Category Archives: health

Healthy Living Checklist, Part II

A month ago I posted my Healthy Living Checklist. I just wanted to post an update on how I’m doing with it.

  • Exercise at least cardio 3 days a week – Done
  • Eat Right – Done
  • Vitamins – Was done and maintaining
  • Sleep Better/More – Done
  • Reduce Sugar – Was done and maintaining
  • Reduce Salt – Done
  • Reduce Artificial Sweeteners – Done
  • Drink More Water – Done
  • Reduce Caffeine – Done

All of my items are in full swing with no real effort. It’s no surprise that my jogs have been easier this year. I think the most significant change is my sleep. I’ve been feeling a lot better since getting at least 7 hours. I used to get between 5-6 hours a night. The most challenging is the salt, but it’s hasn’t been too bad at all.

Healthy Living Checklist

In my last post I mentioned a “healthy living” checklist. I don’t really have one, well until now I guess. Over the last few years I’ve been tackling one at a time. Some I’ve been on-again/off-again with, but enough discipline has started to set in so that some are permanent. The goal being all permanent of course.

Here is the list:

Exercise – at least cardio 3 days a week. This is what I’m doing the couch to 5k program for. My goal is to start more higher intensity interval training. Hopefully I get to that by September. I’m also going to work in some resistance training.

Eat Right – Try to make each meal count. I don’t think I’m too bad in this area, although my diet isn’t really well rounded. I can definitely eat healthier (more fruits and veggies) even though I don’t really eat unhealthy things.

Vitamins – This goes along with healthy eating to some degree, but can be mentioned separately. I’ve always taken multivitamins and have taken omega 3 fish oil for a long time. Recently I’ve upped my vitamin d intake. I like supplements as they fill in the gaps missing from my overall diet.

Sleep – This is something I can improve on. I got at least 6 hours a night, but my bedtime was sporadic. I would also get into the habit of hitting the snooze button a lot. My goal is to get 7+ hours in, to go to bed at a set time, and to wake right up.

Sugar I’ve been good at avoiding excess sugar for the most part for a long time. Now I even water down some “no extra sugar added” juices because I’ve become accustomed to how things are supposed to taste (not obnoxiously sweet).

Salt They say most people have a weakness for either sugar or salt. I never ever crave anything sugary. But I do with salt. I know I eat an unhealthy amount. I have been cutting back without missing it too much.

Artificial Sweeteners I’m going to cut this out all-together. Let others debate the risks. I don’t want to find out years later that it has really been unhealthy all along. Plus like I mentioned under sugar, I’ve gotten used to (and prefer) things the way they’re supposed to taste.

Water I can’t believe that this is something that I have to be mindful of, but it is. As last year’s C25K posts can attest, getting enough water can make or break a workout. Plus the documented health benefits are not even debated. I have a Brita filter at home, and when I get bored of plain ole’ water, I drink Poland Spring’s flavored sparkling water.

Caffeine Probably not bad in moderate amounts, I was by far going well beyond moderate amounts. I quit cold turkey a few weeks ago. Mostly because I felt like my energy was out of balance. Plus I really don’t like anything having a hold of me like the caffeine did. It took 4 days for me to get over it. Now I don’t really miss it. Although I did have some decaf with cake this weekend. I might start drinking some green tea, which has about 1/4 the caffeine of coffee, in very small amounts to get the health benefits of the tea and the moderate amount of caffeine.

Fruits and Vegetables (added 6/14/11) – Get enough fruits and vegetables daily. This can fall under “eating right” but making sure to get enough fruits and vegetables needs to be on it’s own as it’s been a challenge my entire life.

Eat as whole as possible  (added 10/18/11) – Where I can, I’m making an effort to eat as “whole” as possible. This is more than only cutting out artificial sweeteners (mentioned above), but as many mass produced/manufactured foods as possible. I have to pick and choose here. I don’t want it to become a frustrating (and expensive) task, so I’ll stick to “when possible.” For example, I already switched peanut butter to a brand where the ingredients are… drumroll… Peanuts and salt. That’s it. Not 20 different artificial ingredients like the big brands have.

Incorporate the following foods (added 12/8/11) –  Eggs, garlic, green tea, turmeric, and probiotics (probiotics through sour kraut, olives, pickles, or supplements).

Don’t be afraid of fat (added 5/28/13) –  Eat nuts (almonds, walnuts), avocados, dark chocolate (85% cocoa), etc in moderation. It’s ok if 30-40% of daily calories come from healthy fats.

That’s all for now.

Another Cold

Man o man. This is my third cold since August. That’s after going over a year and a half without getting sick at all. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s from my weight loss efforts. This is a pretty weak cold though. I was on top of it (extra hydration, sleep, vitamins, food). This also means putting jogging on hold until I’m all better. I may be able to go tomorrow, but I’ll have to wait and see.

Back Spasms

I’ve been dealing with back spasms for years. But for years, I didn’t know they were back spasms. I get them in my upper back (either my lats or traps). Mostly my traps. The thing with them is, it affects my neck more than it does my actual back. For years, throughout high school, college, and a few years after, I never nailed it down. I thought I simply got stiff necks. They were sometimes brutal and would last a month if not more.

After college, and during probably one of my worst episodes, I saw a doctor, who was useless. He simply told me to “take it easy” and prescribed muscle relaxants and pain relievers. Neither worked.

I then saw a chiropractor. He was more of a witchdoctor in my opinion. He explained subluxations and energy flows. Needless to say, that was useless too.

I had tried hot/warm showers, Ben Gay, heating pads, etc. Nothing worked.

Eventually they would go away. But only after they would take their toll on my quality of life.

Then it happened. I was sitting at my desk at work one day and it felt like someone had stabbed me in the back with a knife. Right on the inner side of my shoulder blade. And low and behold, my neck became stiff. Prior to this, I guess they would come on during sleep, because I never felt it start to manifest before.

I was able to reach my hand down my back and touch that spot. There it was. It felt like a tight knot. Each press of my finger brought on a little relief, but not enough to get it to go away. At least I found the root cause.

I had then researched it some more and found out about trigger points. I believe a little bit of everything. There are a lot of quacks online, especially in the massage/homeopathic area. There was once an excellent diagram of trigger points online, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere amongst the quackery out there. I trusted this diagram, because it mapped out exactly where I felt the pain come on, and exactly where it affected (the neck area).

This was a major discovery.

That day at work was still brutal, despite my discovery. But on my way home from work on the train, I forced my back (especially the spot) into the back of the seat. It kind of brought some relief. The whole way home I couldn’t wait to get the wet heating pad working on this spot. See, prior to this I had the heating pad on my neck—in the wrong spot.

I got home and made sure to get myself comfortable, remote in hand, phone in reach. And I just laid on the heating pad for hours. Yes hours. It felt relieving (which was a breakthrough), but definitely not the cure. Yet. It was at some point near the hour and 45 minute mark that I felt the muscles in the spot start to twitch. The twitching got less and less intense the more I kept the heat on it. They soon went away entirely.

This is the point, which I tell my wife to this day, where the “edge” comes off. There is still a lot of discomfort, but it’s far more tolerable. But it’s not completely over yet.

A few more heating pad “sessions” usually does the trick. Usually hours apart. What used to be a month or more long ordeals now get ironed out in a few days. They also seem to have gotten less severe. Light ones I can usually “iron” out in a day. More severe episodes (like the one I’m still fighting now) and last 3-4 days. Again, with the severe edge off after the first heating pad treatment.

That said, I’ve researched it a bit, and through trial and error and careful evaluation, I’ve found any of these can trigger my back spasms. Of course the more combinations, the more likely I’ll get one:

1) Falling asleep on my couch, which is soft and offers no back support.
2) Drinking too much caffeine. Sometimes I feel other muscles twitch if I over do it.
3) Stress. I have a somewhat good handle on stress, but sometimes it can get the better of me.
4) Being run down. From lack of quality sleep, or colds, or running around too much.
5) Being dehydrated.

I probably don’t have the best posture when I sit, which probably doesn’t help, but those 5 seem to be the culprits.

I have since been able to avoid them for the most part. But once they come, I know how to manage them. Which I’m so glad I found out how.

I never got this “officially” diagnosed, but I’m certain muscle spasms is it. I’m good at putting 2 and 2 together and sorting through the legit vs. garbage online to come up with extremely likely causes. Like how I diagnosed my own gall stones, much to the disbelief of a misdiagnosing doctor (not the same one who was clueless about my neck). I’ll write about the gall stone diagnosis too. And my ever lessening respect for a lot of doctors.

Haven’t been sick in over a year and a half. Knocking on wood.

Can’t help but notice Facebook friends’ statuses filled with illnesses. It got me thinking back. I haven’t been sick or even had a cold in about a year and a half.

I’m sure not commuting by train anymore helps. I used to think of the train as a giant germ infested petri dish. I don’t get myself run down with stress. I get an ok amount of sleep. I eat so so, I guess. I take my super duper vitamins from my company. Maybe a little luck too? Maybe my immune system is like a force field. I AM knocking on wood big time.

Just my random Tuesday observation…