How Do You Like Them Apples?

Once in a while, I’ll hear about something enough to make me look into it. Even when it’s something I have no intention of taking part in, myself. One of these things happens to be apple cider vinegar. I’ve been hearing about this stuff for years and have even had some friends and family recommend that I try it for various reasons, but the “vinegar” aspect has always scared me off. I’m not a big fan of swallowing vinegar. Back home, people would have a nasty habit of sprinkling vinegar on their french fries. It’s usually delicious, until I remember that I’m sprinkling acid on my food. But I digress…

As usual, I’ll take a brief paragraph to point out that I’m not a doctor, dietitian or medical practitioner and everything I point out in my posts are based solely on unsolicited research that I perform myself. One should always consult their health professional before starting on anything new that could adversely or significantly affect their bodies, including workout routines and diets. Now, on to the apple cider vinegar!

I’ve been seeing this stuff advertised everywhere for a number of years now. Most prominently online. You know, those annoying advertisements that pop up when you’re trying to access something on a website or you’re trying to read something? (whistles softly as he remembers his page is ad-supported). I’ve even got some friends back in good ol’ New Brunswick who swear by the stuff. So, what’s the real deal with apple cider vinegar? It popped up again in something I was reading about a week ago, so I decided to look into it.

First, I’ll explain what apple cider vinegar is, since providing definitions is one of my defining characteristics (see what I did there?). Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apple juice, which creates the resulting vinegar. It’s actually incredibly low on carbohydrates, making it ideal for Diabetics, but I’ll get to that in a moment. It’s been used for all sorts of food-related functions, but also for household cleaning and hair washing. Although I can’t seem to find a definitive source, the stuff is said to have been first used thousands of years ago.

According to an article posted by HealthLine.com, apple cider vinegar is said to contain “helpful substances” and can kill harmful bacteria. I put “helpful substances” in quotations because apple cider vinegar essentially contains no vitamins, minerals or nutrients in its basic form. But a “substance called mother, which consists of strands of protein, enzymes, and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky appearance,” is what’s generally credited with all the benefits.

The article goes on to explain that apple cider vinegar can help with skin health, can boost the heart health of some animals (not humans) and can help with weight loss. No, it won’t melt fat like some of the infomercials you see online. Effectively, nothing short of liposuction simply removes your body fat. But apple cider vinegar is said to help increase how full you feel, when used in conjunction with your meals. This means that you’ll potentially need to eat less to feel full, which is what ultimately leads to loss of weight. There have been studies linked to this, but no definitive evidence that it genuinely helps.

The aspect I find interesting is that it’s also said to be beneficial for folks who have Type-2 Diabetes. Yes, I totally recognize that I’m Type-1 but I also like to think that I’ve had Diabetes and researched on it enough over the past 38 years that I can occasionally speak to some aspects of Type-2, as well. Besides, the information comes from someone else. So, I’m in the clear. But as some of you may know, Type-2 Diabetes is a condition in which the body’s ability to produce/use insulin and process the body’s glucose is compromised. A marked departure from what causes Type-1 Diabetes. Apple cider vinegar is said to help improve insulin sensitivity by a significant amount.

Because of this, it’s important to be mindful when combining apple cider vinegar with prescriptions that are intended to help do the same, as it can cause dangerous drops in blood glucose. Especially medications that also help to increase insulin sensitivity. It’s also worth pointing out that even folks who don’t have Diabetes can benefit from better insulin absorption.

It’s always interesting to read about a substance that’s not only consumable but also holds so many potential health benefits. Studies are still on the fence about apple cider vinegar’s potential for weight loss, but like everything else in life, it’s up to the consumer as to whether they decide to try it and decide if it work for them or not. ☯

What The F&%k Is Spinning…

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of changing up the ol’ workout routine whenever I get the chance. In fact, there are very few workout routines that I won’t try at least ONCE, although I’m certain as I get older that eventually there’ll be some exceptions. But I do still enjoy a challenge. This is where spinning comes in. Sometime in the early period of the past ten years, I travelled home to New Brunswick to visit my family. I brought along some fitness gear, since Sensei’s dojo was closed out for the summer but my aunt and uncle managed a local fitness gym that I knew I could frequent.

I was home for a few days, jogging the few kilometres required to reach the gym, paying the five dollar day pass and using the gym for about an hour before heading home. I felt light and easy, and satisfied at the fact that I was maintaining my fitness while on vacation. On the third or fourth day I ran into my aunt, who explained that she ran a spin class three times a week and invited me to join for one of her classes in lieu of going to the gym. She explained that it was a workout using an indoor stationary bike. When I found out how late into the morning it was, I stated I’d hit the gym THEN go to her spin class. She warned me that I’d be unable to do both in the same morning. How right she was…

I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I’d used stationary bikes before, but I obviously preferred the real thing. I walked into an open area with a dozen books lined up and a small group of women stretching their legs and chatting. My aunt approached and introduced me to the group, who all agreed how nice it was to have a man working out with them for a change. I was handed a 10-pound padded rod and told to place it on the front of the bike until it was “needed.” What the hell was going on???

The music started and everyone started peddling. What followed was one of the most intense hours of my life. In the seat, up from the seat, easy peddling, higher-geared peddling, hold the rod, shoulder press the rod, and on and on… I was drenched within minutes and it was a ridiculously brutal workout. It worked basically everything on my body that I could see as well as some muscle groups that I wasn’t aware even existed. It was so good in fact, I joined my aunt’s class as her guest for several more sessions on that visit and subsequent ones.

Spinning has a number of measurable benefits, including increased cardio, weight loss over the long term due to an increased calorie burn, muscle increase and helps to prevent lower back pain. It’s also a low-impact exercise, making it much easier on the knee and joints than running. The articles I’ve read have suggested that an hour of spin class can burn anywhere between 400 to 600 calories, which is not to shabby if you’re trying to burn through enough calories to be in deficit to burn fat.

If you’re looking for something that’s easy on the joints but high on the challenge scale, I highly recommend spin class. The benefits are many, and frankly there are very few downfalls, except whatever membership price you may pay for the class. I was reminded of my experience with spin class a couple of weeks ago when it was brought up during a conversation with one of my friends. Although taking part in an actual spin class may be a bit difficult at the moment, there are ways to access stationary bikes and do your own spin workouts at home. The benefits will be well worth it. ☯

Is It Ever “Too Late?”

There comes a time in every person’s life when they begin to notice certain physiological changes starting to take place. Oh, we all like to think those changes will never happen. But the reality is that it sneaks up on you as time marches on. And no, I don’t mean puberty. Maybe some of your hair gets a little greyer. Maybe your muscles are bit stiffer and your movements are a little slower. Time makes a fool of no one; we all know these changes are coming, we simply choose not to acknowledge them.

I write this post after waking with severely sore muscles, a cramp in my neck and a need to rock back and forth twice in order to hoist myself out of the bed. I recall a time when I could vault out of bed single-legged when the alarm went off, be showered, dressed and out the door in under ten minutes. Now, if I happen to have slept wrong, I need to sprawl on the couch for the first two hours of my morning before I restore enough circulation to start my day; a benefit that is only possible due to COVID-19 and being at home.

Have I sufficiently bummed you out, yet? I may be exaggerating the facts a bit (although I am starting to show quite a bit of grey) but it’s important to acknowledge that we all get there. There is no magic potion, no fountain of youth and no way to go back and do it all over again. This is why it’s critically important that we take care of ourselves and develop ourselves as best we can, while we can. An idle engine will eventually seize, and the human body is the most complex engine there is.

I’ve often chatted with folks who are no older than I am, about martial arts, my chosen career and how I’ve accomplished these things despite Diabetes and other associated issues in my life. Almost 9 times out of 10, these folks will usually say something along the lines of, “I always wanted to try karate,” or “I always WISHED I’d tried karate.” I use karate as the example, but I’ve had people utter theses sentences for a variety of activities, jobs and fitness aspects, including karate. When I ask why they don’t try it, I always get the same answer: “It’s too late for that, now!”

No. No, it’s not. Unless you’re unfortunate enough to be afflicted with a terminal illness that prevents movement, it’s never to late. A person may not be able to turn back the clock, but there’s nothing stopping a person from making a start from right where they are. In fact, I’ve watched people in their late 40’s and even their 50’s make their way through basic training. I’ve seen people of all age groups, body types, weight categories and backgrounds join karate and do quite well. In some circumstances, it may not necessarily mean that they go on to be an action hero or anything, but there’s nothing stopping them from trying.

The idea is that you can’t allow yourself to become idle. It’s important to take at least twenty minutes a day to stretch, move and get some sunlight. I know the current state of the world has reduced how often we leave the house, but most people can still manage walking outside, taking a drive or simply standing in their back yard and breathing in the fresh air. Physical activity is important. You need to be able to work your body physically, in order to maintain it. You can eat well, but this only provides the fuel. What happens to your car if you keep adding gas to the tank without driving it? Eventually, the gas will overflow, make a bloody mess and the engine will eventually still seize from lack of use.

I always like thinking of my grandparents for this comparison. My grandmother was a sedentary woman. She gave birth and raised seven children and was by no means lazy. But once those children were all grown and out of the house, her life pretty much ground to a halt. She never worked, never exercised and never moved (and no, knitting doesn’t count!). By the time she reached the age my mother is at now, she became hunched over, her body started having serious difficulties and her muscles became slack and useless. She passed away in her 80’s, unable to walk and function.

My grandfather joined the army when he was young and fought on the European front during World War II. He worked as a blacksmith, carpenter and always kept himself moving. When the sun rose, he’d be up and about. By the time retirement came around, he made use of a wheelchair, but he was still using dumbbells and exercising up until the week before he passed away, which was at the age of 95. Physical activity and working his body was a part of his life, which resulted in better mobility and health for longer, as well as almost ten added years of life than my grandmother.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… There’s no way to confirm what the difference may have been. After all, if my grandmother had done everything my grandfather had done, maybe she’d have fared better for longer as well. And there’s no accounting for the differences in inherent physiology, differences in hormones, etc, etc, etc… But that’s exactly the point: she didn’t! It can debated ’til the cows come home, I’m simply offering a true example of how two bodies will differ, based on two different lifestyles.

People often ask me how I’m in such good health, despite having Type-1 Diabetes. In my 40’s, I essentially suffer from none of the typical complications associated with someone who has had my condition for decades. My nervous system is clear, my kidneys are in excellent health, none of my toes have had to be amputated and I keep being told by my doctors that I have the heart of a horse. Now, if only my efforts would start to melt this “dad bod” I seem to have developed…

I’ve been moving, training and working out for as long as I can remember. Although I remember the specific details of how I started on all these different journeys, the images of those memories have started to blur. But I know that if I had never started karate all those years ago, I would still find it within myself to try it now. In my early 40’s, I could still conceivably reach some pretty high levels. The lesson is that it’s never too late.

If you’ve always wanted to try something, try it. Have a sport you want to attempt? Go for it. Have a career you’ve always wanted to have? Work for it. It’s never too late. Want to join karate in your 60’s? Bow and step inside, I’ll teach you! You may have to research what you’re looking to try and take the proper precautions, but there’s no reason you can’t do it. Your body is your engine, and you’re the only one who can keep it running smoothly and clean. Even the most efficient engines only hit their stride once they’ve geared up to increase their momentum. So, you need to get started. Start by getting off the couch. Start by stepping into the dojo/gym/outside. Start. Your personal motivation is what dictates what you’ll try, not how many candles were on your last birthday cake. ☯

Couples Who Work Out Together, Get Fit Together

My wife and I started doing a generic workout that I found online, just shortly after New Year’s Day. It’s called the “Army of Two” workout, and it incorporates three different levels of increasing length for six different exercises. I need to give credit where credit is due, since I didn’t create this workout and hold no rights to it. The workout was found on Darebee.com, which is a fantastic website with TONS of different workouts. They’re mostly body weight only, so it makes for easy and simple workouts that you can do just about anywhere. here’s the one my wife and I have been doing:

We just recently did Level II together, which takes roughly half an hour. We use a dumbbell or kettlebell for the “back-to-back sitting twists,” just to add a bit of resistance to the mix. Otherwise, we both enjoy it and it’s a great way to do a simple workout with your spouse or partner. If you’re looking for different workouts to work different areas of your body, or just to throw a bit of variety into your fitness routine, be sure to check out Darebee.com. You won’t be disappointed. ☯

The Unexpected Workout

I was having a conversation with someone a while back about working out and tracking the number of workouts per week I was doing, when an interesting question was asked: “Does sex count as a workout?” For most people, they’d be inclined to automatically say yes. There’s a reason why a couple will often be out of breath and covered in sweat afterwards. Besides perhaps being old and out of shape. Cough, cough… But let’s steer this conversation away from me, shall we?

Once the question was out there, I decided to look into it a bit and I’ve found that there’s a fair amount of conflict about the subject. Some sources will say that it can be a decent workout while other sources say it falls significantly short of the elements required to be considered a worthwhile workout. Of course, sex is a bit like discussing politics. It makes people feel awkward talking about it, despite always having an opinion. Unless you’re on social media, in which case people have NO issue voicing their opinion. But I digress…

The issues surrounding sex and Diabetes is are obvious. You need to plan ahead, ensuring that you have plenty of fast-acting carbohydrates on hand. Communication is also key, since you may have some explaining to do if you’re partner isn’t aware that you have an insulin pump and/or CGM. It may be a bit of a shock seeing a bunch of hardware attached to your body. And for the gents, the unfortunate reality is that you may have to explain why your “little soldier” doesn’t want to respond, as circulatory and neurological issues may hinder arousal.

Now that I’ve made things sufficiently awkward, let’s get on to the actual topic at hand. Can sex be considered a workout? Yes. And no. It’s complicated. And here’s why. According to an article posted by HealthLine.com, “[…] sex burns about 4.2 calories per minute, for men, and 3.1 calories per minute, for women. But with the average sex session under 20 minutes, it’s not exactly a win-win solution.” So you WILL burn calories during sex. It’s impossible not to, really. Any movement of the body burns calories, so something as intense as sex will, as well.

But you’re looking at well under 100 calories for a full hour of sexual intercourse (not including foreplay), which is why it can’t generally be considered a workout. The low caloric burn and short time span that it lasts (sorry fellas, nobody believes you went to pound-town for HOURS) explain why it doesn’t constitute a workout that can be used as an effective means of burning calories or fat. On the flip side, like any fitness expert can easily admit, any calorie burn is better than zero. So when in the boudoir…

Another article, post by Muscle&Fitness‘ online site, agrees with the “better than zero calories” concept, but also states that it couldn’t be considered a workout in the traditional sense. The only way to do that is to extend the act. The article does go on to point out that sex has a number of health benefits that go beyond calorie burn, including increased cardiorespiratory health, increased serotonin levels and improved sleep. The article also indicates that sex can help to relieve anxiety, depression and high blood pressure.

So even if having sex won’t burn as many calories as say, lifting weights or doing cardio, it’s still better than nothing. And even if it doesn’t constitute a workout, you still get to have sex, so why are you complaining? Just make sure to keep an eye on your blood sugars, keep good communication open and rock your partner’s world. Now, get in there! I didn’t hear no bell! ☯

Even If We’re Just Dancin’ In The Dark…🎶

I’m usually a pretty big advocate for not taking things for granted, especially in today’s cushy world of electronics, gadgets and comforts that the average household didn’t have, even just 50 years ago. For example, it’s a common assumption that any given household will have working internet. And heaven forbid that it NOT be high speed! But as early as the 1990’s, internet access wasn’t common place in most households and even when it was, you had to ensure a random family member didn’t pick up the phone to gab with their friends when you were 99% done downloading your favourite April Wine song using dial up. Thanks a lot, mom!

My point is, there are certain household resources that we take for granted because they’ve been around forever. Such as electricity. It’s hard to imagine a time when working power wasn’t an option within a household. And of course the power always tends to go out at the very worst of times, such as heavy thunder storms and in the dead of winter, practically always at night. The latter is what we had to deal with yesterday morning when our power was out for over nine hours…

Tea light candles, our only source of heat and light on a frosty morning.

The winds started up on Wednesday evening, a howling precursor of what would soon be coming. We had enjoyed a few days of reasonably mild weather, so I should have assumed a storm would be coming. My wife and I had spent some time on our respective computers once our boys were in bed, and we decided to hit the sack around 11 pm in order to get a decent night’s sleep. Little did we know that sleep would not only be evasive, the weather would go a long way towards being the cause. By midnight, we could hear and feel the house shifting with the heavy winds and blowing snow. At one point, I drifted off to sleep for a brief period, only to be woken in total darkness.

Just to clarify, our house is never totally dark. We have iPads, phones and devices that usually provide some level of ambient light, even in the worst of circumstances. But not this time. this time, the bedroom was pitch black. My wife was also awake, and we discussed the fact that power was out. My phone had a decent charge and an alarm was set, so I wasn’t overly worried about waking up late. And I foolishly assumed that power would be restored within an hour, maybe two. Because that’s what usually happens when you live in a large city. Shame on me for assuming they’d be on the ball…

Despite the howling winds, inclement weather and what sounded like the north side of the house collapsing, I managed to fall asleep at some point and awoke at 6 am with my alarm. Now we’re at yesterday morning. I noticed that it was still pitch black and nothing was powered up. Great. So we’ve been at least six hours without power. This meant quite a number of things. It meant no hot breakfast foods, no coffee and no heat in the house. I grabbed my Cadillac of flashlights, one I had purchased for work. That puppy can light up an entire room when pointed upwards at a ceiling, so I got up and started my morning routine in the dark. Easier said than done.

The first real issue was that the power outage meant that our furnace had not been providing heat to the house for the past six hours and the temperature inside the house was sitting at 16 degrees Celsius (61 Fahrenheit). Just as a comparison, the average walk-in refrigerator sits at 7 to 10 degrees Celsius (45 to 50 Fahrenheit), so it was pretty chill in the Cook household, and not in a fun way. I kept assuming power would be restored anytime, so I started tracking down candles to provide ambient heat and light until it did. Turns out that all I had were the tea lights shown in the photo above.

I started getting Nathan’s school lunch ready, since I had no reason to believe he wouldn’t be attending school. Luckily, making a tuna sandwich, cherry tomatoes and a granola bar require no power and could easily be stuffed into his backpack without issue. Since there was literally no sound in the house, Baby Alex felt the house shift and people moving around and decided to announce his presence with a raucous cry. Both boys were up and confused as to why it was still dark. I had to hold a flashlight while Nathan dressed in the dark while bitching about being cold. Then we came out to the kitchen/dining area.

In the interest of safety, I had my wife and the boys stay in the dining area to prevent injury from wandering about a dark house, then set about lighting candles in the kitchen, dining area and living room. My MacBook Air was still sitting at 100% battery life since it keeps its charge ridiculously long, and I was able to keep the boys entertained with some old episodes of “Gargoyles” that I had on my hard drive. The boys ate a light breakfast of dry Cheerios while they watched cartoons. Except for the dark, it was a manageable morning. I decided to grab a space heater and set it up in the dining area to provide a bit more heat, but my pre-caffeinated brain neglected to realize the heater would need to be plugged in.

When the 8 o’clock hour approached, I got Nathan all dressed for the outside and command-started the family vehicle. There would be no walking in this weather on this morning! We drove the quarter-kilometre to his designated bus stop where we listened to the morning news on the radio and heard reports of felled power lines, damaged homes, light poles collapsing and even a local bank on the south side of the city that had caught on fire. The situation looked pretty grim, despite the storm front being done and the sun starting to come up to a mostly clear horizon.

By 8:15, my wife texted that Nathan’s school bus was still parked at its compound, making it over ten minutes late in picking him up, much less being in our general area. By 8:22, we made the judgement call to make it a snow day and simply bring Nathan home, despite transport notices telling us that school buses were running. I offered to run to the corner and grab hot coffee, since we had no option for it at home. As soon as I was outside our immediate neighbourhood, everything was lit up and businesses were open as usual. Of course. Go figure. I grabbed a couple of Tim Horton’s coffees and started driving home, contemplating how I would entertain two small children without the benefit of light and/or devices.

At 8:35, my wife texted that the school bus was now running and was in our neighbourhood. I replied that we’d go sit at Nathan’s bus stop for a short period and see what came of it. Nathan was thoroughly pissed, as he assumed he would get to spend the day at home. Tough break, kid. If that’s the worst fate you suffer in life, things will be pretty smooth for you. Suck it up. We parked at his bus stop and by about 8:40, our bus came to a stop facing the wrong direction. The bus driver was slightly lost as he was new to our area and the street signs were all covered in sticky snow. I had to take a few minutes to describe where certain streets were, and he explained that our usual bus driver had refused to drive his route that morning. Nice.

I got home with hot coffee to a sleeping infant curled up on my wife’s lap and some daylight starting to make an appearance within the living room. The power popped back on at about 9:20, putting us at a bit longer than nine hours without electricity. It got me thinking about how much we take something common like electricity for granted, and just how much we actually depend on it for the smooth running of our household. It also woke me up to the fact that I need some resources in the event we’re ever caught without power for this long or longer during winter conditions again.

Having emergency candles and more than one bright, fully charged flashlight is an important step. Another is to have a rechargeable charging unit for your cell phone. Even if a cell phone is not a “necessity” per say, having the ability to contact emergency services should it become necessary, is. Warm blankets and even rechargeable heaters can be handy, as well. Luckily, we always have SOME food that doesn’t require cooking that we can lean on, but you want to ensure you have adequate water and food stores in the event you’re without a heat source for longer than you can wait. ☯

Own Your Anger

Anger is an insidious thing. Once one begins to feel it, very few people are able to contain it without some sort of mental and physical training. Don’t believe me? Just check out some road rage videos on YouTube and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Modern society allows its anger to run rampant to the point of rage, with little thought or concern about the effects it has on the people around it. And on the people who express that anger.

The worst forms of anger are the inherited ones. The type of anger that a person has nothing to do with, and technically have no right feeling. But they’ve inherited that anger from their parents and/or predecessors, and they express that anger in various forms and blame others for it, even if its an emotional anger they shouldn’t be feeling at all. Of course, what do I know? I have no inherent right to tell anyone what they SHOULD be feeling, but it’s how you deal with those feeling that matter.

The fact is, anger can have physical effects on your body that can be detrimental to your health. Constant anger can have a negative effect on your blood pressure, heart health, sleep and even your digestion. Anger can cause anxiety, headaches and also depression. Some of the articles I’ve read have even linked anger to skin problems, such as eczema. But I’ll let y’all do your own research on that, as that isn’t the focus of today’s post.

Anger can also be a useful tool in training. I remember during my basic training days when I was doing some bag work with one of my troop mates. He was smaller and slighter than I was and couldn’t seem to muster enough strength to effectively strike the bag. I could tell he was getting frustrated and asked me how it was that I was able to strike the bag so hard, every time. I explained that some of it had to do with the fact I had more mass than he did. But another aspect is that I used my anger.

In true Mark Ruffalo fashion, I explained to my troop mate one of my secrets to effectively working out and fight training is the fact that there’s always a bit of anger bubbling beneath the surface. If one can learn to use and channel that anger and energy into what we do, it can go a long way towards pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone and improving our physical fitness. Since I knew he was a father, I used what is probably the most sensitive area of a person’s life. I had him close his eyes and asked him to imagine how he would feel if someone abducted his child. Then I challenged him to imagine having the abductor in front of him and what anger he would feel towards that person.

Then I asked him to perform a properly executed punch against the bag using all that anger. The result was far more explosive than anything he had previously done. And that’s the critical point; anger (when properly focused) can be a useful tool and a good motivator. That’s for the training environment, of course. One needs to avoid allowing their anger to turn to rage, fury and violence against others. Although not always avoidable, violence should never be used unless it’s for the protection of yourself or those around you.

A lot of people believe that I fell into Buddhism through the influence of the martial arts. And although this is partially true, I can admit that in my late teens to early 20’s, I developed a pretty intense temper and needed a means to control, temper and maintain it. This is the part where I point out that regular exercise and meditation are important ways towards controlling one’s emotions. But as long as you use it as a source of fuel for your motivation and not against others, anger can be useful. ☯

All The Little Things

Humanity is a fat, chocolate donut sprinkled with inconsistencies, violence and a lack of appreciation for the little things in life that we all take for granted. Great, now I want a chocolate donut… 37 grams of carbs for one, five-minute treat? No thank you! But I digress… My point is actually that we have a lot of positive things to life that we tend to take for granted. What’s a bit disheartening is that we needed a global pandemic where the world basically ground to a halt before we started to recognize these things.

I was chatting with an old friend last week, when we brought up and discussed the fact that the “little things” are often taken for granted. This has been happening since well before COVID-19 decided to sink its obsidian fangs into society, but the problem is that most of the world’s population is too busy complaining about what they’ve lost as opposed to appreciating what they still have. This makes sense if you’ve lost employment or can’t get enough food to support your family, of course. But when I hear of folks who are financially independent, relaxing in large homes without a care in the world, complaining because they can’t take their yearly trip to Cabo, it makes me wonder about the fate of our race.

I’ve always been something of a loner when it comes to my free time. I’ve had absolutely NO problem being at home with my wife and kids for an extended period of time, with the exception of the occasions where the kids drive me crazy. That’s why I can’t get all these people who suddenly separate or get divorced because they’ve suddenly been forced to stay inside together for long periods of time. Really?? If you can’t stand the person enough to stay inside a house with them, why’d you get married in the first place?

But I’m going off on a rant again, and I need to focus. In the interest of taking nothing for granted, I thought I would list the things that I miss most about when the world was normal and took for granted, despite my limited existence. Here we go…

Sitting In A Coffee Shop With A Book

This one is at the top of my list because before all of this bullshit started, one of my favourite things to do was to sit inside a coffee shop and read a book. I’d supplement that with blogging and basically sitting there alone with my thoughts, of course. Coffee shops allowed a semi-introvert such as myself the benefit of being around people combined with the quiet hush of folks having low-volume conversation and working at their laptops. But distancing and self-isolation requirements have made that impossible. And even though most retail and restaurant locations (especially corporate chains) have re-opened in my area and I likely COULD go sit in a coffee shop, it would be grossly irresponsible of me to do so. Why risk exposing myself to someone who may have ignored the rules and gone out while sick, then drag it back home to my family? I definitely used to take my coffee shop runs for granted!

Going To A Movie Theater

Listen, I’m pretty cheap. I don’t consider that a bad thing, but I’m not fond of paying money for frivolous things in general. So the thought of paying ten to fifteen bucks for a movie ticket when I can just be patient and wait a year for it to come to Netflix seems exorbitant at best. But I would be lying if I said that there aren’t some movies that are simply deserving of the theater experience. For example, I would have paid that amount to see Star Wars: The Rise OF Skywalker in theatres. I think it’s the kind of movie that would have done well for me on the big screen, appealing to my nerdy sensibilities. But obviously sitting in cramped theater seats with people tightly packed on either side of you is even worse than my coffee shop scenario, even if some cheaters have begun opening in limited capacities. In fact, I think the last theater movie I saw would have been Black Panther. And that came out in 2018…

Visiting With Family

It stands to reason that the holidays have been difficult this year, with most people being unable to visit their families and celebrate the way they’ve done it their entire lives. I mean, my folks live across the country in New Brunswick. We don’t see much of them when the world is normal, much less now. What’s harsh is Alexander was born in September of 2019 and rounding the corner of a year and half old, my parents have yet to meet him. The worst is when my father, whose health isn’t great, caught pneumonia some months ago and wasn’t expected to survive the night. My father would have died 3,300 kilometres away from me, having never met his second grandchild and without being able to say goodbye. Even my wife’s family is only 3 hours away, but given restrictions may as well be across the country as well. Many people unfortunately take time with their families for granted.

Play Dates For My Kids

This is one that I definitely took for granted. I’ve always considered it a pain in my ass to bring Nathan somewhere for the sole purpose of hanging out with other kids. I never had any of that shit when I was his age. But his uncontrollable energy mixed with the lack of kids his own age to burn it off with has been difficult on the household as a whole. We used to have the benefit of a couple of boys next door, but they moved away. It’s even worse now for Alexander, as he’s had no exposure to other children other than his brother, who is five years older than him and in a completely different toy/playing bracket than he is. If Nathan is lucky enough, school will re-open soon and he’ll at least be around other kids.

Doing Normal, Everyday Things Without A Mask

I took a walk to the corner store last week to check my lottery tickets (I was sure that day was my day) and enjoyed getting some fresh air and being outdoors. The temperature was a cool 4 degrees, birds were chirping and snow was melting. It should have been a pleasant walk, but despite the fact I was walking down a back street with no exposure to other people and I was completely alone, I felt like a criminal because I was walking without a face mask on! I carried one for when I reached my destination, but I couldn’t help but feel it was just a matter of minutes before a law enforcement officer would come around the corner and give me hell. Doing simple, everyday things like groceries, getting gas and running to a store without having to wear a face mask is definitely something I used to take for granted. Oh, and I obviously didn’t win the lottery, that day…

Last But Not Least, To Cough And Smile In Public

It may sound like a simple thing, but it’s one we definitely take for granted. Any normal, bodily function performed in public is tantamount to being quarantined and treated as though you’re carrying the black plague. COVID-19 has made people forget that sneezing is a normal function of the human body to expel unwanted bacteria and materials from entering the body (and isn’t a symptom of COVID-19 anyway, but it sure doesn’t stop people from thinking it). And coughing? I don’t know about you, but if I breathe the wrong way I’ll start hacking and coughing like a moron who can’t seem to decide how to breathe and swallow separately. But try coughing in a public place right now and you’ll have the people around you scattering as though you’re a leper.

And smiling is an even bigger one. Being unable to see others smile and have them see yours is kind of a big deal, since facial cues are important in human communication. I’ve had retail and grocery store employees help me and greet me in recent months, where I’ve smiled at them in thanks only to realize later on that I probably just looked like I was staring vacantly at them. Being unable to read the facial cues of the people I communicate with in public has definitely been taken for granted.

There are many more I could add to this list. But as I’m sure you can agree (if you’ve read this far) I’ve already ranted long enough for today. The lesson here is that there are a lot of great little things in life that we’ve all taken for granted. And as we begin to move forward and start to look toward the future at how life will settle on a permanent basis, we need to adapt and understand NOT to take fro granted the little things that we’ll start to develop in this new existence. It may not all be perfect, but neither is life. Be sure not to take any of it for granted. ☯

New Year, New Lancet!

Spending money is never fun… Unless it’s money you intentionally saved up for something fun, but that’s rarely the case. Bills, debts and monthly obligations take all the joy out of having a bank account and I think we can all agree that money is some of the dirtiest stuff in the world. It makes the world go ’round while throwing rust into the gears, if you will. If you have Type-1 Diabetes (or any other condition requiring regular therapy of any kind) money can be especially important, since Diabetic supplies cost a damn fortune.

I covered expenses in a post I wrote in June of 2019, The Cost Of A life… where I explained that in Canada, insulin therapy involving the use of an insulin pump can run close to $1,000 a month. That was before I got onto CGM, so it would likely tip the scales over that one grand total per month now. If one is lucky enough o have medical insurance (which I do at the moment), this isn’t a big concern. But for those who don’t, cost-cutting methods are often employed that may not be ideal, no matter how necessary they may seem.

This is where the title of today’s post comes in. Before starting my current job, I found myself without medical insurance and as a result, I used to undertake a lot of nasty practices. I’d skip meals so I’d use less insulin. I’d only test my blood once or twice a day to save on test strips. On a few occasions, I even slept through some days to avoid taking insulin as I couldn’t afford it until the next pay check. But one of the habits that I know we all have, regardless of financial situation, is the reuse of needles.

Photo found on DiabeticsDaily.com

I say “regardless of financial situation” because I’m still guilty of this one. The auto-mode on my most recent pump has seen me testing my blood sugar more frequently than before. It’s almost as though I’m punished for good behaviour. Blood sugars have been stable for four hours? Better check your blood sugar, something must be wrong. Pump hasn’t HAD to deliver insulin for two and a half hours because of regular readings? Something off, check your blood sugar! And that’s not including the mandatory, twice a day calibrations the pump requires.

My point is, the temptation to test my blood via fingerpick and simply leave the lancet in there for next use is very real. Especially if the damn pump wakes me up for a test at 3 o’clock in the morning. I’ve had enough things outside of my body waking me in the middle of the night; I get pretty pissy when it’s a medical device that’s supposed to make my life easier. Waking me up doesn’t make my life easier (or anyone else’s since I tend to get cranky).

As you can see from the photograph I included above, the needle begins to dull and suffer damage to its surface after just one use. After six uses, the tip becomes something that one would never consciously use to inject themselves. But because the damage is microscopic and we can’t see it, we usually succumb to the temptation to reuse needles. I’ve often fallen prey to this and in fact, still do. But there are a lot of problems with doing so.

The multiple reuse of a needle can potentially introduce unknown contaminants into your insulin vials and into your body. Your needles are sterile when they’re opened, but once used and exposed to open air they can be subjected to any number of untold filth and bacteria on surfaces and in the air. When you reuse the needle that second time, you may be pushing something into your insulin vial and contaminating the entire supply. Or you could be pushing it into your fingertip and potentially introducing something to yourself.

A common risk and side-effect of reusing the same needle repeatedly is developing Lypohypertrophy, which I described in great detail in my post The Needle Jammed Into Your Haystack… (Yes, I refer back to my own posts a lot! It’s MY blog, what can ya do???) Basically, the condition describes the accumulated lumpy, scarred tissue that develops under the surface of the skin when it’s pierced by a needle. Since we Type-1’s tend to inject ourselves frequently, the risk of this condition is greater. But reusing a dull, used needle will increase the chances of infection and scar tissue.

I decided to write this post because I’ve often heard other folks with Diabetics sarcastically say things like, “Oh, it’s Sunday! It’s lancet changing day!”The reality, although I fully understand that I represent the kettle in this equation, is your lancet and needles should be changed after EVERY use. Although it’s an easy way to save a buck (sometimes), the complications it can cause are too frequent and serious to risk. And I think we can all agree that Diabetes carries enough complications on its own without intentionally causing more. ☯

The Carbohydrate Conundrum

Without a doubt, one of the hardest aspects of Diabetes HAS to be carb counting. It probably doesn’t help that I really didn’t start carb counting until 2015 when I started using an insulin pump. Before that, the subject of carb counting was never bought up by any medical practitioner or dietitian that I had retained. This likely isn’t any fault of theirs; they no doubt did the best with what they thought was working. But I have to admit that I certainly don’t miss the days of randomly guessing how many units of insulin to inject at mealtimes.

First of all, I’d like to remind everyone that carbohydrates are a necessity for a healthy life. Carbs are a fuel source and in fact, is the body’s primary fuel source. This means that you can’t TOTALLY eliminate carbs from your body, or you’ll suffer the effects. That being said, a reduction in carbohydrates can result in weight loss when the body starts to depend on its secondary fuel source: fat.

But carbs are insidious. They pop up where you least expect them, and not always in the amounts one would assume. A good example would be a vegetarian snack I purchased some week ago. Kung Pao broccoli. Yes, you read that right! I don’t know what’s worse, the “Kung Pao broccoli” part or the fact I bought something vegetarian. Regardless, I decided to try it out (along with its counterpart, “Buffalo Cauliflower.” Totally not kidding!). On a particular day, I decided to try it out as my lunch. I figured, why not? A bowl of broccoli is healthy and there are worse ways to have a reduced carb lunch.

When it was done baking, I mixed it with the Kung Pao sauce and checked the box to see how little I would have to bolus for it. The contents of the small box totalled in at about 80 grams of carbs! I daresay, I was flabbergasted! I could eat half a frozen pizza for the same amount of carbs! The problem is the light coating of batter over the broccoli as well as the sauce itself. It packed a bigger wallop than I thought. Then again, the makers probably didn’t count on someone eating an entire box as a meal; broccoli or not.

The next big problem is family. Not that family IS inherently a problem, but they can be a hindrance to proper blood sugar balance at mealtimes. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve prepared myself a bowl of food, sat down at the table and started eating only to have Nathan come running up, “Daddy, I’m hungry! That looks good, can I have it?” Knowing he has neither the patience nor the attention span to wait, I’ll usually surrender my meal to him and go make something else. In the meantime, the insulin I just bolused in response to the expected meal is coursing through my system and lowering my blood sugar, which will likely result in a low.

Trying out new foods is also a problem. Sometimes I’ll try something new like the broccoli, especially when I see that everyone else is eating or has had their lunch already. But something new will usually result in one of my family members deciding they wants to try some. The Kung Pao broccoli was an example of this. I asked if it was to be split or if they’d just be trying a piece to see what it tastes like. “I’ll see after I’ve tried it” is the usual response, which is the worst thing I can hear. This leaves me in a position where I don’t know if I’m calculating my bolus for half the amount or the entire amount of food.

Last but not least is incorrect or inaccurate nutritional labels. I always check the nutritional information label on the food I eat. Everyone should, Diabetic or not. And sometimes my blood sugars will go crazy despite a precise serving and supposed exact amount of carbs. There can be a lot of reasons behind this, including how quickly specific foods are absorbed, a person’s insulin sensitivity or a score of different physical conditions. But more often than not, bolusing for 10 grams of one type of carbs will require a different insulin dose than 10 grams of another type.

Carb counting is not only important but it prevents problems on a day-to-day basis. I can’t tell you how many meals I’ve consumed where I bolused what I thought I needed, only to suffer a low because the food was processed too slowly or an extreme high because it was more than I thought it’d be. Then I’d take added insulin to correct the high, only to have it boomerang and crash. Diabetes is a lovely roller coaster of bullshit. ☯