Monday, February 04, 2013
There's a song that seems so appropriate sometimes:
"Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future." (the song is Fly Like an Eagle by the Steve Miller Band)
Ah, yes, yes it does. Another month has passed and it's time to take a moment to review January and look at what I want to accomplish in February.
== January goals ==
1) Dental hygiene habit.
-- Almost, but not quite. I was consistent all the way up until the last few days. What threw me off? Once again I flubbed up my sleep schedule for no good reason. On the good side, I got it right back in. The long-term goal isn't necessarily perfection in remembering every single night - but not letting the habit drop out again - and that is going well.
2) Write 30 minutes a day.
Got this one done even on the nights I was exhausted. My production those nights was lousy though, which is just a reminder of how critical proper is to so many other goals.
3) Weight at or below 165 consistently.
-- Didn't hit it, but I am back on a downward trend and pretty much stabilized on my workout routine and eating. My current low is 166.5 and today's weight was 167, so I'm close -- and content with where I am progress-wise.
4) Update budgets for 2013.
-- I use Mint, which is connected to Quicken, to track everything and updated my budgets and even set a couple of goals for 2013.
5) Write out the questions related to Vet Tech
-- Whoopsies. This was completely forgotten in January. Definitely going to get it done in the next week or two.
6) Write out what I want with a personal trainer
-- This was semi-forgotten, but partly because I decided to postpone a personal trainer indefinitely. I'm progressively rebuilding my own routine, expanding my repertoire of exercises. I think the most important thing I've learned in the last month or so is that there isn't some perfect routine or best exercise. It's so common to see articles putting down one exercise and lauding another, to see one or another trainer promising the best results with their combination of exercises and supplements, but consistency and good form are really far more important.
So, only 2 out of 6 goals met - but in spite of that I feel like January went quite well. The changes I've made to my workout routine have been working well. I'm really liking the 4-day split for my weight work that breaks it into Upper Body one day and Lower Body / Abs the next day. I'm doing well food-wise with less of a deliberate deficit, but being more precise with my measuring. I feel good with the balance I have in doing challenges for the BLC#21.
The only thing I feel a little bad about is I've been much less active with my other teams. I've been trying to improve my work productivity, which means less time online during my work hours. That's left me a lot less active with huddling and replying to threads. Ditto for keeping up with friend's blogs, which I try to do when I can.
I have also been working on several of the by Spring goals. I got my taxes filed this weekend (whew, only owe about $40 between Fed and State - that makes me *SMILE*). I'm past 52,000 words in my novel and still writing. I'm doing lunges even if comfortable isn't the word I'd use yet.
So January may have rushed past, but I can leave it behind feeling what I did was done well.
What do I want in February?
1) Weight at or below 165 consistently.
-- I think this one will finally be met this month, even with it shorter.
2) Set up an automatic transfer to my savings account.
-- I've set a goal to build an emergency fund, but need to get the transfer set up and actually start saving.
3) Keep my streak of 30+ minutes writing daily going.
-- Don't want to break this habit. I don't honestly expect this particular novel to go anywhere long-term, but it is very important to me to finish it. I also want to really be in a routine when November 2013 comes around so I can have an outline and concept and actually do 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo on a book I feel will be worth getting revised and maybe even trying to publish.
4) Keep getting 6+ hours of sleep as many nights as possible, as close to a routine bedtime / rising time as possible.
-- I'm doing better at sleeping, even if I'm up late tonight and had the one hiccup late in January. Sleep affects my ability to make good decisions, my health, and so much more - so this has to be a priority.
February is a short month, so I also need to be really watchful with my finances and make sure I get all necessities paid. Not making a goal with that - just reminding myself.
Hello February! Now I'm ready for you.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Every weekend of the BLC (Biggest Loser Challenge) there is a challenge to help us stay focused through the weekend as that's a difficult time for some Sparkers. There's two parts of this weekend challenge that call for blogging:
1) How will your life change when you reach your fitness/weight goal? How will you feel?
Journal or Blog about it
Honestly? It won't change any more or less than it has been through the whole length of the journey. The changes are what has been happening along the way, not something that will occur at some arbitrary numbered goal.
Now, a lot WILL have changed; a lot ALREADY has changed. To look at a snap shot of when I started and when I finish, that much will be obvious. This whole process has been about looking at my life and seeing which patterns weren't working, making the changes that I wanted to make most.
The biggest change is that I'll be adjusting my calories to remove the deficit. Because I noticed I was filling in that deficit with treats, I've looked at how I want to fill it instead (more lean protein and/or adding a protein smoothie at breakfast).
I don't expect to feel notably different. I will feel satisfied to have passed that scenic point on my journey, but life isn't all about weight or fitness. Those are just two small pieces of a much grander puzzle. Before I started this leg of my journey, I was fixing my finances. It was much the same thing - yes, there was a point when I "finished" the major portion of that, but I can't just slack off and run up the debt. Most of the changes are still part of how I handle my money. I still track my budget closely. I expect to keep tracking my food. I still have bad days where I splurge more or have an unexpected emergency - both money and food - and have to recuperate.
The biggest thing I will feel, and already feel, is a great satisfaction in knowing that I ~CAN~ do just about anything I set my mind to and a joy in growing positively in my life.
2) Forgive yourself for one thing you regret in your past-write it down or blog about it
I briefly mentioned in my team's chat thread that this one would be challenging, and it is.
I don't spend my energy on regrets. When I said that, the response was to not get stuck on the word regret and just find something I could forgive myself for. Which was an interesting response to me.
When I say I don't spend my energy on regrets, this doesn't mean I don't have them at all. I regret many things in one sense. But I let the regrets go as easily as I have them, because I know the past is unchangeable and the present is what matters.
For example, I could say I regret not going to college. I'd have done well. I could have a career in something fascinating (chemistry? astronomy and physics? higher mathematics?) I could be a greater career and financial success. I could even bend that further and say I regret not figuring out a way to go to Stanford. There was a point in high school where I wished I could make that happen, even as I knew it wasn't in the card(inal)s.
However, that isn't the path this life took. If I had gone to college, it would have altered this life so completely, I might not have learned what I did, might not have had three beautiful children, might not be looking into a future as a vet tech. I'm happy with where I am now. I'm happy for all the experiences, good and bad.
So it's less about not having regrets than it is about owning every choice I've made and the results of those.
I also don't feel a need to forgive myself for putting on weight, something that was brought up. I did it on purpose for a reason that I recognize now as illogical, but which made sense to me and seemed to work as I needed it to. I forgave myself the moment I faced the illogic, the damage it was causing, and took action to change things. (The best way I forgive myself is to change what is harming me. I forgave myself for the condition of my teeth by implementing good dental hygiene. I forgave myself for not putting money aside for retirement earlier by doing it now.)
Anyway, that's why this one has been very difficult for me. I'm rather proactive, so if I ~KNEW~ I was regretting something and needed to forgive myself, it has most likely already been done. It has taken a bit of poking and prodding to find something I do regret, but avoid thinking about often.
I actually had a lot more written that kind of led me around to this.
I mentioned to my team that I was a loner, but it got taken more in the introvert sense because that's how I framed it. It's more. I find maintaining a friendship HARD. It's a lot of work, and I feel like I'm not that great a friend because I'm more likely to do something alone than think "Oh, I should do that with -friend-." Most people I know, even the introverts, if they HAVE friends then their concept of activities tend to be including those friends. Go to a club ... with friends. Go to the movies ... with friends. Go hiking ... with friends. Go to the gym ... with friends. Even if I had a whole slew of local friends, every one of those activities is one I would naturally do alone unless ASKED to do it with someone, and then might inwardly resent that I had to adjust to someone else's preferences and pace.
I regret not ever making a very real friendship that would be satisfying to ME. I am forgiving myself for being so emotionally detached and independent that I tend to only let myself get close to people who are more dependent on me, and who thus carry more of the weight of maintaining a friendship that never comes into balance. I forgive myself for being such a difficult person to be a close friend to.
Because that last is what it really comes down to. Both friendship and relationship require an emotional investment, and ability to be interdependent, and I feel somehow lacking in both of those areas. (I can perform the actions to be a good friend. I do them for my best friend. His dependence on me as friend helps. But deep down I end up feeling like a fake, like only I know that I'm not really as involved in the friendship.)
Only problem I've got now is that saying I forgive myself isn't enough. I need to take it that extra step and take action to change things. Not nearly as easy to do as to say.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
I swear the reason this was delayed had nothing to do with the fact it was the first month to ever show a gain. The 16th, my usual day for these, was the beginning of BLC#21. I weighed in at 172, which is up 3.5 pounds from the 168.5 of last month's check-in.
Then again, as I mentioned in a semi-recent blog post, I've done a bit of a change-up to work on stabilizing my eating -- one part of which is setting my SP goal to two years out rather than a few months away. This adjusted my calories to a maintenance-like range. I'm also focusing very closely on measuring, because I started looking at the number of servings some things I was buying weekly would provide. When a 416g container of almonds is gone in a week, but I've only recorded 300g or less (which wasn't easy to see because I would list it as 24 almonds, which is a serving, not the grams) I was eating notably more calories than I was recording.
I will say this much. I know my metabolism is fast. I was using that as an excuse to eat loosely like that, but the problem is that once started with the excuse, it kept expanding and being used more and more often. My goal right now is to actually see how much faster by not fudging the food tracking, so that when I put the deficit back in place, I don't put too large a deficit.
The reason for that is when I eat at too large a deficit, given my activity level, after a few days or a week, I get legitimately hungry. Once I get that hungry, eating goes way overboard. It settles back down after a day or two, but that was becoming a roller-coaster ride I didn't want to be on.
So visually there likely isn't much difference in these pictures from last month. (Well, minus the fact I had my DDa take them, so the angle is different -- normally I have the phone propped on my bed in a box and using the timer.) Here they are:
Just for fun, since DDa was there, I had put on the green shirt in my original picture on my SparkPage and the pants that fit me at my top weight. She laughed hard, called me gangsta, and took this:
Then I realized she could take this picture better than me:
Compared to before (August of last year):
I'm actually back down to 168.5 today, and that in spite of a slight calorie surplus this past week.
I did get super-whammied this week, though. I've mentioned that I almost never get sick. Well, the one exception happens when my TOM hits -AND- I get exposed to a bug right about the same time. That's the only time cold sores ever crop up, too. So all week two people at work had "the crud", coughing and snuffling. I got the mild sniffles, which touch on my throat overnight. Then my DDa kindly exposed me to her tummy bug Saturday to add to the fun. (All I got out of that was tummy gurgling - and mushy doodoo.)
The worst part has actually been a tendency for my hands to get chilled. I was running warm water over them at work ... and had bright red fingers as though I'd scalded them and very pale white hands. Thankfully I seem to be pretty much through it all and back to a normal routine.
And complete unrelated to me, just two fun photos.
This first one is a car wash that has been around since I was very young. We lived less than a mile from it. I now work less than a mile from it and walk past it regularly. It's crazy, in fact, remembering this whole area because the next block over from this was a large orchard. It is now an eBay campus, shops, and so on. There are no orchards left of the ones I remember here. (There are some elsewhere, but this entire area near where I work now got completely developed. In fact, the old canneries got turned into apartment complexes too.)
As a child, early on they would let us ride inside the vehicle. Rules changed later and we'd have to walk through the little store to get outside and watch it go through. There were always whole families of ducks, often with ducklings in the spring. There was also a small pavilion area with a control panel like what might be on the bridge of an actual steamboat. I carried on the tradition when I had a car, taking my DS and DDa along and believe they had as much fun as I ever did.
This other picture is of some sort of ??? fruit ??? vegetable ??? that my landlady had sitting on the table near my room. They were sprouting. I have absolutely NO clue what they are, but they certainly looked fascinating.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
I actually posted all the details of the challenge and what I'm doing and keeping track of my points in the super-sekret hidden Outlaw thread earlier today. However, this one action I'm making more public and expanding on:
D: DECIDE to just DO IT.
Basically we are to pick something that is holding us back and decide to just do something about it. Good timing on this one, as I've mentioned this more than once in the last couple weeks, it's not the first time I've set goals on it, and now I'm ready to face down the beast and win.
Okay, I'm tired of my own lack of cooperation on this one and have decided I am going to JUST DO IT. My sleep schedule has been deteriorating and it is affecting EVERYTHING. I need to get back to a more acceptable routine.
-- Standard bedtime will be 12:20 pm.
-- Up on weekdays by 7:20 am
-- Up on weekends by 9:30 am
-- Exceptions are to be rare and specific, such as walking DDa home and riding transit back, or going out dancing, and bedtime as early as possible after arriving home.
I've been thinking about things all afternoon and evening, and there are some expansions to the above.
Bedtime has to be when I'm done getting ready, lights out, phone off, head on pillow. Other than a potty run, nothing but sleeping or lying still.
I do have a variety of evening activities. Sparking needs to avoid taking over a lot of time. Get a realistic feel for how long things like cleaning my teeth or making dinner and smoothie and eating / drinking / cleaning up take.
Consider carrying my laptop along on my commute and getting my 30+ minutes of writing during that rather than playing an addictive little time-wasting game.
Pay attention to how long I'm Sparking. I don't NEED to get every possible point, just be reasonably active with teams and friends. (Seriously, for a long time I've been pushing for 125+ sparkpoints daily - everything but the social media ones, almost. That's gotta stop. I have more points than I use and can easily earn any for Goodies I want to give.)
I've been doing fine catching up on my webcomics on the weekend rather than feeling like I need to read them as soon as some post at midnight. Keep that up.
Finally, my inner two-year old who thinks my rules are made to be broken is just going to have to take a long nap. I know. I never took naps. Ever. (My mother took a picture of me around 6 years old taking a nap. Turned out I was sick with the mumps. Ditto for a picture of me around 11 - I think it was chicken pox.) But sleep is critical to my ability to manage everything I keep wanting to do. In fact, sleep makes my inner two-year old a much happier camper when we wake up.
BLCers! Let's meet all our goals and exceed them!
Friday, January 18, 2013
I decided it might be easier to comment further on my status(es) yesterday about flu shots and flu antibodies in a blog than to add my own replies or bounce around to several pages.
First, the source for the answer that I found was on the same site as COXBETH provided on my second status, but a different page:
This page has a lot of good information, in question and answer form, on things like how the decide which viruses to protect against and why some people will still get sick with one of those even after. It definitely has the agenda of convincing the reader that they should get the flu shot (influenza vaccination) every year, early rather than late, but looking past that at the studies and factual answers, it is possible to draw one's own conclusions.
My core question had to do with whether or not immunity to the flu viruses built up year to year for someone consistently getting the flu shot. I knew they only had selected viruses protected against each year, but would last year's shot still protect against those same viruses this year?
There's two parts to the answer. One is that the amount of antibodies in our blood goes down over time, so we gradually become more likely to get sick. The other is that viruses tend to change over time, so the "same" virus isn't really the same any more - even if it has the same basic attributes.
The point that was interesting to me is that it doesn't matter whether we get those antibodies from actually catching and fighting off the flu virus or from getting a flu shot - the protection wears off the same. Of course, most people don't want to suffer through a serious bout of the flu just to get the antibodies to avoid getting sick with it again for a while. Hence the flu shots.
(I also learned that H1N1 was in both last year's and this year's shot, which made me wonder if that was more for those who may not have gone in for the shot last year -- or because the antibodies can decline that quickly. I'm guessing the former or a mix of both.)
It is definitely possible to still get sick after being vaccinated - and they list three reasons:
1) Exposure just before or within a short time after getting the shot. (Shots aren't instant immunity - they simply trigger your body to begin producing antibodies to fight. That takes up to 2 weeks.)
2) A different virus. The shot protects against three strains. The antibodies may help protect somewhat against others, but that protection may not be complete. (Sometimes it means being less sick than one would be otherwise.)
3) Health and age factor into how well our body produces antibodies in response to the vaccination. Some people can even get sick from one of the strains that the flu shot was meant to protect against (not from the shot, but from later exposure).
(In addition to those reasons, not everyone who gets sick and calls it the flu has the influenza virus, whether one of those they should have been protected against or a different one. Anecdotal evidence lacks confirmation from a lab that an influenza virus is involved. In addition, we won't often hear the opposing anecdotes. A doctor is only going to see the people who did get sick ... and have no frame of reference in numbers for those who didn't get sick because they didn't need to come see him.)
Now, all that said, that doesn't mean we should avoid the flu shot because "it doesn't work".
ALERT: These next numbers are made up just to provide a reference. The actual numbers are probably in studies out there.
For example, if 100 people got flu shots and 10 of them got sick with an actual influenza virus within the next 8 months, that's 90 people who did not. How many of those 190 would have gotten sick without the shot? That can be a difficult question to answer. We aren't testing the healthy people constantly to see if they've been exposed and avoided getting sick; we're tracking records on those who get sick and go to the doctor.
To try to answer that question, historical data is used. If we have data that in past years with no flu shot option at least 25 people out of 100 came down sick with the flu, then we compare the 10 to the 25 and say it was definitely effective - 15 people were protected.
Back to real numbers. From a report giving early estimates of the effectiveness: "Results for the 2012–13 season indicate that vaccination has reduced the risk for influenza-associated medical visits by approximately 60%". That is similar to what HOPEFULHIPPO mentioned of the news saying it was "less than 60% effective".
It also shows very well how wording can make the same data sound like it means very different things. Approximately 60% and less than 60% could both mean 58% or 59%, but by saying "less than" the news source makes the implication that it is less than effective. Another point in the article actually gives 62% and a range from 51% to 71%. Turn it around and say "more than 50% effective" and it sounds a lot better. Facts CAN be twisted in either direction.
I'll end with the comment that, no, I don't get the flu shot and don't plan to. My reasons actually have little to do with effectiveness or lack of it.
1) I rarely ever get sick. Once a year at worst I get sniffles, touch of a sore throat, a cough if the sniffles go down my throat at night. A few times a year I might go through a day of being oddly exhausted and having chills then a quick fever. I consider those a sign that I was exposed to something and my body did its job and successfully fought off the infection. Getting sick with symptoms is when it doesn't fight it off as quickly and efficiently. My immune system is in good order tackles any virus I don't manage to avoid through simple precautions of washing hands, etc.
2) I'm not around very young children, the elderly, or anyone considered at a higher risk. Being a carrier could be a concern if I was, but I'm also vigilant about the times I feel off to avoid exposing others unnecessarily.
3) My own personal belief system is that one develops and maintains a strong immune system by BEING exposed and fighting things. I have kind of a twisted take on evolution which says I want to survive current things because I'm fit to do so. When studies say we evolved to be certain ways, my thought is that our changing and adapting doesn't end at some past point in time. I'm not living in the world of my evolutionary ancestors, so I don't need to alter my world to mimic theirs -- I need to be fit to survive in mine.
And just maybe a small part of it is reminiscent of my vaccination history as a child. My parents abstained for religious reasons in the early years. I had the mumps, I had the measles, I had chicken pox. The religious reason had to do with the way the shots were made at the time, in that they included some blood components - and Jehovah's Witnesses very firmly hold to a "no blood" rule - not eaten, not transfused, and not entered into the body in any way, including shots. I was around 10 when they believed the shots to be "safe" in those religious terms. I got the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) shot and wondered why on earth I needed it when I'd already had two out of three ... and neither of those bad enough to really need protection from. (LOL, for the mumps the main thing that happened is I took an afternoon nap - such an unusual thing for me that my mother took a picture.)
So, there you have it. Definitely don't auto-reject the idea of the flu shot over the presumed lack of effectiveness. Greater than 50% is actually a pretty good number in terms of people who don't get sick who might have otherwise, and the less than 50% who "get sick anyway" would have ... just that ... "got sick anyway". (It's like a seatbelt or a motorcycle helmet, in a way. Does the fact that some people still die with one on mean they're not effective? Not at all. They do save many lives. Even saying that, I'll still say no to the shot, but I do it knowing the risks involved and making a conscious choice to face them.)
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