I decided to keep a food diary as part of my overall return to health. Calorie counting has been an invaluable tool in helping me lose weight. However, I had a sneaky suspicion that my eating habits, while greatly improved, were not good enough so that all my nutritional requirements were being met by my current “improved” diet. And thanks to my cell phone’s fitness app, I was able to track both my calories and nutrient uptake for a month and a half. Doing this confirmed what I had been suspecting all along. I don’t get enough nutrients in my diet. Sure, I’ve been staying close to my recommended caloric uptake but after 6 weeks of tracking my daily nutrition I didn’t meet my recommend daily allowance for iron once. At least a few days a week I don’t get enough protein. And to make matters worse the only vitamins I consistently reached 100% on were Vitamin C, D, and folic acid. And that is not acceptable. It seems that those of us with rheumatoid arthritis are considered to be at nutritional risk according to Johns Hopkins. And I can see I definitely fall into that category. Tracking my food has been a great wakeup call for me. Eating better isn’t good enough. I have to consistently eat well with the knowledge that even if I don’t feel well and maybe because I don’t I need to make better food choices. Until I figure out how to meet my nutritional requirements from whole foods while reducing calories I will be adding one more pill to my daily routine-a multivitamin.
So last Thursday I got a phone call at work. The message was incomplete but what was relayed to me was there had been a fire in my apartment complex and my apartment had been involved. So I broke a few laws speeding home imagining the worse only to find out that my apartment didn’t actually catch fire. It was the one beside me. Although my house was filled with smoke nothing was burned which was a huge relief. Even though my apartment was still standing it was filled with smoke to the point I had to sleep with the windows open in December! I had some cleaning to do to try and lessen the smokey smell but I was determined to make it to the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run.
It was everything I hopes it would be. It was a great boost to my spirits to see so many survivors of this horrible disease gather on a cold Saturday and defy the the beast by walking/jogging to raise awareness and monies to find a cure. I felt energized by the enthusiasm of the crowd and finished my 5k in 50 minutes. Next year I hope to come in at about 45 minutes.
And then I wrecked my car on Monday. So needless to say that the last week has been filled drama-some good and some bad. My RA has been behaving better than I expected. Sure I’ve been achy and had more pain than normal but I feel fortunate that I’ve not been pushed into a full blown flare.
Sometimes you have to move on. Not because the person or situation has been resolved. Not because you have been heard or because your feelings and concerns have been violated. Sometimes you have to move on simply because it is the best thing for your health. This decision must be made when emotional stress manifests itself physically.
Today, as I sat stewing about a situation at work I realized that my RA symptoms had gone from background noise to loud and intrusive. It seemed the more I agonized over the problem the more physical pain I found myself in. I have always known that stress was a trigger for me, but today really hammered the lesson home. I went from slightly stiff to having joint pain that made me catch my breath when I made certain movements. It was in that moment that I had to make the decision if being vindicated about a work altercation was worth hours or perhaps days of pain due to prolonged flare brought on by stress.
So I had to let the situation rest. Not because I wasn’t right, or I felt that my grievance was unfounded. I instead chose to preserve my life outside of the work environment. I want health and a full life. And for right now, this means that some skirmishes will be conceded so that I may win the war and achieve my goal of a healthy life!
Its been raining for the last few days. The ground is soggy and my usual walking route is filled with puddlesand mud. And of course, my joints want to make some noise also. But I know that for me sitting out a week from exercise can derail my commitment to getting out and moving my body at least three days a week. So I laced up my purple sneakers and joined the ranks of the retired fitness seeker in my town. I lapped the mall! I walked 3 miles past the food court, department stores, and the new sports shop. No it wasn’t the same as my usual trek. I didn’t time myself and I didn’t work up a sweat. But what I did do was honor my commitment to exercise. Hopefully the rain and my hips will ease up this weekend and l can return to my regular route.
Intermittent fasting is basically picking a time period-4, 6 or 8 hours in which you consume your daily allowance of calories. The dieter is encouraged to get most of these calories from healthy sources, but if you want to spend your calorie count on a juicy burger, fries, and a milk shake you can. There are no true cheats except eating outside your window. Intermittent fasting proponents promise weight loss, better mental clarity, loss of fat over muscle, a detoxifying effect, and a host of other life enhancing side effects from resting your digestive system for a period of time on the regular basis.
For me, intermittent fasting has finally allowed me to get my relationship with food back under control.* I allow myself to be hungry which helps me differentiate between the feel of an empty stomach and true hunger. It has cut down on my mindless eating. I realize that I have been eating because it was time, out of habit, or just because food was there. The fact that I go without food for an extended period of time has broken those habits. I find myself easily passing up diet busting temptations. Even in my eating window the desire to over eat is greatly reduced. I am re-learning to eat only when I am hungry and to ignore food the rest of the time.
Another reason I wanted to give intermittent fasting a shot is that RA symptoms can be lessened with prolonged fast. While most studies focus on fasting a lot longer than the 16 hour fast I do I can see a slight difference in my level of discomfort at the end of the fast period and after my first meal. I definitely feel better before consuming the first meal of the day than afterward.
I don’t how true the health assertions associated with fasting diets are. What I do know is that fasting has helped me have a healthier relationship with food. I am more and more focused on eating my recommended daily allowance of vitamins, minerals, and fiber because of the short eating window. That means I am less likely to get my calories from a non-nutritious source. I actually remember to take my multi-vitamin every day. But the most exciting part is that my weight loss seems to be concentrated in my stomach area! So for now I eat between 9-5 most days of the week. And my midsection is thanking me for it.
*This diet is not recommended for anyone who has had an eating disorder. Fasting under these circumstances may cause a relapse.
I was thinking about the movie the Matrix the other day. You know the part where Neo is being shown exactly what the Matrix is? When he suddenly finds himself in the training program appearing exactly as the person he was before he was freed. His hair is back, the holes in his body are gone, and even his clothes change to reflect who he was-not who he actually is in the present. His residual self-image- not who he is but who he remembers being.
I think everyone on a certain level has a residual self-image. Maybe it is a happier you, a slimmer you, a healthier you, a younger you. Or perhaps it is someone who had an energy level or a motivation level that you can only dream about. No matter what the image of ourselves that we hold dear to our heart-the one we can’t let go- it affects the standards that we hold our true self up to daily.
What I should be able to accomplish on my to-do list and what I am actually able to accomplish are two different things. I have begun to wonder if I ever had the capability to be that productive or has the reality of who I was become warped over the years. How badly have I distorted what I should be able to accomplish in a 24 hour period? Is it fantasy or my residual self-mage makes me more discontent with my present state?
My body certainly doesn’t resemble my residual self-image. In my mind and in my dreams I am still that fit woman with the 25 in waistline and the toned body. The girl who spent 1 ½ hours to 2 hours 4 times a week working out. The girl who couldn’t imagine wearing double digit size clothes and was once told she was too tiny now says a silent prayer to see a size 10 and thinks of the joy it would bring her. The woman I picture in my mind and the woman I see in the mirror seemed to cause my brain to overload. It is hard to process that the woman I see in the mirror is what has become to the woman I hold near and dear to my heart.
Some days I feel that the remembrance of who I was only serves to make me more discontent in the present. Other days my residual self is an inspiration of who I may be again-one day. Other days I am fairly sure that I will land somewhere in the middle. After all, even without RA I am no longer in my 20’s. That girl is gone for good. But what I hope, what I pray, is for the new self that I am slowly building to be better than who I used to be. I will be wiser, emotionally stronger, more loving, and more supportive to those around me. I want health more than the perfect body. I want depth. I want a new better me more than I want to return to who I used to be.
Are you ready?
Those three words seem to be on my mind a lot lately. I was having my annual discussion with a group of friends about where we vow to be in bikini shape for summer. This is the same conversation we have had every January for the past three years. We start out enthusiastic for the first few weeks of the New Year only to see our commitment to a healthy lifestyle wane in the weeks leading up to summer. We find reasons why ice cream with lunch is ok 2 or 3 times a week. We begin sharing new restaurant choices rather than swapping workout stories. By June we find ourselves in the same place we were the year before. Unhappy with the extra weight and self -conscious about the more revealing clothes during the summer, we always vow that next year will be different.
Yesterday I realized that I had changed. Even if I didn’t have the support of my friends I was ready to stop making excuses about my weight and lack of physical fitness. I understood that I was finally ready to get serious and do what I know that I need to do to get this weight off once and for all. Not because I want to wear a bikini this summer (even though I do) but because I am tired of being unhealthy.
I had this resolution in the back of my mind when I went to my appointment with my rheumatologist. I was honest with him in letting him know that although I wasn’t doing bad I wasn’t doing as well as I had been doing in the past. He asked me was I ready to increase my dose of MTX to 25mg? And I said yes. Part of me being healthy is taking care of my disease. I had been dreading this increase in medication as some sort of failure on my part. But sitting in his office today I had better clarity. I had to make a choice for health-which means getting this disease under control before I end up in a prolonged and painful flare. I will now be injecting .5 ml of MTX two times a week. This is the best choice for my health.
So today I can say with conviction that I am finally ready to make the changes in my diet, work out plan, and drug regimen that are needed to keep me healthy. I am no longer waiting for a support system to get on board with my plans. After all- I have the most to lose if I do not support and nurture my health. Who knows, maybe my decision to move on ahead of them will inspire them to catch up.