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. 🙂

Oil Pulling– Yep, I tried it!

So, if you’ve not been hiding under a rock lately [translation you have been lurking about on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest], you’ve most likely heard about oil pulling.  If you’re a quasi-hippy, like me, then you were intrigued by this sorcery and wanted to know more.  Anything that mentions coconut oil, frankly, has me at hello, so I proceeded to do some research using what else, but Google, the company that now owns all our thoughts.  I found these instructions:

So, it’s basically three steps:  1. choose 2. swish 3. spit

Choose an oil that is organic, coconut is nice because it melts slowly in your mouth and has a pleasant smell and taste, but you can also use sunflower or sesame.  Take about one tablespoon [I used more like a teaspoon and a half] into your mouth and then just let it sit there or swoosh it around for about 20 minutes [that feels a bit excessive, more on that later].  Then, after it has had a chance to pull all of the toxins out of your mouth [they are like little hidden terrorists], you just spit.  Yes, spit that stuff out- it’s full of terrorists.  Don’t spit into the sink because it will clog your pipes up– of course, if you swallow, it might open your pipes up [giggle].

Like other folk remedies that have stood the test of time [this is ancient Ayurvedic], oil pulling is supposed to ameliorate a wide range of ailments.  I will only list a few that stood out for me: clearing up the skin, Gingivitis, whitening the teeth, reduction of systemic inflammation so it could help with RA, relief from sinus congestion, better quality sleep, improving the immune system, balancing the bacteria in the mouth, and on and on.

Huffington Post even weighed in with an article, and of course, Snopes debunked the majority of the benefits [but they cannot debunk the ones associated with the mouth and dental health benefits]!  It doesn’t matter when you do it, but some sites claim that on an empty stomach first thing in the morning is best, so you can do it while in the shower.  Afterward, you do your normal tooth brushing, flossing, pik routine and, voila[!], your teeth feel super smooth and they are whiter to boot!

So, I have done this like 3 times and here is my personal review.  I used coconut oil and I don’t mind the solid to liquid thing like some, but I felt that a little over a tsp. was a plenty and 20 minutes seemed like an eternity.  I could only make it like maybe 5 minutes before spitting.  Some people have said it was sort of comforting and nice to hold the oil in your mouth while lying in bed or doing your morning business.  I did not find that to be the case.  It was, well, a neutral experience for the most part.  I did not find it particularly pleasant or noxious, although I did have some problems holding it in my mouth.  It was either dripping out the side onto the screen of my cell phone while I playing Candy Crush in the bathroom whiling away my 5 minutes, or I was tempted to swallow it because it tasted kind of good and it felt like it was growing in volume, the way your spit seems to flood in when you’re at the dentist and you cannot yet spit.  After brushing and flossing, I did notice that my teeth were whiter, and not just from the regular brushing.  They are noticeably whiter and they stay that way all day.  It’s like they are coated with that oil for a while, so your coffee wants to stain your teeth, but it can’t get a grip on the enamel because it’s all slick from oil.  Fabulous!

I am not sure about the congestion thing, but this morning after oil pulling, I did cough a lot and now I do feel like my lungs and nasal congestion is clearer.  That could totally be a placebo effect, but I’ll take it.  If you have pulled oil and would like to weigh in, leave a comment about what you thought of it or what it did for you.  I keep the coconut oil around for my skin and cooking anyhow, so why not?  I love the whiter teeth and the way my mouth feels after.

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.

Here’s to 2014

Resolutions.  I had not planned to make one or any this year, but people kept asking and that got me to thinking.  I really don’t like making them because I don’t like failing, it’s the perfectionist in me.  Last year I planned to read the bible through the One Year Bible, and Lord that didn’t last long at all.  Turns out the bible is really tedious even in chronological order, although I did have some epiphanies in Job.  Last year was really a fabulous year in so many ways.  I would love this year to be as good or better, so I thought maybe I might look at any regrets I have from the past year.  Here is what I came up with in no particular order.

  • I regret the time I wasted on Facebook and playing Candy Crush [even though I have only been playing this frustrating and inane game for a few weeks now].
  • I regret not writing that book or even starting that book.
  • I regret not creating more- art, writing, possibilities, connections, etc….  I highly regret doing more consuming than creating.  I try very hard not to acquire more things, but someone I continue to acquire them.  I want to let things go, not collect them.  I want to create art and collect memories of experiences.  
  • I regret wasting time feeling angry at people- two major figures come to mind here.  One of the objects of my anger is a woman I barely know who continues to vex and hurt someone I deeply love and the other is a man who I should know very well, but he did such a poor job at one of the most important jobs ever given to him, that I do not.  
  • I regret any times I became short tempered with the people who I love or serve.

So, those are the big ones and I will shape my resolutions around them– to be kind to others even when I don’t feel my best, to create more and consume less, to funnel my anger into art instead of the atmosphere or my mouth through poor food choices, to move more and sit less, to find joy in experiences and connections.  If I can do these things, I know 2014 will exceed 2013.  Happy New Year.

Fit and Fab by 50

Today I turned fifty.  I haven’t blogged for a while, but if this doesn’t call for a blog entry, I don’t know what does.  I can’t believe I am fifty, since it seems like I was just 24.  So, if you’re 24, here’s what you need to know about turning 50.

 If you get to see fifty, count yourself blessed.  I have lost friends and family who didn’t get to celebrate this magic number.  You won’t feel “old” even though when people who turned fifty before you were celebrating this day you thought, wow, that’s old.  Time really flies after 25.  The older you get, the less you care what other people think of you and the less filter you have when your thoughts turn into speech.  You get a bit more philosophical and hopefully kinder [I know I have].  You become more grateful for the little things like sunsets and nice fall weather and a good cup of coffee.  You realize that you need to get to stepping, because really, this is not a dress rehearsal… this is your life and it will only be what you make of it.  You realize that people are fallible and that they don’t mean to let you down any more than you mean to let them down.  You might begin to understand and believe that you can do anything you set your mind to do.  The only limits are the ones you place on yourself.  If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.

Last fall, I took up a challenge that I set for myself.  I decided that I would be “fit and fab by 50” and I signed up for a free health coach and began using Take Shape for Life featuring Medifast.  I had been feeling pretty squirrelly and I was blaming all of this on impending menopause.  Really, look at my entries from last year.  I was feeling dizzy and tired and my vision was becoming blurry [translation- I was developing diabetes and getting sicker and sicker].  I could literally not stay awake sometimes.  I thought, wow, this is what menopause feels like.. and it sucks.  I was already obese, but even weighing nearly 200 pounds I had still had always had curves that hinted at a waistline, but now that was even a distant memory.  My belly grew so big, I named her Betty.  I was pre-diabetic, and while my doctors had been telling me this for awhile, I had refused to believe them.   Consistent morning sugar readings above 100 and a HbA1c of 6.8, and finally, I could no longer deny it.  I decided to kick that b___’s ass before she could get in the door [so to speak], and I took control.  I didn’t have a lot of confidence that I could lose the weight, because I had been carrying it around in various quantities since my 26 year old son was born and I had come to accept it.  But, hot damn, it worked.  Something clicked- my mindset, the plan, whatever… it was the perfect storm.  I proceeded to lose 45 lbs in 5 or 6 months. My blood sugar stabilized and my HbA1c went to 5.2 in about 8 or 10 weeks.  It was amazing and easier than I ever imagined it could be.  So, over the past year, I feel like I have been transformed.  But let’s back up about 20 years and then 10.  

 Thirty was painful at times.  I didn’t feel fabulous.  I put my time and energy into my kids and my home and church and neglected myself badly. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a Mom to my kids and doing holidays and planning outings and spending time with them, but I was sleepwalking through life because I was putting off certain things to when I would “lose the weight.”  I was also seriously lacking energy and getting more and more out of shape.  Forty was hard.  I was fat and my marriage was failing.  It was just about to hit the fan.  My oldest son went off to college and my youngest was left to deal with his parents’ marriage falling apart.  The next few years were a blur of pain and anguish culminating in the death of my ex and my boys’ father in a boating accident.  Some days I didn’t feel like getting out of bed.  But I was pushing forward and felt like I had to fight the world a lot of the time.  A few years ago, the tide started to turn and I began to find some peace.  Flash forward to this time last year when I found Fit and Fab by 40 on You Tube and decided to steal her handle and quest + 10.  

 I started the day after my birthday last year.   So, here we are one year later and I am not sure how fabulous I am, but I know how fabulous I feel.  I feel healthier, more free, happier, and more energetic than I did at 30 or 40.  

 Today, I turn fifty.  Over the past year I have lost nearly 50 lbs.  This morning I had a 50-year roof put on my home.  Powerful symbols for a day poised between a powerful year and the rest of my life.

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.  ❤

Back on the Bus

Okay, so I am going to talk about food again; specifically, what happens when you go off plan and then come back on.  So, just a pre-warning, in case you are sick to death of hearing about my current eating proclivities, that’s where this is going.  I started on plan on Oct. 2nd, and did not have my first cheat until Christmas.  It was then, that I made my first discoveries about my body’s reaction to carbs and about how taste and preference and habits can change.  I have had another cheat [actually two in a row sort of] and so I feel compelled to talk about what this has taught me so far.  The reason I feel a need to share this is because when you have been on plan for a long time [ie.. longer than a few weeks or a month] and you are thinking about going off plan, you wonder things like: “How is this going to make me feel?” or  “How much weight might I gain?” or “How damaging is this to my overall progress or my health in general?”  I had many more questions than this, but you get the idea.  I actually googled some of these questions trying to find out if others had written about their experiences with going off and back on plan.  Hopefully, this will help others who are faithfully following their plan and making wonderful progress toward their goals to decide if, when, and how they might go off plan and then come back on.  It can possibly just give you more points for your risk-to-benefit ratio list.

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The trajectory of this post will change due to some influences over the past week, not the least of which has been Daniel Cox [I’ll end this post on a video note from him].  I will, however, continue with my original direction for a moment by saying that I chose Valentine’s Day as a planned cheat day.  I love chocolate so very much that having a planned cheat day helps me to keep from caving to temptation by allowing me to say “later” instead of “no, thank you.”

On Valentine’s Day, I was only able to wait until about 1:30 pm before I caved to temptation.  I had a little smartly decorated brown paper sack on my desk full of goodies and I chose one of my very favorites to indulge in:  A 3 in. Hershey chocolate bar.  I love chocolate and appreciate fine chocolate, but I am also devastatingly loyal to Hershey.  There is something about the taste and the melt point and the teeth sink, especially in these little bars that are slightly thicker than a traditional bar and not as thick as a kiss, that does me in.  So, I took that first bite…. and …. o. m. g.  …. it was so wonderful!  I ate that mini Hershey bar so much faster than I intended to. Before I knew it, I had eaten four of them; yes, I said 4 of them!  I then began stuffing candy into my mouth like Charlie Bucket.  The next piece was a Reese’s peanut butter heart, which was oh so forgettable followed by one of those long skinny Tootsie Rolls.  Now, when I got to the Tootsie Roll, I was able to stop and take stock and realize that it didn’t even taste remotely pleasant.  It tasted sort of plastic and watery sweet– so underwhelming that I spit it into the trash after only chewing for a few bites.  After this orgy of candy eating, I felt slightly nauseous and out of control.   I was horrified that I could be so seemingly in charge for so many weeks only to behave like a fiending junkie when faced with the opportunity to indulge in a planned cheat.  What I learned?   Candy, specifically chocolate candy, is a trigger food that makes me behave like a shameless, unconscious addict.

Later that day, I continued my planned cheat with wine at supper [first glass since September] and Lily’s pizza [2.5 slices] followed by buttered popcorn and Nestle’s Bunch-a-Crunch at the movies.  The wine was heavenly as was the pizza, especially that pillow-like crust that sent waves of pleasure through my entire body.  If it sounds like I have a sexual relationship with food, it’s because I do; you are not imagining this.  Now, the Bunch-a-Crunch and the popcorn were  big let downs, probably because I had already indulged so much this day that I had reached a saturation point of sorts, but more likely because they never were really that good and I am just realizing this.  What I learned:   good pizza is really wonderful and so is a great glass of Riesling after a five month absence, but I wasted a lot of time pining for popcorn and Bunch-a-crunch when it is not really that good, and finally, carbs make me incredibly sleepy and behave just like narcotics in my body.

Next day, I felt really ready to go back on plan and I did, but then came Saturday when Bean and I and the kids were out of town at a getaway to the Great Wolf Lodge where we found that our hotel had its very own Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut, and Dippin Dots outlets.  Bean said he might not stay on plan while we were there and I found myself encouraging him by saying, “oh, that’s fine, I might not either.”  Lesson learned- coming recently off a cheat makes me more susceptible to cheating again [it’s a slippery slope, folks] and being the addict that I am where food is concerned I found myself in rationalization mode.  Good habits die hard, though, and so this day became about the battle between good and evil inside of me.  I carried my OP snacks and water about and watched Bean and little beans eat fries, corn dogs, and chicken tenders and I walked around the water park irritable and complaining about the lack of a lazy river, about the temperature, about the wetness of everything [really], but even when faced with Cracker Barrel for supper, those good habits were still winning battles when I chose a low-carb option of a burger and turnip greens for supper.  I was full and satisfied and did not need another thing that evening, but I lost my head again when sitting in the lobby of this den of temptation and it was me [I know, I cannot believe it or that I am admitting this] who suggested that we go downstairs and have ice cream in a waffle cone and then wake up to a breakfast of Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee.  I suddenly had gone off the edge.  I was in free fall and ready to make poor choices for the remainder of the weekend.    Note:  the ice cream was forgettable and not worth eating.  I fell into a carb fueled sleep but woke anticipating those donuts.  The donuts were really good- Dunkin’ Donuts knows how to make ’em and when they are fresh, they are divine.  I found myself having a much better day in the water park.  Bean commented, “wow, you seem so much more relaxed today.”   The connection was clear– I was calmer and more relaxed because I was impaired.. like a junkie– I had slept after a fix and woke to another fix and I was feeling fine, medicated right into bliss.  I continued this crazy binge with Bojangles for lunch, Chubby’s Tacos for supper, and raspberry thumbprint cookies from Francesca’s for dessert!

Writing about this makes me see the addict in me so much clearer.  It is scary as hell and I can tell you that I was more than ready to go back on plan.  The price of re-boarding the TSFL bus next morning was that I would have to go through days of irritability and would not be back into mild ketosis and feeling really good again for anywhere from a few days to a week.  I also paid with the weight I would have lost during this week or so and I am sure there were negative effects on my blood sugar, triglycerides, and other body systems.  What I learned, though, was that even though I have been following this plan for over four months I still have work to do toward reframing my relationship with food.  Going back on plan was comforting on so many levels:  I felt in control again, I was now back to structured choices within a defined scope, and I was eating those foods that had taken me to this new place that I love so much– my cereal crunch and my hot cocoa and chicken noodle soup.

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And so now, here I am over a week after I went off plan [or as Daniel Cox puts it- “got off the bus”] and I am back into mild ketosis and feeling pretty darn good again.  The downside is that I weigh the same as I did before my planned cheat, so I literally lost over a week of progress.  This week was not has difficult as I anticipated, although I did have a meltdown about 5 or 6 days in where I over-reacted to something Bean did and got so upset I cried.  Daniel is so right when he talks in his videos about having to feel our feelings when we can’t eat them anymore  and, well, sometimes they just come spilling right out over the top.

So, in the do as I say and not as I do spirit, I will end with a video by Daniel Cox who is a fellow health coach.You should check out his YouTube channel if you are already on TSFL and he will motivate you in so many ways.  I loved this particular video because it helps put going off plan into perspective and I like that he ‘gets real’ with his viewer in sort of Dr. Phil style.  So, thanks, Daniel.  You are an amazing inspiration.  I don’t necessarily regret going off plan this time because of what I learned, but I want you to know that in part because of you…I plan to “stay on the bus.”