Virtual Hike Up the Appalachian Trail: Week 0

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Please forgive this and a few more reposts from my old blog, which I’m slowly seeding into this blog for the sake of continuity on this blog.
I’ve always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. Big dreams – out of shape woman. (In my defense, I used to be in much better shape, but those days are gone.) So instead I’m going to hike it in my mind, as I try to lose weight for my upcoming wedding. Unfortunately, as well as being out of shape, I’m recovering from leftover breathing problems from the flu, so it may take some effort to start really moving.
Daily goals:
  • Get up to 1 hour exercise bike (Except weekends)
  • Either lift weights or do an ab workout (Except weekends)
  • 88 oz water

Weekly goals:

  • >11,500 calories
  • 14 or fewer Diet Mountain Dews

Longer term goal: get to 140lbs by the end of December

Starting weight: 172lbs
Starting Waist Size: 35.5in
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What I will do is keep track of how many “miles” I travel on my exercise bike, and log it as if I were hiking the Appalachian Trail. I will start on Springer Mountain in Chattahoochee National Forest (Georgia). I’m at altitude 3771 feet. 

Fighting the Healthy Battle

So that time of year has come – the one in which the days become more dark – along with my thoughts. Every year about this time, I get bipolar depression. Or perhaps I should call it seasonal affective disorder. Regardless of the name, it’s very real. I become lethargic, I cry for no reason, and suicidal thoughts traipse through my brain. 

But that can’t happen to me this year because I’ve got a full time job to hold down at the same time as taking Abnormal Psychology and an EMT training class. So what do I do? Preemptive strike!



First thing: give up caffeine. I always say: I’m not addicted to caffeine – I give it up all the time. And I will try, try again. Starting today, I will only drink one can of Diet Dew a day. At the end of August, I’ll switch to one every other day. And at the end of September, I’m done. Part of my worry is that my teeth will rot out of my head. But I’ve also heard a lot of stories about how getting caffeine and aspartame out of your body does wonders for health and decreases anxiety. Let’s try it out. 



Next: exercise. Now, I have a job where I’m scrubbing and lifting and squatting all day long. I’m exhausted when I get home. But I can exercise on Saturdays and Sundays. I plan on spending an hour or so each of these two days at the gym. Running and biking is the goal  – I can listen to my audiobooks while doing that. 😉


I’ve always promised myself I wouldn’t become a pill-popper, but over the years I’ve added more and more supplements to my list. I’m going to ween it down to just a few – and make sure they’re quality. My doctor tells me that most Minnesotans are low in Vitamin D, and that raising Vit D can help fight depression. Sure enough, when tested, I was low. I will start taking Cod Liver Oil each day – it’s high in Vit D and is apparently the magical oil that fixes everything from brainpower to complexion. I will switch from the CVS brand of calcium (which is calcium carbonate) to one that uses calcium citrate. Apparently, this increases absorption. And I’m going to take an iron supplement because often when I go to the Red Cross they find that my hemoglobin is too low. 

That’s it. Those, and my multi-vitamin tablet, is all I need. Get rid of all those extra, dubious supplements. 

Last but not least, I’m going to be like this woman – basking in a happy lamp each morning. I’ve never tried this out, but I hear it works wonders. It’ll mean I have to get up a half hour earlier, but if it will save me from depression, it’s worth it. 

The scientist in me is flinching switching so many variables at once – but I must ignore those anxieties and journey on. 

The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson

The Ghost Map

Written by Steven Johnson, Narrated by Alan Sklar

Reason for Reading: Science, Religion, and History group read

Genre: Non-fiction – Medicine and History


Review
The Ghost Map follows Dr. John Snow on his quest to discover the cause of a terrible cholera outbreak in Victorian England. Johnson makes investigative epidemiology so interesting that I could almost see it dramatized (and fictionalized) into a TV show – people DO love their investigative TV! 🙂 But that’s beside the point, I guess. At the time of this outbreak in 1854, the popular theory for the spread of cholera was miasma – deathly air that carried disease. After a LOT of investigative footwork, Snow drew a map of the cholera outbreak, demonstrating that the pattern followed streets that led to a particular well (the Broad Street pump) rather than following a circular pattern you’d expect with the spread of bad air. This map, and the investigation leading up to its creation, revolutionized epidemiology. In fact, many consider Snow the “first epidemiologist.” 

I really enjoyed this book. The writing was engaging (it had a few boring parts in the end when Johnson was describing the map in great detail – I think that may be a problem with listening to the audio book rather than actually reading it, though). The subject was fascinating. Sklar did a good job of narrating the book, and except for the very end with the description of the map, I was quite pleased with the book’s audio version. If you have any interest in epidemiology, or the history of medicine, I highly recommend this book.

Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder

Mountains Beyond Mountains

Written by Tracy Kidder, Narrated by Paul Michael

Reason for Reading: This was meant to be read for my Social Justice Theme in February, but things didn’t work out quite as I’d planned. I finished the book in January, and haven’t had the time to review it until now. 🙂 Better late than never!

Review

In this moving biography of Paul Farmer, Tracy Kidder takes us on a world tour of medical missionary work. Farmer started his mission to save the world from tuberculosis one patient at a time in the slums of Haiti. Practically from scratch, he developed a clinic that would treat the poor. But Farmer not only treated his patients, he listened to them, he cared about each one with individual interest, and he provided food and supplies so that his patients wouldn’t be saved from tuberculosis only to die of starvation.

As his mission in Haiti gained more and more momentum, Farmer’s expertise on tuberculosis (especially antibiotic-resistant strains) became world-renowned. He was asked to help set up clinics in Peru. He worked with the health systems of prisons in Russia, where antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis was rampant. And he loved each and every patient, regardless of who they were. 

While describing the incredible non-stop work of Farmer, Kidder managed to make the doctor more human. I could imagine Farmer, cheerful despite sleep-deprivation shadows under his eyes, flying from one country to another in a worn-down suit that he would never have time to replace. From the book, it seemed that Farmer might pause for hours to have a heart-felt conversation with a patient, even while a room-full of self-important Harvard doctors awaited his arrival. I could empathize with Olivia, Farmer’s old flame, who once felt a twinge of satisfaction to realize that Farmer was only human – she could annoy him. Being around someone like that must be exhausting. Kidder painted a brilliant man with limitless energy, unimpeachable morals, and the charisma to make his dreams a reality. I felt overwhelmed just listening to the book. 🙂 I can’t imagine what it must be like to work for him (or date/marry him). And yet, it’s impossible for me to not admire him. 

I found this book fascinating not only because it was a description of an amazing man with a daring love for humanity, but also because I enjoyed learning more about the social/economic conditions of Haiti. The narrative flowed smoothly between Kidder’s personal impressions of Farmer and Haiti to well-researched narratives of Farmer’s life outside his work. 

I enjoyed Paul Micheal’s narration of the book – though I have little to comment on his style of reading. It was one of those audiobooks that I was so absorbed in the story that I forget to be distracted by the narrator – which means Micheal must have done a good job. 🙂