Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

Archive for the ‘Walking’ Category


It’s been a pretty full few days.

I had a dinner group meeting at Teresa’s, a favorite Polish restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, on Friday, 3 February. Due to the cold, it was a small group, but a pleasant evening was had by all.

Tuesday, I got some real movement in taking back my life – both literally and figuratively. I already had a dentist appointment for mid-afternoon, due to a loose tooth (more about that later), so I did one of the scariest things I could think of…I scheduled a beginner ride at the Peloton Studio in Chelsea (140 West 23rd Street, between Sixth & Seventh Avenues). Mind, I had bought a Peloton bike a bit over a year ago but ended up being too sick to use it for more than one ride. Also, I was having trouble with getting the shoe clips into the pedals, even after I bought toe cups so I could use regular sneakers with the bike. Well, my neurosurgeon cleared me to use the bike last week, so I figured I should go to the studio and they could show me why I was having issues with the clips. While I was on the phone with them, I asked if they had any really gentle classes, and explained my situation. The young woman I spoke with noted that they had a beginner ride on Tuesday at 1:30, but that I should come earlier to set things up. I did so, with the roomie accompanying me to watch my stuff and to make sure I had help after the dentist if I needed it. I got to the studio, signed in, had a studio account set up for me so I could book rides there when I want to, and spoke with the manager, who had a few concerns about my condition, which I was able to allay. I also was able to show her that I was flexible enough to bend from the waist and touch my toes while standing — something I hadn’t tried doing since the surgery.

Anyway, she decided to let me try the ride, and I’m thrilled that she did. I lasted for 15 of the 30 minutes, but I was able to raise the bike’s resistance from a start of 0 to 2, and get my cadence up to 85. I probably could have pushed through for the second half of the ride, but I had promised my surgeon that I would go slowly and not overdo it. Still, it felt so good to be back on a bike – even a stationary bike with my feet clipped in so I couldn’t fall off! I know I wasn’t going full bore, but it still felt like I was flying! Even better, I felt like me for the first time since before the heart issues happened! I would have even tried walking to the dentist (I had the rollator with me), but the roomie’s hip was so bad she was stopping every ten feet or so. When she apologized for holding me up, I just said to heck with it and flagged down a cab. It felt odd to be walking faster than her while using the rollator, but I think it means that I am making real progress to getting my walking back. Now if only they were not predicting heavy snow for tomorrow night into Friday…I would gladly try walking out for more than a couple of blocks. Oh well, I will get there in good time.

My Weight Watchers coach, the much-beloved Robert, recommended an app called Headspace to me a few weeks ago. I tried it, and love it. It’s a ten-minute-a-day mindfullness app. I highly recommend the free version to everyone. Further, if anyone does try it and likes it, feel free to add me as a buddy there.

Another free thing I came across in my Internet wandering is The Yoga Summit. One of the interviews there was by a woman named Danielle La Porte, who somehow resonated with me despite being about half my age. I checked out her website and blog, and decided that I wanted to try some of her methods.

So, things are starting to look positive again, for the first time in a very long time.

 

 


As most of you know, there are three measures by which I know I’ve taken back my life from the health issues of last year: walking, cooking, and blogging. Slowly – far too damned slowly – I am doing all three.

Yesterday, I went to a most excellent housefilk at the home of some friends. Not only was I able to sit up for the whole thing, but I was able to get the rollator up the front steps to their building by myself (normally, Sue or Marc drags it up the steps, while I use the banister to haul myself up)! I was also able to walk to the car after the housefilk, and survive the car rides to and from Josh and Lisa’s place. I was even able to walk around their apartment a little without using any support at all.

But that’s not today’s accomplishment. The roots for that actually go back to a job I had from 1977 to 1987. Back then, I worked for Rialto Management Company, a small real estate firm in midtown owned by Ruben Shulsky. One of the best parts of that job was the little kosher meat restaurant across 30th Street and halfway between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. It had no name, but had some of the best food I had ever eaten. One of my favorite dishes there was cholent – a beef/bean/barley stew. Cholent is one of those things observant Jews eat for Shabbos lunch, because it can be started on Friday before sundown and kept on the top of the stove over a very low heat until they can turn the light off after sundown on Saturday. Well, I loved that cholent, but not being an observant Jew, I didn’t know how to make it. Over the years, I asked observant friends and looked on the Internet for recipes – and there were some interesting ones – but they never quite tasted like the cholent from that restaurant. Cholent is one of those things where everyone has a slightly different recipe, usually learned from their mom.

lucys-cholent-picA few months ago, an acquaintance of mine posted about cholent in an APA we both belong to (AWA, or A Women’s APA). I asked for her recipe, and she posted it in the following collation. I started it yesterday after we got home from the housefilk, and when I tried it for lunch today it was exactly the taste I remembered! I even put it into the Weight Watchers recipe calculator and discovered it’s 5 Points Plus per 1-cup serving, which is not bad for a meal! Without further ado, here is the recipe for Lucy Schmeidler’s cholent, as written in AWA:
Lucy Schmeidler’s Cholent

1 – 1 1/2 lbs lean beef, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium large Idaho (russet) potato, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 – 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
6 – 10 baby carrots
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2″ slices
1 4-oz can mushrooms
1/2 cup pearl barley, soaked
1/2 cup navy or small white beans, soaked
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp minced garlic
Cooking oil
Water to cover
3-qt heavy pot

Friday morning: Brown onions in oil. Add meat, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, celery and water to cover. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. (Deb’s note: We did this for about an hour. Also, since the roomie is allergic to mushrooms, we made it without, and when she had taken what she wanted, I added the mushrooms and reheated it thoroughly.) Add barley, beans, seasonings and more water to cover. Cook covered overnight over low heat without stirring. Serve for Shabbos lunch.

So, I want to thank Lucy for helping me solve a  – to me – 35-year search!

In other “taking back my life” news, my surgeon says that I am doing amazingly well – far better than she had expected. I went to lunch with the roomie to a place we often order from over on Emmons Avenue, the Opera Cafe. The food was excellent, as always, and it was good to get out. I’ve also started up the fannish dinner group again, although we have been sticking to places in Brooklyn so far. Future plans include maybe doing a Monday night dinner so the Kosher Krew can join us, and possibly some weekend brunches. There are just too many great places to eat around New York City. (And if anyone reading this is in the area and wants onto the list for the dinners, please leave a comment, email, or otherwise message or call me. I’d be happy to add you to the list. Attendance is not mandatory at all; all I ask is if you are joining us on a given week, let me know in case the group for that week is big enough to need reservations.)

 


Yeah, I know – it’s been way too damned long since I’ve posted. Life does that sometimes.

Somewhere around March, I realized that I had fallen into a pretty bad depression. The weight gain, the impaired mobility, the inability to get the MRI I needed, the loss of several relatives and friends all served to hit me pretty hard. I started working my way out from under, and have been coming along slowly but surely.

One thing that helped is that I have been getting more social again. That started with the 25th anniversary party for two close friends. Two adventures lie therein, btw. The first was finding an appropriate gift for our friends, which entailed a trip to Eichlers, a Judaica store on Coney Island Avenue. Being a Sunday, parking was a pain, and we ended up parking around the block from the store. The Ex held my arm as we walked there, and the kind store staff found me a chair to sit on so I could catch my breath. We got the couple a lovely Havdallah set. The second was the saga of the lock. The morning of the party, I got up, got dressed (a beautiful long dress from Holy Clothing), and was checking my email when the Roomie came in and told me she couldn’t unlock the front door. I went up front to check, and sure enough, it wouldn’t unlock. Called the Landlady, who was in the Poconos. She called her dad and sent him over, so we cleared enough space by the front window to hand out our keys so he could try to open the door from the outside. No luck there. Next step was that we removed the doorknobs so we could try to manipulate the mechanism from the inside. That didn’t work.I was beginning to think I’d have to climb out the front window to get to the party. Called the Ex, who was also going to the party, and he came by. We got the Landlord’s dad to open the side gate, and the Ex came to the back door to try to push my bed forward by pushing the door open. To do this successfully, I had to try to move the 140 lb. Peloton exercise bike that sits in front of my bed. Not fun, but somehow I managed to do it. Marc got the door open enough that I could climb over the bed and out of the apartment.Then it was down some stairs, up the alleyway, then up a bunch of stairs. We got to the venue, and it was down some more stairs, which was a bit much, but I made it. The party was lovely, and while I was out the Roomie called a locksmith, and had the lock replaced properly. So we now have a properly working lock.

Since then, I have been out on several Friday dinner missions, a Saturday mission that included a book party, then a walk of about three blocks (2 half-avenue blocks and one street block) to a local ramen place we like and knew could hold a large group, and a Passover Seder that included a climb up stairs and down the same stairs. Pretty good for a mobility-impaired person who also has sciatica. In fact, these days, the sciatica is more of a problem than the heart is.

Today was my three-month cardiologist checkup. He was delighted with my blood pressure (132/80), and even more delighted to find my heart murmur has gotten a bit softer. Best of all, at some point – about three weeks ago – my ankles stopped looking like grapefruit and have started looking like ankles again. My left ankle is totally unswollen at this point, and the right one is so slightly swollen that you have to really look to see it. The legs are unswollen, too, which is nice. I also had a bit of a walk – the car service missed the turn at East 27th Street, so I had him drop me at the corner of my block, and walked the one-third of a block to my house.

I’ve been doing the Weight Watchers Simply Filling plan since the end of March and have lost 20 lbs. so far. I still have a long way to go, and I’m still annoyed that I have to do this all over again, but I can be annoyed and be working on it or I can be annoyed and doing nothing about it…I’d rather be the former, so that it gets done. I am taking advantage of their coaching program, since I was able to book my coaching sessions with my favorite lecturer. At some point, I will be able to get around enough to go to meetings, but for now, this is working, so I am happy about that.

Anyway, that’s about where things are for the moment, so I’ll be heading off to eat breakfast. Talk with everyone again soon!

 

 


Okay. Just got back from the cardiologist, and here is the latest.

I am not the ideal candidate for open heart surgery, or even for the ablation.  We already knew that. My age, my weight, yadda, yadda…

The other problem is that I am presenting oddly. For one thing, my heart’s septum distortion is 15. Normally, people with the amount of disability I’m having present with a much higher distortion. For another, the relatively small amount of drugs I am getting are slowing my heart down to 55. So they cannot presently give me greater amounts of drugs because there is a risk of slowing my heart down too much. Dr. S. has found a surgeon for me, but the surgeon has the same issues that Dr. S. and I both have about me undergoing surgery at this time.

The current plan, therefore, is to set up an MRI to doublecheck the amount of distortion, because there is a possibility that the echocardiogram under-represented that. Dr. S. is also changing out the 25 mg of carvedilol (twice a day) for 50 mg of Metoprolol (twice a day). After we get the result of the MRI, he will possibly schedule a CAT Scan of the head, neck and chest to see what is going on with my voice. Once we have those ducks in order, he will likely have a pacemaker put in, so that he can give me larger doses of some of the meds. My next few weeks will clearly be filled with doing some internet research, and making up some more questions to add to the list I’ve been keeping.

I know that caution is warranted. I know that I’m really glad my doctor is conservative in his treatment plans. But, dammit, I really want my life back. The problem is that, given how un-ideal of a surgical candidate I am, the big risks with open heart surgery are that a) I might not survive the surgery, and b) I might not be incredibly functional afterwards because of the issues that make me a less than ideal candidate.  Dr. S. and I both agree that if stubborn were the major thing I need I have that in spades, but we also know that open heart surgery — especially when it means shaving off some of the heart wall as well as fixing the valve — is a big, damned, risky thing.

Meanwhile, I’ve been dealing with it about as well as possible. Marc, Abby, and a host of other folks make sure I get out of the house at least once a week, so I don’t just sit and obsess about how little I can do. I have been taking on as much work as I can, because work is always a good distraction. I’ve been reading, and even logged back into a couple of social games on Facebook, so that I’m not becoming too isolated.

I know I need to lose weight, but I am having trouble getting over myself and doing what I know works. I’m really resentful that I have to do it all over again. It took me two years to do it last time, and I was healthy and could walk a lot then. The gods know how long it will take without my being able to walk the way I used to. Honestly, the weight depresses me more than the heart issue. I was born with the heart issue and could not have done anything about it, because – until it triggered – no one even knew it was there. The weight – well, I’d lost most of it before I crashed and burned, and then, when I couldn’t go walking anymore, it all came back. So now I have to do it again, without the one exercise I love best in the world. I really need to get over myself, and go back to Weight Watchers, or at least start doing it at home or something, but I am just so frustrated about the whole issue. It’s the one whole part of this thing that makes me want to run away and hide. I’m trying to figure out how to get myself back to doing Weight Watchers, because I know that if I don’t go into it committed to doing it and doing it right, I will half-ass it and just be setting myself up for failure. And that’s the one thing I don’t have the option to fail at this time.

So, that’s where things are at right now. If any of you who know me well enough have ideas on how I can get over myself and get my ass back in gear, please let me know. Every day I can’t manage to do it makes a real difference at this point.


It’s been an interesting week. I saw the cardiologist on Wednesday, and we discussed where to go next.

It seems there has been a shift in the field away from doing the surgery I need, which is called a septal myectomy, towards doing alcohol ablations. Unfortunately, while ablation is certainly the less invasive of the two procedures, it won’t allow for dealing with some of the issues that have arisen as side problems, such as the now enlarged heart compressing something affecting my vocal cords and breathing.

My cardiologist is trying to find a surgeon who does the septal myectiomy in enough numbers that he can be confident enough to set up a consult for me. He is not getting the answers he wants at his hospital, so he is going to be taking the next month to look for surgeons in various other places. The downside is that this may mean I need to travel to another city to get the procedure done.

While he does that research, however, I will be reading up more on both procedures, and will also be trying to lose a bit of weight. We are not going for any spectacular drops here – my mobility is pretty limited. However, Medicaid has provided me with a rolling walker (rollator) with a seat, so I should be able to start getting around locally, at least. I am not happy with the idea of trying to get something as wide as I am on and off public transit yet, but I have no problem with walking around the neighborhood with it to get used to it.

The rollator arrived yesterday, and I got the arms and backrest set. I would have taken it out for a spin today, but the weather has been threatening to be very nasty. Also, before I go running around with it, I want to acquire a coupe of short bungee cords, so that when I need to collapse it, it will stay collapsed – something that will be important if I want to go to restaurants, or on busses with it. Still, the rollator will allow me to start getting a bit of mild exercise, which will help with the weight loss.

One reason, we want to try a little weight loss is that I was discussing my experience with weight loss with the cardiologist, and the results that occurred the last time I was able to lose a large portion of my weight. If we can cut out some of the medications that had to be increased when I gained the weight back, maybe we can lower the severity of some of the symptoms. Certainly, whatever weight I do lose will make it easier to get around.

Unfortunately, my sister does not seem to understand that all open heart surgery is not the same. She keeps insisting that if he called a particular hospital near her, they would do the surgery in a few days. I have tried to explain to her that the open heart surgery that is most commonly done, the bypass and or stents, is not the open heart surgery I need to have done, but she keeps insisting that the problem the cardiologist is having is finding a surgeon who will do it while I am on Medicaid. She refuses to get that there has been a shift in what the field considers to be the right way to treat my particular issue.

My cardiologist knows that I have not written off the idea of ablation, but that I agree with him that the septal myectomy would allow for a more complete treatment of the issues at hand, including repair of the malfunctioning heart valve.

Fortunately for me, my sister doesn’t get to make the decision as to what course I will pursue. However well meaning she is, she does not understand that just because a hospital does a lot of open heart surgery, it doesn’t mean they do the particular surgery in the numbers that would make my cardiologist feel confident.

So, for now, I get to sit and wait.


Since I live on the outer edge of Brooklyn, often seeing friends involves me traveling either to downtown Brooklyn or Manhattan.

Thursday was one of those days. I was meeting a group of friends for dinner. The last express bus into Manhattan leaves my bust stop (three blocks from my house) at about 3:05, though. Currently, this means I need to have a plan of where I will be for the time period  from my arrival in Manhattan – approximately 4:30 to 5:00 – until it’s time to meet my friends  – approximately 6:30 to 7:00 – because I can no longer just walk around window shopping.

This week, I agreed to meet one of my friends at Bryant Park, which runs from 40th Street to 42nd Street along Sixth Avenue, back to the library (yeah, the big one, with the lions in front) that fronts on Fifth Avenue. Theoretically, this is an easy walk – get off the bus at 41st and Madison, and walk a block to 40th, and walk along 40th for about a block and a half to the nearest park entrance. When I was healthy, this was the easiest thing in the world, even if the bus driver let me off somewhere other than the stop due to traffic or other stuff.

However, I am not healthy at the moment.

The driver let me off at 38th Street, which wasn’t a bad thing, but meant I had an extra block to walk. Now, because of the heart issue I am walking slower than a crawl these days, and every extra step costs me in energy. For those of you who understand Christine Miserandino’s  Spoon Theory, you know where this is going, kinda.

By the time I got to the park, I was exhausted. We sat and enjoyed some people watching until a bit after 6, then got up to go to the restaurant, which was on the south side of 38th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.  We made it, going far more slowly than I would have liked, but that’s not what I wanted to write about mostly.

You see, I was trying to explain to my friend how walking in my current condition was very different from walking when healthy. And it occurred to me that I should write about that here.

When you are healthy and you are walking somewhere, you aren’t really thinking about it. You may be conversing with a friend, talking or texting, watching the cute guy or gal ahead of you, but whatever you are doing, you are just walking.

When I go walking now, I have to consciously be aware of everything around me. It’s kind of like when you first start driving, in some senses. I need to be hyper aware. I need to be watching every step I take, while being aware of who around me isn’t watching where they are going and might accidentally kick my cane throwing me out of balance and into a fall (yes, that has happened), where and how far I put my cane, so I don’t accidentally hit someone, the evenness of the ground (or lack thereof), how my feet hit the ground when I walk (because if I don’t hit the ground and my ankle turns, I end up falling), how crowded the sidewalk is, if there are little kids in the vicinity I have to watch out for, is there somewhere I can stop without causing problems when I run out of breath (and, yes, that is an issue when walking in Manhattan during evening rush hour), and I have to assess with every step whether I need to stop, or if I can keep going. Add in things like crossing streets, which involve being aware of vehicles, pedestrians, traffic, stop lights, and policemen, and it becomes a very energy-intensive process, requiring my full brain. I also need to be aware of where restrooms are, since industrial strength furosemide means that when I have to go, I have to go NOW.

I am not complaining, mind. It is what it is, and I am grateful that I have any mobility at this point. Further, it will eventually get better when the heart issue has been dealt with.

The thing is, it affects my planning. When I go out, I have to know that I need to deal with all of this, instead of just walking the way I used to be able to do. This means I have to plan my transit route very carefully, and find a place close to where we are going to be meeting to wait. Now, when I was healthy, close could be anywhere within a mile of the ultimate destination. These days, close means within a block or two, or I will be totally out of energy getting from where I am waiting to the destination.

Worst, it means that walking, which I have always loved because I could just take off and go walking, now requires planning, coordination, and being super aware of every choice I make in an afternoon.

I know that those of my friends who are mobility impaired know all about this, but I also have friends who are not mobility impaired, and I often find that, while they are sympathetic, they really don’t know how it’s different to walk when you are having health issues. They see me struggling to walk half a block, where I used to be able to walk three to five miles. They think that if I walked more, the problem would go away. They are sympathetic, and well-meaning but they do not understand how walking when you have a heart/breathing issue is different from walking when your body works the way it does when you don’t have those issues. And I pray daily, that those friends never have to find out firsthand how different it is.

Anyway, I just wanted to get down how it’s different to do even something as automatic as walking when you have a health issue.  Thanks, as always, for reading.

 


Went to WW this morning.  Results were about what I had expected. I’m not sure my head is back in the game yet, but at least I am starting to think about it.

After WW, I went to catch the bus into Manhattan. Got to the stop early, so I went to the library nearby to kill some time, and found two Lawrence Block mysteries I haven’t read.  These are not from his series books, and are quite hard to find.

Got to Manhattan, ad dropped my opal and sapphire ring at the jewelers to be fixed, then I headed up to 49th Street & Rockefeller Plaza to meet my friend, A.  We wandered  around the Plaza and its Concourse, then we wandered over to a little public park on west 48th Street, where we sat for a while prior to meeting two other frieds, M & H.  Dinner was at  a Chipotle , and it was nice with a lot of good conversation. Then A & M walked me to the express bus, and I headed home.

So, I had a nice day, and hopefully, I will have a little help tomorrow in finally getting the rest of my bed assembled.

 

 


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