Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Back From My Unplanned Break

Hi friends.  I'm back from an extended break and lots of thoughts and experiences to share.

It wasn't the break that I had intended to take.  In early July we left for our long-planned family vacation to the east coast.  My son attended a summer program at Princeton for three weeks, and my hubby, younger son and I headed out in his last week to enjoy some special vacation time.   My husband and I took a very nice four-day break on the Delmarva Peninsula to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, while my younger boy stayed with family in Maryland.  It was lovely and rejuvenating in every way.

When my husband and I drove into cell phone range, I noticed lots of messages from my sisters, which got me worried.  It turned out my oldest sister, who lives in Connecticut, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

It was kind of a miracle that I should be on the east coast at that moment, since I live in California.  My little family was headed to New England anyway to visit relatives and take college tours, so after a quick stop to pick up my son in New Jersey, we kept moving north, and I decided to join my sister and be with her through the beginning diagnostic appointments and procedures.  I ended up staying for three weeks with her.

For those of you who have been through a serious diagnosis or who have experienced one through a loved-one, you know how every day can bring a flood of new, life-altering information, with every doctor's appointment.  All sense of time gets thrown out the window.  Every day felt like we lived for a week.

While away, my diet became more carb-filled with mostly wine and fruit.  But it was also salad focused and generally healthy.  I managed to exercise almost every day, just for my own sanity, and also to take advantage of the beautiful area where my sister lives.  I walked and jogged and felt great about staying active through all of the stress.

I returned 10 days ago, and hopped back into my life, preparing the kids to return to school and making a point to do something special with each of them, since I missed them while I was away.  It has been a busy time, but nothing extraordinary.  I planned a beach bonfire to celebrate the end of summer break, and spent the day at our favorite beach last Friday.  I had an excellent time swimming and boogie boarding.  I also got a wicked sunburn, but it was worth it :-)

I posted a note to a very wonderful Optifast Maintenance group on Facebook last night, and one of my fellow bloggers, Optifast Mom, encouraged me to get back to the blog.  We made a pact to do it together, since she was also letting her blog slide and needed to make her health a focal point (in writing) again.  Wise words.  I've been away from both reading and writing about good health, and I don't like feeling remote from such an important and helpful part of my life.  I have missed some of my favorite lady bloggers, so I'm looking forward to reconnecting.

Reflecting on this time, I think I'm experiencing a delayed stress reaction.  For the past month, I've had to be "on" very intensely.  When faced with lots of responsibilities and multi-tasking, I'm pretty good at keeping my focus, but it takes a lot out of me.  Coming home, I was able to just let it all go, especially my hyper-vigilance and my schedule.  It's kind of like THIS is the vacation, now that I think about it.

But I know that my body doesn't take a vacation.  It sees the poor diet and exercise and reacts with lethargy and weight gain.  I'm not feeling as vigorous as I used to feel.  So here I am, and just writing it all down is making me feel better.

As of today, the vacation ends and I'm going to get my spandex-clad butt to the gym for a second day in a row.  One choice at a time, I'm going to return back to a healthy routine, and a focus on my health.  It’s also time to start training for the Las Vegas Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon that is coming up in November!

It's easy to let it slide, as I've done in the past.  Time gets away from me and I could just let it keep going, but for my blogging friends and my support systems.  That's the real difference in my life that I am humbly grateful for.

Thanks to everyone for your kind remarks on my last post.  To recover from busy times is part of the process of establishing a new life focused on my health.  I'm not the poster child for success, but I'm still here giving it a try and feeling better with every positive choice.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

RMR Data and Going Forward

179 lbs.

I'll be the first to admit that this year has been a learning experience in my weight loss journey.  After losing 100 pounds in 2014 on a 40 week medically-supervised liquid diet, I've worked hard this year to create a new healthy life.  It has been joyous for the most part, in that I've loved every minute of being mobile, wearing cuter clothes and living without the aches and pains I used to feel on a daily basis when I was obese.

I've enjoyed exercise and being outside, but the eating part of the equation was baffling to me.  Even tracking my calories on MyFitnessPal since the fast, I found myself steadily gaining weight.  Keeping my calories under 1800 for the most part (with a few excursions upward on special occasions), I thought with all of my activity that I could handle those calories.  But I was wrong.

I have some answers now.

On Monday I went into my clinic and had my Resting Metabolic Rate measured, using a somewhat sophisticated machine.  I fasted for 12 hours, then they pinched my nose, and I breathed into a tube for about 20 minutes, while sitting in a chair, relaxing.

What I learned is that my RMR is lower than normal.  My resting energy expenditure is 1310 calories, so that means that to maintain my weight, I'd need to eat about 1310-1703 calories, and for weight loss, between 1000-1310.

I had a hunch about this, based on my weight gain/loss over the past year, but I didn't want to believe it.  It seemed illogically low based on how most people eat, especially those who are active.

But I'm me and these are my numbers.  I was tremendously relieved to know that it wasn't my imagination, and that I really couldn't eat very much without gaining weight.  Even though I've done some strength training since stopping my fast, I haven't gone back to it since I slipped on a hiking trail in late April (I still have a sore rotator cuff).  But this is what I need to do in order to bring that number up.  Building lean muscle mass will be my ticket to easier weight maintenance, not to mention all the wonderful health benefits.

It also has me rethinking my cardio strategy.  I've loved doing my interval running and participating in races big and small.  I'm scheduled for a 10K in August and a half marathon in November.  I'll need to keep up my training.  But I think in the future, I'll do more walking, strength training and group cardio classes.  High Intensity Interval Training will help boost my metabolism along with the strength training.  I'm going to start lifting again, and my plan will be to retest my RMR at the start of next year to see if there are any changes.

Maybe my long, very low calorie diet played a part in lowering my metabolism.  I don't know enough about physiology to know if this is the case.  I also don't know if I've always had this type of slow metabolism.  I've been taking medicine for hypothyroidism for 30 years - but my weight struggles preceded that.  In any event,  if I had it to do all over again, I would certainly do my Optifast program in a heart beat.  My life is so much better now, and it gave me a new beginning point, even though it has been frustrating at times.

In a strange way, this data reinforced my own hunches, and has encouraged me to believe in my hunches more often.  It has also reminded me that I am a unique human being, and while there is a lot of conventional wisdom out there, I can be an n=1, and not be afraid to move on if something isn't working well for me.

So that's the interesting news from me today.  Salad lady signing off and wishing everyone a wonderful holiday weekend if you are in the U.S.!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Thinking of the Big Picture And Accepting My Pace

After my setbacks of late, I'm finally feeling better and boy do I appreciate every pain free moment!  As soon as I could, I ditched my medication and slowly set off to walk  and keep moving.  Of course, last week was also the end of the school year for my youngest son, and there were school promotions, parties and events to attend.  Yesterday I organized a sunset beach picnic for friends and kids, and we welcomed the summer Southern California style with a chilly evening at the beach.  I left very early in the morning to stake out a nice spot on the sand and at the picnic tables.  I love the beach, especially before the people arrive.
I had the beach all to myself early in the morning.  Only seagull prints were in the sand.
Diet and RMR Testing

After Monday's humiliating weigh-in, I have been extra, extra conscientious with my diet.  I've followed the clinic eating plan perfectly this week, and am also losing the water weight that I had gained while on medications.  I've only weighed in once this week, and was down a couple of pounds.  I have no doubt that this was some excess water weight.  It will be interesting to watch my weight over the next few weeks, because I average very few calories - usually 1200 or below - on this eating plan. This would normally seem low to me, but I'm wondering if this is my reality.  If I really don't need very many calories to live my life, then that's what it will be.

My clinic recently replaced their machine which tests resting metabolic rate, and so I set up an appointment to be tested in a couple of weeks.  I'm super excited to get this next batch of data.  I'm almost a year into eating food again, so my body has had a decent amount of time to adjust.   Plus I'm so much more active than I was back then and have built muscle in the process.  I can't wait to find out what my baseline/resting calorie needs are.

I think I can accept and feel fine about my diet if the scale moves in the expected direction, even if it's slowly, and even if it fluctuates a little bit on the way down.  I don't need to lose my extra weight quickly, I just need to learn the right way to intervene when it starts to climb, and feel confident in my interventions.  This is my ultimate goal.

Interventions That Are Apparently Working So Far

  • Eating a low carb, very nutritionally specific diet:  Exacts amounts of proteins, vegetables, dairy, fats and fruits.  Higher protein than any other macronutrient.
  • Eating fewer calories, and not adding calories from exercise.
  • Conscientiously drinking tea, water, and avoiding diet drinks.  I add lemon, which makes it delicious.
  • Abstaining from alcohol.  This is the most difficult, of course, but it will be my strategy while I'm trying to lose weight.  It is not part of my long-term plan, though :-)  I want to try and add a drink or two when I am maintaining a healthy weight range.
All this may sound pretty dull and basic, but this is what I'm doing, and I'm making the best of it, with delicious, healthy dishes.  

I hope all of you are feeling healthy and enjoying the new season!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

...One Step Back

Feeling Discouraged

Well, two steps forward and one step back.  Shortly after my last post I went to my kickboxing class and really gave it my all.  Actually a little more than my all.  And when I spent some time vigorously cleaning my pool afterward, I developed a terrible lower back spasm.  This was the worst attack ever, and was probably a re-injury of my hiking accident.

I ended up going to the doctor that day, due to the extreme pain.  He prescribed me an anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxer, and told me to take it easy for 10 days.  I've never really taken a pain killer, and actually this concoction of drugs really didn't help me much.  But the pain was terrible, so I took them as prescribed.

After three days of uncomfortable bed rest and hot/cold treatments, over the weekend I made it to the gym to use the Jacuzzi.  I felt great relief to be in the hot bubbling water.  After 5 minutes, this very elderly, stooped-over lady made her way into the hot tub.  She didn't speak English, so we silently acknowledged each other.  I helped her out of the hot tub, and she made her way to the pool to walk laps.

A lightbulb went off, and I immediately decided to try this.  Although I had to make my way slowly, I was able to walk laps for 20 minutes, and then carefully got out and re-entered the Jacuzzi.  This rehab process was a great success.

I repeated this the next day, and didn't need bedrest.  Although I had another brief setback when I hurt myself getting dressed, I have persevered and today was able to use the regular treadmill somewhat slowly for 40 minutes, followed by the sauna.  I think the movement is helping me.

Rapid Weight Gain and Bloating

While I was laid up, I continued to eat carefully, except for two occasions when the pain was just so horrible, I actually turned to food .  Both times I reached for my favorite comfort food, a PB and honey sandwich, and washed it down with a big glass of milk.  Each time as I started making the sandwich I told myself that this food was not going to make the pain go away.  "What I'm looking for isn't here."  But my desire for some sort of comfort overrode my logic and willpower.  After the second sandwich (the next day) I told myself to stop, and I got back on track.  It has been a very long time since I reached for food so blatantly for comfort.

I know that those two sandwiches didn't throw me into weight gain territory, but each day I was steadily gaining weight.  The first three days I was in bed, so I wasn't moving or exercising.

When I attended my first of two clinic meetings yesterday, my weight was up 2 pounds in the morning (I ate very little that morning).  Then that evening, I attended another meeting and my weight was up another 4 pounds.

All in all, since I started my medication, my weight is up 8 pounds!  I can't even fit into my pants right now!  I can't tell you how discouraging and depressing this is.  So tonight I Googled my medications and learned that BOTH of them cause weight gain and edema.  My stomach, hands, legs and ankles are puffy.  Luckily my pain is much better so I don't need to take them anymore.  But the very vain part of me was so depressed that I had to weigh in TWICE with such tremendous gains.

So I will keep going.  I'm following my clinic diet to a "T", which puts  my calories at around 1100 or 1200 and is low carb.  I've decided to be as compliant as possible this week to see what happens and see if I can get the scale to go down again.  I am desperate for some good news on the scale.  I'm happy with eating low carb again.

Since I really haven't seen much of anything but gains since starting back on food, I'm feeling discouraged and depressed about my weight maintenance phase.  After this week, if I don't see the scale move and notice my edema subsiding, I'm going to get a meeting with my course instructor and show her my food logs, and may make an appointment with my GP to pick his brain on what could be going on with me.  Maybe my thyroid needs to be rechecked - but it hasn't been that long ago.  I'm also going to inquire about getting my Resting Metabolic Rate checked.  The machine at our clinic was broken the last time I asked.  These may all be pieces of the puzzle.

I'm not a saint, but I have made a real effort to keep my calories low and eat healthy, real foods.   At this point in my weight gain, I'm looking very hard at myself to make sure I'm not in denial about how much I'm eating, and the content of my diet.  I will get some outside advice from my instructor on that.

So this is kind of a downer post.  I wish I could be a normal person with a steady weight, but that's just magical thinking.  I don't want to go back to where I was, and I have to honestly admit that I'm entertaining the fast again, just to get my weight down.  I'm conflicted about this, so right now, it's just in the back of my mind.

I'd appreciate any stories of weight loss/maintenance perseverance if you are willing to share them.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Lessons From A Snail

This morning I was on my favorite trail getting a quick workout in.  On my way forward, I noticed a snail slowly making its way across the path, leaving a trail of slime in its wake.  I jogged around the snail, not thinking much about it.

On  my way back, I passed it again.  It had made significant progress, not travelling in a straight line (as I noticed from the slime), but I had to admit, I was impressed with the perseverance of this little creature.

I am big enough to know how busy that trail is.  I can see things coming at me from far away and make course corrections.  Throughout the day there are numerous joggers, walkers, bikers, horse riders and dogs that pass there.  Of course the snail had no way of knowing how busy it was and the risks it was taking by moving forward.

If snails are capable of reason, eventually the snail must have noticed that the path was filled with dangers and obstacles coming at it from every direction.  At some point it may of even regretted ever turning in that direction, but it became too late to turn back. Its only choice was to keep moving forward and hope to reach a safer place.

There are no guarantees that the snail will make it to the other side, but it keeps moving forward, taking the challenges as they come, despite its vulnerability.

Of course, on another level I'm also a small creature in this big world.  Each day brings with it surprises and unforeseen events.  Ultimately, it is my own determination, in the face of challenges, that will keep me moving through the dangerous, challenging patches with the hope of making it through.   I know that no matter how slowly, or circuitously my movements are, my only choice is to keep moving forward, just like that little snail.