Exercise and healthy eating

Fighting diabetes by making good choices

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults have obesity. Being obese is defined as a health issue, not a personal flaw. There are good reasons for that. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.


The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. in 2008 (the most recent published study I could find) was $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

It isn’t any surprise that obesity is linked to over consumption of sodas, high fat fast foods, and most of the processed foods you pull off the grocery shelf, coupled with sedentary life styles. Everything you read indicates the trend is to eat more and exercise less. In the name of convenience we load up our grocery carts without spending five seconds figuring out what we will be putting on our family’s dinner plates or in their lunch boxes. Convenient rarely adds up to healthy.

According to reports by the National Institute on Health, obesity in the U.S. has soared from four percent to more than 34 percent in the last 50 years. In an age when we can have whatever we want if we’re willing to work for it, the one problem we can’t seem to solve is obesity.

Some analysts project that in 20 years the cost to taxpayers for obesity-related illnesses will exceed $550 billion. Why? Because many of those who overeat unhealthy foods are in lower income brackets. They live in urban areas considered food deserts where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is limited. Fast food and convenience stores dominate the landscape. Even though many chain restaurants, like McDonalds, offer healthy choices, the big sellers continue to be fat and salt loaded burgers and fries, served with high-sugar sodas large enough to bathe in.

There are those who say, “People who eat too much have a choice; nobody is holding a gun to their heads to force them to eat a bag of chips instead of an apple.” Perhaps, but only if you can find an apple to buy. Yes, self-restraint is up to the individual. The reality is a generation of people who grew up on super-sized everything from burgers to Big Gulps. One eight-ounce serving of Coke may have only 97 calories, but the double or triple sized version has double or triple the calories. A single serving of chips (and what that constitutes varies from brand to brand) might be listed as 150 calories, but if you look closer there are 24 servings in a bag. Multiply that out and see what you get. How many times have you sat down to eat a “handful of chips” and before you know it, consumed half or more of the bag? This, by the way, is the very reason I rarely buy chips. The allure of that salty goodness is too hard to ignore, and allure is what the food manufactures are selling, from the packaging to the fat-laden contents. The more you eat, the more you want. Remember the commercial that challenges the consumer to “just eat one,” followed by the assertion that no one can eat just one? The hidden message is, “Eat all you want.” When we trick ourselves into believing the bigger version is just one serving we’re paving the road ahead with poor health and bigger waistlines.

Food and beverage congGetty Image - webmd.comlomerates do have an interest in nutrition, I’m sure, but their bottom line is to sell you and me on buying more and consuming more. The consequence is a surge in the number of people — young and old — with health problems. Children 11 and 12 have the arteries of 45 year old men, and many are showing symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Efforts to control behavior through legislation are doomed to fail. Fighting obesity requires moderation in consumption, better food choices, regular exercise and a commitment to good health. The added benefit is a longer life.

Despite being in a rural area, Las Vegas (New Mexico) is not a food desert. Most people have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Whether that is the choice made is another matter. San Miguel County has a high rate of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in a state that ranks number 10 across the country in that category.

Living a healthy lifestyle is a personal choice. There is plenty of help for those who want to take charge of their well being. Whether you are tuning in to an exercise video on or trying out the Mediterranean Diet, making good choices will lead to better health.

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Wow, Do I Feel Great!

Feeling Good!

Honestly, I think there must be something wrong with me. A week out from major surgery and I feel fantastic! The cautionary guidance from my doctors indicated I wouldn’t feel like doing much for at least two weeks (maybe more). In truth, I’m feeling strong and raring to go. A twinge of discomfort now again, and ibuprofen on those more twingey days, but I’m glad to say my recovery is moving along rather well.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be following medical advice and taking things slow for the next four or so weeks; it does mean I’m not going to allow myself to go bat-poop crazy staying home and doing nothing.

Of course I’m not idle. In fact, I’ve gotten some writing done and intend to do more. I’ve also read several books including Craig Johnson’s latest Longmire, An Obvious Fact, Ladies of the Canyon by Lesley Poling-Kempes, Die Like an Eagle by Donna Andrews (funny lady), and Blood on the Tracks by Barbara Nickless, a Colorado writer. As you may have guessed, my reading habits are a little eclectic.

I plan to do reviews of one or more of these books and maybe Q&As, depending on my attention span and my ability to reach the authors.

So, on to my topic of the day: My Adventures as a Patient
Five things I learned from my recent surgery and hospital stay:

Surgery, knifely done (Okay send in the pun police!)
I don’t remember much – make that anything – about the surgery THANK GOODNESS. I do recall that everyone was thoughtful and kind from the minute we found our way to the surgical waiting room at UNM Hospital on Tuesday at 6 a.m., until I left on Thursday at around 2 p.m. Dr. Carol Muller and her oncology surgical team are the best. I knew from the get-go that I was in excellent hands. My advice to anyone being treated for any type of illness that requires surgery or a hospital stay, trust your medical team. It relieves you of stress and in most cases, speeds up healing. ABC News reported in July that an optimistic attitude can do wonders for a patient’s recovery. The report cited a Canadian Medical Association Journal article about  researchers who reviewed 16 studies that looked at patients’ attitudes toward health. The studies spanned 30 years and looked at patients’ attitudes after surgery.

No room for you…?
There was a bit of hiccup getting into a room following surgery. I spent more time in recovery than I would have liked, but Casandra, the surgical nurse with me throughout the afternoon, kept me updated and compassionately cared for while I waited. I could have been a grumpy Gertrude, but that’s not my style. Yes, I did wonder why a room wasn’t “reserved” for me since I was scheduled for surgery, but a hospital isn’t a hotel. Rooms fill up for reasons that have nothing to do with the surgery schedule, discharge is delayed for reasons beyond the patient’s (and sometimes the doctor’s) control, and protocol requires a thorough cleaning before a new patient moves in. Plus, UNM Hospital is one busy place! As it turns out I was mostly two of the Seven Dwarfs, Dopey and Sleepy, so it didn’t much matter where I was :).

Food for thought
Hospital food is notoriously unappealing. I’m not sure it’s the food; it is more likely a consequence of having no appetite. My meals were certainly edible; I just couldn’t eat. There are two reasons for that: one, I couldn’t sit in any way that would allow me to eat without dribbling food all over myself. Come on, people! Can’t someone design a table/bed/bibb that will keep more food in your mouth and less falling down your gown? Or am I just clumsy? Okay, forget the last point. I am clumsy. Totally unrelated to this post, the Sunday before surgery I dropped the collection plate at church. On. The. Floor!

Now, where was I…

Two, I simply was not hungry, which on one morning was really disappointing. They served the most delicious French Toast Casserole I’ve ever eaten! So why couldn’t I eat it? That appetite thing again. Two bites and my tummy could take no more. Boy, I wish I had the recipe.

Nurses and other staff are underrated
You may think you and your roommate are the only two people in the hospital. Get real. The wing I was in had a number of rooms, all of them double occupancy, and all of them full. I don’t know how many nurses, techs, and other staff are on any given rotation, but I can tell you they are all busy all the time. Some patients are more demanding (or their needs are more demanding) than others. Despite all that, I never felt neglected and the care I was given was compassionate, timely and personal. I wish I could remember all their names, but I hope my behavior and “thank yous” let them know how much I appreciated being treated as more than a job.

Getting out
The prediction was a three- to four-day stay in the hospital. I think I beat that by a day, mostly because no matter how well you are treated by compassionate caregivers, there is no place like home for recovery. That doesn’t mean the discharge process will move along in quite the way you want it to. If I have a complaint it is that – at least on the day I was discharged – the place was a madhouse overseen by Alice in Wonderland. It is hospital policy for patients to be taken to their “rides” by wheelchair. There were four discharged patients (on my wing) at the same time I was released and only two wheelchairs available. My husband had been sent to get the car. I was put on “hold” waiting for the magic carpet to arrive. Let’s just say the timing couldn’t have been worse. Bob was in the patient pickup area (which was jam packed with cars and patients coming and going) about ten minutes before I finally said, “I’m leaving,” after having already sat there for at least twenty minutes.

Hospital staff: “You can’t. We don’t have a wheelchair.”
Me: “My husband is waiting for me, I’m leaving.”
Hospital staff: “But we don’t have a wheelchair.”
Me: “I can walk!”
Hospital staff: “It’s against policy.”
Me: “My husband is waiting for me, I’m going and I CAN WALK!” (Okay, I make it sound like I was yelling, but I wasn’t. I said if quite nicely, but firmly.)

After a bit more back and forth, they agreed to let me walk with a tech at my side. This was a bit of a joke. The tech who volunteered was a veteran who took my arm and the bag of hospital crap I had to take with me, but the aide (or whatever you call the person whose job it is to take you down in a wheelchair), intervened and said, “No, no, that’s my job.” She did not take my arm, carry the bag of meds and other stuff I was discharged with, or ever once look at me (she was too busy looking at her text messages). Aaargh!

Chaos reigned when we got downstairs. The aide (based on my descripton) did spot my car and pointed it out to me, and then turned around and left as I walked briskly across three lanes of slow-moving traffic to get to the car. Some old fart – excuse me – nice old gentleman with an attitude was yelling at Bob for blocking traffic even though he was clearly in the area posted as patient drop-off and pick-up!

All-in-all, my hospital adventure was positive. Getting to my car after the fact, not so much. That in no way detracts from the care I received, which I attribute to my continuing speedy return to wellness.

Thanks Dr. Muller, your team, UNM Hospital, and my wonderful husband, family and friends.

I would add that getting from here to there is the direct result of Lacy Houdek of Meadow City Clinic, Alta Vista Regional Hospital, and Dr. Manske in Santa Fe. All of these medical specialist were responsibile for detecting my cancer and expediting treatment.






Woman to woman, okay? And men, too

Sharon Vander MeerBy the time this posts, I will be in the midst of an operation, or in recovery. This is by way of telling every woman to be alert to changes in your body and unusual occurrences for which you have no reasonable explanation. Don’t wonder if that worrisome anomaly is something to be worried about or not. Make an appointment with your doctor and let her or him help you understand whether it is something that needs further treatment.

My anomaly turned out to be cervical cancer and the recommended treatment was removing stuff from my body invaded by this sneaky beast. Fortunately, it was caught early – partly because I have a history of this cancer in my family so I was on the lookout for signs, partly because I’m more scared of what I don’t know than I am of what I do know. The medical team is top notch and I’m confident the next time you see me I’ll be pretty much back to what passes for normal in this upside down world we live in. Okay, maybe not normal, but on the road to recovery.

This message of medical follow-up isn’t just for women. Men are the worst for putting off going to the doctor. It may “be nothing,” but whatever your symptoms are may be “something” that can be treated when caught early. That seems to be the key in the successful treatment of most ailments. Early detection.

I read the other day in a post from Max Lucado, that if you want to put life in perspective, make a list of all the people who will be affected by decisions you make. He was talking about life-altering decisions like cheating on your husband or wife or doing drugs or relying on alcohol to get you through life’s trying times. That same philosophy can be applied to putting off taking care of your health. Make a list of all the people who will be affected if you choose not to seek the advice of a doctor when you know you should. The sicker you are, the more difficult and costly it will be to treat whatever ails you.

Listen, I’m not trying to over-simplify diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes there is nothing you can do, but if you have symptoms and ignore them, you help neither yourself nor your family.

I take part in an online prayer ministry and I’m surprised when people say they’ve been “feeling bad for months,” but are afraid to go to a doctor and find out what’s wrong with them. Their prayer requests may be for healing or for the problem to simply go away. What I pray is that they will let go of fear and beat a track for the nearest doctor or health clinic.

I am a believer in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. I have no fear of surgery. I trust the medical team taking care of me. And I appreciate prayer. It works. It heads the list of the best medicine has to offer. So, say a little prayer for my speedy return to wellness.

 I’m stock piling posts, which will appear on a schedule during my recovery. I love to hear from followers and subscribers, so please comment, like and share.