Weighty Matters

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Slicing, Dicing, Cutting Back and Keeping Fit

Silly title for a post, I know, and I’ll do my best to make it all relevant to the content.

I had an excellent time away last weekend at my Tai Chi Sabre workshop.  After doing the regular set for more than four years and feeling at least somewhat competent and balanced, it was interesting to return to being a complete newbie with the Sabre Set.  As I joked to a friend, when I started Tai Chi before, I felt awkward.  This time I felt awkward but I was armed.

Did you play sports or do any activity where you had to have a special outfit or equipment?  I remember when my Dad took me to a sporting goods department to help me pick out my first, very own glove for playing softball.  I felt so special in that moment.  Same thing when I got my first two wheel bike, or, later, my own purple bowling ball.  These things were rights of passage in a way and signified our full participation in whatever activity we were involved.

A friend pre-ordered our sabres for the workshop.  When I picked her up and she brought them to the car, I almost said, “Ooooh.  It’s so pretty.”  Honestly, it’s a nice wooden sabre made from red oak, so there is a prettiness aspect to it if you like and appreciate different kinds of wood.  The next day when the workshop instructor first told us to pick up our sabres and showed us how to hold them for the beginning of the set, I felt like I did as a kid the first time I took the field with my brand new softball glove.

The cool, special feeling remained through the weekend, even when I felt my clumsiest or despaired of ever finding my balance and coordination, let alone remembering the sequence of the moves.  Let me tell you, we worked hard.  Each morning we began with two full regular sets of Tai Chi, followed by several minutes of foundation exercises.  After a short water break, we worked on the sabre set.  We learned it a few moves at at time in a sequence and practiced over and over and over again.  Then the instructor would demonstrate the next sequence of moves, adding on to what we’d already learned.

We enjoyed a 90 minute to two hour lunch break during which we shared a meal but then broke into groups to do scheduled tasks such as washing dishes, chopping fruit or vegetables for dinner, putting away tables, etc.  Back from lunch, we all did another full set of Tai Chi, followed by a few more hours of more sequences from the Sabre set.  Break for dinner, do the after dinner tasks, reconvene for another full Tai Chi set, then a couple of hours more of Sabre.  By the time 9 p.m. arrived and we stopped for the night, collectively we looked like we’d just run a marathon.  I believe we all felt the same way.  The next day followed the same schedule and we finished learning all of the set moves.  The next morning when we reconvened, we concentrated on refining the moves and doing the set over and over and over and over again.

Thankfully, even with close to 100 people learning with all of the turns, chops, cuts and “throwing” of sabres (that don’t ever leave our hands), nobody actually got sliced or diced.

I will not pretend that I am anything close to having it down.  I am happy that I can remember most of it, but need to consult my notes if I get stuck on a transition from one sequence to the next.  I just keep practicing and practicing, knowing that eventually I’ll have the sequence down and then can really focus on refining my moves.  I will tell you without hesitation that I had a blast!  This is a fun set to learn and do and there’s something very cool about doing Tai Chi with my red oak sabre!

Food wise I was not strictly compliant.  I gave in to enjoy some really tasty carbs and I don’t regret doing so… particularly not with the overload of physical exercise we got.  Now that I’m back, I’m definitely cutting back — cutting the white carbs out again — and am back on track.

Today I saw my new primary care physician for the first time.  I’m happy to report that my blood pressure numbers remain good.  My cholesterol ratio of HDL:LDL is really good.  So is my blood sugar.  The doctor and I talked for a long time about my weight loss and my fitness levels.  She said that she looks not just at the numbers as in pounds on the scale, but at the overall condition of the patient and my condition is pretty darned good.  She encouraged me to stay on the path that I’m following, have faith that the pounds will come off, add some fiber supplement to my diet and she’ll see me in a year.  So, booyah for a great medical check up and keeping fit!

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Medical Check-Up

Once I made the decision to have weight loss surgery, almost five years ago, it seems like I spent the next few years always going to a doctor.  First there was the consult with the surgeon.  This was followed by a number of tests and evaluations – Endoscopy, colonoscopy, pulmonology consult, first sleep test, pulmonologist’s eval of test, second sleep test, psychiatric evaluation, cardiologist appointment, echocardiogram, blood labs.  And so on and so on.

In between all of those tests I was still seeing my primary care physician for regular monitoring since I was on medication for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.  Doctors, doctors, specialists – I was always in one office or the other.

After the surgery, I saw my surgeon twice a month, then once a month for a year, then every three months.  In between I regularly had more blood labs done.  My primary care doctor still monitored me to make sure that I could now stay off of cholesterol and blood sugar medication and then, eventually, gave the okay for me to go off of the blood pressure medications completely.

Two and a half years ago, my primary doctor relocated.  Almost two years ago, I stopped going to my bariatric surgeon.

So, I’ve been pretty much going it alone for the last couple of years.  Except for the stall in my overall weight loss and slight regain which effected me emotionally and mentally, I’ve felt so terrific that going to the doctor has not been at the top of my mind.

This might all be well and good except that there are so many things that are important to keep an eye on for a woman of my age, family history, and previous self-history.  I came to accept, and give myself a mental head smack, that I’ve been ignoring my health.  I have no business being overdue for a complete physical and blood work.  Then there’s the matter of a mammogram and pap smear screenings.

It dawned on me that, since I stopped steadily losing weight before I reached my goal, I could be risking a recurrence of my blood pressure and blood sugar issues.  I monitor myself at home and things seem to be okay, but that doesn’t mean I should keep skipping full tests.  I also know that not having regular diagnostic screenings is just plain dumb and irresponsible.

So, I’m remedying the situation.  I found a new primary care physician to try and have an appointment for fasting blood work tomorrow.  After that, I’ll have a full physical, get a pap smear done and get a scrip for a mammogram.

I’m not big on self-diagnosing, but I’ve been reading up on thyroid issues.  I have requested a thyroid screening test too to see if it’s functioning the way that it should.  If it isn’t, that could shed some light on the stalled weight loss as well as some other symptoms I’m experiencing.

This is all a valuable lesson for me.  Eating healthy, fresh, clean food and working out are important for my health, but they aren’t a free pass.  I can’t neglect myself in any way by not going for regular checkups.  I’m glad that I’m taking the steps that I’ve put into place and that I’m ramping up my dedication to good self-care.

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