Parsing Strangers

For some odd reason today I was reminded of a young nephew by marriage in Solomon Islands. For a long time I knew him as Lotion, which admittedly is an odd name. That’s what everyone called him and that’s what he answered to.

I imagined it must be a nickname and he probably earned it when he was young after an unseemly spill of insect repellent lotion or some similar story. That story pleased me because he was a pleasant young man and I could imagine him as a really cute funny toddler. All the toddlers I met in the villages were totally adorable. Pampered and loved, but somehow never spoilt, they were eager little puppies, keen to please and help in any way they could. They never complained if given a grown up task to do and would labour away while everyone laughed lovingly at their struggle.

But I digress.

One day I had to help Lotion fill out a form for school. He had to write his name and for the first time I saw it written in English. Lawson.

“So thats how you spell your name”I said.

“Yes, L A W S O N. Lotion”.

“In English we say that ‘Lawson'”

“Yes, that’s right, “Lotion”.

It didn’t matter how I pronounced it, Lotion heard his name. That was an insight to me, but I am still trying to figure out to what.


Health Update.

A reminder came on Monday last week to go to the Pathology Lab for more tests. My how time flies.

I went to the lab to bleed and pee on the very next day.

This afternoon I drove to Woodford to chat with the doc about the results. It was a pleasure to see the happy look on his face when he saw my latest weight and heard my recitation of all the things I’ve been doing in the cause of longevity.

Then he went through my test results with me. My BP is excellent. i knew that, because I monitor it myself. My kidney function has improved significantly. This was a surprise because the expectation was that the best I might do was prevent further deterioration. So that was Good News.

Some acid of concern ( I forget it’s name) in the blood is back to normal. My liver function has returned to normal. Sodium is normal. Other stuff is normal. Too much detail for an old codger. But if it’s ok, I don’t need to remember what it is. So I just keep on doing what I am doing. Take the pills, do the exercise and physio, stick to my dietary regimen, and drink copious quantities of water.

And finally, the itchy mole in the small of my back I was worried about is not melanoma.

In other news, I finally swam 3,000 metres this morning. It took me 2 hours, 47 minutes – plus or minus 30 seconds – It’s hard to see the second hand on my watch without my glasses. It was a sustained, non-stop swim. Breast stroke, mask and snorkel, no fins. Even with my limp and walking stick I could possibly have walked the distance in that time. Or maybe not. In any case, it was a milestone for me. I’ve decided I’m not going out to beat my time but to increase distance. I’m aiming to do 5 km (in one session) at least once a fortnight within a month. It’s the best cardio exercise I can manage, and it seems to be doing me good.

Having established to my own satisfaction that I can keep it up, I now have invested in a weekly concession rate of $11 a week for unlimited pool use. Up until today I have been on a $112 for 30 sessions rate. Tomorrow -or perhaps the next day – will be my thirtieth pool visit. I may have a rest day tomorrow. Unlimited entry starts on Thursday, which is the day they debit my account each week.

Little by little I’m settling in here.

Slow Burn

On Sunday I rode down to the Bike and Bait shop near the Jetty in Bongaree. There Joe the proprietor went over the bike and adjusted the bits that weren’t right. At my request he replaced the rather flimsy and very uncomfortable saddle with one that did not wobble and come loose under my weight and which I found to my joy was delightfully comfortable to sit on. $60 well spent. I also bought a nifty trailer to tow behind the bike. Now I can leave the car at home and go shopping at Aldi by bike. Aldi is only a short way on past the pool.

With the saddle and handlebars now properly set up, and everything ship-shape and Bristol shanky I rode on to the pool pulling my fine new trailer behind. It was uphill most of the way and I was delighted to find how easy it was, dropping a couple of gears and allowing the motor to assist.

At the pool I swam steadily for two hours, in which time I completed 76 lengths, so I continued for four more lengths to finish my second two kilometre swim. That is pretty slow swimming. Less than a kilometre an hour. My feet didn’t touch the bottom of the pool for almost the whole time and my head barely came out of the water. I only stopped for a swig or two from my water bottle.

I managed the first ten lengths in 16 minutes. And easily did 9 in the second quarter hour. After that I lost track of time as I continued but I kept on counting. Towards the end I tried timing myself again and with a little more effort than I had been exerting in my steady progress I managed to swim 9 lengths in the last 14 minutes. There was a slight burning ache in my shoulders all the while as I swam. It was not too uncomfortable, but it told me I was burning energy and producing lactic acid. That had to be a good thing and the muscles should by building up strength.

Endorphins must be real because I just swam on, counting laps and following the blue tile line up and down the lane. Feeling good. I could have carried on longer. I wasn’t tired, but I was getting hungry. I’m confident that with a good porridge breakfast to start the day I’ll manage 3 km pretty soon.

On the bike, things have improved too. It is properly configured for me now, and I can pedal with minimal discomfort. I pedalled all the way from Bongaree to the pool, and after the swim I pedalled all the way home. 4.6 km in less than 20 minutes. Using the electric assist of course, but actually contributing. The new seat makes all the difference.

I bought the bike because both my doctor and physiotherapist said I should. Or an Exercycle. At the time I was screaming inside “What about the fucking pain? Aren’t you listening to me?” It was only when I was using an Exercycle machine and the physio was telling me that it was not the effort, but the motion that was important that it occurred to me that an electric bike might be the answer. I remembered my Aunt riding one when I visited her in Devon. I’m glad I thought of it. I’ll save on fuel for local travel and shopping, and still get exercise while out and about. From now on, all my local travel shall be by electric bike.

I’ve just realised I have returned to telling my future self what I’m doing and thinking.

Sorry if it is tedious to any others dropping by. I’ll post something more interesting soon. Not about me.

Swimming Uphill

I forgot my water bottle today, and swam 2hrs and 20 minutes at the pool. Swimming with a mask and snorkel seems to dry one out. I must not make that mistake again. It is stupidly ironic to suffer dehydration in a swimming pool.

I only managed to swim 80 lengths in just over 1 hr 15 mins, a very reasonable 2km distance, except it means my average time per length was 1.7 minutes. That is slow. I started out doing almost 11 lengths per quarter hour and gradually slowed.

I count the number of strokes it takes for me to swim a length. At the beginning it took me around 27 but at the end my strokes were clearly getting weaker and a length took me from 33 to 40.

I noticed one curious thing. Swimming from the deep end to the shallow end took me on average 1 to 2 strokes more than when I swam in the opposite direction. I pondered this as I swam looking through my mask at the bottom sloping up before me. I had a sudden epiphany. I realised I was swimming up hill. Of course it would require a little extra effort.

Yeah, nah. It was really that the kick off at the shallow end gave me more headway at the start.

Now, I am reconsidering my goals. I had hoped to manage 100 lengths – 2.5 km – in two hours. But that would require me to maintain an average of 1.2 mins a length. I don’t think I can. So I shall adopt the ancient adage “Just keep swimming”. I’ll maintain a comfortably steady pace and go for a time record instead. After all, it’s about the exercise. I’ve always been a stamina over speed person.

A Sense of Achievement

I went for a hat trick yesterday. Ride, Swim, Walk.

With my walking stick strapped to the bike I rode to the pool, swam my ninety minutes, followed by twenty minutes of physio exercises in the warmer indoor pool. Then I rode down to Bongaree Jetty for a walk around the park and along the esplanade and beach. I was glad of the stick on the uneven ground. Then I rode around Bongaree a bit, exploring before heading home.

I’ve finally got the handlebars and seat adjusted correctly, so I can pedal with a minimum of discomfort and pain. Nonetheless I still pedalled only about a fifth of the twelve kilometres or so that I rode. I definitely could not do it without the assist.

I was aching and weary on my return. After a light meal of low-sodium soup and vegetables I fell asleep watching The Canterville Ghost on Netflix.

This morning on my weekly weigh-in I found I have lost 14.5 kg since I committed. That is a heap of weight lost and I am still embarrassed to look in the mirror and see little change in my appearance. It doesn’t show yet. Such a long way still to go. But I’m not discouraged.

Good Calories, Bad Calories.

There is a persistent myth, mainly perpetuated by those who would sell you something – a book, a product, a plan, a “superfood” – that there are good calories and bad calories. Honey = good Calories, white sugar = Bad, for example. The fact is they are all the same, a unit of energy. How “good” or how “bad” they are depends entirely on how many of them are consumed.

The myth is partially validated by the fact that certain foods are heavily laden with some forms of energy. These are often the foods we crave because from an evolutionary perspective they are the foods or forms of energy that were most difficult to obtain in the hunter-gatherer society. Sweet foods, fatty foods. Because of their relative scarceness those same foods are the more easily converted to fat and stored if not actually burned up in the daily metabolism needs of the body. Back when we hunted and gathered excess energy was scarce and we evolved to take maximum advantage of it when we got it. Now the energy we expend to obtain our food is minimal for most of us. And modern processed food has been refined to concentrate those nutrients we favour and remove the others, often to the point we end up eating almost pure sugar and concentrated fat. The point is, that if there is no excess, there will be nothing to store. Balance is the key.

Although it is important to balance the energy equation at the end of the week so that income does not exceed expenditure, it is also important to ensure that other nutritional requirements are also met. The body needs a certain amount of sugar, fat or carbohydrate, protein, fibre, micronutrients etc to fuel, maintain and repair itself. Some foods also contribute to a feeling of wellbeing and satiety. It is important to have some of that type of food in the daily diet. Without it, the body will feel as if it is being starved and the mind will develop cravings that can threaten the will to keep to a healthier regimen.

That is why it is important to allow for so-called Bad Calories now and then. Ice cream, pastry, pizza, whatever floats your contentedness boat.

Just be aware that if you don’t want to carry it around your waist, you will need to burn it off. And if the equation does not balance, that may take longer than it took to eat or drink it.

Eating Healthily

One thing I’ve learned in my years of travail and toil, is that diets don’t work.

By “diet” I mean the faddy diets sold in books and promoted by barkers and quacks in women’s and men’s magazines. The fact is that the only way to control weight is to control the balance of the equation of energy in <= energy used. It is simply that the total number of kilojoules (or Calories if you prefer) that you burn each day should equal or exceed the number eaten in food and drink. This comes down to understanding the amount of energy in a food and how much you need to stay alive and healthy. Also, how much is burned in daily activities. I have an app to help me monitor that, and it is proving very useful.

You do need to change your eating habits, but alone that is not a diet. If you like ice cream, no reason to give it up. Make room for it in your calorific budget once or twice a week. It is all about the energy equation. But it is also about keeping up your mental health too. Dieting and weight problems are known associates of depression.

With the help of medical advice and a dietician, I have determined that I should eat about 7,000 kJ (1673 kilocalories, or Calories) per day in order to lose weight at about 1kg per ten days. this is a higher rate than is usually recommended, but I have medical reasons for getting on with it stat.

I try to keep up a regimen of activity suitable to my age and generally decrepit condition by swimming, walking, and just lately pedalling, though I need to take it slowly with the latter two. I’m swimming at least four and up to six days a week for one to two hours a day.

My last post links to some good sensible advice on eating food that keeps you on track, while not leaving you feeling hungry. I have learned to budget at least once a week for something I really like, that I used to call comfort food, roast meat, baked potatoes, pasta and pizza, for example. That way I don’t feel deprived or anxious that I’ll never have such food again. I want to get into a routine I can maintain, and enjoy when I finally reach my target weight, which at my current rate of progress is still going to be at least about two years. I got that fat.

That is far too long to go without the foods one loves. But there is no need to. Treat your calorific budget as you would your financial budget. Spend it wisely, save up for the odd luxury and treat, but balance the chequebook every week.

There. The advice of a fat man on how not to be fat. It’s working for me.

Here is a link to my cook blog, which I am now turning to healthy, nutritionally balanced and above all enjoyable nosh. You can also find some really good special but hi-cal treats there, like turkey sausage rolls and beef spare ribs. Indulge.