Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Resolving your thryoid issue

I was diagnosed with Hasimoto's thyroiditis in late summer 2005, but I wasn't diagnosed with hypothyroidism until today. Isn't that weird? You might recognize your own story in mine, because apparently endocrinologists and other docs are wary of prescribing medicine for thyroid issues even when the diagnosis is made, thus waiting until it hits critical levels to take action, if then.

Nodules were found on my thyroid after a surgery to fuse two of my cervical vertebra. That surgeon sent me to UW Hospital's cancer clinic, where it was confirmed that I don't have cancer, but I do have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your thyroid—and the most common kind of thyroiditis there is. Basically, your thyroid will eventually stop working altogether, and you will have to take thyroid replacement meds for the rest of your life. The problem is, doctors don't want to prescribe it.

I don't think my hypothyroidism was too bad back then, except I had a hard time losing weight and I was often fatigued. But the endocrinologist wouldn't put me on any meds, saying my TSH levels weren't high enough. I have no idea what they were then, but I do know that he did no other tests. There is tons of evidence now that more than that simple blood test is really required to determine if your thyroid is problematic.

This week, however, my thyroid issues which have been looming over the past three or more years have errupted into full-blown problems this week. Typical symptoms I experienced include low body temperatures (95.7 to 96.5), fatigue, low-grade depression and anxiety, extremely dry spots on my eyelids, behind my ears, behind my knees and between my breasts and very thick, dry skin on the soles of my feet (veeeery dry), achy joints, insomnia, irritability to the point of out-of-control crabbiness, inability to lose weight, dry hair (I cannot comb it right now), and a racing heart rate occasionally. There are a few other symptoms, but not many. The other day, I was so tired, I felt ill and wanted to pull over any time I drove a car. I just felt really bad and so tired that walking to the mailbox seemed ridiculous.

What I wanted was a doctor who would look at my symptoms, do tests and then make me feel better. I'm willing to make changes to my diet (and I have! I never eat broccoli or cauliflower raw, or any form of soy and have

Friday, May 21, 2010

Getting comfortable outside my comfort zone without food

You've got to love my stepkids. Reality, served straight up. The other day we're watching the Biggest Loser, and I say in disgust about one participant's bad showing that week, "If I were on here, I would never gain weight." Just as one realization sets in, my oldest steppie says, "You're not fat enough for Biggest Loser!" Nice!

The truth is, I'm probably not as big as some of those contestants, nor do I want to be. But if my life doesn't change, I could be dealing with this yo-yo dieting forever, and that's just as bad. Bottom line, I'm not living in my best, natural body. And, in a way, I did gain weight on my own private Biggest Loser show. After all, I was relatively thin several years ago. Then s*@t starting hitting the fan and I started hitting the sauce (chocolate, hollandaise, butter...).

And I still do it. The other day, I heard a nasty comment someone said about me. It wasn't true and it wasn't even about me—really about them. But I still managed to take it to my heart, feel bad that there's something in me that makes them do that and proceed to eat a big ol' hunk of braunschweiger. I felt sick as a dog afterward, for about 3/4 of the day, and then ate a very light supper (so there is a good side). But the bad side is that I still haven't figured out how to best make myself feel better when I receive a blow and sometimes I don't even know that I'm eating. I'll forget by the end of the day. Sometimes it's not even a blow, and I still manage to have foodie aftereffects. The other day, an unexpected event occurred that could have been negative, but really wasn't. I initially had no problem dealing with it. But the fallout came later when I realized others were upset for me and I was eating just to fill myself up and feel comforted because others were upset. So it seems that you can get those cravings when you are simply out of your comfort zone.

That's what I like about "the Biggest Loser." You spend a hell of a lot of time outside your comfort zone. And you learn a little bit about those resulting food issues. The problem, it seems, is that one's comfort zone at home is so different from that of the BL comfort zone. So you learn how to get comfortable in the new place, then you go back to your home where you aren't comfortable, but you haven't learned how to deal with not being comfortable. You just readust so that you become comfortable. And when back at home, you have to deal with meeting expectations, feeling guilty, etc. all over again.

The last three years of my life have been spent almost completely outside my comfort zone. First, I have to deal with having a husband around all the time (who loves pie), with three kids whom I love but who feel too guilty to say they love me except occasionally, with starting a business and pushing myself to be a business owner, to doing work that isn't writing to make money, to dealing with some residual issues regarding a former job, to handling an ex-boyfriend who is now part of my group of friends and sports a never-ending parade of new women and dealing with my husband's ex-wife (which isn't always bad, it's just not always comfortable).

I've got to get a grip on how I handle that nervous stomach from being outside my comfort zone. Emotional eating isn't just about being upset, at least that's what I think. It's about being outside your comfort zone and handling new experiences. I think what I do is always act like I'm fine (and sometimes I am), but then eating to deal with those unsettled nerves and to not appear upset. Or when I am fine, like the other day when another new girlfriend of my ex shows up at a birthday gathering for a group of us, but because others are so jangled by the experience, I end up feeling like I should be upset when I'm not, so I eat to feel "normal."

So what to do? What are strategies to feel better? I think I'll ask some skinny chicks what they do. Taking a bath doesn't cut it (although I dearly love baths). Perhaps riding my horse will. But he's not always around when I'm driving around the city feeling nervous or anxious about a new client or a new situation that I've not dealt with before. I used to shop, but that's not a healthy solution. And I don't want to call people and talk because what you talk about just gets worse, in my opinion. Perhaps I need to just express myself verbally out loud to myself, perhaps scream a bit, then get over it. Hmmm. This will take some detective work.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My favorite coffee and Chad's blog

Another 2 pounds gone! That's the great news.

Now for the good news. I've found a coffee that I love, that is made sustainably and can be bought in my small town as well as all over Madison. Kickapoo Coffee is an artisan fair trade coffee. My favorite is the Driftless Dark, which is bold and dark in flavor, but mellow. There's a hint of chocolate that you really don't even taste without thinking about it long and hard, but it gives it a lovely flavor. I truly have never found a better coffee. Kickapoo Coffee, of Viroqua, was named Roaster of the Year by "Roast" magazine. It's pricey, about $10.75 per pound, but it's worth it!  I have avoided Starbucks for a while because I sometimes get a fishy aftertaste and sometimes it smells a little like cigarette butts. It's gross to even think about, but I've smelled it a few times and so I won't buy it. And I hadn't found anything else I liked as much. But this coffee has me savoring each cup.

I have also found a fellow food fanatic, Chad Brown, who has a terrific blog on how to cook seasonal foods. Both he and his fiance, Lindsey, are in great shape and spend a lot of time hunting for terrific foods and great recipes. I highly recommend his blog, Local Seasonal Eats. Recipes currently on his blog include a lovely Spring Green Risotto and Alison's Wild Asparagus, Leek and Morel Soup.

Recent new behaviors on my part are starting to pay off. When I go out to eat, I nearly always pay better attention to when I'm full. I also package up food the minute I start feeling full. A week ago, we ate at El Pastor in Madison (Park Street) and after just a few bites, I packed up my food. I rationed it across two separate meals over the next few days. It was terrific.

The other fabulous trend is really walking a lot more. Instead of parking as close as possible and then walking as little as possible, I'm creating a mindset where I think "score!" when I find parking that's far away and having a great time walking to the store.  Tim and I went to a concert last night at the kid's school and I was a little dismayed that we found parking so close. But it was cold and rainy, and we were without umbrella, so that was alright.

Now, there is a little bad news. Lately, I've slipped back into drinking diet soda. One of my Skinny Chicks let me know that she has iced coffee a lot, but I don't want to go that route because I already have a hard time sleeping. So I'm going to start brewing iced tea. So far, I really like any berry-flavored tea for ice tea. We'll see how that works. And, of course, water.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thinking thin is in!

You know how I'm working on interviewing skinny chicks and then putting all of their answers about how they live with food into this blog (and hopefully a book). Well, it looks like I'm on to something. Here's a great article on how to think like thin women in Natural Health. It makes many of the points the women I'm interviewing are saying: they habitually eat a certain way they know works for them, they think of daily activity as part of their exercise routine, they really think about what works for them in terms of food and stick to it, they get enough sleep as a rule, etc.

On another point, I'm officially swearing off eating any food from restaurants that also have a drive-through window. My beloved, wonderful nephew Jordan is being shipped off to  Iraq again and so I'm going to take a sort of Lenten-inspired time off of certain kinds of food.  I know it doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice since I'm trying to eat better, but it allows me to think about him any time I pass a fast-food restaurant. Interested in joining me?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Me, Jillian Michaels and Hypothroidism

I think I've mentioned before that I have a dying thyroid. I don't use it as an excuse for my weight issues. True, I gained another 20 pounds around the time I noticeably developed a big thryoid (with no diagnosis) around age 36, but I had body image issues before then and had been trying to lose what little weight I had to lose long before then. Over the past 10 years, the symptoms have really ramped up: (sleeplessness, rashes, stiff joints, mild depression or malaise, low body temp, etc.) and it wasn't until I had my first real medical issue in the form of a severely herniated spinal disc that my frightening thryoid condition was discovered during the resulting surgery. The surgeon saw nodules on my enlarged thyroid and during a followup biopsy at UW Cancer Clinic (that was scary!) the nice gaggle of heavily accented doctors revealed that I had Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

I didn't want to try the Synthroid, the most commonly used synthetic thyroid used to replace underactive thyroid. I did love Armour, the natural thyroid replacement, because there were zero side-effects. It's just hard to find doctors who will prescribe it, and it was taken off the market in 2009 in what  many say is a bid by the drug companies to keep their monopoly on the synthetic version which millions of people take.

This morning I woke up feeling horrid again, and what I know today for sure is that my laissez faire attitude about eating has got to change. Prior to this morning, I knew in theory I should eat better because it was good for me, but a light bulb went off this morning. This ongoing emotional funk and achy joints that are keeping me from feeling 100 percent is no longer acceptable. Kind of like when my friend had breast cancer and she related it to bad food that she went cold turkey and would do anything to avoid junk foods.

So the best I can do even after with the right medication is eat and exercise to help control my condition.  So what to eat? I checked with various Web sites and books and here's some general ideas.

No-nos include eating the following raw: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, kale, spinach, peaches, pears, strawberries, radishes and millet (who would eat millet raw?). Now I love all of them, but the truth is that eating the veggies cooked is something I already do, so that's good. I only eat strawberries, peaches and pears in season and have no problem cooking them first. I might have a bowl of strawberries, pears or peaches for breakfast during the season, but it's only a couple months out of the year.

I also avoid most forms of processed soy. This may seem somewhat controversial, but I have been reading a lot on this topic since Nutritional consultant Tracie Hittman first told me soy is problematic for many people. Perhaps coincidentally, I was a vegan for many years and used a lot of soy products as meat and dairy substitutes. It was during this period that my thyroid was first diagnosed as enlarged and later said to be under active. Now I'm reading that the excessive use of processed soy especially has a product that can inhibit the body's absorption of iodine, something I never got a lot of anyway because I never used iodized salt. (If you use a lot of uniodized sea sal't, you should look at taking a kelp supplement.) Trainer Jillian Michaels who also has a thryoid issue, has criticized Oprah's health handlers for not notifying the talk show Queen that soy is bad for her. (Note to self: if Jillian Michaels has hypothroidism and looks like that, and so can I—in theory.) Ironically, it's reported that Dr. Christiane Northrup, who got Oprah to start chowing down on soy years ago, is now also hypothyroid. At any rate, there's lots of information about avoiding processed soy in this article, which also cites a lot of research. In this country, when we think a little of something is good, it follows that a ton of something is better. That idea is supported by the monster soy industry.

Finally, I am going to start avoiding all processed meats (lunch meats, sausages and hot dogs, prepackaged meats) and all fatty meats. I'm going to stick to chicken, fish, lean pork, lamb and beef that is free range or grass-fed. And I'm going to make sure that shellfish or fatty fish such as salmon, herring and tuna, are part of my diet at least three times a week.

There are many types of thyroid issues. To find out more, check this Mayo Clinic site.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Comfort Food Rx

As I think I've mentioned, I've been feeling a little blue and that's when I tend to go straight for the comfort foods—and none that are good for me. Macaroni and cheese is always high on my list, but one I seldom indulge. Mostly because I don't think I've ever made mac and cheese, whether just for me or me and several children, that there are ever any leftovers. Mashed potatoes also make the grade as does rice pudding. So, I am now on a quest of what to do to comfort myself that doesn't involve food.

(Note:  There is nothing wrong with my life, so don't call or write asking "what's wrong?" because it's nothing . . . and everything. Thank you for the thought, however. I just get the generic melancholies now and again, especially in spring. It can make me funky about an ongoing family issue that arises every few months or weeks that I usually just shrug my shoulders over. It can coincide with a work conundrum or a particularly bad dream. You can always find something wrong if you look. The truth is, we make our lives what they are based on our attitudes. So when I'm blue, small issues always seem worse and I always feel a little more lonely. The only way to get out of it is to keep being grateful for everything good in my life and focus even more determinately on my successes.)

For me, a particularly dangerous trap  is reading or watching TV. I have often picked up a "best seller" only to find it involves incest or rape or murder of a child and that's never good. I often ask librarians for suggestions on truly "up" books with no horrible crimes. The Jan Karon books are particularly great for the blues because the nice little Episcopalian priest focuses on his favorite Bible quote: Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." Just saying it makes me tear up a little bit, because even though I'm not a big Jesus devotee, I do love him for his positive attitude. I definitely do believe in the benevolent God/Universe that gives you what you ask for when you have faith. As for television, I rely on anything that's positive like, believe it or not, the Dog Whisperer. That Cesar is so darn positive.  There's no way I'd watch anything like "16 and Pregnant" or "Survivor." Yikes.

I also love taking walks up and down hills and getting really exhausted. I also like riding my bike or riding my horse. Titan has a way of really making me feel great. He's always so happy to see me and tries really hard to understand what I'm trying to get him to do. I don't get as tired riding Titan as I would riding my bike or walking, unless I go for a really long trail ride after exercising him.

So what to eat when feeling this way? Tonight I'm going to grill a piece of swordfish for myself and have a salad. The kids and Tim are having baby back ribs, which I don't really love. I'm also making some boiled potatoes for them with parsley and pepper on them and peas. I'll have peas as well. The trick is having foods that make me feel as if they are healing, which is probably giving foods more credit than they deserve. I like pretty much any broiled fish and steamed or roasted veggies. A friend of mine tends to go vegetarian, which makes her feel superior in the food department. I don't get the same healthy buzz from vegetarian, but to each their own. The true skill is finding something that helps me start my day out right when I'm down because the first thing I tend to hit is the coffee. I think coffee can be a bit hard on the system.

Any suggestions other than an egg white omelet with vegetables or just fruit? And what do you do when you are feeling down, if you ever do?

Monday, April 19, 2010

On society and Omega 3's.

Well, I took a little hiatus due to a vacation, a busy stint at work and a need to really get my house clean (all writers know that cleaning is one of the most acceptable forms of procrastination).

I'm not going to lie. It was also a little bit about the negative comment left by "Anonymous" several entries ago. Here I am, after all, trying to get to the bottom of a problem with which I have struggled for years. The not-so-kind commentor's suggestion that I get therapy bothered me. Am I whining? Should I just get down to business? Am I just a fat loser?  Thankfully, after a bit of contemplation, the answer has to be "Not more than anyone else."

I think there's a real tendency in America's society to look down on people with weight issues, whether they have to lose 10 pounds or 100 pounds. I've noticed that even in myself. I can't stand to see anyone who is fat chew gum with their mouth open (not that I love it when thin people do it). I think of them as "slobs" and I might even say it in my head, before scolding myself. ("Idiot" is what I say when I see a thin person chomping away.) I've often seen stupid thin women get more credit in society than a heavy fat woman. Not to beat this example to death, but Oprah is a woman who has really a terrific business mind, but I read more about her weight than I do her business philosophy. Why? Who cares? But even I find myself prejudging people before I know them based on weight, until I remind myself not to do it.

Then I look at some of the thin people I know. Every stinkin' one of them has a problem with which they struggle. One is trying to have a baby and she can't, another is trying to break away from her parents and have a life and she can't. One thin friend struggles to be "Ok" in the eyes of her parents while another skinny friend sticks with a husband who hasn't been faithful since they met almost. Some of their problems are small: one thin friend of mine is trying to lose the same 10 pounds she's lost and gain 60 times and all she eats is salads. Every day, salads. That makes no sense. Salads aren't working! Another thin friend can't find a guy she likes, and she's tried a few. Another has few friends because she's very self absorbed, while another constantly finds herself over-committed and letting people down. Some of these problems are worse than needing to lose weight and others seem easier. But the bottom line is that many of us struggle with feeling good about ourselves when we have to lose weight -- and it's harder to hide because there's a fine line between feeling good about yourself and being conceited, which some people think looks bad on a chubby person (although I think it's a neat trick I'd love to learn). 

Bottom line. I'm going to worry about myself because I can't fix others unless they happen to relate to my issue or the way I solve it. Hopefully, I'll bring a few of my readers along with me as I work to solve this problem. And when I'm skinny, I just might blog about my new problems!

To my next subject, I read a terrific article in May/June 2010 Eating Well magazine about Omega 3's. Joe Hibbeln, M.D., believes that our diets which are too heavy in Omega 6 oils often in safflower, cannola, etc. oils, and too light in Omega 3's found in tuna, sardines, herring, salmon and other cold water (the colder the better) fish are creating an imbalance that is throwing off our mood. It's making us depressed, addicted and violent. Hippeln, a Commander in the United States Public Health Service, has been running clinical studies and has said he's found that people just feel a lot better when they eat these Omega-3 fats, which are what make up a big part of the brain.  Click here for a related list of his studies.

I often feel blue in spring and this year has been no different. I have no idea why this is, but I haven't had fish in ages, and I haven't had salmon, herring, tuna or sardines in a coon's age. I have had mussels, but probably only once a month. The article, which isn't available online so you'll have to buy it (or read it at the doctor's office or library), suggests eating these type of foods up to 3 times a week. I know my ancestors likely did, since I'm Norwegian. I'm hitting the fish starting today and I'll let you know if I see a good result.

I also hope to have more Skinny Chick additions soon.