Determination

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.

How I’m NOT Eating

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.

Counting

So I’m back to counting calories.  After all, it is the tried and true method in weight loss.  I read somewhere that all diets, no matter how they are packaged, at their core are different methods to reduce calorie consumption.  Whether it is eliminating calorie dense foods such as carbs or highly processed foods the net effect is calorie reduction. Eating more than your caloric output, no matter how healthy or low carb the foods are, will end with weight gain. So I have decided keep a food diary and record the approximate calorie count of everything I eat and drink.  My handy dandy Lose It! app has been a great tool in doing this.  It has set my calorie count at 1406 daily and if I add exercise I get to “eat back” those calories-which is a great motivator to get off my butt and do something even when I don’t feel like it.

Does this mean that I am done eating clean?  NO!  Clean eating, for me, is about making sure that I get the nourishment my body needs.  I want to reduce the non-food elements in my diet.  I don’t believe eating a diet high in man-made foods is the best for MY body.  I believe that I will be healthier overall if I get my nutrients from whole foods rather than enriched foods.  But while eating clean will be a clean element in my return to health, it will no longer be what I rely on for weight loss.  For the weight loss portion of my journey to health I think tracking my calories is my best option.

Still Here

Runners Take Your Mark

Runners Take Your Mark (Photo credit: Dru Bloomfield – At Home in Scottsdale)

Wow!  It’s been a while.  I’ve thought about blogging often but life (mainly work) has been getting in the way.  But on the plus side, I have not abandoned my journey to health.  Last month I signed up to walk the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis. I’m really excited because this will be my first 5K ever!  No, I won’t be running.  I am not in good enough shape to even think about running.  Besides, as many arthritis sufferers know winter is not when we are at our peak.  Even though I am in “training” and I’m practicing walking 3 times a week I know my December 7 5K will be a challenge physically.  But I am still very enthusiastic about raising money to help find a cure for arthritis while improving my physical fitness at the same time.

I have discovered some interesting health related discoveries while I have been away.  I have been researching normal weight obesity, intermittent fasting, and resumed counting calories.  This doesn’t mean I have abandoned my goal of eating mostly clean, but the excess weight needs to go now.  I have set the small goal to lose 15 lbs by Christmas this year as a gift to myself. It’s doable.  I just have to apply myself and use every trick in my arsenal to get there.  I don’t want to do any fancy cleanse or fad diet that will have me regaining the 15 plus 5 more in a matter of months.  I am looking for habits that I can use throughout my weight loss and health journey.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Residual Self-Image

poster for The Matrix

poster for The Matrix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Ready

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.

Being Silly

English: A pill box with various medications i...

English: A pill box with various medications in it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am finally going of vacation!  It’s not a huge deal, but a friend I are spending the weekend shopping and eating great food.  Nothing overly fancy but it’s a nice excuse to get out of the area and do something fun.  I’m not too worried about navigating the big bad city for shopping.  I’m not even worried about my feet and knees taking the punishment of going from store to store in search of a great pair of shoes.  The thing that has given me pause is probably the silliest and most vain thing possible.  I am kind of embarrassed at taking my meds with me on the trip.

I know that sounds completely shallow and it is.  My medications allow me to function somewhat normally. I tend to downplay and discomfort that may be noticed by others and on those occasions when I cannot hide my disease I lock myself inside my apartment until I can.  Very few people who know me think of me as having anything more than a limp from time to time.  Yes, they may mention a RA drug commercial they see from time to time but I make an effort to let very few people into the private battle that I fight on the daily basis.

But spending time with my friend on vacation means that this shroud that I have placed around my daily fight with an autoimmune disease will be ripped away.  I will take my MTX injection early and not split the dosage.  So instead of bringing a syringe and bottle of chemo with me I will take the full dosage earlier in the week.  But I still have to take my daily plaquenil along with the folic acid and Vitamin D.  They will be in their normal Sunday-Saturday pill box.  I will also be taking a new bottle of A.dvil.  I have my rheumatologist’s permission to take an insane amount of the stuff to control pain and swelling which is a probability during this shopping excursion.  There is a possibility that my swollen hands and toes will be on display.  There is a chance that I will not be able to hide my chronic illness.  My friend knows that I have RA-but she may really know after this trip.  And for some reason this leaves me feeling exposed.  Silly I know, but true.

For now I will focus on shopping which I love.  I will eat great food-which I love.  And I will enjoy this girls weekend with a friend of over 15 years.  And I will hope and pray that the one thing I leave at home on this vacation is my chronic illness!