nutrition

My WW Story

WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers. “Wellness that works.” What finally drove me to sign up for a weight loss program after decades of self-sufficient obesity?

Pain.

Not just any pain. A very particular kind of nerve pain. Specifically in my left foot. More accurately, the top of my foot…with periodic zaps of electricity pricking the sole of my foot from the inside out,

The top of my foot is so hypersensitized right now that the hem of my pant leg feels like a jagged, splintered shard of glass scraping across it.

Fun stuff.

According to the doctor it’s a rare condition called Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. Like Carpal Tunnel, but, in the foot.

Yay me! I have a knack for the unusual when it comes to pain and injury. A few years ago, I fell and gave myself a spiral sprain. That’s usually something athletes get, not the general population. But, that’s another story for another time.

The doctor laid out my options:

Gabapentin – an anticonvulsant sometimes used to treat a wide array of mood disorders with some extreme (but rare) side effects like agitation, increased libido, and mania…Sounds like it could trigger a manic episode and I’m already taking four different psych meds to manage the bipolar, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. No. Thank. You.

Surgery – I’m a single mom, struggling to parent my High Functioning Autistic child who also experiences ADHD. I also live upstairs. I can’t afford an extended recovery period from surgical intervention.

Weight Loss – the universal answer to whatever ails you if you carry excess fat on your body, Don’t EVEN get me started! However, it was the most viable of my three options.

Initially, I doubted I could effectively transition from a life so sedentary that my spirit animal could be mistaken as a sloth. After all, WALKING HURT! So, I decided nutrition was the key.

I have lost weight before, using activity and nutrition. As a matter of fact, I lost 20 lbs at the beginning of this year with walking and changing to a healthier diet. Then, I transitioned from my manic state to a bad depressive state, stopped moving, and switched to a fast food diet. The 20 came back and brought a few friends. Five to be exact.

So, here I was – a 49 year old, medically obese woman of 265 lbs with hypothyroidism, Type II Diabetes, high cholesterol, Bipolar II Disorder, PTSD, fibromyalgia, and, now, Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.

I also have the child I’m parenting, a 25 year old daughter, who is also parenting three littles, who (whom?) has me as her primary emotional support person and occasional baby sitter, and a son turning 32 in three days.

I have a lot of healing to do and a lot to live for. Also, I’m finally reaching the point in life where I believe I’m worth taking care of, too.

I needed help.

So, I searched Weight Watchers. They still had their Labor Day Special going on. It was barely something I could financially afford.

I’m destitute. Between my youngest daughter’s issues and mine, I am not currently able to sustain employment. Her dad pays for electricity, internet, this miniature hand-held computer I use to blog aka cell phone, and pays for all she needs. I live in public housing, survive on $352/mo of SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps), and a $72/mo stipend.

I committed close to half my stipend to the first six months of my Weight Watchers lifestyle.

Since I also experience a hitherto undiagnosed Binge Eating Disorder, I decided to approach this like a recovery program and committed myself to attend 90 meetings in 90 days.

Today, November 6, 2018 is my 53rd day and I will be attending my 55th meeting.

If you’re curious about or interested in how this part of my journey has gone, you can find it on my Instagram, humaninrecovery. Start here.

Addendum: I’ve lost about 20 lbs and I have walked daily for the past several weeks and can now walk two miles at a time…sometimes in under 20 min/mile. Yes, the nerve pain is still there.

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Ten Day Check-in

Yesterday I decided I would take pics every ten days to document my journey. It’s not really evident in the pictures yet, but changes are happening. I can feel them. Others are seeing them.

My stomach is slightly less round…a smaller “apple” than it was. 😉 My clothes are a little looser. As a matter of fact I pulled down a pair of jeans I got about ten years ago, before I got pregnant with my third, youngest, and LAST child. I was between 225-240. I can’t remember exactly. What I do know is that I squeezed into them and got them buttoned while standing upright.

WINNING!

More importantly, I’ve exercised 8/10 of the days a minimum of 30 minutes. I kind of overdid it the first few days – my intensity was good, but the amount of time each session was a bit much.

During my walk on Sunday, I had a burst of pain in the front of my right hip. Turns out I now have bursitis in that hip. I’ve shortened the time per session to 30 minutes and taken it to the water.

The doctor I saw (who appeared younger than my 31 year old son) was very encouraging and gung ho about me exercising. He said exercising in the water was good and referred me to physical therapy. My first appointment is the 30th.

The biggest challenge, for me, is the fibro-fatigue. I’m really tired, not I worked hard and pushed my limits tired, but, my get up and go, got up and went. Some of that is parenting stress.

My nine year old experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum. I also suspect she’s got some preadolescent hormone changes happening. She struggles with emotional self-regulation and is easily frustrated and angered. She’s been having increasingly violent responses and I’ve borne the brunt of it.

I’m also tired from lack of sleep. Some of which is also attributable to the issues between me and my daughter. However, I’ve had poor sleep my entire adult life. It’s a trauma thing, apparently.

So, I’m tired and pretty much the exercise and, maybe, the dishes, are the only things I’m accomplishing on a regular basis.

I’m trusting this will not last and that my energy levels will improve by the end of the month.

Overall, it’s been a great start to 2018.<<<<<<<<
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The Power of Numbers : Measuring Health and Happiness

Those of you who’ve been reading about my health and fitness journey may think I’m focusing, or maybe should be focusing, on weight loss. After all, at the beginning of last week, I tipped the scale at 258 lbs…about 125 lbs more than a woman of my short stature is “supposed” to be. According to the formulas and charts, I have a BMI of 45, putting me in the extreme obesity category.

Here’s the thing, I’m over trying to judge myself and my value according to a number on the scale. At least that’s what I’m working on.

That being said, I was inordinately happy to discover that I’d lost five pounds the first week of January.

I hate that I’ve been conditioned to the point where the number on a scale indicating I’m getting rid of part of my being is worthy of celebration.

Self-inflicted fat shaming is just about an automatic thing.

What I really want to be happy about was that I ate consciously aware of what I was eating and why.

True confession: I just ate two Hershey’s miniature candy bars because I was stressed and beyond frustrated with an ongoing issue with my child.

Guess what? I don’t feel one iota of shame or guilt. Now, THAT’S worth celebrating.

The number that should matter is how many days I chose to care about my physical health enough to exercise. Another number to be proud of is an ideal blood pressure of 129/68 after I’d worked out an hour before it was taken.

I can truly celebrate when I get the results of my next A1c blood test and the numbers measuring the previous three months of blood sugar levels have decreased. I can celebrate when the next cholesterol test shows that my choice to eat oatmeal every day has paid off by lowering the bad cholesterol numbers.

The weight changing and going down may be a consequence of the choices I’m making. However, it cannot be the number determining my happiness and contentment with myself.

One of these days the number on the scale may will the same or even go up. It will have to be an informative number indicating whether or not I need to address the actions which contributed to those results.

The scale is a tool, not the Holy Grail.

Make it count: To track or not to track?

I hate tracking and logging things.

“I’ve always got too much going on to bother with tracking, it’s too much work,” I tell myself.

“I’ve been on enough diets and studied enough labels to know what I’m putting in my body…even when I choose to eat junk,” is another thing I tell myself.

it all boils down to this:

No matter how much I say otherwise, I don’t want that level of accountability. That level of honesty with myself is anxiety producing.

What will I have to give up?

Chips and soda – things I should’ve already given up because of the diabetes.

Eating out, for the moment, until I can figure out how to log nutritional content. Not that I eat out all that often.

Premade green tea. It’s got sugar.

All that being said, I’ve got to commit to developing healthy habits because of health conditions like diabetes and being at risk for heart disease. Changing what and how I eat is foundational to that change.

Ok. I’m going to do this but, don’t want to have to chase down the details of every calorie and macronutrient. I would drive both myself and the people around me batty.

I’m sure there’s an app for that.

Indeed. There are many. The one I chose is SparkPeople. It has a large supportive community of people also seeking healthy goals. There are articles, coaching tips, and, most importantly for me, a way to track food and exercise by just entering the food or scanning the barcode!

Not all foods are in the database. However, there’s a feature for you to add that item to the database.

Other features include the ability to post to the general community for support, for a status update, or write a blog post.

There are SparkPeople features which are accessible via computer, like joining “teams” with specialized focus.

Anyway, using the exercise and food log feature, the app calculates a target range of calories and the macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein). The ranges automatically adjust when exercise is logged and it measures the amount of calories burned.

I don’t want my health journey to be defined by or dependent on numbers. However, paying attention to those numbers and making food choices based on them, ensured my body got what it needed and I didn’t starve myself.

I already feel my clothes fitting differently and the scale says I lost five pounds, much to my surprise and glee. The power of the scale is hard to resist.

I choose to keep logging my food and exercise.

Making the switch: Going meatless

I’m a carnivore. I love, love, love meat. I especially love bacon. It’s good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It can even be a condiment, it’s that versatile. It’s been such a fixture in my life, it was the reason I knew I was pregnant with my second child.

“How’s that?” you ask.

Here’s the story. Back about 25 years ago or so, I was a single mom living with my grandmother. She was from The South, Alabama as a matter of fact. (Roll Tide!) things like bacon and gravy were staples in her kitchen. Just the smell of bacon in the skillet was enough to get me salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

One fine day a friend of mine had taken me to the grocery store – I didn’t own a car. I didn’t even know how to drive.

Anyway, we’d been gone a couple of hours. I was tired and just wanted to hurry up and get the groceries put away so I could rest a bit.

Well, as soon as I opened the door and the aroma of frying bacon wafted out, my stomach turned and I had to immediately reverse and walk back outside.

I decided to go in for a pregnancy test…the results of which came back positive on the day Bill Clinton was voted to POTUS #42.

But I digress.

Why would a dedicated meat eater like myself ever decide to convert to a plant-based health style?

The trifecta that is Metabolic Syndrome:

  • High blood sugar
  • Abnormal cholesterol
  • Excess body fat around the waist

According to the Mayo Clinic, these conditions are closely associated with heart disease.

When the following factors exist, the likelihood is even greater:

  • Age: I’m 48
  • Race: Mexican descent – I’m half Mexican
  • Obesity: I’m carrying about 260 lbs on a 5’3″ frame and a significant amount of that excess is in the shape of an apple around my waist.
  • Diabetes: I got the diagnosis four years ago.

The only factor not present is high blood pressure and even that is slowly creeping up.

When I found out that my cholesterol levels were in the danger zone, I woke up.

I’ve got too much to live for to die young.

After sharing the news of my scare to my Facebook framily, one of my Vegangelist friends highly recommended that I watch a documentary on Netflix called “Forks Over Knives

It very clearly provides evidence that a plant-based, whole food diet can reverse chronic health conditions which are rooted in a meat-based, processed food diet. It makes a very strong case for veganism that is health oriented instead of morally or politically motivated.

And so, one major goal in my journey is to be eating vegan by the end of 2018.

Since I’m a savory, crunchy snacker, am not fond of soybeans, and find most vegan meat and dairy substitution products unpalatable, I’ve decided I need a food dehydrator to make my own snacks without having to fry them and defeat the purpose or bake them into oblivion.

Bye-bye bacon.

2018 Health Journey: My Why

Why is this year different? Why am I succeeding in living healthy this year? Lots of reasons – 6 to be exact: my three children and three grandchildren.

My cholesterol screening showed 240 w/almost no good and way too much bad. I need to reverse that.

I’m probably going to lose health coverage this year and likely won’t qualify again, due to all my preexisting conditions. (Thank you Trump & the GOP.) If that happens, all the medication I’m on for the hypothyroidism, diabetes, bipolar, and ptsd will go away. So, nutrition and activity are beyond critical at this point.

Barriers and challenges are mental/emotional, physical, and circumstantial. PTSD and Bipolar Depression, combined with binge eating disorder, and food addiction are overwhelming things to cope with, especially with the circumstantial stressors: • single parenting a child on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum, who isn’t progressing in school and is becoming increasingly more violent towards me;

• $352 in SNAP benefits/mo to feed her the specific foods she’ll eat AND overhaul my eating;

• $0 to pay for any support programs like WW, training, programs, or apps;

• shopping using public transportation;

• tiny, galley kitchen w/very little storage and not all the equipment/tools for prep & storage – mostly storage.

Mentally, even though I know it’s the wrong mindset, I feel urgently compelled to do all the things, immediately. There’s an all or nothing kind of compulsion and a fear of failure (fear of success?) anxiety humming underneath the surface.

I don’t want to hate my body. I don’t want to loathe myself. I don’t want to be alone, but, I don’t want anyone to see my body without clothes. I know I shouldn’t be defined by my body, the things wrong with it, my health, and my life, but that’s where I’m at.

I don’t want to live like this anymore.

That’s my why.

Eating Myself Sick (pt. 2)

Yesterday, I started writing about my most recent downward spiral into a binge eating episode. Now, for the rest of the story.

Two days ago was “Family Fun Friday” at my daughter’s school. Her dad decided he wanted to go and would pick us up, to go as a family, at 7:30 am. Every night my daughter doesn’t go to sleep before 10 pm, no matter how hard I try. Every morning, it’s a fight to get her awake, dressed, and out the door by 8:30 in time to catch her bus. It was very stressful knowing I not only had to have her up and ready an hour earlier, but, that I would also be in his presence, with his moodiness and anger over his current circumstances and belief that I’m to blame for the situation he’s in because I left the relationship nearly two years ago.

There was no time for a healthy or filling breakfast. So, I wound up eating two half pieces of pastry and half a muffin, along with a large cup of coffee with several creamers, while we were at the school. After we left and were on our way to where I volunteer weekly, less than two miles from his place, the arguing and criticism started. Then, he expected me to use his truck to go do my volunteering at the church. That way, I would go back with him when he picked our daughter up from school. No, thank you.

I wound up at his place, but, I didn’t take his truck. So, the angry texts started coming. Emotional manipulation and empty threats of a non-violent, but psychologically traumatizing nature started coming. Intellectually, I knew that the threats were empty, that his beliefs weren’t my truths, and that I’m not responsible for making him feel better. However, it didn’t stop the PTSD sensations of severe anxiety and overwhelm from taking over. I was jittery. My emotions were in turmoil. I couldn’t stop thinking of the “what if’s” and trying to formulate plans against them.

Anxiety at that level completely shuts down my ability and desire to eat anything. This effect results in a binge later. When I left the building and took the hour long transit trip home, I was okay. As I got off the bus and started approaching my home, I could feel the tension and anxiety rising. So, I decided that I was going to go do something else with safe people for the night, and left almost as soon as I got home. Then, something happened that triggered my sense of obligation, and my fatigue was so extreme, I just went back home.

I made a healthy-ish choice for eating, which sort of satisfied the nutritional hunger. Time to relax and self-soothe. Catch up on recorded shows and try to knit a scarf for my son’s birthday, three days away.

However, as the evening went on, both a physical and mental/emotional hunger grew. Unfortunately, I happend to have a little bit of cash. I checked the balance of my SNAP benefits. I could go get something to eat at the grocery store and make a healthier choice between Popeye’s and Safeway. I got dressed and went out the door. As I got closer to the bus stop to go to the grocery store, the aching in my thighs from all the walking I’d done this week and the overwhelming fatigue washed through me. Then I saw the bus go by.

I checked to see when the next one would come. Nine minutes. Not much time at all, but too long to sit and wait in the chilly night at the bus stop. Okay. Keep moving and walk to the next bus stop. Check the time. Five more minutes. Look up. A yellow, orange, and red beacon in the night – Popeye’s. It’s just a minute’s walk, then I can sit down. When I leave, I’ll still be close enough to walk home.

$6.99 special: Two tenders and four shrimp, a side, and a drink. Sounds good. Coke, please. Yes, honey for the biscuit! Do you have butter? Oh, it’s REAL? Even better. Cajun fries for the side. Thank you for the coupons.

Sit by myself, put my headphones on, and start watching a recorded show on my phone. A text from the ex. An update on our daughter and her complaining of a headache and upset tummy. More criticism for not updating him during the week or having her call him.

Mmmm. That honey and butter on that biscuit sure is good. The rest though, meh, but I eat it anyway.

In comes a group of women. Loud laughter and conversation. Friends having a night in on a food run. On the outside, looking in. Thoughts and emotions swirling on the inside. Calm and still on the outside. I look down and see the coupons I’ll never use.

“Do you guys eat here a lot?”

“Mmmhmm,” head nods.

“Do you want my coupons? I’ll never use them. Oh, sorry, they’re sticky from the honey.”

Home again. Anxious again. Minor relationonal skirmish. Isolation. Knit and watch t.v.

Knock, knock, knock. “Come in.”

“Here. I ordered late night pizza,” two slices of pizza and a hunk of cheese filled bread in a small, long Domino’s box.

Gone.

5:00 a.m. nausea.

When self-soothing turns into self-abuse, it’s time to admit there’s a problem…again.

“Hi. My name is Lillian. I’m a food addict.”

Now, to figure out how to unravel and disconnect the eating from the PTSD and my relationships before I kill myself with food.