Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sad puppy

Two series of blood tests = $250
A two-months' supply of Prednisone = $30
A two-weeks' supply
of antibiotics = $45
Antacids so the dog doesn't
get ulcers from all
this medication = $ 28

Waiting for the test results to tell me whether the dog has something permanently serious wrong?
No monetary value.

And at the bottom of the receipt the cheery words: "Thank you! Please come again."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Progress: strange, but true

My body is strange.

It's something to be put into the category of Things Mary Will Never Understand, like quantum physics or the B. triangle. Just damn weird.

A few days ago, when I was whining about my inability to lose weight, the brilliant Heather suggested I'd used that website last year when I was obsessively tracking my every calorie. Lately I've been concentrating on eating at least 5 servings of vegetables and avoiding Bad stuff while exercising daily. I figured I didn't need to count the actual number so long as it was all Good.

Wrong, Mary.

Tracking my actual calories turned up the fact that I was not eating enough. All those vegetables and high-fiber foods were filling, but the total added up to about 1000 calories a day. No wonder my poor body was stubbornly clinging to every pound it could; it thought I was starving it.

Anyway, this week I've adopted a strategy that seems nonsensical. Exercised less and ate more Bad food, i.e. food that was high calorie, with saturated fat. Twice this week I've actually driven to work rather than cycling in. And I've lost 4 pounds.

I'm not complaining, mind you. But it still seems strange to do bad and see good results. It's getting too awkward to try to calculate total gains/losses. (Last week I ended with a net gain of 1 pound, this week I lost 4.) Instead, I've added a weight-loss tracker to the side of the blog. Let the computer do that math-stuff for me, so I can concentrate on eating and lounging and all that kinda stuff.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Me, Marilyn Monroe, & Henry David Thoreau

"Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes."
- Henry David Thoreau

"It's not true that I had nothing on. I had the radio on."
- Marilyn Monroe

Putting these two quotations up here might seem like I'm suggesting popularizing exercising whilst nekkid. Bare Bear with me. I'm going somewhere with this. I think.

Yeah, I know, like I've got so much in common with Marilyn Monroe. Well, in a way I have. Both of us are known for our measurements -- Marilyn for her bodily dimensions, me for my inability to accurately calculate measurements. For instance, my daily lunchtime walk. It seemed like miles and miles and miles of walking. Turns out it was only mile and mile (and a bit). Pretty, I must say. But shorter than I'd expected and hoped.

My lunchtime walk takes me around the perimeter of the Nike World Campus. The company may have problems with their factories in Jakarta, but their home campus is nicely spread out over several acres, with ponds and woods and beautiful landscaping. Some parts of the campus, you'd think you were miles from anywhere -- if it weren't for the sounds of traffic coming from the busy roads that are hidden behind the trees. A woodchip path circles the perimeter. Map my ride allowed me to calculate that this perimeter and the walk I take to get to it and back to my office add up to just over 2.5 miles. Sigh. I thought it was loads more than that. I'll have to up the pace to get a decent workout, and that means making a few changes.

Like Henry David Thoreau, I came to a pond to get away from everything. The next step, pun intended, is to disregard ole Henry's advice and get me some fancy running shoes.

It has not escaped my attention that all those great fit people I've been reading online (see most of the Blog Roll) are all crazed fanatical lovely, dedicated runners. The only cyclist in the bunch (aside from the amazing Heather, who I could only keep up with if I had a motorcycle) is Fat girl on a bike, and even she has started running. It's a conspiracy. Either that or it's a form of exercise that gets people fit more than it destroys their knees.

Either way, I figure I need a new pair of shoes before I start even the most tentative little jog. I understand that the best thing to do is go to a fancy running store, where crazed fanatical dedicated salesmen will fit me with the perfect shoe for my perfect feet. My only worry is that the salesmen might decide I simply must buy a pair of Adidas or some brand like that. That would be even worse than having nothing on but the radio. I might end up getting barred from my lunchtime walk.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Woman's best friend? Ha.

    They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
    They pursued it with forks and hope;
    They threatened its life with a railway-share;
    They charmed it with smiles and soap.
    - Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark

The dog comes over and stares at me intently. "I need something."
"Okay, what do you need?"
More staring. "Help me."
"Sure, I can do that! Help you how?"
Intent, fixed gaze. "I need something."
"But what is it?"
Staring right at me. "Help me."
"Look, I'm starting to get annoyed here."
Perfunctory wag of the tail. "I'm sorry. I'm very sorry."
"Help me."

I've offered her food; I've offered her a back scratching. I put her outside; I let her back inside. I took her for a walk; I took her for a car ride while I went to get treats.

Now she's sitting in the car refusing to get out. She's glaring at me because I won't give her what she needs.

She's been sitting in the car for the last hour and a half. "It's all my fault," her gaze clearly indicates. (Trust me, this dog knows how to do reproach. She doesn't do it often, but she's good at it.)

Where the flying fig is a pet psychic when I need one?

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Michaelangelo Makeover

On the other hand, for those of us who aren't incredibly talented Renaissance sculptors, maybe we do. Can you achieve your goals totally on your own, or do you sometimes need outside help to lose weight and make your body look something like your ideal?

What do you do when you need help achieving your goals?
    Ever try something like:
  • Posting a weight-loss blog so you can feel accountable to people for achieving your goals. (Even if you do find yourself in an endless same-3-pounds cycle. What, me bitter? Never...)
  • Joining a gym? Does it help to have lots of other sweaty people around you?
  • Finding a workout buddy? (And finding one who's going at your pace instead of a million -miles-faster than you are?)
  • _________?
I'm wondering if I should be trying a Plan B at this point, or if I should just keep plugging with my current game plan and work on that Patience stuff.

On the other hand, it's Friday! Once I get through today, I've got a whole weekend to hike or bike or ... well... who knows what. But there will definitely be some fun and some exercise happening.

Happy Friday!

******Obligatory disclaimer du jour***********
(Yes, this probably needs to be said. My intention with the opening picture was not to disparage personal trainers. I've never used the services of one, but there are some informative and motivating blogs out there written by personal trainers. (Phit-N-Phat comes to mind.) I am sure they are good people. My opening was a cheap attempt to hook the reader's attention with humor.)
****End obligatory disclaimer du jour**************

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Upset Point

This morning my scale told me I lost 3 pounds. I told it to shut up.

I mean, it's not as if it hasn't told me the same thing before. It said I lost 3 pounds last week, and that I had gained the 3 pounds back, then lost and gained the same damn 3 pounds again -- all in one week. That's a total of 2 losses, 2 gains, all of the same 3 pounds. And I'm beginning to think it is the same 3 pounds. I suspect my body is having fun at my expense. Good to know it has a sense of humor.

I'm not really upset. Maybe a bit exasperated. I've been reading up on what the human body does when you ask it to lose weight. The concept of Set Point has been covered in everything from physiology text books to fad diets. My body has clearly decided its set point is right at my current weight.

The only point where I disagree with the majority of what I've read out there is when I come across the opinion that a Set Point is something that is immutable, laid down from the dawn of time, engraved in stone and you're damned to be at that weight for all of your life so get used to it already. Sheesh. I think not.

Covert Bailey lists five mechanisms that your body uses to control your set point, and how exercise can be used to lower each one. (Fit or Fat) This makes sense to me. My set point wasn't this weight when I was 20. Why shouldn't it be something I could change again? But this time, change it in the direction I want. (Though I must say, I don't agree with Covert Bailey's comment that "couch potato Mary needs only a moderate amount of exercise to see a big improvement." It takes about two hours of exercise a day for me to see signs of change on the scale or the measuring tape.)

Interestingly, some psychologists think that your individual level of happiness has a set point too. Not sure how happy I feel about that. I suppose it's good to know that winning the lottery won't make me any happier. But I'd like the chance to find out, all the same.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dying is easy. It's Exercise that's hard.

Ever hear the story of the famous actor* who was on his deathbed when someone said to him, "You're dying! It must be very hard for you to die."

"Hard?" murmured the famous actor. "No, dying is easy. It's comedy that's hard."

Well, my philosophy is that exercise is easy.

* Getting started exercising is hard.
* Finding time to exercise is tricky.
* Exercising when you're injured is hard (or downright stupid).
* Exercising in a gym when everyone around you is greyhound-thin and whippet-lithe is hard (and extremely discouraging).

But exercise? That's easy. Once you get going, that is. I do not understand why Brits wouldn't exercise even if their lives depended on it. (And I doubt this lethargy is limited to one country.)

Why should exercise be a drudgery instead of something fun? Is there no kind of exercise that appeals to you?

Okay, let me rephrase that. Any kind of appealing exercise that won't get your face slapped or cause a "laughable misunderstanding" with a bunch of unsympathetic bodyguards?

Didn't you enjoy exercise when you were a child? No, don't flash back to that nightmare of a PE class in 7th grade. I mean playing a game that involved running or climbing or ... well, or something. Exercise was fun sometimes, even if you weren't always good at it. Why don't people who "hate exercising" find something that they enjoy and then do it?

I think this is another of those things I'm not going to fathom.

Obligatory Disclaimer, which is kind of like the stewardess pointing out the emergency exits on the plane, i.e. you've heard it before but it still has to be said.
I mean, obviously you need to have a doctor look at you before you start exercising, and clearly you shouldn't push yourself beyond your limits, but you can do a little exercise, within your limits. Once you've create a habit, the body adjusts to the new demands made on it.
Okay, now on to the movie and the bag of mixed nuts.

Reading the above, I realized that it sounds like I'm an expert in exercise, which ain't the case. What I am is an expert in trying to get myself started exercising. Once I'm actually moving, I'm okay. But it's the initial exertion that I have trouble with.

Every morning I get on my bicycle and cycle off to work. Used to have the same argument with myself each morning, my inner slug presenting a number of Extremely Convincing reasons why I shouldn't ride in to work. I had several mornings weeks in a row when I drove the evilSUV in to work because I had simply spent too much time arguing with my inner slug. Finally, finally learned that the best way to actually get on the bike was to not think about it beforehand.

After cycling to work for several weeks, the body got into the habit of cycling instead of driving. I felt rather smug about that. Until the day that I had to drive to work instead of ride. The next morning I found myself facing the same arguments presented by the inner slug, and almost didn't make it into work.

Lessons learned:
  • The inner slug is a slave to habit. It never said a word once I'd acclimatized myself to daily cycling. But when I broke the pattern, the slave was free to whine about exercising.
  • Sometimes the only way to make yourself exercise is not to think about it. I hate to sound like a Nike commercial, but "Just Do It" can work.
Note: I have seen this opening quotation attributed to several different actors: Edmund Kean, Edwin Booth, Donald Woolfit, etc. This site gives several possible sources. (And does that guy in the picture up top have flabby biceps, or what?)

Picture of Ms. Jolie and "friend" courtesy of flickr.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'm sweet enough already, thanks

What are all the food producers out there trying to do?

All I wanted to do was buy a loaf of bread. Seemed a simple enough mission to accomplish: I had the money, I was in the bakery section at Safeway, each loaf had the words "healthy" or "whole grains" on the label.

What could possibly be wrong with this picture?

The problem began when I started reading the labels. I rejected loaf after loaf, brand after brand, because each and every one of the dang things had sugar as one of the first ingredients. High-fructose corn syrup, at that. Who the heck puts sugar in their bread? Why would you want to do that?

It's like the frozen pre-made pancakes that I saw in the freezer section. Now I was raised proper, I was. About the only thing my Southern-born daddy taught me how to cook was pancakes, but I learned that good. You do not put sugar into the mix when making pancakes. If you want to add syrup or powdered sugar on top, more power to you. But you don't mess with the pancake itself.

I truly do not understand. I've got a sweet tooth, like everyone else. Doesn't mean that I want everything to be sweet all the time. I like popcorn with salt & butter just as much as caramel popcorn. Even sour foods taste good sometimes. (Pickles, anyone? Argh! No, not sweet pickles!)

Gilroy, California, is famous for their annual Garlic festival. Anyone who's been there has probably tried the garlic beer, or garlic chewing gum, or something similar. But the one food item that the festival is notorious for is the garlic ice cream. Yes, you read that correctly. Not a typo. And people will even admit, reluctantly, that it "isn't all that bad." The problem is not so much the taste as it is the idea of ice cream that's garlic flavored. That's how I feel about high-fructose corn syrup in bread or pancakes.

To me, it's a freedom of taste issue. If I want to go home and put sugar on my toast in the privacy of my own home, well, I'm an adult. It's not against the law (yet). This is not something that should be decided for me by some mindless profit-seeking company trying to corrupt my taste buds, ruin my palate, and restrict my choices all for their own profit. Huh.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Have patience with all things, but first of all with yourself.
Saint Francis de Sales

I wish I knew who to attribute this photo to. It's been making the email rounds for some time now, so it's impossible to determine the original source. If someone knows who created this, I'd love to give them credit.

This just seemed a good way to remind myself that I need to be patient and learn to enjoy the process instead of just the results.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Deep & Profound Thought du Jour

Ever notice how euphemisms can have a hidden meaning? For instance, when people say that a project failed, they usually don’t use the direct word “failed.” Instead, they soften the pejorative nature of the word into a milder-sounding version: “oh, it just didn’t work out.”

Not “working out” = failure. Get it?

Well, it seemed profound when I thought it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Me and Scarlett O'Hara

As God is my witness, I'll never be fat or hungry again.
- What Scarlett O'Hara would have said if she'd been writing this blog.

Been having a rotten couple of weeks: family issues and a frankly insane work schedule has led to me being short of sleep and not doing well diet wise. The first week, I packed a lunch each day, but I didn't have time to eat it. The daily walks have been abandoned for the last week, while I work through lunch and am usually too tired to eat much dinner.

Friday, I thought the crunch time was over. I've been coming home too tired to exercise, so I made sure I took the time to do an aerobics video before I went in to work. Besides, I reasoned, I was damn well going to take a walk at lunch.

Except that when I arrived at my cubicle there were three people waiting for me, there was a crisis, millions of Euros riding on a deal and the extremely convoluted installation instructions had to be rewritten at the last minute. Walk? Ha. Healthy food? It is to laugh. Grab a doughnut as you pass the kitchen.

Two weeks of this and all my good habits have apparently taken a walk without me. And they haven't come back. This is starting to turn into a blog tracking my failure, not my success. Well, screw that.

I have made progress. I am closer to make eating vegetables and exercising daily a habit, something that I can do without thinking. I do good, then something always causing me to fall back into fast food and sloth. Too much pressure at work, lack of organization or motivation, something. So really the one habit I'm getting ingrained into my psyche is the one of getting back up and getting back into it again. Do good, fall down, get up and do good. It's automatic now. I'm not going to be deterred. I Have Spoken. (You'll have to picture me standing against a dramatic sunset, one fist raised defiantly to Heaven, "As God is my witness...")

Two things I am going to concentrate on:
1 - Make a point of taking some time off on the weekends, just to regroup. Working every weekend is stupid, no matter how Important the job. I can't function that way. I need to prepare vegetable food-stuffs on the weekend, since I don't have the time during the week.
2 - Make a point of shutting off work and stress and going to bed. I can't do everything. I can't make things better by stressing about what I can't do.

Frankly, my dear, I can't give a damn. - What Rhett Butler would have said if he'd been in this position.

(Oh come on. I had to say it.)

It's weird, but it feels better to write this. Usually anything that sounds too whiny makes me cringe. It was hard to write the thyroid post, because it felt too self-pitying. But I feel better acknowledging that I haven't done what I set out to do -- yet -- and that I have lost some ground in this battle.

And what the hell. Tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Progress: more or less... but not all that much less...

Status: some loss, not enough.

I weigh myself daily and then average out the week’s totals to get an idea of how much I’ve lost (or gained) each week. Since my weight fluctuates so wildly within the week, only weighing once a week would be a lot more discouraging. In the last 4 days I’ve gained and lost the same 3 pounds twice. (Or mayb
e it was a different 3 pounds, I can’t be sure.) But if I picked the wrong day for the weigh-in, I’d have been really depressed this week. Even averaging, it’s still depressing, but I can see a good and bad side.

Grumpy Mary: “Crap! I’m only losing 1.3 pounds a week! It used to be 2 pounds a week!”

Chipper Mary: “Well, that’s still better than gaining weight each week.”

Grumpy Mary: “I don’t care! I’m losing momentum! Losing enthusiasm! I want the scale to show how hard I’ve been working!”

Chipper Mary: “You just said last week that losing inches was encouraging. In the past 2 weeks you’ve lost an inch off your waist and your hips. Your clothes fit better and your energy level is up. Isn’t that encouraging?”

Grumpy Mary: “Stop being so damn cheerful. The scale is not going down! Argh!”

There’s more, but you get the idea.

I also chart and average my daily exercise
. It’s interesting how easy it is to mislead yourself. Looking back over the past 7 weeks, I’d have sworn I was exercising 2 hours a day every day. It’s more like 1 hour a day. I’ve been slacking off on the weekends (except, of course, for this weekend), and that’s probably been one reason my progress has slowed. “They” say you should exercise an hour a day for maintenance. I want to see what happens if I increase the average to 90 minutes a day, or even 2 hours. If I force myself to take a lunch break and walk every day, this is actually quite a reachable goal.

    For this week:
  • I’m going to measure everything I can reach: calves, thighs (gulp), hips, waist, bust, upper arms. If the weight isn’t going off, maybe the muscles are increasing? Not that I want bulging muscles, but it would be good to get an idea of what’s going on.
  • I’m absolutely-I-really-mean-it going to walk at lunch Every Day.
  • Keep focusing on eating vegetables and healthy stuff. Another reason for the slowdown might be traced back to an unfortunate episode known as the Chinese Food Encounter. (I was hungry, hurried, and weak. I confess. It was Beef Broccoli rather than Orange Chicken, but still, enough sugar and fat to choke a diabetic horse.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Putting the 'cross' into cross-training

Want to forget all your troubles? Wear shoes one size too small. Trust me, after an hour or so you won't be thinking about your troubles. -anonymous

Whatever doesn't destroy me, makes me stronger. -Nietzsche

Whatever doesn't destroy me, makes me lose weight. -Mary

So a friend, in an effort to distract me from the troubles that beset me, says to me "Hey! Let's escape the city and take a hike in the woods!" Sounded like a good idea, so I said yes. I didn't recognize the location she'd mentioned, nor did I look it up in a guide book until I was standing outside my door Sunday morning waiting for her to pick me up.

My friend assured me that someone had told her that Saddle Mountain was a 'quite easy climb.' And it's 5 miles round trip, 2.5 miles one way. How hard could it be?

Ahem. A brief interlude from a guide book:

While not high compared to the Cascade peaks, this mountain is one of the highest peaks in the northern half of Oregon's Coast Range and the highest northwest of Portland. (from Summit post)

Yeah. Did I look at that before I leapt hiked? Of course not. I was so green a hiker that when advised to take water, I grabbed a couple of bottles of the carbonated water that I drink as a substitute for sodas. (Note: these bottles did have several pluses, to wit: a)internal cooling (applied via my mouth), b)external cooling (applied inadvertently to my T-shirt), and c)endless amusement (inferred by the sight of the other hikers in the area coughing vigorously in an attempt to keep from rolling on the ground in helpless laughter at watching me attempt to avoid the spray once I had opened a bottle after a couple of hours of its being jostled in a backpack).

My hiking companion is quite fit, when it comes to walking/hiking/running. When I bicycle with this woman, I can quite easily leave her in the dust, because she's not used to bicycle riding. (For one thing, she will not believe that her seat is too low and that's why her knees hurt when she rides.) However, when it comes to exercising off the bicycle, she leaves me in the dust every time. She was good-natured about waiting for me while I took little breaks to do something trivial like, oh, breathe.

The outward hike was almost continual uphill. Towards the top I was using my hands and almost climbing rather than hiking. It took us 2-1/2 hours to make it to the top, and another 1-1/2 hours to go back down. [Briefly, Mary swerves into rant mode.] And do you know what my friend wanted to do the last mile of the trail? She wanted to jog, that's what. I haven't even started my jog/walk program, and suddenly I'm jogging down a steep trail in hiking boots. My legs felt like jelly by the end of that mile.[Okay, enough with the rant. I feel much better now. Just had to get that off my chest.]

What this climb taught me is the importance of cross-training. I could quite easily have ridden a bicycle for four hours. But considering how my legs felt like jelly after the hike, it's amazing how stiff they now feel. I skipped exercise completely yesterday, and it's still hard to get up or sit down without feeling it in my calves and quadriceps. (That's what puts the 'cross' into cross-training.)

I'm adding hiking and jogging to my To Do list, but... next time I'm going to set my sights a bit lower. So to speak.

But it was very nice to end the hike by going to the extremely warm coast (Seaside, 80 degrees at 7pm?) and cooling our toes in the extremely chilly waters of the Pacific. This is a shot of Tillamook head (with elbow) that I took to symbolize the end of the journey.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

What goes up... is asking for it, really. Shouldn't piss off Gravity like that.

Seems inevitable that a high point will be followed by a plunge. Family issues, work stresses, watching my sick dog suffer, anything and everything have combined to really get me down right now.

What's surprising is how I'm dealing with the depression. Usually feeling this blue is a cue to reach for the comfort foods, or grab a glass of wine, or curl up in bed with the covers over my head -- basically to turn my back on life. I have spent years conditioning my body to demand this kind of behavior when I'm feeling depressed.

This morning I did none of those things.

Instead, I reached for an aerobics video and dealt with the blues by working out. The problems haven't gone away, but my attitude towards them has modified. That was what I was trying to achieve with the food/wine/avoidance too, but this time I feel better about myself, and I think the results might last longer. We'll see.

I'm rather surprised that this was my first inclination, rather than the usual comfort-seeking tactics. I haven't been working out all that long, about six weeks, but it's encouraging to think that even this level of exercise is enough to start to change the body's conditioned response.

Unless I'm reading too much into this.

Note: the cool picture up top is from Flickr

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Progress: doing things by halves, with Snoopy

A blog post wherein our heroine evinces the giddy delirium oft experienced by those who first taste a faint whiff of success.
(Obligatory disclaimer: some metaphors were harmed in the making of this blog. People allergic to puns should not proceed with the reading of this post. Studies have shown that reading posts this silly can lead to dangerously low levels of common sense and practicality.)

I don’t usually like to do things by halves; indeed I had half a mind not to post this entry. But sometimes you just half to do things.*

Looking at my record of my daily weigh-ins for the week, I noticed that I gained 3.5 pounds and lost 4. In other words, I’ve lost ½ pound this week. Yay me, what a thrill, oh boy.

Then I did my weekly Taking of the Measurements and discovered I’d also lost a ½ inch around my waist and a ½ inch around my hips. WOO HOO!!!! (Bells, whistles, applause from the crowd, confetti descending from the heavens as our heroine does the Snoopy dance.)

This may seem like a trivial change, but to me it's the first real tangible sign that my body is changing. Numbers on a scale are just that: numbers. This is different, this is shape-changing. And not just losing weight, but losing it where I need to lose it.

To celebrate, I’m going to go read Half of Me and Half Fast. In addition to writing positive and funny blogs, they also don’t write half-assed posts like this one. (But who cares? Cue the Snoopy dance music again, boys!)

By the way, does anyone know how many calories are expended by doing the Snoopy dance?

*Wasn't kidding about the bad puns.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Arguing with my inner slug

Why yes, I love getting up at 5 a.m. to do aerobics! It's just great! The early morning quiet! Exercising in the dark then watching the sun come up! The birds! The bees! The ... yeah, well, you try to make self-talk sound convincing at that hour of the morning.

My inner slug is firmly convinced that the best place to be in the early morning hours is in a nice warm comfy bed. Screw this exercise stuff. Later. Just a few more minutes, then I'll get up, honest. Every morning we've had a tug of war between willpower and won't-power.

I would place the alarm clock outside in the hall, so I had to get up to turn the damn thing off, and still I'd waver.

Go downstairs to work out? Or back to that bed, which I can hear calling me so persuasively?

When I stumble downstairs and switch on the TV, even then, the slug's attitude is: I really need a cup of tea before I start waving my arms around. Don't want to hurt myself. Hey, that early morning infomercial looks quite interesting. Maybe I should watch it. I might actually make a fortune in real estate, just like that man with the bad toupee...

The inner slug is sneaky. But I'm going to match guile for guile. I've started playing little tricks on myself. I tell myself things like:
  • I'll just turn the video on while I'm preparing my tea. I can watch the intro.
  • Well, maybe it won't hurt just to do the warm up, while the tea cools down.
  • I'll stop after this next exercise
  • Okay, just a few minutes more of this particular routine. (I find this one particularly satisfying to use. Turn the slug's persuasive powers upon itself.)
So far, I've managed to make it through the morning aerobics videos using these tricks. (Any creative suggestions I can use when these get worn out from repetition would be greatly appreciated.)

I'm thinking in a few more months weeks I'll have the dance routines down pat, and it'll be time to break down and buy an iPod. If I can work out to some music that I really like, instead of the canned music on the videos, that will make it easier to exercise. The slug can't resist the power of a good beat.

And here's something really weird: I think my body is starting to get habituated to this. At least, that's the only explanation (besides alien intervention) that I can think of to explain why for the last couple of days I've been waking up full of energy. I know, I know. Weird. But my body seems to have gotten the idea that I'm going to be making it work out in the early hours and it's getting prepared.

If only I could persuade the inner slug to get prepared as well.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Thyroid - one woman's experience with doctors, drugs, and frustration

This post might or might not be something you're interested in. Not much to do with exercise or fitness, it's mostly Boring Medical Stuff. Well, not boring to me, because it makes a big difference in the quality of my life. But probably dull for other people to read -- unless you're going through the same thing.

Trudi's comment in the last post made me think. In case anyone else lands in a similar situation, I thought I should post my experience with thyroid medication & doctors. I did Google about this problem when I first encountered it, with no luck.

Note: If you've got a thyroid problem, you'll already know this, but if you're reading this out of curiosity, a quick explanation: the TSH test is the main criterion that all doctors use to judge what shape your thyroid is in. (Good doctors use a few more criteria, but the TSH is the biggie.) The TSH value should be between 1 and 3. (Used to be 1-5, which I liked much better.) A TSH value lower than 1 indicates a hyperthyroid condition, a TSH above 3 indicated you're hypothyroid. To correct a hypothyroid condition, a doctor will usually prescribe the hormone T4 or a mixture of the two hormones T4 and T3.

The story:

10 years ago - diagnosed a thyroid problem, started taking Levoxyl

My TSH was at 4, which was considered normal for those days. However, I also tested positive for anti-thyroid antibodies, which landed me with a diagnosis of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. This auto-immune disorder is fairly common in North America. Basically ever so often my immune system gets honked off and attacks my thyroid. Each flare-up damages my thyroid more and more. Eventually it won't be able to function well enough for me to get by without medication. (You need your thyroid to keep your metabolism functioning normally.)

The doctor put me on a brand-name version (Levoxyl) of synthetic thyroid hormone (T4). I didn't notice any difference one way or another, but my TSH went down to a level that made the doctor happy. (I was disappointed with my body's lack of a reaction. I thought I'd get tons of energy and drop ten pounds.) After a couple years, I stopped taking the thyroid medication (synthetic T4). I wasn't comfortable with the idea of taking a hormone that my body was still fairly well capable of producing on its own.
Stopped taking the Levoxyl, noticed no change in energy levels or anything else.

Two years ago - started taking generic T4

After putting it off for years, finally went into a doctor's office for a checkup. (New doctor, since I'd moved out of state.) My TSH had crept up to 4.8, so I was prescribed thyroid medication again -- this time the generic version of the synthetic hormone.

Things got bad.

This is where the story gets interesting. Within three weeks, I was experiencing extreme hypothyroid symptoms. The doctor's assistant said that this did not make sense, since this is the exact opposite of what's supposed to happen. Within six weeks I was in such a fog that I couldn't concentrate enough to drive my car. I was sleeping 12 hours a night and was always exhausted. All I did was walk the dog, work, or sleep. The thought of going out at night or on the weekends was laughable. At work I'd spend hours trying to concentrate on the simplest of tasks. I would drink five or six cups of coffee a day trying to keep awake. (Before starting this medication I rarely drank even strong black tea. Never touched coffee.) After ten weeks of being told to "be patient" I finally went to another doctor. This time I chose a naturopath, who had been recommended as someone to go to when regular doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with you. She immediately put me on Armour, the natural version of the thyroid medication (T4 and T3).

Started taking Armour (natural T4)

I spent two more hellish weeks. By this time I'd even lost my appetite. I lost ten pounds in those two weeks, but almost exactly twelve days after starting the medication, quite suddenly, 90% of the symptoms I was experiencing cleared up. (It took about six weeks for the rest to go away.) When taking Armour, my TSH was 2 -- just where it was supposed to be.

This year - synthetic biocompound T4/Ts medication

In January, tired of arguing with the insurance company over my seeing a naturopath, I finally went to another M.D. This guy pointed out that Armour is a mixture of T4 and T3, but because it's derived from pigs the ratio of T4/T3 is perfectly proportioned for a pig (4:1). Seemed logical, so I agreed to switch to a synthetic compound of T4 and T3 in a ratio proportional to normal human physiology (14:1) [*].

Well, it was logical on paper.

Within six weeks, my TSH shot up from 2 to 22. It was the same story over again, except that I didn't have the 'brain fog' symptom. I could concentrate on my work and I could drive my car. But my hair was falling out in huge clumps, my fingernails broke if I turned a page while reading, and most alarming of all I gained over 15 pounds all around my waist and hips. I don't usually notice if I gain or lose a few pounds, but this was dramatic and so obvious even I noticed it. After 15 pounds of gain, I stopped weighing in. It was too depressing.

The doctor said I must have eaten something with soy in it that skewed the test results.

After six months and several tweaks to the T4/T3 ratio, I decided I had been patient and understanding enough. All the tweaking in the world couldn't get my TSH below six on this medication; I was better off not taking anything. Rather than prescribe Armour, the doctor agreed I should wean myself off of this stuff. (He clearly thought it a bad idea, but at least he did say "Well, it's your body.")

So every two weeks I cut the dosage down, 75%, 50%, 25%. Tomorrow will mark the full two weeks that I've been completely off the medication. In general I've felt pretty good. I've had some days where I felt horrible, needed coffee just to survive, but for the most part I seem to be thriving. Without increasing my exercise level, the weight started dropping off. This was encouraging, so I increased my exercise. I have lost over ten pounds in just under six weeks.

To keep my energy level up, I'm introducing a crack-of-dawn exercise session in the hopes that I can completely get off of my dependence of black tea to get me going in the morning.

I realize many people who have thyroid issues probably could not stop taking the medication. Eventually I might have to go back on it again. But what I want to do right now is to monitor the TSH levels and see what I can do in other ways to improve my health. Thyroid issues are connected in so many ways to other organs and hormones in the body: adrenals, liver, levels of estrogen/progesterone, etc. I'm going to concentrate on improving these other areas, and see how that affects my energy level.

Just my two cents' worth, your mileage may vary.

Some links on generic thyroid medication: