Category: health

Update July 9, 2018

This title sounds like a star date and that is about right.  It feels like light years since I wrote anything for this blog and it appears it has actually been two years since I made an entry.  Two incredibly busy years kept me from blogging… let’s see, I have been teaching 3-5 AU [which requires the energy of 3 or 4 people] and continuing to work part-time at the group home, dreaming of retirement and/or a time when I can read books again and maybe write books finally, living this crazy romantic life with Bean where I bridge two cities and live out of little bags that I schlep back and forth in my car, and dealing with a crazy woman who is the biological parent of Audrey and Rusty and this is an entire story unto itself, so yes, I’ve been a bit busy.

The crazy selfish bio parent has a weird and abusive older boyfriend who attacked Rusty multiple times, we didn’t know until the last when he made the North to Alaska call to his Dad in the moment.  Skip forward to weird Trumper-boyfriend signing a DVPO voluntarily to avoid having said children testify in court, Mom saying I’ll miss you guys and moving a city away to a smaller apartment and now only seeing one of the kids for a couple hours each week.  This all happened almost a year ago and the fallout has required me to step up and our relationship to change since the kids went from being around 14 of every 28 days to 28 of every 28 days and 24 hours of every day.  We are not complaining as they are better off in so many ways, but the disappointment that we all feel for this horrible woman and her terrible choices weighs like a heavy rock we all have our hands up in the air to collectively carry.  We are trying to find a big cliff to pitch it off and purge ourselves of the dark cloud of letdown and disbelief.

RA turned out was the moderate to severe and aggressive sort that only responded to a multimodal full on assault of Methotrexate, weekly instead of bi-weekly Humira injections, Plaquenil, and sometimes steroid bumps/tapers.  I have erosions in my hands and feet after only 4 years and my feet look different with weird nodules and bunions and daylight sign on middle toes.  I don’t think about RA as much, though, and it is now just part of the landscape of my life, in fact, I would have said I was in a good chemical remission, until late spring/early summer when the Vasculitis hit.  I developed petechiae on my feet, and since my sister just spent the better part of a year slaying this particular dragon, I knew what this might be.  A routine visit to my eye doc where they found hemorrhages on my retina and I knew for sure.  Now, we have to figure out how to proceed while I do daily steroid doses that are making me a bit moon-faced already.

I did get invited to go to Boston, though, to a Co-Creation Conference [which I don’t really know a lot about so far but will be going next week, so I will fill in the blanks then] to speak to medical professionals about my RA journey.  I am so glad that I had this blog, because I can literally go back and read about what it felt like when I was diagnosed and remember some of the things I have forgotten about what it was like when I was dying a bit every day from the pain and exhaustion.

And so, halfway through a wonderful summer break when I have time to actually write a paragraph, I have an all expenses paid solo trip to Boston to look forward to and a chance to share my story, and who doesn’t love a story more than me?

It’s a slippery slope… How I turned to the Autoimmune Protocol

If you’ve ever stopped in to this blog before, you know that I frequently talk about what is ailing me or what new diet I [a] want to try or [b] am currently on.  When I look back or even think about its totality, I get it; it’s a rather self-absorbed rambling rant, but it’s not really for you, it’s for me…. to keep track of progress, major setbacks or victories, what’s working and what’s not working.  It’s only for you if you: share a problem, you stumble upon this blog, and we can help one another in any way.  That is why I share in a public forum.  I have gained so much knowledge and support through the Internet, I cannot imagine tackling a chronic illness without it.  I truly came into my own in my forties and I continue to grow wiser/calmer/happier in my fifties.  I was thrown a bit of hardball with the RA diagnosis, but what the heck, it made me forget about menopause. Menopause, smenopause, if I can thrive with Rheumatoid Arthritis, menopause is not even on the radar.

So, a couple of years ago, I lost almost 50 pounds and I was on top of the world.  Then someone stole my wings https://kimmstree.com/2014/06/07/maleficent/ and over the next couple of years, I slowly and painfully gained over half of it back.  It feels like more since I also lost some lean muscle as I could not walk/zumba/hike/run like I used to.  I cannot blame this all on the RA, making unhealthy food choices is a slippery slope that once you begin to slide down seems like a super slide with no stopping mechanism.  Sugar and simple carbs are poison to me; I know this.  When I eat them, I am medicating with food.  I have done this my entire life.  My Mother and Grandfather taught me.  Food was comfort, food was reward, food was a drug, and food was an ever present focus.

You cannot read about health issues or autoimmunity [I already have at least 2 autoimmune diseases], without learning that our gut is the new center of our health.  Hippocrates, was evidently, right all along when he said “all disease begins in the gut.”  Our microbiome is as messed up as our planet.  I discovered a couple of years ago that gluten and I didn’t get along and I cut it out. It was no picnic in the beginning, but I am used to it now.  I have become quite creative with alternative flours and grains, but I know that I am still allergic to something because of persistent rash on my thigh that reacts to my food intake by inflaming and healing in turns.  I suspect I may be sensitive to other grains, lignans, dairy, or eggs.

October is an auspicious month for me.  It’s my birth month and I have had two successful beginnings on October 6th. October 6, 1999, I stopped smoking and never looked back.  October 6, 2013, I began using Take Shape for Life/Medifast and lost almost 50 pounds in 5 short months. So, on Monday October 5th, I began the Autoimmune Protocol.  It basically removes anything that might be allergenic or that tends to promote leaky gut for at least 30 days- it is easier to say what I can eat than what I cannot.  I can eat fresh unprocessed meats, broths, vegetables that are non legume, and fruits that are non citrus.  I cannot have coffee, sugar of any kind, nuts, seeds, or grains, eggs, or dairy.  I am allowing myself only one grain and that is a bit of brown rice, and only if the brown rice is soaked, slow cooked in coconut oil, and then refrigerated for 8-12 hours.

I’m on day 5 and I feel more energized already.  Seriously, once the sugar is gone for a few days, it no longer has power over me and I feel back in control.  I’ll be writing this month to record how this elimination protocol is going and how I reintroduce foods.  If you have tried it yourself, I’d love to hear from you or get a link to your blog.

Humira Update

I think I might be able to see remission at the end of this tunnel.  I still have some thumb pain and some ghost pains in my wrist, but my feet are easing up, as is my hip.  I’m at 20 mg of MTX weekly, 40 mg. Humira every 10 days, 400 mg. Plaquenil daily, and still hanging in with 5 mg. Prednisone a day.  The proof in the pudding will be when I can completely come off of the Prednisone.  I might have to go weekly on Humira to do that, though.

Humira is a weird drug.  I do sometimes have what I call the Humira hangover where I feel wiped out the day of or after an injection.  Sometimes it’ll be delayed a few days.  I also have strange ear fullness akin to pain and sore throat and some increased allergy like nasal symptoms.  I guess that is a small price to pay to be able to hold a cup again, get dressed, walk.

I was virtually pain free the week before school started again, but I guess stress really does exacerbate symptoms, so starting back to school has been a bit of a set back.  I am just trying to get enough sleep each night.  The extra exercise on school days is good though.  I walk 7500 steps just during a reg school day and it doesn’t take much extra to get 10,000.

I’d like to hear from you if you take Humira, and especially if you take it for RA.  Leave a comment about your experience.  Has it worked?  How long have you been on it?  Side effects?

PS:  I am starting year 19 of teaching Special Education and year 2 of teaching elementary Autism.  I love my class this year and I’m looking forward to a great year.

What I wish people knew about RA:

I found this article today on rheumatoidarthritis.net and overwhelmingly, these things ring so true.  I decided to make my own list.  Hopefully, if you love someone who has RA, you will take the time to read this list.

Community Thoughts: What Do You Wish More People Knew About RA?

My list:

1.  My sister was dx with RA 10 years or so before me.  I thought I understood.  I had NO IDEA.

2.  I don’t know what it is like any longer not to hurt somewhere.

3.  I get really tired of compensating and asking for help at times like when my hands just won’t work.

4.  I’m pretty much tired all the time.

5.  There’s a world of pain and fatigue behind this smile.

6.  I have always taken pride in being strong and independent; this disease tries every day to take that from me.

7.  I feel like I am battling a monster every single day.

8.  I get it- you don’t understand, and even when you try, you still don’t really understand.

9.  It never goes away.  I don’t get to look forward to a cure.  All I can hope for is chemical remission where the drugs that put me there could also take me out in any number of other ways.

10.  I feel like I have aged 5-10 years in the 15 months since my diagnosis.  This frightens me.  Sometimes I just cry.

So, wow.  This list makes me sound really self-centered- it’s all “I, I, I, and I.”  That’s another thing this disease does.  It makes you feel self-absorbed and whiny.  That is so far from who I think I am.

The most important thing for you to know, though, is this:

I have RA, but it does not have me.  I will not stop fighting.  

Gifts RA has given me:

1.  I live in the moment a little more.

2.  I have more compassion for people who live with chronic pain… for people in general.

3.  I think I am kinder and gentler on the daily.

4.  I have let go of all the anger I used to hold on to, which could have contributed to the firing up this disease/state of inflammation.

5.  I practice mindfulness and forgiveness more often.

So, as always, with loss, there are gains.  I imagine I will find more gifts as I go along.  ~Peace.

How long do I have to wait for some biologics?

I’m having a bad day.  Hell, I’m having a bad week..month.. year.  I alternate between being a super stoic and what feels like a big baby.  On bad days, I can be short-tempered, ignore you, or be downright mean.  I feel sorry for myself way more often than I want to.  Tonight is injection night and I don’t want to stick that needle full of antifreeze into my thigh because today I don’t have much evidence that it is working.  What it does do is make me crazy, exhausted, and sick.  I guess it’s working, because I am making it through each day.  I’m still working two jobs.  I am keeping my head above water.  My feet don’t feel broken when I step onto them each morning, but this disease is so capricious in its expression that I feel like I wake up every morning on some demented game show– What the Fuck Hurts Today?  This month, the background music has been the pain in my neck that makes me walk funny and behave like a manikin.  A few of the contestants have been the nails in the tops of my feet, my aching and useless left thumb, and my left knee.  Even my jaws hurt.  The day I saw the doctor last, must have been a good day, because I gave myself 2’s and 3’s.  I am not sure I have had that good of day since.  I find myself wanting to tell this doctor how great it’s going.  I don’t want to tell her that I feel like I am failing on Methotrexate.  I did ask, “how long until I feel good again, like, I don’t hurt?”  She said, “now come on, you’re fifty, it’s not ever going to be perfect.”  I don’t want perfect, but I do want my life back.

I don’t want my blog to be a big whine fest [especially since I am not supposed to even have wine with Mtx].  I don’t want to have to ask for an antidepressant.  She already gave me Tramadol for pain, so clearly she is pointing me in that direction.  I have always been the no-nonsense girl who finds depression so self-indulgent.  If you have time to be depressed, I’ve always thought, you don’t have enough to keep you busy.  But now, I find my boyfriend telling me I need to watch out for depression, like it might be sneaking up behind me.

And other than my sister’s good fortune today, he was the bright spot in my day–my Bean.   Tonight, he went to the drugstore and then to Wal-mart and bought me all kinds of goodies.peas ice bag tens

Icy Hot patches, disposable tens units, peas ice bag, ice bags to fill [large and small], and so much relief in a couple of bags.  So, now, I sit in the corner typing as my neck crackles, ripples, and pops in mini spasms from this tens unit, appreciating someone who took the time to take care of me today.  It makes me seriously tear up in gratitude.  ❤

Methotrexate

I had my med management appt at the rheumy the other day and I had done my research.  I was ready for an aggressive approach advocated by research for people recently diagnosed, only Dr. B was having none of that.  She wanted to do the monomodal approach using the old standby Methotrexate.  I asked which was more effective, MTX or one of the new biologics?  She answered, “well, of course the biologics are, but they are only for people with moderate to severe disease states and for whom MTX did not work or stopped working.”  I said, “you mean, the insurance won’t let you?” She answered, “yes, they have to try the cheap and tried and true drugs first.”  So, there you have it.  Blue Cross/Blue Shield has predetermined my treatment because MTX is cheap and has a generic form and the biologics are new and cutting edge and don’t have generic forms and so I have to wait until I am pretty bad off to get one of them.  I am trying to stay super positive though, and so I am going with gratitude that I am not bad off enough to rate a biologic yet and may never be if MTX puts me into remission and keeps me there.

Dr. B told me that MTX does not have a lot of side effects, the Internet told a different story, so holding my 4 pills plus a folic acid pill in my hand last night I did have pause thinking of the most noxious of side effects like nausea, dizziness, hair loss, stomach pain, extreme fatigue, and so on, that I could experience.  I was alone and I wondered what would happen if I had some awful reaction or got really sick.  But, I was tired, and so I swallowed them and went to bed.

Well, guess what?  I slept like a nice rock.  I remembered to take my nighttime 800 Motrin, so I awoke with less foot pain and even my hands were not too stiff.  I had diarrhea almost immediately after waking, but that was it.  The rest of the day was, frankly– the best day of this past week.  I felt pretty good all day long. So, I feel pretty victorious, like I kicked butt or something.  I am not sure what this means:  I got a bad batch, I’m a badass, I am not affected by this drug like other people are, it’s going to work great, it’s not going to work great, who knows… but I am thankful that I did not have bad side effects today.  I only take it once a week, so I won’t take another dose until next weekend, and Dr. B says I won’t really notice improvements until after like 6 weeks, so it’s a slow drug.  I hope the side effects don’t take that long to show up.

I’m off to bed now.  Everything I read says I need my rest.  I’m feeling positive and hopeful tonight. 🙂

Clumsy Hands and Broken Feet- A Diagnosis

This week I had the wind knocked out of my sails.  I was diagnosed with RA.  Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune version of arthritis where your body attacks the synovial lining/cavity of your joints and sometimes other organ systems like your eyes, lungs, vascular system, and heart.  It manifests as pain that usually begins in your hands and your feet-exactly where mine started abruptly this past fall.  I may have had RA for a while, but something triggered it prior to November.  I suspect a teeth cleaning that left me with swollen sore gums for weeks.

I already have one autoimmune disease- Hashimoto’s Disease [autoimmune hypothyroidism]- I wonder if there is a limit, like how many AI diseases can you get at one time?  I hope there’s a limit.  I found out I had Hashimoto’s when I was in my late 20’s.  I’m in good company, ie… there is a genetic predisposition, since both my sisters and my Mom have it and my late maternal grandmother did as well.  I am cool with this; I have it on lock.  I know this disease inside out, I self-titrate my natural thyroid [Armour], and I ignore well-meaning practitioners who tell me that my TSH is too low while disregarding other key blood markers and my physical well-being and self-awareness.  I am not afraid of Hashimoto’s.

My Grandfather suffered from Dermatomyositis [another AI disorder].  My sister has RA.  Yeah, that should have been a clue when my joints caught fire.  But, it wasn’t.  That was her disease; and one that I never planned on claiming.  I did not have RA- I like to hike, I’m active, and I always have at least 2 jobs.   I climbed a mountain in only average shape [for a 49-year-old] in April.  I run on my treadmill even when my knees and feet hurt. I don’t like to take drugs of any kind and I do like to eat clean [although I struggle with a love affair with sugar that I am seriously trying to end]. I had just lost more than 40 pounds and I was feeling great.  I was excited to turn 50!  RA was an image in my mind that did not fit with the image I have of myself.  So, when Dr. Belhorn said she was positive that I have it, she might as well have punched me right in the gut.  When I got into my car after that appointment, I did not have the key turned in the ignition before I was sobbing.  My denial had been so complete that I had an explanation for each puzzle piece.  My knees were stressed from the Zumba, my joints hurt because I was allergic to wheat and all of this was related to my skin rashes and eczema.  I even thought I might have lupus or psoriatic arthritis, maybe reactive arthritis, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t RA.

When you google RA images, you see this awful picture of a hand that might belong to the cannibalistic witch who locked Hansel up in a cage.  I can imagine that gnarled hand reaching in to retrieve the bones he would hand her when she tried to determine his fitness/fatness for cooking.  I know that it is not a death sentence, not directly, but it feels like a sentence of some sort– a sentence of having to put toxins into my body to prevent deformity and disability; a sentence of having to take handfuls of pills that make sick, a sentence of being tied to doctors [who belong to a profession I collectively mistrust].   So, I am researching and finding that there are a lot of weedy paths that you can get lost on and lots of scammers looking for an easy mark.  It’s hard to know whether to trust the doctors and researchers because to hammer-wielding people, everything looks like a nail.  I am not even sure if that analogy makes sense here, but I keep seeing clinicians holding hammers as I do this research.  I know that a plant-based diet, low in sugar and red meat that limits grains and sugar is optimal.  I know that fish oil, especially Krill oil helps.  I know that I need to stop being so angry because inflammation is a factor of seething anger, but I don’t know exactly how to let go of the anger that I have.  It’s a simmering, chronic anger that bubbles up when I sense injustice- real or imagined.  It’s an anger that is as self-indulgent as I believe depression or boredom to be.  It’s well hidden and most people who not have any clue that it’s there.  Perhaps some more therapy is in order, but I digress.

In October I had my teeth cleaned.  It wasn’t remarkable in any way and I have them cleaned like clockwork every 6 months.  I do remember that the hygienist was a bit aggressive, there was bleeding, and my gums proceeded to hurt for weeks afterward.  I was seriously worried I might have gingivitis and I was googling away.  I followed this with gargling– salt water and sometimes hydrogen peroxide, and I switched to a gluten-free tea tree oil toothpaste.   The gum pain eventually subsided, but then the joint pains began.  I did not immediately connect the two.

November.  The first pain was in my knees.  They were a bit swollen and so tender they hurt to be touched from the outside.  I thought it was the Zumba.  It can be hard on knees.  Then my elbow was so sensitive that sometimes when I leaned on a table with it I would react in extreme pain like being hit in the elbow or shocked.  When I turned in the bed it hurt.  My hands would go numb along with my finger tips.  One day I felt like I was walking on a stone.  I said that to everyone who would listen.  “I feel like I am walking on a big rock.”  Then, my big toe swelled and I could not bend it.  I thought I had gout.  Then my fingers began to hurt.  My ring finger joint swelled so big I couldn’t wear a ring.  It ached.  My thumb and knuckle were swollen and hurting.  I found some days I could not button a shirt.  Every day, pulling up my pants after using the bathroom hurt because it required that I hook my thumb and pull upward. And the foot pain… as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning, I am reminded that my feet are broken.  It feels like walking on bloody stumps, or on feet that someone has smashed and broken the small bones in the center, under the balls.  This pain makes me walk funny and does not subside until I manage to walk it off so to speak about halfway through the morning or by lunchtime.  By evening, it is returning once I find myself sitting and then stand again.  The stiffness is from my hips down through my knees and into my feet right through to the arches.  The foot pain is the absolute worst.

I would still not have gone to the doctor about this– again the denial– if it were not for an acute shoulder incident in February that I related to a fall in the snow [but was really most likely a shoulder flare].  When I told the GP of my other joint pains, she diagnosed a rotator cuff injury, but did some blood work.   The rheumatoid workup results led me to a referral to a rheumatologist.  Before that appointment, I researched everything but RA.  Even sitting across from Dr. Belhorn, my denial persisted and she called me on it as I cross-examined her about the discoid rash on my thigh, the possibility of lupus, Dermatitis Herpetformis, and reactive arthritis.  She said that she would highly suspect RA in someone with my symptoms and an elevated RA factor.  My factor is not subtle, though, it is almost 200 and that is indicative of only a handful of illnesses in the absence of a positive ANA.  The family history cinches it.  So, she took more blood and x-rays and pending the outcome of those results, she will advise on how aggressively to proceed.  At this point, I am hoping for Plaquenil only, but I suspect she will also recommend Methotrexate.  I am pouring over RA blogs to get a sense of what works for different folks and what kind of side effects are widely experienced.

In retrospect, I see things now that could have been clues.  I felt last year like I was losing upper body strength when I could not win an arm wrestling match.  It literally startled me as I have always been pretty strong physically. My inability to work the latch on my grandson’s car seat could have been a clue- I became more and more frustrated by this and had to ask my other grandson to do it for me [I blamed the car seat].  I had trouble with lids, I dropped things more.  One morning this fall, I dropped my coffee cup for no apparent reason.  It just fell from my hand shattering and spilling while my students rushed to help me.  I have broken a bowl and two cups, at minimum, in the last 2 months.  I fall a lot.  There are so many and they keep coming back to me.  The day I was diagnosed, I felt defeated.  My pain felt worse and I felt sorry for myself.  That was only two days ago– it feels like a week–but I am bouncing back already.  I found a cool blog:

http://www.rheumatoidarthritisguy.com/

On it, there is a page of a mosaic of all sorts of people who have RA.  They are overwhelmingly female, but they are quite diverse and they don’t look like cannibalistic witches.  They look like normal people of all ages who are doing interesting things.   That was a turning point.  I said, “okay, I can do this.”  Thanks, RA guy [& all the people who submitted their pics and profiles].  I needed that.

Wicked Wheat

This morning I awoke to a swollen ring finger joint that hurts when I bend it or even when I touch it.  My knees ache and my feet ache when I walk.  Blissfully, my shoulder pain has subsided, but my left elbow is still sensitive to touch and my right thumb is painful to bend [so I don’t bend it].

My rash had receded, my joints were beginning to quiet.  I had started back on plan and had a string of wheat-free, low-carb days only to hear a siren song of cake last night at a home party I attended.  The host said, “you must taste my Preacher’s Cake- homemade with pineapple and nuts- I found the recipe on Pinterest.”  I guess she had me at Pinterest, because delectable cake images flashed across my mind at that moment.  “Just a tiny slice,” I said, because I am apparently deep in denial that wheat actually is the primary cause of these myriad ailments- joint pain, skin rashes, congestion, fatigue.  I say that I believe that wheat is the culprit, with my mouth, but I don’t say it yet with my behavior because either at some level I am in denial or I have not reached a bottom that would allow me to say ‘no more.’

I know that I must sound like the whiniest of the whiny with this blog focused so much on my eating and health worries, but I don’t conceptualize myself that way.  I see myself as strong and stoic and hardy.  I am also a natural detective and so I find myself trying to ferret out the cause of any symptoms that make my life harder or give it lesser quality.  I don’t trust doctors, and given the clusterf*@% that is autoimmune disorders and the way my Hashimoto’s is misunderstood by doctors who insist they know how much and what kind of thyroid replacement I need, I prefer to treat myself with diet and exercise whenever I can and be ready to tell health professionals which direction to point when I am forced to sit on the crinkly paper in their offices.

I believe that the progest/estrogen compounded cream is helping in general and I think with my joint pain in particular, but every time I eat wheat, I exacerbate symptoms and get sent back to square one or at least square 5 or 10.  Last night as I walked to my car after the party, literally 30 minutes after ingesting wheat, I found myself itching intensely in my stomach and chest, and I thought, “oh, &*@%.”

Trial and error has shown me over the past two years that my body cannot process sugar and carbs in any kind of an efficient manner, and that I feel best when I eat paleo and minus processed wheat and sugars.  Unfortunately, I don’t live in a paleo world. I live in Roxboro, NC, where there is a processed/simple/carb around every corner and at every event.  There is no health food store.  I have to drive to Whole Foods in Durham to find the coconut milk I like, the one with vanilla flavor and no sugar.  I can’t find good quinoa here or any alternative flours.  The restaurants do not lean heavily on fresh green ingredients, although I do have some places I can get a quick salad that passes the muster.   It takes a tremendous amount of planning to stay on plan, especially when I am busy and/or stressed.

If you eat paleo, have Hashimoto’s, are near menopause, or feel like you have wheat sensitivities, feel free to weigh in.  I’d love to hear what works for you and share some tips and recipes.  Message me.  We’ll talk.

H.A.L.T.

Okay, so if you follow me, you may have noticed that I changed the name of my blog again.  Acknowledged.  And, we are just going to leave it at that.  If you know me, you’ll figure it out.

I wanted to comment on a new acronym I learned from a friend who is in recovery:  H.A.L.T., which stands for hungry, angry, lonely, tired.  Sidebar:  I am fascinated by addiction and recovery for myriad reasons.  One, I own that I have addict-like behavior where food is concerned.  I spent the better part of my adult life medicating with sugar/fat and white flour.   Two, I have lived with and loved an addict.  Three, I think the majority of us are addicts in some form or shape, we just use different substances/behaviors to mask our pain–  some people shop, some people take risks or have affairs, some people medicate with food, some people have addictive behavior associated with religion, and the list is endless….

So, I learned that people in recovery use this acronym as a gauge to determine how susceptible they might be to using/falling into addict-like behavior[s].  If you are experiencing at least two of these at any given moment, then you are at risk for relapse.  If you have more than 2, you might need to call your sponsor or head to a meeting.

I have been working on losing weight and gaining optimal health [with the goal of ultimately leaving behind my addictive relationship with food] since October.  I am experiencing success.  It’s up and down, but it’s success nonetheless.  I have had some planned cheats, admittedly some of these turned into snowball situations.  And, I have also had some times when I just went suddenly AWOL for no apparent reason.  Obviously, I continue to have addict style behaviors where food is concerned.  Reflection upon those times where I have gone off the end of a cliff so to speak, shows that I indeed was experiencing at least two of these four apocalyptic horsemen each time I derailed.  Angry is sometimes just frustrated or irritable.  Tired is a big trigger for me.  Lonely is a no brainer- I rarely go off a cliff with witnesses.  Hungry, well, when you’re trying to head off a diet catastrophe, hunger would certainly be a big factor.

TSFL is a plan that helps by making sure that you keep your blood sugar stable and that you eat small and very frequent ‘meals’ [I understand that it’s a stretch to call them meals].  It is also a plan that focuses heavily on community.  Having a coach and a community of support goes a long way to keeping me from becoming lonely and I know that I have people I can call on at any time to talk me off a ledge or alter my perception in a positive way.  I am finding out as I go along, that sleep is more important than I ever imagined.  Research shows that getting less sleep can increase your appetite and make you actually consume more calories.  My motivation and energy wane when I get less than 6 hours of sleep a night, especially over a period of time.  Luckily, this plan and its mild ketosis offers extra energy, but I have to be careful not to get tricked into thinking I don’t need my 7+ hours of sleep a night.  Anger, I have found, retreats during times of mild ketosis and I get into a calm zen state, however, whenever I do choose to cheat and go out of ketosis, I know that I will deal with anger/frustration/irritability again as I walk through that tough place between eating off plan and going back in to ketosis.  Those have been some of my most trying moments.

So, remember H.A.L.T.  whatever your addiction might be.  Keep yourself nourished– physically and spiritually.  Stay in community and relationship with others.  Have strategies to deal with anger and frustrations when they arise.  Love yourself.  ❤

Be calm & keep moving forward..

I have been meaning to write this post for a number of days now.  Some of you may know that my weight loss journey has been so successful this go round that I decided to pay it forward and become a health coach for Take Shape for Life.   Anyone who has talked to me in the past 3 months knows that I am crazy excited over this program and how it has worked.  That might lead them to believe that it has been easy for me or glitch-free, but that is not the case.  The things I love about this program are that it is:

  • so simple to follow
  • that it is healthy and balanced
  • the weight loss is faster than on other plans I have been on [seriously, ever]
  • that it is structured enough that I don’t self sabotage by making poor food choices that hijack my blood sugar or fudge on points and flexpoints

I love how it makes me feel- more energized, more alert upon waking, empowered, and sometimes giddy with excitement.  But I have not been successful because I have more will power than someone else [I most certainly do not] or because I lose weight easily [I do not- I have hypothyroidism and it is harder for me to lose weight].  And while it has been the most successful weight loss journey I have had in my adult life [and the most swift], it has not been without moments of doubt or feelings of frustration. 

I have only been a coach for a month now. My new clients include my sister, my boyfriend, my sister’s friend, and several other personal friends. Some of them have complained at times that they are not losing fast enough, that they did not lose fast enough in the first week, that they did not lose fast enough in the second week, or other complaints about the pounds and the numbers of the scale.  My sister called one day and said, “I don’t know what is going on, I haven’t lost any weight for six days and I am getting discouraged.”  I said, “my goodness, you lost 22 lbs. in 25 days- that is almost a pound a day- your body needs to rest every now and again or you are going to look like a Shar Pei!”   She has a lot to lose and had large glycogen stores and lost quickly in the early days.   Some have been disappointed that they “only” lost 5 in the first week and someone else lost 9.  They are happy when they are losing a pound a day or 7-12 in a week, but then dejected when they have a week where they lose none or just a few.  They look at me, seemingly shrinking away in just 3 months and want that and want it now.  Well, these three months have been longer than you think, and I think it is important that I share some details of my weight loss. 

Month Pounds Lost Numbers I was seeing on the scale
October 17.5 190’s
November 5.5 180’s
December 7.5 170’s
January TBD 160’s

I have lost more than 35 pounds, but I started at the beginning of October.  If you look at the chart above, you will see that I have gone steadily downward since I began the plan and I have only gone off plan once- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.   If I made a chart of what the numbers looked like each day, you would see how they go up, down, same, up, down, down, same, down- well, you get the idea.   I was discouraged during the times the scale stayed the same or went up, but I trusted that if I followed this plan, there was nowhere to go but down.  I am glad I did not give up. Weight loss is a funny funny thing, too.   You don’t lose in a linear fashion, you have ups and downs even when following the plan.  This is mostly because you are more than70% water and your degree of hydration at any given moment affects the numbers on the scale.  Weight loss is funny too, because you won’t always like how it looks.  When I first started losing quickly, I looked at my thighs at the end of the second month and thought, OMG, I can’t live with these hideous things!  They were sagging and looked like they had had bites taken out of them, like literally there were lumps and bulges in weird places and they were not smooth or shapely.  A month later, they are bagging less and in different places and the bulges and hollows have moved.  As your fat cells shrink, they do not do this in a perfect and orderly fashion, it is sort of haphazard and random.

What if I had quit after that first plateau?  I would have gone back to my old eating ways and most likely gained it all back and more.  It would be three months later and I would remain stuck and feeling sluggish and fat and like a failure. I would not have been able to open a package from Kohl’s and remove a size 10 petite pants and hold them up and go, “geez, I will never get into these tiny little things,” only to have them fit!!!  What a moment that was!  What if I had quit during December when every single day someone was eating wonderous foods around me- butter cookies, candy, cake, meatballs in sweet sauce, martini’s, you name it and the weight was not falling off of me- remember I only averaged a little over a pound and a half a week that month.  I would have missed that moment today, when I walked into REI and took a size L blouse off the sale rack because they run so small  there, only to have to go back and get a medium!  If I had given up, I would not have had my first glimpses at my collarbones 28 years!!

If you are not losing fast enough on this plan, go back and read your quick start guide and make sure you are not   messing up on types of leans or greens and their amounts.  Make sure you are not using too many condiments [half n half, parmesan cheese, artificial sweeteners, whipped cream, etc…].  Determine that you are drinking enough water because this is the hardest part for some people and losing weight robs you of water.  If you are sick, go off the plan and come back on later.  Get well first; the plan works best when you are healthy and well hydrated. 

Ultimately, know that if you follow the plan– you will be smaller next week than you are today, you will be much smaller next month, and the next, no matter what numbers are on the scale.  Try not to be a slave to the scale– they are just numbers and you are much more than numbers.  People ask me how much more I want to lose.  At just over 160, I would need to lose at least 35 more to be at an optimal BMI, but those are numbers; I will know when I get there.  Already, I feel younger, I move easier, I breathe easier, I snore less, I feel more energetic, I wake up easier in the morning, I pant less when walking up hills or stairs, I can run faster and for longer jaunts.  I am happier and I make new discoveries about myself every day.  I have learned I was eating way more food than my body needed for most of my life.  I have learned that I can live without bread and Hershey kisses, that I can make small, continuous choices that add up to big success.  I have learned that I can live without leaning on my drug of choice when in crisis or stressed- sugar; and that instead, I can lean on others, I can write, I can go for a walk, I can have a cup of tea, or I can just have a good cry. 

So, when you tell me that you are frustrated and the scale is not doing or saying what you want it to say;  I understand.  I have been there and will be there again.  But, I can tell you that only three months into this journey, every one of those moments have been worth it. 

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Martin Luther King Jr.