Better Than Better!

I am so freaking healthy right now I ought to have a show on OWN. Not just physically healthy either, mentally as well. I think I’ve finally let go of the grief that was holding me back. I don’t know that I did anything too special to get through it other than sit in the time of it, you know? I feel like college me: free and adventurous and invincible!

This post will be about better health. I’ve made some changes and I am just now starting to reap the benefits.

About 3.5 years ago my carpool joined a gym. We decided to keep each other accountable and made a commitment to miss no more that 3 days in a row of working out. I’ve been faithful to that however I have only seen about 6 pounds of weight loss. Even during holidays I would run up stairs, do crunches or yoga videos or something so I wouldn’t miss days. My eating is decent (always room for improvement) and I log everything I eat. I went to several doctors and my final consensus is doctors don’t know a lot. One tells me to cut my calories to 1500/day which leaves me listless, hungry and irritable. Another tells me to exercise more. When? I am already going to the gym for 1-1.5 hours a day 4-6 times a week! I do cardio, yoga and weights just like I’m supposed to. I wear a fit bit tracker and I’m getting 7000-10000 steps in per day. I spend a good deal of time fixing my fresh meals. And I have a job. When am I supposed to get more exercise in? While I’m sleeping? And honestly, if one more person tells me muscle is heavier than fat, they will get a personal demonstration of that fact.

So, since doctors are virtually no help at all in the area – they mainly just spout off the common advice and chalk any lack of results up to patient error – it was up to me to find the reasons why I wasn’t losing weight. I first started with the obvious – thyroid. I do have nearly all the symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Chronic fatigue, inability to concentrate, weakness, inability to lose weight, cold extremities, cold hands and feet, low immune system, tenderness in the neck, sore throat, vertigo, ringing in ears, hair loss, thinning eyebrows and lashes, vision issues, easy to bruise, slow wound healing, tingling limbs, joint pain, lactose intolerance, new allergies, anemia, shortness of breath. There are more, but these are the ones I wrote down. I visited 3 doctors and none of them looked at the list even though I tried to hand it to them. What they would say is, “these will probably all go away once you lose weight.”

All my thyroid tests came back in the normal range. A nurse friend explained that my thyroid may be in decline and I’m still in the normal range for the time being. I decided not to use any of the natural thyroid replacement supplements you can buy over the counter as they are expensive and the active ingredients and results seem to vary widely. I opted to try a course of essential oil therapy first because it was relatively cheap and not invasive. If it didn’t work I wasn’t going to grow a 3rd eye or something. I apply myrrh essential oil neat (undiluted) directly to my neck 5 nights a week before bed. During the day I use a combination of oils (lemongrass, frankincense, clove) in a carrier oil. What I can say is my eyebrows grew back and I felt less tired.

You have to be careful when looking for medical information on the internet. Check 5-10 different sites and you’ll see that most articles use the same source material. They’re not actually giving advice based on their own research, but merely parroting someone else’s. So you have to be prepared to do a lot of digging to get to some form of the truth.

Next I decided to add maca root to my diet. Maca root is a Peruvian tuber that is most used for female fertility and male virility issues. It also helps to balance out the hormones. I figured my hormones were slightly out of whack because I was maybe starting menopause, but the addition of maca root (start small, I’m up to 1 teaspoon a day) brought everything back to normal for me. There are some claims that it helps build muscle quickly but I’ve not seen that. I am building muscle but not disproportionately to the amount of weights I’m doing. I get my maca root in the powdered form from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Lastly I’ve added magnesium to my diet and lifestyle. I use magnesium oil transdermally on my lower back and as a deodorant (today’s discovery? This is not good when the temp is 90 degrees and you’re out for a walk.) I also take about a half a teaspoon of magnesium powder in water each evening before bed. I don’t know what that it’s made a difference, but I seem better able to let things roll off my back. I feel happier.

The final thing I’m doing is avoiding the news. It’s one I’m having a hard time with because I like to be informed, but bad news has a very debilitating effect on me. I’m the kind of person who has to dive for the remote every time that Sarah McLachlan commercial with the abused animals comes on, so wars and crimes tend to stick with me for weeks at a time. I’m better off avoiding it. Which means I feel stupid in conversations about current events, but my overall happiness makes up for that about 60% of the time. The other 40% I can usually manage to throw in an opinion or change the subject.

So, I’ve incorporated 4 minor changes to my life and I feel better. Not 100% but close to. I wake up happy and thankful and I have a positive outlook for the future. I feel healthy and strong. I’ll talk more about the emotional aspect in another post.

Off the Wagon (observations)

I’ve been eating badly for about the past month. Lots of things I have been trying very hard to avoid. I’ve given myself a bit of grace about it – I was working through a lot, plus I never stopped working out. However, what I have noticed is quite eye-opening. How ever did I function when I was eating this way ALL the time?! I’m tired, listless, my stomach hurts most days and my skin looks bad.  This is the catalyst to reform. I’ll get back on track and continue to move forward, but I think it’s interesting that sometimes you don’t know how bad you feel until you can compare it to feeling better.

Another observation is, although I’ve stepped up my workouts in an attempt to boost the weight loss, it hasn’t been enough to offset the bad diet.  I have less stamina. Yoga is more difficult. I get tired a half hour into Zumba.  My previous thing was that I could eat just about whatever I wanted and, as long as I exercised regularly, I could lose weight. Yeah, we call that our 20s.  Now I need to be more observant; more deliberate. And it’s a pain in the tuckus.

So. Back to veggies and brown rice. Back to oatmeal. Back to non-fat yogurt and fruit. Back to treats on the weekends only. Back to

Better: Eating Habits

cupcake saucersI need to improve my relationship with food.  Right now we are co-dependent and dysfunctional. The problem is I pretty much like everything about food – I like to smell it, read about it, see pictures of it, talk about it and, of course, eat it. It has not been treating me well. Lately I’ve turned up with dye allergies and an intolerance for lactose (which is just about killing me, btw!) I’ve decided to treat it as though my body is giving me a warning sign about what will eventually get me sicker than I ever planned to be in my old age.

There’s a ton of diets out there, but I don’t want a diet. Mainly because they don’t work. Ever noticed the bottom of those weight loss commercials where women are dancing and laughing because they lost 80 pounds on Jenny or Medi-Fast or Weight Watchers? That fine print is always the same: “Results not typical.” What that means to me is that a diet plan will work for a bit, but if you want a major, permanent change, you’ve got to do the work upstairs first. Unfortunately.

I’ve been working out for a year now and my pants are big, I’m fitting into 1-2 sizes smaller, but I’ve only lost six pounds! Ask for advice and it’s crazy the amount of conflicting ideas there are out there. I’ve been told to increase my cardio, my protein, my weights. I’ve tried to lower the carbs, exchange the bad fats for good, Cut out fruit. Add more fruit. Work out more. Work out less. Eat several small meals per day. Eat two good sized meals per day and a snack. Eat more nuts and legumes and fiber. Drink more water.  The list goes on. Still – six stupid pounds.

What I’ve decided is that we are all unique. My body has signaled to me that it doesn’t like processed foods, artificial colors and milk sugar. Your body may not like chocolate or peanuts. What I think this means is that we all process food differently. If a paleo based diet works for you, that doesn’t mean it will work for me.  The best thing I can do to capitalize this journey is to learn to read my body signals. I’m going through a trial and error process.

So far I’ve learned if I have a big, protein filled, low sugar breakfast I will not be hungry until lunchtime. I started by having oatmeal with peanut butter (the good kind, not the delicious kind with the preservatives and sugar) and apples. It’s the rolled oats variety. I make a big bowl in the microwave in the morning and it is rib-sticking good.  Sometimes I’ll add a little apple butter for sweetness. I’ve also had a sprouted wheat bagel with peanut butter and slices of fruit.  This all carries me through to lunch. However, this week I’ve been putting homemade jam on my morning bagel (with the PB, too!) and I notice I snack more. On the weekends I don’t worry overmuch about breakfast. I don’t want to turn into one of those people who is constantly aware of every calorie they ingest. My apologies, if you are that sort of person, but truthfully, it’s absolutely annoying. I dated a guy who was all, “150 calories in that bread. 400 calories in that sandwich.” It was like going out with a less exciting version of my doctor.

When did we get to be the type of people who let others dictate what we should eat and how we should maintain our weight? When did we lose our good common sense? We should know what foods are good for us and what foods are bad and we should be able to eat what we want as long as it is for the right reason and we maintain self-control.

Today I will listen to my body. I do not have to eat until I am full. I will learn moderation.

Better Fitness: Zumba

I’ve always said if I could just dance all the time, I wouldn’t have a weight problem.  Every so often I will look up dance studios and try to find classes but either the cost is prohibitive or the times aren’t right or the types of classes offered in the evenings just aren’t good for me.  Last March I joined 24 Hour Fitness with some friends and the agreement that we would not go more than two days without hitting the gym.

Here it is almost a year later and, while I keep managing to lose and gain the same 6 pounds (I’m choosing not to dwell on that), I am wearing clothes that did not fit a year ago. My routine is this:

Monday: Zumba
Tuesday: Weights
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: short workout, cardio (usually 30 minutes on the elliptical, interval)
Friday: no workout – go dancing
Saturday: Yoga
Sunday: Rest with yoga in the evening if I feel like it.

I need to fit in another day of weights. The most logical place to put it is on Saturday, but I always feel so languid after yoga that I don’t want to lose that bendy-loosey feeling. Sure, I could do weights before yoga, but let’s get real. I barely make the 11am class. Or I could count Friday as cardio and do weights on Thursday instead. I tried this last week, and it was okay.  It’s just that I get to the gym late on that day and weights seem a little, for lack of a better word, heavy at 8pm.

My Zumba class on Monday is a little insane.  The first time we took it, I thought I was gonna die. It’s so beyond high impact, I can barely describe it. I was waiting to write this post until a video that was shot in my class was available, but it’s been a long while and no vid.  I found one on YouTube featuring my instructor, but it doesn’t really give a true picture of the intensity of the class.  I was talking to one of the people taking the class (we get in line about 40 minutes early) and she had mentioned wearing a Body Bugg during one of Alicia’s classes and the calorie burn is in the 900 calorie range as compared to the typical 600-700 calorie that’s advertised.

It’s a fun workout. Emphasis on the “workout”.  I’ve burned so many calories that I’m starving when I get home. I eat food while I’m preparing food! It’s good cardio and helps build your stamina. However, I have a difficult time doing other instructor’s classes because they don’t seem to move fast enough for me. I think this is the reason why a bunch of people in my Monday class follow her all around San Diego to wherever she’s teaching.

 

Better Body: Kettlebells

Been working out regularly since April of this year. Three of us from work have formed Team Hardcore. Our only rule is not to go more than two days without a work out. We’ve been rather faithful.

I started out with elliptical machine for 20-40 minutes with zumba and yoga once a week. Once I learned that weights help you build muscle which, in turn, helps you burn calories more efficiently even when you’re not exercising, I had to add weights.

I keep the routine pretty loosey-goosey. I’m not one who can keep the same routine day in and out. I have to be able to change it up according to mood. I also like the most amount of calories burned in the least amount of time. So weights, being that muscle mass will help me to burn calories even at rest, was a no-brainer. It worked! My body changed faster with the addition of weights.

Then I found out about kettlebells.

I read a story in a book or magazine about a woman who had over 100 pounds to lose. She started working out, machines and such, just as I did. As her body started changing and she became more fit, she wanted to keep up the rapid pace of weight loss and tone her arms and legs. She started doing kettlebells and a 15-20 minute workout yielded arms like Michelle Obama’s. Sold!

Check YouTube for kettlebell videos to get started. There’s a lot of really bad ones out there, but be patient and search for one that shows you the proper stance and form for at least 3 exercises.