Thursday, February 27, 2014

Understanding Nutrition

more Thursday:

I had a Nutrition tutorial yesterday, and we filled out a anonymous quiz about our nutrition knowledge then looked at how people answered.

Questions included: Alcohol has negligible calories/kilojoules, true or false?
At least a quarter of the group thought that was true!

Meat, fish and eggs are a good source of fibre, true or false?
Again, a lot of people said true!

I was astonished.

Yes, I've read a lot about nutrition and I'm twice the age of most of the others so I probably know more. But I thought this was basic stuff everyone knew. Apparently not.

You just can't make assumptions about what other people do or don't know. I have huge gaps in my own knowledge - anything to do with sport, for example. Maybe other people would be flabbergasted about how little I know about car maintenance, considering I drive one every day.

This is going to be interesting.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014



I made a doctor's appointment about my disintegrating sleep a fortnight ago, then cancelled because I thought things were getting better. Well I've had a few good nights here and there but basically I'm tired all the time. I've had three or four particularly bad nights in a row this week and I'm shambling around barely coping, struggling to sit through lectures during the day and study in the evening and even worrying if I'm fit to drive. I have no idea why I am waking frequently at night but I've made an appointment with a doctor for Monday to start investigating physical causes. I know I am snoring at least some of the time and I have had another thing for a few weeks which I find embarrassing to say, I'm sort of drooling. I have to wipe the corners of my mouth, not really frequently, but even sometimes is bad enough. And a bit at night too, maybe more than I know. It seems like I must have a problem with my upper respiratory tract but I don't have a blocked nose or any other symptoms. Are the muscles in my mouth and throat relaxing too much or something? Weird and a bit scary. Anyway, I'll see a doctor.

My day includes around 6000-8000 steps but I am not doing any exercise on top of that, I just don't have the energy. I drag my feet even getting to classes or walking the kids to school. What I am more worried about is that I turn to food, fatty sugary food, in a desperate search for energy. I know that is only a short term fix with bad long term consequences, so I need to get control of that. I had junk food in the house for my daughter's party on the weekend, and then my brother-in-law left some biscuits and sweets here, and then we had Dungeons and Dragons supper, and I've ended up with more junk than I started with.

I know I should throw it all out. Last night I got the tub of leftover chocolate cream cheese frosting out of the fridge. I made too much, and was silly to keep it in the first place. I got a spoon to scoop it all into the bin. And had a taste. And stood there next to the bin, telling myself just one more taste then I'd throw out the rest, eating a bit more and a bit more. Then I put it back in the fridge. Too weak.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Party weekend


Big weekend. My daughter had her birthday party - she turned 10 several weeks ago but this year we decided to wait until school started so all her friends would be back from holidays as we've had problems with that before. The party was a huge success. Exhausting for the adults, as we spent the whole morning cleaning. I ate party food, and now have a ulcer on my tongue. I always get them if I have a lot of sugar. That chocolate frosting was yummy though (I make it myself, so at least I know what is in it. Um, quite a bit of sugar).

One thing that annoyed me was the lateness of one child's parents picking her up. The party was advertised from 2 until 4 pm. One child was picked up at 5.30! Does that seem really rude, or is it just me? I was getting worried, but the girl indicated her mother was often late. There's late and then there is late. What if we'd had other plans? They just played quietly in Jasmine's room so I guess it didn't matter, but it did to me. I couldn't really relax.

My brother-in-law stayed over the weekend. On Sunday we went to the local annual Agricultural Show. Saw sheep and alpacas and the kids had a pony ride (first time, very exciting) and watched the dog sporting events and people doing tricks on motorbikes. For the first time in my entire life I didn't get a Show Bag for myself! Only for the kids. Usually it's my favourite thing. Like it is a license to eat as much junk as you want, just because it comes in a Show Bag. Faulty thinking. But not this year. Not that I can claim any virtue in my current eating habits. Still terrible. Only the mouth ulcer is stopping me. A bit.

Uni is going really well. I passed the Biology assessment test which means I don't have to do the extra bridging classes - Year Ten Biology 27 years ago plus brains got me through! Yay. Go me. And I got 100% on the first Chemistry quiz for week 1. I've also worked my way through all the Maths modules and I feel ready to do that test (have to get 80% to be allowed to continue Chemistry). However I have withdrawn from Anatomy as I've decided four subjects is too much, and I couldn't get to the lecture for that one so it was the logical one to drop. I will do it in winter term, which is a short teaching period sandwiched between the two semesters. A bit intense, but I'll only be doing that one subject so it should be ok.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014



Back at university this week, starting my three year Bachelor of Human Nutrition (or longer than three years if I can't handle full time). I haven't had a lot of "real" learning yet, it's mostly been covering the unit outlines, talking about the assignments, safety in the Science lab, that kind of thing. And not all of my tutorials have started yet, so I don't really know how hectic it is going to be. We'll see.

Today was funny, it had been overcast all day and when I was in my Chemistry lecture in the afternoon there was a sudden violent downpour. The lecture hall is a big, brand-new building; very snazzy although I find the chairs uncomfortable (and if I was any bigger I wouldn't fit in them at all, especially not with the desk pulled up in front of me, as it is it digs into my stomach a bit. I'm a bit offended by this on behalf of all overweight people as I don't consider myself too fat for a chair and they shouldn't assume all students are willowy). Anyway, when the rain had been falling hard for only a few minutes, water started fountaining up from the side wall down near the front. I mean fountaining, literally like someone turned a pretty fountain on there. People quickly moved away from that bit and the lecturer called whoever on the phone to come deal with it then tried to go on although we could hardly hear her over the storm. Then directly opposite that wall, another fountain started on the other side. I don't know where it was coming in - maybe a grill to allow water to drain out? And then we noticed water coming in around the high windows as well (they might have been open a bit for all I know). The security guy came and looked at the fountains but not much he could do. By the time we left (the rain had stopped by then), there was water all over the floor at the lowest bit of the room, where the lecturer is at the front. Could have been dangerous with the electrical equipment, which I didn't think of until after I have sloshed through it to the door. Anyway, it livened up the lecture a bit.

I've been doing a bit of walking because the uni is quite spread out and I have classes a long way away from each other and from the car, and so far I have resisted buying any food there. But I have been eating badly at home and not exercising apart from that. Getting up half an hour early to exercise hasn't worked out, you need more than half an hour to do half an hour of exercise (to allow for shower and change). Two days I have to get up that early for uni anyway, and another day I got up and put on the slow cooker which took half an hour but did mean I didn't get takeaway that night so I guess that was a good use of my time. But I need to work out something else for exercise - getting up even earlier? (urg, really really don't like that idea), exercising in the evening (but I study then, and also I'm tired) ... I'm not trying to be defeatist, just need to sort myself out. Maybe straight after school? Or just walk around uni even more for the time being. I was carrying my laptop today as well as some books and it was hard work!

The day before my Monday weigh in I was down to 82.5 kg but the very next morning the scale had bounced back up to 83.2! So officially I gained 0.2 kg last week.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Making progress


I had assumed my poor sleep was just due to the heat but then my husband told me I have been snoring lately, which I don't usually do unless I have a cold, he had been polite enough not to mention it until I asked him. So then I got all worried about sleep apnoea. But now we are having some cooler days/nights and I've slept much better and even the Chemistry that seemed completely confusing now makes sense. No more tired headaches and napping every afternoon! So I think it is just the heat after all. And maybe a slightly blocked nose. We are going to have at least a week of cool, yay!

I did 20 minutes of dance yesterday before I stopped from exhaustion. So unfit.

My diet buddy (who has organised about eight of us into a facebook group now) had planned a walk up Mt Ainslie this morning. I have done it before with another friend, it is a very difficult steep walk - even walking back down is tricky on the knees. Good exercise. I'd said I would go but was feeling a bit resistant; partly because getting up early on the weekend seems so unfair (have to go early before it gets hot) but mostly because Jodie is both much fitter and much taller than me. I was seeing myself gasping and struggling along behind these other women and holding them back. When I've walked it with my other friend she's stayed with me halfway up then jogged on ahead and waited at the top, but I know her well whereas I only know Jodie in this group so it's a bit more embarrassing. But anyway, it was pouring rain all yesterday so late last night the expedition was cancelled. And I was relieved. But I need to get over that. I don't even know how fit these other women are - and even if I am the slowest and least fit what of it? I'll just send them off ahead and then turn around when they meet me again on the way down. Even the slowest person is lapping the one sitting at home on the couch.

We had people over yesterday afternoon. I supplied a cheese platter. And sat with it at my elbow. Mmmm, camembert. You can guess how that went. But I didn't have any of the wine!

Friday was Valentine's Day. Tim gave me a fluffy purple towel set which is lovely, and a small amount of quality chocolate which I've eaten a bit of every day. I gave him a necklace. The only change I made to the menu for the day was adding a dessert, which we only have on special occasions or for visitors.

Tomorrow is official weigh in, but as of this morning I am 0.5 kg down from last Monday, which is exactly how much I wanted to lose. I think I've exercised four times this week (and still have plenty of today left). I've still had quite a bit of "treat" food, probably every single day, but I have still eaten better than I had been in the weeks/months before that. So I have by no means done perfectly, but I have made improvements and my weight is reflecting that. I am happy with my progress this week.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tiny bit of yoga


Today I woke up and lay in bed for a while, needing to go to the bathroom but thinking I would wait until it was time to get up because it would give me extra motivation to get out of bed. Eventually I glanced at the clock. And it was PAST time to get up already! I have no idea why I didn't look at the clock earlier instead of lying there kind of wishing it was time to get up so I could go to the bathroom already ...

I didn't have time to get in a walk so instead I did my eight and a half minute yoga video. A few stretches to start the day. I really noticed the tightness in my hips. And my shoulders. And just about everywhere else. I find yoga totally boring but I should incorporate at least that mini hatha more often.

I spent most of the day at Uni. It is Orientation Week and I was expecting lots of stalls for clubs and societies and local businesses giving out free pens. They had that last time, in 2009. I joined what turned out to be a non-existent drama club and lost my $10 joining fee. But today there was one stall of volunteers ready to show people around, and one group of Christians. Nothing else. Perplexing. It was the same on Monday but I thought I was just there too early that day. But no.

I did some study in the library as didn't want to lug the huge hardcover Anatomy book home, and bought my lab coat and some other stuff. The kids were very exited about my lab coat. But as soon as I tried it on I realised I'm going to have to wear this hot heavy thing through the rest of summer. I hope those labs are air conditioned.

When I got home I planned to do some Maths study then fold those clothes that still haven't folded themselves from the other day. The internet went down when I had just started a module, and while I was giving it a few minutes to come back I fell asleep. Sitting up in my chair. For about 45 minutes.

I spend enough time in bed each night, I am pretty sure it is just the heat. It doesn't seem normal to need to have a nap nearly every afternoon. If it doesn't resolve when the weather cools down I will have to investigate further.

A bit over 7000 steps again, and under my calories (giving myself 1600 atm).

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Early feels so early


I started off the day really well, getting up in time to do my walk even though I didn't want to. I also had a super-healthy lunch: a big salad with a few slices of lean lamb and a drizzle of balsamic dressing. But the rest of my day was very sedentary, I spent the whole day working hard getting ready for Uni next week. Going over my unit outlines, reading things I needed to read before my first tutorials, watching an online video. I have to be up to speed in Mathematics to do my Chemistry subject. I was very good at Maths at school - but that was 25 years ago! 1988. My goodness. I did an online diagnostic test, which was essentially "what do you remember from high school 25 years ago?" And the answer turned out to be "about half of it". Now I have six weeks to go through a series of online Maths tutorials and then get 80% in the real test. Phew.

Total steps today just over 7000. Most of that was my walk this morning then to and from the school twice.

At dinner time I went to cook the yummy steaks I had bought only a few days ago. Monday - two days ago! And they were ... euw. Turning green. Had to throw them away. I can't find the receipt either, must be buried under yuckness in the bin. I kept the labels from the trays and I'll see what the supermarket says - four T-bone steaks is a lot of meat and a lot of money! The kids needed something before their karate class so I gave them the other half of the lamb fillet (a tiny bit each) and salad. Then later ordered pizza for me and Tim. Which the kids ate a lot of. I was moderate - two slices of pizza and two pieces of garlic bread. But it still took my daily calorie total a little over my limit. And it must have sent my blood glucose sky high - I just tested it more than three hours later and it's still over 8.4 mmol/L.

Every day I will keep trying to do better.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Up late


It turned very overcast overnight so it was really dark this morning in our bedroom, and without the external stimulus of the sunlight I didn't wake up for my walk! Damn. Nevertheless, I was busy today running various errands and darting here and there, and ended up with over 9000 steps on my pedometer so I call that a win for the day even without deliberate exercise.

Also under 1600 calories for the day, even with chicken takeaway for dinner after my daughter's dance class.

And I got through the day without taking a nap, and there is some cooler night air coming in the windows, both of which might contribute to me sleeping better tonight. So overall a good day.

Biggest thing I did today was get my hair cut. It's gone from well below shoulder-length to short. Pretty much a spur of the moment decision, I wasn't even sure if I was going to do that or just have a trim today until I sat for a while looking at the hairdresser's magazines. The main motivation was the heat, I was sick of having all that hot hair all over my neck.

Can I ask, how on earth do you take a selfie in the mirror without the camera getting in the way?

I had endless trouble. And my head looks tiny in this picture because my arms are so much closer to the mirror.

Is that any better? I don't know how other people do it so well, I kept ending up with the phone blocking my face.

I had those same bathroom tiles in the house where I grew up. Same colour and everything. I used to think that top left hand corner had a kind of dog/monster face, looking down. Side on, with the mouth and the eye.

But anyway, that is my hair. Short at the back and sides with a long heavy mop on top. So much cooler. Except for my forehead, because I didn't have a fringe before. It will take a bit of getting used to. I was really bored with the old hair anyway.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Up early


Getting up half an hour early wasn't too painful. I got dressed while still half asleep. I went out for a walk, which was lovely at first because it was still fresh and cool. By the end of 30 mins brisk walk I was hot and sweaty, but that is as it should be. Didn't like coming inside though - it felt about 10 degrees hotter in the house! It's just not cooling down much overnight.

After walking the kids to school (another 10 mins) I popped in to uni to buy my Biology textbook. It was (always is) a fair walk from the car into the "hub", call it another 20 mins including up and down four flights of stairs. So that is a total of an hour walking I did this morning! Not a bad start.

It looks like I might be doing all four subjects this term, a full time study load. They opened another Anatomy tutorial at a great time for me. I still can't attend the lecture but I will see how I go watching it online instead. Four subjects might be too much, I have until the end of week 4 to withdraw without penalty.

Next I did the grocery shopping, and I was so tired by then! Tired feet, tired body, sore hips (which hadn't been hurting me at all during the time I wasn't exercising, it feels like tight ligaments or something? Hopefully regular exercise will resolve it.). Had my banana and then went to five shops all over the centre with no success in finding the things I was looking for. Lots more walking. Finally the groceries. Lots of healthy things. You know those days when you are proud of your trolley and wouldn't mind if your doctor happened to walk past and glance in?

I had planned to cook myself a quick chicken and vegetable stir fry for lunch but I was much too tired for that; I had a cheese and salad sandwich with the beautiful fresh bread I had just bought. Then collapsed in front of the Olympics; figure skating and the luge. Wished something boring like hockey would come on so I could have a nap. It didn't, and despite the fact that figure skating is my absolute favourite, and also despite the fact I should have been studying, I fell asleep for an hour and a half. Much longer than my usual nana naps. Got the kids from school, watched some ski jumping with them, went up to the bedroom to fold four baskets of clean clothes ... and lay on the bed instead for another half an hour. Just so tired. My husband and I have both been sleeping really badly all summer.

We've moved Dungeons and Dragons to Mondays so I had to negotiate the supper table. I provided some mixed nuts so I had quite a few of those; high calorie but nutritious. I did well avoiding other stuff except for the chips. But I didn't have as many as usual, and over all I did much better than most weeks. About 500 calories total supper when often it can be over 1000. Hmm, I really need to start thinking in kilojoules instead of calories.

Over 10000 steps today!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Diet buddy

Sunday evening:

A friend of mine texted me tonight that she is starting a new health regime tomorrow (Monday always feels like a fresh start, doesn't it) and was looking for a diet buddy. I was already planning to start (again) so I said I would. She wants to lose 10kg in 2 months - I assume that is all she needs to lose, she isn't very overweight - but I am going to aim for 5kg in 2 months which I think is more achievable. Also I have 25kg to lose so I need to be in for the long haul.

I think having someone to be accountable to will help.

The plan is the basic idea of reducing junk food and exercising more. I have been very slack on both fronts all year so far. The only thing I've been doing well is increasing my water intake, and that is probably because of the extreme heat here. I've actually been really thirsty, which is unusual for me.

I've decided to get up half an hour early and do half an hour exercise, a minimum of four days a week (I have one early uni morning so not that day). And be more active on the weekends as well.

I've had heartburn nearly every evening this week, annoying. Not sure why, eating the same things as usual. And the clammy night sweats are increasing, even on cool nights. Hello peri-menopause. All the more reason to get control of my weight now. It only gets harder from here on.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Nutrition fun facts


This information is from my "Introduction to Nutrition" textbook (Understanding Nutrition, Whitney et al, 2011) which I assume is based on the latest scientific research.

1) Lactose intolerance varies widely across ethnic groups. For instance 75% of African Americans are lactose intolerant, whereas less than 10% of Northern Europeans are. As I am of English and Russian stock, and therefore one of the lucky 30% of the world who produce plenty of lactase enzymes, I shall continue to enjoy my cheese and milk without worrying that it is doing nasty things to my insides. It isn't.

2) I'm up to Chapter 4 and this won't be discussed fully until Chapter 7 so I don't have all the science behind it, but carbohydrates are important to the human body and very low carb diets have negative health consequences. My calorie counting app suggests I have around 200g of carbohydrate a day, the textbook says 50 to 100g is needed. So it's not suggesting you need to have lots of pasta every day, but it advises you to avoid the kind of very low carb diet that doesn't even let you have fruit or starchy vegetables.

3) Scientists are still learning about sugars in the body (and everything else) and one worrying new bit of information is "Cancer cells coated with sugar molecules, for example, are able to sneak by the cells of the immune system."

So, those are a few interesting things I've learned this week.

Friday, February 7, 2014

America's Biggest Loser


We don't get America's Biggest Loser here but I've seen the pictures and the controversy.

Firstly, I feel like the poor girl was getting criticised (presumably) for being too fat and now for being too thin - no matter what she does she just isn't good enough for the world. Yes she is a little thin now, I find curvy more aesthetically pleasing, but someone online said she is only 3 lbs under the "normal weight" range, which doesn't seem dangerously unhealthy to me.

Secondly, I've just watched the opening ceremony to the Winter Olympics. Here are several hundred people who have spent months or years on extreme exercise regimes and probably very strict diets, in order to do something a lot more dangerous than standing on a stage. Lots of risk of broken bones and even occasional death. Yet we don't criticise them for getting up at 5am every day to exercise and cutting out junk food, we praise their persistence and commitment. Going for a major goal can be very demanding and not necessarily the best way to be supremely healthy in your old age. But so much better (I think) in all these cases than being obese and doing no physical activity.

And thirdly, I don't know her, I don't know if she has any kind of eating disorder now. But you could just as easily argue that she had an eating disorder before she went on the show, a disordered and unhealthy relationship with food, as evidenced by her obesity. So if she turns out to have some issues now, I don't think they were caused by the show. I think it would be an existing tendency that has turned into a different channel. Like my brother, who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, started out with germ phobia and hand washing, and when he managed to supress a lot of that behaviour it burst out again into full-blown hoarding. But the winner was probably just pushing herself hard to make sure she would win.

So those are my three cents worth.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014



The kids went back to school yesterday. Jasmine is in year 5, Aiden in year 2. Her teacher is new to the school so I don't know about her yet, but very happy with Aiden's. Last year he had a stern, rather shouty teacher and he was scared of her. This year's teacher is lovely.

We are having a brief cool change here, it will heat up again from tomorrow, and I am revelling in two days of respite from the heatwave. I feel so much more alert and comfortable. And I had my first decent night's sleep for weeks.

I still have another week before uni starts. I'll be using the time to get a bit ahead on the reading. I mean, have you seen my Chemistry textbook? Well over a thousand pages of solid information. I'm trying to become familiar with some basic concepts so that I don't flounder once classes start.

Looking forward to watching the winter Olympics.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sharing a house with a parent


We visited mum this weekend, and the most important thing that came of that is that she suggested she lives with us in the near future - that when Tim gets a job in Sydney and we sell our house here she would also sell her house and we would pool the money. She isn't keen on going to a nursing home. Obviously there are pros and cons to this and it needs a lot of thinking about. And it's still contingent on Tim finding a job there, which he has already been trying to do for a couple of years without success as there are not many jobs at his level.

She is doing really well at the moment but of course the treatment she is receiving is only palliative. She is 72 and she has cancer, and might get a lot more frail quite soon.

It's a bit stressful and we need some time to think about it.

Sydney is a bit cooler than here in Canberra but a lot more humid as it is on the coast. I was really knocked around by the humidity and felt quite exhausted and ill with it part of the time we were there. Glad to be home under proper air conditioning, even if it is unbearable outside. I grew up in Sydney but after 13 years in Canberra I'm out of the habit. I have a bit more padding these days too.

I spent part of the hours in the car each way memorising the first 40 elements in the periodic table. It will be handy, and is also a good mental exercise. I'll keep adding more.