Tuesday, August 4, 2020

WW Purple Day Whatever

Monday night is our usual date night. My husband works very long hours Tuesday-Saturday. We usually ride our motorcycles and have brunch out with our without friends Sunday mornings, and Monday is set aside for our date night. Last night we hopped on the bikes and rode out first to visit a motorcycle dealership that had just moved to a new building, and then we stopped for some Mediterranean food for dinner. And wow, I just realized I couldn't spell Mediterranean and had to look it up LOL. We like to check out different local restaurants as opposed to chains as much as possible. We stopped at The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill in The Colony, TX.

Eating out can be a challenge, especially when going somewhere we have never visited. When I can, I try to look at the menu and nutrition information beforehand and try to plan what I'll order before I get there, but this was a spontaneous visit. I am gluten, dairy, and soy free for my autoimmune condition and also on WW Purple, so try to order foods that are as low in points as possible. I'm sure I went way over on points yesterday, but I did the best I could. I'm not going to bother trying to figure them out, since this restaurant doesn't post their nutrition. We ordered dolmades for an appetizer, which are grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs. White rice I'm sure, so points there. These were hands down the BEST dolmades I've eaten! For my entree, I ordered chicken souvlaki and had them leave off the pita and tzatziki (gluten and dairy). The chicken is just seasoned chunks of breast meat cooked on skewers over a grill, so that was definitely low in points...maybe a little oil for cooking. I also ate the side Greek salad (without feta), so a few olives and the olive oil in the the dressing were also points. For my side, I at first asked for the rice. The cashier asked if I'm gluten free since I'd already asked for no pita (good on her!). She informed me their rice is a mix with orzo, a type of pasta, so gluten in that. I went ahead and ordered the fries as a side. Potatoes are gluten free and zero points when baked or boiled, but of course deep fried in oil cancels out the zero points. The fries are where I went over on points for sure. Overall, their food was really delicious, though!

That's kind of a summary of how eating out is for me. Scanning menus, reading ingredients, asking questions...but ultimately doing the best I can. Some meals are way better than others. Sometimes I accidentally get gluten or dairy. And sometimes I eat way more food than I need to. I've gotten pretty good and finding something I can eat on almost every menu.

So when I have a meal or day that was way over in points or in some less healthy options, I just refocus the next day. Today's goal is super low points and lots of vegetables and fruits.

Breakfast: eggs cooked with spray oil (0 points), brussels sprouts roasted in a small amount of olive oil (1 pt), apple, coffee with oat milk and stevia (1 pt for 2 cups)
Lunch: baked potato with 1/2 cup canned beans and 1 tsp butter (2 pt), steamed broccoli (0 pt), peaches (0 pt)
Dinner: mahi mahi cooked with a small amount of butter (1 pt), steamed green beans (0 pt), brown rice (0 pt)
Snacks if I need them: Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Ancient grain bread (2 pt) with 1 TBSP natural peanut butter (3 pt), air popped popcorn (0 pt), fruit (0), cucumber slices (0)

On everything, lots of salt, pepper, and various spices/herbs.

Overall, that will be a 10 pt day, which still leaves me a few points to play with. I try to aim for fewer points than my target of 16 so I have a few points if I want some type of treat.

Exercise continues to be easy with this energetic dog! I usually walk him on my lunch break or in the evening, depending on what's going on with work. Today we took a half hour walk, and he is now passed out on the couch. What a spoiled mutt!

I'd love to follow some more WW bloggers, especially any who are following purple. Let me know if you recommend any to read!

Monday, August 3, 2020

Welcome, Duke! And this week’s WW Purple Meal Plan

A few weeks ago our almost 15-year old boxer mix Anja had some type of stroke. She had pooped and urinated AND vomited in her sleep, and then when we went to wake her up, she could barely walk. The poor baby was stumbling and walking like she was very drunk. Then she would just fall down. Needless to say, we called the vet and got her there quickly. Unfortunately, there was nothing we could really do for her and had to make the terrible decision to have her euthanized. She had been a stray in our neighborhood years ago, and we took her in off the streets. While a very anxious dog, she was also very sweet and got along with other dogs we had as well as our granddog. She even tolerated the two cats.

It's always so difficult to make the decision to put down a pet, but it was well past time. She was deaf, partially blind, and had trouble walking for several months. She also had many more accidents in the house – we think she had been losing feeling in her back half for quite a while.

Fast forward to last Sunday. My husband had been talking about wanting to get another young dog for quite a while, so we opted to visit some local shelters. We asked to meet one dog in person, Duke. The shelter we visited has meeting yards outside, so they put Duke on a leash and we took him outside. What an energetic, excited dog! So cute! We were a little bit nervous because of his high level of energy but decided to bring him home. He is an 18-month old Catahoula / Pitbull mix and weighs about 75 pounds – solid muscle.

The first day at home, he was VERY energetic and didn’t nap at all. I’m sure he was just adjusting to being out of a cage for so long! His previous owners had kept him in an enclosed patio with a dog door to the backyard, so he was practically outside all the time. I doubt he had much interaction or any walks. Likely didn’t have many toys or a soft place to sleep. They surrendered him to the shelter about a month previous.

For the first day or two, he was overly excited most of the time, but has settled down significantly and will actually curl up next to me while I’m working. I’ll admit we have spoiled him immensely this past week. We stopped at PetSmart on the way home from the shelter to buy food, a harness, treats, and toys. He behaved very well both in the car and in PetSmart. We also ordered a kennel and soft bed for the kennel. Since the 3rd night, he sleeps in the kennel quietly.

Having a young dog has been great for my exercise goals, too! I’ve walked him around the neighborhood every day so far. He doesn’t behave like other male dogs we have had who had to mark every bush and electrical box in the neighborhood. Nope, he just does his business when he needs to and walks at a decent pace the rest of the time.

My first week and a half on WW have been going OK so far, though my weigh-in this morning showed a small gain. I expected it, though. One night I ate WAY over my points and it’s also the beginning of that time of the month today. We also needed to eat through some higher fat meats and other groceries last week. I also made the mistake of eating a food before looking up points and sometimes was very surprised at how high points were. I’ll also chalk that up to learning. Having transitioned from eating more of a keto style with high fats, I’m still learning and adjusting to choosing more zero point foods, which are all fat free.

My goal this week is to really focus on choosing zero point foods as the basis for my meals and just using points on a little cooking fat, maybe some gluten free bread or dairy free cheese. With this bundle of energy at home, it will be easy to get some exercise every day.
I also got back to my meal planning routine, which always sets me up for success. All of our meals consist of zero point foods as the basis, with lots of vegetables and fruits to fill in. I usually fast through breakfast and just have coffee with stevia and oat milk (1 pt for my 2 cups of coffee and 1/8 cup milk in each). Lunch is leftovers or I’ll have a baked potato with salsa and beans with a side of vegetables or fruit. Or I’ll make a few eggs. Dinner this week:

·         MONDAY Mahi mahi, brown rice, steamed broccoli (just points for oil or butter used to cook)
·         TUESDAY 15-bean soup (vegan and zero points)
·         WEDNESDAY Turkey meatballs, brown rice spaghetti, homemade tomato sauce (zero points)
·         THURSDAY Salmon, roasted potatoes and carrots just points for oil or butter used to cook)
·         FRIDAY Homemade bolognase made with vegan ground meat over chickpea pasta (vegan and just points in the vegan ground meat)
·         SATURDAY Tilapia with thai curry sauce (small amount of points for light coconut milk)
·         SUNDAY We are having friends for lunch, so I’m making chicken fajitas (chicken breast, peppers and onions) and my famous not-refried beans and brown rice. I’ll also have gluten free and regular tortillas, guacamole, nondairy shredded cheese, and nondairy sour cream. I’ll plan to use a few points for tortillas, guac, cheese and sour cream and have a zero point dinner that evening.

I also like to make a low point dessert on the weekend. Yesterday I made a gluten, dairy, and sugar free chocolate cake. It was delicious with fresh sliced strawberries on it (4 points a slice).

The more I do WW, the easier it becomes as I get better at naturally selecting the zero-point foods as the basis for my day. I look forward to a better week on plan this week.

One thing that’s been more difficult on WW is intermittent fasting. When I was eating keto, it was easy to delay eating because of the appetite suppressing effect of keto. WW Purple is quite the opposite. I’m eating way more carbs in the form of vegetables, fruit, potatoes, brown rice, and popcorn. When I was doing keto with IF, I would stop eating after dinner around 6 and had no problem fasting the rest of the evening. On WW, I am finding I really want a snack in the evening. I’m listening to my body and trying to pick zero-point snacks if I DO decide to eat.

Overall, I’m happy with the plan. I look forward to tweaking it further and finding more delicious recipes for my family to enjoy.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Well, hello purple!

I’ve been struggling a bit mentally with being stuck at home all the time. I have been working from home full time since we were sent home in the middle of March, and the lack of human interaction can be difficult at times. My husband was furloughed and was home with me until July 1, but he’s gone back to work now also, and I’m feeling the isolation. My son is here, but he’s 18 and usually stays up super late and is sleeping most of my work day.

Anyhow, I decided to get more focused on my health journey to give me a project to focus on (and of course eating healthfully and getting more exercise will make me mentally and physically feel better).
I have had huge success, albeit incredibly slow, losing weight and getting in better shape. I’m right at 90 pounds down from my highest weight, but that’s taken 5 ½ years so far. I’ve kind of fumbled around with what and when I’m eating, but I’m ready to focus in a bit more. At 175 pounds, I am STILL in the ‘obese’ category, whatever that means.

I added intermittent fasting to my routine about 8 weeks ago, which has helped immensely with quantities of food. I basically just skip breakfast and only have coffee with stevia and a little oat milk in the mornings and then eat during an 8-hour window. After dinner, I stop eating. That was a big one, as I was a huge nighttime snacker. In the evenings, now, I drink zero calorie beverages. Water, decaf coffee, hot tea, Sprite Zero, sparkling water. Occasionally, I’ve been hungry at night and listen to my body. I’ll eat something like some fruit if I really need something. I’ve not done 16:8 fasts every single day, but I’ve consistently averaged 6 nights a week all this time.

But the scale hasn’t really moved much, and I knew I needed to focus more on my food. I did Weight Watchers a few years ago with some minor success, so I thought I’d check out their plans. The new color-coded plans looked appealing. Based on my assessment, WW recommended the purple plan, which has an extensive list of zero point foods – and foods I already eat quite a bit of. Purple does not give you very many points to eat during the day, but with so many zero point foods, it should be easy.

Zero point foods on the purple plan: fruits, non-starchy vegetables, chicken breast, turkey breast, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, fat free dairy, whole grains (brown rice, corn, quinoa, oats), potatoes. I don’t eat gluten, soy, dairy, or corn, so I’ll just leave out the tofu, dairy, and corn. Easy. Other meats, fats, nuts, processed grains, etc DO have points, so those are just limited. Technically on WW, you can eat anything (minus allergies or intolerances of course) if it fits in your points. When I saw the list, tons of zero or very low point meals came into my head. Beans and brown rice, baked potatoes with salsa, Fajita chicken and vegetables, any type of chicken or fish with vegetables and quinoa, rice, or potatoes. Lots of options, and many of my recipes are already very low point naturally.
I have also been alternating dinners between vegan and meat-based. My son is vegan, and we have been doing a vegan dinner every other night. I made lentil soup (2 points a bowl – only points from olive oil) the other night, and the next night I made a stew with lean beef. Chickpea pasta (zero points) with a homemade vegan bolognaise (using vegan ground meat) another night. Last night I made a berry crumble that was about 2 points a serving (zero point mixed berries, oats, and erythritol sweetener plus minimal points from GF flour and cornstarch) With just a few tweaks and adjustments, it should be pretty easy to fit into WW points. I look forward to see how it goes.

The other thing I’ve done recently that’s new for me is started ordering groceries through Instacart. WOW, I wish I’d done this sooner. I already meal plan every week, so it was easy to take my meal plan list and order through Instacart. So easy, and the groceries are delivered right to my doorstep. I also spend less money (even with delivery fee and tip) than I would spend if I physically went to the grocery store because there are ZERO instances of grabbing things we don’t need that aren’t on our list. It was super easy. My shopper contacted me a few times through the app while she shopped to ask about replacements and clarify one or two items. In addition, everything was packed wonderfully in the bags – categorized and sorted way better than I would have done myself. My delivery guy brought everything right up to the doorstep. My only issue was with ordering produce. I rarely weight my fruits and vegetables unless I need a specific amount for a recipe. I usually get a lot of fruit for the 3 of us, but I only ordered a pound of bananas (which ended up being only 3) and a pound of pears (which were very ripe and ended up only being 2). That’s not nearly enough fruit for us for a week! I needed a few things today and spent about 5 minutes placing another order for delivery this afternoon. And I don’t have to leave my desk.

I’m also trying Imperfect Foods delivery. My first delivery isn’t until next week, but I’ll report back on the experience.

Before the virus pandemic, I consistently went to the gym 2 or 3 days a week, but it’s been hard getting back to an exercise routine since I’ve been at home. I have definitely felt the lack of exercise because I’m having more aches and pains and hip issues. I’ve also just felt wired and a little anxious, I’m sure because most of my days have been spent sitting. I sit when I work, then move to the couch and sit through the evening. I’ve taken walks here or there, but it’s July in Texas, which means awful heat and humidity. My walking has been very inconsistent. I set an initial goal to get some type of exercise a minimum of 3 days a week also. Last night, my husband and I did a 20-minute yoga video.

Thank goodness for my motorcycle. Again, the heat has been nasty, but I’ve gone out to ride at least 2 or 3 days a week for a little while. Riding makes it super easy to soak up some sun and still be socially distant from others. And it’s one of my greatest stress relievers.

My first goal is to get to 165, which would put me at exactly 100 pounds down from my highest weight. That’s only 10 pounds away, but I historically lose super slow. I have to keep focused to get things moving again! Ultimately, my goal is 140, which will put me at the high end of my so-called normal weight. When I get to 140, I will reevaluate and see how I feel. At 5’3”, I could still be healthy and weigh as low as 115-120, but I cannot even picture myself there. I’ve been overweight since puberty at age 11, so I really have no clue where I’ll feel healthiest.

Anyhow, fingers crossed that the Purple Plan on WW works well for me. With so many foods I already eat and enjoy coming in at zero points, it should be easy to build a meal plan that fits.

Happy weekend to my friends!

Friday, July 10, 2020

Constant Diet and Lifestyle Tweaking

And now back to regularly scheduled programming.

I felt moved to write in my last post about LGBT rights and the parallel to Black Lives Matter and everything that’s going on in our world right now. But my primarily purpose in blogging, at least when I started several years ago, was to document my health journey.

I was diagnosed with thyroid disease 24 ½ years ago, a few months after my daughter was born. Autoimmune conditions are still mysterious, but one thing I’ve learned is that the propensity to develop an autoimmune condition is probably inherited, but trigger or triggers (sometimes called root causes) are necessary to ‘wake up’ the condition if you will. Hormonal changes are huge triggers, for example. I was diagnosed and started to get sick after childbirth. Anyhow, I went along for many years just existing. I thought the grocery list of symptoms were just part of my life. For years I went to doctors who only looked as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) labs to measure if my medication was at the right dosage.

Fast forward to the end of 2014. I’d found a better doctor who did much more thorough labs and switched me to a different medication, but I was still sick. My highest weight that I am aware of, was 265 pounds in December of 2014. I’m 5’3”/5’4”.  I had clothes in sizes 22 and 24/3XL.
Loads of research and self-advocacy. I realized it was up to me to find lifestyle changes to feel better. Just a pill to treat low thyroid was NOT enough. I had to stop the autoimmune attack and inflammation in my body.

I have tried all types of elimination diets and added and removed lots of different supplements and medications.

Since this pandemic started, it’s been challenging for so many of us. I’m one who was sent home to work remotely in mid-March. I am extremely fortunate to be in a job that’s so far been safe. Anyhow, early in the time stuck at home I certainly loosened up how strict I was with food. The stress of the unknown and the fear of what was happening in the world paired with frustration and boredom of being stuck at home had me more likely to bend my eating plan a little. I didn’t go completely off the rails, but I did lose my focus for a month or two.

About six weeks ago, I decided to try intermittent fasting, not just for weight loss, but for the health benefits. I started out doing 14-hour fasts, then moved up to 15-hour fasts, and now mostly do 16-hour fasts. I’ve done as long as 18 and had a few days I only fasted for 12. Some mornings, I am STARVING by the time I eat…some mornings I have broken my fast a little early because I recognize I really need to eat. Anyhow, for the most part, I like IF. I used to feel the need to snack into the evening, and now I just have a cup of decaf coffee or herbal tea.

With all the dietary changes I’ve done, I often tweak and change what I eat and don’t eat. One thing that hasn’t wavered is avoiding gluten. Gluten absolutely causes major inflammation and makes me feel awful – joint pain, digestive issues, fatigue, bloating. Everything else, however, has been up in the air.

I feel great eating paleo, but I’ve found it’s too easy to overdo it with fruit, starchy root vegetables, and paleo sweets. When I eat higher carbs, my blood sugar waivers way too much. Straight up keto has worked well for losing weight, controlling appetite, and balancing blood sugar, but it was easy to eat too many processed foods, dairy, and other ingredients. So now I’ve focused in a little deeper, taking the best of a variety of lifestyles.

I’m sure I will tweak it up again, but here’s my plan and what I’m doing right now:
  • No gluten, dairy, or soy – these are all inflammatory to Hashimotos and increase my symptoms
  • Intermittent fasting 16:8 - my goal is minimum 5 days a week; sometimes I do all 7 days
  • Keto/low carb macros – this is the first time I’m doing keto without dairy and soy, and I think that’s been key for me.

And just like I’ve done this entire 5 ½ years, exercise has been extremely inconsistent. I’ve done periods where I walked an hour a day for months at a time. I’ve done months where I hardly did any organized movement at all. Before this pandemic, I consistently went to the gym 2-3 times a week for 9 or 10 months. What I’ve learned is that exercise doesn’t really make that much of a difference on the scale. It DOES reduce stress and make me feel better, but it isn’t a vital piece of just the weight loss piece of things. That’s all about what I eat.

With everything going on in the world and in our lives, 2020 has been a challenge for sure. But I’ve focused back in and am seeing some changes again finally. The first half of the year, I lost maybe 10 pounds with inconsistent exercise, eating some inflammatory foods, and dealing with stress. In the last six weeks or so, I’ve lost another 6 pounds. And that was more just paleo and IF. This week I focused back on keto without dairy and soy, and the last two days showed a loss. This morning, I reached 176.2 pounds, which is a total of 88.8 pounds down from my highest weight!

When I went shopping for jeans a few weeks ago, I was floored that a size 14 fit me! My biggest jeans were a 22/24 with an elastic waistband. I’m wearing M/L shirts now after wearing up to a 3XL. I need to take measurements again. I didn’t take measurements at my absolute biggest, but at about 12 pounds down, I was 44-52-56. The last time I measured, I was 40-36-47, and that was about 5 pounds heavier than I am right now. I have an actual hourglass shape (still keeping this big ol’ hips, though!).

Here’s a side-by-side showing 80ish pounds difference:

For IF, I stop eating after dinner and start my fasting timer (Zero app is what I use). I usually eat anywhere from 5 to 7 p.m. depending on my day. After that, I will just drink decaf coffee with unsweetened coconut milk, herbal tea, sparkling water, or the occasional caffeine free diet soda like Sprite Zero. In the morning, I just have two cups of coffee with unsweetened coconut milk and erythritol sweetener. I drink a big water or two until my fasting window is over. All of that said, I listen to my body. A few mornings I have broken my fast early because I was a little weak or hungry. A few evenings, I ate something after dinnertime, but I’ve learned anytime I THINK I am hungry, I’ll drink a big calorie free beverage first. If I am still feeling hungry, well, I’ll EAT something.

Last Friday was kind of a big deal for me. I’d always been of the mindset that breakfast is the most important part of the day and I HAD to eat before doing anything strenuous. Psychologically, I had some hidden fear of being hungry. IF has taught me what hunger feels like and that I can easily push through it. I had the day off for the holiday weekend. I woke up, had my coffee and water and then went outside. It was in the upper 80s and very humid. I got out the ladder and hand-sawed several low hanging branches from our tree. I dragged the branches to the curb. Then I climbed up in the attic to change the air filter and THEN spent another hour or so cleaning and organizing the garage. All of this while still fasting! Saturday, I had my coffee and then rode my bike for 2 ½ hours, again while fasting. By the time I stopped for gas and a snack, I had fasted almost 18 hours and felt wonderful.

My health journey will never be over. After all, I will have Hashimoto’s the rest of my life. But my goal is to feel the best I possibly can at every phase of my life. And that depends on ME. I regularly evaluate and adjust. I have labs drawn every 3 months and adjust my prescriptions and supplements. I continue to read and learn more about autoimmunity and thyroid health. Most importantly, I just keep on going.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

When Did You Ever See a Fag Fight Back?

I am privileged. I am white, middle class, educated, cisgender, and married to a white, straight, cisgender man, all of which give me advances and privileges that many in our country and our world do not have. As a woman and a bisexual, I do understand what it means to be thought of as lesser, to be subject to gender norms and discrimination, to be judged for how I choose to live my life. But I've never feared that a police officer would stop me just because of how I looked. I have certainly never feared that a police officer would murder me for who I am.

We can just skip the part where I came out in a public forum, something I've never done. It is, after all, Pride month. But that's for another discussion. 

George Floyd is not the first black man who was murdered in police custody. Nor, sadly, will he likely be the last. 2020 had already been an incredibly trying year for us all with fear surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Millions are out of work, angry, scared, and looking for someone to blame. Our country was ripe for further unrest, so when Floyd was killed, it’s no surprise people around the country have been protesting. And sadly, where there are emotional protests, there are also often a small percentage who riot and turn to violence.

Regardless, I’m trying to make a point. At least I think I am. My mind and heart are struggling alongside millions of others’ minds and hearts right now, so I might not make ANY point as I ramble along.

Our community has a peaceful protest scheduled Thursday afternoon. One (white) woman in the neighborhood posted that she would not attend nor allow her daughters to attend because of past violence in the schools and community. We will call her Sally. I responded to Sally that our whole COUNTRY has a history of violence, which is one of the reasons behind these protests. She came back and said that SHE had lived in the neighborhood for 17 years, has friends in the police department, and knows a lot more about what happens in our community than I do.

I set out and wrote a long response to Sally, but when I went to post it, the admin had turned off commenting. I am not upset with the admin – I understand why commenting needed to be turned off before it got ugly; however, I wanted to capture my thoughts and what I tried to say back to her.
We have lived in this neighborhood 14 years. My husband is a former police officer and we have friends who are police officers. Further, we put our children through Denton ISD schools. We know a lot about what happens in our community, too. Sadly, my youngest child was not able to finish his high school education because of violence and bullying in this very neighborhood high school; some of that bullying was done by teachers and staff, not by students. We made the difficult decision to pull our child out of high school to homeschool ¾ of the way through his freshman year in Denton ISD because we feared for his safety and his life.

This bullying and fear were not because of the color of his skin, but because my kid is transgender.

Even if I’d been able to respond to ‘Sally’ before the comments were closed, I doubt I’d have changed her mind and make her understand the purpose of a peaceful neighborhood protest. 
As I watch the unrest unfold in our country, I imagine how mothers of children of color must feel. I can’t help but recognize our commonalities. Mothers (and fathers of course) of children of color see what’s happening and must be terrified that their child might be subjected to assault or murder, whether by a police officer or a white supremacist or someone else filled with fear and hate. I can only imagine children of color might be affected by depression and anxiety as they struggle to understand why they are hated simply because of the color of their skin. Parents of LGBTQ children also fear our children might be subjected to assault or murder, whether by an angry homophobe or a police officer. LGBTQ children like our son battle severe depression and anxiety as well when the world tells them there is something wrong with them, hell when FAMILY tells them there is something wrong with them. We fear him being assaulted because he doesn’t follow gender ‘norms’. He has a beard and sometimes wears skirts. He paints his nails and has a deep voice. We fear him ever being arrested, because the thought of what would happen to a transgender person in jail I cannot even put into words. We have spent years terrified that the depression and lack of acceptance from the world around him (or more specifically from extended family who haven’t accepted or tried to support him) would be too much, and he would end his own life.

At the beginning of Pride Month, I cannot help but see similarities to what is happening here now to the Stonewall Inn riots of 1969. A police raid of a gay bar prompted LGBT citizens to say no more. As one participant in the Stonewall riots commented, “When did you ever see a fag fight back?  Tuesday night was the last night for bullshit… this shit has got to stop.”

Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were LGBT citizens of color who decided to fight back. And in 2020 millions of citizens of color and their white allies decided to fight back. Now we come together with ALL citizens of color to say, “this shit has got to stop.” THAT is why there are peaceful protests all over the country. Of course it’s a shame that riots and looting sometimes spawn from the overall peaceful protesting. But that doesn’t negate the purpose of the peaceful protests.

Excuse my French, but what fucking hurts is the how much this past week’s events have further divided our already fractured country. We already lost some friends and family years ago because we made the ONLY decision back then – to love and support our child and confirm his gender identity. I have lost a few more this week because I chose to speak out against racism in our country and called them out when they made comments supporting President Peach Assclown’s actions. And just because I call out Trump's idiocracies does not mean I worship at the feet of hair-sniffing Biden. I'm not a Republican NOR a Democrat, but I do like to think of myself as a reasonable person on the side of loving all our neighbors, supporting those who cannot support themselves, and living and let live. You know, a human who thinks other humans should live with peace, freedom, love, and personal responsibility. And should stand up for those who aren't allowed to enjoy the same freedoms.

Part of our country’s core ideals surround the ability to protest and speak out when we have something to say. And when any minority is targeted and treated as lesser, whether it’s transgender women being unfairly arrested in 1969 or blacks being unfairly arrested and brutally murdered in 2020, we HAVE to speak out. When a citizen is murdered because of the color of the skin by a police officer tasked with protecting all citizens, we HAVE to speak out.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu.

It’s not just George Floyd. It’s Ahmaud Arbery. It’s Breonna Taylor. It’s Tony McDade, a trans black man killed by police in Tallahassee two days after George Floyd was murdered.

Black people, LGBTQ people, and especially LGBTQ people of color are at a greater risk of violence every day in this country. And if you AREN’T outraged about it, then you are missing the point of liberty and justice FOR ALL.

This shit has got to stop.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

My Thyroid Story

World Thyroid Day is May 25, 2020. I wanted to take some time to share my health journey and my decades-long quest for healing.

February 1996. My daughter was born in September 1995 through natural childbirth. She was healthy and happy and slept through the night at a very early age. In February I had gone in for a routine checkup because I had not had a menstrual cycle and was still dealing with crippling fatigue. My milk supply had also dwindled, and my daughter ended up self-weaning at about six weeks. I didn’t realize at the time that a low milk supply was a problem I could fix. I had to go back to work at six weeks postpartum but was incredibly exhausted – more than one should be with a newborn. I also had not lost a single pound since her birth.

My doc did some tests and told me he was surprised I was even able to walk into the doctor’s office – that’s how bad my thyroid labs were. It was then I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and put on levothyroxine, a synthetic thyroid replacement. That was it – here’s a pill, come back for labs twice a year. I felt a little better on the medication, but still suffered with extreme fatigue, body aches, sensitivity to cold, depression, and a host of other issues.

Fast forward six years. I had my son in September 2001 and a few weeks in, the same thing happened. We thought we had a difficult baby, a problem with colic, or SOMEthing. He screamed for two or three weeks straight. At his first checkup, we found out he was losing weight. My milk supply was dwindling badly. I was starving my poor child. We switched him to formula as my milk supply completely dried up, and he almost immediately began sleeping through the night like our daughter had done. No doctors ever tried to help me with my milk supply or tell me it could be related to my thyroid.

In addition to that, he was born on September 10, 2001, and then September 11 happened. Doctors and our own family were scared and didn’t really focus on my health for a while. Everything was so unsure for the first few months of his life, we just focused on surviving.

Just like with my first child, I didn’t lose weight after he was born. I had small successes with losing a little weight here and there, but my health continued deteriorating slowly into 2012/13. I was still fatigued, I battled chronic depression, I was incredibly sensitive to cold – my hands and feet HURT in the cold, I had very low libido, I had constant digestive issues, I suffered brain fog, I had body aches all over, and I continued to gain weight no matter what I ate or whether I exercised.

Somewhere during this, I finally found a doctor who diagnosed my thyroid disease as Hashimoto’s – an autoimmune disease. The first thing he did is switch me from the synthetic thyroid hormone, which is T4 only, to Armour, desiccated pig thyroid, which includes all the thyroid hormones. Once I had a name, I became rabid about research and reading. I learned how complex Hashimoto’s is and how the thyroid affects every single system in the body. I also learned about autoimmune disease. Both my sisters and my mother had other autoimmune diseases – type one diabetes, systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis among other secondary AI diseases. Something in our genes made each of us susceptible to autoimmune disease, but WHY did we each develop a different one?

Anyhow, I started to feel a little better on the Armour, but not nearly as well as I had read I would feel. Some of the Hashimoto’s forums I posted in made desiccated thyroid sound like a miracle. I learned it was much more complicated than that. I would have periods of feeling a little better and adjusting my medication, but I assumed I would just feel ill and exhausted and miserable the rest of my life.

I had also started drinking more and more to self-medicate. I was raising two kids, working full time, and just trying to keep my head above water.

I kept researching and reading about autoimmunity and Hashimoto’s and learned more and more about my disease. I also read about people who healed and controlled their Hashimoto’s through lifestyle changes. By the end of 2014, I was fed up. I was 42 but felt like I was 72. I weighed 15 pounds MORE than I did 9 months pregnant with my second child. I was 265 pounds on my 5’3” frame. Everything hurt. I learned I would have to be my own advocate and change my lifestyle. Just taking a thyroid pill once a day was NOT going to make me feel whole. I honestly didn’t care how much I weighed…I just wanted to feel better.

I read. And read. And researched. And read more. There is extensive debate about what causes autoimmune conditions to develop, but I did learn that dietary changes might make some difference. At first, I learned about gluten, and the proteins in gluten are similar in makeup to thyroid cells. When someone with an autoimmunity to the thyroid eats gluten, the body can’t tell a difference. It attacks both the gluten AND the thyroid. It’s much more complicated than that, but the short answer is that dietary changes might make me feel better. When I stopped eating gluten, I noticed some of my symptoms completely disappeared. Without fail, when I DO choose to eat something with gluten, the effects are almost immediate and sometimes make me sick for a few days.

Since December 2014 when I finally decided to focus on my health, I have continually experimented. I’ve done full-blown dietary eliminations, I found a doctor who focuses on treating Hashimoto’s as a whole rather than just giving me a pill based on my TSH numbers, I learned that my lifestyle choices had a direct effect on how I felt. As I started to make dietary changes, things very slowly improved. I started to have a little more energy and started taking walks. At the time, I worked at a company with a gorgeous multi-acre property and winding walking paths. I walked sometimes twice a day. I very, very slowly started to lose a little weight and feel a little better.

I am convinced that if I had not made dietary changes to manage my disease better, my drinking would have gotten even worse, and THAT would have been a bigger issue. I don’t think I could have gotten sober without first making the dietary and lifestyle changes that enabled me to quit drinking.
One of the biggest things I have learned through all this is that I will constantly be juggling and tweaking my lifestyle to manage my Hashimoto’s and feel the best I can. I have settled into a paleo eating plan for where I feel the best, but I still to this day change it up depending on how I am feeling. I know 100% that gluten is the biggest issue. Grains in general contribute to joint pain and arthritis-type symptoms. Dairy affects body aches and my digestion. Legumes and sugar to a lesser extent exacerbate symptoms. Sometimes it is a pain in the ass to order a burger without a bun. No, it’s not because I’m on the latest fad diet. It’s because gluten makes my body want to kill my thyroid. I have developed a sort of hierarchy with my food choices. Gluten is enemy #1, From there, I avoid dairy, other grains, legumes, sugar, and processed crap as much as possible. It’s not perfect, and sometimes I must make the best choice based on my circumstances.

I am also routinely getting extensive lab tests and adjusting my medications and supplements regularly. I have struggled with low B12 and D for many years with Hashimoto’s. My labs had been pretty good with my dietary changes (and quitting drinking September of 2018), but a few months ago, they tanked again. My thyroid antibodies were again through the roof, my B12 was low, I still had chronic candida overgrowth, my progesterone was low. I wasn’t sleeping well, my fatigue was returning, and depression was getting worse. Even now, almost 24 years into having thyroid disease, I am still learning and still having to change things up. My doc added a second thyroid medicine, an antifungal for the candida, and weekly B12 injections (which I do myself). So, diet, prescription meds, and supplements are changing regularly.

I might be missing one, but at the moment I take Armour thyroid and Cytomel (both thyroid replacement hormones), progesterone, a strong antifungal (the one she put me on before didn’t work), and prescription B12 injections. In addition, I take a bunch of supplements: B complex, D3, C, probiotics, fish oil, biotin (Hashimoto’s loves to make hair fall out), and magnesium.

Honestly, I feel fortunate I ONLY ended up with Hashimoto’s. One of my sisters died from complications of her autoimmune disease at 43 years old. She was a fragile type 1 diabetic who was very sick, had a failed transplant, and was on dialysis the last few years of her life. My other sister has lupus in addition to other autoimmune issues. She is only able to work part time and struggles with a variety of issues affecting multiple organs. My mother has had debilitating rheumatoid arthritis since gosh, her 30s? Hashimoto’s can be fatal if it’s untreated, but someone would have to go unmedicated for a very long time before it causes them to go into a coma and/or develop heart problems. I’ve known what I am dealing with for a long time, and as long as I continue treating it, it is very unlikely I will die from Hashimoto’s-related issues.

I am far from 100% healthy, but I have learned what changes make my life significantly better. Since eating paleo and adjusting meds and supplements over the past 5+ years, I have resolved a lot of symptoms. My fatigue is much lower (though it gets bad when I eat off plan), my energy is more consistent, I am sleeping much better, my menstrual cycle was very, very unpredictable, and it is now predictable almost to the HOUR each month (at 47 years old!), my libido is more steady, I am much less sensitive to cold, my depression and social anxiety have improved, my skin and hair are healthier. I rarely have joint pain and aches. Anytime I don’t eat paleo foods, it rapidly increases one or more of those symptoms. I had some dairy and soy earlier in the week, and the last two days I felt depressed, completely exhausted, and just blah.  My weight has always been secondary to just managing my disease and feeling the best I can, but weight gain is also a symptom of undertreated thyroid, so my weight loss is a secondary benefit. I didn’t care what number the scale said if I FELT good. Making those changes naturally resulted in weight loss. Very, very slow weight loss. I lost around 25 pounds in 2015 and 2016, gained some back, and lost a little more off and on. When I first quit drinking, I allowed myself to eat and do whatever I needed to stay sober the first few months, but I eventually got back on my whole health plan.

A few months ago, I crossed the 80 pounds lost mark. That took just over 5 years to reach. The onset of stay-at-home orders in March during the Coronavirus pandemic affected us all significantly for a while. For a few weeks there, I ate some junk – a LOT of ice cream – and did not move my body as much as usual, but I (like I have done probably dozens of times before) recommitted to my health and to feeling good.

Depending on which statistics you look at, some 14 MILLION people in the US have Hashimoto’s. Thyroid disease is quite common, and autoimmune conditions in general are more and more prevalent. Women are seven times more likely to develop a thyroid condition than men. One set of stats has around 7 percent of the US population afflicted by one of over 75 autoimmune conditions. It’s probably much more than that. And my family has several of them. Unfortunately, I seem to have given both of my kids Hashimoto’s also.

That said, I am here to say that dietary and lifestyle changes have had a HUGE impact in managing my wellbeing. Autoimmune conditions rarely improve just by taking a prescription medication alone. Sure, I would love to be able to just order anything off the menu and not make substitutions and constantly have to read labels. I would love to not be THAT person who either doesn’t eat when a menu can’t be modified or has to make all types of adjustments when I order. I would love to be able to participate in office potlucks without having to skip ¾ of the food. I would love to be able to go on a motorcycle trip with my friends and not have to either pack my own food or do extensive research to find a menu for where we are stopping to eat.  It’s annoying. It can be embarrassing. Occasionally, I DO just eat what I want and say screw the consequences. But then I eat that thing, that pizza or that cheeseburger with a bun, and I remember how miserable I can feel. The frequency that I eat outside of my plan continues to decrease. There are fewer foods on my list of “totally worth feeling like shit” to spend 4 minutes of my life eating this one thing. Nothing tastes THAT good.  

And all-in-all, I am overall so much healthier in my late 40s than I was in my 20s and 30s. But it took a complete overhaul of my life, what I eat, what meds and supplements and take, and giving myself permission to take a long bath or a nap when I’m not feeling my best. I learned how important it is to say no sometimes. It has taken 24 years so far of struggling and balancing and researching and understanding. I STILL read and re-read some of the key books and blogs I discovered years ago. I STILL devour research and work on finetuning my overall health plan. And I still have days where I have a Hashimoto’s flare-up when I can’t figure out what the trigger was. On those days I just have to stop, cancel plans, and take care of myself until I get through to the other side.

I am an open book and happy to share my experiences – what changes worked, what supplements were a waste of time and money, what struggles I dealt with. Thyroid disease in general and Hashimoto’s specifically are not death sentences. You don’t have to give in and give up that you will always feel fatigued, lose your hair, be depressed, have terrible joint pain. It takes work and commitment…a LOT of work…but I have learned I can feel well and even thrive with this condition. I refuse to just sit back and hope a pill will fix everything. It means taking control and being one’s own advocate.

World thyroid day is this Monday, May 25. And this is MY thyroid story.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

16 Months plus 2 Years

I haven’t blogged in many months, not because I don’t have anything to say. No, on the contrary. I have plenty to say. I write for a living and I keep myself busy! Sometimes writing for pleasure gets pushed WAY down my list of things I want to accomplish.

Today, though, marks some important anniversaries. As of today, I’m 16 months sober and I’ve been riding a motorcycle for two years: two things that have had a huge impact on the person I am today.
Since I bought my Harley last March, I have put over 10,000 miles on her. On bikes before the Harley, I probably rode another 10,000 miles. That’s 20,000 miles of pure freedom and joy. I have taken several rides with the Litas, the group of women riders I am part of. We have gone on several rides with our group of riding friends. I have ridden with my husband all over the Dallas/Ft Worth area. We took our first motorcycle trip to NW Arkansas in September during Bikes, Blues and BBQ and rode some of the most beautiful roads in the South. But mostly, my favorite riding therapy are those solo rides. Just me and my music blaring into my helmet, clearing my head and feeling the wind on my face.

In July 2019, I wanted to get back into a routine of exercise. In past years, I’d racked up tons of miles walking, but hadn’t been able to regain my focus on exercising for a while. This time, though, I decided to focus on lifting weights. I still sometimes walk, but my focus is gaining strength and tone. Since joining the gym, I have consistently gone 2 or 3 days every single week for going on 7 months now. It’s amazing to see the muscles I’ve never seen before starting to define themselves. I have biceps!

Sometime in the summer/fall of 2019, I started eating foods off my plan occasionally. My mental and physical health suffered because of it. I stumbled through a pretty awful depression for several months, but eventually realized it was because I had stopped focusing on eating the right foods for my autoimmune condition. The important thing is I DIDN’T drink to cope with that depression.  I still kept going to the gym a few days a week. The depression was absolutely caused by eating inflammatory foods that exacerbate my Hashimoto’s. The day after Christmas, I recommitted myself to eating to nourish my mind and my body. It’s amazing…within two or three days of eating paleo once again, that depression was GONE. My body stopped hurting again. My joint pain and low energy were resolved. The majority of the symptoms of Hashimoto’s were gone. You think I’d learn. Eating grains and legumes and processed junk makes me sick. Every single time. And it’s not just digestive symptoms. On the contrary, in fact. Having an upset stomach is the least of my worries. No, when I eat those things, my body hurts. My energy is zapped. My libido is gone. But worse, my mental health suffers immensely. I stop caring about things that are important to me. I cancel plans. I just want to stay home and be alone. I’m grateful I was able to pull myself back up out of this depression again and overjoyed I didn’t turn to the bottle to make it through.

Our family has had some exciting changes this past year.

My son, who battles severe anxiety and depression, started his first JOB a few months ago. He loves it, and has become so much more self sufficient and proud of himself for the first time. This Christmas was the first time he had his own money to buy gifts and was so incredibly excited to give presents to the people he loves! He has even been on a few dates and is meeting new people for the first time in years. He has plans to learn to drive, to earn his GED, and to move OUT. He had top surgery in August, which is a huge piece of confirming and supporting his identity. For the first time in many years, he and we can see possibility.

Our daughter graduated with a degree in hospitality management in May, another exciting feat! Her senior year of high school, so was also diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and struggled with many of the same symptoms I’ve had to manage. Her first year of college was a real battle, but she, too, learned to avoid certain foods and sees a great doctor for managing her condition. And on New Year’s Day, she got ENGAGED! Her fiancĂ© is a wonderful person, and we couldn’t be more proud and excited for them. The two of them truly seem to be in love and make a great team. They live in a brand new house he had built a little over a year ago and are completely independent, working great jobs and doing this adult thing so much better than we certainly were doing at 24 years old!

In October, my husband and I celebrated 25 YEARS of being married. Since that first ride on the back of his Harley in September 2017, we have continued to become closer than ever before. We genuinely enjoy our time together and have a blast going on adventures. 2020 has us both focused on goals and dreams for the next 25 years together.

At 47 years old, I feel so much stronger, confident, and content with life than ever before. When I look back at pictures of myself 5 years ago, I don’t recognize that woman. Sure, there are physical changes, but look at the eyes. Look at the smile. The healthiness and happiness just oozes out from within. The picture on the left is 2009, 37 years old. My Hashimoto’s was undertreated, I was drinking pretty heavily, and my body hurt all the time. The picture on the right is 2019, 47 years old. Sober, happy, healthy.