Shifting Priorities…and Pounds

Since going off of birth control a year ago, I’ve gained 25 lbs. Add that to the original 20 lbs. that I needed to lose to be at my optimum weight, and you can see that I’m kind of in a bind. (Literally – my jeans are cutting off my circulation.) So as of yesterday, I’m back in diet & exercise mode. Which, let’s be honest here, has failed every single time I’ve tried for the last 15 years, as I’ve swollen from 135 lbs. to 180 lbs. Argh.

My biggest two problems are being lazy and having an emotional attachment to eating. My favorite activities are all sedentary: watching TV, reading, sleeping, playing around on the computer. On top of that, my moods demand to be accompanied/assuaged/otherwise treated with food. Do I know it’s wrong? Yes. Do I care, and want to change? Definitely. When it comes down to it, am I able to resist swinging by Popeye’s for some fried chicken, or getting that late night burger after an evening with my friends? Not really. Every time I’ve tried to focus my energy on eating healthy food, working out daily, and quitting that horrible cycle of treating my emotions with a prescription of baked goods and fried meat products, I’ve ended up failing spectacularly. Each time I fall even deeper into the hole, and end up cycling through patches of intense guilt and sandwich eating.

But all we can do is try. And maybe this time I might have a little more to try for. I’m turning 33 in November, and it just so happens that LoseIt tells me that I have exactly enough time between yesterday and mid-November to get pretty damn close to my goal weight. If I lose 2 lbs. a week, it’s realistic that I could be really close to 140 lbs. by my birthday. Also important is that I’ll be seeing two of my oldest friends that month, something that NEVER happens since they both live across the country and none of us ever get to travel that far. One friend recently experienced some amazing life changes and is looking quite svelte, so I can use her as my friendly competition. After all, I’d hate to be the chubby girl in her vacation photos. The other friend has always been super-competitive and a tad bit mean to me, so I can use her as my less-than-friendly competition. It will be immensely satisfying to look good in all of her vacation photos. Plus, the odds are high that if she sees I’ve gained weight since we last saw each other, she’ll make sure to mention it, and I will lose my everloving shit if that happens.

To get started, I’m taking small-ish steps to add activity to my day-to-day existence, as well as to cut back on needless calories:

  • Tracking every bite I eat at LoseIt.com
  • No more drinking (except for special occasions) – in other words, no more margarita nights with the girls or glasses of wine at home with sexy awesome boyfriend. Boo.
  • Walking to and from work every day – at a little over 2 miles each way, that’s 400 calories right there.
  • Wearing my VivoFit to track my steps walked, calories burned, and activity levels throughout the day.
  • Joining up at DietBet.com and making my bid to lose 40 lbs. a little more exciting of a challenge.
  • Drinking lots of water. This time of year I tend to eat even more because I hate going out in the sun and love sitting on my ass in front of the TV, but also because I’m constantly sweating and mistake dehydration/thirst for hunger.
  • Eating more veggies, less processed foods, little dairy, and no wheat.
  • Most importantly, talking about this here on my blog.

The worst part of sharing this on my blog is that since I’ve failed every time I’ve tried to lose weight over the past few years, I’m embarrassed to even let people know that I’m trying again. But eventually this is going to work out, and I really do need to be held accountable for my actions. So I’m going to keep sharing my weight, my struggles with eating, and my daily activities here.

Eventually, I’m going to start building on more activities. I already do a little bit of weight lifting every day, plus some yoga and basic stretching, and I’ve been jogging one or two days a week, too. But for now, I’m just going to concentrate on watching what I eat and walking to and from work every day. I think that’s going to have a drastic effect right off the bat, and I don’t want to push it so hard that I end up giving up as soon as I start, like every other time. Eventually I’ll work up to daily yoga or dance classes or trips to the gym, and longer runs every day, that kind of thing. But it might not be for a month, who knows?

The other thing I’m going to do is pledge myself a present for every 5 lbs. lost. That’s EIGHT PRESENTS, y’all. EIGHT things that I covet, that will be mine as long as I stop eating crappy food and start making slightly more intelligent choices each day. I’m not quite sure what my presents are going to be yet, but I’ll probably start shopping around online tonight and plan them out so that I have something to obsess over. It’ll probably be all clothes, books, and jewelry, though I do definitely want some things for my house. Hmmm…

The other thing I should probably note is that even though I’ve taken one set of blood tests that confirms I have a thyroid imbalance, and one set where the levels were all normal, I haven’t had enough money to get any other tests taken or go to the doctor for an official diagnosis and drugs. So this weight gain could possibly be because of my thyroid. But first, since I’m not losing my hair, my cycle is normal, and my brain fog is largely gone now that I’ve drastically cut back on wheat products, I’m going to try the diet and exercise route to see if it’s possible to make a dent in my weight. Eventually I’ll be able to afford health insurance. One day. Maybe. Probably not. But I’m seriously not going to worry about that today because it will just send me back to the refrigerator. For now, let’s just do some walking and eat some veggies. The rest can wait.

 

 

Day 42: Test Results & More Confusion

So I went and had my blood drawn again yesterday, this time to test TSH, T-3, T-4 and antibodies. This morning, the test results came in. They’re ALL within normal range.

TSH test results on 9/24/13.

TSH test results on 9/24/13.

 

Today's test results. Notice the TSH reading - down from 5.17 to 3.25.

Thyroid panel test results on 10/1. Notice the TSH reading – down from 5.17 to 3.25.

WTF?

I even made sure to fast and get my blood drawn first thing in the morning, since eating/time of day has been shown to affect test results. All I can think of right off the bat is that over this week I went gluten free, caffeine free, and laid off of other potential inflammatory foods, like dairy, plus upped my Vitamin D and Vitamin B Complex, and took it really easy – no exercise. Maybe all of this had an effect on my test results.

This isn’t new. In fact, there are plenty of books and websites out there about people who are hypothyroid but have “normal” test results. I’m also not discounting the fact that maybe my adrenal glands are to blame for pushing my thyroid over the limit. But now, without health insurance AND without solid proof that something’s wrong, what do I do? Pay out of pocket again for another round of tests that might get me nowhere?

At the very least, I’ve known for a long time that there were lots of symptoms that could be alleviated by adjusting my diet. This is just a wakeup call to make those changes, then reevaluate my mental and physical conditions in a month. That will be pretty easy to remember, since I’ll be turning 32 in just about a month’s time.

Let’s go on a cleanse, adjust our diet, do some yoga, and see what happens next, shall we?

Day 40: More Tests

I’m getting more blood drawn tomorrow, in order to get my TSH tested once again, as well as my T-3, T-4 and antibodies. After the results are in, I’ll be hitting up the low-income health clinic to see if I can get a doctor to take a look and prescribe the correct medication.

Click through to see more thyroid stuff on my Pinterest page.

Click through to see this chart in a larger format on Pinterest.

Other than that, today I’m very tired, and have a sinus headache for the sixth day in a row. I didn’t work out at all today, and I don’t plan to. Yeah, I know it’s lame, but I really just want to go home, untangle my skein of yarn, and go back to making the scarf I’ve been working on since Saturday. Even though this isn’t going to help me lose weight, learning a new and relaxing hobby is going to help me reduce my stress levels, which is every bit as important as fitting in daily exercise. Possibly more so, since every dose of added stress hurts my thyroid even more.

Going Free

Today’s Daily Post prompt asks us if we have “junk” in our lives, and if so, how we’ll be getting rid of it. Since it might be awhile before I can afford to go to a doctor to do more comprehensive testing of my thyroid, in the meantime I’ve decided to do everything I can to keep it from getting worse.

According to experts, to 90% of people suffering from hypothyroidism have a condition called Hashimoto’s Disease, which is an autoimmune disorder. There are quite a few autoimmune disorders, including Addison’s Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiac Disease, Type 1 Diabetes, and others. Basically, what happens when you have an autoimmune disease is that your immune system loses the ability to tell the difference between healthy body tissue and antigens (which attack the body). Your own body starts to fight itself. It thinks it’s acting as a protector, but instead it’s killing you.

There are two major schools of thought when it comes to treating Hashimoto’s. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll just call them western medicine and alternative medicine, although there are plenty of crossovers between the two today. I hesitate to call either “right” or “wrong,” but in the case of thyroid conditions, it seems that many doctors are happy to prescribe a synthetic hormone replacement and leave it at that. Meanwhile, many of these thyroid patients who are only taking hormones experience worsening of symptoms or, at the very least, little improvement to their current status.

Alternative medicine (along with a growing undercurrent of western medical professionals) has noted that a number of lifestyle changes can help hypothyroid patients not only feel better, but also put less stress (thus, less damage) on the thyroid. Most of these changes are dietary, and include possibly cutting back on goitrogens, soy, caffeine, and any other foods that you’ve noted stress your body (for me, that would be dairy).

Perhaps most importantly, many doctors advise avoiding gluten at all costs. To quote Aaron and Elisha at Surviving Hashimoto’s:

“Thyroid experts strongly urge people with thyroid problems to completely eradicate gluten from their diets.  Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, triticale, and spelt. Countless studies have proven that gluten and Hashimoto’s have a strong connection. Gluten actually has similar properties to the thyroid gland, making it a vile enemy to a Hashimoto’s victim, especially if that individual is already predisposed to gluten intolerance or Celiac disease. Products containing gluten weaken the intestinal walls and can facilitate leaky gut, yet another common problem for Hashimoto’s patients. When leaky gut occurs, gluten can make it’s way from the intestines to the blood stream, where the immune system likely sends out it’s immune system cells to attack it, exacerbating an autoimmune condition.”

For the last four days, I’ve been gluten and caffeine free. It’s been slightly disagreeable, but not too hard. I’m still looking for a phone app to help me track my days of detoxing, and what symptoms I’m experiencing. I’ve had a headache every day for five days, and have been tired, weak, and foggy-headed every day as well. But that’s nothing new – it kind of goes with the territory. I’ve been combatting it a bit by upping my daily Vitamin D, plus remembering to take a B complex. My mood has stabilized, even if my energy hasn’t.

This is going to take a whole lifetime to fix and then maintain. I’ve talked in the past about wanting to be healthy in order to be skinny, but this is different. This time I have to get clean of all of the junk I’ve been putting into my body, to save my thyroid and keep from getting sicker.

Day 36: So You’ve Got Thyroid Problems, Eh?

Click through to see my new Pinterest board on thyroid health.

Yesterday morning, I went and got my TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) levels checked. It wasn’t so much “getting checked” as it was just me getting my blood drawn. I thought that it would take a couple of weeks to get results back. However, this morning I woke up to find a new email in my inbox from MyMedLabs. My test results were in – so exciting!

Just a little background on TSH levels (click here for more detailed info). Depending on your practitioner, “average” readings are anywhere between 0.3 and 5.0, with anything under 0.3 (in many cases, under 0.5) implying that your thyroid is overactive – hyperthyroidism. Again depending on practitioner, anything over 5.0 (and in many cases, over 3.0) implies that your thyroid is underactive – hypothyroidism. My TSH levels were at 5.175 this morning, hypothyroid by all standards.

I was shocked and upset when I first saw the results. Sure, I expected to be sick, but it’s one thing to expect to see your fears confirmed, and another to have it actually happen. But all in all, I’m happy to have some solid proof that I’m not going crazy.

The next part is going to be the hardest. How to find a doctor when I have no money at all, no health insurance, and my taxes from last year show me making too much money to get Medicare? Welcome to the good ol’ US of A. I’ve reached out to friends, and they’re all being sweet and supportive. Hopefully someone will be able to help me find a doctor who’ll work with my financial situation rather than bleeding me dry. It seems like a lot to ask for, but maybe, right?

I’m exhausted. It’s time for bed. My throat is hurting, and I feel a lump in my throat whenever I swallow. Pretty sure that it’s psychosomatic, as it started today after opening the diagnosis email. Now I’m just bitching, so it’s definitely time to sign off…

Day 34: Getting Tested

Something’s wrong. Well, there are multiple things wrong, but the biggest is that I haven’t just not lost weight over the past month – I’ve gained it. Today I weighed in at 164.6 lbs. Sure, I haven’t been restricting calories heavily, and there have been some foods eaten that I’d call “junk,” like pizza one night, and Chinese takeout another, but I’ve never gone over 1500 calories for a day (I’m supposed to be eating around 1300), and most days have some sort of exercise built in.

Of course I need to be doing better about eating fruits and veggies and eschewing dairy, soy, and processed foods. I definitely can’t argue with that. And I definitely need to do more heavy-duty exercising, though my back and hips have been really bugging me for the last few days, and I’ve been so stressed out that the thought of adding one more thing to the schedule just makes me want to take a long jump off of a short pier. But wait! Just when you think I’m plain crazy – there’s more!

Over the past few years, I’ve been suffering from symptoms that I’ve blamed on IBS, adrenal fatigue, birth control pills, and age. Then when I went off of birth control two and a half months ago, I started taking my basal body temperature (BBT) every morning, and quickly realized that something was off. Most days my temperature was at or below 96.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Often, it’s been as low as 95.2 degrees. At its highest, it goes up to about 97.3 degrees, but only in the last few days of my luteal phase, after which it quickly plummets again.

Since low basal body temperature is a warning sign of hypothyroidism, or under-active thyroid, I’ve been reading up on the condition to find out how serious it is. Along the way I’ve found out about a host of other symptoms that I’ve been exhibiting for the last few years. Here’s a list of symptoms that I checked off as a “yes” (this does not include “no” symptoms) on a thyroid quiz a few days ago:

  • Family history of thyroid disease.
  • Unexplained weight gain.
  • Unable to lose weight with diet/exercise.
  • Constipation.
  • Low body temperature & feeling cold when others are hot.
  • Constant fatigue.
  • Feeling run down, sluggish & lethargic.
  • Aches & pains in joints.
  • Depression.
  • Restlessness.
  • Mood swings.
  • Feelings of worthlessness.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Losing interest in normal daily activities.
  • Can’t remember things.
  • No sex drive.
  • Eyes are sensitive to light.
  • Light headed / dizzy often.
  • Recurrent sinus infections.
  • Heart palpitations.

So – yeah. To make a long story short, I’m going to get a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) test tomorrow to see if I can start figuring this stuff out. Of course, I don’t have medical insurance or make enough money to even afford to see a doctor for tests, but luckily I ran across a great deal today on a site called MyMedLab. They’ve been running a promotion on a test that measures TSH levels, and it’s only going to cost $25 to get the test run, which is HUGE. Here’s a link to the deal – it’s kind of buried in their website. They’ve got testing sites all over the US, and as it happens, a few in the New Orleans area. Wish me luck!