Thursday, June 1, 2017

Quitting the Gym... Again Again

That's not a typo: this is the second time that I have voluntarily called it quits on my gym membership.  Before I had my child, I didn't have a membership because I was commuting a lot and had discovered the wonders of home workout videos.  Prior to that, I had access via work, though really, I was running outdoors a lot and didn't really need it, anyway.

After I returned to work post-baby, I didn't work out for a while trying to balance everything, and I quickly started a new job.  Once I got comfortable with that and was pumping fewer times at work than when I started, I joined the gym because I could use it during lunch hour -- my only break during those hectic days.  By then, I was about six months postpartum and was only working out randomly at home sometimes.  I think I went to the gym about three times a week after that point, which was gold.

As time went on, I started working from home more because I was transferred to a different department, and I found that less commuting meant I could make more time for workouts.  My son grew older, and now his care during the day went from very inconvenient to extremely convenient.  Ironically, I only made it to the gym once or twice a week.  I think it was because I had made significant progress in my little "home gym" project and started to use that out of convenience.  However, around the same time, I got into heavy lifting more, so I justified keeping my gym membership just for that.

The gym has been critical to me for two things besides weights.  First, when I do come into the office, it's convenient for me to go very early to beat traffic and go to the nearby gym before work.  I wouldn't be able to shower at home because that would wake everyone (yeah, ugh...).  Second, since my kiddo is still very attached to me, sometimes going to the gym was the only way I'd get a workout and shower in without being noticed.

After my first year of gym membership, I got an e-mail saying that my rate was going up, at which point I said I would get a squat rack and quit the gym.  That didn't happen.  Now, another year went by, and I recently got this:

As your partner in fitness we are proud to support your fitness goals, and we would like to thank you for being a member of [GYM]. We work hard to provide you with quality services, facilities and amenities that enable you to get the most out of every workout.
To ensure we're able to continue to meet your needs, your membership rate will be increasing by $1.57 per month. Effective July 2017, your new monthly dues rate will be $XX.XX plus applicable taxes. We do our best to keep your rate as low as possible while delivering you the best fitness experience at a great value.

Although I thought I was getting a good deal initially, this was the second raise in two years, and who knows how many will follow?  The gym was not improving at all.  Equipment was still down too often, showers mediocre, and it was still too crowded for me to do what I wanted all the time.  So the next day after I got the message, I called and cancelled my membership.

Where does this leave me?  Well, I know I didn't mention it here, but several months ago, we finally took the plunge and got a treadmill for our garage gym.  While I tend to run outdoors when I can, "The Ukrainian" often prefers the treadmill, and this opens up running during off-times.  I've tripped too many times in the dark to trust myself from being that hardcore, plus, we live in an area where coyotes and other wildlife have been seen.  Having an indoor treadmill also helps with cardio warm-ups for other workouts I might do.

I won't be able to work out anymore on the days I come into the office.  I'm still trying to figure out what I'm going to do about that.  Maybe I will just do a lot of walking on those days, do some resistance training at my desk, or maybe even try working out at the home gym without showering??  Same for times when I need to get away -- I just need to work around my toddler's needs and maybe go without showering more often.

I still don't have that squat rack, though I think that is in my near future.  It would pay for itself in about three months of not paying gym dues and another three months for the barbell.  We have a smaller barbell that I can use for training in the meantime.  Money isn't exactly an issue, but it's the principle... the same one that got me to quit the gym in the first place.  Plus, I primarily do workout videos, anyway.

Anyway, I don't think this is going to be a huge deal, but if anyone in a similar position is thinking about quitting the gym, I thought I'd provide my perspective on making this kind of decision while still staying committed to regular exercise.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Walking Science Experiment


Since I'm all about controlling my blood sugar these days, I spend a lot of my time planning out my food, discovering new foods, and looking at the ways I react to certain foods.  This post is a random list of what I've learned so far.

  • As I mentioned in my last post, although my doctor told me that spot-checking my blood glucose levels wouldn't be useful at the level that I'm at, I have found that it has been a huge help.  So thank you, Amazon, for selling affordable test strips.

  • In my last post, I also said that rice is a no-no.  I did a second test where I had just HALF a cup of brown rice, along with other things in a meal (protein, fat)... unlike last time when I had white rice in isolation.  Yet still, it did seem to raise my levels, so now I'm pretty much avoiding rice altogether.  This is useful information.  I've read that basmati rice might be an option since it's lower glycemic, so that will be the next test I do.  Yes, it sucks... being Asian-American... rice is huge.  I've been eating riced cauliflower and quinoa instead for now.  On that same thread, I suspect Japanese food will need to be limited since it contains a lot of "hidden" sugars.

  • Pasta seems to raise me a bit, but at a more manageable level.  I don't eat pasta very often to begin with, so this isn't super useful information, but it's good to know I can pick at some without ill effects.

  • I haven't done too much testing on sweets (baked goods in particular) yet, and the main reason for that is because a) I've found many alternatives to sweets (more on that later?), and b) I find that eating sweets begets cravings for them.  The first month after my test, I was pretty strict about my sweet/carb intake, and although I had a rough period where I craved things, that passed, so I don't want to trigger them again.  Now, there have been weak moments, mostly when we are at events, where sweets have not spiked me since I just nibble and eat other things with them.  This is good news.

  • Finally, I ate a lot of yogurt, some of it sweetened, in the past year, so I wanted to see if this was what was contributing to my poor results.  Well, I finally got the courage to test this (those Fage Crossovers are the BOMB), and nope... it's not that.  Very good to know, but I'll be saving those for treats since again, the sugar within might beget cravings.

  • I have switched to sprouted and einkorn (primitive wheat) bread, which I tolerate well, but I haven't really eaten other breads yet.  I will be sure to test other breads as I try them, but honestly, the sprouted breads are so tasty.  Bagels are a monster -- I'm not sure if I will test those or not, unless I get really desperate.  I used to love bagels, but it was another one of those items I cut in recent years since I have long known how carb-y they are.

  • Back to the first bullet-point, my advice is to take charge of your health.  My doctors have not addressed my test results and probably would not until I plunge into full-blown diabetes.  They cared when I was pregnant and cared about my son when he was born, but otherwise, we are kind of on our own.  I think this is typical of doctors as a whole and not just mine, likely because of costs and limited understanding of these types of things.

This is very preliminary, but aside from rice, I think that if I just spread my carb intake throughout the day, I might be all right.  It does make me wonder why my official numbers have been high, but maybe it was more related to timing than anything else.

I should add that a few months into moderating my carb intake, I've felt pretty good overall.  Yes, there are rough days, but overall, I think I have a little more energy than before.  It does kind of burn me out to put so much thought into tracking and timing and testing.  For example, if I've eaten a smaller meal and get hungry shortly after, I can't eat again until it's time to test my glucose levels if I'm testing a good.  Also, going out is more complicated, and I find that's where I'm making the most "mistakes."  I'm hoping all these things get better with time, and this close tracking/monitoring period is going to be temporary until I knock the training wheels off.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing if I can move the dial back, but along the way, I'm doing something good for myself.  Perhaps this is all just one of those veiled blessings.

On the note of blessings, Happy (early) Mother's Day to those in the motherly roles in life!  Mothers make the world go 'round!  Although I typically don't really celebrate myself on this day because we're busy celebrating the older generations, I'm so lucky to have so many to celebrate with right now.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Diabetes, part 2

This is NOT a topic I had wanted to come upon again, yet here we are.

In a post that I linked above, I talked about my unexpected run (hah) with gestational diabetes and how this is something that is now underlined in my medical history.  Last year, I vaguely mentioned that my yearly follow-up test didn't go in the direction I had wanted, but I figured that this was a function of a lack of sleep and its associated effects on my hormone (and carb consumption) level.

Now, I had not been perfect throughout life, leading a high-ish-carb existence as many do.  However, after pregnancy, I got used to eating a modified diet already.  I pretty much quit eating candy because somewhere in my mind had an apprehension of that.  After nursing, I stopped eating oatmeal and fruit in the morning in favor of Greek yogurt, eggs, and protein powders/bars.  In this past year, I've had boba drinks (a cultural staple, ha ha!) maybe twice, and I always get them "half-sweet" or even unsweetened.  My Starbucks orders were 1 pump or sugar-free, and I don't even go nearly as often as before.  I tracked my intake for months as well.   I don't get out as much as before and to top that off, work from home mostly now, so access to baked goods, sweets, and any of my other beloveds went way down.  Physical activity hasn't really ever been a problem because I've prioritized exercise as my "me-time."

So this is kind of how my test results have been over the years:

  • Pre-pregnancy: Unfortunately, was never formally tested, but all worksite biometric screenings (random blood sugar pricks) came out fine.

  • Very beginning of pregnancy: Normal A1C (average blood sugar over a 3-month period) result, which leads me to believe that I did not have blood sugar issues prior to this point.

  • Last third of pregnancy: Majorly failed glucose tolerance test and controlled diet for remainder of pregnancy -- from my glucometer, I did see I had a legitimate issue controlling blood sugar after eating certain foods/amounts.

  • Two months post-partum: No tests done on me until this point -- A1C went up by .1 from initial pregnancy number, 2-hour glucose tolerance test (the "gold standard" test) passed, worksite biometric screening was fine

  • One year post-partum: A1C went up by .1 again, now at "pre-diabetic level," although worksite biometric screening went fine

  • Two years post-partum (present): A1C unchanged

Although there was no change from last year, I considered this present result a blow because I couldn't rationalize it (aka., blame it on lack of sleep) at all.  But I guess rationalizing it doesn't matter.  I could tell myself that A1C tests can be off (by as much as .5), but it doesn't change the fact that I had legitimate issues controlling my blood sugar for a period and have a huge elevated risk of diabetes in my future.  I don't know if it's a matter of "when" instead of "if," but I don't want to go down that route.  I got a taste of life with diabetes and know far too many who deal with it regularly.

I'm back to micro-managing my intake.  I'll track for a while until it becomes habit and take controlled breaks from tracking, but I think I will need to keep breaks to no more than a month just to be sure I don't veer off.  I even started doing random blood glucose checks since I still have my meter and found cheap-ish strips on Amazon.  My doctor would not write a prescription since she said my "prediabetes" (quoted) was minor.  Uhhh.....  One night recently, I decided to eat a measured cup of rice for dinner with nothing else, and... holy post-meal glucose!  That, to me, justified everything I have been doing.  I had lots of issues with rice and beans when I was pregnant, so it was no surprise... though still shocking... to see a number that high.  Another hour later, it did go back down, so it does seem like whatever is going on is abnormal but not so abnormal that a doctor would jump -- though they should!

Just as when I first faced this while pregnant, I was very "woe is me," but after these couple of months, I feel this is an opportunity for me to be healthier and address things like the endless cravings I am used to having.  Back to the whole rationalization thing, I've accepted things and am not overly embarrassed anymore, because whether any of this is my fault or not, the end result is the same -- eating less of the things I shouldn't, anyway.   While I can blame my old eating habits (since I have no family history), I know there are plenty of people who eat worse and have no issues.  But regardless, again, blame won't change anything, so I can only just accept full responsibility for myself from this point on.

Sorry for the wall of text and the TMI.  I think this post is a backdrop for reviews I do here and on YouTube going forward, and maybe there's another in-between person like me who might be able to relate to all of this.  Stay tuned for some follow-up posts about what I've been doing and my progress.  I will be formally tested again in the next couple of months, so let's see what happens.