Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Weight Loss and Body Image

Earlier this year I lost around 35 pounds and I’ve kept it off.

(Side note: I am pregnant and now gaining pregnancy-related weight)

But this isn’t a post about weight loss and how great it is. It’s a post about how I never had any body image issues until I lost the weight.

If you’re wondering how I did it, my response is always, “we’ve been trying to eat healthier.” Which is true. We cut a lot of carbs and drank a lot of protein shakes. But there’s more to it than that.

I stopped taking my anti-depressants, a side-effect of which can be weight gain. But feeling mentally well is worth a few extra pounds.

I ate a lot less. Arguably an unhealthy amount less. I felt terrible all the time and when people commented on it, I felt even worse. But once I started losing the weight I felt guilty about everything I did eat.

I took appetite suppressants. Again, not really healthy.

I DID NOT work out more. In fact, I probably worked out less. Prior to dieting, I was playing a lot of soccer and trying to run regularly. But shortly after we started dieting, I sustained an injury and stopped playing. That alone caused me to lose a lot of weight, mostly muscle mass.

But let me tell you some more not-so-great things that happened when I started to lose weight:

I didn’t like my body anymore. I felt like I looked saggy. I had no butt. And my clothes started hanging off of me, which caused me to lose a lot of confidence.

Why not buy new clothes? Because I kept losing weight and wasn’t sure what size I’d end up at...or if I’d gain the weight back.

I started to feel really bad about how I looked before...because of other people. I NEVER had any body issues. I couldn’t really tell you why I started dieting in the first place. I think I was hoping to maybe lose a couple pounds, not 35. But people started making comments. They were trying to be nice, but often ended up just making me feel bad. Close family members would say, “wow, you just look so fantastic.” And then inevitably follow it up with a comment about how I looked before. Well, it’s hard to hear you look fantastic when you feel terrible because you’re starving yourself. And all I could think was..."what was wrong with how I looked before?” I even asked a few people that very question and they’d generally respond with something that made me feel even worse, like..."you just looked...”

To this day, it’s very rare that I receive a compliment on my weight that doesn’t come with some sort of back-handed comment on my weight before. Which again, I didn’t have an issue with. And either did my doctor. Sure, sometimes I wished my pants weren’t so tight, but doesn’t everybody?

And now I feel this enormous pressure to either keep losing weight or to weigh myself every day to make sure I haven’t gained an ounce. Even if it means having terrible stomach issues or feeling guilty every time I eat. Because I now see the judgement that people had towards me when I was heavier. Judgement I hadn’t realized was there.

So I’m going to leave you with this...

If you feel the need to comment on someone’s weight loss, just say “you look great.” That’s it. Don’t comment on how much weight they’ve lost or on how they looked before.

Weight is not necessarily an indicator of how in shape someone is. I was a much better athlete when I was 35lbs heavier. And to be honest with you, I hate how skinny my legs have gotten. I don’t have the same soccer player muscles that I prided myself on when I was playing.

Don’t ever make someone feel bad about their weight. You have no idea if they have a health condition, or take a medication that causes weight gain, or how they feel about their own body.

I want parents, boyfriends, girlfriends and spouses to hear this one particularly loud: weight is not what makes up the character of a human being and shouldn’t define how much you love them. I have always viewed myself as a smart, sporty, funny woman. And that’s whether I’m 100 lbs or 200 lbs. And I HOPE that every woman and girl out there feels that same way about themselves, too. It’s what inside that defines you. And you are BEAUTIFUL.

The Atkins Diet: Does It Work?

Brandon and I are engaged, and are doing what most couples do when planning for a wedding: diet.

(Read our engagement story HERE)

Being the meat-eaters that we are, we decided to do the Atkins diet. Let me start by clearing up a common misconception:

You are allowed to eat carbs on the Atkins diet.

In fact, you need to eat carbs. The problem is, most of us just eat too many.

The idea behind the Atkins diet is to start drastic. Shock your body into it. You do this by not just eliminating most carbs, but by eliminating a lot of foods as well. Those first two weeks are a bunch of veggies and protein. Daily net carb intake is around 22 grams. That's not a lot.

As time goes on and you get closer to your weight loss goals, you introduce more carbs. Eventually, you figure out how many carbs you can/should consume daily in order to maintain a healthy weight. It's intended to be a lifestyle change.

The first few days suck.

I mean, really suck. You're basically just starving all day, every day. Which is actually another common myth:

You do not get to eat as much as you want.

Yes, the types of food you can eat are limited, but your portions should really be limited, too. If you eat 2 lbs of cheese every day, you're not going to lose weight.

So the first few days are limited carbs, and small meals. I was hungry, tired and grumpy. That being said, the food you can eat is great!

Brandon actually started getting extremely sore as well. Ordinary activities would leave his muscles very tender. We did a little research and found out that it was being caused by a mineral deficiency because of the change in diet. He supplemented with Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium and he felt instant relief.

I felt better around Day 4.

This is when I started to feel less hungry and get some of my energy back. I learned tricks that worked for me, for example: the later I eat my breakfast, the better I do throughout the day.

The earlier I ate, the earlier I snacked, the earlier I was hungry. I could generally go between 2-3 hours between meals, so eating earlier in the day meant the time between my afternoon snack and dinner was verrryyyyyyy long.

The Meals

As I had mentioned before, most of the food is great.

One of the reasons I really liked the diet was because of the convenience. Atkins makes frozen meals, snacks, protein shakes, even dessert! Being able to just grab a snack I knew fit the diet made it much easier not to cheat. But the prepared meals get old.

Luckily, Atkins has great recipes, and plenty of them on their website. I tried really hard to always make something for dinner, and breakfast when I could. That way we got some decent variety and didn't tire of the frozen meals as quick.

My one complaint about the recipe section of the Atkins website is that it's really not user-friendly. You can search by:
  • Phase (this lets them know how many carbs you can have)
  • Keywords
  • Type of meal (snack, entree, breakfast, etc.)
All of those things are nice, but then I would frequently run into these issues:
  • Recipes calling for Atkins Baking Mix
    • No idea what that was, it's not something you can buy in stores, it's actually another recipe in and of itself.
  • Multiple versions of the same recipe
    • So I would look up the ingredients for a recipe, buy them, look up the recipe again and find that I was missing an ingredient, or bought too many. And then the cooking instructions would be slightly different.
  • Unclear measuring units
    • Instead of cups, tablespoons, etc., some recipes would call for servings or units.
    • One recipe I looked up, in the directions, said it required 2 cups of Atkins baking mix (please see first bullet), but that amount never changed, regardless of how many servings you said you were making. Since this ingredient wasn't actually listed on the list of ingredients, I was very unclear on how much I really needed.
  • Recipes are listed in alphabetical order
    • It sounds convenient, but it's not. When I would browse through the recipes for dinner ideas, there would literally be 17 pages of recipes, but not wanting to click through every single page, I would basically only see the recipes from the first 4 pages.
Since then, I've just started Googling low-carb dinner ideas and gotten some really yummy recipes.

I should also mention two other things I've discovered:
  • Eating healthy is very expensive. Many of the recipes I use call for crazy ingredients I've never heard of (there is an incredible variety of flour out there) and a lot of these ingredients can only be found at specialty stores like Whole Foods.
  • GLUTEN FREE FOOD IS HIGH IN CARBS!!! Sorry, gluten-avoiders! There are SO MANY gluten-free options out there, but the amount of carbs in a lot of those foods is outrageous.

Our Results

We're still going, but results have been good, so far. Brandon, who was already thin to begin with, lost 14 lbs in the first two weeks.

My results have come much slower. I lost about 5 lbs the first two weeks, but have been slowly dropping a pound or two at a time. A month in, I'm about 10lbs down.

Is it Sustainable?

I would say long as you're flexible.

Life isn't always going to provide you with low-carb options. Brandon and I just went to Mexico and were very hard-pressed to find low-carb options. A lot of the fish was breaded, and tacos are served guessed it...carb-packed tortillas! (We weren't about to go to Mexico and not eat tacos.) So we ate a little less and made sure to spend time at the gym or swimming to work it off a little.

It's a balancing act and a lifestyle choice. Smaller portions, fewer carbs. I would still never turn down a slice of pizza, but I have the discipline to trade my side of french fries for a healthier option. You have to be realistic and make choices that will work for your lifestyle. As another example: it's just not realistic to say that Brandon and I will stop drinking. And alcohol has a lot of carbs! We tried vodka for a while, but that's just plain dangerous! So that's where we know we're getting our fair share of carbs - in our (red) wine and (low-carb) beer. It means a lot of salads for dinner, but it works for us.

And people have gotten so creative these days that there's really not a whole lot you can't have. I just had pancakes for breakfast! They had a bunch of difficult-to-find ingredients, but they were delicious. And you can make just about anything out of cauliflower. It's not always good, but it is what it is.

Do you have any Atkins wisdom you'd like to share? Comment below.

Adult Tonsillectomy: Is Getting Your Tonsils Out As Bad As They Say It Is?

What ever happened to the days when children got their tonsils out regularly?

I mean, seriously, what is the opposition?! Do I sound like a bitter adult who got their tonsils out at 29-years-old instead of 5? Because I am. Don't get me wrong, I had wonderful parents who took me to the doctor. I just had a doctor who adopted the notion that tonsils serve a purpose or whatever. They do, by the way...serve a purpose. But that's not the point!

Here's my story...

I've always had huge tonsils, but like I said...tonsils serve a purpose. Well my allergies are pretty bad, so last year I went to see an allergist. We did that allergy testing where they poke you with a needle and turns out I'm just allergic to every form of life. Grass, trees, cats, dogs, etc. It was torture because you're not allowed to take your allergy medicine for a few days before the test and you're also not allowed to scratch for 15 minutes after they poke you with a million things you're allergic to.

My doctor and I went over the results and put together an action plan. I was prescribed some pills, some nasal spray, some allergy shots, and some steroids to see if it would bring down the size of my tonsils. His concern was that they were large because I didn't manage my allergies well. Oh...did I leave out the part where I was snoring like a 300 lb. man?

After the steroids, my tonsils were still the same size, so my doctor had me do a sleep study to see if they were the reason I didn't sleep well (a.k.a. snored). The results came back and I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. I stopped breathing 34 times an hour and had alarmingly low oxygen levels at night. By the way, I had to take a sleep apnea class before I did the sleep study and it was full of 300 lb. men.

Two weeks later I went in for a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy and it was SO MUCH WORSE than anybody can ever tell you. Oh my God, it was HORRIBLE! As with any surgery, coming off of anesthesia is awful. Then you can't talk, the back of your mouth is white and gives you bad breath for WEEKS after the operation because they burn your skin back together instead of doing stitches.

The prescription pain pills make you constipated and nauseous, which is the last thing you want to feel after your mouth has been operated on. I was so sick. Vomiting kind of sick because of the pain pills. Also, apparently I was just horrible when I was taking those drugs. Side note: try calling your doctor on the phone to tell them you're vomiting when you're know, vomiting. And you don't have a voice. And you're high on pain pills. Why didn't my mom or boyfriend call the doctor for me, you ask? They did. But there's that whole HIPAA thing...

My loved ones tried to force feed me soup and broth. Eight months later and I still haven't had soup because the thought makes me sick. I have tonsil PTSD. Which reminds me of the phantom pains. I promise you that your tonsils still hurt when they're out. You are not exempt from sore throats and you are not exempt from strep.

All in, I was out of work for about two weeks, but not completely pain-free for at least a month.

Okay, okay, it was torture and it was awful. And I feel like I'm far enough out to be objective and compare the experience to the results. It did cure my sleep apnea. It also cured my snoring, unless I drink too much wine. Which I usually do...

I'd like to say I sleep better, and I really did for a few weeks. But those were the weeks that I was taking extra strength Tylenol four times a day. I'd also like to note that extra strength Tylenol is wonderful and I never should have been taking narcotics. I honestly don't know how people get addicted to opioids, they're horrible.

I do breathe better. Running feels good and I can actually breathe with my mouth closed. Who knew that was possible?! Also, my allergies aren't nearly as bad as they were pre-tonsillectomy.

After everything you might be wondering if it was worth it. And my answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT. Call me unreasonable, but I promise you I'd rather die a premature death because of my sleep apnea than go through that again. It was hell. It was horrible. And I really miss enjoying soup and living in a world where I thought pain pills had magical properties instead of making you pukey and constipated...and didn't kill any pain. My sleep apnea wasn't hurting anyone. I didn't even know I had it! And my outrageous snoring didn't bother me one bit! I slept a perfectly wonderful, oxygen-deprived sleep.

PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW THIS INFORMATION before they agree to let their mouths be sliced and diced. Maybe it's too soon to be asking me if it was worth it. Try me again in another 8 months...

3 Steps to Finding Your Happiness and Keeping It

I am an anxious person. And I've been diagnosed with Clinical Depression.

It's not something I like to share a lot because there is still such a stigma around mental illness. Mental health isn't something that's well-understood. You can't physically see it, so it's sometimes hard to recognize. And we are so flippant about calling each other crazy and judging each other instead of supporting and accepting one another.

I've struggled and put a lot of emotional energy into this post because 1) it's very personal 2) it's very important. It's hard to figure out the correct way to approach this topic. Whether you're stressed, depressed, busy, lost, or down, your happiness should be a priority. Here are three things that have helped me, and I hope they help you, too:

Recognize when you need help

There is no shame in getting help. What's shameful is knowing there is something you can do to help yourself and not doing it. What's shameful is other people who make you feel bad, or embarrassed for wanting to feel good.

It is not normal to feel down, or tired all the time. It is not normal to have your emotions running so high that you burst into tears, or feel angry at a moment's notice. Forgetting things, losing sleep, sleeping too much, reduced appetite, increased appetite, decreased desire to participate in activities you normally do...that's no way to live.

Some people can find their happiness through yoga, coloring, running, massage, talking to friends. And by all means, you should find happiness by doing all of those things. But if it's not quite doing the trick, recognize it and talk to a doctor. It doesn't mean you're crazy. And you can start by just talking to your primary care physician. Your doctor can tell you if you have a physical condition, such as a thyroid problem or a chemical imbalance that is affecting your mood. Maybe it's just a lack of sleep (I went 29 years with undiagnosed sleep apnea and after getting my tonsils out, it changed my life). Maybe it's that you're working too much, maybe you just need someone to talk to. Whatever it is, your doctor is a trained professional whose job it is to CONFIDENTIALLY help you out. If you don't feel like sharing with your friends, don't! Going to the doctor is what healthy people do in order to stay healthy. Whether it's your blood pressure, a sprained ankle, or your mental state, addressing it with a doctor is key.

Cut the negativity

All of it! This is the hardest, and best thing you can do for yourself. Your friends stress you out? Get new ones! Your apartment stresses you out? Move! Hey, I said it wasn't going to be easy.

There are some stressors we are always going to have. For example, work. Even if you love what you do, your job is going to give you anxiety every once in a while. You're probably not going to be able to quit your job, but there may be some things at work you can change to make it less stressful. Try getting out of the office at lunch, going for a walk during your breaks, adjusting your shift to avoid rush hour.

Friends and family are a big one. Some people just bring you down. Set hard boundaries. Make stressful topics (like gossip) off-limits. Some of these people are going to make you feel guilty, call you over and over, or even get mad at you. Stick to your boundaries. You might lose some friends. Scratch that, you will lose some friends. But friends shouldn't be dragging you down.

Stop watching those sad movies and listening to those sad songs! You may think they're making you
feel better, or like you can relate, but you've got to get rid of them. You don't have room for that sadness anymore. Get rid of the sad stuff to make room for your soon-to-be-discovered happiness.

Maintain, maintain, maintain

Finding your happiness means maintaining it, and you will be doing this for the rest of your life. In time, you will get better at recognizing the people and situations that you should stay away from, but not without temptation. Or guilt.

Now here come the cliches: All the work that you put into feeling good will be worth it. Being happy is everything it's cracked up to be. You deserve it. Once you've found a routine that works, stick to it. Make time for the things that make you happy. Blah, blah, blah. You've heard them all and I am going to keep preaching them to you because they are all true. But the most important of all the cliches is...

THE ONLY PERSON LOOKING OUT FOR YOU IS YOU. Let me say that again: The only person looking out for you is you. It's not your mother, your spouse, your best friend. Yes, they love you. But you know yourself. You know what you need. You are more than capable of being your own advocate and you are strong enough to do it. Your happiness does not depend on other people to make it happen.

You deserve to be happy and it might not be an easy road to get there, so I am here to tell you to keep working. You'll get there. Be good to yourself. Be good to others. Find your happiness and don't let go.