March 30, 2012
Last spring, Shawn and I officially entered the ranks of Middle America when we signed our lives away for the next 30 years and bought a home. I snapped a photo of us, above, to commemorate this occasion. We were nervous, but excited (I was excited, he was nervous) but it’s been almost a year now and we still love it. Since we closed, we’ve both turned 30, learned a lot about indigenous plants, where the best yard sales are, how to mow grass, adopted a big ol’ dog, survived the heartbreak caused by an Autism diagnosis, had our first Christmas as a family unit at home, and even had a couple of house guests. All in all, a great year. I suppose I could play off of my (painfully witty) title and say something about the best of times and the worst of times, but I won’t. Oops.
Anyway, falling under the category of not-so-good times, I got sick this summer. Sudden, sharp, awful stomach pains, sometimes nausea, chest pain, and some other unsavory issues that I don’t want to bring up were the symptoms of my attacks. I didn’t realize that there was a pattern to my complaints at first. They curtailed a visit with friends in Virginia, and then I was quite ill the morning we ended up adopting our dog Bert, and then after another couple of miserable attacks, I realized that the symptoms occurred after an indulgent meal, especially when alcohol and dessert were included. Concurrent to the other issues, extreme discomfort in my right lower shoulder blade began. I called up my sister, Nurse Beth, and she mentioned the possibility of gallbladder disease. Crap. I made a doctor’s appointment to discuss this potential problem and then took a look at my diet. If you know me, you know I like paleo/primal style eating: meat, veggies, fruits, eggs, and nuts are the mainstays of my diet. I avoid all grains, especially wheat, limit dairy, alcohol, and sugar, as well as a few other processed or chemical-laden ingredients, like artificial sweetener and soy. Well, most of the time…
Some cookies happened, maybe a Diet Coke now and then, alcohol, ice cream, etc. Sugar has always been the hardest thing for me to give up. I would start my day off on the right track, but often succumb to the temptation of treats at work or an ice cream cone in the school cafeteria. I love to bake, and I really love to eat frosting, cake batter, and cookies, so any time I made treats for someone else, how could I resist some quality assurance testing? Add to this the fact that I was doing NO EXERCISE whatsoever (I went to the fitness center in our apartment complex a total of 3 times in the 8ish months that we lived there) and I had not only an ill person, but also sort of a fluffy person looking back at me in the mirror. This bummed me out. In September 2011, I did a 30-day ultra-clean paleo eating challenge (a Whole 30, in case you’re interested, go check out www.whole9life.com) which had left me thinner, healthier, and with better skin than I had seen in years, if ever. The wheels fell off that wagon around Halloween, got worse with Christmas, skidded sideways through Valentine’s Day and Easter and before I knew it I had packed on about 10-12 lbs, maybe more. My pants were very uncomfortable and I was getting lots of use out of my “slimming” tank top and Spanx. By the way, wearing both of those on the same day is not a good idea, I think it smooshes your internal organs. Makes me wonder how women in the Victorian Era or whenever survived in those corsets!
But back to the doctor. My bloodwork was all very good. On paper, I looked magnificent, even though my weight was bordering on “overweight” on the BMI scale. (“BMI doesn’t take muscle mass into account, so it’s sort of bogus anyway,” I told myself.) I had Googled the symptoms of gallbladder disease and I had nearly all of them, so I was convinced that was the problem. The doctor, who had never heard of paleo and when I tried to describe it sort of wrinkled her nose (maybe she was a vegetarian?) and told me I was probably suffering from indigestion and a pulled muscle, but scheduled an ultrasound for my gallbladder anyway.
I went home and Googled the symptoms of GERD and acid reflux. Aside from nausea, I didn’t have any of those symptoms: no cough, no bitterness, no burn. I had not done anything physical that would have pulled a muscle, and I disagreed with the doctor’s suggestion that I might have hurt myself lifting my toddler. It’s not like I hadn’t been schlepping him around everywhere since 2009. But hey, maybe so. I would have to wait and see.
At this time I was scared. Despite reassurances from family that gallbladder removal was no big deal, I feared getting surgery and how it would further impact my ability to digest fats properly. I feared pain and recovery after surgery, and I really feared the idea of taking out a part of my body- what if that didn’t fix the problem? I scoured the internet and was not encouraged. In the meantime, I cut alcohol, dairy, grains, and all processed food (aside from the occasional slice of bacon on the the weekends) out of my diet. I consumed only foods that I had prepared myself from scratch ingredients, sourcing as much food from the Saturday farmer’s market as I could. Farm fresh eggs, grassfed meats, local vegetables. It took about 2 weeks for the worst of my digestive issues to calm down, and a full 6 weeks for the shoulder/chest pain to go away. My ultrasound revealed no cysts or stones, but if I wanted, I could have requested a hida scan to check for functionality. The doctor’s office prescribed me Prevacid, which I never purchased. Eating better food seemed to be helping.
A couple of months later, I had a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks and had a solid 48 hours of Every Previous Symptom Possible, including the referred pain in my shoulder, so I decided that probably indulging in sugary treats was unwise, although I did still periodically have a little cheese here and there. I also had a slightly embarrassing take-me-home-lest-I-shit-myself moment in October while visiting my best friend and eating cake, cookies, and drinking 3 really delicious Pumpkinhead Ales. Sigh. I should’ve warmed up the ol’ intestines for that night. I resumed careful eating, although I did enjoy a few pieces of Halloween candy, some of my dad’s homemade pie on Thanksgiving, and definitely at least a gallon of eggnog during the holiday season. The fear of getting sick kept me, for the most part, on point with my eating habits.
During this same time frame, I started working out. I bought a dealsaver trial membership and went to my first WOD at a CrossFit gym (www.crossfitdeprivation.com) during the last week of July. It was an amazingly humbling experience. I went in with the attitude that I possessed some natural strength (what with flinging that toddler around and whatnot) and surely I had some residual strength from all of those BodyPump classes I had taken back in Virginia before we moved. Um, yes. That turned out to not be the case and I started from zero. Like newborn babies could probably perform some of the movements as well as I could. Pull ups? No. Even jumping up from a box they were nearly impossible. Jumping rope? I was suddenly transported back to PE class in elementary school. There’s a good reason I was never able to raise more than $5.00 for “Jump Rope for Heart,” and that reason was that I SUCKED at getting the rope under my feet. I had to scale literally every exercise down, when there was an option. Apparently you can’t scale down a sit up, you just take 3 times as long to get through them. Have you ever watched that first workout that Biggest Loser contestants have to do? Every moment of CrossFit felt like that for me, and while it’s not like I weighed 300 lbs, when I encountered experienced CF athletes, that’s how I felt; not that I felt fat, but that I felt like getting to their level was impossible as I panted and struggled. I didn’t cry every time I left, but at least once a week I did. Keep in mind that I had some emotional stuff going on with Owen. Sometimes, when I was struggling through an exercise, I would tell myself that getting physically stronger would help me get emotionally stronger. Since drowning my sorrows in ice cream could guarantee that I’d spend the night in a cold sweat in close proximity to a bathroom, exercise proved to be an ideal stress-relief coping mechanism.
In the meanwhile, I also made some friends. Sharing the experience of a really difficult workout is an amazing bonding activity. Between the cameraderie and the post-exercise endorphin release, I got hooked on CF and have been going regularly (3 times a week for the first 4 months, and now I’m up to 6x per week). Throughout this time period, I slowly lost weight. About 1-1.5 lbs a month. I also got faster and stronger, and I can do things now that I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams just a short time ago. I also love seeing the progress of my peers and never knew how much fun it could be to race someone and have them beat me.
5 weeks ago, I made some drastic dietary changes. The box (because that’s what you call a CrossFit gym if you are cool) started a weight loss challenge. The owner and head coach looked at our diets (which required us to turn in a 3 day food log, which forced me to admit that I really like wine and I really really like heavy whipping cream) and then presented us with a prescribed diet plan. This plan included some foods that I don’t eat, like whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, grits, and rice. At first, I was really resistant to it, because the diet also severely limited my fat intake that I was accustomed to. It took a solid week of freaking out for me to get it under control, and I’m pretty sure that I still don’t have it quite as low as he would like. I flat-out refuse to eat bagels, pasta, etc, but I carefully reintroduced rice (some brown rice, but white rice is easier for me to handle) and gluten-free oats. My skin has not appreciated the dietary changes. I want to blame the grains, of course, but it’s possible that it is also dry winter skin, or my reduction in dietary fat, but I’ve had some issues with eczema-like rashes and a return of blotchy skin on the backs of my arms. Also, farting. Like, a lady shouldn’t produce the smells I do. (TMI? Sorry.) I was also skeptical of adding so many additional carbohydrates to my diet, but I was mistaken. The increased carbs, mainly from sweet potatoes (sometimes I eat them 3 times a day) has provided me with more energy than I had doing strict paleo, which can sometimes be low-carb by default if one is not eating a lot of fruit or starchy vegetables. However, this diet has produced the desired result: in the first 4 weeks I dropped 6 lbs. A lot of it came off of my face and my waist, which is good, because if it keeps coming off my hips and bust, I’m going to look like a 10 year old. A ten-year-old with laugh lines and old lady hands and stretch marks. (I know, I know, I sound so sexy it’s really a surprise that Justin Timberlake isn’t writing song lyrics about me even as I type this.)
I still have 7 weeks to go. I’m almost nervous. Weight loss, which had always been sort of a background goal as I tried to get my health on track, crept up on me and then BOOM suddenly, it’s here. It was so sneaky, like I was playing with Legos and suddenly I turned around and realized that I accidentally built a 1:10 scale model of The Great Wall of China.
January 22, 2013
A couple of weeks ago, I posted this photo on facebook. I asked Shawn to take the picture because I thought it was so funny that Owen and I had accidentally worn matching outfits. (Shawn dressed Owen that morning, and I wasn’t aware of what he put him in until after I walked out in my dress). I was not expecting any comments about my size. This is the Great Wall moment I was just talking about. Scroll back up to that first picture. Now, back down. My face. Granted, I am very tired in the second photo after a long day at work, so I don’t look as bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed as I would normally prefer to be in a published photo, but this was the one that made me realize how dramatic the change has been. It happened so slowly that until I started charting the changes, I didn’t even realize they were occurring. Total weight loss between the two photos has been about 12-15 lbs. I feel like it is also important to say here that when I made the changes that I did back in July, it was with the goal of feeling better. Although I was a bit heavier than I would have liked in the March photo, I didn’t hate my body. I wasn’t about to go bikini shopping, but I had a positive image of myself. Even when I started CrossFit, my primary objective wasn’t “get skinny” but “get strong” and that is something I’m still striving for today. The first time that I have actually said to myself “I’m going to try to lose weight” has been within the context of the challenge. I had a bumpy start and sometimes I feel very, very whiny about how little I get to eat (even though it’s allegedly twice as much food as my office mates eat, because they are absolutely awestruck at the quantity I can shovel down) and how much I miss avocados and fried plantains. I’m still hitting on average 1500 Cals a day containing 130 g of protein, so don’t worry, I’m not actually starving. The diet is a temporary thing. When the challenge ends in April, I will hopefully not fall facefirst into a bathtub full of wine and chocolate-covered bacon, although that does sound like the ultimate Valentine’s day gift, doesn’t it? Instead I will slowly step up my calorie intake, adding a bit more over time to keep my metabolism fast. I also hope to cut the grains back out. All in all, I’m looking at this as a really intriguing experiment on myself. Plus, I’d like to win. I like winning.