Tag Archives: Health

A rock and a hard place

It’s time for us to deal with the part of moving that I’m dreading most: health insurance.

We were uninsured for a year after we moved to North Carolina. I was working part time in retail, Tony was a student, and we were trying to get by on a tiny income. In hindsight, I realize how stupid it was for us to forego coverage, especially since we later learned that we could have afforded high deductible catastrophic coverage. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.

Now as we look ahead at a lot of unknowns, we have to figure out what we’ll do next. Being uninsured isn’t an option for us right now. We’re grown-ups now, which means we accept that health insurance is a must.

Tony is currently covered by a private policy. His coverage is fairly comprehensive, and includes co-pays for office visits and 100% coverage for preventative care. He hasn’t made a single claim in two years, which is a good thing (knock on wood), but makes me wonder if he may be overinsured just a bit.

We’re considering downgrading his coverage to a mid-grade deductible with 100% coverage for preventative care, 100% coverage after the deductible is met, but no coverage before the deductible. If he needs to go to the doctor for a sinus infection or other minor problem, we’ll pay 100% of the cost up to the deductible. But if something more serious happens, he’ll be covered.

As for me, I’m worried that I’ll be denied private coverage due to my history with anxiety and depression. I also don’t want to deal with the stress of shopping for private insurance as we’re moving and job searching and dealing with a million other stressful situations. Tony is already covered, but getting him signed up for a private policy was a nightmare. Five months and several physicals and questionnaires after he applied, he was finally covered.

I have absolutely no desire to go through that, especially considering my history of mild anxiety and depression. I don’t know that I could stomach being denied coverage for my “condition.” How am I a bigger risk because I decided to seek treatment? I would think that my commitment to staying healthy and happy would make me a lower risk. In my opinion, it’s discriminatory and wrong. But I digress.

My other option is to continue receiving the same health care I currently receive though my employer with COBRA. I’m happy with my insurance, and it includes a $500 HRA provided by my employer (I would continue to receive that benefit). But it costs double what I’d pay for (somewhat) comparable private coverage.

There are just so many questions with private coverage, though. Will they approve me? How long will it take before I’m covered? And how high will my premium be considering my history? The online quotes I’ve received don’t ask about pre-existing conditions, which makes me think that even if they do cover me despite my history of anxiety, I’ll still have a higher premium.

Because of all these factors, we’ve made the decision to continue my coverage through COBRA and decrease Tony’s coverage a bit to ensure that he has a relatively low deductible, but also a lower premium. As long as his deductible is lower than what we have in savings, he’ll be completely covered.

Honestly, I was hoping this wouldn’t be an issue. I know I don’t normally get into this sort of thing here, but I was hoping real health care reform would pass before May, and at the very least, it would be illegal for health companies to deny me based on my minor anxiety issues. But unfortunately, we’re not counting on that happening now.

This hasn’t been a fun decision to make, but we recognize that our health is a priority, so we’ll just have to deal with the high cost of insurance right now. Here’s hoping it’s temporary.

Photo by bryanchan

Time to order contacts again — or why I think “contact lens fittings” are a rip-off

Last year after I painfully paid $175 for a year’s worth of contact lenses and the accompanying “contact lens fitting” that wasn’t covered by my insurance, I considered setting aside money every month for this yearly expense. I don’t know why I didn’t, but now I really regret it.

It’s time for me to order contacts again, which means I need to make an appointment with the optometrist for my yearly eye exam. The exam is covered by my insurance with no co-pay because it’s considered preventative care. Anything associated with contact lenses, however, isn’t covered. That includes the “contact lens fitting,” which I consider the biggest rip-off I’ve ever had to pay for health care.

My prescription hasn’t changed since I was a kid. I won’t be changing my brand of contacts either. But I’ll still have to pay an extra $75 for my doctor to write me a prescription for contacts. I need that prescription to order my contacts anywhere, even if I choose cheaper vendors online.

What does the contact lens fitting involve? Well, not a whole lot. After my regular exam, the doctor will give me a trial pair of lenses — the same lenses I’ve been wearing for a year without any problems. Then I’ll schedule an appointment to come back two weeks later. At the second appointment, the doctor will come in and ask me if I’ve had any problems with the contacts that have worked absolutely fine all year. I’ll tell him they’re fine, and he’ll write me my contacts prescription so I can order another year’s supply.


Pardon this rant, but it really bugs me. I called around to several optometrists, but of course they all require this “fitting” appointment. I understand why a doctor I’ve never seen would require something like this (somewhat), but why would the doctor I saw last year who prescribed these contacts that have been absolutely fine for 12 months require me to do this again if I haven’t had any problems?

I suppose the most frugal thing for me to do would be to stop wearing contacts all together and wear glasses instead. But I hate my glasses. My prescription magnifies my vision. So my glasses make my eyes look comically big. Tony doesn’t think so, but I’m just uncomfortable wearing them. Not only that, but it wouldn’t be comfortable to wear glasses at the gym when I’m working out.

I’m usually not one to complain about medical expenses. I do what I have to do to stay healthy, and I understand that things like prescriptions and exams cost money. I value my health, and I consider most health care related costs to be absolutely worth the money. But this just seems so ridiculous and unnecessary. Don’t you just hate when our health care system requires us to pay for unnecessary things just so doctors can profit?

I’ve learned my lesson. This year I’ll be putting aside $15 a month for contacts so I won’t have to pay a lump sum all at once and throw off my budget next year. /rant

Photo by chrismar

I’m almost a real runner

My big New Year’s Resolution is to run a half marathon this year, but my first goal is a 5K in the middle of March. Last weekend I finished up week 3 of the Couch to 5K training plan.

Guys. Seriously. Running is HARD. I was hoping it would be a lot easier since I’ve been working out consistently for a year now, and it was … at first. But week 3 kind of kicked my butt, and I’m scared about tonight’s work out because I’m starting week 4.

It really shouldn’t be this hard. The longest stretch of running without stopping last week was only 3 minutes at 5 miles per hour. It should be much easier than it is. But like I said, I’ve never been a runner. I kind of hate it. But each week starts out much harder than it ends up, so at least I’m making progress.

I’m still afraid to weigh myself because I know I put on a few pounds over the holidays, and I don’t think I’m losing. My clothes aren’t fitting any better yet. But I’m sticking with it because I really want to run that 5K.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned that are making my training a little easier.

Couch to 5K iPhone app

This thing has been indispensable in my training. If you have an iPhone or an Android and you’re training for a 5K, I highly recommend it. I can listen to music and forget about the time, and a voice pops in when it’s time to change pace. If you don’t have a smart phone, there are many C25K podcasts that follow the same general idea. You could easily track your time with a stop-watch or on a treadmill timer, but something about forgetting about the time and focusing on my music makes it a lot easier for me to follow the program. Which leads me to my next tip …

Focus on anything but time.

I still catch myself staring at the clock, waiting for the run to end. But the more I focus on how much time I have left, the slower time seems to go. Instead, focus on the music, focus on how powerful you feel running, focus on why you’re doing this for yourself. Think about your to-do list or what you’re having for dinner. Honestly, if I’m thinking about other things, the time flies by, the run seems easier, and my time is better.

Remember that food is fuel.

I started training in December, and I learned the hard way that what you eat has a direct effect on how your workout will feel. The day after Christmas was torture, because I’d spent the day eating nothing but crap. Since I’m also trying to eat healthier, I’ve become very conscious about what’s on my plate, but I also consider how rough that run will be tonight if I spring for the french fries at lunch. Food is fuel, and if you eat healthy, you will feel healthier during your workout.

Listen to your body.

It’s okay to push yourself to increase your time and speed. It shouldn’t be easy. But you should always pay attention to your body’s limits. I try to bump up my speed a little bit with each workout, but if I slept poorly the night before or I’m not feeling at my best, there are times when I think I might die before I reach the end of a run. It’s okay to slow down a little if this happens to you. You’ll feel better at the end of the workout, and you’ll be less likely to skip working out the next day if you’re not dreading it.

Since I’m so new at this, now I want some tips from you. How do you stay motivated to run? And how do you improve your time and endurance?

Photo by lgh75

Should you join a gym? My thoughts after a full year of gym membership

One year ago today, I vowed to get back in shape for the New Year by committing to a one-year gym membership for $20 a month.

At the time, I was hesitant. It’s so common for people to join a gym, give up within a couple months, and end up stuck with a monthly bill for a membership they’re not using. Since it’s been a year, I thought it might be helpful for me to revisit my decision to join the gym in case some of you are considering the same decision now.

When I joined the gym, I had three goals: I wanted to get in better shape, work out more, and lose 10-15 pounds.

Weight loss

Unfortunately, after losing and gaining back about 10 pounds or so, I am pretty much back where I started last January. This could be due to the medication that I’m taking or my yo-yo eating habits. But the bottom line is, joining a gym did not help me lose weight.

Regular exercise

For the first time in my life, I have consistently adhered to a workout routine for almost all of 2009. There were a couple weeks here and there where I didn’t make it to the gym due to illness or travel, but for the most part, I exercised at least 2-3 times a week every week (usually more often than that).

Better health

Despite the fact that I haven’t lost weight, I’m in the best physical shape of my life. For the first time in a long time I can maintain a jog for about 30 minutes without stopping. I feel great physically. I’m sleeping better, eating better, and feeling better than I did before I started exercising regularly.

Natural treatment for anxiety & depression

Working out consistently has also done wonders to treat my anxiety and depression issues. I really noticed this during the month of December when my busy schedule and holiday laziness kept me out of the gym for almost 2 weeks (my longest time without working out since last January). I started to feel a relapse in my anxiety that has subsided since I started working out again.

No excuses

Is it possible to get these results without paying $20 a month to a gym? Absolutely. If you have the will power to get outside and run every day through rain, cold, and darkness, then you could certainly save the money by working out without a gym membership. You won’t have access to the same array of equipment and weights, but it’s absolutely possible to stay fit for free.

But what I’ve learned in the past 12 months is that my gym membership made exercise convenient. It’s hard enough to get out and get to the gym when it’s cold or rainy; there’s no way I would exercise if it meant running outside. With a gym membership, there are no excuses. It doesn’t matter if it’s dark before and after work, cold outside, or raining — I can work out when I want.

Invest in your health

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: paying $20 a month for the membership was a definite incentive for me. Because I’m a cheapskate who wants to be sure I get my money’s worth, I started feeling guilty every time I went a few days without using my membership.

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re considering a gym membership and you can work it into your budget, I say go for it. I can think of very few things more important or more worthy of investment than good health. This year I spent $240 to develop what I hope will be a lifelong commitment to fitness, and it’s the best investment I ever made.

Photo by yuan2003

My New Year’s resolution for 2010 — focus on the positive

Every New Year, I’ve thought long and hard about how to improve myself, and I come up with resolutions that will make me a better person. I tell myself, “You didn’t work out enough this year,” or “You need to lose weight,” or “You need to do this and that to be better.” But you know what? This type of thinking doesn’t motivate me. It just leaves me feeling like I’ve failed in the past, and sets me up for failure and more negative thinking in the future.

This year, I’m spending the New Year looking ahead with excitement and reminding myself of my accomplishments. Instead of dwelling on what I could do better in the coming year, I’m reveling in the joy of all the great things I accomplished in 2009 and the rewards that will follow in 2010.

My New Year’s resolutions are positive reinforcements of my strengths instead of reminders of how I’ve failed. I’m training to run a half marathon to remind myself that I’m capable of anything I set my mind to, and I’m making a promise to myself to focus on my strengths instead of my weaknesses this year.

I want the coming year to be one of happiness and positivity. Here are some other reasons that I’m proud of us, and why I’m so excited for 2010.

  • We’re starting the year credit card debt free, and our emergency fund is complete.
  • We’re finally moving back home to the Midwest.
  • We’re going on our dream vacation to Europe in May.
  • I’m writing a book! (That’s all I can say about that, but I’ll have more details to come, I promise!)
  • My best friend and sister-in-law are both getting married in October.
  • I’m training to run a half marathon in November.

What’s your New Year’s resolution? Are you focusing on your strengths or dwelling on your weaknesses?

Photo by maxblogbits

If at first you don’t succeed, try a new approach

marathonI feel like a broken record. Remember the first time I vowed to get in shape? What about last January when I joined a gym?

Well, the good news is my gym membership really has paid off — sort of. I’ve been pretty faithfully working out at least 3-4 time a week since January when I signed up. I’m in the best aerobic shape of my life. The bad news is I’ve gained weight since last January. Bummer, right? I’m exercising more than I ever have, but I can’t seem to get back down to my wedding weight.

Clearly, what I’m doing isn’t working. So I’ve decided to try something new. Focusing on weight loss is frustrating when you’re not losing weight. While weight loss remains my ultimate goal, I decided to change things up to keep myself motivated and give myself a new focus. Instead of swearing to lose weight, I’ve decided to run a half marathon.

The training process will turn the intensity of my work outs up a notch, and the new goal has really improved my motivation. To avoid doing too much too soon, I’m setting smaller goals along the way. My first goal is a 5K in March. That gives me about 14 weeks to prepare myself for the 3-mile run.

The good news is, I’m not starting at zero. After a year of daily cardio, my endurance is pretty good. However, I’ve never been a fan of the treadmill, so I need to condition my body to long-distance running. I’m following this 5K training guide, which will gradually increase my running endurance over the course of 8 weeks. Once I’m able to run 3 miles straight, I’ll work on improving my time and increasing my distance.

As part of my plan, I’m committing myself to healthier eating again. Tony and I already eat pretty healthy, but I struggle with portion sizes. I’m using The Daily Plate to track my calorie consumption and help keep me on track. Since my ultimate goal is weight loss, I’m tracking my progress in my side bar. The progress bar on the right represents the percentage of pounds I’ve lost in relation to my goal.

I’m tentatively planning on running my half marathon in November 2010, which means I have almost a year to work my way up to 13-mile runs. My hope is that by getting started on my New Year’s resolution a little early, I’ll be able to stay on track through the holiday season. Fortunately, we’re staying home for the holidays this year, so we’ll have control over what we eat and how much at Christmas.

Do you know what your New Year’s resolution is? Why not get a head start?

Photo by cdm

I must have done something right

familyYesterday was rough. I floated in and out of consciousness for most of the day, delirious with high fever. I spent a painful half hour in the waiting room at Urgent Care desperately wishing I could lie down on the floor, or lie down anywhere for that matter, as sitting up was just too taxing.

I struggled to fill out the new patient forms, and I know I would have cursed myself for never getting around to finding a primary care physician if I’d had enough energy to think of anything but keeping myself upright.

Tony took the forms from me, filled them out, helped me get to the exam room once my name was finally called, and took care of payment when my appointment was over. He drove me home, made a bed for me on the couch, and left to fill my prescriptions.

He woke me gently every 4 to 6 hours to give me my medicine. He called my boss to let him know that I wouldn’t be in for the next couple days. He made me toast and chicken broth to make sure I was eating something. He kept my glass full to make sure I was getting enough fluids.

When he went to bed, he left my cell phone on the coffee table and told me his would be on in the room just 30 feet away. “If you need anything at all, and you’re not feeling well enough to get up, just call in case I can’t hear you.” It seems ridiculous now that my fever has broken, but at the time, I probably was too sick to walk to the next room or even call loudly enough for him to hear me.

My dog, who usually sleeps soundly on the cushion next to our bed, kept silent vigil at my side through the night. He spent most of the day at my feet, and slept on the end of the couch beside me all through the night.

The day was foggy with fever and illness, but one thing remained incredibly clear through it all: I am so so lucky to have a husband who cares for me so much and so well. Yesterday was rough, but I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without my little family.


sick dayI fully intended to edit and post photos from my fantastic trip home to see my five nieces and nephews. There are even adorable Halloween costumes involved, which you would think would give me extra incentive.

I fully intended to get all of my writing done and clean the house and go to the gym to start working off the candy I ate over the weekend.

I fully intended to make a meal plan and a grocery list and go to the store to restock our pantry and refrigerator.

I fully intended to get up this morning and go into work.

Unfortunately, my parents’ house was an incubation zone for what seems to be the plague. They were all coming down with it as I left, and it seems I’m the latest victim.

I was vaccinated for both seasonal and H1N1 flu three weeks before the trip, so I’m assuming it’s just a cold, but I haven’t been this sick in years. I don’t even have the energy to read or write.

So there will be no new post from me today. I hope you’re all feeling well. Take care of yourselves! Hopefully I’ll be back in action tomorrow.

Photo by smaku

Oh, organic food. Why are you so expensive?

foodincWeekend before last, Tony and I saw the documentary “Food Inc.” for free on his campus. It was an incredibly well produced, enjoyable film, even for people who aren’t into documentaries. But it scared the crap out of us.

I won’t go into gory details here. I do recommend watching it, but if you’re squeamish you might want to read about the issues on the website instead. The scenes inside the hatcheries and “farms” are pretty brutal. I’m not particularly squeamish, but it was hard for me to take.

I’ve never really liked the idea of something dying so I can eat, but I’ve never been a vegetarian either. This movie almost pushed me there, not just because I feel guilty, but because I have serious concerns about the sustainability of current farming practices, the effects on our environment and our health.

So. Where am I going with this? I have a point, I promise.

My husband and I decided to try a halfway approach to organic and sustainable food. We’ve always bought organic produce when we can. We shop in season and try to buy locally, which is good for the environment and for our budget. Organic meat is just so expensive. Our solution is to buy the expensive organic meat — only less of it.

This week at the grocery store, we bought a whole organic chicken (marked down 25% because the sell-by date is tomorrow) that we’ll cook tomorrow and use in three meals. We also bought a pound of organic ground chicken that we’ll use next week because it was on sale for half price.

I left the movie feeling pretty powerless. We spend all this time trying to make the right choices for our health and the environment, and yet so many decisions about our food are made before we even have the option to buy it.

Unfortunately, this won’t change unless we’re willing to change our lifestyles — and our budgets. It means shifting the grocery budget to allow healthier food without spending a fortune. The only uplifting part of the movie is that it reminds us how much power we have as consumers. If we demand healthier food from producers, then they will deliver. And as the movie says, “We vote three times a day.” Every time you make a choice about what to eat, you’re telling food producers the type of food you want to buy. If you choose healthier foods, they’ll get the message.

After finishing our grocery shopping this week, we felt empowered. Our grocery bill was only about $5 more than normal, but we bought all organic meat and more organic, local produce than normal. By making smart choices (like buying higher quality meat only less of it or stock piling organic foods when they’re on sale), we can minimize the impact on our budget and still eat a healthier, more eco-friendly diet.

If you want to get involved, you can sign a petition here asking that school lunch programs serve healthier, more nutritious food to children. Or you can also learn more about how to change the food system.

I usually try to keep politics out of my blog, but I really believe this is a bipartisan issue. It affects our environment and, most importantly, our health and the health of our children.