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Friday, October 30, 2015

Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy...

Yesterday was one of those days when I wanted a complete “do-over” at the end of the day. I had a zillion things on my To Do list, and I think I accomplished one. With major deadlines looming, being homesick because my grandma is in the hospital and not doing well, and other family-related issues running amuck in my mind – I was an emotional wreck at the end of the day.

I drove to the gym, changed into my workout clothes, and plunked my behind down on the rowing machine. I was not in the mood to listen to my usual playlist of heavy electric guitar rock anthems, so I put on something a little more mellow.

I think I was about 2.5 minutes in when I felt a tear well up in my eye and roll down my face. I could not believe it. There I was – in the gym – on the verge of an emotional outburst. I was determined to get through my workout in one piece, so I choked back those tears and rowed on.

Fast forward to 15 minutes later when the owner of the gym walked by and asked me what was wrong. He is a busy guy and doesn’t need to hear my whiney girly emotions, so I replied in a soft tone, “I’m just having a bad day.” He noted that I had put in 3,000 meters and suggested I round it up to 4,000 and call it a day.
For a millisecond, that sounded like a superb idea and coming from a man who is also a trainer I thought I could use that as an excuse to go home.
In that same millisecond, my inner motivational speaker said, “Keep going, girl. You got this. I’ve got your back.” My ears perked up and I told him I was going to suck it up and keep going.

And, that is exactly what I did.

I turned off that sad song playlist and cranked up some Metallica. I decided to use that time on the rowing machine to get my thoughts organized, so I could have a good plan of attack for the following day.
As the minutes passed, my thoughts were beginning to clear, and I started to feel better. As I was nearing my usual 12,000-meter completion, I was dripping with sweat, and my blistered hands were throbbing with pain. BUT - I noticed that I had a little more pep in my step and was feeling pretty good – so, I pushed myself to go another 1,000 meters.

When I finished, I felt amazingly happy. I couldn’t help but giggle because the only thing that was going through my head was a quote from the movie, Legally Blonde 2. “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.”
I left the gym with a smile on my face and had no homicidal thoughts on my way home.

I could have easily gone home after only rowing 3,000 meters, but I would have spent the evening wallowing in my dramatic thoughts. That would have put me at risk for justifying having a lemon bar or making a ginormous bowl of hot buttered popcorn and plopping myself on the couch to catch up on all my recorded shows. However, I would have done myself absolutely no favors.

Instead, my inner motivational speaker propelled me to the finish line and beyond, and I was able to walk out of the gym a whole lot happier.

Yes, food is the most abused anxiety drug and I 100% agree that exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant. It only took me two years to remember that fact.

I’ve got this.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hello from the Outside

For the last two years, the wings I grew and learned to spread took me soaring. I embraced everything I learned about who I really am as a person and I had finally defined myself. Then, I became content. This made adjusting to a new city and state, dealing with odd medical anomalies, and my crazy travel schedule much easier to deal with. However – emotionally, I was flying by the seat of my pants with my hair on fire for much of this time.

I read the following quote the other day and it struck a chord in my heart. “Many things aren’t equal but everyone gets the same 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We make time for what we truly want.” After reading that, I came to the realization that I had put myself in a bubble of my own chaotic craziness and was focused on the wrong side of whatever challenge I was facing. I had been confronting my challenges with a “WTF” mentality and became unhappy because I didn’t feel true happiness anymore.

What is happiness to me?
I do not have to have the best of everything to be happy.

I do not have to be a certain size to be happy.

Money or tangible items will not make me happy.

When I first set out on my weight loss journey in 2011, I assumed that just losing the weight would make me happy and everything would be sunshine and roses. 

As my tale unfolded, I learned that my goal of fitting into a size eight dress was not the source of my happiness.

It was the fact that I had a goal, period.

I learned that what truly makes me happy is knowing I am putting every effort into achieving my goals. Regardless of whatever the goal might be.

Since I have discovered this little epiphany, everything has become crystal clear and it has become motivating. Those nights, after work, when I am mentally exhausted and try to tell myself that I cannot take one more step and life will be happier on the couch at home, I think of that quote and I push myself to go to the gym. Why? Because I know the feeling of happiness I will feel after I’ve put an effort into reaching my goal. You cannot achieve a goal if you don’t put forth the effort, right?

Not going to lie…I have some tricks to get through a workout. I have learned to deal with the gym in five minute increments rather than an hour. Most days, I have to push myself to just make it through the first five minutes on the StairMaster. Once I reach that mark, I start telling myself, “I can go another five minutes.” After that five minutes has passed, I tell myself, “you can make it another five minutes.” Next thing you know, I’ve made it 20 minutes on that darn thing. At that point, my little happiness trigger kicks in and my inner motivational speaker says “Now, move your behind over to that rowing machine and see if you can make it five more minutes.”

It’s been a little more than two weeks since I started back at the gym and I have only missed one day out of the last 17…and that is because I was traveling to California. While there, I managed to work out a deal at my former gym for my last two California trips of the year. I pushed myself harder each day and at the end of the week, I managed to row a total of 47,740 meters (which translates to 29.664 miles) and I climbed nearly 300 flights of stairs. I weighed myself when I got home and I lost 7 pounds this past week!! Whoop Whoop!!

I am not in a rush to get to my goal weight. I know it will take time to lose the 65 pounds I want to lose and I am ok with that. I know I will get back into my favorite leather pants, my favorite dress will fit me like a glove again, and I will gain back the physical strength I had achieved before.

For the time being, I am relishing in the fact that I am now on the outside of that bubble and I will continue to do whatever it takes to make sure I do not put myself back in.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Accountability is Everything

After a two and a half year hiatus, I am resurrecting my blog. I have concluded that by avoiding posting about my progress, I was no longer holding myself accountable to the goals I had set out for myself. Yes, I had successfully hit my weight loss goal but I did not hold myself accountable for maintaining it.

My son walking me down the "aisle".
Much has happened since my last update. I relocated from California to Texas for my job the summer of 2013. My then fiancĂ© (now husband) and I had set our wedding date for the following spring so I was in full-blown planning mode. I purchased my dress a year before the wedding to keep myself motivated and that plan worked well as the only alterations required were to shorten the dress. Despite the rain, it was a beautiful ceremony. We held both ceremony and reception in my parent’s backyard and my ever so handsome son walked me down the aisle.

My setbacks began six months before the wedding with an emergency trip to the ER when my Appendix decided it no longer wanted to be a part of my life and I had to have it removed. Because the number on the scale wasn’t going up, I allowed myself to use my recovery as excuse to be lazy with my exercise but since I was still in “Operation Wedding Dress” mode at that time, my diet was on point.

It wasn’t until after the wedding that I started having a difficult time with my weight. The first 20 pounds was because in addition to no longer working out 4 times a week, I stopped tracking my calories. I was still eating many of the same foods I ate during my losing period but I was adding way to many carbs. That occasional cookie or treat was turning into almost a daily habit.

In January of this year, I knew I had to face the reality of my choices so I cut out the carbs and started exercising again. After a month of working on getting my butt back into shape, I had a major medical setback. I had just finished running and hour on my elliptical and was soaking in the bathtub. I felt like I was overheating so I got out and jumped in the shower to wash my hair. I couldn’t lift my arms and I blacked out. I yelled for my husband after my vision returned and he took my blood pressure. It was 80/40 and my heart rate was near 160. He got me dressed and took me to the ER. After 7 hours, they released me with a referral to a cardiologist and neurologist.

After two months of tests and a visit to an Electrophysiologist, I was diagnosed with Left Ventricular Hypotrophy (LVH) and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). What does that mean? LVH is where the wall of your heart muscle thickens and becomes tight. POTS causes your blood pressure to suddenly drop and your heart rate to double or triple upon standing. When I was soaking in a hot bath, my blood pressure was already lowered by the heat of the water and when I stood up to get in the shower it dropped enough to make me black out. The LVH is likely an unwanted side effect from my kidney disease (IgA Nephropathy) because it causes high blood pressure. Technically, the IgA is an autoimmune disorder that affects the kidney. POTS is an autonomic disorder and my Electrophysiologist said that it isn’t uncommon for people with autoimmune disorders to get autonomic disorders. For two months, I could not be upright for longer than 20 minutes at a time because I would get dizzy and blackout. This meant I couldn’t do a whole lot of anything including driving - because dizziness while driving is not a good thing. Luckily, I have an awesome job and I was able to work from home for nearly two months.

Now, because I have a kidney disease, I have to take high blood pressure pill to keep blood flowing to the kidneys. The medication they would normally give someone with POTS is one that keeps your blood pressure up. The two essentially cancel each other out. The only thing left was to put me on sodium hydrotherapy. The FDA recommends that you should take in no more than 2,400 mg  of sodium per day and recent reports suggest they want to lower that to 1,200. My doctor put me on 5,000 mg per day! FIVE THOUSAND. The purpose is to keep my blood volume up so when I stand my blood pressure doesn’t drop as much. I was also put on compression therapy so my blood doesn’t pool in my legs when sitting. I had no idea how I was going to eat that much sodium in a single day. After a week of eating crap and feeling horrible, my doctor said I could take sodium chloride tablets.

After a few weeks of this, I was puffy, bloated, and I felt like I was sucking on a salt lick all day. I was getting depressed. My jeans did not fit, my ring was getting tight, and I could feel the water retention in my legs and feet.

I made an appointment with my doctor after I saw that I had gained 20 pounds. I had assumed that my thyroid had been checked because I had like a million lab tests done when they were trying to figure out what was wrong with me but she assured me that it hadn’t been checked. She ordered a complete thyroid panel and it turns out that in addition to all the other crap I have going on, I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism…another awesome autoimmune disorder…and I am now on Synthroid, a synthetic thyroid hormone.
I have been on this medication for three months now but my metabolism didn’t seem to be improving. My doctor ran another panel to confirm the medication is doing its job so after a hard reality check; I had to chalk up my lack of weight loss on my lack of accountability. I had been using my disorders as a crutch and was not looking for alternative ways to exercise and I used my POTS as an excuse to over indulge in crappy, high-sodium foods.

I need to rid myself of the weight I put on so this past week, I joined a local gym and have been going every day since I joined. Turns out, I actually missed working myself into a sweaty mess and I missed the awesome feeling you get after you get in a really good workout. One of the owners of this gym has been giving me great tips and is committed to helping whip me back into shape. I've been rowing a minimum of 3,600 meters on my beloved rowing machine (seriously, I love to row)and climbing 50 flights of stairs in the Stairmaster (seriously, not loving the Stairmaster but it works). He even made me do those darn battling ropes the other day. Only in 30 second intervals but DANNNG...those are no joke!

Anyway - now that I’ve put all this out there, I’ll be blogging again to keep myself in check. So...from this moment forward, I am holding myself accountable for every action I take and I am not going to let any of my medical issues set me back again. Of course, I have monitor my heart rate and be mindful of how I am feeling while working out but I will have no more excuses. Failure is NOT an option. I will get back into my favorite leather pants one day but if I don’t get back to my goal weight, it won’t be because I didn’t try.
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