Being Active Is Making Me Happy

Hi everyone. Today I want to share all about my active week. I have truly been enjoying my Apple Watch and seeing my stats go up as I move. And of course being physically active is helping me feel better too.

First, last week, my Apple Watch told me that based on my activity level of the week before, I could up my movement goal from 300 to 330 active calories a day. This week, despite my having surpassed that new goal every single day, the stupid watch told me to keep my goal the same. However, there was a reason I was going to get it back to 300, which I will get to in a bit.

However, I first need to tell you about my major accomplishment yesterday: a nature walk! My husband came by for a visit to have lunch at Subway. After that though, he drove to a nearby nature reserve, where we went for a 2.5km walk. Although I did have my Apple Watch as well as my iPhone with me, the stupid watch’s GPS probably didn’t work (or it’s broken altogether), so it didn’t register my walk as a workout. This means I cannot check details such as average speed, hills climbed, etc. My husband did check his Garmin app though and we’d walked pretty fast and climbed a few hills.

I did go for several more walks yesterday. In total, I got in 163 exercise minutes yesterday, all by walking. I got in 122 today so far, which honestly is quite fabulous if you ask me. This does include 18 minutes on the elliptlcal.

Now on to why I’ve lowered my movement goal to 300 active calories a day. I am participating in a weekday challenge on an app called Challenges, hosted by the admins of an Apple Watch-related fitness group on Facebook. In the app, you earn points based on completion of your fitness goals. To allow for fair competition, daily movement goals are allocated individually based on weight and mine was 300, because I weigh 150lbs. Honestly, I’m pretty content with my place in the competition so far. Obviously, since the weekday challenge lasts until Friday, a lot can still change.

I am loving being this active again. It gives me a true mood boost. Of course, my cardio fitness level is still low, but I don’t worry about it as much as I used to. My husband did also point out that smartwatches are mostly purchased by physically active people, so “low” according to Apple may not say much. I did notice that I was huffing from that nature walk, while my husband, despite recently recovering from COVID, had no problem with the walk. Then again, before contracting the virus, he’d go for 6km runs without much training.

Tomorrow, a staff with whom I used to go on hour-long walks two summers ago, will be working my day activities shift. I did go for a 45-minute walk yesterday, so am tempted to try for such a long walk tomorrow. Even if I can’t though, I do have yesterday’s walk to prove that my physical fitness is returning to a better level.

A Rather Frustrating Monday

It’s past 10:30PM and I’m still wide awake. I just took a PRN quetiapine. My Apple Watch and the staff’s blood pressure cuff are telling me I should be super relaxed, in that my heartrate is 67 even when sitting upright. That’s rather low for me, but not worryingly low or so the staff say. Oh yes, I know normal resting heartrate is between 60 and 100, but mine is usually closer to 100. Oh well.

Today was quite intense, honestly. In the morning, the manager came by to talk to me about my meeting with the behavior specialist last week. She also, of course, told me a new staff would be starting his orienting shifts here and he’d start right this evening. Of course, like all new staff who’ve been hired over the past six months, the first part of the home he’s being introduced to is mine. Can you read my sarcasm? Well, it should be there. I’m rather annoyed at the fact that every new staff starts working on my side of the home rather than the other one. I know it’s probably because one of the clients on the other side gets really irritable when introduced to new staff. Well, maybe I need to show a little more of my irritable side.

Then, the temping agency housekeeper came to clean my room. She left my bathroom in a horribly wet state and left the tap on its hottest setting. Thankfully, that setting is not hot enough to actually cause burns, but it did hurt a little when I tried to wash my hands.

Once my day activities started, I went for a walk. My cardio fitness level was once again low, but it hardly bothers me anymore.

In the afternoon, my staff and I drove into town so I could buy a new pair of shorts for when I go on the elliptical or ride the side-by-side bike. The old pair pretty much falls off my butt. I also bought socks and some presents for my oldest niece, who will be three on Saturday.

In the evening, I went for a short walk with the new student staff, taking his camera and tripod with us to snap some pictures. I cannot yet show them, as I haven’t yet figured out which ones show what.

Then, I wanted to go on the side-by-side bike again, but got really frustrated trying to fasten the belts around my feet. They need to be really tight or my feet, particularly my spastic left foot, will fall off the pedals. That didn’t work out and I got really overloaded, so had a short meltdown.

Later in the evening, when I was alone, I started fretting about my health. That probably caused me to feel spacey. Now that I’ve processed all this in this post, I feel slightly better. It might be the quetiapine is working as well.

Gratitude List (September 2, 2022) #TToT

Hi everyone. I’m feeling really thankful for a lot of things today. What better time than now to write a gratitude post? Of course, I say that when I’m feeling down in the dumps too. In my opinion, it’s always a good time for a gratitude post. Anyway, I’m joining Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT) as always. Here goes.

1. I am grateful for a good weekend with my husband. We had pizza delivered, which was delicious. We each ordered a salad too, but I decided to eat my pizza first then was full so we had to throw the salad away. I felt a bit guilty about it because of food waste, but, as my dietitian says it, I’m not a replacement for the trash. In other words, just because something gets thrown out if I don’t eat it, doesn’t mean I need to eat it. I shouldn’t have ordered it and I know that for the next time.

2. I’m grateful for my health. Like I mentioned on Wednesday, I had a health scare earlier this week, but it was nothing, for which I’m so grateful.

3. I am grateful for my husband’s good health too. He tested positive for COVID earlier this week but I am so grateful he isn’t very ill with it.

4. I am grateful for no COVID symptoms in myself so far. Let’s hope I won’t get it.

5. I am grateful for my Apple Watch. It truly motivates me to stay physically active. I must admit I do need to watch out that it doesn’t become an obsession though.

6. I am grateful for the care facility’s new side-by-side bike. This is like a tandem bike but, rather than one person riding the bike sitting behind the person steering it, the person on one side has the controls. I just went for a 5.7km ride on it and, for whatever reason, my Apple Watch counted the full 27 minutes as exercise. Granted, I had started a workout manually, so it may not have caught it had I not done this, but well.

7. I am grateful for French fries on Wednesday as a treat from the old student staff who had her last shift. I am also grateful I took the opportunity to sneak to the living room to ask for a second helping, which I then decided to eat while sitting on the couch. It was fun being surrounded by my fellow residents once again, which is a rarity nowadays since I get one-on-one support.

8. I am grateful for a maintain in the weight department this week. I am also grateful the dietitian is mostly satisfied with how I’m doing, although she does worry slightly about the possibility that exercise might become an obsession.

9. I am grateful for Simple Radio, an app on my iPhone (and Apple Watch) that lets me listen to any radio station. I mostly like 1000Schlager Web Radio at this point, because I love the upbeat German songs to dance to.

10. Last but not least, and I initially wasn’t sure I was going to share this in my gratitude post or wait for #WeekendCoffeeShare, but I am so grateful that I just need to share: I am number one on the wait list for a home at the main institution for my care agency. They’re currently in the process of finding a new home for one of the current residents. According to the behavior specialist, it might go quickly but might still take six months before this has happened and as a result I can start the process of orienting there. Six months, in my book, is still super quickly. You all will have to wait for my coffee share post tomorrow for more details, but I’m excited and nervous at the same time. Mostly grateful though.

What are you grateful for?

The Wednesday HodgePodge (August 31, 2022)

Okay guys, it’s Wednesday again and this means it’s time to join Joyce for the Wednesday HodgePodge. This week, several of Joyce’s questions are related to Labor Day, which is, what, this coming Monday? Time certainly flies. Here are Joyce’s questions.

1. Something you’ve labored over recently?
Nothing really. I don’t have any large projects I’m currently working on, even though I do need to start thinking about what to create for my husband in honor of our wedding anniversary on September 19. I’m in a crafting rut, honestly. I am, however, working hard on my physical fitness. Does that count?

2. How will you rest on Labor Day?
I probably won’t. It’s a regular Monday here in the Netherlands, so I do have my usual day activities. That being said, if I want to rest, I can do so every single day.

3. Margaret Mead is quoted as saying, “I learned the value of hard work by working hard.” Would you agree? Where and how did you learn the value of hard work?
I don’t think I agree. I worked quite hard in school and college, to the point of autistic burnout, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I value hard work all that much. If anything, by working this hard and subsequently suffering burnout, I learned the value of self-care and rest. Then again, I do realize I’m privileged in this respect, in that I got on disability benefits without any trouble as soon as I turned eighteen and sailed through every re-assessment without any difficulty too.

4. It’s National Eat Outside Day (August 31st). Will you? Do you enjoy dining “al fresco” or do you prefer indoor seating?
I had no idea it was eat outside day in the U.S. and it’s past my dinnertime now, so no, I didn’t. I don’t like eating outside anyway.

5. Somehow it’s the end of August. What was the best day of the month for you and tell us what made it so?
The best day of the month was probably the day my husband took me for a drive to Enkhuizen, 100km away, just for some fish. Either that or last Monday, the day I scored 200% on my Apple Watch’s Movement goal, 300% on my exercise goal (but somehow there’s no medal for that) and received reassuring news on my latest health scare. You see, over the weekend when I was in Lobith, my husband noted a large mole on my back and told me to see my doctor about it. Thankfully, it was nothing to worry about at this point and my staff suggested we keep the picture they took for reference should the mole change.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
Today was the last shift for last year’s student staff here. She treated us to French fries and snacks, strawberry cake and she gave me two bars of chocolate. And not just any chocolate, they were stroopwafel chocolate bars. Stroopwafels are my favorite type of cookies, so this is truly awesome. I gifted her a handmade bracelet. She did joke that, since I have money to buy myself an Apple Watch, I should’ve bought her a new phone. After all, her old iPhone was in horrible condition and I’d been nagging her to buy a new one for months, which she finally did a few weeks ago (well, a refurbished one, which I personally would never do). I think she’s happy with the bracelet though.

First Week With My Apple Watch

Hi everyone. I’m not sure whether this post is going to be a tech post or a health post or both, as I want to write about my first impressions of using my Apple Watch. I’m putting it under the “Tech” category, but sharing some of my health stats just so it doesn’t get boring. Oh wait, maybe my health stats are boring too. Oh well.

I got my Apple Watch series 7 on Monday last week, but didn’t get to actually use it until Tuesday evening, because then I got its case and screen protector. I know many people don’t use anything to protect their Apple Watches, but I’m happy I got a sturdy case and a glass screen protector, because I’ve bumped my watch against a wall, chair or table too many times to count already.

I familiarized myself with the use of the Apple Watch with VoiceOver first by reading Apple’s own support page on the topic as well as listening to the relevant podcasts on AppleVis. It’s sad that the Apple Watch user guides on there are all podcasts and none are in text format, because I process information better through my Braille display. One thing both the Apple support site and AppleVis say, is that you need to swipe with two fingers rather than one in order to scroll. I have found this to be incorrect. Either that or I’m doing something wrong all along, but swiping with two fingers does something really weird for me.

I prefer to change most of my settings in my iPhone’s Watch app rather than on the Apple Watch itself, because I do find the screen of the Apple Watch a little hard to navigate. I have chosen the “California” clock face, which is really cool.

I also read most of my stats in the iPhone’s Health app rather than on the watch itself. The reason is the fact that, firstly, they are all in one place there and, secondly, the Health app is easier to navigate than the apps on my watch. I might need some getting used to with, for instance, the heartrate app on my watch.

Most people who have an Apple Watch or know about it, are probably familiar with the activity rings. I did know they exist prior to buying my watch, but didn’t know what they represent. Your Movement ring shows your calories burned during movement relative to your goal. My goal is set to 300, which is slightly higher than the Apple Watch suggested for me (based on the activity my iPhone had recorded, I guess) but still low. The Exercise ring shows your minutes doing exercise, which is any movement equivalent to or more intense than a brisk walk. My goal is set to 20 minutes. Your Standing ring shows the hours you’ve been standing upright and in some motion for at least one minute. My goal is set to 12. The Apple Watch can count steps, but does not display them on the screen unless you install a third-party app for that. It does send your step count to the iPhone’s Health app.

Each week, I believe, you get a report on how you did compared to your goal and a suggested new movement goal for the week. Yesterday, my suggested goal was the same as the one I’d set.

On Apple Watch series 7 (and some older models too, I believe), you can measure your cardio fitness level. This is done using an estimate of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can process during movement (VO2Max). This is estimated during each brisk walk or run outdoors. On Friday, I had my first estimated cardio fitness level result and my VO2max was 22.9. This is “low” or so the watch said and it doesn’t get lower than “low”. As it turned out, at 24, I’d cross the border to “below average”. I managed this once.

I do want to add here that I got in nearly three times as many exercise minutes compared to my goal three times this week. I also reached 200% of my movement goal yesterday, burning 600 active calories. I actually burned off over 2200 calories that day and I hadn’t even been on the elliptical. Yay me.

Joy in August

Hi all. It’s the end of the month once again and this means I’m reflecting on my word of the year, which is “JOY”. I am linking up with the Word of the Year linky as well as with Lisa’s One Word linky.

The month of July was hard and it ended on an even more difficult note with a health scare. Did I even tell you all about it? Well, I had bloodwork done at the end of July as part of my annual health screening and, while most results came back normal, my EGFR, an indication of kidney function, did not. It’s supposed to be above 90 in healthy adults, had been 81 last year and my nurse practitioner back then had said that anything above 70 was still acceptable. Well, it was 68 this time around. I checked with my GP and he said this could be a one-off lower score, but I do need to be checked again, including a urine test, in a few months.

This health scare, as well as some other worries about my health, did decrease my joy over the month of August. However, I still tried to find moments of joy in the everyday. Like in July, I did sometimes seek joy in material things, for example when I bought a lot of polymer clay supplies a few weeks ago.

However, I also found joy in experiences, such as my and my husband’s trip to Enkhuizen last week and my trip to the town fair yesterday (even though I didn’t buy anything).

Earlier this week, I of course tried to find joy in another material thing by buying an Apple Watch. It’s pure delight seeing how I reach and even exceed my goals. That being said, I did have another health scare today, when the stupid thing told me my cardio fitness level is low. “Low” is the lowest score your Apple Watch will give you. My husband joked: “except for ‘dead’, but that’s not far off.” Great, huh? Thankfully, I do know I can to a degree increase my cardio fitness level by exercising. It is good to feel some sense of control.

The Wednesday HodgePodge (August 24, 2022)

Hi everyone. I’m late today to write my contribution to the Wednesday HodgePodge. Joyce titles her post something about blueberry waffles, but I’m afraid I ate the last of my blueberries yesterday and I don’t have any waffles either. Oh well. Here are Joyce’s questions.

1. August 24th is National Waffle Day…what’s something you’ve “waffled” on recently?
I’m not sure what to “waffle” means exactly – and to be honest had never heard of the word “waffle” as a verb before. Then again, according to my intro to linguistics professor at uni, every noun in English can be verbed. Anyway, according to a Google search, it seems to mean to blather on about something. Which I just did, I guess. A recent topic I’ve been blathering on about though has been my Apple Watch, which I finally ordered on Sunday and have been fully using as of today.

2. Do you like waffles? Make your own or ‘leggo my Eggo? Any favorite toppings or add-ins? Waffles or pancakes-which do you prefer?
I like good homemade or bakery waffles, but don’t really care for store-bought waffles. I prefer pancakes though. For toppings, both on pancakes and waffles, I love powdered sugar, summer fruit, raisins and/or nuts.

3. Do you have any momentos from this summer (or past summers)? What do you do with them?
I don’t think I do, but once again I’m not sure what momentos are. Are they like souvenirs? In that case, no. I almost got myself something on my and my husband’s day trip to Enkhuizen last Saturday.

4. One thing you’d like to do before summer ends?
Go to the town fair. It started today with a sensory-friendly fair experience with activities such as a merry-go-round etc. I’d like to see the market stalls though, which will be there from tomorrow until Saturday. There will also be some pretty good music or so I’ve heard, but I’m likely to go tomorrow morning, because the daytime temperature is supposed to climb to 33°C.

5. Life is too short to…
Worry about my health. Oh well, how I wish I could stop actually worrying about it. Thankfully, my Apple Watch gives me some sort of sense of control.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
Of course, now it’s time to brag about surpassing all three of my activity goals on my Apple Watch today, ie. movement, standing and exercise. I had set my exercise goal lower than the Apple Watch proposed, but my movement goal higher. I’m absolutely loving being able to start workouts on my Apple Watch, something I could never do on my Fitbit because the touch screen is not accessible. I so far really love this new gadget.

Things I Can Do to Improve My Physical Fitness

I had an intensely frustrating physical therapy appointment this morning. I told the physical therapist that, despite the semi-orthopedic shoes and the ankle-foot orthosis, I still walk with a drop foot after roughly 20 minutes of walking. She is going to bring my shoes and the AFO to the orthopedic shoemaker and the guy in charge of the AFO yet again, but I’m skeptical there’ll be a solution. I feel very frustrated that, a year to eighteen months ago, I could easily walk for an hour several times a day and now I struggle to walk for fifteen minutes. That, my staff later countered, may be related to my lack of physical fitness too. In other words, I need to build up stamina again. Now that I have nothing better to share, I am going to list ways in which I can improve my level of physical fitness.

1. Go on the elliptical for ten to fifteen minutes at a time three times a week. I used to try to go on the elliptical for 25 minutes at a time and aim for five times a week, but that’s not realistic right now. Besides, I hate that thing with a passion, so making myself go on it five times a week right away is guaranteed to fail.

2. Go for daily walks again. I have been avoiding walks because of the pain the AFO causes me as well as the hassle involved in trying to judge the weather, whether I need to wear sunscreen, etc. I really need to make daily walking a habit again, even if it’s only a ten-minute walk around the day center.

3. Throw a ball. This doesn’t necessarily strengthen my legs and it isn’t quite cardio level either, but any movement counts.

4. Weight training. I really need to get into the habit of doing weight lifting again, if only three rounds of ten a few times a week. This is arm training, since I cannot really do core training at all, but again, it will help me get to a higher physical fitness level.

5. Doing the exercises I originally did with the physical therapist for my back. I am not sure why I list these, but they can’t hurt.

Ultimately, I would really like to go to a gym at some point. The day center has a stationary bike too, but I’m not sure I can use that.

Do you have any suggestions as to ways for me to practise physical exercise?

Five Healthy Foods I Actually Love #5Things

Hi everyone. I’m late to the party, as DrTanya posts her #5Things challenge on Tuesday. However, better late than never, right? This week’s topic is favorite healthy foods. Here are mine.

1. Fruits. Almost any fruit is guaranteed to be a favorite of mine, but I especially love blueberries, strawberries, green apples and bananas. And guess what? For a sugary fruit, bananas are actually quite nutritious.

2. Bell peppers. They are one of my favorite veggies to snack on, but I also love them in stirfry meals.

3. Broccoli. And its cousin cauliflower. I love love love both.

4. Garlic. I really love this. Of course, it isn’t a food that one would eat on its own, but in a dish, it’s totally delicious!

5. Kidney beans. They are among the healthiest beans and among my favorites too.

And I could go on. Really, when I looked up lists of the healthiest foods in the world, it turned out I really love most. And just so you know, I did also try out some of the more hyped-up health foods, such as chia seeds, and I actually like those too.

What are your favorite healthy foods?

Right to Health

In his daily prompt yesterday, Scott Andrew Bailey asks us about the “right to health”. I purposefully put that between quote marks, as obviously no-one has a right to health. We all get sick and die eventually. Okay, that was my autistic brain’s literal thinking acting up again. What Scott means is the right to medical care.

Scott asks whether medical care is something the government should provide for the people or whether it’s best left to the private sector. Are there drawbacks to your choice?

The answer to that last question is, of course, yes. Any system has its drawbacks. My answer to the first question, on the other hand, is: I’d like it to be a little of both. For my Dutch readers, the answer can be short: I like my own system best, despite its drawbacks, such as the mandatory copay and the diagnosis-treatment combinations which dictate that you’ll get care based on a diagnosis, not your needs. Those were a particularly problematic thing in mental health. I believe they’ve been altered to something else this year, but I don’t know whether it’s better or worse.

For my international readers, here is a little explanation of how the Dutch system works and why it has the best of private and public healthcare combined. Basically, what is called basic health insurance is more or less public, even though it is covered through the same insurers that will cover your additional insurance should you get it and the insurance companies are private. The government decides which care is covered under basic insurance and insurers must accept every Dutch resident for this package, regardless of health status. The basic package covers visits to your GP, hospital care, most medications, specialist mental health services (ie. services for people with more severe mental health problems), etc. Things that are not covered include physical therapy, dentistry for adults over 22 I believe, contraception (even though Christian parties have been demanding it gets put into the package to prevent women needing abortions), etc. When I lived with my husband, I had mostly just the basic package (I did have some physio coverage but didn’t use that) and I didn’t have to pay a lot of extra money for things that weren’t covered.

You can decide to get additional coverage for things like dental care, physical therapy, alternative medicine, etc. However, insurers can refuse you for those. They usually don’t for the cheaper packages, but then again getting these hardly outweighs the cost of paying for care out-of-pocket.

Basic health insurance currently costs about €133 a month if you want to have free choice of healthcare providers (I do). You can opt for a cheaper policy where the insurer has contracts with only certain providers and you have to pay 30% of treatment costs if you go to an uncontracted provider. Like I said, there’s a mandatory copay of €385 a year on your healthcare. GP visits do not count towards this.

Like I said, I think our system has the best of both public and private worlds. Before the current system was put in place, low to medium income people were covered under the sick fund, which was similar to the UK’s NHS, including its problems of extreme waiting lists and bureaucracy. People with higher incomes would need to get private insurance, but I don’t think it was much better for them, in the sense that those with private insurance would be treated favorably. That’s a good thing.

A note about those who cannot afford to pay for health insurance at all: as a general rule, basic insurance is mandatory and there are several ways in which the government aids low-income people, but ultimately if a person doesn’t pay at all, insurers have the ability to stop insuring them. In that case, hospitals can refuse care, but not in acutely life-threatening circumstances such as when someone has a heart attack. In that sense, you have a right not to die on the health system, but not an ultimate right to medical care.