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Taking Inventory

blanknotebook.jpgIt’s humbling to do this. But I realize it’s the only way. I’ve strayed far from the path I was on just a few years ago. I think that after my neck injury and surgery in 2013, I never really got solid after that. That injury was a big blow to my body as well as my self-image.  And then following it was just an endless parade of ailments: I got hit hard by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, then plantar fasciitis, hip pain, rotator cuff injury/frozen shoulder, and general deconditioning. In May, I started seeing my trainer again and I felt like I was getting back on truck. Then, a few weeks later, my mother was in the hospital and self care went OUT THE WINDOW.

So, here I am. Taking inventory. Because I realized that one of the things that really, really helped me become healthy, nine years ago, was starting this blog. Being honest. Being part of a community. (Oh I miss you, Fitbloggin!)

Where am I now? It’s not pretty. But here it is.

  • Diabetes: Um. I have no idea. The last time I measured my blood glucose was January. My glucose meter is MIA. Gotta find it.
  • Sleep Apnea: Also, no idea. I was “going to” purchase my own machine about a year ago, but kept putting it off, and eventually “forgot.” I wrestled and fought with that damn machine so much, I know it was not just about forgetting. I had made a deal with the sleep lab folks that I would lose 15 lbs and then I could get another sleep study to see if I still needed the CPAP machine.  Needless to say, that did not happen. Which brings me to….
  • Weight. I’m 15 lbs over my goal weight. It could be worse, I suppose. But it’s not great. I quit working for Weight Watchers two (?) years ago. I always said that being on staff at WW was great incentive for staying on track. Well, it was. I’m sad that the meeting that I led for 6 years no longer exists. I don’t really want to go back as a “regular” member but maybe that would help.
  • Activity: I’ve been weirdly exercise-o-phobic with all the injuries that have happened over the past several years. I was going to Pilates to deal with my hip and shoulder injuries for the past year, and it really did help, and when I felt healed, I went to my trainer, and then — see above. Fell totally off. I’ve gone to some random yoga and Nia classes and taken occasional hikes or walks, but nothing regular.
  • Headspace: Shame. Shame, shame, shame, remorse, embarrassment, mortification, sadness.

But the GOOD NEWS is:

  • I’m writing this blog post!! Which I really believe is the start of a good thing. I know it is. It helped me lift up from my first diabetes diagnosis in 2008, and I believe it can help me again now.
  • I’m signed up for the Mermaid 5k on November 12th. I’m in no shape to run, but I do think I can do a walk/shuffle, which is a start. I do love participating in events, and I’ll be doing this one with some writer friends, most of whom are way younger and in better shape than I am, but hey. I need that companionship, and I’m looking forward to writing my first race recap in years.

 

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The Creature Awakes

This past weekend I attended my 40th high school reunion. One classmate came up to me and said enthusiastically, “I love your blog! It’s such an inspiration!!” Um, what blog?

Oh. THIS one.

(hangs head in shame)

The one I haven’t written in since… I don’t know how long, because it all felt like disappointing news.

When I came home from the reunion, there was a snail mail letter from a fellow fitness blogger. I ran one of my first 5k races with her, back in the (much healthier) day. I feel like I’m in the same place that I was when I first started this blog, only a lot older.

Maybe it’s time to return. Exactly where I am.

Anyone out there?

Pilates: Not Just for Ballerinas

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Myrtle, aka Lovey, aka Miracle Worker!

For the past many years, I’ve been a total Pilates-phobe. First, it seemed like something for ballerinas and movie stars, expensive and exclusive. If anyone mentioned the word, I’d flash back to a class that I took several years ago. I decided to give it a go back in 2012, but instead of going to an individual person, I signed up for a big group class on a hard wooden floor with some yoga mats. All I remember was discomfort and a huge sense of failure. I couldn’t do ANYthing that the instructor was asking. I couldn’t achieve any of the positions or movements. It didn’t feel good, during or after. I walked out, cursing under my breath and swearing that I’d never set foot into anything labeled “Pilates” ever again.

Fast-forward to this summer. I was in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for a 10-day writing retreat. On my first night, I fretted to my friend Laura Fraser who is a San Miguel local, that various body parts were really bugging me, and that I felt apprehensive about walking around on the town’s steep hills and cobblestone streets. She said, “You HAVE to go see my Pilates person! She’s amazing! She’ll fix you!”

I shook my head and restated my anti-Pilates stance.

“No, really,” she said. “You must go.”

Her enthusiasm played ping-pong with my skepticism back and forth, until finally I relented and took down the woman’s contact information. “She’s so fantastic!” said Laura. “She screams at you. She’s a total drill sergeant. But she will FIX YOU.”

Oh boy. That didn’t sound like fun at all. Except for the fixing part. I decided to go for it and emailed the Pilates lady, who went by the name Lovey. Or Myrtle. Or both.

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Can you tell that this is almost straight uphill??

I hobbled across town and up several steep hills to get to her studio. Lovey-Myrtle greeted me, listened to my bodily woes (painful hip, mostly) and showed me her own spectacular body. Her abs were impressive, and her energy was off the chart. She got me onto the reformer, or the official Pilates table of torture, and commenced with the screaming almost immediately. I was terrified but hopeful.
“Knees together! Make a Barbie foot! Lower back down! Squeeze! Squeeze!” She was throwing more instructions at me than I could even keep track of. My head was spinning, and I was frantically trying to keep it together. After putting me through a number of contortions, she set into me with some serious bodywork. She massaged/pummeled/ground my feet within an inch of their little lives. What I came to understand, though, was that she wasn’t mean. She really, truly cared about the state of my body. She poured so much attention and energy into it. And at the end of the session, I was so limp I could barely stand up.

But stand up I did, and voila! I felt amazing. I flew across town with nary a twinge of discomfort. It felt like a miracle.

I emailed and reserved sessions for every single day that I remained in Mexico. Some days I was so sore I could barely walk, and other days I felt fantastic. When it was time to come home, I felt like I had only just begun rehabbing myself. I was heartbroken to leave Lovey! I knew I had to find another Pilates person in the States.

I asked my Facebook people for recommendations. I scoured Yelp. Then I got the BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER when Carla gifted me an initial session with Holly of Reactive Movement, just minutes from my home.

The beautiful, carpeted, sleek space was completely different from Lovey’s open-air, Mexican studioimg_7418 in a rooftop garden. And to my complete surprise, there was no yelling involved. Holly turned out to be a gentle, soft-spoken Canadian with a kick-ass knowledge of kinesiology and anatomy. At first I was worried that a lack of vocal energy would mean a lack of results. But, amazingly, I left my session at Reactive Movement feeling just as good as when I’d walked out of the studio in San Miguel.

It goes without saying that I’m a complete Pilates convert. Yeah, it’s super pricey. (unless you happen to throw in a trip to Mexico to get the special affordable rates!) But combined with some recommended bodywork with an astounding sports massage therapist, I feel HOPE for the first time in, like, forever. I feel like I’m going to get better.

I’m dealing with a couple of painful parts right now: my shoulder and my hip. My first goals are to be able to perform simple, everyday activities without pain. Putting on or removing my bra. Getting dressed. Toweling myself off after a shower. Tying my shoes. Getting in and out of my car. Drying my hair. Turning over in bed. Right now I can’t do any of these things without wincing or crying out. Sometimes the pain is so severe I can’t catch my breath.  My second goal is to be able to do any kind of regular exercise without paying a big price in pain. Since both my upper and lower extremities are involved, it rules out almost everything from swimming to jogging or even walking hills. But I have hope. Thanks to these completely different Pilates stars, I feel like I’m finally moving (no pun) in a good direction.

 

 

 

I’m Baaaaaack Because I Hurt Everywhere And Now I Have to Sleep Like Darth Vader

i-find-your-lack-of-sleep-disturbing-darth-vader-pillow-550

(cough cough) Wow, it’s dusty in here. It’s been a while. But here I am! Remember me? Formerly known as Foodie McBody? I started this blog back in 2009, when I was first diagnosed with diabetes. I was freaked out. I didn’t know what to do. I felt alone and terrified. So I started this then-anonymous blog, to express all of my complex and chaotic feelings and thoughts, and to try and find community.

It was amazing to find that community, one blog at a time. My beautiful, supportive, encouraging and inspiring Fitbloggin’ friends helped me on the path to wellness. Over the next four years or so, I managed to lose weight, get my blood sugars into a good range, start running, complete my first 5k, then a 10k, then half marathons , a mud race and couple of triathlons. I filled this rack up with medals. I felt pretty freaking great, and felt like there was only one direction to go – invincible! Iron (Wo)Man!

Then I had the great, weird, freaky misfortune of jumping on a trampoline at my 25th wedding anniversary and rupturing a number of cervical discs. Months of excruciating pain, followed by spinal surgery and a long recuperation. And you know, since then, I’ve never been the same. I had little comebacks but then they were followed by disturbing counts of plantar fasciitis, hip pain, thyroid issues, weight gain, menopausal shoulder pain, YOU NAME IT. I crept away from my blog with my tail between my legs and I was on the verge of letting the domain name whither and die.

But then I remembered why I started this blog in the first place. Because I was feeling alone and afraid and embarrassed about my physical state. I felt like I sucked for “letting myself” get diabetes. I was overwhelmed and upset. And I found that the act of sharing my misery with others helped me manage it. It helped me find a way to health.

In addition to all of the lovely conditions listed above, I recently discovered, through my perceptive and wonderful doctor, that I ALSO have… ta-daa!! severe sleep apnea. Yeah.

This came, like my diabetes diagnosis, both as a shock and as a “wow, that makes some kind of bizarre sense.”

It started when my doctor was reviewing my blood test results and she noted that my hemoglobin was slightly elevated. She emailed me and said that this could sometimes indicate sleep apnea. (WHO KNEW?) And she recommended that I go to the sleep clinic for some diagnostic tests. They gave me a little device like a finger oxygen reader attached to a big watch. I was to sleep with this. They also had me fill out this questionnaire. How long did I sleep every night? 8-9 hours or more. And when was I likely to fall asleep during the day?

  • when reading a book
  • when watching TV
  • after eating a meal that didn’t include alcohol
  • when in a dark room like a theater
  • when lying down to rest
  • Etc etc etc.

Um, like ALL of those times. Seriously. “Doesn’t everyone? (apparently not) Anyway, I checked off all the boxes and gave back the apparatus, expecting that maybe I’d have a mild case.

They called me back pretty quickly and said, “You have SEVERE SLEEP APNEA” and you must come back to the clinic ASAP to discuss treatment options!” Well, I did what any 21st century patient would do. I Googled. I learned that SEVERE SLEEP APNEA, or having more than 30 respiratory interruptions per hour, puts one at a 3-4x higher risk of stroke, heart attack and other bad things. I thought, this must be some kind of mistake. 

Today I went back to get the detailed results of my assessment and to learn all about treatment options. At first, I was excited to consider the possibility that my apnea is caused by a Stuffy Nose. After all, I don’t snore (my spouse swears to this) OR sleep on my back. I have terrible allergies which always manifest in a stuffy or runny nose. Maybe if I just use a Neti Pot and some FloNase, I’ll be good to go! YAY!

(cue: sound of deflating balloon, which is the same as the sound of deflating hope)

Sorry, the respiratory therapist informed me, the NetiPot option alone only works if you have Very Mild sleep apnea. Basically, everyone in the Severe class was destined for the Darth Vader sleep mask. I looked at the plastic model heads, with the nose mask, the full face mask, and the nose pillow mask, and I had to swallow many times to keep from crying. NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOO. Please, please, no. Even though some companies are trying to make CPAP look sexy, I’m not 100% convinced.

But yeah. The picture of all the times I stopped breathing during one night looked like a big blue hairy caterpillar. A normal night’s sleep has just a tiny few hairline spikes in that blue, no-breathing zone. Mine was… way more than half the night. I also learned that I spend the vast majority of my night in “light sleep” which is considered non-restorative. It’s stressing my body out, big time, causing spikes in blood sugar, increased high blood pressure and any number of other assaults.

I’m going to try to be cooperative. And calm. Even though my inner me is throwing a total tantrum, I’m gonna do my best to deal. And in the meantime, if there are any other sleep-apnea folks out there, please drop me a line. I’m looking for my community, again.

Love, Foodie McBody

 

 

 

What I Can, When I Can

One of the things that I appreciate about continuing to serve as a Weight Watchers leader, is the ongoing conversation that happens with my members each week. Each week, we revisit one aspect of healthy living and get the opportunity to focus on that one small thing. And as I prepare for my meeting, and then reflect on it afterward, I get to ask myself if I’m doing what I can in that little area.

This week, the theme of the week was about making time to move. Specifically, the importance of PLANNING to move, and to know when, how, where and with whom we were going to do it next. On the flip chart, there was a range of options from “I always plan my workouts,” to “Activity? What’s that?” and in between there were some in-between responses. I realized that I have been pretty in-between. I always have these good intentions, but I don’t have a regular schedule for working out these days. Sometimes a friend will spontaneously call me up and we’ll go for a little run. Or I’ll show up at my old gym for a group training. But these things are not hardwired onto my calendar. They’re not my routine, so often they just don’t happen.

This happened once last month, and it was great. But ... once.
This happened once last month, and it was great. But … once.

After this week’s meeting, I looked at the blank spots in my Weekly (our little mini magazine handout) and answered those questions. I did the homework that I’d passed out. I knew that I was going to have to do something easy and accessible. I also remembered that that night, Nashville was returning after a hiatus. I told myself, OK, tomorrow, you have a date on the elliptical with the latest episode! It was that easy. I made a plan.

Next morning, I hopped on the machine all ready. I had a great 50-minute workout because there was no way I was going to stop or step down before those closing credits rolled. It was a great one.

Thanks @nashvilleabc for keeping me glued to the elliptical today! #wycwyc

A post shared by Susan Ito (@thesusanito) on

It didn’t take much. But it did take making a plan. These little things, they make all the difference.

Which reminded me of my friends’ Carla & Roni’s new book that’s coming out SOON: #wycwyc, or What You Can, When You Can. It’s such a beautiful, simple, supportive concept. Can’t go to the gym? Can’t train for a triathlon right now? Well, you CAN hop on that machine in your garage and get some sweat happening while you soak in some tele-drama. YES.

Here’s the trailer for their book. I love the idea of passing the #wycwyc baton, one to another. Check it out on Twitter and Instagram. Let us all know the next time you make a healthy choice, what you can and when you can. Wick-wick!!

AJ: Someone Who Believed In Me When I Didn’t

AJ, Melissa, Izzy and Levi
AJ, Melissa, Izzy and Levi  (photo from AJ’s Facebook)

Back in 2011, when I was training for my first triathlon, I was a terrified, unathletic 50 year old who could barely swim across a pool, and who fell down every time I tried to ride a bike. I was a mess. I was by far the slowest, most struggling person on our team. Every single time we had a workout, I wanted to give up. I always came in dead last, whether it was a run, a swim or a bike ride.

But this was Team in Training, and we weren’t just training for ourselves. We were also raising funds for those who were dealing with blood cancers. Each team has team captains and honorees, or “honored patients” who remind us why we’re doing what we’re doing. Our team captain was AJ Jabanero, and his daughter Izzy was our honoree. I’ll never forget meeting them both at our season Kickoff.

AJ and Izzy
AJ and Izzy (Photo from Katherine Resnick)

During one of our grueling training days, I reached my breaking point. I had had a panic attack in the open water, feeling like I couldn’t breathe. My legs felt like lead during the run. I was spent and discouraged and feeling like the whole thing was an enormous mistake. I pulled away from the team, sat down on the curb and just cried.

AJ came and sat down next to me. He listened to me bawl and snuffle. I told him about how I’d been trying so hard to be healthy, to do something strong and great with my body. I’d made a turnaround after being overweight and couch-potatoish and being diagnosed with diabetes. But maybe a triathlon was just too much.

He listened to me. He was very serious. He didn’t try to cheer me up right away, or give me a big pep talk. He just nodded and said, “I used to be like that too. Overweight. Out of shape. Not able to do much.” I couldn’t believe it. He said, yeah. He had not always been the fastest guy on our team of athletes. He hadn’t always been in this peak physical condition. Every time we had a team run, AJ was one of the front runners, finishing easily and quickly, and then waiting sometimes hours for the rest of us to straggle in. He was an incredible athlete. “Yeah,” he said. He told me that he’d also come a long way. I saw that he understood where I was. He’d been there. He had so much compassion.

Champion.
Champion. (photo from Facebook)

AJ helped me get up that day. He continued to encourage me through the rest of the season, until I finally crossed that triathlon finish line, one of the very last that day.

I was so shocked at the unfairness of life when I learned that AJ had developed cancer himself, after his daughter Izzy went into remission. I was even more shocked and saddened when he passed away earlier this month. It didn’t seem possible.

What didn’t shock me, however, was the incredible turnout at a San Francisco run in his honor. I was so moved to see many of our triathlon teammates there.

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photo from Facebook

We walked and ran to the Golden Gate Bridge, and there was AJ waiting to give us a fist bump. It made me cry but it also made me smile. Thank you AJ, for believing in me and in so many of us. We won’t forget. #AJSTRONG

The final fist bump, the eternal inspiration
The final fist bump, the eternal inspiration

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

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

Overdoing It, Newly Defined

on the couch
on the couch

It used to be that “overdoing it” meant trying to do an Olympic distance rather than a sprint triathlon. Or doing a half marathon instead of a 5k. I never would have dreamed that “overdoing it” could mean sitting on the couch for an hour.  But that’s what happened yesterday. I had what felt like the most modest of days.

  • I took a shower, got dressed and dried my hair.
  • I had two visits. I sat kind of propped up on the couch.
  • I sat up for dinner (total time = 10 minutes).

I didn’t feel like I was pushing it too much. But apparently it was. Apparently I can’t even lounge on the couch without paying a steep price. I’m back to my previous pain medication schedule. I have zinging, burning pains in my forearm and the hot-poker stabbing sensation between my shoulder blade and my neck. It really hurts to try and use a utensil, a pen, a toothbrush. (bending my neck + using my right arm is not a good combination) My stomach is feeling funky.

I’m discouraged. I’ve been trying to take it easy, really I have. But even the smallest of things, what feel like NOTHING, is still Too Much.

Wah.

I have been reading Jennette Fulda’s memoir, Chocolate & Vicodin, about her years-long battle with a terrible headache that would not go away. I am feeling like there is someone out there who understands. She started by thinking it would go away in a few hours, and then a few days. Starting with over-the-counter meds, then prescription meds, and injections, and MRIs and neurologists and acupuncturists, massage therapists and more. I turn the pages and I keep murmuring, I know. I KNOW. 

I am back to wanting the surgery. And thinking, if it doesn’t work, I just don’t know what I will do. But I will take that as it comes.

In the meantime, I’ll be trying another Alternative Treatment this afternoon.  We shall see.

Second Opinion

photo credit: Sander Zelhelm/Unsplash

A lot of people know that I had a neurosurgeon appointment this afternoon. I’m blogging about it here rather than repeat the story every time someone asks, “How was your appointment?”

In a word, it was good. It was hopeful. I feel like there is light at the end of this tunnel.

I liked this doctor very much, and so did Mr. McBody. (for the record, we’ve liked ALL of them so far) He said, there is a chance it might improve on its own. There is a chance you could get through this without surgery. But there is also a chance that this very painful and unbearable condition could go on much longer.

He described a few possible surgical procedures that will most likely bring great relief. One of which was not discussed previously.  I’m not going to go into great detail here because … well, I just don’t want to. I feel like I want to make this decision together with this surgeon, my own self and with Mr. McBody. The options that he laid out made good sense to me and I am comfortable with them. I am going to research more over the weekend and give it some thought. I’ll say more when we know for sure what’s going to happen.

We are going to try and put one of these surgeries on the calendar for next week (probably Wednesday). But this depends on getting authorization from my insurance company, and getting onto the calendar at the hospital, and all that. A lot of things need to come together.

I also got a new medication that could possible alleviate some of the dreadful nerve pain. Cross my fingers, it could help. I started it tonight and we shall see.

The plan is to lay low, keep it unstressed and comfortable, and re-evaluate on Monday or Tuesday. If it feels the same or worse and it gets approved, we will go ahead and try to do the surgery midweek. But if it feels better… then we might wait a while longer. Wait another week or two and see if it might continue getting better. Maybe the surgery can be avoided.

So that’s the plan. I’m laying low. I’m crossing all the digits. I’m packing on the ice and continuing to do all I can in the supine position.

But I feel happy that there’s a plan. It makes sense. I’m ready for whatever comes next. I feel…. hopeful.

 

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