Sunday, June 3, 2012

Gaining a Sense of Health Back

There's a lot of activity on my health front lately.  I've turned into a major health and exercise nut and am working on the biggest lifestyle change of my life.  I feel stronger, happy, and extremely motivated.  Here's how I've been doing it. 

Vitamin D
The last time I reported, I'd seen marked improvement from ditching birth control and taking Vitamin D supplements.  At that time, I'd only moved my Vitamin D deficiency from a dismal 15 nmol/L to a hopeful 25 nmol/L.  I am happy to report that taking 5,000 IU supplement daily has finally moved me into the normal range at 48 nmol/L.  I can now take 2,000 UI a day and we'll recheck my levels in 6 months to make sure they haven't dipped.

Because I implemented the birth control/Vitamin D changes at the same time, I'll never be able to distinguish which was the more effective move or which symptoms were alleviated by either pill.  It doesn't matter - I will never ever go back on birth control and I'll always be keeping my vitamin levels under a watchful eye. 

Addressing the nutrient deficiency has been a complete game changer.  I can ACTUALLY exercise!  It's amazing to not be supremely sore from a simple walk.  Now that my body can handle movement, I've been aggressive about exercising.  

The past two weeks, I've been working out for 4 hours a week - a combination of biking, walks, hiking, Pilates, and resistance bands.  I'd like to exercise for 6 hours / 1hr a day but that will come soon enough.  This spring, I only managed 1.5 hours a week, so I need to be careful about increasing my stamina steadily so I don't crash and burn. 
Pilates definitely kicks my butt - I have zero core strength.  I like it nonetheless
I'm positively addicted to working out as I'm already experiencing those contact highs!  I loved being active as a kid - I was a classic, sports-loving tomboy.  It's so incredible to tap into those feelings of joy and adrenaline again during a sweat session.  Biking is hands down my favorite form of exercise.

Calorie Management
I am consistently keeping track of calories with an online tool called  I don't use the exercise function, but logging my daily food intake has been really helpful.  I'm not super anal about this - I track about 4-5 days of the week.  

Now that I've been doing it a while, I have mental notes about what one of my regular meals "costs" in calories.  For example, I know one of my staple dinners - bbq chicken, corn, and baked beans - will clock in around 500 calories, is relatively low on fat, and high in fiber. 

I also use the tool to plan meals in advance since I stick to meal planning pretty tightly.  I can chart out breakfast, lunch, and dinner in one sitting, which helps me to be mindful about how many calories are leftover for snacks. 

Despite my efforts to really bulk up on protein and fiber, I cannot bring myself down the 1,600 daily calories that's usually suggested for weight loss.  Even with eating on a 5 small meals routine, I still get overly hungry at that level.  With careful planning and a bit of willpower, I can easily hit and stop at 1,900 calories a day though.

I'm also making a concerted effort to increase my veggie intake.  My sweet tooth allows me to eat fruits with ease, but if it's green, it takes some willpower to like it.  So far I've found that raw broccoli and cauliflower, spinach salads, and peas are manageable.  My mother will also fall out of her chair when she reads this - I discovered that after years of hating green beans, that the Green Giant frozen green beans with almonds are quite tolerable, maybe even enjoyable.  Baby steps, baby steps.   

Not a brand endorsement, but wow, me eating green beans might mean the zombie apocalypse is upon us

Next Steps
While all of these changes have been super awesome, my weight has not budged one bit.  Granted, it's not gone up either.  Frankly, being so close to 200 pounds has me frightened out of my mind.  I don't come from a healthy stock of genes and I know that carrying all my weight around my belly is killing off a future version of myself in the form of heart disease or diabetes.

I know that it takes time to lose weight, build up muscle, and recharge metabolism.  But it does concern me that I'm making all of these healthy, consistent changes and in six months it hasn't made a difference on the scale.  It makes me wonder if I may have other health issues that are still causing less obvious roadblocks.  Which is why my next step is to see an allergist.

I come from a long line of allergy sufferers and while the seasonal colds I get don't really bother me, I still get ear and sinus infections every couple of months.  Truthfully, it's the long-term impacts that have me concerned.  People tend to poo-poo allergies as a serious medical condition, but it sounds much scarier if you think of allergies as daily inflammation, something that's actively doing harm to your body.  

I know for sure that I have food intolerances - oats and peanuts do lovely things to my digestive system for days on end.  Soy milk produces a mood swing within 30 minutes - it mimics estrogen and given my intolerance to birth control, that's not surprising.  I'll never be a vegan though. 

My mom has really bad allergies to corn and I noticed that sometimes, though not always, I can get a headache after eating popcorn.  Or if I have corn tortillas one night and then whole corn the next day, I might have some stomach pain and a headache.  That could be coincidental or related some other food, but not enough to the point where I'm going to ignore it.

I simply want a concrete lists of items, if any, that I shouldn't be consuming.  It would be incredibly dumb to willingly consuming things I'm allergic to.          

There's also new research coming out that shows that instead of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes causing inflammation, it's distinctly possible it's the other way around - inflammation precedes and paves the way for those conditions.  Does make one think.

Halfway into 2012, I finally feel as if I'm gaining control over my health.  Much of getting back into shape is now in my hands and an allergist is really the only other test I can think of that will identify remaining roadblocks.

How's your health been lately? 


  1. Have been taking higher doses of C, D and a B complex with iron. Feeling better physically, energy levels getting better and my mood has improved tremendously. Also increasing activity levels. Gardening, walking up and down the back yard, climbing stairs... Almost quit drinking coffee, some days don't drink any at all! Eating a lot of vegetables, too, and have cut way down on my consumption of meat and grains.
    (None of this has done a thing for the weight issue but the doctor says she believes it isn't a weight problem so much as an endocrine problem related to menopause.)
    We shall see what happens next. Wouldn't be surprised in the least if the excess weight starts going away, little by little, as my body adapts to all this new stuff and realizes it isn't in a famine nor anticipating a long migration!

    1. Yay! You totally deserve some reprieve from all of that crazy stuff and to get your own health back. As long as you're feeling better, that's the important thing!

  2. Pilates is straight evil torture. My abdominal muscles split all three times while pregnant (not an uncommon thing and surprisingly not a bit painful) and, as you might guess, that does not a damn thing for core strength.

    After a 4 year break from all things exercise I've decided I'm unhappy with how my body is looking. I'm not overweight, I have absolutely no weight loss goals. I just miss the lean tone I had while I was in the Army. Sadly the only way to get that back is to do some sort of moving around. Since long distance running was where I started back in Jr. high that's where I went back to.

    I'm working my way through a "couch to 5K" program and when I finish that I will roll straight into a 16 week half Marathon training program. The race is up in Nashville on Oct. 7th. I am excited and nervous, I've never run for longer that 4 miles before, and that was 12 years ago!

    1. Wow Em, good for you! I was always envious of your running skills. I'm actually going to try a touch of running myself, maybe some intervals during walks. I always hated it, but I would love to surprise Mike when he gets back by going to a celebratory run. If that doesn't work, at least I'll be good on the biking front, lol.

      I've noticed that my plantar fasciitus is much less noticable after the Vitamin D improvements. I guess that's why I'm curious to test out a run. Not because I like it, but I want to see if my feet can handle it.

    2. I suggest going to a good sporting goods store and have someone help you pick out the kind of shoes you need. There's specific shoes for high, normal, and low arches. If you have a knowledgable salesperson they can should take into account your plantar issues too. There are shoes for track running, street running, mixed terrain running, shoes for walking instead of running ... and so on and so forth. Plus your own specific running/walking style and habits need to be taken into consideration.

      For example, I tend to run on the outside edge of my feet. so when I'm trying on shoes I always exaggerate that movement to see if the shoes will help prevent me from rolling my ankle. Which is not a good idea when you're a couple miles from home. :)

      I'd call stores in your area and ask if they have people who can specifically help you find the right shoes. Seriously, the wrong shoes will make running OR walking a miserable experience.

    3. Totally agree. I just got special orthotic dress shoes. While they cost way more than I would normally pay ($160), I have zero foot pain with them, which I cannot put a price tag on.

      My current tennis shoes are two years old and on the fritz. Will be replacing them soon and likely will go back to that special shoe store for them.

    4. Shoes used pretty much daily really only have a 6 month lifespan. I don't know if that is just fact or if its an evil money making scheme on the part of shoe manufacturers.

      If I'm just walking around in them I may keep for one full year, but if I'm seriously exercising I won't keep the shoes longer than 6 months. When my shoes start to wear out, I first feel the twinges in my shins. I had shin splints during basic training due to bad shoes and never want to feel that pain again.

      It was the worst pain I have ever experienced. And keep in mind I have had 3 unmedicated child birth experiences to compare to. ;-)

    5. Oh shin splints. I got them when we did basketball together. Puttum's 60-second full-court drill did not help (or several seasons of tennis, for that matter). They flare up once every while, like if I'm not careful about stretching before hiking or Tae Bo. It's an awful pain.

  3. You go, girl! If you could make it through basic and then AIT? You can do this. :)

  4. Don't worry too much that your weight hasn't gone down. Some of the fat has probably been replaced with muscle, which is denser (and thus heavier) than fat. Also, there are 3,500 calories in a pound, so if you're eating 100 fewer than what you need to stay at the same weight, it will take you 35 days to lose a pound. Of course, that's not accounting for whatever you're burning when you exercise, but it's something to remember when you're worried about the scale. :-)

    Re: vitamins, I'm taking Vitamin D/fish oil combination supplements now because both are supposed to help regulate mood, and it turns out vitamins are awesome. That is all.

    1. Yeah, there's no way I'm not building muscle throughout all of this. That's why I'm doing anything with strength training - get the muscle % up, more effectively drive the fat % down.

      Isn't Vitamin D awesome!? I sometimes feel like I'm "juicing" on it, lol.