It’s hard when the people around you just don’t “get” where you are coming from. And it seems especially difficult when those close to you don’t “get” the lifestyle changes that are necessary for you to be healthy. During my detox fast and in the days since breaking my detox it has been difficult to get people in my circle to understand that I can’t return to my previous eating habits.
I will have to get used to co-workers peering into my packed lunch and making jokes about how my food choices will result in gas and frequent trips to the bathroom. I will have to learn to smile at the jokes that are made claiming that all I eat are nuts and berries. I will even learn to ignore the insistence that I should cheat almost daily or the concerns that I am not getting enough protein because I no longer eat meat every day.
After all I am the one who has the most to lose if I continue down the path that I was on that was leading me to poor health. The extra weight and strain on my knees does not affect those close to me in any way. They do not have to worry that the inflammatory foods that they consume on the regular basis only aggravate the autoimmune disease raging in their bodies. That can’t rap their head around eating 6-8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. All my friends and family can see is that I am certainly not on the SAD diet anymore (Standard American Diet).
I am embracing a plant based diet the best way I know how. The benefits, for me, were almost immediate. I just feel stronger. My better nourished body seems to handle the daily ups and downs with RA better. I haven’t seen a lessening of my symptoms. But it does seem that I am able to deal with the aches and pains better. It is as if even though one thing isn’t working right everything else is working so much better. And I need this added strength that I am getting from my new lifestyle to deal with my increasing RA symptoms.
I guess what I am trying to say is that those around me don’t need to “get” my healthy journey. All that matters is that I am slowly and surely figuring out what I need to do to have optimum health.
Snow Cat (Photo credit: clickclique)
Last weekend it snowed in North Carolina-and unless you live in the western part of the state it doesn’t happen very often. The snow was an unexpected surprise that had many in my area scrambling to find something suitable to wear so that they could head out and play in the snow. I was no different. Armed with a scarf, gloves, and leather sneakers I made my way over to my brother’s house to play watch my nephew in the snow.
We made our way to the neighborhood park about 1/8 a mile down the road. Just like I knew we would my brother, his wife, and I were suddenly 10 years old again playing and running in the snow. I would like to report my Matrix like moves were more than sufficient to keep me from the receiving end of many a snowball hurled in my direction. The cool air coupled with the snow euphoria I was experiencing was enough to keep any worry of aches and pains at bay.
But reality has a way of invading at the most inopportune moments. I was vaguely aware of a sense of pain as we began our walk home. Still, the high of spending time with family propelled me the short distance to my brother’s home where I quickly stripped out of my wet clothes and sat by the fire. That is when RA decided to crash the party.
As a rule I try my best not to appear in pain when I am in a social setting. I think it is an unwritten rule for chronic pain sufferers to fake it to the best of their ability even if they are horrible pain unless they are in a safe/home environment. But the pain came on me so quickly and suddenly that I couldn’t cover it up. My red swollen feet were also on display for everyone to see. There was no way I could cover up my physical distress which sent my sister-in-law went running for Tylenol. I did my best to reassure everyone that I was all right and that there was nothing to be concerned about. But still I felt too much of my vulnerability had been revealed. This was an episode that I would rather have played out in the comfort of my own home, alone, for no one to see.
Somehow I revealed in general conversation that I knew when I went out in the snow that the pain I was currently in was a possibility. I had been achy with puffy joints all morning even before I ventured out into the snow. I was then asked “Why would I willing put myself in a situation that could cause me that much pain?” My answer was quick and to the point. Because it is worth it!
Living beyond your perceived limitations is always worth it. Those moments reliving my childhood with my sibling and feeling young and free again will be the memories I turn to during the dark times in my life. My nephew is growing so fast-one day soon it won’t be cool to spend a Saturday evening with his Auntie walking hand and hand down the street. So my RA required me to pay a price for the choice I made to live my life to the fullest that afternoon. And you know what- I would do it again and again. It was soooo worth it
Common culinary fruits. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am now on day 10 of my fruit and veggie fast. So far it has been a lot easier than I thought. I’m not going to lie and say that I haven’t experienced any cravings. But cravings have been less intense and less frequent than I had expected. This may be due to the fact that I had been really watching my diet and eating clean most of the time for a month prior to the detox. I was already on my way to eating a plant based diet so the final transition doesn’t seem as hard. All that I am really missing is cheese and sour cream. Even that is more in line with the idea these items would complete the meal I have fixed rather than having a strong urge to eat them.
My diet has been pretty basic with me eating fruits in the morning and vegetables throughout the rest of the day. I was having difficulty getting enough calories so I also allow myself one serving of nuts during the day to help up the calorie count. So far I am 7 lbs. down in 10 days which is really great. I am hoping that there will be another 3 or 4 pounds gone by next Thursday when I officially end my detox. There is bound to be some weight gain when I go back to eating normally, but I hope to only regain about 1 to 3 lbs. My plan as of today is only to add back dairy in moderate amounts during the week. My primary grain (really a seed) will be quinoa during the week. During the weekends I will allow myself whole grains along with meat. Hopefully this plan will allow me to continue to steadily lose weight until I hit my goal.
So far the diet has had no effect on the physical aspects of RA-not that I expected it to. Even those toxic RA medications need up to 3 months to see the full effect and so I am giving this lifestyle change the same amount of time before I decide whether it has been beneficial in managing my symptoms. What the detox has done for the emotional aspect of having RA has been amazing! Doing something good for my body makes me feel empowered which is something having a chronic disease has robbed me of. I know that even if I am not affecting the RA symptoms I am strengthening and nurturing my healthy self. I know that my food choices are lowering my chances of heart disease and diabetes. I believe my body is getting stronger. And strength I what I will need in order to live with this disease!
I decided to go back to my gym today. The game plan was to kick up my exercise routine by starting Couch to 5K on the elliptical. I figured the structure of the program would give me goals to reach while at the same time allow me to go at my own pace-something I wouldn’t be able to do in a group class. I was actually pretty excited at the idea of returning to the gym. Even though my walks around my neighborhood are a form of exercise I always feel like working out in a gym setting has its own energy-which I love.
I was excited until I woke up skating on the edge of real pain. Like many patients that have chronic pain I have my own personal pain scale that takes into account some pain is “normal” for me. But this was the kind of pain that registered on my adjusted scale as abnormal. Not unmanageable but the kind of pain that would make everything difficult today. Suddenly my dreams of a triumphant return to working out seemed to fade. I knew that the picture I had in my mind of working up a sweat and burning tons of calories was not realistic anymore. The dream of giving my best at the gym seemed to be crushed until I remembered something my mother always says.
My Mom has always told me from the time I was a child that I should always do my best, but that my best effort would not always give the same results. Giving my all will result in different outcomes each and every time. The best you can do with 8 hours of sleep and the best that you can do with 3 hours of sleep are two different things. The best you can do on a project with 3 weeks’ notice and 5 days’ notice is not the same. She always told me that as long it was the best I could do, no matter what the outcome, I could always be proud that I had given it my all.
It was this thought that prompted me to get dressed and go to the gym. I had seriously considered postponing the Couch to 5K thing until I felt better. But instead I purposed in my mind to not compare my current performance at the gym to any of my previous efforts. I decided to go for my best today and nothing else.
I would love to report that once the workout began something miraculous happened and I was able to have that workout I had dreamed about. But that’s not the truth. I averaged a less than stellar 16 minute mile. But I didn’t care. I was moving. I was doing something good for my body. I found out that once again my body was capable of doing more than I thought it could. And best of all I once again told the RA beast that while you affect my life you do not control it!
The Walking Dead (Photo credit: andres musta)
The day after my MTX shot is what I like to call my zombie day. My skin is ashen and dry. I have horrendous dark circles under my eyes. All that is missing is a cool grunt and I could win a stagger on role on the Walking Dead without any special effect make-up. It is on those days that what I see in the mirror is horrible for my health. It is difficult to see myself as a healthy, capable person when I look like the undead.
I am beginning to realize that seeing someone who looks defeated in the mirror is just as toxic to my health as binging on sugary treats when I am in a flare. I need the mirror to reflect the strong, capable, healthy individuals I see myself as rather than the hollow eyed one that will stare back at me tomorrow morning. So like everything regarding my health I have come up with a game plan.
First and foremost I will not skip out on my pm facial routine tonight. Hopefully if I start out with glowing skin before my shot I will end up with ok looking skin after the shot. I will also paint my nails this evening because I always feel better with a great manicure. Tomorrow I will plan to de-zombie myself with make-up. For me, make-up is usually reserved for special occasions because no matter what I do wearing make-up more than a few days in a row causes serious break-outs. But tomorrow I need to look normal. Although I have a disease I do not and will not see myself as someone who is sick! And right now I need the mirror to reflect that. There may come a day when I can take what MTX does to my skin in stride and not let it affect me but I am not there yet. So tomorrow I will be covering dark circles with concealer and faking bright and glowing skin with cosmetics.
So while I just spent $100+ on skin care products I don’t feel guilty. And why should I? These are simply tools I need to help in my quest for good health. I don’t feel guilty when I buy organic produce or pay for my prescriptions. To me the investment in my skin is simply another investment in my health.
Fresh vegetables are important components of a healthy diet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sometimes a simple phrase or observation can be life changing. It doesn’t always have to be profound. Often times someone it just stating what we all know. It seems that somehow putting the obvious into words gives it a life it didn’t have before. I found myself in this situation this past week. A simple observation truly helped me understand what it will require for me to be successful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It wasn’t rocket science but seeing it there in print seemed to flip the switch on in my mind.
Joe Cross, the subject of a documentary and book called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead was the one who gave me my Ah Ha! moment. The premise of the book and film is basic. A man with uticaria (a rare and life altering autoimmune disease) decides that traditional treatments are not doing enough to control his illness and sets off to make lifestyle changes he believes will improve his quality of life. Mr. Cross basically said in order for him to regain his health he had to pursue it with the same amount of zeal and passion he did for all the other important things in his life. He observed that we spend long days working on our careers. We make time to nurture personal relationships that are important to us. The dishes and laundry also get billing in our busy lives. But the one thing that makes all of these things possible, our health, is the thing that is often placed on the back burner. We as a society continue to steal time from the one pursuit that makes all of our other activities and goals possible. He decided to take 60 days leave in order to pursue a juice fast that he hoped would help control his disease.
The book and documentary have inspired me to do a 15 day detox in which I will only be consuming fruits, veggies, and healthy oils. I am also going to limit my salt intake and instead season my food with herbs and spices. Will this be difficult? I’m sure it will be. Do I need this “detox”? I feel that I do. Even though I am eating cleaner than I have in years I am also putting a lot of stress on my body with the prescription medications and over-the-counter NSAIDs I am consuming. I feel that I need to take this time and nurture my body. Although I expect to lose weight during this detox it is not my main goal. I want to give my body some time to heal itself. The liver does a great job of detoxifying itself naturally. I hope to give it a little break by not pumping it full of any more chemicals than necessary for the next two weeks. My body works hard every day to allow me to have a relatively normal life despite my chronic condition. This is just my way of saying thank-you.
I have no idea whether or not this will have any effect on my RA symptoms. However, I have observed that when I am healthy overall-mind and body-I am better able to handle the curveballs thrown at me by this disease. In this way I do expect this to have a positive overall effect on my health.