Friends, today is a day to celebrate!
I feel like dancing a jig, screaming out loud, and possibly going on a celebratory tour of the state.
So what am I celebrating?
When I go to bed this evening, I will have completed two successful weeks on my allergy diet/auto-immune protocol. That's right, 100% compliance in 14 days.
2 weeks? Huh? I can hear you thinking that. 2 weeks, after all, is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Why am I celebrating so early in the game, when the last few years have been so fraught?
What you have to understand is that I've not managed this since before my surgery a year and a half ago. Prior to that, I'd done fairly well...managing long stretches of clean eating which were enough to give me glimpses of just how great I could feel. Since then, I've struggled. Believe me when I say that the last 19 months have been far more difficult than most of you know.
However, I started working this spring to pull the various pieces together. When it began to look manageable, I gave myself a deadline, to get into full compliance by July 1. To my great delight, this time it's actually working!
It begs the question...what, exactly is different this time around?
To that, I have some answers.
1. That letter I posted two weeks ago to my family and friends was extremely cathartic. A very large part of why this has all been so difficult is because I haven't had the full support of many, many people who are a daily part of my life. To be honest, some of the people who most need that letter will never read it. BUT, regardless, I feel better for having written it. The kind support of those of you who DID read it, and have reached out to me since has meant the world to me. Thank you. I meant every word, and the power and strength I've gained from standing up for myself, and for giving myself permission to walk away from unhealthy situations is incredible.
2. My body has finally fully healed up from my last surgery. I can't emphasize this point enough. My body does NOT handle surgery well, and it's taken me at least a year to recover each time I've had to go under the knife. Add to that the fact that this particular surgery (gallbladder) mucked with my digestive system, and you have a big, fat mess. I lost a ton of weight last spring that had nothing to do with healthy living and everything to do with the fact that I was sick all of the time. Not so surprisingly, that weight bounced back with a lot of extra over the winter as my body tried to find balance and readjust to it's new reality. Then too, the surgery also kicked off another round of depression that was - quite frankly - the worst depression I've ever been through. The surgery was necessary, and I don't regret it. I do acknowledge, though, that the recovery process was a million times more difficult than I expected it to be.
3. I realized that my anti-depressants were actually doing more harm than good, so I stopped taking them. I have an old, and very comfortable relationship with Zoloft. This time, though, it didn't do it's job right. Yes, it helped to pull me out of the worst of the quagmire, but in the process it totally flattened out my personality. I had an epiphany to that effect during acupuncture a couple of months ago, and the very next day I stopped taking it. By July it had cleared my system and I was starting to feel myself again. I should also add that there are a couple of side-effects (weight gain being one) that were seriously contributing to what was wrong with me. Thank you zoloft, but we are done.
4. My favorite cheat food is no more. I've relied on a locally made artisan dark chocolate since this all began as my go-to reward/comfort/cheat/celebration/cope/you name it. It's incredible. Best chocolate I've ever tasted, in fact. BUT. This spring the guy that makes the stuff made some questionable business decisions. (He wants to be a chocolate artist, not a business owner.) The resulting price increase to an already expensive product as well as the resulting scarcity were last straws for me. I was happy to support him before for better ingredients, etc. I'm not going to support his life as a snob and/or his return to school. (If I sound bitter, I kind of am. He's kind of an ass.) As nothing else tastes near as good...well, there's no more temptation! (OK, there's still temptation, but it's not near as tough to fight given the circumstances.)
5. I started exercising. I don't have to explain this. Exercise produces endorphins, which make you feel better. It also adds to the motivation to stick with it. Not going to go running in the am and then ruin it by cheating all day! I know, I know. I should have started a long time ago. All I can say to that is that the particular type of depression I was in really made that nearly impossible. Don't judge. (Also, my friend Matt C. was right. Thank you, Matt.)
6. But I started on a program that was slow and gradual and fun for me. I have a tendency to all or nothing it, and any other time I've done an exercise program it's been of the sort that has you jump in and push to the max from day one. Not smart when you are dealing with the type of health issues that I am. Not smart at all. Not only do you run the risk of burning out and giving up, but you also run the risk of making the health problems worse. This time, I committed to two simple things - taking my 10,000 steps daily and doing the couch to 5K program. Slow, gentle, steady. With the 10,000 steps I'm teaching myself that it's ok to take slow and/or short walks - a revelation for me. As to the other...To be honest, I had completely forgotten how much I enjoy running...and I mean truly enjoy. Less than two weeks into the (unfortunately named) training program, I had rediscovered that joy and was looking forward to my morning runs. Now, I also happen to love strength training, yoga, and tap dance. As my health continues to improve, I hope to incorporate all of those!
7. And I found a couple of exercise buddies. So. Very. Important. And it has to be just the right match. Back in the day, I know the reason why I learned to love strength training so much was because of my friend and personal trainer, Meghan. (And if she ever gets back to it, I'll hire her again in a heartbeat.) Other trainers, and attempts to do it by myself failed. Apparently, I need the support/accountability..but I also need it to be with someone who I work well with. My BKB, Jenn, who's been by my side since the diagnosis had already committed to the 10,000 daily steps plan, so I latched on to her and check in with her periodically. Just knowing someone else is also doing it helps me to keep myself on track. I got really lucky when a friend of mine asked me if I'd like to do the couch to 5K with her. Having never exercised together, it could have been a disaster. Instead, Danielle and I are having a blast and have discovered that we work well together. Bonus..our pace and fitness level are pretty darn close. By the end of last week, we were both looking forward to our runs together. We also have planned to run in a couple of 5K's together this fall for fun!
8. I'm rereading/skimming a lot of the health books/information I've gathered over the last few years. Yes, I've done a LOT of research over the last few years...but it's also been a while since I've touched on any of that. A good reminder of the science is very helpful.
9. I'm building my meals in a way that keeps me full and satiated. I learned through trial and error that I'm best on 3 squares/day with maybe a small snack in the afternoon. Mostly, I follow the guidelines set out in the book It Starts With Food as to how to build and balance a plate. I will not bore you with the details, but I will say that I have to be very careful to plan so that I always have what I need with each meal.
10. I'm measuring my water intake daily, to make sure I get enough. The formula that works best for me is the one I learned from my friend Meghan when she was my personal trainer. I drink 1/2 oz water/lb of body weight each day plus 8 oz for each 30 minutes of exercise. You bet, it's a lot right now...but it's what this particular body needs. Incidentally, this is the ONLY thing I measure.
11. The brand new scales I just bought? I stopped using them and put them away. Silly me. This isn't about the number on the scale, and I know that. It's a deeply flawed tool to use to track health, and in truth it really doesn't say much about how healthy you really are. Plus, for me it's totally about anxiety. I only want to know when I'm worried, and I tend to use the information to beat myself up. That's not good. Also not good, in the few weeks I had the darn things I was starting to go back to my old, very-bad weighing habits.
12. I let myself have one good temper tantrum. Ahem. I went to the grocery store on the fourth of July, and came home and let loose all of the horrible feelings that had built up inside. It didn't resolve anything, but it did release it so that I wasn't sitting on so much ugliness. My therapist in college would be so proud. She rightly identified that one of my biggest issues has always been that I stuff my feelings and allow them to eat at me. (Heh. I just realized I used food terms. That might need some unpacking.) It's been much easier since then. Now, when I start to feel anything negative, I acknowledge it. I have a lot of work to do still to make it ok, but this is a start.
13. I accepted that my yeast allergy causes a serious food addiction. So yes, it totally sucks when you've never been a drinker at all but your doctor flat out tells you that you are an alcoholic because your yeast allergy is biochemically identical in many ways to alcoholism. It sucks, but it was true. I went to my parents' farm in June, and decided to eat a piece of the rhubarb pie that my dad made with the girls. It was fantastic. It was also a major problem. I found myself explaining to my mom, my aunt and the girls that although their bodies could enjoy one piece and be done, I didn't have an off switch. I enjoyed one piece, and then wanted to bury my face in the rest and would probably be circling and obsessed until it was gone. It is what it is. Sugar, grains and dairy are my devils. Just as an alcoholic can't safely have a tiny drink, I can't safely eat a tiny bit of any of my allergens. I get that now. As a side note, during some recent research I came across a diagnostic test that counselors use to determine food addiction. Yeah, I score super high. Damn lucky I never started drinking.
14. I'm making peace with the idea that I may never be thin again....but that's ok if I feel better. I've spent the last 28 years worrying about my size and hating my body. I've spent the last 12 years struggling with a lot of extra weight. My allergist has told me repeatedly that if I can become compliant the weight will naturally go away, but I stopped believing her a while back. My body has suffered the harm done by all of these foods for so very long that I'm just not sure it's possible to completely reverse the damage. But. But, I can feel better. Two weeks is just enough time to get a glimpse of that. Already many of my symptoms are gone and/or are fading. (no required daily nap! no pain! better GI function! more motivation to get things done! anxiety and depression fading!)That's enough. I'm ok with never being thin again IF I can get to a place where I actually feel good. It is what it is, and I'm not doing myself any favors by continuing to focus on the quest to be thin. I'm much better served by a quest to find health.
So Happy Two Weeks to me!
Here's to the next two weeks and beyond.