Zuma’s revenge

Meet Zuma.

Soma GlobalOne GPS watch

Zuma (Soma GlobalOne GPS watch)

I’ve never given any of my running watches a name before but Zuma is special. I bought it yesterday, just last night to be precise, as a birthday present for myself.  Of course, I took it, as well as another birthday present I bought (bright pink running shoes), out for a run today. Continue reading

Malaise in March

The early days of March promised an exciting and action-packed month. On the first two days of March, I was on a ski trip to Zao, a resort I have never visited before, and stayed at an old lodge that was taken over by a fun, young and genuinely hospitable snow-loving couple. Then a couple of days later, I went to the Rolling Stones concert On Fire, and they sang my three favorite songs, which as far as I can tell on youtube they have not done before.

But the promise quickly turned to nought. On the Friday after the concert, I woke up to a massive headache, pervasive joint aches, slight fever, cough, loss of voice and painful tonsillitis. I was confined to bed that day and for the next three days. I had no appetite and no energy, and spent those days sipping Bovril beef tea, English tea and my husband’s lemon-ginger “tea” with a dash of whiskey. I lost close to four kilos – no, I do not recommend getting sick to lose weight. My BG was surprisingly low – no, I do not recommend getting sick to lower one’s BG (on the contrary, illness is bound to raise a diabetic’s blood glucose).

Continue reading

Diabetes as a sport

If three weekends ago I skied on slurpee, last weekend I skied on wet cement in almost whiteout conditions. I did not realize before how demanding tons of fresh wet snow can be. It took me one hour, if not longer, to ski down a slope that usually takes me minutes. Most of that hour was spent hauling my bum off the deep snow and looking for lost ski. That was Saturday. On Sunday, we couldn’t ski at all as a blustering wind prevented the lifts from operating.

Whiteout

While I was moping how unfair the weather can be, I observed to my husband how skiing (and any sport for that matter) was so much like diabetes. In both diabetes and sports, we plan and do what we can to achieve good results but so many variables, many of which may be out of our control, can thwart our efforts.

Diabetes as a sport

A number of advocates and diabetics compare diabetes to a marathon and not a sprint. The comparison stems from the fact that diabetes is not a short-term treatable disease (i.e., not a sprint) but a chronic condition that we have to live with for the rest of our lives (i.e., a marathon).

As a runner, I initially bought into the marathon imagery. But over time, this idea seemed insufficient and incorrect and eventually stopped working for me. A marathon is more than just a race longer than a 100-meter dash, and short distance running is definitely more than just finishing quickly. Marathons and short races are both challenging in their own ways. The preference for a marathon over a sprint creates the false impression that short distance runners put in less time, commitment and effort compared to their long distance colleagues, which is certainly not the case. I also noticed that for the past few years, the thought of diabetes as a marathon drained my energy and dampened my spirits because of the image of a long, arduous, dreary and seemingly unending race. The idea tired me, not inspired me or kept me going. Hence, I replaced the image of a marathon with that of sports in general, which was more appealing to me.

Running

Make no mistake. I have accepted that diabetes is for life. There is no getting around that reality. But viewing diabetes as a game makes it more manageable for me. I break down each year into quarters, each ending with my next A1c test. I also have a treatment plan (like a training plan) which I review with my medical team and as I go along each quarter. This reduces diabetes burn-outs, and lets me adapt to life’s surprises and adjust my diabetes treatment. I also continue to learn what I can about this disease, plot my strategies should certain events arise (e.g., attending buffet parties), and train some of my behavior (e.g., ignoring pasta dishes). 

Like doing any sport, however, I falter and stumble, fumble opportunities, miss my goals, fall on my bum, or strike out in my diabetes care. I may not always follow my strategies. Just last Wednesday, I ate a small box of Belgian chocolate covered hazelnuts in a matter of minutes despite knowing without a doubt that my blood sugar level will go through the roof. Many fellow Type 2 diabetics have shared their experiences of going through periods of not caring, not taking their meds, gorging on pasta and soda, or sometimes simply giving up. I too have many similar moments and beat myself up for not being in control.

Illusion of complete control

I’ve come to terms with the idea that I am not in full, complete, 100% control over everything related to my diabetes. Not only do I lose control every now and then, there are things about my diabetes that I have no full control over. But it does not mean that I do not care. Far from it. I strive to always remember that I can be and am in control most of the time, that I can recover if I falter, and that focusing on what I can do is more productive than worrying about things I cannot change.

In sports, whatever it is, whether it’s an individual, pair or team event, you train, build your skills and plan your moves. Yet despite all that preparation, many things can go wrong. The weather may not be accommodating that day. The terrain or the sports venue may be different from what you are used to. Your competitors may be better prepared, has a better strategy or may be more driven than you. The judge may give you a low score or the referee may rule against you. Your own body may be uncooperative and you can wake up tired, too stressed or too nervous, all of which affects your performance.  The pressure may be too much for one, even the most prepared and trained athlete, to bear.

That is not dissimilar to diabetes. You may eat the same food and exert the same physical efforts, and still end up with a high BG or plunge into a hypo. We get sick, we stress out, or our hormones (especially for us ladies) may not be in their best behavior, resulting in high BGs. We try hard to stick to our chosen diets but once in a while we give in to temptation, despite what certain diet gurus may otherwise promise us. Sometimes we cannot resist the call of our sofa or bed and choose to stay in, for days on end. We forget to take our meds. We stop testing because our fingers hurt.

The question is, when these things happen, what do we do?

Control over our choices

Tram tracks

Do we stay down, whine or quit, or do we get up and try one more time? If we lose a match or a game, or fall off the wagon, do we retire and opt out? Or do we learn from our loss or mistake, train harder, rethink our strategies, and try again? With diabetes, as in any type of sport, we may sometimes lose but, with knowledge, experience, commitment, perseverance and strategy, we often win, as many people with diabetes can tell you.

How do we behave when faced with an unavoidable loss? In the women’s figure skating at the Sochi Winter Olympics, Japan’s Mao Asada performed poorly during her short program. She who once was a favorite to bring home a medal was in 16th place. She could have feigned injury or performed her free skate with unexceptional ordinariness. After all, she was out of the medal race. Instead, she gave the best performance of her life, and finished 6th overall. She will not be remembered for her disappointing short program but for her strong, passionate and magnificent redemptive free skating. I can give you more examples, and I’m sure you can come up with other athletes and teams who simply did not give up.

Of course, we can also complain loudly, whine like a spoiled brat who feels entitled to things he or she does not deserve, or blame everything and everyone but ourselves for our poor performance, or just show up and perform with undeniable mediocrity.

If there is one thing we have control over, that’s our choices. Our choices are what define us. We are what we are, not because of our successes or failures, but because of the choices we make.

One thing is for sure, we will not win if we choose to hang up our skis, running shoes or gloves because of a disappointing performance. In diabetes, we increase our risk of developing complications if, just because of one moment of giving in to a box of chocolates, we give up and completely abandon our diet, glue ourselves to our couches and neglect testing our blood glucose. Like any other athlete, if we want to succeed or come close to success, if we want to have as much control over diabetes as we possibly can, we simply have to start again every time we fall. 

Jon Bon Jovi once said, “Success is falling nine times and getting up ten.” There is only one difference between success and failure: success is getting up one more time, playing one more game, pushing harder for one more chance.

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Sugar

The sky has been dumping snow all over Japan, with snow starting to fall in Tokyo from sometime last night or early this morning. Snow continues to fall, accompanied by strong winter winds. Hence, hubby and I cancelled all plans of going out and stayed home watching a Metallica concert on disc and the Winter Olympics on TV. There is still a blizzard out there as I write this. I wish we had these conditions (even with the wind) when we skied last weekend.

Tokyo snow storm

Tokyo snow storm

Last weekend was unusually hot in Japan for February. Although the skiing in Nagano last Saturday morning was not that bad, the temperature started to rise in the afternoon. By Sunday, the temperature was between 6 and 7 degrees C (perhaps higher?) and the snow had turned to slush. I was complaining about how hot 7 degrees was, which I’d say was anomalous for someone who grew up in a tropical country and was standing on a mountain top surrounded by snow! We were literally skiing on wet table sugar, with some portions looking like the Coke slurpee I used to love years ago. While I was trying my very best to spring ski, I was spewing waves upon waves of unspoken expletives. Because the snow was like sticky sugar, sugar was inevitably attached to those swear words. 

Spring in Feb

Spring in February

Why can’t sugar leave me alone?  

Sugar. As a Type 2 diabetic, I shudder when I hear the word sugar. Literally. When I was diagnosed, the first thing that my GP told me was to ditch sugar and it was not easy. To anyone who has a sugar addiction, please know that you can get rid of it – you can do it.

I never thought I’d actually get over my fondness for sugar. I grew up in a society which, like many other societies, loves sugar and sweet things. Although my mother tried her very best to discourage us from sugar-laden foods and drinks, sugar was unavoidable – desserts, snacks, slurpee, and sickeningly sweet coffee, iced tea, soda and fruit juice. But now, sugar is no longer such a big or unsurmountable issue with me, which makes my life with diabetes a lot easier to manage. I mean, I now drink black coffee and unsweetened tea. Who would have thought? So, now slurpee no longer bothers me, unless it’s slurpee on the mountains.

I guess that’s sugar’s way of trying to own me. If it can no longer tempt me to eat loads of it, it will call on its distant cousin on the ski slopes to make life difficult for me. How sneaky; much like how sugar finds its way into our bodies these days. But, I got the better of it, because at the end of the ski day, my blood sugar was low. 

Frozen

Hakuba 47 in Nagano prefecture. Mid-morning, last Saturday. All around me was soft, relatively new snow. The sky was blue with puffs of white clouds in the distance. The air was crisp as a light breeze gently wafted across the piste. The sun was out, tenderly warming my face in the cold surroundings. It was quiet but for the sound of skis and snow boards going past me.

Selfie in Hakuba Goryu

Author before being frozen

It sounds like a perfect skiing moment but at the precise instant when I cursorily noticed all these wonderful things, I was motionless, overwhelmed with fear, at the side of a ski run on what would have been an ideal ski morning. I knew from experience that I was having a panic attack.

What caused me to panic?

I do not know.

By the time I arrived at that spot, my husband and I had already skied a few runs. We decided to take a break at our regular café at the bottom of Hakuba 47. To reach the café, we skied down a red run (similar to a blue square in the US), which I’ve done several times before.

When I started down this run, I had no problem at all. The snow conditions were nothing short of fantastic. But close to the end of the run, I skied into the mountain and stopped at the rightmost edge of the slope. That’s where I remained for the next several long and agonizing minutes. For no reason that I was consciously aware of, dread descended upon me without warning and held me in place. I was rooted to the spot and could not get myself to move.

“Am I having a low?”

My first thought was that my blood glucose plunged, a thought I quickly dismissed. Although it was conceivable that I may have been having a hypoglycemic episode, everything told me that the likelihood was minimal. I am only on a relatively low dose of metformin, which as far as I know doesn’t cause one’s blood glucose to take a nose dive. I had eaten breakfast and had no alcohol (alcohol comes after skiing). I had not been skiing long that morning which could have theoretically used up all my available blood sugar. I was not experiencing disorientation, light headedness, blurry vision, dizziness or other symptoms associated with hypoglycemia. Anyway, much as I intensely detest diabetes, it is not the cause of all my problems. Diabetes had nothing to do with it.

From experience on black runs and moguls, I knew I was having a panic attack. Knowing, however, did not ease the anxiety. I was still rooted to that one spot.

Nothing precipitated it. I didn’t fall on that slope. I did not have a near collision with anyone. I was having fun and was looking forward to coffee. The café was literally just a couple of minutes away.

My husband, who was on the opposite side of the run, became alarmed and skied over to me.

He:         What’s wrong?

Me:        I’m terrified.

He:         Of what?

Me:        I do not know. [Then after a few seconds] I’m afraid of the sound of the boards and skis.

He:         Why?

Me:        I do not know.

He:         There’s no one behind you now.

Me:        I’m scared of the sound of my skis.

Shshshishshsh. Shshshishshsh. Shshshishshsh. The sounds seem to come from all around me. Even the sounds coming from my skis when I tried to move frightened me. And I did not, still do not, know why.

I can understand why I previously froze on steep black runs and nasty moguls. But the slope I was on was neither. In fact, all my favorite conditions were on that slope that morning. It was not that steep. That portion of the run was short, so I could have rested at the bottom before proceeding to the final section. It was wide so there was no fear of skiing off the edge or bumping into anyone. The snow was packed, and the surface was slightly icy but not a shiny, slippery big block of ice. The surface resembled a matte finish on a photograph (as opposed to a glossy finish). I prefer this type of slope because I edge more and therefore feel that I’m in control. Thus, there was no reason for me to freeze like a deer caught in the headlights.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I moved. I had little choice. I had to come down at some point. Walking down in ski boots is almost impossible. I could have skied down on my butt but I’ve done this several years before down a black run, and I had no desire to repeat that humiliating scene. The only viable option was to ski.

The whole time I stood there until I finally moved, I was giving myself a much needed pep talk. I’ve done this many times before. Look at that kid zoom by. I know how to ski, I know how to turn, and I know how to stop. I know how to fall and I know how to get up. I know how to ski. The café is just a few meters away. I can get down this slope and rest at that flat surface. I know how to ski. Over and over again, until I finally got tired of my monologue. My husband echoed much of what I told myself but he knew enough not to overdo it.

After our coffee break, my husband quietly asked if I wanted to do the run again. A flicker of hesitation appeared but I quickly swatted it away. Gotta get back on that horse quickly. This second time I zoomed down with no problem whatsoever.

I’ve spent the past few days analyzing what triggered that panic attack. I thought I had my confidence back after our trip to Hokkaido. Clearly, I was mistaken. My husband says that it’s just a simple case of self-preservation, that at the back of my mind I haven’t fully mentally recovered from breaking my leg on an icy surface. He’s probably right. Over time, I should get over the trauma of a broken leg.

I hope he’s right. He usually is.

Photographers who happen to be diabetic

I recently participated in a 24-hour photography project with fellow members of Diabetesforums.  It was organized by a wonderful photographer, davef, from Ireland. The day selected was January 5, 2014. Each participant was tasked to take at least one photograph during a one-hour slot in a 24-hour GMT or UTC day. 

The photos may be seen here. Please visit.

River scene

River scene

I’m so proud of my fellow diabetics or PWDs who took wonderful photographs. Thanks guys and gals for sharing your time and photos.

First ski trip 2014

My husband and I are back after a few days of skiing in Hokkaido. Things did not go as well as we had planned.

Good things first. The snow was excellent. It was snowing when we arrived, and every night until early morning and for a couple of afternoons during our stay. We were thus assured of wonderful powder snow. Guests and the staff at Club Med where we stayed, however, mentioned that snow condition had not been good until a couple of days before we arrived. In fact, even on the day of our arrival, some runs were still closed for lack of snow. But conditions improved when we were there. Weren’t we lucky? The sun was out on most mornings, and there was plenty of fresh snow the entire time we were there. Nothing beats fresh snow and sunny clear sky. Thus, I had a great time skiing for the whole of our trip. Notice that I said “I” and not “we”.

To add to the fun, a couple of snow-boarder friends who just moved to Hokkaido in December drove up to where we were. They stayed at a sheep farm with a B&B called Yorkshire Farm, but joined us for dinner at Club Med for a couple of nights. It was good to see them and party with them après-ski. Too bad, we did not get the chance to spend time with them in the snow.

One really good thing to come out of the trip was that I got my confidence back. My private lesson helped a lot. When I started that first ski morning, I was unsure. I was worried about breaking a part of my body again; I was adjusting to my new ski boots; and it was my first ski day of the season. But my instructor Bruno was patient and did just enough to get me going. By the end of the lesson, I had gotten over my fear of falling. In fact, I fell a few times during the entire trip, including a rather hard one during a really fast run. Thankfully, the snow was soft and I was wearing a helmet. It may sound odd, but falling down a few times was what I needed to reacquire my confidence in skiing. Each time I fell, got up and felt fine, I knew that not every fall will break my bones. This is not to say that I was not careful. Quite the opposite. Like any serious sports person, I am aware of the risks and do what I can to avoid injury to myself and to others.

Speaking of helmets, I know a lot of skiers and boarders out there do not like to wear helmets, but I encourage everyone to wear one. When you bang your head hard on the snow or when another person’s ski or board hits your head, you will be grateful for your head protection.  Helmets also protect your ears from the cold. Plus, they are now light and as my hubby, who is a new helmet wearer, observed, the helmet is so light that he hardly noticed the difference. Alright, that’s it for my ski safety endorsement for today.

One other good thing. I would like to mention that I’ve actually met, on the mountain, a snowboarder whom I liked. Let me clarify that statement. I like some snowboarders, all of whom happen to be my friends. But, I am not particularly fond of snowboarders especially the ones I see on the Nagano ski resorts, mainly because they love to sit in the middle of slopes (even the narrow ones) for no obvious reason other than to rest or wait for friends. Why they don’t move to the side is something that baffles me. But, in Sahoro, I met this lovely Japanese snowboarder on an empty slope on a snowy afternoon where visibility was really low.

Snowing

Snowy afternoon

I fell and she stopped to asked how I was. After I stood up, she boarded a few feet down but stopped to wave to get my attention. She then shouted that I should ski on the left part of the run because it was less boko-boko or bumpy. Before she took off, she shouted at what sounded like the top of her voice for me to enjoy the rest of my afternoon. Ain’t that lovely?

Now, the not-so-good-news. On the second morning of our trip, hubby took a group ski lesson  to go through the trees in deep powder snow. On their way to the gondola, even before the actual lesson, he had a nasty fall where he landed on hard-packed snow on his stomach. He continued with the lesson only to fall again a couple of more times, this time in deep snow. At least he was smart enough to know that he needed to stop.

When I met him at lunch, he was hurting. Although he landed on his abdomen, he complained that his kidneys hurt. But he thought that his body was just shaken up and that he would be fine in the afternoon or the next day. But when he passed blood with his first pee after falling, we both became worried. Not a good sign at all. (After some research, I found out that (1) abdominal trauma may lead to renal trauma, and (2) ski accidents may cause renal trauma.)

Club Med quickly found us a hospital with emergency staff we could go to and arranged for a taxi. I’m glad we were staying at Club Med and not somewhere else (Thanks to Ryan and his entire team, especially Bruno). We called up our friend who is a doctor and he concurred that we should visit the hospital. But before the taxi arrived, hubby visited the toilet again and that time his pee was clear with no visible trace of blood at all. We called up our friend again who then surmised that the trauma was not severe, that all that hubby needed was rest, and that we can wait until we got back to Tokyo for a CT scan. Hence, we cancelled the hospital trip.

Hubby knew enough to hang up his skis for the afternoon, even if he didn’t want to. He was aching enough to be dissuaded from doing something as foolish as getting back on his skis. I also had to promise to ski and not stay at the club to fuss over him. I reluctantly went, and I was glad I did. Unfortunately, by that time, it was too late to join our friends (mobile signal at the mountain was patchy). On hindsight, it was just as well. I needed to be alone. But I was glad our friends joined us for dinner that evening as their bubbly presence helped hubby deal with his forced rest from skiing.

The next morning, our last day in Hokkaido, hubby did not need much convincing that he was in no condition to ski, which was such a shame because that was the best time on the mountain. Even in the afternoon of the previous day, when it was snowing lightly, certain parts of the mountain were either icy or bald. But the continuous snowing the night before deposited enough snow to make the next day a brilliant ski day, and the sun was out. A sunny day and plenty of new snow is the best combination any skier can ask for.

Powder snow

Powder snow

Some parts of the mountain had fast snow so much so that I had a rather nasty tumble on a really, really fast run.

Even with the great condition, I initially needed convincing to go out. But hubby reminded me that it made no sense for both of us to stay indoors and moan. Just as I would have hated it if he had stayed inside after I broke my leg last season, he would have felt worse if I did not go out to ski.

Now my legs still feel like lead!

Back to good news. Hubby visited the hospital this morning to get his organs checked. The CT scan showed no injury. Two doctors we consulted agreed that all he needed was rest. He is good to ski again as soon as he stops aching or feeling any pain.

My BG numbers. I’ve been checking my BGs during our ski trip. January 1 was the first day of a 7-day tame-my-sugar-monster challenge I’m doing for MySugr. I’m participating in MySugr’s alpha testers group, and the app is not commercially available yet where I am. If it’s available where you are, check it out (best BG app I’ve tried so far). The more frequent testing revealed that my BGs were relatively high on average during the entire ski trip. It’s probably because it’s my first time in months to ski again so I figure my body thought it was on a flight mode.

The other likely reason is chocolate soft ice cream. I’ve been generally good at the buffet table. It helped that there were loads of fish (I was in Hokkaido after all) and meat dishes to choose from, and the desserts were not to my liking.

Prawns

Buffet prawns

My downfall was chocolate soft ice cream!

Soft ice cream, plus returning to a sport that I was in hiatus from for months, and my falls and attempts to get up (really, I find it easier to ski than to get up after a fall), contributed to my higher BGs. I’m not alarmed as my BGs were not disturbingly high. Just higher than usual.

Testing frequently this trip was an enlightening experience. Although I tested during previous ski trips, I did not test as frequently as I did in Hokkaido. Based on my BG testing notes, there were past ski trips when some of the BG numbers were high and other trips when the numbers were low or within my normal range. It should thus be a good idea to do the same recent testing frequency for the next ski trips to see how my BGs generally behave this season, and tease out some trends and knowledge.

My BGs since we’ve come back from the trip have been back within the usual range.

That’s all for now. I wish everyone a healthy, exciting, educational and productive New Year!

Catching Up

man-160440_640These past few weeks have been a busy time for me at work. It felt like I barely had time to even breathe. I’ve not had time to check the DOC, and missed a couple or three of DSMA’s weekly tweet chat. Thus, I’m grateful for this season’s 9-day Japanese New Year holiday period (now on day 3) to sleep and recharge. That said,  despite the busy work schedule, I had a few non-work related events to share with you. Nothing profound or deep. Just a few more info on my otherwise mundane life.

Half-Marathon in Fukushima

I signed-up for the Aizu Higashiyama Onsen half-marathon, in Aizu Wakamatsu, for May next year. Aizu Wakamatsu is a traditional samurai town in Fukushima prefecture and was the location of a recent popular historical drama on TV. Yes, it is in Fukushima. To those who are worried about radiation, the town is 100 km west of the Daiichi nuclear power plant. The radiation levels there are very low and pose no health risk. No, I will not start glowing in the dark after the race.

I’m looking forward to this half-marathon. One, training for a race is a good incentive to go out for a run in winter. The colder it gets, the more our bed and duvet tempt me to stay in. I’m now building my running base before my half-marathon training begins in February (the coldest period of Tokyo winter). Two, I am hoping that May will be a pleasant time to visit Aizu Wakamatsu, which is north of Tokyo. At least, it probably will not be too cold to be outdoors but cool enough to have a pleasant 21 km race. Three, it will be my first visit to Aizu Wakamatsu, and I’m excited to visit such a lovely town. Four, I want to support parts of Fukushima that are suffering by association because people assume that the whole of Fukushima is under a cloud of high and dangerous radioactive level. I’ve always had a distaste for guilt by association, and I refuse to let uninformed fear override logic and facts and find guilt where none exists.

New camera lens

My husband surprised me with a new camera lens for Christmas. I’m still getting used to it, as I’m still getting used to my camera. I know, I know, I’ve had the camera for a few months now, but I still haven’t mastered its features (well, no rush). I’m excited to explore my camera with my new lens, though. I plan to use it for a photo project I’ve signed up for with fellow diabetic members of an online diabetes board (more info on this sometime next week).

I took the photo below on Christmas Day with my Christmas present. What do you think?

Christmas tree 2013

Christmas tree 2013

Work

Did I just put in “work”? I did, didn’t I? Well, I left work at the office and it will stay that way. So, no talk of work today.

Runmeter

I’ve been using the Endomondo app for a couple of years now to record my running, walking and other activities, but I’m not very happy with it so I am in search of a new running app. I’m now testing Runmeter. I’ve just started using it so I do not know yet if it is the replacement app that I’m looking for. Any opinion, advice or thoughts on Runmeter would be most welcome, and of course please feel free to suggest other running apps.

Fitbit

I recently bought a Fitbit. I thought that it would be a fun way to track my daily steps. I had a pedometer before, but I had to record my steps by hand and I always forgot to do it. With Fitbit though my iPhone or my computer records my steps for me.

Anyway, do you know how difficult it is to walk 10,000 steps a day? I found that it’s not that easy to rack up 10,000 steps daily, even for someone who lives in a city such as Tokyo where everyone generally walks everywhere. The busier I am at work, the more bound I am to my desk, the fewer steps I take in a day. Although I do yoga or other exercises on non-running days, I still prefer to walk as closely as I could to 10,000 steps a day as possible.

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Speaking of 10,00 steps, have you ever wondered who came up with the number? Is it arbitrary or does it have a scientific basis? From what I can find on the internet, it seems that the goal of walking 10,000 steps a day is a promotional ploy by Japanese companies to sell pedometers. Apparently, there is no research to support this number. Yet, it has caught on. In any case, as far as I’m concerned, it seems to be a good round number to aim for each day. Even if we don’t reach that number on a daily basis, it is the effort that counts.

Skiing

I also managed to arrange our first ski trip this winter season. Hokkaido! I’m a bit nervous because I broke my leg last March skiing, but Hokkaido should be the perfect place for me to get back on to my skis. I’m so looking forward to it! Snow, here I come.

On a sad note, this morning I heard of the ski accident of Michael Schumacher over the radio. I’d like to take this opportunity to send our prayers to Mr. Schumacher and his family for his full recovery.

Feet up

Right now, it’s time for me to put my feet up, with a glass of wine on my hand and  a good film (The Conjuring I hope qualifies as one) to relax.

Surviving Christmas buffets

Buffet-style parties are so popular, especially during the holidays. I’m sure you’d agree that they are dangerous to one’s waistline and blood sugar levels. So far I’ve survived (I’d like to think) three such Christmas buffets this month.

Buffet

Buffet

I cannot eat everything.

I used to try to eat everything at every buffet I went to. Friends and I used to compete to see who can eat the most. I’d go home with a stomach ache and several pounds heavier. I learned to dread buffets because of what they did to my waistline until I realized that no one can possibly eat everything. I couldn’t possibly eat everything, and I didn’t have to. When I came to this realization, I felt a major part of the pressure to eat lift from my shoulders. Now, when I go to buffets, I no longer feel the urge to try to eat everything because I know that I simply can’t.

I check what’s on offer.

Before queueing, I survey all the dishes, from appetizers to desserts. This helps me decide what to eat, and more importantly what to leave on the serving trays. Choosing without knowing what are available is difficult to do. In addition, in selecting dishes, I prioritize dishes that I or my husband cannot make, or cannot make well, at home, and I ignore cheap high-calorie food like spaghetti, other pasta dishes, and potato salad.

I use small plates.

I avoid big plates for obvious reasons. It is easy for me to overload on food when I use big plates. Big plates encourage me to eat more and faster and to return to the buffet table even faster. By the time I realize that I’m full, it’s too late – I’d already have eaten one week’s worth of food! Hence, I use small plates, and one plate  (not two or three) at a time. I also do not make a mountain of food on my plate. This way, I give myself time to digest my food before going back for seconds or thirds, and if I want to eat more, I have to go back to the buffet table and line up all over again.

Small plate

I socialize.

At networking events or office parties, socializing means fewer opportunities to eat. It’s really hard, not to mention rude and unprofessional, to talk with your mouth full. By spending less time eating, I end up meeting new people or reacquainting with people I have not seen or been in contact with for a while, which is what these events are for in the first place. This applies to home parties and dinners as well. Instead of focusing on food, I try to focus on the people I am with.

Other things I do

I also have a small snack before going to a buffet party. This helps me from raiding the table, and makes it easier for me to follow the plan I outlined above.

I drink a lot of water. In these events, drinks (and I mean alcohol) are usually overflowing as well. If I drink too much, I get the munchies and of course I get drunk (not good at a business event). Drinking water not only helps me feel full, it also keeps me from making a drunken fool of myself.

I wear fitted clothes to keep me from overindulging. A bulging stomach on a fitted blouse or over tight pants is not a pretty sight.

Oh, and I dance if there is dancing involved.

Will this work over the New Year holidays?

So, so far, I think I’ve survived the Christmas buffets this year. The question is whether I will survive the buffets I am scheduled to encounter soon. Hubby and I will be at Club Med in Hokkaido for a few days of skiing. Club Med has buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to mention snacks in between. Oh boy! Check in with me in a couple of weeks to see how I survive my coming great buffet test!

And a Merry Christmas to everyone!

Winter fitness plan

Wintry Mt. Fuji

Wintry Mt. Fuji

Winter has finally set in, although many will say that it landed in Tokyo a few weeks ago. In any case, I know that winter has finally set in because this morning I decided to stay in bed, under the covers, instead of doing yoga and ski conditioning exercises. This underscored the challenges that winter always brings when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Winter always encourages me to eat more than I want, not just because of the holidays but because it takes me longer to get full or quicker to get hungry. The cold weather makes it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, or go out for an evening run, or sometimes even to go out for a walk at lunch time – and it’s not even that cold in Tokyo compared to snow-covered Hokkaido and many other parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Hence, every winter, I need a plan to give me an edge over cold weather.

I know that there are many blogs and articles on how to beat the winter weight gain. Let me share my humble plan.

Fitness

Winter run

Winter run

I have to confess that this plan is a variation of my plan to get me running the rest of the year.

  1. I prepare my running clothes, socks, neck warmer, winter cap, and gloves the night before, so that I don’t have to spend time rummaging through my drawer, which usually gives my warm bed enough time to coax me back. In fact, I often sleep with my running tights on.
  2. I sign up for a race, even a short one, and pay the registration fee as soon as possible. Then, I tell others about the race. This keeps me from finding excuses to back out of it, and “encourages” me to train.
  3. I pay myself when I run the whole year round, but in winter, I pay double what I pay myself the rest of the year. It encourages me to run or exercise and fills up my piggy bank a lot faster.
  4. I concentrate on something to improve on in my running. So, I take this opportunity to focus on something I have to work on – speed, uphill running, breathing, or stride length. Or, just enjoying the run on a crisp cool morning.
  5. I promise myself that I’ll exercise for only 10 minutes. I know it’s a mind game, but usually if I go out for a 10-minute run or yoga practice, 10 minutes is never enough. And certain promises are indeed made to be broken.
  6. I bought myself a fitbit.

Diet

Small dishes

Small dishes

This is a bit trickier because of the Christmas holidays and New Year holidays. In Japan we have what is called bonnenkai (“forget the year” parties) and Christmas parties in December, and shinnenkai (“New Year” parties) in January. But also, during winter, my appetite increases. Not only that, but it is the tradition in Japan for people to bring back omiyage (souvenirs), usually in the form of cookies, chocolates and other sweets, from their out-of-town or out-of-the-country trips. Here are some things that I try to observe at this time of the year.

  1. I have an afternoon snack so that I am not so hungry before I go to any dinner party. As I’m sure you can see, this keeps me from being a starved party-goer gobbling everything in sight.
  2. I keep a bag where I immediately stash the Christmas cookies and sweet omiyage, and keep the bag where I can’t see it.
  3. If someone brings a home-baked cake, or even a store-bought cake, and shares it in the office, I take a bite of my slice and then put the rest of it in the bin. The person who baked or bought it doesn’t feel slighted and I will have little to complain about my blood sugar or weight.
  4. I wear body-hugging shirts underneath my sweaters and jackets. Sweaters and jackets often effectively cover weight gain, but body-hugging tight clothes are gentle reminders of what the spring will reveal if I don’t moderate my winter eating patterns.
  5. I drink plenty of water, tea and coffee, which keeps me full and far from dehydrated (which is easy to achieve since the cold does not usually encourage hydration).

My plan may not work for everyone, but I hope that some of it may encourage others to keep exercising and eating healthily during the next two to three months.

AND, I’d love to hear your secrets to keeping fit and healthy during winter time.