Weaknesses Are Only As Strong As We Allow Them To Be

I saw this quote on Instagram, on the Optimal Living Daily account (@oldpodcast) — “The more willing you are to face your weaknesses, the less likely they are to remain weaknesses.” I wanted to know more about Tynan, the person who was quoted. I took his quote, put it onto a picture my husband took while on vacation in Hawaii, and wanted to share it. I hope this inspires you to face your weaknesses, too.

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What weaknesses are you willing to face?

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

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Caring for Parents with Memory Issues (Video; 28 minutes)

 

 

Where does one begin when memory problems become an issue with an aging parent?

Issues such as getting a diagnosis, terminology (What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?), resources (Book: Caring for a Husband with Dementia; App: Dementia Caregiver Solutions for iOS; Alzheimer Society), sundowning, and managing difficult behaviours are all discussed in this half-hour video.

Check out my video interview with Nancy Baker from Healing Healthy with Nancy called “Caring for Parents with Memory Issues.”

 

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

Keywords: Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Book, App, Essential Oils

My 72-Hour Fasting Experience, Part 4

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During the day yesterday, I did really well. I was busy with work, and I was taking my water, S. Pellegrino mineral water, plain tea and salt. I got a little tired around 11:00 am (40 hours into my fast), and I figured it was because I hadn’t had my second cup of tea. I perked up in the afternoon, but work created some brain drain (intensive clinical work), so I was looking forward to going home and just resting on the couch in front of the TV.

 

My husband Cupp made some sausages and reheated some other food for himself for supper. The food odours were driving me crazy! I was very hungry. The site, smell or talk of food was very tempting and made me want to end my fast.

 

I managed to get through the evening unscathed, but I noticed when I got to bed, my heart was pounding and racing. I’ve had some heart issues since chemo-radiation in 2017 (checked out as “normal”) so I was thinking it’s just a little “blip” as I’ve had this before.

 

I had a restless sleep, mainly due to the racing heart. When I woke up, I felt like I had got enough sleep, in order to carry on for the remainder of my fast (another 12 hours or so) and the rest of the day. My heart was still pounding when I got up. So, I drank some water, and headed for the shower. I weighed myself, I was 158 pounds. I lost two pounds in one day. The total was now five pounds in 2.5 days of fasting.

 

In the bathroom, I started to feel a bit woozy, but I decided to get into the shower to help start my day. As I got into the shower and started running the water, I started feeling a bit weird. I was a bit shaky and weak. I looked down at my toenails and they looked a bit bluish. My heart starting pounding harder. I thought to myself, “This isn’t right.” The doctor had said if I feel faint or lightheaded, to stop my fast and eat something.

 

I cut my shower short, and went to check my heart rate. The effort it took to take a shower pushed my heart rate to 112 beats per minute (BPM). I knew I needed to eat something. But – I had come so far in my fast. I was disappointed. How far had I come? Maybe checking my Life app would help me decide what to to.

I opened up the app and it said I was 60 hours into my fast. “Wow!” I thought. I was actually satisfied with that number (I am sure I would have been satisfied with anything at this point!) I couldn’t see myself functioning the rest of the day without eating — waiting another 12 hours? I think my heart would have conked out!

I ended my fast at 7:15 am, 60 hours into my fast. I HAD to eat. The quickest thing I could think of was my favourite cereal with milk. It went down pretty good. I also made tea with milk. After I finished my cereal, I was still hungry. I figured I should have some protein, so I made an egg. I still wasn’t satiated, so I had some more cereal. My heart was still pounding. I was hoping my heart would settle down. I was eating more than my usual breakfast, that’s for sure!

 

At 8:15 am, I was feeling stronger. I wasn’t hungry, just thirsty. Drank some more water. I checked my heart rate, still at 112 BPM, but not as distressing. No more pounding. I drove to work for a staff meeting.

 

At 10:30 am, I was on break. During our staff meeting, we were celebrating a co-worker’s birthday. There was chocolate cake and other treats. I had some. I was feeling stronger as time went on. I walked down to the cafeteria to buy a tea. With the walking, my heart started working really hard! 122 BPM. I was hoping it wouldn’t get any worse!

 

At 12:00 noon our meeting had ended and I was driving back to the office. I was feeling good still. Had a chicken bacon ranch wrap with extra veggies.

 

At 12:45 pm I checked my heart rate again. Now it was at 97 BPM. Starting to slow down. Whew! Thank God!

 

So, although I didn’t make it to 72 hours, I am pleased with my results. 60 hours is no small feat! I hope that anyone who tries this does it with a doctor’s approval. I will be going back to my intermittent fasting routine of 17:7 on Friday. If I were to do another prolonged fast, I think I would keep it to 36 hours. Next steps is to go get my blood work done to see if it has helped rejuvenate my white blood cell count. I will post the results when I get them. I will also share my elevated heart rate experience with my doctor at the next visit.

 

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

My 72-Hour Fasting Experience, Part 3

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7:30 am. Half-way (36 hours) into my fast, I woke up after having a bad dream. I dreamed I was being chased by a large, vicious, hungry lion! I haven’t remembered my dreams that vividly for a long time. I was in some sort of building, a school perhaps, and I heard a loud rustling noise. My intuition told me danger was lurking. As the noise got closer, I saw the lion coming around the corner! I ran into a room and locked the door. That’s when I woke up. (Maybe it was all that thinking about hungry animals yesterday that brought it on!)

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I felt noticeably “lighter” this morning, so I stepped on the scale. I lost three pounds! Now going from 163 to 160 isn’t a lot when you look at the bigger picture, but wow, it’s interesting how lighter one can feel after not eating for 36 hours!

My energy is still good. I have a slight little nagging headache, but that will soon pass once I have my green tea and some Himalayan pink salts (I hope!). (See the screenshot above of the app I am using, it’s called LIFE.)

I will be working today so I will be kept busy.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

 

My 72-Hour Fasting Experience, Part 2

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I am 24 hours into my fast (48 to go!), and the first day went pretty well. I have been drinking water, green tea, San Pellegrino and taking some Himalayan pink salt every once in a while. I worked today, so I have been keeping busy and distracted.

At 1:20 pm (“Lunch break” – 18 hours into my fast) I noted I hadn’t really felt hungry at all, and I had lots of energy still.

It was a bit difficult when I got home, as my husband and daughter were making dinner. The smell of food makes me want to eat! But, I am proud to say I was able to sit at the table with them while they ate. I had my black tea and I was fine!

Watching TV is torturous! Every second commercial is about food!

I was thinking about the idea of energy and alertness. When wild animals are hungry, they are super alert and on the lookout for their next meal. Hunting takes a lot of energy. I guess that’s kind of how I feel. I am mentally alert and feel I can keep going until Thursday at 7:15pm. At least that’s how I feel right now.

I decided to take my magnesium citrate supplement. I passed on the others.

I found this video on a three-day water fast and Dr. Zyrowski answered some of my questions about how to break the fast. He suggests steamed veggies and bone broth, but I am already dreaming of bacon and eggs! I guess time will tell.

Watch: 3 Day Water Fast – A How To Guide

with Dr. Nick Zyrowski

I also watched another video where two younger guys, who had practically no body fat and lots of muscle, challenged themselves to a 72-hour fast. They only got to 50 hours.

Let’s see how I do. I have more body fat so maybe I’ll be okay.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

 

 

My 72-Hour Fasting Experience, Part 1

72-hour fastthat's three days!

On 14 Jan 2019, I saw my doctor and discussed my interest in trying a 72-hour fast. I explained that I have been doing intermittent fasting for the last 20 days and I also experienced one 24-hour fast already. I am feeling great, and I wanted to explore the possibility of a prolonged fast that could also help boost my immune system.

I had chemoradiation 17 months ago, and my white blood cell count has been running at a moderately-low level for a few months now. I was told that if I got a fever, I would have to go to the hospital, as “leukopenia” can make it difficult for my body to fight off infection. Also, whenever I get a little cut or something, I am very diligent at making sure I keep it clean and put Polysporin on it.

My doctor explained to me that a prolonged fast will make the liver work harder and my body may experience “starvation” mode. She explained that there are many people who fast for religious reasons, and in fact, her mom has done 72-hour fasts (she would drink only water and black tea or coffee.) She told me that she, herself, couldn’t do it. She also said she can’t “promote fasting” and suggested I speak to a dietician (as it is provided by our provincial healthcare services). I was quite convinced that I can do it without the dietician’s involvement, and I am motivated to see if it can help improve my immune system (as there are studies that show it can help).

Watch: Fasting: Awakening the Rejuvenation from Within

TedXEchoPark with Dr. Valter Longo

My doctor cautioned that if I feel faint or lightheaded, that I should stop the fast and eat something. I told her I will make sure I stay safe and I will always have water and something to eat with me. She gave me a requisition for lab work – including blood glucose and white blood cell counts. She said to get my blood tested in a fasting state and about one month after my prolonged fast has ended.

I plan to do my 72-hour fast starting tonight, after dinner. I will document how it goes in a subsequent post. Wish me luck!

Warm regards,

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

Intermittent Fasting – A New Way of Eating for Health and Weight Loss

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Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

A couple of months ago, I read an article in a newsletter written by an acquaintance about her five-day “fasting” experience. For health reasons, she drank only water for five days. I was both shocked by this news (how could any live for five days without food?!) and curious (she said she felt better and wants to try for seven days next time.) I tucked this knowledge away in my back pocket, with the intent of learning more.

Then a few weeks after that, I listened to an interview by D’vorah Lansky, bestselling author, who interviewed Gin Stephens who wrote the bestseller, “Delay, Don’t Deny.” D’vorah had adopted the “intermittent fasting” lifestyle and Gin was talking about this way of living and her book sales. This interview was so powerful, I hung on to every word Gin said about how the time-restricted feeding pattern freed her from years of dieting. She lost 80 pounds and has kept it off.

Intermittent fasting (IF) is when you choose to not eat anything for at least 12 hours and for as long as 24 hours. It can be done for religious or health reasons.

I purchased her book (ebook for Kindle) and read it in one day. I loved everything about this new way of eating (WOE) and vowed to myself that I would start on December 26, 2018. I was going to start by not eating after supper and skip breakfast, and only consume water and black tea during my 16-hour fast.

It was much easier than I thought! I felt in control. My hunger pains were short-lived and I soon realized that I was not only eating too much but TOO FREQUENTLY. We are a “well fed” society, and the more I learn about this, the more I understand why there is so much obesity and other related health problems (central abdomen obesity, high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol, low good cholesterol, and high blood sugar). Metabolic syndrome –– which includes three of the five previously-mentioned conditions –– causes an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (heart problems) and type 2 diabetes. Increasing age also causes us to have an increased risk in these areas. I realized in order to reduce my caloric intake, instead of “dieting,” I needed to give myself a “window” of time where it was okay to eat. I am learning how to delay my meals, instead of denying them.

As I write this I am on Day 12 of my new WOE. There is a lot of flexibility with intermittent fasting. For example, my usual pattern is 16 hours of fasting with an 8-hour window of feasting or eating. This is a good place for most people to start. I “close my window” at 8pm, and I don’t eat anything until noon the next day. This gives my body a good 16-hour break from eating. I can drink all the water or black tea (or coffee if I wanted) during the fast. I found I was closing my window earlier, so some of my days were 17 hours of fasting (or more).

Some people choose this 16:8, others choose 18:6 or 20:4 – or some other variation. There are also other patterns, and “extended fasting” which is what the lady did who I mentioned at the beginning of this article. (I’ve also read any fast over 72 hours is dangerous, so be mindful of that.)

For special occasions, where I know I will want to eat or drink outside of my regular window, I can switch up the fasting time. For example, I went for a 21.5-hour fast before new year’s eve so I could have champagne and snacks during the evening. This weekend, I knew I would be having two different family meals, so I did a 24-hour fast. This is also called “alternate day fasting” (ADF) which is another pattern of eating. There is also one-meal-a-day (OMAD) in which the eating window is very short, which could be anywhere between 2-4 hours. Each person finds their own “sweet spot” and you learn how to listen to your body. The Mediterranean diet is what I prefer, as it has the most research behind it for health and longevity. Oh, and my sugar addiction is being curbed as the fasts force me to abstain.

Many people find a lot of benefits associated with intermittent fasting (IF). Improved health and weight loss are the two biggest reasons why people try it. I belong to a few groups on Facebook, and the success stories and non-scale victories (NSV) are very inspiring and encouraging.

IF isn’t for everyone, however, and there isn’t a lot of research on it as it is quite new. I’ve read Gin Stephens’ books and I am also learning from Dr. Jason Fung and will be reading his books, too. Gin says IF is not for pregnant women or children. For those who have pre-existing medical conditions, they should talk to their doctor. In fact, I’ve heard of a few people now who say their doctor recommended IF for their health! It’s been known to reverse type 2 diabetes. If you are considering trying it, please speak to your doctor first.

I am enjoying this new WOE and I am already feeling less bloated and I am sleeping better. I lost 30 pounds a couple of years ago going through my cancer ordeal, and I put most of it back on. The way I lost it was not in a good way. This time I want to lose it in a way that is intentional and will benefit my well-being. I want to reap the benefits of a healthier body that is well fed –– not frequently fed. I also have my own group on Facebook for women who are 40 and better. If you’d like to join us, please drop me a line.

Age well, my friend.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

Puzzle-Time Challenges

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When making a puzzle, one doesn’t usually think about how many challenges will have to be overcome. Well, we had our challenges with this one. This beautiful “Bull Moose” artwork by Robert Bateman had been chopped into 500 little puzzle pieces. I had been keeping it safe in my closet for a number of years, waiting for the right moment to put it all together.

My son Lorenzo pulled it out of the closet and said he’d like to complete the puzzle with us (my husband Cupp and I). The guys said, “We can finish this in a couple of hours, no problem!” I had my doubts. I hadn’t done a big puzzle like this for years. I remember them taking hours or days to complete. Puzzle-making is fun and relaxing. We would work as a team!

I cleared off the kitchen table. We got at it and found the light that was shining down over the kitchen table was too bright, so we had to find something to filter the glare bouncing off the pieces. I tried a pink sunbrella, but the pink tinge over the puzzle made it to hard to see. I tried another one,  but it was orange –– same problem. We thought something white would be best, so I found a white sheet. That worked fine, but the sheet wrapped around the light looked quite strange!

We ate a couple of snacks, and I had a big glass of water. Finding pieces that fit together was a bit of a challenge. We started with the border. We looked for the pieces with the flat sides. Sometimes it seemed like forever before we found pieces that fit together. One time when I found a good fit, I declared, “Win!” That became our signal when something fit.

Unfortunately, I knocked my glass of water over onto the puzzle! Now we had water all over the pieces. We had to quickly sop up the mess. Then we noticed as the water penetrated into some of the pieces they started to come apart. Oh no! Now we needed to glue some of them back together. This wasn’t going very well.

The puzzle-making adventure seemed to be going slower than we had anticipated. I was getting a bit tired of it all and went to sit down on the couch. I noticed our pup Berkeley chewing on something. I got closer to her, and realized it was a piece of the puzzle! Oh no! Now we have some pieces that need to be glued together AND a piece that is chewed. This is getting a bit ridiculous!

A half-hour later, Cupp told me “We are getting close to the end, you may want to come and help us finish it up!” I went over to see how far they had gotten, and I noticed there was a piece missing from the moose’s nose. I scanned the table looking for it. I couldn’t see it anywhere. I told them “We won’t be able to finish this puzzle if we don’t find this missing piece.” We figured it may have fallen onto the floor. I got down on my hands and knees, using the light from my cell phone, and I couldn’t see it anywhere. I started to worry that perhaps Berkeley ate it. I started looking in places she may have brought it, like her bed or her favourite carpeted area, and nope. Not there. I said, “Maybe it’s still in the bag.” So, I dug into the garbage and checked the bag. Nope, not there. Now I am convinced that Berkeley ate it. Oh no! Now we have an incomplete puzzle with pieces that need to be glued together and a piece that is chewed!

I eventually went to bed and woke up in the morning to find the puzzle done, with the glued pieces, the chewed piece, and the missing piece. It was a puzzle-making activity that didn’t quite go the way we had planned. It was fun, nonetheless!

Angela G. Gentile

 

 

Chair Exercises for Older Adults or those with Mobility Limitations

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Photo credit: jill111 – pixabay.com

I was approached by Joseph Jones at California Mobility to provide my recommendation on how to help an older adult with dementia stick to an exercise routine. My comments are in the article 21 Chair Exercises for Seniors: A Comprehensive Visual Guide.

This extensive guide on chair exercises for older adults (or anyone with mobility issues) includes easy-to-follow videos, helpful images, and lots of great tips on chair exercises. These exercises can be adapted for anyone! Please check out the article for helpful tips on keeping active, at any age.

Age well my friends!

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

 

 

“Improving Your Memory” –– A Great Handbook for Those Concerned About Memory Changes (Book Review)

What do you get when two clinical social workers who work in a geriatric centre write a handbook on how to improve your memory skills? A fine little guide for helping older people who are concerned about the changes in their memory!

Janet Fogler and Lynn Stern team up in “Improving Your Memory: How to Remember What You’re Starting to Forget” (2014) in this fourth edition. Originally published in 1988, these social workers have created the book that I have been looking for. In this fourth edition, they have included the smartphone and other technologies that are helpful to us as we manage our daily tasks and are challenged by our aging minds and bodies.

The paperback (168 pages) is medium-sized and is packed with real-life stories and examples to help the reader understand the concepts. There are also quizzes throughout to help the reader apply the knowledge learned (to help one remember!). It is divided into four parts:

  1. How memory works
  2. How memory changes as we age
  3. Factors that affect memory
  4. Techniques for improving your memory

I cracked open the book and dived into section four, as I was eager to see what techniques the authors were recommending. They offered some great ideas, and even ones I had not heard of before. One of them had to do with switching your ring or watch to your other hand or wrist, as an indicator that you had something to remember. It is much like the classic “tying a string around your finger” trick. I found some of the mental exercises fun and a little tricky, and I enjoyed trying out some new skills to help me remember things. The one example for myself that comes to mind is when I am attending an appointment and I have to park in a large parkade. I will use an “active observation” technique so I won’t forget where I left the car!

The first three parts of the book are very easy to understand and come with an illustration of “A Model For How Memory Works.” For us visual learners, these kinds of diagrams are helpful. Encoding (getting something to stick) and retrieval (being able to recall something) can become a little more difficult as we get older, for a variety of reasons. The authors explain, in simple language, why these things happen and how we can try to combat them. Whether our forgetfulness is due to stress, grief, depression, poor concentration, medications, or illness, memory problems can cause added stressors. The authors give some good advice in the appendix on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias; “What is good for your heart is also good for your brain, so monitoring heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol is important” (page 142).

I was surprised to learn the book doesn’t talk about “mild cognitive impairment” and the prevalence rates of Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias. Knowing that the risk of Alzheimer’s disease increases with age is important to know, but not knowing the level of risk does not allay any fears or concerns one may have. (The World Health Organization estimates, of those 60 and over, 5 to 8 people per 100 will develop dementia.)

I also noticed the absence of the terms “mindfulness” and “meditation,” as those two terms are used quite often in most of the current brain health literature I have been reading. Fogler and Stern mention how alcohol can negatively affect your memory, but they omitted any mention of drugs. Interestingly the nutrition section has no reference to supplements. I also observed God, higher power, and spirituality are not discussed.

Overall, a highly recommended guide and workbook for those who want to learn about: how the brain stores and retrieves information (in our “working” and “long-term” memory); what happens to the aging brain; what may cause memory problems; and tips and techniques on how to maximize your chances of remembering things. I’ll leave you with these two tips: “Much of what is called ‘forgetting’ is a lack of paying attention” (p. 137); and “Study after study shows that increased fitness levels result in improvement on cognitive tests” (p. 64).

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW
Author/Specialist in Aging

www.AngelaGGentile.com