Friday, August 16, 2013
For most of my life I was cover girl thin. Being the kind of kid and adult who preferred to be outdoors, I loved being active. As a young mother, we lived in an urban setting in a 3rd floor walk-up; getting off the baby weight was never an issue since I walked everywhere and carried groceries (and hot cycles, strollers & babies) up all those stairs. I had an easy relationship with food until my 40s since I could eat whatever I wanted. Determined to raise healthy children, I cooked 98% of our meals--my kids were some of the few that had a different breakfast each morning--Monday Mush (oatmeal), Tuesday (french) Toast, Wednesday (Cream of) Wheat, etc. I became an good cook and excellent baker. Vegetables were always featured and my kids all love them.
When I hit my 40s, the pounds started sneaking on slowly so I began running despite being a pack-a-day smoker. Running allowed me to continue eating whatever I wanted and cookies were my favorite pre-workout food. It was nothing for me to eat an entire row of Oreos an hour before speed training at the track. We ate as healthfully as we knew to during those years--organic veggies when I could grow them or find them at market, lots of lean meat, low fat dairy including yogurt and whole grains. I had some health issues and had surgery for "girl stuff" when I was 45. I think that's when my GI problems began--bloating & IBS but running helped keep the symptoms under control. It was then that DH and I started another pack-a-day habit; one package EACH of Pepperidge Farm cookies for dessert. Yeah, it's true. The kids got them too--DH was heavyish but the kids and I were athletes and in shape.
I was training for my third marathon and in the best shape ever. We'd gone to visit our daughter in Olympia, Washington and had hiked Mt. Rainier when I noticed my toes were numb. I thought my feet had swollen from the long hike. Two weeks later I was numb from the chest down and the MRI showed a tumor in my spine which thankfully was removed successfully and I have few deficits. The steroids, antibiotics, and hospital drugs did a number on my body, not to mention the months of rehab when I couldn't run. My weight soared to (!!)160# and I started the diet phase of my life. One of the diets I tried was the popular South Beach Diet; three weeks without breads, pasta and cookies and my IBS and gas completely disappeared and I was down within goal weight quickly. Great! Easy! I had that diet mentality where I didn't really change my eating habits but used the diet for when I needed to look good for something, mind you, I was within 10# of my ideal weight so what was the big deal?
Flash forward, I am nearly 58 years old now--the four major surgeries and the decade of not understanding how leaky gut syndrome affects one's entire immune system, hormonal balance and metabolism have left my body in shambles. Since my last surgery 2.5 years ago, my weight ballooned to nearly 200# despite faithful workouts and a 1500 calorie limit. I have chronic inflammation and am prone to injuries that take months to resolve. I have a limited social life because I can't eat or drink what other folks are having. It's put a huge strain on my marriage; but my husband supports my efforts to figure this out and we hike together regularly. We've found one nice restaurant that understands gluten-free for our Friday night date. Just this month I've started an elimination eating plan for 30 days (the Whole30) and have had tremendous results in resolving the bloating and the weight is coming off. This is not a diet, the Whole30 is helping me understand what my dietary triggers are so that I can heal my gut. I do worry that my GI tract is permanently damaged as I still have unpredictable control issues (some of which stem from nerve damage from the tumor surgery).
I have written this in hopes that younger women might read this and avoid the years of heartache I've had. Binge eating is not good for you, no matter how healthy the rest of your eating and life is. Excessive sugar and too many carbs can hurt you permanently. Cheat days can set you back weeks metabolically. Get educated, look at the big picture and understand that healthy weight loss is more than calories in-calories out.
Oh...and in case you are wondering, after a 30-year habit, I am 2.5 years smoke-free!