Category Archives: health

Poorly Does It

I am poorly. It sucks and I hate it. After many years of battling chronic illnesses in Type 2 Diabetes and High Blood Pressure and for the most part winning, I now find myself at the mercy of the battle between my own body and tiny, tiny creatures. At least, I’m assuming there are tiny creatures involved. Could be lack of tiny chemicals too. Or a combination of both. So despite being at the peak of my good health I am laid low.

Suffice it to say, I feel like crap and have done on and off for the last few weeks. At first, I was putting it down to increased exercise. Or the change the in the weather perhaps. Something to explain the intermittent light-headedness, evening fatigue and occasional headaches. Perhaps it was the overdoing things at the weekends, I thought.

But alas, after one of the most underdone weekend I’ve had in a long time, the symptoms persist. And that meant engaging with the Canadian health system.

So, Canada has a reputation for having a world class health system. And in a lot of ways, it’s pretty good. Certainly in comparison to the country directly to the south. But it has its issues too. Like the fact that it’s nigh on impossible to get a family doctor and if you are lucky enough to get one (which I was due to my aforementioned chronic conditions), it doesn’t mean you can make appointments at a moments notice. Leaving you at the mercy of the walk-in clinic system.

The walk-in clinic system works as follows. Get up at 6.30am to be at the clinic for 7am when the doors to the building open. There is already a small queue at this time. Head up in the elevator to the clinic itself and wait until they open the doors at 7.30am. A sizeable queue will have formed by this time so it’s important to get there early. Once they open the registration desk, you register (assuming you have a medical card – if you don’t, you’ll have to go to a private clinic instead and fork out a ton of money). The doctors come on duty at 9am. Which, even if you’re the first in the queue means you will be seen at 9.20 at the earliest.

Quite the fun times. Thankfully, the clinic I go to also has blood testing facilities in the same place so if you have to get tests done you can get them done in the same visit (again, only if you have the medical card, otherwise you have to go to the hospital and pay cash). And then you wait. For a week or two weeks. And they’ll only call if they find something. Woop. Nothing stressful or anxiety inducing about any of that.

Anyway, I’m just complaining cos I’ve spent the morning in the clinic and I’m not feeling myself. Hopefully it gets sorted soon.

Toodles,

Mush

Because I’m Appy

I found an app recently. Well, I regularly find apps but this one is particularly useful in the land of a healthful Mush. It’s called “MyFitnessPal” and I discovered it via a recommendation from Fitocracy.com. It’s basically a food and exercise diary to help a person be mindful of their biological inputs and outputs. Previously, I had build myself a calorie counter using a Google docs spreadsheet but it was a bit of a chore. This app, on the other hand, has a lot of nifty things built in to make keeping track of nutrition much easier. 
First off, it’s very easy to add food to the diary. You can manually add items or you can search for them in the database of foods. Or even better than that, you can scan a product’s bar code and it will bring up the nutritional info for it. Which is pretty neat. Every time I scan something, I feel a little bit closer to the future. And it’s not just for counting calories, but also for capturing a more detailed picture of nutritional intake, including what percentage of carbs, protein, fat etc you’re ingesting with every food type. This is helpful because maintaining a healthy diet is not just about base calories in and out, but also the type of nutrient in question. So that’s kinda cool. 
Warning! App usage may result in sexy tux wearing!
The app allows you to specify your current weight and a target weight and gives you prompts as to how many calories you need to be taking in to achieve that as well as the balance between carbs, fat and protein necessary. If you have a particularly good or bad day, it will give you a projection as to your weight at the end of your goal period if every day was like that. So, for instance, I had a particularly Mushful weekend involving a wedding and recovering from a wedding. The app told me I’d be 3 kilos heavier than I am currently if I kept that up for a few weeks. So that’s nicely incentivising. 
There’s a facility for adding exercise as well, which is nice because it takes that into account with the projections and gives you a more holistic picture of your state of health. The other thing as well is that you can ask the app to remind you to prompt you to update the diary after every meal so that you don’t forget to log your progress. A gentle nag in the right direction is necessary at times I find. 
Best of all, the whole thing was free. I’ve been using it for most of a week so far and I’m getting good use out of it. Sure, there’s a bit of effort required initially. But as you go along you can build saved meals so that if you have the same meal again in the future you don’t have to add the individual items again. Super handy. So yeah, if anyone else is trying to get on top of their food intake, I’d heartily recommend the MyFitnessPal app. Not sure if it’s available for Android devices but it’s certainly a nice addition to my iPhone (and I’m not the only one as you can see from this review: http://uk.pcmag.com/iphone-apps-reviews/5599/review/myfitnesspal-for-iphone). 
Later, 

Mush

Recycling

Hello there lovely people. It’s been a while. Nearly three months. What can I say, I’ve not been inclined to put fingers-to-keyboard for a blogpost in quite some time. But I’ve been struck by the blogging muse and thought I’d pop some words up here on my humble little corner of the Internet. 
I did something today that I have not done since we moved from Donnybrook Cottages to Bracken court over 3 years ago – I cycled to work. It’s been on my mind to give it a bash for sometime but I hadn’t felt physically or mentally prepared for the effort. Last night, though, I convinced myself to give it a try. And I gotta say, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. I’ve been a bit of a gym bunny for some time now but I’ve felt the need to do something a bit different as well. Since I’ve been back at work after the Christmas break (which was fantastic and lovely in so many ways thanks to a wonderful fiancé and a trip to my fabulous sister and her family in Derby) I’ve been doing my best to shed the Christmas poundage. I’d racked up a few extras and I was tipping the 16 and 3/4 stone mark for the first time in a long while. 
But a new year brings new impetus and motivation. My friend JP has been playing a blinder in UCC’s version of Operation Transformation so he was a definite inspiration. Plus my sister Fiona gave me a good plan for exercise and eating well to get me back on track. I’ve been keeping a food diary and hitting the gym and pool 5 to 6 days every week since the middle of January. I’m back down to between 99 and 100kg (which is where I was last summer when I was at my lightest) and I’m on course again with Operation Mushformation. I’d be happy getting down to 90-95 kilos but that’s a bit off yet. 
Me last summer at my lightest in a long time. 
I’ve enjoyed myself plenty over the weeks and I haven’t starved myself, even managing to throw in a few nights out here and there. But the key is tracking what I’m putting into my body and keeping an eye on the impact this is having weight wise. Weight is still an imprecise indicator of health but it keeps me going in the right direction. 
So with all that in mind, I decided to take it a step further and give Daurice the Yaris a break for a while. It’s Baurice the Bike’s turn to get me from A to U, C and C during the week. And with one day down, I’m confident I can get through another day. One day at a time of course but so far so good. I have unfortunately rediscovered saddle soreness. But it’s not so bad that I won’t do it again tomorrow. My commute home took me 30 minutes this evening and that included getting off the bike to walk up some of Donnybrook hill (which was one of the things that was most daunting about the prospect of getting back on two wheels), which is better than the time it used to take me when I was two stone heavier but living at the bottom of the hill. 
And now tis dinner time. With a side of Supernatural. 
Later, 

Mush

Breaking Grand

So it’s been a while since I had the wherewithal to put finger to keyboard and tap out a blog post. July and August have been grand old months full of lots of fun times and shenanegans. Nothing of a jaw dropping nature but a whole load of short amusements of varying natures. 
Yaay for weddings! 
July kinda flew by in a whirl. Was out of action gym wise due to a banjaxed shoulder. Add a wedding, some work dos, some nights out with the lovely himself and it was not the greatest month I’ve had since I started Mush 2.0 last May. August wasn’t much better (although I at least managed to ramp the exercise back up), but a naming ceremony (for which I was celebrant), a visit from my little brother from England (for which I was host) and a trip to Clare for a good friend’s wedding (for which I was delighted participant in the celebrations) have taken their toll. Disappointed the over half a stone has crept back on and while I’m glad I made the most of my summer months, I know I have a job a head to undo some of the summer loving. 
Seriously though, I love this shirt. And I got to wear shorts for a good chunk of July! About time damnit!
Still, I am full of determination to have a quiet enough September. The exercise regime shall be driven up a notch and I still plan to be 14 and a half stone by the end of the year. The gymming is finally going great again. Weights are fun, and I feel all primal and shit when I lift all the things (and put them down again). Sure, it’s been a bit wearing on the muscles to begin with but I think I’ve gotten a handle on that. I’m never gonna be Arnie but having a bit more muscle mass won’t do me any harm. Over the winter there will be a lot more trips to Dublin due to a certain lovely man’s impending commencement of study. I’m intent on not letting these trips get the better of my waistline. And I’m looking forward to getting to know the big schmoke a bit better (and having a personal guide for when I do visit). It’ll be tough not sharing a house together like we have for the last three years but I’ve no doubt that we can handle it. If we could get through Rome for 11 months, I think we can manage Dublin for 9.  
Just a sign I saw on an office door at work. It rings true it has to be said. 

 On a completely unrelated note, how good is Breaking Bad, eh? Fantastic television and worth the Netflix subscription. I’ll say no more except I enjoy the hell out of it and you can’t go wrong with investing the time in the 5 seasons if you haven’t already.

I am the one who knocks (and who is also slightly worried about his hair line). 

With September beagnach upon us, I’m feeling energised. The nights are drawing in, but I’m looking forward to a quieter, contemplative autumn season. I’d like to get a bit more writing under my belt too. Trying not to talk about it too much, though, and just get on with it. Anyway, sure that’s enough out of me. Let me know how you are!

Found in a pub in Ennistymon, Co. Clare
Later, 

Mush

Weigh Hey!

I declare June a success! Fitness Mush has been recalibrated, the gas pedal duly pressed and full steam ahead on the “Lose More Weight” express. According to my scales, I am just shy of a half stone lighter than I was at the start of the month. I am now clocking in lighter than I was when I ran the Cork City Marathon in June 2008. A helluva lot lighter than when I completed five triathlons in 2010. And just under 5 stone lighter than I was in May 2012. 
I’m lighter now than I was in this picture. Also my hair is better.
So yeah, it’s been a success. While I had lost some poundage after Christmas, I’d been plateauxing around the 16 stone mark for a couple of months. No excuses really, I was just not being as focussed as I needed to be. I wasn’t putting it on, but I was also enjoying myself a little bit too much to actually lose any. But some rededication to the cause has seen a payoff certainly. I headed to the gym with renewed vigour at the start of June. Armed with a proper weights programme, I’ve changed things up. I’ve also been more strict on the eating and drinking side of things. Sure, I’ll still have snacks at the cinema, and a square or two of chocolate every now and then, but a break from the booze and the heavier junk definitely helps. Of course, I know I will have my treats every now and then (there are a few pints in the offing tomorrow night as I catch up with one of the lads home from Boston), but the focus is back. 
Gardening is also good for the body. Sweated buckets trimming the hedges yesterday. And that was on top of an hour and a bit in the gym…
I’ll never give up the nice things. I enjoy my chips and crisps and pints and burgers. But I have a better handle on them now. In fact, I enjoy them so much more now that I don’t have them as often. I can appreciate them when I’m having them and know that I don’t need to stuff myself to the gills. The world is not going to run out of fast food so I don’t need to eat it all in one go. And I’m enjoying the gym again, what with all the pushing and pulling on weighted levers and stretchings and liftings and what have you. I feel stronger. Fitter again than I have been in a while. 
Also, this is a really sweet book. I highly recommend it.  Brilliantly evocative. 
A quick update really. I find it helps to mark the achievements (and acknowledge the slippages when they occur). Plus I’d committed myself to blogging a bit more, so having something to shite on about does help get the words down on paper so to speak. And now I’ll leave you with a fabulous song from In The Willows (officially released on Friday) called Rowing Boats. I think it’s great. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-0C10-OroU
Later, 
Mush

Reboot

It’s about a year since I got my diagnosis of type II diabetes. And a couple of weeks since I got the results of a 2nd round of blood tests that confirm that I my hbA1c is in the normal, non-diabetic range. Which pretty much means I don’t have type II diabetes any more. I think that’s pretty good progress, even if I do say so myself. 
Me over a year ago
There have been a lot of positives about the type II diagnosis. The weight loss (between 4 and 4  and a half stone, depending on how good I’ve been), reduced cholesterol and improved fitness have all been brought about because diabeastliness was not for me. If you’d have told me a year ago that I’d be back on track to full health and vigour I would have found it hard to believe you. But as it turns out, I’m a remarkably stubborn person when I want to be. Who knew? 
So yeah, it’s been an incredibly positive year. I’m consistently fitting into clothes I haven’t been able to fit into in years. I can move much more freely, and generally I’m just a fitter, thinner, lighter, happier person. I have found myself slipping a bit though. There hasn’t really been any weight loss since March, just fluctuating up and down between 16 and 16 and a half stone (although to be fair it’s more consistently around the 16 stone mark than the 16 and a half stone mark). I had allowed myself to take the foot of the gas a bit and enjoy an extended Easter holiday, a trip to Scotland for one of my best friend’s weddings and a few work social nights during which the dog may have been slightly done. And in those recent blood tests, my cholesterol is still a bit high (although my blood pressure is under far better control now). 
Me about a month ago. Same t-shirt, different Mush. 

And so it is with renewed vigour that I hit the gym and divest myself of the niceties. Well, not really divest, but it’s time to be a bit stricter with myself again and to put the foot back on the healthiness pedal. I’m looking forward to a booze-lite end of May, start of June to get things motoring again. One thing’s for certain I’m not going to let myself get into the position I was in this time last year, slowly damaging my organs and reducing my life expectancy. I’ve got myself too much for which I need to stick around to let me get into that state again. 

Later, 
Mush

You Don’t Make Friends with Salad…

…But you can make a decent meal with one. When you’re trying to watch what you’re eating, a salad is a nice way to get a meal in that’s not gonna break the calorific bank. It’s hard to mess up lettuce and a few other veg. In fact, the simpler the better – lettuce, peppers, grated carrots, thinly sliced red onion. Throw in some cold meat and a bit of cheese and you have a very well balanced meal. 
The key to flavour in the salad is getting the balance right between the different ingredients. You don’t want one flavour to completely overwhelm the rest. A nice mix is key. And a good dressing. In the past I would have said that a good dressing couldn’t taste great and still taste good. But you pick up a trick or two here and there when you absolutely have to make sure your dressings are not going to kill you nutritionally. 
One of the basic principles of a dressing, I’ve learned, is a mix of acid and “fat”, for want of a better word. You can still achieve this with low fat ingredients though. Low fat natural yoghurt is a surprisingly effective replacement for mayonnaise or olive oil. A splash or two of a nice white wine vineger, some garlic powder, some pepper and a small scoop of dijon mustard and you have yourself a tasty dressing. Or you can use balsamic and English mustard instead if you want a stronger flavour. You have to shake it up well though to emulsify the ingredients.  
For the “carb” a nice wholemeal bread (not too much) works a treat. Satisfying and low cal. Well reasonably so. It will of course depend on some of your other ingredients. Like the cheese. And the bread. Those are the two biggest calorie culprits in the salad above. And of course, healthy is not just about calories but also about sugars, salts, fats and the other nutrients you put into your body. 
Later, 
Mush

Weigh Station

Christmas was about 2 months ago and as many of you will remember I had hit the magic 4 stone weight loss mark just before the holidays began. It was an incredibly heartening achievement to hit and meant that I didn’t feel a whole lot of guilt when enjoying myself over the break. 
Enjoying Christmas
Following the break I think I’d put on about 5 pounds over all. Not a huge amount in the large scheme of things but enough to be getting on with. It meant that I had a good bit of work to be doing once I got back to the regular routine. I have to admit it took me a while to regain the exercising mojo but I was back to swimming most mornings not long after the new year. Getting back into the gym swing was another matter. So things were taking their time, and the Christmas pounds were slow enough in coming off. There was still progress every week, mind, just not as much as I was used to. 
Enjoying Post Christmas – back to 16 and a half stone
So the Christmas weight had come off by the start of February. The gym was starting to look a bit more attractive, so a few weeks back I headed in again to the machines and weights. And it’s paying off again, as I knew it would. Friday’s weight in saw me down another full half stone. 7 pounds plus the Christmas 5 mean I’m now 4 and a half stone lighter than I was in May last. So things are back on track. 
Look! A journey metaphor! 
Of course, as always, there’s more to lose. Another stone and a half would have me down to 14 and a half stone. This is my target weight. A bit lighter wouldn’t go astray but I reckon if I can get there by this summer I’ll be doing very well. We’ll see how it goes. If I don’t get there by the summer, I’ll be disappointed but it won’t be the end of the world. The main thing is to keep up with the lifestyle changes – eating right, exercising more, not living like I’m 21 anymore. Getting there will be a challenge but not an insurmountable one. And certainly one that I relish achieving. 
Later, 
Mush

Early Rising

Since I went back to work after the break, I haven’t been ready to face the full gym experience just yet. At the same time, I’m not willing to let myself fall back the old habit of doing nothing. So I’ve made a deal with myself – I don’t have to go back to my full gym routine until next week as long as I go for a swim every morning before work. 
Of course this unfortunately means getting up in and around the 6.30 mark. The whole point is to leave for the pool early enough so I have enough time to get there, get changed, swim at least 40 lengths and be up on campus in UCC by 8.15 so that I can get parking. So far so good on that front. But the early waking is a bit of a trial, it has to be said. Of course, there is an added advantage of being guaranteed to be at my desk before the official start of the day, but it doesn’t make that first alarm any easier. I’m kind of looking forward to going back to gym actually so that I can manage to have a small bit more of a lie in on the days I’m not swimming!

Not taken this year, but the mornings feel like this sometimes…
Not that I’m really complaining. I’m just happy I didn’t put on too much weight over the holiday period. I think overall, I’m up about 5 pounds. After two weeks of being particularly good to myself, it could have been more. Even though I had exceeded last year’s target weightloss, I didn’t want to completely do the dog on it. And I’m ready to move up a gear next week. So a few early mornings will be worth it in the large scheme of things. 
And as a reminder as to why I am doing all this, before Christmas, I had some blood tests done to check my numbers and see how my diabetes is going. The main indicator of Type II diabetes is your HbA1c number (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycated_hemoglobin) which gives an indication of the amount of sugar in your blood stream. The blood tests are done while you are fasting so a high number after this test is something to be taken seriously. Back in May, my HbA1c number was 56. Non diabetic is anything under 40 (healthy range is 20-40). My number before Christmas was 36. So, simply put, I am now back in the non-diabetic range. I don’t want to declare myself fully non-diabetic just yet – I need to see if I can maintain that number when I come off the medication. But it is certainly heartening. 
2013 is off to a good start. Just gotta keep it going. 
Later, 
Mush

Christmas is Coming…

…And while the goose might be getting fat, this Mush certainly isn’t! At my last weighing, I’ve lost a grand total of 3 and 3/4 stone, putting me at a still considerable (but not as considerable as last year), 16 stone 10 pounds. To put it in context, I am now a full stone lighter than I was when I did 5 triathlons 2 years ago, but 10 pounds heavier than I was when I did the marathon 4 and a bit years ago.
Me, Stephen’s Night 2011
I have to say, this makes for a very happy Mush coming up to the Christmas festivities. My original goal was to be down just over 3 stone this year, and I’ve well and truly achieved that. I’m fitting into shirts I haven’t been able to wear for years (one shirt I wore out recently fits me better now than it did when I bought it) and some of my belts are now not fitting me cos they’re too big. These are all things that I was resigned to never achieving this time last year. The diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes was a real blessing it would seem as it has given me the kick up the arse that I needed to get fit and healthy again. 
Me a couple of weeks ago
Gym wise, I’m hitting the machines at least 3 times a week, and swimming every other morning. So not only am I corporeally reduced, my actual fitness levels are so much improved compared to where I was at Christmas time last year. And I’m actually looking forward to seeing people without the accompanying low level shame that I felt last year. I was very conscious of how big I’d gotten when we had our ten year college reunion but I feel so much better about myself this year. I know this is a bit of a rambly, happy, clappy post but gosh darn it, I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. Yes, I shouldn’t have got myself into the state I was in, but I’m definitely glad to see that when I put my mind to something as mammoth as dropping several stone I can do it. 
Yaaay Christmas!
So next year is looming and I still have a way to go to reach my target of 13 and a half stone. I’m still managing the diabetes, so it’s very much still a part of my life but I feel like I can get there. Get to a stage where it is no longer a problem for me. It would be wonderful to be at a place whereby the diabetes was gone, but one step at a time. Having said all that, I’m actually looking forward to the January sales and maybe picking up something in a reasonable size this year! 
Later, 
Mush