Nursing Myself Back to Health

There are probably few women my age that have not tested a myriad of diets. We jump from one promise to the next–hoping somehow that the weight loss lasts, but the harsh restrictions are only temporary. We want to lose the weight–quickly, please; then resume the standard American diet that helped us to get into that situation in the first place.

It is that cycle of deprivation and binging that exhausted our adrenals, destroyed our thyroids, and now has made it almost impossible to lose any weight–regardless of what new forms of self-torture we can come up with.

So, what is the answer. Well, to be honest, it is just not simply finding the one diet that keeps its promise of life long weight loss. It is about trial and error, listening to your body, really watching for clues to how certain foods either heal or hurt your body. What might work for you, may not help your best friend, and vise-versa.

I do strongly believe in a short term elimination diet. One example is the Whole30 diet. It is the one that I tried–but I don’t think it is the only one that suggests (again temporarily) that you strictly limit the types of food that you eat–in this case for at least 30 days. Then–maybe even more importantly, you reintroduce foods to see how your body will handle them. Done correctly, it is a slow, thoughtful process. You avoid wheat (gluten) for 30 days, then you put it back into your diet for a few days. How do you feel? Do you notice any signs of your fatigue or brain fog resurfacing? And that is pretty much how it works. I am not going to outline the entire program here, because there is plenty of information in books, blogs and websites.

Instead, what I want to stress is listening to the results. You will find that there are some foods you have been eating that just don’t work for you. Leave them out of your diet, and you will return to health. Ignore your body and eat what you want and any positive results will not last.

How does one become an Outlier? Listen to your body, and feed it what it needs. When you get off track–get back on track. It is that simple. I am not perfect–and you bet there are times that I wallow back to my old ways of eating. I think that it will just be one thing, or one meal, or one day. And soon, it has been several days or a week or more. But then it starts to impact other areas of my life. I can’t sleep as well, my joints start to hurt, so my running gets harder, my stomach is upset. Then I realize I have to get back on my plan.


The Thyroid

Chiropractic care starts out with x-rays and an evaluation, followed by several sessions of manipulation before settling into a regular, monthly standing appointment to kept things in check. I still go monthly and find that I am immediately able to tell when things are out of line. Once in a while, I have to schedule an additional appointment or at least a sooner appointment to get back on track. I think this is probably normal, but since I try to run on a regular basis, I don’t like to take chances and wait for the monthly visit.

It was discouraging when after a few months of regular care, the shoulder pain came back. It really continued to come back once in awhile for about the first year. I distinctly remember taking a few hour road trip by myself the one time the pain affected both shoulders at the same time. Fortunately the overlap was only a couple of hours at night and not while I was actually driving.

It was around this time that I started reading about adrenal fatigue and thyroid issues.  It was like a light went on for me for the first time in years. I had never heard the term “Brain Fog,” but I immediately knew what it was–I experienced it every day! I was truly exhausted. What’s more–it didn’t matter if I was sleeping twelve hours each night and napping in the afternoon, my body had nothing in it. I read article after article about the adrenals and thyroid. I think I had maxed them out like a credit card. I needed to find a way to fix it.



Weight Loss

I noted that I started off 2013 without any resolution to lose weight. I changed my mind early in the spring–before the back and shoulder pain issues even started. I had two weddings to attend that summer, so I decided I would be much happier if I shed some pounds before that. The first wedding was scheduled for the end of June–throwing out any idea of a reasonable attempt, I decided to aim to lose 30 pounds by the June wedding, and an additional 20 for the late August date. I felt confident that this would not be an issue. I had always been successful in my weight LOSS endeavors. It was keeping off the weight that was the problem–as it is for most people.

I signed up for the online Weight Watchers points program. I followed it strictly throughout the month of April and was devastated when the month ended with little to no weight loss. Seriously–I was religious about following the program–no cheats–and no weight loss.

I am not blaming Weight Watchers. This program, like any other can work in the short term. I can remember laughing and telling my sister that I was a member of the Diet-of-the-Month Club. Could do Weight Watchers one month, Adkins the next, and a round of South Beach–losing a little bit each time. I did the cabbage soup diet for about 3 days before I vomited in my soup bowl. Then I moved on to the lemonade diet. And the guilt-ridden Weigh Down Workshop, where suddenly, my weight was more about deep-seated sin than it was about calories.

Once, I remember successfully following Adkins for several months–then joining Curves, where I started a regular exercise program and threw the diet out the window. Every month I attended curves, I gained weight. I finally told the owner that I had no interest in weighing any more. She talked me into a Curves Weight Loss group and soon, the weight started to drop again.

Let’s face it, the diet industry makes their money off of attempts and failures much more than it does off of success stories. How many commercials or ads do you see that tell a story of weight loss and at the same time, the words–“Results not typical,” are scrolling across the screen? The problem, though, was not in the program. I had come to the place women have been warned about for a long time–“Yo-yo dieting is a terrible idea–eventually, you will mess your metabolism up to the point that you will no longer be able to lose weight.”

Had I arrived here already?

Were there no other chances for me?

Maybe it was a good thing that I had to take my focus off of the weight loss and deal with the issues of pain for awhile.

Turning for Help

My first visit to the chiropractor was a typical first visit, I imagine. I described the symptoms I’d been experiencing and thought that she would immediately tell me what the issue was and how she could fix it. She didn’t. She listened, she examined, took x-rays, etc. I don’t even remember if I had an adjustment on my first visit. I was disappointed when I left–if she didn’t know what was wrong–would she be able to fix it?

I have to back up a little bit and explain that my mom had started having some serious health issues when she was in her early 50’s. She was diagnosed with polymyalgia. She, too, had these random issues with pain. She also had extreme exhaustion and anemia. She started getting blood transfusions on a regular basis. Sometimes as often as every couple of weeks.

I think when I picked my mom up and drove hours to bring her back, I started to wonder if I was headed down the same path she had been on for years. The thoughts were there, but I don’t think I actually worried about it. I don’t know if that means I was resigned to it, or if it just really did not sink in. I do know that at this point, I was not even aware of how exhausted I was.

It seemed like the chiropractor care was working. I had several visits, and I went a few weeks without pain issues. In fact, I never had the back issues again. I remember after going to the chiropractor for a month or so that the shoulder pain came back. It was discouraging to say the least. I tried to box my doctor in on what the problem was, but she still didn’t offer any easy answers. The fact was that I was in bad shape and it was not going to be solved over night. And she was not going to make me think that it was.

And a Little Worse

By the time I arrived home from our trip, my right shoulder was in extreme pain when I made any attempt to move it. It was ok if I let it stay still, but any attempt to use it caused pain to shoot through the entire arm and shoulder. The next morning I had a quick freelance photo assignment, but my arm was still a mess. I wore a jacket and kept my right arm inside the pocket, using it only when I had to (by manually putting it into place with my left arm, shooting a photo, and manually returning it to the pocket). I got through the assignment and again, by the end of the day, noticed the pain starting to subside.

Over the next several weeks, I experienced the pain in either my right or left shoulder. It lasted in a 3-day cycle–day 1: I felt the pain coming on, day 2: the pain was almost unbearable, day 3: the pain started to subside. It was weird.

It is difficult to explain the embarrassment that comes along with health issues. When you are overweight, you feel like every health problem is a result of being overweight. It is was so hard to reach out for help, because I felt like it was my fault for being in the situation I was in. And if I put myself there, it was my responsibility to get myself out.

There are a lot of reasons people gain weight or have trouble sticking to a diet. Or lose weight only to gain it all back. I don’t believe anyone wants to be there-that they are lazy. It is just not as simple as “Eat Less, Move More.”

It was summer now. My mom seemed to be adjusting well, but did not drive at all, so I was responsible for her as well as for the family and work. I had waited long enough to seek help, and I finally started with an appointment to the chiropractor.

It was my first step back to health.

Things Get Worse Before They Get Better

Not too much changed after bringing my mom back to the area–except that now in addition to the kids, husband and work, I also had my mom living with me. The fact that we did not have a spare bedroom meant that for the time being, she was camped in the living room. This made things particularly interesting because anytime I moved through the house, she was there to catch me–maybe to do something for her, but more often that not, just to talk, to tell me something, to reminisce about something. I was already physically exhausted–I was now becoming mentally exhausted as well.

She had no money when she came to live with us-she did however, have a steady flow of regular income, and it took less than a month to get her moved into her own place, not far from our home. The next few months were spent getting her adjusted into her new space, finding affordable furnishings and getting her medical situation under control. For me, stress and exhaustion were beginning to cave in on me.

In May, as we prepared to travel a few hours south for a long weekend, I woke up with a sharp pain in my back. The pain was so intense, I struggled to even breathe. It didn’t make any difference if I stood, sat or even lay down–it failed to subside for even a moment. Rather than scrap our plans, we went ahead and went away. We were meeting family to celebrate my nephew’s high school graduation, and were spending the day walking around the zoo and going out to eat. I knew that I was going to be in pain no matter what I did, so I didn’t feel there was any point in changing plans. Part of my reasoning was that I did not want to explain the pain. After all, there was no cause–I had not been injured– I hadn’t fallen or been hit or anything. How do you explain an intense pain that comes out of nowhere?  The weekend continued with the pain gradually subsiding. As we drove home on Sunday, the pain was nearly gone from my back as it slowly crept into my right shoulder. Seriously. I did not know what was going on, but while we drove closer and closer to home, my shoulder ached.

To be continued. . .

Winter 2012/2013

In January of 2013, I caught the flu. Not the stomach flu–the actual coughing, body-aching, head-throbbing, fever-filled flu. I had never had it before, and was shocked at how miserable I felt. In truth, I had been sick most of the winter–it seemed I went from one bad cold to the next. I had never had to rely on an alarm clock, but now I needed one each day to rouse me from a dead sleep. By 2pm, I was done for the day, coming up with some lame excuse to stop work early day after day. Even drinking coffee all day didn’t help. I could drink coffee with dinner and still fall asleep on the couch by 7pm–not making it up to bed until sometime in the middle of the night.

In January, my mom, who had been living many hours away called and asked that I come and pick her up immediately. She and my brother had had a confrontation, and she was ready to move back home. I had to tell her no. I was embarrassed–I was literally too sick to make the drive–This was honestly the first time in my life I can remember having a fever. I knew that I was too weak to drive. I gave myself a day to recover before I made the nine hour drive to retrieve her and her belongings.

The strange thing is, that at the time, I did not even realize that this was not normal. That a 45-year-old woman should not be falling asleep every night at 7pm; that I should have been able to work and take care of dinner and do the running necessary for the kids.

To be continued. . .