One lazy summer evening in 2002, I was sitting in my family room on a Friday night listening to my kids playing and laughing in my son’s bedroom and I was pondering which movies we should watch for our family movie night. As I sat there staring off at nothing in particular and trying to decide between action flicks or comedy, I felt this little twinge in my rib cage. It was nothing out of the ordinary at first, but the twinge began to tighten and as it tightened, my far-off gaze became fixed and my mind stuck on that twinge which had grown into pain that radiated from around my heart to my back and was now creeping down my arms.
I was incredulous at first, but as the pain grew, my eyes fixed on the hallway to my son’s room and I wondered if my kids would comprehend what was going on with me if they were to come into the family room at that moment…would they understand they would have to call 911. I also thought about myself and how I could have let things come to this…how could I be so stubborn and not pay attention to my health. With the pain intensifying and my thoughts racing from my children to my potential death, I realized one very minute, but important detail…underneath all that pain, I was breathing. I wasn’t just breathing, but it was easy to breathe. People who have heart attacks talk about tightness in their chests and difficulty breathing. So, I sat up straight and with my shoulders relaxed, I started to slowly and methodically breathe deeply from my diaphragm. And with every breath, the pain began to subside.
As I sat on my futon paying attention to each and every breath, I finally made the commitment to myself to ask for help. The next day, I made an appointment to see my doctor.
Doctors are great. The commitment these people put in to their work is amazing. I equate this profession with the teaching profession; because of what these people do…they help to educate others.
Finding a doctor that you feel comfortable with? Well, it’s kinda like doing employment interviews, but on a much more personal level. But, you have to find a good fit. During my second pregnancy, I was seeing a group of nurse midwives. On a visit after my second child was born, the midwife I was seeing talked to me about my weight and looked at me and said the reason I had no lines in my face was because I was fat. I walked out of that office not only promising myself to never return, but wondering where the nearest fast food place was so I could drown my sorrows.
Luckily for me, ten years after that encounter, I had moved to a town where the medical professionals are top notch. So, when I went to my doctor’s office and watched the scale’s weight creep past the 300# mark, the fact that my instant look of self-loathing was met with compassion is what kept my mind open to all of my doctor’s suggestions.
I’m posting a photo of what it looks like to be a five foot nine inch tall woman weighing in at 308 pounds, because those of us who struggle with weight control are the worst skeptics in the world when it comes to believing we can achieve better health.
The rest of this blog includes tips and hints on how to begin to gain back health. At the end of the blog, I link a few helpful websites as well.
What is nutritious? Before seeing my doctor, I knew what was nutritious, but never honestly practiced eating healthy. A few of my unhealthy habits included:
- Not eating breakfast
- Drinking a 20oz soda at least twice a day
- Not eating enough veggies
One of my doctor’s suggestions was to see a nutritionist to get a better idea of what my body needed on a daily basis. Now, not everyone has the ability to see a specialist like a nutritionist and believe me, if my doctor had not referred me, I would never have gone. But, after getting an idea of what my kids and I eat on a daily basis, the nutritionist suggested that I read “The Insulin Resistance Diet.” Now, this particular ‘diet’ in my mind is not a “diet.” It’s a way to eat smart and eat healthy, plain and simple.
The most important factor in eating healthy is that I pair up lean protein with carbohydrates. Insulin resistance means that my body’s ability to burn off excess glucose is malfunctioning. And because my body cannot burn off the excess sugars, it ends up building more fat cells and stores the sugars as fat. Some of those extra stores turned up in what are called “skin tags.” That’s where the protein comes in; it helps to metabolize the carbs. But, knowing I needed to pair up the protein and carbs was not enough. I needed to know how much was considered healthy on a daily basis. I just couldn’t visualize it.
So, the other thing my doctor told me to do was to go to Weight Watchers. She said that out of all the weight loss programs out there, Weight Watchers had the most success. I honestly didn’t like the idea of yet another weight loss, or diet program, but I sucked it up and signed up. Good thing I did, too. They helped me to understand how many calories to eat in a day in order to lose weight. And surprisingly…I actually felt like I was eating too much…albeit I was actually eating all the right foods.
Ah, the dreaded exercise. Does anyone know how frightening this idea is to someone who is 143 pounds overweight? I mean think about it…honestly. Regular movement – standing from a seated position, getting in and out of a car – all of this and more takes real effort. And now my doctor was telling me I needed to exercise?!
Again though, I sucked it up and started my routine immediately. But, what was extremely important to me was that I did not give up and that I did not make my exercise so unbearable that I hated it. So, I started slowly….15 minutes a day for three days a week. It was hard, but I stuck with it. Once I was able to feel comfortable with 15 minutes, then I moved it up to 20 minutes for three days; and then four days and so on, until I was at five days a week for 45 minutes and walking at a fast pace.
The importance of regular exercise cannot be emphasized enough…and now I have proof of the side effects of a sedentary life despite eating healthy. While I lost 112 pounds over the span of two and a half years between 2002 and 2005 (see photo for proof that it is possible), I began to slowly gain weight back starting in 2008 when I quit my teaching job and took a job where I sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day. At this point, I’ve put about 65 pounds back on and my frustration and my unhappiness don’t help my ability to make the scale move in the opposite direction.
This has become such a problem in my mind that recently, I actually conducted a Google search for the effects of sitting for long periods of time. What I came up with was a tad disheartening. There is actually a name for it. It’s called, “Sitting Disease.” There is hope, but I need to move every 20 – 30 minutes in order to reverse the negative effects. And so to that end, I try to get up out of my office chair and move, even if it’s just to stand and stretch once. I’ve also begun a routine of climbing the ten flights of stairs in my office building before my lunch. I’ve read that climbing stairs for 15 minutes is equivalent to running for 30 minutes, and because my body can’t handle the jarring motion of running, I’m actually quite content with climbing. I don’t stop there, either. I still exercise for 30 minutes a day at least four days a week after work. The stair climbing and moving every 30 minutes has been going on for almost three weeks now and I hope to see positive results in a negative movement on the scale next time I go to my Weight Watchers meeting.
Yes, I still believe that asking for help with my health is important. I’ve reconciled the fact that if I do not see consistent negative movement on the scale over the next several weeks, that I will go to my doctor and ask for more help. It’s a scary thought, but if there’s something else going on with my body, then I want to know about it, so I can manage it.
As I mentioned, I want to share some websites that offer advice and have helped me to understand what’s healthy and what’s not healthy. Let’s start with…
- The Insulin Resistance Diet – don’t think of it as a diet, but as a way to be healthy
- Insulin resistance – I have this problem with wanting to know and understand the mechanics of things, including my body
- HallsMD – offers several healthy weight calculators so you can begin planning your ultimate weight loss goal
- Nutrition Data – offers a food tracker, a daily needs calculator (strongly recommended if you aren’t sure how many calories you should be taking in on a daily basis), and other nutrition analysis tools to help you learn about how your body deals with food
- Nutrition.gov – offers a free food tracker and all the tips and advice you would need to stay healthy – for free! Plug in your ultimate weight goal from the HallsMD website and the tracker helps you stay on track.
- WebMD: Healthy Eating and Diet – offers a free food and fitness planner and more healthy living advice – for free!
- JustStand.org – a nifty infographic that depicts what office workers are up against and how to combat sitting disease.
- WebMD – offers advice on how to combat sitting disease.
- Sitting May Increase Risk of Disease – the research that brought about the idea of “sitting disease.”
- Serotonin: The Feel Good Hormone – It’s important to understand that how we feel can affect weight loss, as well. So, learn what helps to increase serotonin and ultimately, what helps to make you feel good.
- ‘Feel-good’ hormone serotonin regulates blood sugar concentration – Explains the impact a lack of the feel good hormone can have on a body; diabetes.
- Foods to Help you Feel Better – More advice from WebMD on eating healthy in the form of what foods to eat to bring about the feel good hormones.
Sure, we’re all human, but each of our bodies reacts slightly differently to various inputs; just like computers react differently based on user input. And because of this, I want to offer one last, but extremely important bit of advice…
…See your doctor before you begin to make a change! You need to understand the unique intricacies of your own body so you will know the right route to take on your journey to a healthier you.