Tuesday, January 31, 2012

$8,000 in Medical Bills--And that's With Insurance Coverage

Last week I finally got around to dealing with the bills from my breast cancer surgery.  My surgery was in October, and the bills started appearing in my mailbox in late November.  Because I was in the middle of, you know, radiation and all the other crap you have to deal with when you have cancer, I pulled a Scarlett O'Hara and threw the bills in a pile to deal with another day.

Well the day to deal with that pile came last week.    I opened the bills and did some cross-research on my insurance company's web-site.

I owe $8,000.    That's $8,000 that the insurance company isn't paying.    The hospital alone charged $35,000 and my breast surgeon $26,000.    There were also miscelanous bills for other specialists, services etc.  

I didn't bother to total up the entire cost of the surgery, just the part I owed.

I never stayed overnight in the hospital, and there were no complications with my surgery.   So how, in God's name, is it that despite paying close to $800 a month in insurance premiums (with my husband's employer also paying more than that monthly) is it that I now owe $8,000?????

And, how, in God's name, could many families take that kind of a financial hit?   

Now, I expected my share of the ordeal to run in the $3,000-$4,000 range, so needless to say that I was shocked to see I owed more than double that amount. 

Did I mention that once again my husband's raise was completely wiped out by the increase in our insurance premiums???

I'm sorry, but the American system of health care is just deplorable.   I am so sick of people saying that it's "the best in the world" when statistics show that it's not, and families put into financial straights just because someone gets sick.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Firing Up That Brown Fat--Girls' Ski Weekend

Apropos of my last post, my girlfriend and I ditched the husbands and went skiing this weekend with the kids.   Being that we're both skiers, and women, talk often veered in the direction of how many calories we were burning skiing all day.   

Now, my girlfriend claimed she read somewhere that you burn 400 calories an hour skiing whether you were actually skiing, on the lift line, or sitting on the lift.   Since we normally ski at least 4 hours a day, that would mean 1,600 calories burned every time I bought a lift ticket.

I found that a bit odd, because since I routinely ski multiple days, it should mean that I would lose a little weight every time I ski, which doesn't really happen.

Adding fuel to the fire is the new studies, which I commented on in my last post, showing that cold helps to activate brown fat which increases calorie burn.  

Now, I love to ski, and think that it helps me to maintain my weight. 

Hey I don't know how many calories I'm really burning when I hit the slopes, but whatever it is it's got to be better than sitting in the lodge or sitting at my desk all day.

Hell, walking around and hauling equipment in ski boots has got to earn me some additional calorie burn--shouldn't it?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Turn Down That Thermostat

I guess there is one advantage to living in a drafty old New England farm-house, turns out I could be burning more fat.

I've written before about how I think air conditioning makes you fat, but it was interesting to read how allowing ourselves to get cold also triggers additional fat loss (but only if you don't eat more).

This got me thinking about our modern standards of room temperature control.    I have never understood why the same people who run their air conditioning so high in the summer that you have to wear a sweater indoors, then run their heat so high in the Winter that you sweat if you wear a sweater.

I also don't understand people who essentially shut their houses off to the fresh air twelve months a year.

Besides the damage that this does to the environment, it also doesn't really seem to be good for us weight-wise.   Yeah, we're cooler in the summer, but maybe it's good to get good and hot every now and then and get a good sweat going on.

Same thing in Winter.  It's nice to be warm, but going outside and getting good and cold may help us to burn off a little extra fat.

It may be that exposing ourselves to temperature extremes revs our metabolisms in ways we don't fully understand yet, and when we shield ourselves from ever being too hot or too cold, we somehow interfere with how nature intended our bodies to operate.  

So, lower that thermostat in the Winter, and jack it up a bit in the Summer.   Better yet, turn off both your heating and cooling more often and just open the windows.    You'll get some fresh air, and do the environment good.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

OH!! My Aching Shoulder

I haven't written about my shoulder issues in a while.  I guess cancer sort of got in the way of my worrying about that constant throbbing pain in my left shoulder.

It's been very frustrating for me because the pain has caused me to really put the breaks on my yoga practice.  I'm at the point now where I can't put ANY pressure on my shoulder at all.  

That means no inversions, no down-ward dogs, no chattarungas.   The pain has gotten so bad, that I can't even bind anymore.    

And, besides my yoga practice, it hurts just to put on a coat or open a car door.

Well, with the cancer treatments behind me, I decided that enough is enough, and I headed back to my orthopaedist today.  I haven't seen him since late August.  

We discussed the MRI I had last July, and he felt my only option was surgery.   It turns out that my shoulder construction is such that at this point if I do nothing, the pain will only get worse and worse, and it could lead to tears and further damage.

So, I have to go in for yet more surgery.   This time they have to shave down bone in my shoulder to make more space.  

It's a one day surgery and I'll be home the same day.  I won't be able to drive for 4 days, but should be fully healed within 4 to 6 months.

That means I might be able to start doing downward dogs again!!!!   I'll, of course, have to take it slowly, but at this point doing nothing only increases the pain further.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Today Was Not the Day

Today was the day I got the call.  The call I've been dreading for several years now.

My sister called and told me that my 84 year old father was in the emergency room.

The minute she told me my heart stopped.  

Luckily, all seems fine.   Dad slipped on the ice when taking the trash out to the curb this morning and hit his head pretty hard.   My Mom only saw him getting up, and didn't know if he blacked out, but insisted on calling the doctor (he claimed he was fine), who told her to get him immediately to the emergency room.

At his age, everything can be serious, and once at the hospital, my parents were told how blood clots can form following head trauma on a man my father's age, and they are now running tests.  

When you have a parent in their 80's you take everything seriously.

My father is rather unusual.  Despite being in his 80's, overweight and never exercising in his life, he's in perfect health.   He has no cardiac issues, no problems with high cholesterol, and is on no pills.   The last time he was hospitalized was over 20 years ago, and when I was a child, I only ever saw him stay home from work once because he didn't feel well. 

Even now in his 80's, he goes into work six days a week (he owns his own business), and works seven days a week from the day after Thanksgiving until after Christmas.

But when you have a Dad in his 80's, even if they've been in perfect health, you still see the changes as they age.  My Dad is old, and old means that the chance of getting the call increases.

Thank god today was not the day, but it makes me appreciate my Dad all the more.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hope for the Future in a Bankruptcy

Mark Bittman seems to have quite a bit of nostalgia for Twinkies, whose parent company in now in bankruptcy.  Here's what he has to say:

While Twinkies themselves may not degrade much over time, their cultural weight certainly has. They’re no longer a lunchbox staple or an American icon, and as of last week (as Mark writes here) the Hostess company (maker of Twinkies) has filed for bankruptcy protection yet again.

But, while Bittman have feelings of nostalgia, I have a different take on the Twinkie bankruptcy.
I see hope. I think it's fantastic that Twinkies, are no longer a lunch-box staple.

That's not to say that kids' lunchboxes are now a haven of healthy, non-processed foods.

But maybe its a good thing that Moms and Dads no longer see Twinkies as acceptable food to pack in their kids lunchboxes.   When parents now buy junk food for their kids' lunchboxes, they now like it wrapped up in the marketing hype that it is healthy, even if in reality it isn't.  

Twinkies, on the other hand are blatantly unhealthy, with no hype that in any way claims that they are anything but a sugar-filled, nutritionally devoid snack.   I don't recall a package of Twinkies ever claiming that they were made with "whole grains" or "natural sugars."  

Is a cereal bar made with "whole grains" really all that much better than a Twinkie???  I doubt it, but marketers have done a really good job at convincing parents that they are a better nutritional choice. 

So, parents are at least aware that they should be feeding their kids better, even if they ultimately fail because they succumb to marketing.  

I guess you can call it a step in the right direction.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Never Mind the F#!king Kids-It's My Husband who's the Biggest Food Pain in the Ass

In accord with my New Year's resolution to eat "cleaner" I've been making quite a few vegan meals in the last few weeks.

One of my vegan "go to meals" is to use up left-over brown Chinese Food rice by sauteing it with veggies, olives, lentils, beans, mushrooms, etc.  

There's never an exact recipe.  I'm a big believer in just heading to the store, seeing what's on special, and winging it from there.

Now, usually my husband eats these "mock risottos" without complaint.  

But yesterday was different.   The local market had these beautiful green peppers on sale, and I thought I'd try something new by making the same sauteed rice dish I always do, but then adding the second step of stuffing the peppers, and baking them.

They came out delicious.   The only problem was that my husband refused to eat them.

Why?   Because, he told me, he hated stuffed peppers!!

I pointed out that he had routinely ate the pepper stuffing, that the stuffing contained all kinds of things he loved, like mushrooms, tomatoes and olives (and I should note that he'll eat sausage and peppers with no complaints!!),  and the only thing that was different was that it happened to be stuffed in a pepper.

He then said, that was the problem, that once the stuffing went into the pepper, he wouldn't eat it.

OK, so he likes peppers (and often asks for dishes with peppers in them), he liked the stuffing, but, once the stuffing went into the pepper who wouldn't eat it.

I have to ask, does that make sense to you?  

I can see this kind of behavior coming from a kid, but from a 52 year old man???? 

I swear to god, husbands are worse than kids.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Years' Resolutions Check In

I have to say that, thus far, my New Years' Resolutions are going smashingly.  

I have really gotten my eating back on track.   I'm eating much "cleaner" been going days vegan, and avoiding sugar.   My "raw percentage" (that is the overall amount of raw fruits and veggies I eat in a week), could be better, but it always tends to be off this time of year.

When it's -11 degrees outside, you just need hot food inside you.

My sitting meditation is coming along as well.  I'm sitting more frequently and practicing breathing and clearing my head.  I can still only sit for 5 to 10 minutes, but I'm hoping that as I do it more, I'll be able to sit longer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

There's Dioxins in that there Food

A really interesting post from Marion Nestle on a new report from the EPA on Dioxins in our food.  

As you can expect, the news is not good, and big food is trying to suppress it.

Eating high levels of meat, fish and dairy can lead to high exposures to dioxins, which is just not news that the people making billions off of feeding us what amounts to poison want us to hear.

Essentially, dioxins enter the food chain through the industrial process.   They accumulate in fatty tissues, and increase the risk of cancer in humans. 

The best way to avoid Dioxins?  Eat less meat, fish and dairy.

Definitely not what the food industry wants us to hear.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Told You So

Paula Deen finally owns up to the fact that she has diabetes.  What do you expect when you sandwich a hamburger, cheese and fried egg between two Krispy Kreme donuts?

I too, find it rather galling, that Deen only seems to be admitting her diabetes because she's scored a gig with a drug company.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

We're Eating Less Meat

Overall as a nation that is.   Mark Bittman writes about it on his blog.   Can you believe that we've actually reduced meat consumption by 12% over the last five years?   That's pretty significant if you ask me.

What's interesting, is that the apparent reason for the reduced consumption is that we, the consumers, are choosing to eat less.    It's not that we've become a nation of mad, animal-compassionate vegetarians and vegans, it's that more of us are choosing to be flexitarians, i.e, significantly cutting down on how much meat we consume without actually becoming vegetarians.  

I'm in that Flexitarian catagory.   I went "mostly vegan" when I was initially trying to lose my middle-aged spread and haven't looked back.   Energy wise, and weight wise it's done wonders for me. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Soda Tax: What Can a Penny Do?

Save a hell of a lot of lives over ten years.  It would also lead to quite a drop in heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

And, in case you need further reinforcement as to why drinking soda is a bad idea, take a gander at this:

If you can't read this poster clearly, you can check out the full size version here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Year's Resolutions--Clearing the Kitchen

Well, one of my New Year's resolutions was to get back on the "clean eating" bandwagon.  Now that I've gotten all my cancer treatments behind me, it's time to shape up again, and get the body cleared out.

Of course, clearing out the body is hard to do when your kitchen is still stocked with holiday baked goods, breads, cheeses etc.

So, in the last two weeks as these items have disappeared, they're not being replaced.

Instead, I'm only buying plant-based foods, and whole grains.   

I've also been working towards moving back to my usual "mostly vegan" diet regime.    I'm not someone who does "cold turkey."   If I try, I relapse.   The better approach for me is the gradual withdrawal. 

Today is almost a totally vegan day.   I started the day with 2 bananas and almond butter, and how a baked sweet potato and a salad for lunch.    Dinner for tonight are peppers stuffed with lentils, tomatoes and brown rice.   It would be a totally vegan day, but I snatched a piece of Christmas Stollen as I was slicing off a bit for my husband this morning (the Stollen was home-made by moi, so I know it's loaded with eggs and butter.)   The Stollen is, Thank the Lord, the last of the holiday baked goods in the house, so after that we're "clean."

Tomorrow, I'll aim for totally vegan again, and maybe in the next week or two I'll do a vegan week.   

Monday, January 9, 2012

So I Guess We Should Just Sit On Our Asses All Day?

Every so often I read an article which really, really pisses me off.   This time it's in the New York Times, a rag I usually admire.

According to this piece of drivel no one should ever practice yoga because, OH MY GOD, you might get hurt.

Say what???? Dear New York Times, can you please tell me what physical activities exist in which the potential for never getting injured exist????? I mean, I've managed to injure myself just walking.

Of course we could all just sit on our sofas all day stuffing our faces, but then we run the risk of all sorts of OTHER health problems.

What really got me about this badly researched piece was the inaccuracies.   Beryl Bender Birch  is the yogi with the double hip replacements.   She needed them because of a genetic predisposition, not yoga.    I have another friend who has also had double hip replacements, and she has never practiced yoga with any regularity.

Yes, I have seen plenty of people injure themselves in yoga because their egos got in the way, but I've seen plenty of people injure themselves running, playing basketball, soccer, tennis, etc.    I've seen people hurt their ankles in Zumba, and others break legs skiing (I broke my nose).   

If you engage in any physical activity with any regularity chances are, you'll manage to injure yourself some way, some how.   And, there are those who take it a bit too far as the gentlemen above does.  

Hell, I had a friend's brother injure himself because he was playing the cello six hours a day preparing for a competition.   Does that mean that no one should ever play cello?

Yes, you can injure yourself practicing yoga, running, walking, skiing and even playing cello, but that does not mean you should never engage in these activities?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Why Cheese Is Addictive

I knew there was a reason for my cheese obsession.    I'm still paying the price for my annual holiday "cheese-a-thon" in the form of excess pounds, bloating and gas.  

But, I can't help myself once I get started.   You put that cheese plate in front of my and as long as it's good cheese, I'm going in. 

Yes, yes.  I know that as the video says I should just swear off cheese forever and go to a completely plant based diet, but I'm just not that "religious." 

But the new year has started, and my resolution is to get "clean" again, so it's time to go cold turkey (which I have been since Jan. 1), and just give up the cheese and dairy again for the good of my digestion and my waist-line.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Vegan Body Builders

I'm going to file this New York Times piece under the catagory of myth busters.  Namely, that to be lean and mean, you have to eat meat. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Seven Things I learned from Having Breast Cancer

1.   You get so used to going topless, that any reticence you may have about having strange men (and women) look at and touch your naked breasts completely dissipates. 
2.  That burn I had back in 1984 from sunbathing topless in Nice was a piece of cake.
3.  Due to breast tenderness, you become a pro at dodging full-on huggers, i.e., you become a master of the one-sided hug.
4.  There is a non-surgical method to getting your breasts back to where they were in your 20's, but unless you have cancer on both sides, only one boob gets "lifted."
5.  Despite ban on alcohol and lessening of appetite, if you go through radiation during the Holiday season, you still manage to put on weight.
6.   Having breast cancer is like being pregnant in that it seems to give medical people free rein to touch you without asking first if it's OK.
7.  At least once a week, from diagnosis until the end of treatment, at some point you will have to bare your breasts to some medical person who will stare at them and say "Nice, nice, you are . . .  a) healing well,  or b) tolerating treatment well."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Post Cancer New Year's Resolutions

Well, it's New Year's Resolution time again, and for the last week I've been thinking about what I should resolve to do in the New Year.

I always view my New Year's resolutions as optimistic goals.    I don't beat myself up if I don't meet them 100%, but if I can at least get to 40 or 50% compliance I think I've accomplished something. 

I also think it's important to set realistic goals with nothing being too over-reaching.   I don't know about you, but I do better with smaller, more attainable goals then wide, over-reaching ones.    I'm more inclined to meet a series of small goals, then one large one.  Meeting a goal is reinforcement for me to set a new higher goal, so after I lose, say 5 pounds, I just set another goal to lose 5 pounds.  If I just initially set a goal to lose 10 pounds, I'd likely get frustrated before I reached that goal, and just drop it.

Adding to the resolution mix this year is that I just completed my cancer treatments.  I still have to start taking my Tamoxifen and stay on it for 5 years, but as far as the surgery, radiation, etc., that's all behind me now.

Now, as you can imagine, I sort of fell off the clean eating bandwagon in the last few months.   With all the stress, fatigue, etc., I found comfort in food.

Now, even off the bandwagon, my eating was still probably better than most.   I still never ate a bag of Cheetos or a sleeve or Oreos, but I did somewhat overindulge in my "comforts" of cheese, good bread and sugar.

Have I ever wrote about how much I love cheese?    J'adore le fromage.   Pretty much any cheese (other than American), is alright by me and I can eat it pretty much anyway you want to serve it to me.

The only thing is that in recent years I've come to realize that cheese doesn't love me the way I love cheese.   I just can't seem to digest it that well anymore (I get excessive gas), and I've discovered it also leads to excess mucus production giving me a permanent post-nasal drip.

Cheese also tends to cause weight gain, so for the last few years I've reserved my cheese eating to small amounts on special occasions.

But, in my Cancer phase, I just didn't care about gas, post-nasal drip and weight gain.  I wanted cheese and I ate cheese, along with lots of bread.

I also love bread, the good bakery kind with a hearty crust (I love a good chew).  Since I've limited my consumption of refined carbs in the last few years, however, I just haven't eaten much bread.   That also went out the window.  I wasn't eating Wonder Bread, but I still was indulging way more in refined carbs then I should.

Lastly, as I've posted before, I've been on a bit of a sugar binge for at least two months now.    I was good in not indulging in any type of overly-processed snacks, but anytime there was any kind of home-made cookie, cake, pie, brownie, crumble, candy, etc. I ate it, and generally ate a lot of it.  

So here we are at the beginning of another new year, and it's time to make resolutions.

So here they are:

In the coming year, I resolve to get back on the clean-eating bandwagon.  I will once again reduce the amounts of dairy, sugar and carbs in my diet, and eat more plant-based foods.  

I also resolve to do sitting meditation at least once a week.

Wish me luck.