revolting.

Anyway, I got this wonderful cookbook in the mail today. It's called Simple French Cooking, by X. Marcel Boulestin, and it was published in the 1920s as a guide to British cooks and their mistresses. That's mistresses as in employers, not the other kind! Back from the time when it was reasonable to think that a lot of people would have a cook. This book is just marvelous to read if you like old recipes. My favorite so far is the Lievre a la Royale, which I think translates to something like Royal Hare. The beginning of this recipe starts: "Bone the hare. Prepare a stuffing of truffled foie gras cut in slices, a quarter of a pound of veal and pork mixed, salt and pepper; arrange the minced meat between the slices of foie gras and remodel the hare." Remodel the hare??? Add an extra room and some wallpaper? The rest of the directions include cooking for 12 hours. I am dying to try this but I have no idea where I would get a hare. Or truffled foie gras.

The really interesting thing is that the vast majority of these recipes are rich but incredibly low carb. (And, by the way, just how big is "a good piece of butter?")

The preface to the book includes a quote from Darwin that I'd never heard before:
"Even the headless oyster seems to profit from experience."

Monday, June 2, 2008

Stats, Week of June 2

Michael: -4.2 lbs, 490.1, total loss since January: 53.24 lbs.
Nina: -0.0 lbs, 279.8, total loss since January: 22.4 lbs.

All things considered, I can live with that. My weight has been up and down all week, and I think, once again, that it's all about keeping an eye on the portion sizes. It's harder because I'm home most of the time now that the semester's over, and I won't be back in the office much until July, when my racquetball partner/hopefully research partner will be back from China. Just working at home is great in a lot of ways, but it's easy to nibble too much. Easy to spend too much time thinking too much, too... my goal for today has got to be, try to stop worrying about everything constantly and get some work done.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


If you want to read cheerful things, you're at the wrong blog today. For that matter, this is not all that diet/low carb/anything of the sort, although I do want to talk a little about maintaining lifestyle in the face of life problems.

I've known since my mother's cancer recurred that the likelihood of a good result was slim. Recurrence in this short a time period is nearly always a terrible sign, and her age is against her, too, and ovarian cancer is a killer. Yesterday my doctor sister decided to say what I already really knew, that she'd seen the scans and that they basically look terrible. The best hope of the chemotherapy is to buy a little time, not cure anything. I knew this already, knew it when I heard the symptoms weeks ago. In a lot of ways, I deal better with reality than with the vague "everything's going to be ok" sorts of notions. At least reality is... well, real. Not an ephemeral hope that's never going to materialize. And then you can sort of plan.

There is always hope. But you have to temper hope with realism. And you have to use the time you have wisely.

I'm just sad. Nothing else, really. There's nothing else to be. There are so many things you could say, so many ironies to it all, which is a whole different story... so many things you could say about living for the day and life and death, and so on. But I don't have the heart for any of them.

The best scenario is that somehow this will be able to bring some healing to my fractured family, and that in turn will give my mother some kind of peace. The last time my entire family was in the same place, maybe 6 years ago, my uncle was dying of pancreatic cancer. This all has a horrible familiarity. But that was the beginning of the deepest and worst fractures. So maybe this will be able to mend some of the things that happened then. Maybe. The scars run pretty deep.

And the other thing that this does is what I do every day... renew my determination to beat this weight thing. For me, for Michael. I'm determined not to let this be a reason to let the structure of diet and exercise that we've so carefully put in place disintegrate in the face of chaos. Determined not to let food be a comfort for things for which there is no real comfort, anyway. I see so many thing... well, I see my own life, and the way that I've gained weight around every crisis. I see other people say, I was doing well, and then this thing happened. And I know how easy it is to go down that slippery slope. I don't want to do that this time. Neither of us can afford that... and I want so desperately to get physically to where we need to be to have the life we want. Yes, before it's too late.