Depression, Robin Williams, Suicide, & Parkinson’s Disease

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This week NPR played an interview with Robin Williams from 2006.  He stated that he had never suffered from depression but had felt deep sadness.  As a person who’s had depression multiple times since my late teens, I had a difficult time understanding how someone who lived almost 60 years without depression could become so depressed that he could take his own life.

Then his wife announced today that Williams was in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. With my experience in the Parkinson’s community, both as a family member, advocate, and outreach coordinator for the NPF, I’ve seen and heard many stories about the depression that accompanies the diagnosis. Williams was such an physical performer.  He had such impressive vocal skills.  He was so animated.  Unfortunately, Parkinson’s slow takes away those talents by inhibiting moving from reduced dopamine production.  It takes away your voice with dysphonia.   It reduces your ability to express yourself through facial expressions.

It easy to say that I know that living with Parkinson’s is not a death sentence.  I know that life with PD is worth living.  But I also can say that I understand just a little bit better.  It’s hard to see which way is up when you’re sink down, down, down. We’ve all lost a great friend.  The world was a better place when Robin Williams was in it. I hope he finds peace and his body renewed in the afterlife.

Where’s the Beef?

For the past year or so, I’ve been slow growing more serious about weight lifting.  About three month ago, I upped my protein goal to 130g per day (or more).  As you can imagine, given my height and size, fairly large percentage of my caloric intake is meat.  Lots and lots of meat.  Meat for breakfast. Meat for lunch. Meat for dinner.  Meat for snacks.  Yep. Meat snacks.  Sounds a bit off-putting, huh? Well, it’s not. It’s delicious.  One reason? Mingua (pronounced Ming-gee) Beef Jerky.  This shit is additive.

Original image by RealFoodTraveler.com

Everyone I know that has tried Mingua Jerky is also addicted. In fact, Chris’s company is classified as a wholesaler so they can order it directly from the company in bulk.  Yep. It’s that good.  Locally, I’ve found it as Mapco, but it’s worth buying it in mass from the company.

Grab a bag.  It’s low in fat & carbs, high in protein.  (And sodium. Drink some water.) It’s also high in nomnomnom.

Where to Start

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For some, maybe most, this is won’t be new information.  However, recently a friend asked me to help her become more fit and healthy.  Since I was going to write it down, I figured I just post it up instead.

Full disclosure: I am not a nutritionist.  I did not attend school for nutrition.  I am a yoga instructor. I spend a lot of time in the gym. I can only explain what I’ve learned over the years and what works for me. Take what you’d like; leave what you don’t need.

1. Log your food. In the weight lifting world, we like to say, “Six packs are made in the kitchen.” No matter how hard you work at the gym, regardless to all the lifting, no one will see the amazing abs that lie under your beer gut (or pizza gut or cheese dip gut).  It just won’t happen.  And even if you “eat healthy foods”, you won’t lose weight unless you hold yourself accountable for the amount of “healthy foods” you eat.   I love avocados. They’re awesome! Full of good stuff! But they are over 300 calories each, which is approximately the amount of calories I burn during a 30 minute stair climber session.  Food is great! Food is awesome! Just know how much food you’re eating by logging it.  Every calorie that crosses your lips needs to go into your log.  One tablespoon of half & half has about 35 calories.  One pound of fat is 3500 calories.  If you skip logging your calories for 100 cups (which is about what I drink in a month), then you’ve cheated yourself out a pound.

As far as logging systems go, I prefer ones that offer a good mobile app.  I currently use MyFitnessPal.   I’ve also used Daily Burn Tracker. I think both systems are fantastic.  I moved because I like the metrics of MFP better, but that’s not something most people need.  Something to note: Most of the data is created by fellow users.  Please check the calorie information and serving sizes. You cannot assume it’s correct. That being said, you find yourself using the same items over and over (like olive oil, eggs, favorite brand of protein bar, etc) so it starts to become easier to log quickly.

Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge.

2. Check Your Labels & Measure your food.  There’s a thing that we struggle with in America.  It’s call portion sizes.  Most people do not realize (or care) what’s on the food labels. A lot of folks don’t know that that information is based on serving sizes, which can often be deceiving.  The other day, I needed a snack and grabbed what appeared to be a single serving bag of nuts.  I can put away some cashews in my belly, and this did not appear to be a challenge.  But then I checked the label - about 200 calories per serving, which is doable. But there was 3 servings in the bag.  What!?! 600 calories is not my idea of “snack”.

Every three month I get a 6lb bag of almonds from Amazon because, dang, almonds are good.  What an awesome snack! I’ve read in fitness and girly magazines that a handful of almonds makes a great snack.  Finally! My giant hands are good! Yeah, nope.  Better to measure than guess.  A quarter cup of almonds has 207 calories.  Makes it easier and more accurate to log your food if you measure. One thing to be really aware of is cereal.  Most serving sizes are 3/4 to 1 cup.  My child eats more cereal than that.

Two great things for measuring:

A kitchen scale

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And a set of measure cups & spoons.


And that’s where you start.  No major changes.  No special foods.  Hell, no exercise yet. Don’t even worry about changing the way you eat - just log it so you know where you’re starting.  There’s more to come, but I think that’s enough for now. xoxo