Health

Mystery (NOT) Solved, Part II

Oy.

Last time, I talked about how I knew what was going on, and how I was hopeful I’d find a good doc. Update: I still know what’s going on, it’s just that now there’s MORE going on, and I have a distinct LACK of control of what symptoms will hit and when. One night, my nausea kept me up all hours, and two days later, I felt like I was totally fine. I have high high’s, low low’s, and a LARGE number of in-between days where I constantly go up, and down, or feel sorta blah without a big “UGH” moment. How do you solve something that changes every day? Oh, and also, NO GOOD DOCTORS YET!

The answer to all of this should easily be go to a doctor and get them to solve your mystery with you, perhaps even for you, right? But the sad truth is, there are just a lot of doctors, especially when you don’t live in a big city, who really don’t know what they’re doing. Worse, they don’t listen to you when you say you have some ideas that you’d at least like to rule out… even if that advice is from a veteran nurse or another doctor. WHAT?!

To boot, when you’re searching for answers on the professional end, there are a LOT of people (personally) who seem to be baffled that you can’t just be better. This was a phenomena I once deemed only applicable to invisible illnesses, like mental health. However, it appears unless your head is falling off or you have a boil the size of a newborn baby on your shoulder, people will still doubt your physical ailments.



This, I know, shouldn’t matter. But when my bones ache and my fatigue sets in, when my stomach wrenches into knots and my depression is acting up, when I am close-to-vomiting non-stop and I miss a work day or a girls day or {insert whatever else here}, the last thing I and other sufferers of ails need is to feel that doubt. People say things to imply “You could have made yourself better,” “you could have helped this because it’s in your control,” or “you are a burden and I don’t believe you;” sometimes they say it right out! And maybe it’s just my anxiety, but it cuts to the core of me when I genuinely have a out-of-my-hands health issue and I am met with doubtful words. It actually makes me feel worse, and I know I’m not alone in that.

The only thing that gets me through is thinking of the other people in the world who suffer in the same way, knowing that we have each other’s backs. I think of the few people who always understand me, and give me helpful advice instead of dismissing me. I think on a future time when I know I will be better, thanks to these people and one smashing doctor, and the people who doubted me will see what a change there has been. Most of all, I think of a time when I can wake up rested and at peace. And that, even through all the obstacles and doubtful faces, gets me through the most because I can’t wait for the day I can wake up and live again.

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Finally Comfortable

It’s weird. I’ve always been a little ahead, and not in a braggy way… just a “noticable to others” way that’s been commented on since I was, like, 8. I stopped giving in to peer pressure pretty early. I’ve always been independent, able to go places alone without fear. I made my own choices about my education and career. I have landed every job since graduation myself. I have been through every serious, sad adult situation you can think of, all before I turned 22. I’ve just been this way since birth, and I believe I always will.

But I worried constantly, and always have, thanks to those before-my-years moments. Though I know I can’t change the chronic GAD I live with, I try to manage it and know innately that it’s okay to have anxiety. However, I’ve always been incredibly bothered by my back-and-forth of worrisome thoughts about one thing: me. Myself. My body.

I believed, and still believe, it’s a sickness to worry so much about your body, which is why I was always so incredibly focused on deleting that worry from my life. I was DETERMINED to knock it BEFORE 30, because I remembered so many quotes about “Why were we so self-conscious in our 20s? We were at our physical peak!” I took those words to heart because I knew how true they were. And while I KNOW I’m going to keep on rollin’ out the peaks over the next 3 decades, I didn’t want to miss out on this, the 20-something peak.

Honestly, I didn’t worry about my body until I was in college, so I consider myself pretty lucky. Hell, it wasn’t even until LATE college that I really started to see flaws with myself physically. It started with my battle with adult acne, but when I knocked that out, I again was lucky to not see the flaws in myself……………… until after I lost weight, became a new, strong woman. And then I looked back–sometimes the opposite of wise–and I thought…. wait. WAIT! That was ME?! I was that confident in myself at THAT weight, with THAT hair?!!? NEVER AGAIN!

And that “never again” spawned this new sort of worry I had never had: never go back to that size, never go back to that hair, never go back to those clothes, never go back. And while it started as a “KEEP MOVING FORWARD AND BE YOUR BEST SELF!”, I quickly realized that it was an obsession. An unhealthy one.

Within that obsession, I never deprived myself of anything or overexercised. I like to think this is because of the highly logical side of my brain I inherited from my dad; if it’s not healthy, I don’t do it. He was very conscious of the fact he was raising two girls, and somehow, he knew never to pick our appearance apart. Maybe it’s because he was the big brother to a great sister, but he just… he never made us feel judged for our bodies, and I believe that’s why I never felt body shame until the opposite kind of men started to come into my life.

Yet, I still knew the obsessive body-based thoughts themselves were not something my supportive parents would find healthy, even if I wasn’t binging or denying or whatever else there is. I’m so glad I HAVE that foundation of support, because I can see how this worry over returning to my “ugly ‘before'” body could have turned into a plague-ish obsession that left me sick, sick, sick. But the fact that I now THOUGHT about my body image all day, even if I wasn’t doing anything “sick” to change it? That was not okay with me, and it wouldn’t be okay with my parents. Though I tried to stop them, the thoughts continued to be pretty intense.

I can’t pinpoint the moment when I realized it was taking up too much thought in my head, but I do know several things that made me start to realize I could be better to myself, could change the way I thought by focusing on these positive and productive things instead: when my friend S started clean-eating and sharing her tips with me; when I started stress eating and didn’t gain the weight back (or freak out when I teetered on gaining it); when I realized that I needed to focus more on my internal health than the external; when I realized that I can weigh 120 pounds with muscle OR fat. They all bungled together to start changing what I would tell myself every day.

I don’t know precisely when it happened. Maybe I just beat the thought into myself for so many days that it finally stuck. I woke up one morning and felt okay. Felt cozy. Felt like giving a giant middle finger to anybody who dare try to question my new mind-set: YOU ARE A HOT 20-SOMETHING, EVEN IF ONLY IN YOUR OWN EYES. CHILL THE SHIT OUT!

And I did. I mean, I still look down and see softness where my abs were, but instead of freaking out, I just think “I’m still hot. I’ll get those abbies back when I feel strong enough to exercise again.” I still don’t like when a pimple appears, but I simply say “Hey, hormones go away. That’ll be gone in two days!” If something doesn’t fit me the way it did before, despite my parking at the same weight for 2 years, I remind myself “It will fit to your liking again soon, but look. It fits now, too!”

So here I am, still not 30, and finally comfortable. I am aware of what I need to be healthy, and what steps I need to take to get there, but I have coping skills to talk myself down from worry’s edge if I backtrack or have a weak moment or feel unworthy. I don’t linger in front of the mirror as long as I did, and when I do, I make sure to find something I like before I leave.

Like, when I took this to prove my abs were gone, I was like "BUT LOOK WHOSE BOOBS ARE BACK!" Then I turned around and checked out my nice rear while I was at it.

Like, when I took this to prove my abs were gone, I was like “BUT LOOK WHOSE BOOBS ARE BACK!” Then I turned around and checked out my nice rear while I was at it.

I’m not perfect, but I am comfortable in my 20-something skin. And after all, that is ALL I ever wanted, and all I still want: to enjoy my 20’s appearance without guilt before I hit another decade, looking back and regretting that I didn’t appreciate what I had when I had it.

I found peace and ways to get back to that peace when I lose it. I’d say that’s another point for the ahead-of-the-game’ness I’m so used to, and I hope it helps anyone else who feels stuck. There’s still time. There’s always time.

Lust List: For the Bod

Other than a major thirst for beauty products lately, I’ve been on a binge for bettering my body. Of course, I have to up my water intake and shake off the SAD and exercise, but in the mean time, these are the things I’m lusting after to “fake it ’til I make it.”

1. Extreme Waist Trainer by Primadonna

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2. Embrocation cream for bare, yet warm, winter legs!

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3. ALL the bralettes! To feel sexay, YAKNO?!

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4. A Fitbit Charge, mostly to track my sleep, and hopefully up my movement daily until it’s swim time again!

 

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5. Major skin revamp, via Fraxel or something, erry’where. This winter has seriously done some damage, even with constant moisturizing!

6. Commando half-slip for keeping my little puffs hidden ’til they’re gone.

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7. My tried and true Saka Fitness DVD. This will get me back on track faster than any of the above. Let’s dance the winter off!

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Mystery Solved? Part I

Last time on Serial… okay, I’ve already broken my promise of not making any podcast-based jokes. Nah, but forreal, LAST TIME ON REYONCE (or technically a few times ago), I talked about finally finding some clues in the long-running investigation of myself.

“You have a B-12 deficiency.”

I had to stop myself from laughing as I sputtered out “What?! I take a B-complex every day and drink like, 9 Red Bulls a week!!!”

Doc told me that still wasn’t enough, and I needed to get at least 1,000 mcgs a day to remedy the situation. I kinda wanted to cry, but laugh at the same time, since it was something so simple. I also wanted to punch every doctor who had never tested me before.

A week or so later, I was on the floor of my dad’s house with my Bonus Mom, talking about the diagnosis. She kept trying to think of a term, one that meant “SUPER B12 DEFICIENCY” from her many years of nursing! My grandma had apparently had this issue, so she was curious. Finally, she remembered.

“PERNICIOUS ANEMIA!”

I immediately googled it and kind of morbidly laugh-cried as I read a long, long, LONG list of symptoms I’d been suffering from for yeeeaaaarrrssss. I listed them off to her and she was all “YUP! THAT’S YOU!”

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Since then, I’ve been trying to work on my health overall, especially by taking my mega-b12 supp every day. Problem is, it seems it’s not quite working. So here I am, rolling off the end of another missed day of work thanks to the following side effects of pernicious anemia. Le sigh:

-Fatigue
-Depression + brain fog
-Palpitations
-FATIGUE
-Higher susceptibility to infections (aka THESE FRESHMEN NEED TO BATHE)
-General muscle weakness
-FATIIIGGGGUUUUEEEE!!!
-Other random things like sore tongue, tender calves, tingling/numbness, etc.
-Did I mention FATIGUE?!!?!?

And now thanks to further research, I realize I’ll probably have to get a series of b12 injections over a few weeks in order to get my levels back up because my body isn’t absorbing the b12, hence the deficiency in the first place. And hey, it may have to be repeated from time to time, but maybe at least I won’t continue to feel (AND LOOK) like a walking corpse.

If you’re suffering from depression, anxiety, general bodily pain, a weakened immune system, and propelling down what seems to be an endless exhaustion tunnel, ask for this blood panel. After suffering for approx 9 years from these symptoms, this is the ONLY time I was ever, ever, everrrrrr tested. It seems like a horrendous oversight, and I don’t want anyone to suffer the way I did.

Next time, I’ll reveal how I finally found a doctor (NOT. A. WEIGHT LOSS CLINIC!) who would give me b12 for, you know, real reasons. Signing off on this installment on the Mystery of Me.

The Mystery of Myself

Imagine you’re a drum. Every day you wake up to the same familiar drummer beating a steady tune, keeping you fresh and functioning. She speeds up when she needs to, and slows down when a deep, dawdling punch here and there is all you need. You and all the other drums happily live each day like this, functioning perfectly symbiotically with your drummer.

One day, a symbol comes crashing down beside you and wakes you up mid-day, jolting you out of your sleep the way a human does when their alarm clock sears through their sleep cycle. You’re disoriented; you’re feeling unwell and unsure. Where is your drummer? Where is the steady attack you’ve felt since… forever? You wait, sweating bullets, wondering when the pulse that’s kept time for you will finally return. The drummer does come back, but sporadically. She’ll rattle on you for a minute, then run out faster than she got there; other times she comes and beats you to hell, ferociously kicking for an almost-unending time. On occasion, she seems to fall back into line, practicing that steady, change-when-you-need-it rhythm. But you never know anymore. You will never quite trust your drummer again.

Now imagine all of that is an analogy for your heart. You are the drummer, your heart the drum. GUESS WHAT? It’s an analogy for ME.

Since high school graduation, my life has been a series of journeys. Humans are always on the search for something, me especially due to my overactive imagination and anxiety. More nerve-wracking, my life since teendom has been filled with a search for what the hell is going on with the drum that keeps me going, and the resulting side effects in the rest of my bod.

Recently, I’ve been incredibly fatigued with overall pain. Now, considering the wringer I’ve been through health-wise for almost 10 years, it takes a lot for me to be like “Hey, um, I know I always talk about how crap-tastic my bod is, but I think there’s something really, really, REALLY wrong this time. Help????” So when it got to the point where I felt like I needed to shout this on a 24/7 loop a couple of months ago, I realized there probably was something really, really, REALLY wrong. I decided I needed to revisit the experts, despite their lack of ability to find the answers the first (and second and third) time.

After a night of sleepless sleep and a fever that seemed to creep all over my body like a static-y Snuggie, I forced myself into the doc’s office. They leeched more of my blood from me and found… well, not that much.

Except one thing no one has ever found before: a deficiency…

This suddenly explained a lot. And the stuff they couldn’t explain? Well, they directed me where I needed to go to find answers. It was like these medical professionals were TRAINED OR SOMETHING! Finally, someone who realized they just didn’t know what I needed, and said “Hey brah, this dude might, tho. HIT ‘EM UPPPPPPP!”

Next time on Serial…. Er, I mean, next time, I’ll talk about my newly diagnosed deficiency and how I’m finally starting to solve the mystery of myself. (Brought to you by Audible. JK. Damn you, Sarah Koening.)

Fast Track to Nowhere

I’ve been feeling all over the place lately, but the truth is, I haven’t really done much of anything. Sure, I have a high-pressure job with a never-ending workload, but I still feel stagnant because I come home completely drained.

I lie in my bed and rest my aching bones.

Sometimes I do more work.

Sometimes I fall asleep.

Sometimes I watch TV for hours as a method to tune out rehashing the storm of the day (plus TV is just my fave).

Sometimes my sweet boo-thang can drag me from the house for a dinner or errands.

Sometimes I can drag myself if it involves retail therapy or necessity.

But all of the time, I feel less than. I feel like that weird, floating, empty plastic bag from American Beauty, minus the beauty aspect.

Some of this comes from my mental health issues, but most of it stems from external situations, split right down the middle over whether I’m at the helm or not. The ones I don’t control discourage me from even trying to step up to the ones I do. It’s a vicious cycle compounded by permeating fatigue. And all the excuses I’ve made for that fatigue are just not realistic anymore.

I’ve gotten help for my weariness-inducing depression. I’ve exercised a lot and not at all. I’ve eaten right, and I’ve eaten wrong. I have slept for hours or barely at all. None of it ultimately fixes the debilitating weight of gravity I feel all. day. long. None of it takes away the pain or heartache it brings. None of it is normal.

So I think it’s time I call in the professionals. I need to let go of the idea that I can fix this fatigue alone, that this is one of the external scenarios that falls in my commanding ranks. I’ll hold up my end of the bargain with copious water, more veggies, lots of dancing, continuing my meds, and jerking back the damn wheel on the half of the outside stimuli I do hold command over, but a lady needs some help.

And it’s going to suck. I am going to get worse before I get better. I am going to have to be experimented on, pay a lot of money to find answers, add more to my plate(s), and barrel through it all like some non-existent superhuman.

But in the end, I will be the bright-eyed woman with a trash can full of completed to-do’s and dreams, a life’s worth of goals attended to because someone out there (YOU DO EXIST, RIGHT, DOC?!) finally cared enough to find out what was stopping her little body from letting her.

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In Defense of Red Bull

I am addicted to Red Bull. Those near and dear to me know it. My students have tried to convince me the taurine in it is bull semen, which I’ve then had to rebuff with science.

I’ve also told them I’d keep drinking it even if it were true.

I lived most of my life without caffeine, at least at the doses other humans used to get through the day-to-day. When I started having heart issues, I was ordered not to have any, which I obliged for three solid years, including most of my college years AND my first two “real” jobs. I did all of that without the aid of our most popular and acceptable legal drug.

But when I hit my third real job and grad school and my fourth real job and being a full-time girlfriend, puppy mom, self-provider… well, I had to get back on the wagon whether I wanted to or not. At this point, I had my POTS semi-diagnosis, and I had read somewhere along the way that caffeine can help some cases. Why not, right?

Enter caf tea, then coffee, then sodas, then all of the above at once. My life was a joy of artificial awareness! Sweet Moses, how I had missed the bitterness of a strong cup o’ joe on my tongue; longed for the earthy numbness of Yerba mate! Now I could have it all! THE WORLD WAS MINE!

… for a while. When I picked up my old Diet Coke habit I’d had before my doctor ordered me off caffeine completely, all my old issues returned. I realized fast it was due to the aspartame, something I have to avoid in high doses, but I had to cut off the caf while my heart’s rhythmic issues resolved themselves. These months should be renamed The Dark Ages or I Barely Remember Anything Because I Was So Tired ALL. THE. TIME!

It happened by accident, really. It seemed like it had been long enough for me to pick back up the aspartame-free caf. That day in Ohio, the only caf that happened to be around was Red Bull.

It’s been a love affair since. Minus the sugar, it’s actually a damn healthy form of caffeine. It’s full of B-vitamins aka your mother would approve/P.S. YOUR HAIR IS SO SHINY! Oh, and yeah, the sugar isn’t great, but if you’re going to a chain coffee store and getting a mocha latte white chocolate pumpkin green tea frappucino? You are ingesting WAY more than that. Same for sodas: much more sugar.

Bonus: I have always been prone to jitters with caffeine, especially coffee. But get this! No jitters with DA BULL! Plus it’s cold, refreshing, and delicious. Need I say more? OH YEAH! The facts…

The Facts:
Less caffeine than a regular brewed coffee (75-80mg vs. 95-200 mg).
Basically the most “natural” energy drink you can find.
+ At least the sugar is real (not HFCS or aspartame, etc.) if you drink the regular version.
+ Oh, and there is way, way, way less of it (and other bullshit additives) than, say, a grande Starbucks (330mgs of caffeine, too, BY THE WAY.)
+ PACKED with vitamins and amino acids.
+ First ingredient is water, which is the most important ingredient in ANY food and/or beauty product.
+ No known carcinogens.

By the way… the other day, in an effort to appease some of my more concerned students and colleagues, I picked up a protein drink to wake me up. When I put it beside my Red Bull, I laughed too hard (but also cried) because it was PACKED with horrible crap.

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First of all, look at that ingredient list. Are you joking?! SEE HOW MANY INGREDIENTS ARE IN RED BULL? SUPER, I DO, TOO. I can also pronounce all of them and know that all the lesser-known terms on the list are either sugar or vitamins thanks to my time working with a nutrition program.

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But the Muscle Milk is full of disgusting oils, a thickener or two, and even a KNOWN CARCINOGEN, not to mention packed with fat and sodium. Yes, it’s got vitamins on vitamins, but at the cost of drinking canola oil and cellulose potentially NOT derived from a plant.

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I triple dog dare you to try and pronounce some of the terms on that second label. Some are vitamins, yes, but most are food additives that aren’t necessary.

So hey, how about you back off the Red Bull? If you’re drinking it in moderation on a hydrated, healthy body, you have nothing to worry about. It’s just like sipping a cup of coffee or strong tea. It’s only when you, as a user, make bad choices that this drink becomes an issue.

But the same can be said for any drink, can’t it? (LOOKING AT YOU, ALCOHOL!)

The Only Sober Girl in the Room

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I stopped drinking heavily a couple years ago. I stopped drinking altogether a little over six months ago. Sure, I’ve had a few drinks here and there to celebrate my birthday or a new job, but I haven’t participated in the American alcohol binge in quite some time.

Most people cock their head to the side and wonder why a healthy, non-alcoholic girl in her 20s stopped drinking. “Why wouldn’t you want this cold, shitty beer?!” they wonder. What follows is always this look of suspicion as if there’s some extremely deep and/or sinister reason for my sobriety. Truth is, I just like being sober.

The funny thing is, I’ve sort of always been the only sober girl in the room. I’ve always been the one who could handle the bar or a party or a family function without the crutch of alcohol. I was the girl who would volunteer to be DD first because I didn’t mind not libating (and I really, really, really wanted to stop the debate my girlfriends were about to have about whose turn it was behind the wheel). Basically, I’ve been able to dance like a drunk maniac without actually being drunk since I came out of the womb.

But when you tell people, “No thank you, I don’t drink,” there is this uncomfortable silence as if you have somehow betrayed them by not taking their offer of a too-strong rum and coke. They don’t remember the 1,000 times that came before when I sipped Dr. Pepper instead of wine; they seem to be looking for a lost limb I never knew I had. I find myself having the “it’s not you, it’s me” talk with a lot of folks as I let them and their whisky down gently.

I chose to drink, and I chose to stop drinking. The fact of the matter is, my body doesn’t like alcohol. It refuses to participate in the bar scene like Captain Kirk refuses to follow the rules. I can’t function when there’s alcohol running through my blood stream, and I like doing things too much to wait for peak body performance to return. My health became more important than my annoyance for having to explain why I didn’t want red wine with my meal on 99 more occasions. And though I’ve had to explain myself quite a few times since, the benefits from dropping the alcohol have been phenomenal.

My skin is glowing. It has its hormonal days as I do, but it looks more hydrated than it has in years.

I have kept weight off with less effort, especially in the always-problematic torso region.

My hair looks better, even when I neglect it, and it’s actually starting to fill in in a couple of places where there was a lot of frequent breakage.

My mental health, while always a work in progress, only has to deal with the swings of reality without any dizzy nights to confuse it.

I never wake up wondering what I did the night before, the dread washing over me, not knowing if I unreasonably started a fight or lost something important.

And you know what? The only drinks I truly miss are cheap champagne and a quality craft beer. But thanks to the healing ixnaying alcohol has done to my body, I can enjoy those things every once in a blue moon without the consequences of long-term drinking.

I can have my cake and drink it, too… or something like that.

How-To: Get Back to Yourself

Life throws us loops. Some are amazing, while others are absolutely devastating, but most loops fall in the massive, massive gray area in between. Regardless of where they lie on the scale, all these changes can take us out of ourselves. We start freaking out about something great happening two months away or we stress about where we’ll find money tomorrow. It’s like an anxiety record playing on a loop constantly, and eventually, it’ll catch up. My own stress, good and bad, has caught up to me big time. I think it’s important to remind you and I of all the best ways we can get back to being ourselves.

1. Take a day. Hell, I don’t care. Take 3 days. Take as many days as you need to feel like you’re not a live wire fallen in the middle of a rainy road. Do whatever your body tells you to do those days, and most of the time, it will tell you to sleep and drink a lot of water.

2. Do something you love without apology. Have a movie marathon. Read lots of books. Take a long walk alone. Sing at the top of your lungs to Beyonce. Combine all of these things at the same time. Whatever it is, do it only if you love it, and do it for you.

3. TREAT YO’ SELF! This doesn’t have to be a lucrative purchase, but on the other hand, it can be. You call the shots! Take yourself out to a movie or get your hair done. Go shopping with your friends. Make yourself realize you’re worth it.

4. Start some lists. You should at least make a list of things you enjoy doing and are good at doing — these won’t necessarily intersect, so make sure you’ve got two columns or some fancy Venn diagram. Next up: to-do lists, goals to achieve, goals for those goals, etc.

5. Hone in on “your things.” The point of all those lists is to try to rediscover what your happiest self enjoys doing, both for hobby and for money. Once you find these things again, focus on them intensely and deeply in an effort not to lose sight of the elements that leave you fulfilled and essentially yourself.

6. Plan and schedule. In order to keep your head about you after taking time for yourself and rediscovering your passions, try to plan and schedule not only your goals and happy activities, but time for yourself to recharge so you won’t burn out again… at least not any time soon.

7. Organize and purge. Once you have a plan and goals, make sure you don’t have any obstacles — physical or mental — in the way. Organize your desk, dump toxic people. Basically, clean house in every meaning of the phrase.

8. Slowly emerge back into society. If it wasn’t clear, steps 1-7 should all be done alone. These are things that shape YOUR life and no one else’s, so you should be solo for a while. However, it is important to incorporate your loved ones back in as soon as you’re done being a self-growth vampire.

9. If you’re still struggling, get advice. NOW is the time to ask your pals for a word or two. Seek answers from your parents or a therapist. Use the magic of online forums. Whatever it is you choose, just make sure you are 100% sure about where you’ll be going from here on out because…

10. Do “your thing(s).” …in order to properly do your things, aka LIVE YOUR LIFE, you need to be sure in yourself and your decisions, at least for the moment. You can tweak your plan, but only after you’ve begun to execute one.

If you’re a visual person, this is basically what the plan looks like:

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Regular Monet, right?

Weight Loss Journey

Two years ago, J and I decided that we needed to make a move on our physical appearance, lest we continue to fall off the wagon, no longer noticing the figures in front of us in the mirror. We had both put on holiday weight, so we got a joint gym membership and planned to eat better every night.

It didn’t take long for me to really get into it and drop 20 pounds, putting me back down in the 120s. I was happy there, so I wrote about my journey at that point and expected that would be the end of that.

I didn’t realize then that weight loss and overall healthy living is a continuous journey. You should never stop. And no, I don’t meant that in an unhealthy, exercise-addicted way. I mean that you should always be living a life where you feel strong and damn good about yourself.

After I wrote that initial entry, I was pretty good for at least 6 more months. I didn’t exercise as frequently, but I still ate well and did get my gym on at least once a week. I maintained.

Shortly after a little break-up (which always curbs my appetite), I also found myself smack dab in the middle of a hospital room for FIVE days after I incurred a CRAZY infection post-wisdom tooth surgery. I had to undergo another surgery to drain it out, and just like that, I lost 5 more pounds because I could barely eat or drink.

This put me right at or a little below 120, which is as far as I’m comfortable going according to my BMI. If I go lower, it’s too dangerous. With that thought in mind, I got out of the hospital and immediately started eating ALL THE THINGS! I ate all of the sweets I had been missing for months because I needed to gain some cushion weight. In other words, I like having a window between me and that way-too-low BMI. I like my body to work, not suffer.

It took me about 6 months to gain the 5 pounds back. But oh, when I hit that 5 pound mark, MAN, DID MY METABOLISM SLOW DOWN! I stopped being able to eat whatever the hell I wanted without seeing it. And guess what? I wasn’t working out or eating well because I was finishing my first semester in grad school, moving into a new place, applying for jobs, trying to balance fam + bf + friends, and trying to, you know… SLEEP. That left no time for anything I wanted to do for myself, so I sacrificed taking the time to work on my body.

Right after the semester ended, I finally found a job for a nutrition program. I learned so much about the data of our food. It truly freaked me out, and I started being conscious about what I was eating again. I learned all the sneaky names of the shit ingredients they put in our food AND what the long terms I could never pronounce actually meant. I also picked up a new gym membership to put to use once they opened in September.

By the time October rolled around, I had gotten a handle on my ingesting of crap and my exercise regimen. But by October, I also finally, finally landed a teaching gig. Whew, boy.

For the first couple months, I kept going to the gym when I could and ate well. But any good teacher will tell you that you start sacrificing things for your students as you get to know them, and the easiest thing for me to sacrifice was my health plan. I started letting them come in during lunch to vent to me. I would stay up too late grading/planning and forget to pack lunch, then sleep in too long and not have time to eat breakfast. I would walk around the classroom all day, rarely sitting down. For about two months, I subsisted solely on what my students brought with them to the classroom and items from the vending machine. My body started giving me signs that nothing well was happening inside; my old health issues were returning with each pound I put back on. (Yeah, not giving your body supplement makes you gain weight, which is why I hiss at my girlfriends when they say they’re going to stop eating. It’s not healthy AND it doesn’t work.)

It probably won’t surprise you that in the middle of all this malnourishment and stress, my depression returned. It made it hard for me to do anything, especially go to the gym when I felt so anxious and sad. My SSRI kicked in about the same time my own common sense did: as much as I love what I do, I love me more.

This all culminated in February 2014. I was able to function again thanks to my medication, and I started going to the gym again. I decided to stop focusing on what I was eating until I, you know, FOUND TIME TO EAT! A month later, one of the other teachers made life 1000% easier by bringing Saka Dance into the workplace. This meant I could have more time to myself, and I would fill that time with eating instead of more grading. The papers could wait.

With my favorite combination of healthy eating and consistent, fun exercise, I finally made it back to the spot where I feel most healthy. I’d tell you the number, but frankly, it’s none of your business because you know what any person’s health journey should be about? Being the healthiest you, and not giving one damn what people think!

weight loss

So, here I am. It’s two years + some change later, and I feel great. That’s not to say there weren’t ups and downs, but it was all worth it. You know why? What I notice most about the last photo doesn’t really have to do with appearance, in a vain way at least. I notice that I am happy, laughing about J and I both trying (and failing) to push each other in the freezing water. I notice that I am running, something I wasn’t able to do for years. And while I’ll never be able to do much more than sprint, at least I finally can.

I will never stop making myself healthier than I was the day before, but I am happy to say that I’m happy where I am. I feel better now than I did 10 years ago, mentally and physically. Most of the change you see is an internal one shining through to the outside, one that I will strive to maintain for the rest of my life.

My best advice to those struggling is not to give up; life’s gonna throw you weird curve balls, but you’ll eventually catch one. Read the labels on your food and steer clear of anything you can’t pronounce that isn’t a vitamin. MAKE TIME FOR YOU AND YOUR HEALTH! Most of all, make sure what you’re doing is healthy, feels good, and is for you and ONLY you.

xo