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Year of Pain, Year of Humble November 13, 2014

IMG_7202Last week, after I spoke on a panel on reproductive stigma and justice, an audience member came up to me and said, “I know you.” I looked at her. I didn’t recognize her at all – a warm smile, brown skin, dimples. I squinted and said, “Really!” She said, “You’re Foodie McBody. I follow your blog!”

I was overwhelmed by a storm of thoughts and emotion. What blog? Hahaha. I haven’t posted a thing in months. And who? Foodie McWho? That person was a person who had receded so far away from me. I’d changed my Twitter handle and Instagram name, and nobody called me that anymore.

Foodie McBody was a person who, once upon a time, took her health by the reins and galloped into a transformation. There were years of glory. The first 5k! The Weight Watchers Lifetime key! The 10ks, the half marathons. Four of them. The two triathlons and more 5ks than I could count. I loved my health and loved my active body and I was just proud and glad, even through the struggles. I had little bouts here and there – a sprained ankle, a wrist flareup. But they all resolved within a month or two, and then I was back in the saddle again.

But then 2013 happened. I call it my year of pain. When my hip gave up after the Oakland half marathon, my last, and told me I might need to get it replaced. And then the fateful bounce on the trampoline that ruptured my cervical discs and brought me to a halt. When I could do nothing more than move, agonizingly, from one horizontal position to the next. Surgery, recovery and rehab in small, tentative steps.

2014 was supposed to be my comeback year. But it has not been that. After a brief triumphant walking 5k at the start of the year, I have been plagued by a thyroid condition that stalled my metabolism, and a foot ailment that won’t let up. Plantar fasciitis turned to posterior tibialis tendinitis leading to some sort of Achilles problem. My Achilles heel, indeed. Every morning I hobble out of bed like a 90 year old. Actually, I hobble out of bed more painfully and slowly than my own 92 year old mother, which is humbling, to say the least.

my Achilles heel

my Achilles heel

Do I want some cheese with my whine? Well, why not.

2014 has been the year of humble. But if I’m honest I also have to admit that it’s been a year of fear. Recently our family re-watched Spirited Away, one of those hallucinogenic Miyazaki films. One of the most disgusting images is this creature, the Hungry Ghost, that eats everything in sight – frogs, bicycles, humans, and keeps wanting more. It grows into a mountainous blob of sludge, its arms outstretched, and stinkily consumes everything in sight. When our young heroine refuses to be intimidated by the ghost, and doesn’t run away from it, it starts expelling the contents of its innards. Finally it shrinks to a fraction of its enormous size, and silently boards an underwater train, presumably bound for freedom.

That image has haunted me. And I think that that creature is like my fear. It reminds me of the Before version of Foodie McBody. Before I charged into healthy living in 2009, I was afraid of everything. Afraid to move. Even when it felt good.

For much of the time these days, I am paralyzed by fear. Only recently I’ve been able to venture into small, almost laughable activities. I join a weekly AquaFIt class at our pool, where most of the participants are ten, twenty or even thirty years my senior. For an hour we splash around the pool with foam weights and noodles. It feels like play, but when I climb out of the pool, I have to admit it’s kicked my butt.

I walk silently in the redwood forest near my house. Today I did a silent walk and in the quiet green I thought about my fear. The sky was white, a little blue, like the inside of an ice cube. The air I moved through was chilly and perfect, and the sun blinked uncertainly through the clouds every now and then. What am I afraid of? I am afraid of pain. My left heel sent out little jolts. So what, I said. So what. It’s not killing you. I notice. What do I notice. It’s like electricity. It’s like heat. It’s like a twangy little song reminding me that I’m alive. I liked the feeling of my legs. I still have muscles there. They’re still strong. I pushed up the gentle incline and I didn’t wheeze. I didn’t die from shortness of breath. I was doing it. It was just a walk. Calm down, I told myself. You’re okay. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

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Worse than the pain, though, is the shame. The pain of shame. Of knowing where I was three years ago, that relentless athlete that swam in the icy, salty bay. The one who looked fear in the face and climbed on the bicycle, up hills, up so many hills, near whizzing cars and dogs. I ran and ran and ran. Three or four days a week, tweeting about my six pain free miles, my happy eight miles. These days I would consider it a victory to walk a 5k, to make it around Lake Merritt without sitting down, without limping. This is the greatest pain. To look in my closet and push aside the majority of the clothes, because nothing fits.

How to find compassion? That is what I want for 2015. The year of compassion. To say, it’s all right. You’re okay, whether you never complete another triathlon again. Whether those 15 pounds stick around like old friends. You’re okay. You’re okay.

These days do not look like 2010 or 2011. These days look like walking in the beautiful trees, like greeting my gray haired companions in the shallow end of the pool. Of meditating every morning, first in silence and then listening to the calm, warm voice of my teacher, leading me through the compassion meditation. Open to the possibility of being kind to yourself, he says. Open to the possibility of appreciating your life.

I’m open.

my walking meditation path

my walking meditation path

 

The Stories We Tell Ourselves August 27, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Susan @ 2:42 pm

Photo credit: S. Zolkin/Unsplash

Photo credit: S. Zolkin/Unsplash

I know that I’ve been conspicuously absent (again). Yesterday I realized that I’ve been kind of holding my breath, since I got my thyroid diagnosis. I started on medication. And I’ve been dealing with my plantar fasciitis with a variety of measures: inserts, the Sock, visits to the chiropractor and podiatrist. 

I got a phone call from my doctor yesterday. “Great news!” she said. “Your thyroid tests came back normal!”

I was floored. You’d think I’d be jumping up and down with glee, but no. It was one of those moments of reckoning, when I realized I had to stop attributing my weight gain to my faulty thyroid. And I realized that for the past several months I’d been telling myself these stories:

  • I’m sick and low energy and my body doesn’t work right.
  • No matter what I do, it will be undermined by my bad thyroid.
  • Better not to do anything.
  • I’m in pain from my plantar fasciitis.
  • It prevents me from exercising. 
  • Better not to do anything.

I think about how I’ve responded to my various ailments this year (with fear and withdrawal), in contrast to how I responded when I first got my diabetes diagnosis five years ago. Then, the story I told myself was:

  • I’m not going to let this defeat me!
  • I’m determined to handle this and take control of this condition.
  • I CAN DO IT.

Big difference, huh? And of course these two stories yield vastly different results. I’ve been feeling really sad and glum and weirdly powerless. Which is so not me. Or not the “me” of the past five years. It’s been interesting, in a terrible kind of way, to see the huge power that our minds wield over our bodies. 

This weekend I went to a BBQ hosted by my trainer. One of the guys from the gym said to me: “Hey! Long time no see! WOW, you’ve put on some pounds, haven’t you?!” I didn’t know what to say. Except, “yes.” And then slink away and cry.

So, my doctor gave me the green light yesterday. She also jolted me out of my big Excuse that I wasn’t even totally aware I was hiding behind: that no matter what I did, my body wasn’t going to work right. 

I just went back and re-read the first couple months of this blog. I think I have some things to teach myself. I know it wasn’t a smooth road back then, but I had a kind of determination that is pretty absent these days. I am going to get back to more regular blogging, which = accountability, which I know from experience will = success. Hope you’ll be with me, people. 

UPDATE: I was just noodling around on WordPress and came upon my “What Foodie Eats” blog. (which has not been updated since 2011!) I remembered that that was one of my most effective tools ever- to take pictures of every single thing i ate. It really helped to make me that much more conscious, aware and deliberate. I had to consider: would I be willing to commit to eating this thing, and to sharing it? I’m going to give it a go again

 

Plantar Fishy-what?? July 12, 2014

Ah, this blog has become such a litany of woes, I might as well just re-name it “I’m Getting Old, Falling Apart and Whining About It.” Seriously, though. Really?

No sooner had I gotten over the bummershock of having a faulty thyroid, than I began waking up with excruciating, hobble-inducing, holding-onto-walls heel pain. It had started out as a dull ache which I not very brightly ignored. Then while we were on our lovely vacation in San Miguel de Allende, which involved miles of tromping around on picturesque cobblestone streets, lo and behold it worsened every day. I think my foot liked those pretty streets very much.

Plantar fasciitis. OW.

And it pretty much put me off walking except when absolutely necessary, and running, like ever. WAHHH!

More travel happened. A long weekend in Louisiana for an amazing family reunion. Boatloads of crab (no exaggeration at all!). Ten thousand percent humidity. Aching heel. No movement. Pathetic thyroid. All this adding up to… more weight gain, overall bummedeness, etc.

More travel. Back to California, and straight to Pact Camp.  Intense emotions, busy days. NO time to deal with anything. But along the way, I’ve been picking up suggestions and ideas from fellow PF sufferers. Rub your foot with a metal spoon. Icing. Dansko clogs. Splints.

But now I’ve been home a few days, and I’m re-grouping. One great thing that happened while I was zigzagging around the country is that Carla favorite a tweet that said something about The Sock.

shelly jpg

Then, shortly after, Frank answered.

frank

I clicked on the link for the Sock. I watched the video. It was designed by a physical therapist! My people! I sure liked the IDEA of a sock rather than a rigid splint, which I knew would drive me insane within minutes. I read a ton of enthusiastic reviews, and then I ordered.

It arrived yesterday. I put it on before I went to bed. I already had a feeling that keeping my ankle/foot at a 90 degree angle, even if in a flexy sort of way, would be radical. I like to sleep on my stomach or my side, and my feet are pretty much in high-ballerina position all night. Yes, my heel cord was getting SUPER tight.

I didn’t apply it super tightly. I’d read warnings about numb toes and such, if it was too tight. I didn’t want to freak out myself or my toes.

I woke up this morning. The proof is in the STANDING UP, which is normally when I double over from pain and have to grab at the bedpost to stay upright. And then I hop to the bathroom on one foot. It’s not nice.

But this morning — I had the dull ache, but it was equal to what I normally feel after hours of walking around. It was GREATLY improved.

I have been so very discouraged and bummed about this, I didn’t want to write about it until I felt at least a glimmer of hope. Well, it’s glimmering. Here’s to turning a corner and having no new parts fall apart for a while.

I’ve been trying not to feel too sorry for myself when I see friends out and running or walking 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, triathlons every weekend. But I tell myself, I’ll be back. And now I think I might even believe it, a little bit.

image from Clipartbest.com

 

Another Chronic Disease, O Boy June 17, 2014

Five years into being diagnosed with type II diabetes, I finally felt like I had come to some sort of peaceful relationship with it. I felt like I was managing the best I could, and was really pleased late last year when my endocrinologist decided to discontinue my oral medications. I hadn’t even been considering that as a goal, so when she suggested it, I was both surprised and happy.  She said I was doing great. YAY ME!

I was interviewed (and photographed) by Diabetes Health Monitor magazine (a staple in endocrinologist offices everywhere!) and feeling pretty darned good about it all.

Then, a couple of months ago, things started changing. My blood sugars started bumping up. Then they bumped some more. They went higher than I’d ever seen before. I panicked. I called my endocrinologist and begged her to let me resume the medications.  She said okay, and resumed my lowest dose. Sigh.

Then my weight started inching up at a steady rate, despite my doing basically nothing different than I had in the past five years. Now, I’ve been doing Weight Watchers for a long time. And I’ve learned that when I see a surprise gain at the scale, there’s always been a reason. An indulgent weekend. A sedentary retreat. Any of those things. But I’ve always easily been able to right the ship, and come back on course within a very short time.

This time, not so much. I mean, not at all. That in spite of all my best efforts, the ship was not righting. Every few days I’d step on the scale, and every time, it was higher than the time before.

I was starting to freak out. I was starting to dread my WW meetings (which I LOVE) for fear of being called out as fraudulent, bogus, the works.  I was getting frantic that my clothes were getting to be terribly ill-fitting (or non-fitting). My torso was starting to resemble that of a 2nd trimester pregnancy. And I wanted to sleep, like, ALL THE TIME.

What the hell!

For a while, I was in silent paralysis. I couldn’t discuss it or deal with it at all, I was so freaked out. But then I called my doctor(s) who recommended thyroid testing. (and: lo and behold, thyroid problems can cause out of control blood glucose!) An ultrasound revealed an enlarged thyroid. Next step: blood tests. I had the tests last week and this week, while on vacation with my family, I received emails from both doctors. Normal TSH levels are .5-5, and mine is 9. Bingo.

Diagnosis:  hypothyroiditis, or Hashimoto’s disease. Then I nodded. I had about 90% of the symptoms. Weight gain. Puffy face. Fatigue. Brittle hair and nails. Memory issues. Joint pain. Weakness. Vision problems.

Wonderful.

Sigh.

Well, damn.

I’m trying not to be all WHY ME? about this, but damn. Come ON. Okay. So what do I do. I start taking thyroid supplements. I start figuring out how to manage THIS chronic disease.

Part of me is really, really pissed off. But part of me is relieved. That it’s not worse. (it can always be worse, right?) And that this condition has a treatment. For which I am very grateful. I can’t wait for it to start WORKING! (this could take weeks–>months)

As I did when I first started this blog, and basically with every time I’ve every struggled, I know that reaching out with the struggle is better than struggling alone.  I know that finding community and support is better than flailing around alone.

Even thinking about writing this post has made me feel better.

 

Goodbye (sort of), Foodie McBody June 6, 2014

Foodie McBody

Foodie McBody

I just did a little thing that felt like such a BIG thing. I changed my Twitter handle, which has been @foodiemcbody forever. But for the last six months or a year I’ve felt like so much MORE than Foodie McBody. Many people I interact with now, in the writing world and beyond, don’t recognize or know Foodie.

It makes me feel really emotional to make this change. I first took on the name Foodie McBody as an anonymous name when I started this blog. Because I was ashamed of who I was. I was diabetic and overweight and unfit and desperate. I wanted to reach out for community and help, but I was embarrassed to be in the world as ME, Susan Ito. And that’s how Foodie came about.

When I started feeling better about myself, I shed that anonymity. For a long time I was really proud to be Foodie McBody. And I still am. But I’m more than that now. I’m a writer, a memoirist, a physical therapist, a teacher. Sometimes those selves fit with Foodie, and sometimes they don’t.

Last weekend I took a fabulous food-writing class at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. We were visited by guest speaker Virginia Miller, who blogs over at The Perfect Spot and also writes for Zagat. (!) I realized in that moment that FoodFoodBodyBody has been and is a food blog. And the writing that I did that day could live here. It was a huge sigh of happiness, the recognition that I could integrate these parts of myself.

For a long time I believed that my fitness stole my writing, and then that my writing could steal my fitness. All of it takes time, after all. Following my injury and surgery in the fall, I’ve definitely been more in the writing world. Trying to find that balance again. But I have deep love for the Foodie McBody part of myself, and deep love for my writing life. @thesusanito is an attempt to bring it all together in one self. I hope those of you who met me as Foodie will continue to be my wonderful healthy community, and those who never knew Foodie will learn about who that part of me is/was.

Did you ever feel like your identity was fragmented? What have you done to bring it all together?

 

 

The Long Road Back February 22, 2014

Filed under: challenge,exercise,injury,lessons learned,running — Susan @ 8:00 pm

photo credit: Unsplash/Sylwia Bartyzel

Last night, I had a dream about trying to do a triathlon. It was a short, “fun” triathlon and I recall that maybe I just showed up, hoping to participate. But I couldn’t find any of my gear. I had to leave the course and run into a nearby apartment building and run up 3 flights of stairs to some random apartment to get my running shoes, or bike helmet or something. Then I came back down and I couldn’t find my bike. Where are the bikes? I asked frantically. I could see the very last, slow runners coming in to the finish. Someone said, the bikes were “over by the lake” wherever that was. Somewhere out of sight. I realized, with a sinking feeling, that I did not have my act together and even if I found my bike and the lake I would never finish in time. My friend, who had finished the race, showed me the “medal” which turned out to be a piece of tacky plastic like one would get from a gum ball machine. The whole thing made me wake up sad.

Sometimes I see photos of my prior teammates working out, training for marathons and triathlons and big rides and such and I can’t believe that that used to be me, training hard six days a week. These days I am feeling pretty bad-ass if I can accomplish a short little half-walk half run. I’ve been back to Couch to 5k, but it’s a very slow process and nothing like it was the first time.

The GOOD news is (in case this turns into a total whine fest!) that I’m both getting physical therapy (2x a week, which is helping SO MUCH) and have also returned to seeing patients as a physical therapist. It’s a little surreal, but it feels good to be out and about in my little car, in this beautiful weather (sorry, non-Californians) and helping people in their homes. I am so awed by my own PT who has crazy mad skills and has helped me have the first pain-free run I’ve had in almost a year. So YAY for that.

I’m moving my focus back toward writing again, and that also feels really good. I have a book coming out with SheBooks in the near future (believe me, you’ll hear all about it!) and next week I’m traveling up to Seattle for a writers’ conference. SUPER BIG YAY!

I’m still here. I’m walking around, and every so often I even break into a little jog ;-). I’m going to be trying to figure out my upcoming races – I would love to do the Oakland Running Festival and See Jane Run this year. Anyone else??

 

 

Book Review: Ultimate Booty Workouts! February 3, 2014

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I’m going to be totally honest here. Normally, I would not be on the lookout for a book called Ultimate Booty Workouts. But I happen to think that its author, Tamara Grand, is FANTASTIC and so when it was published hot off the presses very recently, I could not resist a peek inside.

I don’t really give my booty- I mean- as a booty – much thought. I think of it as a stack of flattish pancakes somewhere back there. But as a physical therapist, and as a recently injured/surgeried person, I do think give my whole hip-pelvic-gluteal area a LOT of thought. It has undergone a lot of deconditioning and resulting instability. And as I read through this incredibly thorough, thoughtful, clear and well-written book, I thought, “Whoa. My booty does need some help!”

I have so much admiration for Tamara. She is not only an inspiring personal trainer, she is also a good writer, a super kind person, a KNITTER (something I feel is so out of my capable-zone!), a cool mom and a great friend.

First off, I will say that I loooooove the many dozens of photos of the Real Tamara doing the Real Workouts in this book. I WISH WISH WISH that her own beautiful face (and booty) were gracing the COVER of the book. Because when I picked it up, I immediately thought, “Who’s THAT? That’s not Tamara!” Okay, whatever. Get beyond the cover and open up and all the wonderful insides will become very obvious.

the real Tamara!

the real Tamara!

But don’t just look at all the awesome and helpful pictures. READ THE WORDS. Because I loved what the words said! In addition to the great visuals of the various workouts, there are also extremely helpful sections (DO NOT SKIP!) about women and weight lifting, nutrition, weight loss, posture, injury prevention (and rehabilitation). In other words, it’s NOT JUST about your booty.

As I flipped through the pictures, so many of them were familiar to me. I had already done so many of these (and had a love-hate relationship as well) and had no idea that they were doing such good things for my bootycore. Which in turn is doing such good things for my hip and my abs and all the other stuff it’s connected to (ie., almost EVERYthing). And because there are lots of upper-body and leg strengthening workouts as well, it’s really about your whole body. It would be impossible to do these workouts without also getting some pretty darn strong arms and legs as well. There are fabulous and very important sections on warming-up and cooling down. And stretching. With a foam roller!

I am going to put my two cents in and say that I think this book should be re-titled (Not Just Your) Ultimate Booty Workouts.” Because truly there is so much good stuff in here. I have begun doing some of the exercises, gingerly and gradually, and darn, it feels good. To wake up my little stack o’pancakes.

 

 
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