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.
Sometimes the dark clouds come and surround me. They obliterate the sun and the blue sky making it seem as though darkness is all that I have left. Every pain seems amplified, every disappointment deeper, and the future feels like a fairytale that is told to small children put them to sleep at night. And finally, the clouds seem to block out all reason and threaten to silence the hope for a better tomorrow. But I’ve been here before. No matter what my senses tell me I know this will pass. Things will get better. The sun is still shining even if I can’t see it or feel its warmth. I must not succumb to the feeling of emptiness and despair. I must not let this season to cause me to tear down the progress I’ve made thus far. I must live like the bright future is around the corner even if I can’t see it. I must have faith. I will prepare for tomorrow.
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.
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.
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!