The Right Doctor Makes All the Difference

  IMG_6436 (2)

In 2011, feeling desperate at 215 lbs. and having to be medicated for high blood pressure, I tried a new doctor. She was a wonderful breath of fresh air. In my 54 years of life (at that point in time), I had yet to meet a doctor I liked. This woman took the time to get to know me.

Something else was also happening. I was at a point in life where I allowed myself to be known. On my first visit, I explained openly that weight and weight loss were hugely triggering issues for me. And miracle of miracles, this doctor respected and heard what I had to say.

She knew not to push the weight loss agenda too hard. She’d introduce ideas and I’d go off and think about what she said. She asked me to consider a lifestyle plan where I would gradually cut the dosage of my BP meds. I agreed to try. I lost about 7 lbs. by changing my eating patterns and being slightly more active. I banned the salt shaker from the table. By the fall, I had managed to get the dosage of my meds cut in half. But no more weight came off. There I sat and there I stayed at 208 lbs.

In 2014, I mounted a serious attempt to lose weight. I was back up to 215 lbs. I had overcome some major barriers in my life and had managed to write and self-publish two novels. (By now, I’m up to 4 books in the series and going strong on the 5th.)

Crater Lake Series Banner

It felt like I had found a new outlet for my talents and that there would be life after the not-quite-completed PhD. I had two beautiful granddaughters and I wanted to be healthier for their sake. I wanted to be a fun and active grandma.

Aug 2014 Brit& Emma

I buckled down and lost to within sight of one-der-land – the promised weight loss land of the 100’s. But I got completely derailed at 202 lbs. I was stopped in my tracks. Life hit me full force in the teeth and eating to relieve the stress was survival 101. The time had no yet come for me to enter one-der-land.

Despite the set-back, over the next couple of years, I still managed to have the dosage of my blood pressure meds cut in half again and my wonderful doctor, sympathetic and caring, never judged me. She suggested a recumbent, stationary bicycle. I got one, set it outside on my covered deck and started riding. I self-published another two novels. My life was moving even if my weight was as stuck as that bike on the deck.

IMG_6443 (2)             IMG_6445 (2)

The Bike                                                                           The View from the Bike

Heads up – next Wednesday will be my last weight-loss story post. You will be caught up to the present with my life. Yippee! What a journey this blog has taken us on.

Ups and Downs of the Weight Loss Journey

Check in

Current weight: 169

Lost this week: 1 lbs.

Total weight lost:  39.5 lbs. – oh, so close to that elusive 40 lb. goal!

 IMG_6406 (2)

I haven’t had any ups (weight gain wise) since I started this journey over five months ago, but I sure felt like this week I might. I had three days when my calorie count was over 2000 and on one of those days, I was on that out-of-control-with-eating roller coaster that I used to ride all the time. An afternoon passed while I was engaged in mindless eating. It felt awful and shocking – a real wake-up call. Despite my successes, overeating behaviour isn’t all in the past for me. It seemed like a few tiny pebbles started slipping down a rocky slope. The pebbles loosened bigger stones, then rocks started moving and before I knew it – an avalanche was underway.

Today, I awoke feeling as though I dodged a bullet and resolved that my mission for the next week was to figure out what the hell happened. But now, as I write, I am unsure of that plan. Dwelling on my mistakes can become part of the avalanche. I might be better served by refocusing on what matters to me, reviewing my toolbox of strategies and moving forward. I know it is important to understand why things happen, but it’s equally important to recognize that the path won’t always run straight. I will accept this reality and get moving!

IMG_6230

On a brighter note, another thing happened this week that really makes me laugh about the funny sign in the photo above. I had been thinking about how to step-up my exercise routine but felt I couldn’t dedicate more time to my current pursuits. I already walk a minimum of 2 hours per day and ride my bike for 50 minutes. There are only so many hours in a day one can dedicate to exercise!

My daughter suggested that perhaps I could try going faster rather than longer. I have read about the benefits of interval training – pushing up the speed for a chunk of time and then returning to a normal pace. I often do this when riding my stationary bike.

I was out walking yesterday afternoon and I was feeling like I had to hurry. Other tasks awaited me. It looked like rain coming and I had billowing laundry on the clothesline. Dinner needed to be started. I picked up my pace and suddenly I was jogging! I kept that up for about a quarter of a kilometer and then I was fast walking and finally, by the end of that three-quarter kilometer round, I was back to my original pacing. I repeated this routine one more time on my walk. It was amazing. What a feeling!

Back in the long-ago days of jogging regularly, I remember reading a quote in some running magazine.

There is no such thing as an overweight jogger … only a person on their way to their ideal weight.

Feels like those words could be true!

IMG_6282

Gardening Joy

Check in

Current weight: 170

Lost this week: 2 lbs.

Total weight lost:  38.5 lbs.

IMG_6321 (2)

Above photo … our spring green bed. It’s overflowing with chard, spinach and beet tops. We’ve chowed down on huge salads out of this bed every single night for almost two months!

One of my motivations for losing weight was my desire to be a more active in our garden. I often joked to others – I don’t like gardening, I like being in the garden, though. Sad, really – that is what overweight and lack of energy brought me to. A garden is something that demands active involvement. Gardening is not a participant sport! To only be in the garden without being active is to only be partially alive.

Bean seedlings

So, now, I am not only a lover of the gardener. I am a gardener, too. I plant, nurture, weed, harvest and preserve. I’m currently babying along over 200 pole bean plants – first sprouting the seeds, then planting the sprouts into dirt in small containers and eventually they will be out to our garden. I’ve been actively involved in filling our greenhouse with plants grown from seed for our vegetable and flower gardens.

Greenhouse bedding plants

More of my babied beans, bush beans this time, in their own little bean crib are loving the sunny weather this week.

IMG_6323 (2)

Raspberry plants in the background and another raised bed with tons of yummy radishes ready to pick, along with rows of carrots.

IMG_6322 (2)

Having the energy to be an active participant in gardening is pure joy Smile

Grad School Ups and Downs

Me on bike (2)

I’m sharing this pic because I am seriously considering bike riding again – this time with my granddaughters. Strange about old pictures. I still remember how much I loved that white dress with the big double scoop ice cream cone on the front. Part of my weight loss journey is about recapturing something of the girl in that picture – carefree bike rider in a pretty white dress.

The weight-loss saga continues …

Remember that doctor I spoke of last week? She was condescending in her admonition to keep the weight off, but I do wish I had been able to heed her words.

I came out of the hospital after my gallbladder ordeal in early Feb. of the year 2000. By that summer, I was still under 150 lbs., but barely. I began a recurring cycle. I would start each Sept. weighing 150 – go through the school year and by June, I would weight 170 lbs. Though I had moved on from my first paying-my-dues position to another school, my lack of seniority (which I had hoped to balance by being over-qualified) created job insecurity. I was often stressed about that! And being over-qualified had its own drawbacks. Because I was qualified, I often took on more than required and I managed to stress over that, too.

Once the summer months came with sun and time off at the cabin, I would lose 20 lbs. and be ready to start the cycle all over again in September. As you can imagine, that wasn’t a fun way to live.

On the third round of my 20 lbs. on and 20 lbs. off regime, in Sept. 2003, I moved away to a bigger center to attend a ‘real’ university for what was to be a two-year master’s degree in counselling psychology. I had spent what seemed like forever taking prerequisite courses and going through an arduous application process while working full time. When I was accepted it was like something out of a fairy tale. Over so many years, all I had wanted (besides to lose weight) was to have letters after my name. Having done my undergrad through distant education, I felt my achievement second class. (The old what is real thing was at play in my mind again.)

Fran smiling

So, I got my chance to be on campus at a real university and in so many ways it was everything I had dreamed of. But, whew, let’s talk about stress, baby. Those days were filled with a special type of anxiety from the moment I got out of bed until the moment I threw myself back into the bed at night. I loved every moment of it, but I was weighing 170 lbs. by the summer of my first year and there was no idyllic break by the lake when I would relax and take that weight off. I stayed on campus to work and do extra courses. By Sept. of 2004, I was 180 lbs. The next summer, I was 205.

Sometimes, I try to imagine what classmates and instructors who had seen me start grad school weighing 150 lbs. thought of the me who had ballooned up to 205. They had no way of knowing I had been up and down all my life. For them, I was a totally new (fat) me. Putting on 55 lbs. makes a difference in how people view you. How could it not?

Meanwhile, the two-year program I had originally signed up had morphed into a three-year MA with a smooth transition into a PhD program that saw me teaching undergrad courses, taking on several research positions and running a busy research office.

Going home started to seem more and more like a far-off fantasy. I had some letters after my name – dream come true – but losing weight was not on the table at all.

Gazette Grad photo (2)

Why Not Be the Star of Your Own Story?

 

Check in

Current weight: 172

Lost this week: 2 lbs.

Total weight lost:  36.5 lbs.

IMG_6208 (2)

Sometimes, I’m along via the speaker phone in my daughter’s car when she drops my two granddaughters off at school. I always hear the same refrain. The oldest says, “Is my hair okay? Is my face clean?” Her mom assures her she is fine and away she goes. All I hear from the younger is a quick, “Bye, Grandma,” and the door slamming shut.

The younger is self-assured to a fault. It would never occur to her that anything is off about her appearance and if she found out something was, she would simply shrug her shoulders make a necessary adjustment (or not) and move on. She is the star of her own life story. Firmly placed right in the center, sure of her direction.

And why shouldn’t she be? Why shouldn’t we all be for that matter. After all, our life is the only one we will ever have. Why not take a starring role. No hanging back on the sidelines waiting to live. The moment is now, the time is at hand.

Capture - Brene Brown

We recently watched a Brene Brown  special on Netflix entitled, The Call to Courage. Do see it if you get a chance. Brown is a researcher, a five times New York Times best-selling author, a Texan and a powerful speaker. Her TED talk on vulnerability is one of the most viewed TED talks ever.

Brene has spent the last two decades studying shame, fear and the links between courage and vulnerability. In my opinion, she is a unique academic who brings as much passion and oomph to presenting her research as she has to the work of gathering the data.

“Owning our own story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

Here are a couple of nuggets I took from listening to Brene Brown speak. Courage and vulnerability walk hand-in-hand. Better to be the one who dared greatly and truly lived than the one who stood on the sidelines of life and watched the years flow by. And this wonderful anecdote she told about her daughter at a swim meet. The girl was crying that she could never win her upcoming race. Her mother said, “No, you can’t win. But maybe winning for you doesn’t mean coming in first. Maybe it means getting out to the blocks and into the water.”

Thought for the upcoming week – we are winning in so many ways everyday without ever seeing those wins for what they are. Let’s allow ourselves to be vulnerable, let’s walk through that minefield where we will be seen – warts and all – and keep right on walking to the point where we find the courage to be the star of our life story!

35 lbs lost

Got this little nugget of joy last week!

An ‘Undeserved’ Weight Loss

google imageStep back in time with me to 1999. The hit songs of the year bring back a lot of memories.

I had achieved one of my pressing goals – a posting as a special education worker. But it wasn’t all good news. The job was high stress; one few others wanted. I took it gladly. I was all about paying my dues. In retrospect, it may have been better described as me having a martyr complex. But a job is a job.

A cascade of events occurred. My husband was doing apprenticeship training in the city. On my own in our remote home, I had to manage a challenging commute (picture a narrow gravel road with oncoming, fully-loaded logging trucks), a dog that had to travel with me because he couldn’t be left alone, truck problems and a difficult new job. When I say managed that should translate to barely managed. I was having trouble keeping my head above the waterline.

Then, out of the blue, I developed some strange physical symptoms – severe pain waking me up in the middle of the night. The first time the pain occurred, I honestly thought someone had broken into the house and was stabbing me in the back.

google image 2

I’ve never been one to run to the doctor and I didn’t for these random attacks. I self-diagnosed myself. My mom, my grandmother and my mother-in-law had all suffered such attacks. My mother-in-law used to call herself the woman who walks at night because of the timing of the pain. One night, as I walked the floor, I knew what was wrong with me – these were gallbladder attacks. I did a bit of research and concluded that I could control the illness with diet. I cut back and cut back until finally a cup of tea and a soda cracker would bring on an attack. Not going to the doctor earlier was a mistake. Things in the rear-view mirror of life are always crystal clear.

I got very ill and was in and out of the hospital with one procedure after another for months. I had gallstones that kept bringing on pancreatitis. It was all very unpleasant and resulted in an enflamed gallbladder that couldn’t be removed for what seemed like forever. When the gallbladder finally came out, due to a number of factors, I couldn’t have the easy-breezy laparoscopic surgery. No, no … I had to have the whole nine yards surgery. And even then, I wasn’t out of the woods. A subsequent infection and further surgery followed. When it was all said and done, I was sent home to recover, weighing 140 lbs. It is not a method of weight loss I would recommend.

In my after care, I recall one doctor saying to me – now that you’ve lost the weight, don’t put it back on. Her tone was so condescending and threatening that I felt like a creepy bug she would happily, without a second thought, squish under her shoe. The message was subtle but, to me, obvious. This wasn’t a ‘real’ weight loss. I did nothing to deserve this windfall and I had damn well better make myself  worthy.

She also suggested I have something done about my hideous scar. I recall staring at her like she had sprouted devil horns. Another surgery? My voice was filled with disbelief at her recommendation. As if I would consider such torture. I had been to hell and back. I had been in and out of hospital for over four months. There was no way I would ever voluntarily put myself in such a position again.Me at 140 (2)

Resting Heart Rate & Half-Way to Goal

Check in

Current weight: 174

Lost this week: 2 lbs.

Total weight lost:  34.5 lbs.

IMG_6156 (2)

I had more than one challenge this week while still managing to lose 2 lbs. I found myself mindlessly stress eating a couple of times. The difference between now and months ago is that I stopped myself after a couple of hundred calories rather than a couple of thousand. But still … going mindless over food is a great concern of mine. I resolve in the coming week to stay more on top of that issue!

On a positive note … numbers don’t lie – at least not when you have a fancy Aria2 Fitbit Scale. I am halfway to my goal weight and I have to pinch myself to believe this is really happening to me. I wonder if my few mindless struggles this past week were a subconscious reaction to reaching this milestone. Something to ponder. I do seem to have difficulty leaning into joy. Happiness and feelings of success are often greeted with a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach as I wait for disaster to strike. 

But banish that negativity! Here is another great thing about the world of Fitbit tracking technology – the ability to review various statistics over time.

When I started my current weight loss journey in January, my resting heart rate was 85 beats per minute. Currently, my resting heart rate is 63 beats per minute.

Okay … let’s put that in perspective. For anyone ten-years of age or older, a normal resting heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute. I was always in the normal range but it seems to me that the more beats per minute the heart is wracking up, the harder that heart is working. According to my calculations, every minute that my heart is beating, my lifestyle changes are saving that heart almost a third of it’s work. That means every 3 minutes, my heart gains a minute more of life. That could really add up to extra time for this old ticker to keep on chugging away. Nothing scientific about my thoughts here – just me noodling away on my tracking stats.

Check out this Fitbit article on 6 things you can learn from your resting heart rate. I love this point:

Even modest reductions in resting heart rate can dramatically reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and add years to your life!

Fran watering the early greens April 1, 2019 - bruce witzel photo

That and eating spring greens – my secret to a long life. Now, let’s just hope the years bear this out.