Saturday, April 24, 2010
*Warning...this is a blog about poop. There I said it. Read on if you want - or run screaming*
Until I started seeing my nutritionist a few months back, I never really fully understood the title of this blog. I mean - I understood it - sh*t happens - to ALL of us. But I never really understood that I could actively CHANGE what came out of me and how.
She was quick to diagnose me with IBS. "Irritable Bowel Syndrome" - which is really a "catch all" diagnosis for anyone having any kind of gastro-intestinal ailment. Something crazy like a third of the population now suffers from IBS, but the growth in this disease and the growth of the population (by weight) seems to be very closely linked.
I have had food digestion issues since I was born. As a baby, I was allergic to milk, so I was nursed on soy and formula. Add to that my lightning-quick digestive tract and you have my mother, lovingly wishing upon me someday, as much poop as I gave her to clean up in those first few years of my life. Gradually my mom worked milk back into my diet, starting with powdered skim milk which we drank as kids until I was about 10. By the time I gained control of my own eating habits, the binging and food secrecy had already started. At home, we always ate as a family and since my mother was always on a diet, we were always eating very rounded, healthy meals. But add to that the copious amounts of other calories and junk that I was consuming during the day, and the low intestinal rumblings were never far behind.
Until 28 years of age, I lived my life thinking that constant bouts of diarrhea mixed intermittently with constipation were normal. I had persistent "dumping syndrome" where I would have to find a bathroom, urgently, about 10-30 minutes after a meal almost every single time I ate anything. It was horrible.
Enter my nutritionist like a ray of light through all the crap...literally. She first started me on a regimen of soluble fiber to get the dumping under control. Once things started to "firm up" a bit, we started making adjustments in my diet to find out if I had any other sensitivities to be wary of. One thing I have discovered is that I am allergic to MSG. That disgusting preservative that they put in a lot of Chinese food, but that is also in many canned and frozen items, right down to Campbell's soup. My childhood of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches flashed before my eyes. All those problems, all the way along, most likely had something to do with this! And I know I'm not alone in this sensitivity - after all, we are the first generation to be raised on a majority of pre-packaged food. I am also sensitive to sugar alcohols - malitol, sorbitol, basically any ingredient ending in "ol" means that it is the alcohol that is refined from the simple sugar and the quick and dirty effect is that it goes STRAIGHT through your digestive tract and out the other end. You can find this is juices, flavoured waters, and again - processed food. Now we're getting somewhere!
I became a little obsessed with my poop (I know - it's gross!). Some things worked, other things didn't. I was on the quest for the perfect bowl movement. In the middle of all of this, I saw an episode of Oprah with Dr. Oz and he was talking about poop too. I was so relieved!...other people DO talk about it and were wondering the same things I was. Bowel movements should be brown in colour, shaped like an "S" to mimic the intestinal tract. If they float - there's too much fat in your diet. If they're unusually smelly - there is something else wrong. Some people go once a week, other people can go 6 times a day. It all depends on the person and their own digestive health, speed, diet and metabolism. Wow! I discovered that your poop really is like a newspaper of your body's daily events. By keeping my intestines functioning happily - I had higher energy, and a much better sense of all-over well being.
I am still living with IBS. But the best thing about IBS is that it's manageable. You don't have to suffer with it as long as you're careful. There's lots of great info about it on SparkPeople. You can also find lists of what and what not to eat online. It does suck that I have to stay away from things like honey and fruit juices (you don't even want to know about my episode with apple cider...oy vey!), but overall, things are coming out right in the end ;)
I am now off the fiber supplements - I am getting enough daily fiber on my own to manage my digestive health. I still pay a lot of attention to what's in the toilet, because it can tell me when I'm getting off track with the rest of my diet. And like my cats, who run around the house like crazy after using their litter box, I also want to jump for joy when I have a really good movement. I guess it's not so much excitement for some people - but trust me - when you've lived your whole life with constant pain and abnormality, this is a big deal.
Hopefully with more weight loss, I'm looking forward to a decrease in frequency at this point. It may come, it may not - my body just tends to be quick anyway. But I am actually curious if anyone else has paid attention to this and can speak to what happens when you lose a significant amount of weight. Reply to me in a private message if you don't want to post - I totally get the embarrassment of the whole issue.
But for now - I'm just happy being REGULAR!!!
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I love to cook. But over the past couple of weeks, I have been so busy that my kitchen has been woefully neglected - the dishes are piling up, the groceries from my last trip aren't fully put away yet, and I can't see my kitchen table for all the "stuff" piled on top of it. But yesterday, in an attempt to get back in the saddle of healthy cooking, I took some ground turkey out of the freezer to thaw.
Now, up until last night, I'd had a really good day. I had my regular breakfast, and then was taken out for lunch at work. I managed to choose an excellent, healthy option from the menu (Pumpkin & Prawn Soup) that was not only delicious, but very low in calories. Since it was a soup though, I left the restaurant feeling full, but was hungry about 3 hours later. So I decided to treat myself with a little snack from Potbelly. I was doing really well and had enough calories left in my day to get me through a snack and dinner, so I chose a chocolate smoothie and a bag of Baked Lays. Good snack - I was totally satisfied, dealt with my little chocolate craving and had enough food to hold be over to dinner.
But here's where things somehow went awry. I got home, pulled all my healthy ingredients out of my fridge and starting making a yummy turkey chili to top some tortilla chips - my own recipe for healthy nachos. I made enough turkey chili for leftovers, and topped enough nacho chips for 4 servings.
And then I ate the WHOLE THING!
Just like that. I wasn't particularly hungry. I certainly WANTED to stop eating before I did. But some evil gremlin inside me kept telling me to eat the whole tray. So I did.
I felt awful after. Typical binge - I was angry, embarrased and FULL when it was over, and the this morning I woke up with a headache and gas. Yuck. I'm all too familiar with the side effects, but in the moment, the knowledge of them is not enough to stop what I'm doing. And it's almost more of an insult to know that I binged on a healthy meal that I made the effort to cook for myself! Just one of the little ways that I find to subvert the good I'm doing and turn it into something bad.
Anyway - when all is said and done, I didn't fare too horribly. Though I ended up eating 4 servings of nachos, making them myself made them low enough in calories that I can likely work them off with an extra day of exercise. But I have an eye on you gremlin. One of these days, I'm going to wake up and you will have moved on.
Gremlin Eviction is such a slow and laborious process...
Monday, April 19, 2010
When it comes to food, I think - the bigger the better! And for my whole life (which for me really starts at 4 years of age when my first real memories kick in), I have always thought that to think that way was dirty, wrong and shameful.
My mother's diets were always restriction, regimen and deprivation - and to a young child who was already suffering from a budding food addiction, having my food intake monitored and being told when to stop eating only lead to closet binging and sneaking food when my mom wasn't looking.
25 years later, I'm living on my own over 800 miles from where my parents live, and yet I still sneak food, I still closet binge, and I still feel dirty and shameful for wanting more. But who's really watching anyway? Who's really counting? Who's keeping track? And really, the biggest question - WHO CARES?
In one of the first meetings I had with my nutritionist, she brought to light this odd behaviour of mine and started asking me these questions. I couldn't answer them. For all anyone can tell from meeting me - I am completely in control of my life. I'm smart, have a good job, even have a couple of hidden talents here and there, but I freak out at the idea of feeding myself! I had a big break-though moment that day when she asked me if I felt "full" after I ate. She looked me in the eyes and asked "Have you had enough?" It's such a simple question...have you had enough? Have you had enough? I couldn't stop repeating it over and over in my head. In all my life I had never been asked those words. Tears started streaming down my face as I confessed that secret to her.
Fast forward a couple more meetings and I'm starting to develop a new language when it comes to talking to myself about food. I learned that I have to develop my internal appestat - something that I lost as a child, but something that everyone is born with. "Have you had enough?" is my new favorite question - and I find myself asking other people the same thing, validating their internal appestats as well.
The other thing that I have learned is that is is OK TO EAT! I am a self-confessed VOLUME eater. I love it when my plate is full. And I make sure I lick up every single crumb. But now, instead of feeling guilty about wanting a second helping, I have added a simple check-in with myself to determine whether I REALLY want a second helping. "Have you had enough?" If I honestly haven't, even after 2 glasses of water and waiting a few minutes, then I need to eat more.
The challenge is figuring out how to best balance your food intake to ensure that what you are eating IS enough and sustains you to the next meal. This is done by making sure that you are getting the proper balance of carbs, protein and fat. If you are always hungry, check to make sure that you're eating enough protein. Carbs are essential to your diet - they are what make you feel full, so it is natural to crave them. When you feel satisfied, it is because of your carb intake. But if your meals leave you too quickly - try eating more protein to sustain you throughout the day.
The appestat is a sensitive being. It's the part of us that wants to be loved, wants to be nurtured, gets upset or angry, or even embarrassed and needs to be fed. Mine is intrinsically linked to my emotional self and hides during times of stress. Since mine is so underdeveloped, it has taken me a long time to even know what it sounds like - and it will take more work still until its voice is louder than any of the others...but day by day I am learning how to listen to it.
And to answer those questions from earlier: I AM the only one that needs to count, care about or control anything. It's a hard thing to learn (and honestly something that I'm still working on every day).
Here are some simple food items that I have found really help to beef up a meal and keep the appestat happy and full:
- cheese strings or babybel cheese rounds (I throw a couple of strings or a round in with my lunches for an added boost of protein, milk and calcium)
- yogurt (I am NOT a yogurt person...some people love it, some people don't - I fall into the latter category. But Yoplait has the really yummy varieties and if I make myself eat one at lunch for a sweet was to finish off the meal, it keeps me satisfied a lot longer during the day)
- Trader Joes trail mix or almonds (these come pre-packaged in single serve portions, since if you're like me counting out anything from a large bag means "one for me, one for the bag." Eating nuts boosts good fat levels and protein and they hold me over for a long time)
- tall skinny latte (I work next door to a Starbucks. It is next to impossible to resist the urge all the time, so I use it to my advantage - if I'm crashing in the late afternoon and feeling hungry, a 90 calorie flavoured latte is the perfect solution - and get this - my nutritionist was the one that suggested it! A milk serving in the afternoon packs protein and calcium into your diet and since milk is a perfect balance of carbs and protein it makes you feel full (carbs) and sustains the fullness (protein) to get you through until dinner)
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Really, the hardest thing about anything is starting. I tend to over think the "starting" thing so much that I just end up putting it off because I make it so complicated for myself. So with my best foot forward and my honesty hat on, here we go...
I've come off the back of a very stressful week/weekend. Before said week, I had started some things that are definitely in the "good for me" vein. Then, after a tough week, I look back and realize that I've dropped almost all of those good things for bad habits yet again. This is my track record. I'm hoping that blogging about some of these experiences will help me break that crazy cycle.
So here's the "State of MY Union Address" so I can hopefully look back on this post one day and see how far I've come.
I just turned 29. I'm not afraid of 30...I think. Maybe I'm terrified of it. I certainly have some goals for 30. Though I'm trying to be realistic about it.
I've just had the worst 2 health years in my life. I surpassed 300 pounds. (Wow - yeah I just wrote that). I have high blood pressure but my doctor doesn't want to put me on medication for it just yet, not that I would want to be on it anyway. In February of 2009, I started suffering from undiagnosed pain in my pelvic region which was so severe at one point I was given a pelvic ultrasound to check for ovarian cysts, abdominal x-rays to check for a gastrointestinal blockage of some sort, and numerous internal exams to feel around my lady bits for problems. Everything came back negative. On one hand it's a relief to report that I have the "healthiest reproductive system my gynecologist has ever seen." On the other hand, I endured a horrible 2 months of pain, ridiculous amounts of doctor's bills and I still don't really have an answer to what exactly is wrong.
Currently I see a therapist, a nutritionist, my regular M.D., a gynecologist, a chiropractor and have been referred to 2 different specialists (gastroenterology & endocrinology). Whew. My wallet is hurting. And that does nothing to relieve the stress. However, just recently, I think the chiropractor (with my help in researching my own symptoms) has narrowed in on what could be causing my pain. I've been getting SOME relief from my appointments, so with any hope we will continue in this vein and I will be on the track to better health in a lot of different areas.
A couple of months ago, my Grandmother was diagnosed with heart disease. She underwent a triple bypass surgery to relieve the clogged arteries going to her heart, but she is still left with a partially clogged carotid artery (the one that supplies blood to the brain and is responsible for causing strokes in most people). My Gram is overweight. She has been for years. And now I'm scared.
You know, in all my years of battling weight issues, I've never really had a wake-up call. I'm luckily blessed with good genes. I have no diabetes in the family, so as of yet, I am not in that category. The men have been the ones with heart issues...but not until they're much older. There is some history of breast cancer that I will eventually have to worry about - but for the longest time, I've been "perfectly healthy."
Hold the phone - can you be "perfectly healthy" when you're more than 150 pounds overweight?
Add on these past two years and I now notice the little things that tell me I'm far from the specimen of health I always thought I was. My feet hurt. It gets hard to breathe sometimes, and I'm winded from the slightest bit of exercise. My hips give me occasional problems, as do my knees and my back and my shoulders. I'm almost 30 and I still break out. I have unsightly stretch marks. Eesh - the list goes on and on.
So here I am. Ready to start something. Terrified of failing again. But honest. And hopeful.
As I get ready to embark on a new journey, and soon a new decade, my wish for myself is "MY SELF." Yeah - I'm going to get me a "self." And what a self she's going to be!
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