Slow Progress by Numbers.

Ever since I worked on a poultry farm in my teen years, I’ve had one irritating obsessive compulsive disorder. I count things. This came from the twice daily routine of walking through the sheds and collecting eggs from in, under and around the nesting boxes and the poultry shed. A careful and accurate count had to be recorded of the eggs from each shed.

Nowadays I catch myself counting whenever I’m doing anything that has a hint of repetition associated. Depending on what I’m doing, at some time during the day I discover a number incrementing in my head, and I often have to ponder before I realise what it is that I have been counting. Riding my motorcycle it may have been power poles, or species of animal; driving on the Tanami it was kangaroos and wallabies, or neck-crunching potholes.

In the Bribie swimming pool I’ve been counting the number of strokes it takes me swim a length and the number of lengths I can swim in 15 minutes. Today for the first time I managed to do that and in addition keep count of the total number of lengths I swam. I’m pretty sure I did 50 lengths on Thursday, but I had to calculate it from the number of laps I did per quarter hour. All I know is that I was completely buggered and needed a nap before I could go to the physiotherapist that afternoon for more workout. There I pedalled for 15 minutes with shrieking knees, then 10 minutes pedalling another machine with my arms, and lastly knee bends or squats on a vibrating platform that gave me the weirdest sensation. The efforts of that day left me aching and weary. I treated myself to a lamb biryani for dinner, from the Indian restaurant up the road. The next day I spent quietly at home, napping and reading. And eating leftover biryani.

That itself is a breakthrough. Once, there would have been no leftovers.

Today I kept count again while swimming and was pleased with myself when I completed 40 lengths in just under one hour forty five minutes. That is 1 kilometre. I started out doing two lengths in a little under 3 minutes for a time then settled into a steady 6 per 15 minutes, with enough time spare for a short break every four lengths to do some water assisted chin-ups on the dive podium, and step-ups, squats or leg stretches on the exit steps.

It’s all getting easier and easier. I am concentrating now on breast stroke when I swim, because according to the app I use to record my progress, breast stroke burns the most calories. I know I am not giving it the effort that a fit swimmer would, so I record my swim in the app as leisurely swimming, That is listed as being about a thousand kJ less per half hour. That way, I feel I will not be exaggerating the progress I’m actually making.

On Thursday I was watching the clock, aching and weary long before the time I had set myself, and totally stuffed at the end of my session. Two hours seemed far too long. By the end I was struggling to maintain my determination.

Today I was surprised at how effortless the swimming seemed and how quickly time passed. I could have gone on longer and considered for a bit trying for 50 laps. In the end I chose to finish after an hour and three quarters, while my shoulders were still not aching. Hunger played a part in that decision because I had only had a mug of coffee before I set out. My reward today is a Thai prawn green curry and noodles I am about to prepare.

I swam five out of seven days this week, and I am thinking that four days a week will be sufficient, or perhaps just a regular two days on and one off. Judging by how good I felt today, a periodic rest day is a great idea.


Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns

Land and water resources around the globe are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, threatening the ability of humanity to feed itself.

The report warns that climate change will exacerbate the dangers, as extreme weather threatens to disrupt and shrink the global food supply.

Food shortages could also increase a flow of immigration that is already redefining politics in North America, Europe and other regions. From 2010 to 2015, the number of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who traveled to the U.S. increased fivefold, coinciding with an unusually dry period that left many without enough food.

The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself.

The report, prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and released in summary form in Geneva on Thursday, found that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly. A half-billion people already live in places turning into desert, and soil is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming, according to the report.

So, What Did You do While the World was Ending?

Just another day, really. I had the main pool to myself for almost an hour, which is good because I got lane one, with the steps. Starting early pays.

I swam for an hour and a quarter. In the first quarter hour I managed eight lengths of breast stroke in just over sixteen minutes. After that I settled down to a more easily maintained six lengths in around fourteen minutes. Every sixth length I switched to back stroke. I have learned that backstroke is much easier, much more efficient, but also burns much less energy. I want to burn energy.

I also learned it uses completely different muscles, or so it seems. I don’t get the lactic burn and could probably cruise all day doing it. So making every sixth length back stroke gave me a wee break from the building ache, and enough time to fill out the rest of each quarter-hour with some water-assisted step-ups on the pool steps, and some water-assisted chin-ups on the rail of the starting block.


There’s time to muse when swimming, I muse a lot.

It seemed the oddest form of synchronicity to find later the Guardian’s First Dog on the Moon cartoon today covered exactly what I was musing about. Hence my previous post. It should be depressing, but I am way past that. I really have reached a stage in which my philosophy is “Shit Happens, It Doesn’t Matter”.

Also, whilst swimming on my back and looking unfocused up at an overcast sky, I saw just how many floaters I have in my eyeballs. I named the biggest one Eric.

One of my earliest memories is of seeing floaters in my eyes at bedtime and trying to tell my mother what I saw. I must have been four or so. I thought there was snow in my bedroom. She thought I was silly and told me to go to sleep.

I then moved to the indoor therapy pool. I had that completely to myself. The water, at 33C seemed very hot at first, after the cooling swim and a wet walk through a chilly breeze. Half an hour of side stepping, squats and leg stretches and assorted joint mobility exercises a hot shower and shampoo, then off to Aldi to hunt for a kitchen seive. They didn’t have one. When it comes to stuff like that Aldi can be hit and miss.

What they do have is a really good range of good quality foods Fresh meat and really fresh produce at astonishingly good prices. Today for the first time I spent a while just looking around at what they stock. There seems very little need to shop elsewhere for staples or luxury foods.

Almost seems a shame to discover this just as the world is ending.


Monosodium Glutamate, or MSG, has had a bad rap. There is no such thing as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. No one has ever been able to reproduce it, or to explain a physiological mechanism for it. People who claim to be allergic to MSG, putting it plainly, aren’t. If they were they’d be allergic to mushrooms, soy sauce, Parmesan cheese AND tomatoes. All of these are naturally rich in glutamate. There is no Italian Restaurant Syndrome either. Obviously.

I have known this for a long time, and I’ve never been concerned about whether there was MSG in my food. These days however, there rarely is, all because of a myth. I can’t even find it in a supermarket any more, though I have tracked it down on line. So someone is still using it.

This became of interest, even of importance to me when my friend Bob commented on my post in which I talked about reducing my sodium intake for the sake of my failing kidneys. A quick check with a reputable source of scientific information confirmed that, as Bob had suggested, MSG will enhance the flavour of food significantly better than salt while contributing to the diet only 40% of the sodium that salt does.

Worth knowing. It may well be that salt is not the bad guy it is made out to be either, when it comes to blood pressure and heart attacks. A study a few years ago suggested that people tend to self regulate their salt intake, and though its consumption is higher in some societies than others, there is not much correlation between sodium intake and BP and heart conditions.

Be that as it may, it IS a known factor in chronic kidney disease.

While on the subject of food myths, let’s pop a few others;

Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. This belief was generated by Mr Kellog, who wanted young men to stop wanking.

There is nothing scary or dangerous about GMOs. All our fruit and vegetables as well as our livestock are genetically modified. That is what evolution is. Modern science has just found a way to speed up the process and guide its direction.

There’s no such thing as a superfood. No discussion necessary. Good food is the basis of good health, it is not medicine. Though some foods have medicinal properties, they are not medicines because there is no way to know or standardise the concentration of active ingredient without processing and analysis. This is why most medicines and supplements are synthesised rather than extracted.

The body cannot distinguish between synthetic or natural substances. They are chemically identical and metabolised in exactly the same way. This means that the vitamin C in Berocca is as good as what is in an orange.

This principle also means there is no “good” sugar and no “bad” sugar. No “natural”or “organic” sugar. There is just sugar. The only bad thing about sugar is in the amount eaten. The poison is in the dose. Any diabetic knows that starch is metabolised into sugars. The important factor here is the rate of conversion, which is why complex carbohydrates are better for you.

Fats and oils, however, are chemically different, and are metabolised differently. So there are good fats and bad fats.

Lastly, and I speak from both expertise and experience, the only diet that ever works for weight loss is one in which the amount of energy, measured in Calories or kilojoules, that is taken in by way of food and drink, is exceeded by the energy burned in normal metabolism, activities and exercise. To gain weight, reverse the balance of the equation.

A healthy diet is one that contains all the components, in the proper overall proportion, for maintaining a healthy metabolism; protein, fat, fuel in the form of carbohydrate and sugar, vitamins and minerals. And don’t forget fibre to keep it all moving, and water!


I had a really good session with my dietician today. Encouraging, supportive, and quite pleased with what I was already doing, she was very helpful in steering me towards a more finely tuned approach to my diet. I knew that for my kidneys’ sake I need to manage my protein and sodium intake in particular, and I have been paying them some attention, but I must confess I have mainly been trying to ensure I meet my kilojoule goals yet have a balanced and pleasurable diet. Though my kidneys should be my priority I have really been concentrating on losing weight to hopefully relieve the pain and improve my mobility. It is more a matter of life and death that rather than losing weight I keep my kidneys functioning at their current level and prevent them deteriorating further.

So I must do both. Because what is the point of living longer if it is no fun?

Now we have fine tuned the goals to reduce the protein and sodium limits further. I can manage the protein easily enough. I’ve already reduced my meat consumption to a few hundred grams a week. But I’ve noticed that it is easy to exceed the daily sodium limits. I haven’t worried about it too much, but it appears I should. Now my limits are even lower, and it may be that sodium, rather than energy, is what will actually limit my choices of food or quantity.

It looks like anchovies are out, for a start.

Many Cheeses too, which is a shame.

I must pay more attention to the nutritional information on foods and not just focus on the kJ.

Lastly, though I thought I was drinking plenty of water already, I must increase my intake back to Kimberley summer quantities.

The Weight

Finally achieved my goal of losing a kg in a week. That makes a total of 9 kg in the last hundred days. The increase is clearly due to the swimming. I can’t walk far but I sure can swim. I am aiming at 4 days a week at least from now one. After all what better use of my time is there? Maybe I can get fit enough to start SCUBA diving again.

An hour of breaststroke burns a lot of energy. More than backstroke it turns out. Backstroke is more efficient and I swim faster, but I’m going for the energy burn for now.

After the swim I spend another 30 to 45 minutes in the warmer indoor physio pool where I do all the exercises my therapist prescribed that are too painful to do under the full weight of gravity. There I get to chat with other old folks with artificial knees and hips and mobility problems worse than mine. A glimpse into my future if I don’t keep this up.

I’m losing weight and still eating food I like. I wish I’d figured this out sooner.

I just have to get the load off, Fanny. There’s a long way to go yet.

I pulled into Nazareth, was feeling ’bout half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
Hey, mister, can you tell me, where a man might find a bed?
He just grinned and shook my hand, “No” was all he said.

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny, and …
Robbie Robertson
The Weight lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Audiam, Inc, Songtrust Ave

Pushing it.

My visit to the physiotherapist last night was encouraging.

He had made the appointment at the end of the day so I’d have more time with him, and so it was we had our discussion and planning session while I pedalled an Exercycle for half an hour at difficulty level four. I can not deny it hurt. But someone was watching. And I really have committed to doing this, just as I did back nearly nineteen years ago when the Ministry had a gym in the basement. I did it then, I can do it now. I think I may just get that little pedal machine.

I weighed myself, and found I’m exactly a kilo lighter than I was three weeks ago. Nowhere near the kilo every ten days I’ve been aiming at, but progress nonetheless.

I calculated that on this particular day I had so far burned more energy than I had consumed, so I rewarded myself at the Chinese takeaway down by the Bongaree Jetty, and ordered a combination chow mein. When I got it home I found it had no noodles. Just pork, prawns, beef, chicken and a lot of vegetables. Enough easily for two, but I ate it all. Reward for good behaviour, and on consideration something I should do at least once a month, maybe on pension day, for the good of my morale. Because despite the aches I felt good and slept well with a full tum and a clear conscience, in the kilojoules green.

Yesterday may have been a bit over the top, in both pushing myself, and certainly in food intake. But maybe I can make the effort after all to be consistently in the green. This is my memo to self to commit.