I don’t know if I have mentioned it here on this blog or not (I believe I have) but recently I have been working at changing some bad lifestyle habits and adding in good ones. I am using the word ‘lifestyle’ here because these are life-long habits I’ve been in, and more importantly, life-long ones that I am developing…it’s a lot more all-encompassing than the word ‘diet’.
First off, I’d like to say that I am under close doctor supervision, before anyone emails me to say I should be. I really am. I am seen every three months (or more often, judging on how the appointment went) and can get in to talk to my doctor whenever I need to (I am Native American and have great insurance benefits as a result of that.) I have a general practitioner I fully trust, a psychiatrist who has been supervising my treatment for nearly seven years, and an LCSW who is a great help to me and works hand in hand with my other doctors. I know this is a long introduction, but the point is, I do not recommend that anyone tackle the things I am about to discuss on their own – doctor supervision is important, and please seek professional advice, don’t just blindly trust what you read online as the definitive answer to any of your problems!
Whew, now that that is over, let’s get to the good stuff!
First of all, I weigh 179 lbs. Yes, I am brave enough to post that here, because I know that not very many people read this blog! (Also, I generally have no secrets and tell complete strangers whatever they want to know about me, in general terms anyway. It’s just how I am. Personality flaw.) Anyway, up until October 4th, I weighed 190. I have spent the past few weeks working hard, and have lost some weight as a result of that. More importantly, my clothes are fitting me better than ever – I even had to go buy smaller pants – and, most importantly, I can now walk 5 miles in 30 minutes, and my heart feels stronger and healthier.
That is the main reason I have started on this lifestyle change journey – to be healthy. I don’t want to be stick thin, I don’t want to be a skeleton, I just want to be fit and able to feel good about my fitness levels. My goal is to be as healthy as possible by February, 2011, as that is my next set appointment with my doctor to go over my cholesterol levels, and I want to see vast improvements in that area as well as my weight. Ideally, I’d love to get down to 130 or so, but again, I am not getting wrapped up in the importance of numbers. I’ll tell you why.
When I was a kid, I got picked on a lot for being too skinny. Most of the time I was the skinniest girl in my grade. It wasn’t until I got to junior high and started developing certain girly curves that I finally felt like I belonged, that I was no longer just the string bean with crazy hair. I finally looked normal, average, and that made me happy.
In high school I weighed about 120 at the most, even with a sizable chest. I never felt fat, but I never felt fit and toned, either. I remember complaining about how I could barely walk a mile without getting winded. My arms felt flabby and my stomach was never the firm, rippled surface that it could have been. Still, my overall body was fine, so I never put any effort into working out.
Also, in high school I realized I had a definite eating issue. Eating was certainly an area where I had a lot of obsessions and ignorance. There was no such thing as breakfast in our house; we’d have juice at school at the mid morning break if we had money and time. We qualified for free cafeteria lunches, but since eating in the cafeteria was for losers, I would often skip lunch as well as breakfast. It wasn’t until school let out and I was back home that I’d actually eat. I’d usually have sugared tea and a sandwich, and then not be hungry for dinner, which was usually a very unappetizing event anyway. I spent a lot of time purposely ignoring the fact that I was hungry and not eating enough.
As an adult, I gained a little more weight under my mother in law’s cooking habits. I weighed about 140 when I got married, and six months later we were overjoyed to find out I was pregnant. At this point in life, I’d been lifting weights here and there and running occasionally, but never seriously attempted to get in shape. I thought I was fine. Well, it turns out, pregnancy changed my life, and not in the way you’d think.
The day I found out I was pregnant, I weighed 150 pounds. Six weeks later I was hospitalized in a nearly comatose state. The treating physician was shocked when she put me on the scale – the number read 117. Four days later, it read 106, and before things got better, I was down to 98 pounds. I had a rare pregnancy disease called HG (another post on that coming someday) and it basically meant that I threw up about 6 times an hour, every hour, around the clock. I got grooves in the back of my front teeth from throwing up so often. It was horrific. A close guesstimate of how many times each day I was sick would be around 144 times. There was no relief, nothing helped, not even the newest medicines on the market. They put me on a PIC line IV and sent me home. Eventually, the HG disappeared and left me a wrung out, twisted up, pregnant rag doll. It wasn’t attractive, as you can see:
5 months pregnant
That’s me (a terrible quality scan of me, sorry for that) at just over 5 months pregnant. I only gained about fifteen pounds more than this the entire time I was pregnant. I never really even looked pregnant. It’s really sad to think about, especially since I was told I could never have more children because the chances were that the disease would be even more destructive than it had been the first time.
The disease had eaten through all of my fat stores and attacked my muscles. I suffered permanent kidney and liver damage, which have caused no serious complications in later life, which I am thankful for. To top it all off, I never really recovered fully before giving birth two and a half months early to a perfectly healthy little girl who weighed 5.4 lbs and was absolutely wonderful.
Now I was in a totally new situation – I was kind of like an invalid who’s suddenly been told she’s completely healthy now, and has a baby to take care of as well. I didn’t know how to develop healthy habits at this point in life, and even if I’d thought of it, this was before I met my doctors and had the support system I now have. I literally had no where to turn and no idea of what to look for in any case. I managed to get back on my feet a little at a time, but never took the time to work on getting a healthy body. It was survival, and that was all I could manage.
About a year after my daughter was born I was diagnosed with PTSD from the difficult pregnancy and traumatic birth, and entered treatment. At the time, there was so much to treat mentally and emotionally that there was no time or energy left over for me to concentrate on the physical side of things. Also, I didn’t really feel that I was in any physical danger anymore, so I didn’t see a need to work on that area.
Over the next few years there were a lot of battles in my life. PTSD was the tip of the iceberg as far as diagnosis go. Add to it General Anxiety Disorder, Acute Panic Disorder, OCD, Agoraphobia, and EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) and you will have my full list of disorders. EDNOS is the most recent of them and the one I am currently trying to understand, as it effects my daily eating habits and seems to contribute the most to the problems I am dealing with now.
Along the way, I tried a few different medicines to help counteract some of these chemical disturbances my brain was going through. One of them, Paxil CR, worked for a while, even helped me quit smoking and stop having the constant panic attacks. But I’d find myself waking up in the middle of the night to eat because I was starving. Suddenly I was eating three and four and even five times a day, which was totally foreign to my life at all, and for once, I wasn’t even trying to eat things that were good for me. I’d have pizza and ice cream for breakfast and a cheeseburger for lunch! It was a ridiculous way to cope with the emotional stress I was under, and the medicine didn’t help. Eventually, I switched prescriptions, but not before gaining over 60 pounds in a year.
For another two years I was so consumed with chronic anxiety issues that my physical health went unnoticed. In the back of my mind I knew I had a problem that was getting bigger by the day, literally, but it was easier to ignore it rather than try to fight it and fail. I was sick and tired of being a failure at life, and didn’t want to add one more thing to the list of things I’d never be able to accomplish. I came up with dozens of reasons why I was suddenly fat, and equally as many reasons as to why I couldn’t change that or help it.
Fast forward to September’s doctor appointment. Up until then I’d managed to laugh off my weight gain. However, seeing 190 pounds on the scale made me literally sick to my stomach. And hearing my doctor’s concern over my cholesterol levels and lack of exercise finally made me realize I couldn’t hide any longer. There was no longer any other disease, disorder or abnormality to fight against; the biggest problem, finally, was actually with my own body, not just my brain.
So now I am a recovering hide and seek player who really needs to get stuff together in a hurry. And I need to do so without becoming compulsively obsessed or mentally unbalanced. So you can see why numbers are not the focus of my objective – I have been on both ends of the spectrum, from far too skinny to far too heavy, and I have realized that for me, and for the way I operate, worrying about the scale isn’t going to be a motivator. I find myself weighing in three separate times a day and if I’ve gained a half a pound, I panic; if I’ve lost half a pound, I also lose my appetite, as I don’t want to eat too much and send the scale rising again.
The other side of this coin is that the EDNOS is something I am trying to ignore, but it’s slow going. I can’t help thinking along the anorexic lines – “If I don’t eat anything I won’t get fat” – which ultimatley leads to the bulemic thought process – “I have to eat now, I am so starving, and everything looks so great, so I’ll overeat and worry about it later”. It is very hard to develop a balanced view of eating when you aren’t sure what the view should be! We are constantly told to eat less to lose weight, but in my case, I need to actually eat more (or, more correctly, make healthier choices and eat more often) to lose weight, and that is something I can’t wrap my head around.
So, for the past twenty days, I have been concentrating instead on making working out a daily habit. I do around 40 minutes of cardio every day. Then I do strength training for about 20 minutes, and if I have any strength left after that, I like to do a few yoga moves. It’s a lot of time to commit, but I keep thinking that this is supposed to be for life, and at the rate I am going, I won’t have much of a life to speak of. So it’s worth devoting the time to my future, now!
It’s only been twenty days but I feel so much stronger and healthier. I am learning to love being sweaty and out of breath; it is so nice to get sweaty and breathless on purpose rather than out of a panic attack. It’s an empowering feeling of control that is better than anything I’ve dealt with lately.
I still have a lot of work to do, a lot of steps to make, but to make this one feels wonderful!