Friday, November 30, 2007


Almost five years ago a dear friend of mine killed herself while in the acute care ward of a mental hospital. I got an email from a lawyer early this week--her executor is suing the hospital and her psychiatrist and the case is now coming to trial. She had feared that possibility, but I had long forgotten about it. I talked to the lawyer, who luckily didn't seem to want much from me. I don't have a high opinion of either side. But the startling thing I just found is a long, detailed story about the case in the New York Times last week. Remarkably, the story is accurate to what I know, with the exception of a statement attributed to a particular person that seems to me a shocking lie. The one thing that surprised me is that she left a large estate, after worrying so about money.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Sandy at Junkfood Science has a new post laying out the much-ignored evidence that a low-salt diet is helpful only for the 1/3 of the population whose blood pressure is salt-sensitive. There is apparently some evidence that in another 1/4 of the population a low-salt diet raises blood pressure. But what I had never heard that intrigued me is that a low salt diet may increase insulin resistance. If you put that together with the argument that insulin resistance causes weight gain because it favors blood glucose going into fat cells, then it may be that the goverment recommendations that everyone follow a low salt diet are one of the causes of the increase in obesity (if it exists at all). Update: a great post on why the American Diabetes Association gives such bad information is up at Diabetes Update.

Only marginally related, Kate Harding has a wonderful post on The Fantasy of Being Thin and the New Republic has an article on the evidence that overweight people live longer. I struggled years ago to get out of feeling I was supposed to deprive myself so I enjoy seeing it become a movement.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

low carb stuffing

We celebrated Thanksgiving today, since my daughter had her wisdom teeth out Wednesday. She is doing a lot better now, but it was a hard few days for her. Still, it has been wonderful to have both kids home.

We have gone to St. Christophers for Thanksgiving for three years, so this is the first time since I was diagnosed with diabetes that I have cooked Thanksgiving. So I invented my own low carb stuffing.

1 lb bulk breakfast sausage
2 large onions, chopped
1 lb. mushrooms, different kinds, quartered
2 apples, peeled and chopped
1 lb. parsnips, steamed until soft
1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped

Cook breakfast sausage, breaking up, then remove from pan. Either in the fat or in oil cook the onions until they begin to brown, the add the mushrooms and cook over fairly high heat until done. Add the sausage back to the pan and the apples. Cook until the apples soften and then stir in the parsnips and sage. Stuff a turkey or warm in the oven.

I think the next time I will add some red pepper flakes--it wasn't quite as savory as I would have liked. Parsnips are fairly high carb as vegetables go, but I am fond of them and they work relatively well for me. It might be good with white turnips, which are lower carb, but my husband doesn't like them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

my story of getting started

A post on Tri-Drs asked the following questions:
What was it that triggered your wanting to get active?
What where the biggest hurdles to starting on your path?
How did you figure out what you needed to know to get started?
Where did you go to find it?
Do you know friends who have tried to get active and failed? Why did they fail?
What would you have liked to know when you started?
What would have made starting easier?
I was on the women's sailing team in college and did some bicycle touring. But after that I was a walker, didn't do other exercise. That changed when I was diagnosed with diabetes at age 48. I was very depressed for a couple of days and then got on the internet and discovered and the radical approach outlined at: I started testing my blood glucose 7 times a day and adjusting my diet to keep my readings under 140 an hour after eating, under 120 two hours after eating. Without limiting how much I ate I lost about 50 lbs.

I got more serious about exercise because I could eat a higher carb treat if I walked afterwards. I went to a week-long retreat at the beach in the late spring, and walking without hills didn't seem like exercise so I started running. My knees didn't like running, and so I decided to buy a new bicycle and alternate bicycling and very slowly increasing my running. Somewhere in there I picked up Slow Fat Triathlete by Jayne Williams and was inspired by the idea that it was possible to enjoy a sport without being good at it. I bought my bike from the local bike shop so I got some help there but mostly I just rode, with the goal of doing a local organized ride in the fall. I invented my own approach to increasing my running--I was running on a track so I ran three times a week and each month I added one more lap.

By the time I got to a year after my diabetes diagnosis, I was running about 2 miles three times a week and did a century bike ride, so I decided to go for a sprint triathlon in the spring. The one wrinkle was a cardiologist who didn't like my high maximum heart rate, but a nuclear stress test showed no problems. I joined a masters swim group in January, which was one of the hardest things I have ever done because I knew I didn't know how to swim properly. I was quite comfortable swimming but with my head out of the water. It is a small group (9-12 people) and the coach taught me.

I bought some books, which other than Jayne Williams I haven't found very useful. The Tri-Drs email group has been much more helpful. I can't think of much that would have made it easier getting started. I looked around a bit for a training group but really I enjoy the alone time. One of the things that helped me with the diabetes is the philosophy "My body, my science experiment" and I have applied that to my training as well. I like my Garmin and Sportstracks.

Four years after diagnosis I've done four to six triathlons a year for three years, including my first half-ironman this fall. My glucose tolerance is a little improved, though I still have to watch my carbs very carefully. I feel great and am having fun. My A1c (a measure of average blood glucose control) is 5.8--in the normal range.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

marriage enrichment

My husband and I spent the weekend at a marriage enrichment retreat at Kanuga. The leaders were Clay and Jane Turner, who work with the Association for Couples in Marriage Enrichment. The retreat was very well done--the leaders shared their own experience and the exercises were flexible enough to help us where we were. There were 11 couples and people were quite willing to share with the larger group. I was surprised that we were the oldest couple there (not counting the leaders).

Monday, November 12, 2007

new car

I didn't end up buying the Honda Element. My key problem with it is that it only seats four. Instead I bought a Toyota Scion--the new model this year is considerably bigger than the previous model and has a more powerful engine. It also doesn't look quite so much like a toaster. For somewhat less money, I got a car that seats five with significantly better gas mileage than the Element. It isn't as big a space as the Element--my bike fits in with the front wheel on lying down, while the Element is so tall that bikes fit in it standing up. I took my bike with me to the dealer to test out how it would fit, which at least kept the saleman from treating me like a little lady.

The Scion isn't as much cheaper as it would appear from the list prices because Toyota has a no-haggle policy on the Scion only, but they really wanted to sell me a car and gave me a ridiculously high trade-in on my damaged Ford Escort. I was prepared to buy then and there, but when it looked like the price was going to be close to that of the Element I was also prepared to walk out and go see what kind of a deal I could get on the Element. That gave me huge bargaining power.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ride Report: Cruisin' in the Country Century

I considered doing this ride two years ago, and this year I noticed it was on my one free weekend in two months. It seemed silly to drive over 200 miles each way, but it also sounded like my kind of ride--flat and good food.

I didn't get out of a department seminar until after 4, so I drove back roads across Georgia (77, 17, US 1) mostly in the dark. I did find a Dutch kitchen restaurant to eat dinner and got to the Scottish Inn in Metter Georgia around 9. The ride is so big and so much in the middle of nowhere that I hadn't been able to find a hotel closer than about 20 miles. Claxton is about 60 miles west of Savannah, but I drove almost the whole way through towns I had never heard of.

In the morning I ate a big breakfast at a Waffle House and drove to Claxton by a back route. I checked in and set out on the ride a few minutes before 8 am. I knew it was supposed to get warm but it was very chilly so I wore tights, heavy wool socks, and a short sleeved jersey with armwarmers and vest. The ride does not have a mass start, so while there were over 700 riders, they were spread out all the way. Even if I had been riding alone I would never have been lonely.

But I wasn't riding alone--about 5 miles into the ride I struggled to catch up with a man wearing a Black Bear Bicycle Tours jersey and draft off him, and we decided to ride together. He was doing his first century and he had already made a wrong turn and ridden about 10 extra miles. We were matched well for speed (he was at least 15 years older than me) and we rode the whole way together and kept each other going. My Garmin shows an average of 15.2 mph but I forgot to turn it on after one rest stop for about 10 miles, and that was early in the ride when we were going faster. Our elapsed time was a few minutes over 8 hours.

The ride was as advertised--I very much recommend it. Wind shirts instead of T shirts plus hats for those who finish the century. Mostly empty country roads, sometimes through cotton fields. Not as flat as the century at Festivelo, but very gradual up and down. And great rest stops every 10 miles--homemade goodies and different food at each one. The organizations that do the rest stops compete for an award (extra money for their fundraising efforts) for the best rest stops. The 4H club had a Halloween theme and was in costume.

We had one scary moment, on a slightly busier road. A car passed us and then almost immediately put on its left turn signal and pulled over to the right, all the way to the edge of the road. I was leading and I braked and rode off the road into the grass. My riding partner Thurmond tried to go around the car on the grass but there was a sandy area and his bike slid and he fell. He gave the drive a good cursing and we rode off.

The most significant hills on the course were in the last five miles, so we were definitely dragging into the finish. But at the finish there was not only food--grilled chicken as well as hot dogs and hamburgers--but also a shower truck with hot showers!

Thus refreshed I decided I was up to driving the 4 hours home rather than stopping at another motel. It was 5 pm when I left, so I wasn't going to be late getting home, but I was driving those back roads mostly in the dark. And about an hour and a half from home I hit a deer. Luckily it hit the front quarter of my car, not head on. It was very dark and so I kept driving. It looked like my lights still covered the whole road ahead of me and the car felt ok, so I thought maybe I had gotten off easy. Half an hour later when I finally came to a gas station and stopped to look at the damage to my car I discovered that it was very hard to turn and my right front lights were smashed. I drove the rest of the way home nervously, but the car actually felt ok except when I had to turn. Only when I got home did I discover the right front door doesn't open. I had thought I might get another year out of my Ford Escort stationwagon, but it did have 170,000 miles on it. Now I hope my insurance company doesn't give me a hard time about not having stopped and called the police. I know what I want--a Honda Element--but they are so much in demand I'm not finding good prices on used ones.

Friday, November 09, 2007


The Oracle of Starbucks tells me I am either a freak or lame. It is actually pretty funny (thanks to Isis).

Jenny has a really good discussion of the controversial research results showing that overweight people live longer.

Friday, November 02, 2007


One of the first single women to spend a winter in Antarctica was asked about being in a closed community with a 5 to 1 ratio of men to women. She said:
The odds are good, but the goods are odd.
A Google search suggests that is a widely used line, but I hadn't hear it before.