Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Goals Wednesday!

So, I've decided to make Wednesday the day for posting new goals - since they're weekly, most of them will be small. Yesterday in my post about sleep, I made one small goal, which is to establish a constructive worry time: a time during the day where I get all my stressing out of the way, in the hopes it won't interfere with my sleep later. 

As an aside about that, I went to bed pretty early last night, but I was woken up a few times by the toilet running (which it has mysteriously started to do in the middle of the night) and poor temperature regulation in the bedroom. I can control both of those by remembering to turn the fan on during warmer nights - it drowns out other noises AND keeps me cool. 

But I digress. The other goal is a little bit more long term: beginning tomorrow, I'll be keeping a food journal (if you click that link before tomorrow evening, it won't be very exciting). Since I'm in the process of getting an appointment with a dietician up at OHSU (stay tuned for more on the business end of healthcare), I figure this might be something I'll be asked to do anyways. I've previously kept track of both my calorie input and output via the app Lose It!, which I highly recommend. But for now, I'm not tracking calories, just writing down what I eat. This blog post has some great tips for food journaling, but the most important to me is learning to accurately record portions. 

Part of the challenge with this food journal is that, like my weight & measurements, it's posted online - anybody with the link can view it. It keeps me honest, and will probably also keep me from overdosing on beignets. Probably. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sleep Deprivation

It can be hard to get enough sleep these days. Different people have different reasons behind their sleep deprivation, but I don't know your life. So let's talk about mine. Lately, too much sleep has been a problem, but I seem to be oscillating between too much & too little. I work at 6am Monday-Thursday. My alarm goes off at 4:30am on each of these days, although I usually get up around 5. Fridays, mercifully, I work at 8am and my alarm doesn't go off until 6:30. I tend to feel more awake & alert on Fridays, because it's very difficult for me to get to sleep when I should - between 8:30 and 9:30, according to most conventional wisdom. Not only is it naturally difficult for me to go to bed & get to sleep that early (especially when it's still light out), but it's also difficult for me to get to sleep without my husband. Since he works at 8:00am and therefore gets up two to two & a half hours later than me, he's also going to bed later - even if I go to bed on time, I'll toss & turn, or worse, fall asleep and then wake up when he comes to bed. He has the same struggles in the morning. 

Amelia the cat never has a problem getting to sleep.
It would seem a lot of adults aren't meeting that 7-8 hour goal - 30% of adults between 30 and 64 report sleeping less than 6 hours per night. Everybody is familiar with the common complaints from sleep deprivation - feeling foggy, wiped out, falling asleep at the wheel, etc. But it turns out that not getting enough sleep can also be a factor in weight gain. A 1999 study performed at the University of Chicago found that building up a sleep debt over a matter of days can impair metabolism and disrupt hormone levels. WebMD explains that the hormones in question are leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and stimulates appetite, while leptin is produced in fat cells and lets you know when you're full. When the amount of sleep goes down, your ghrelin levels go up and your leptin levels go down. This can cause you to overeat. 

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as "sleep more." Some sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, can prevent your body from getting the deep sleep it needs. What's more, it seems that folks with sleep apnea can become resistant to leptin, much in the same way diabetics become resistant to insulin. A study performed at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland in 2004 found that patients with sleep apnea had lower levels of leptin in the morning and higher levels in the evening, relative to patients without sleep apnea. 

A handy diagram about leptin. {Source}
Like every subject explored by health professionals to explain the sudden uptick in the rate of the U.S. population that is overweight or obese, it's hard to pin anything specific down as a root cause or an answer. It seems that our lack of sleep may have something to do with it - According to Dr. Susan Redline, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, 

"In the sixties, the average American was reporting sleeping 8.5 hours a night. Now most studies are showing six to seven hours. That's a huge change." {Source}
In this same article, Dr. Redline stresses the difference between sleeping more hours and getting quality sleep (like the difference between a person with sleep apnea falling asleep in front of the TV & a normal person practicing good sleep hygiene). It's hard to know how much sleep is good for you, or if you're getting enough of the good stuff. According to The Sleep Foundation, everybody is different, and I think we can all attest to that - I feel my best with about 9 hours of sleep (which I am not getting during the majority of the week), but others need more or less. Only you can figure out how much sleep works best for you, and you figure that out by trial & error. Once you've had enough of the error, try a few tips for better sleep and see if they help. The first one I'll be trying out is "constructive worrying" - setting aside a time during the day where it is okay & perhaps productive to worry, so it doesn't pop up in my head when I'm trying to get to sleep. I'll let you know how it goes! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Self Compassion

Perhaps today, as I am taking my second set of measurements (they're down a little, but each time I get out the tape measure is a little harrowing), is a good day to talk about self compassion. From the study, "The Development & Validation of a Scale to Measure Self-Compassion" by Kristen D. Neff, self compassion is defined as 
"being kind and understanding toward oneself in instances of pain or failure rather than being harshly self-critical; perceiving one's experiences as part of the larger human experience rather than seeing them as isolating; and holding painful thoughts and feelings in mindful awareness rather than over-identifying with them."
There have been many recent news articles based on Neff's work, and if you're interested, you can read a few here, here, and here. What first piqued my interest for the subject of self compassion was its distinction from self esteem or self indulgence. Self compassion is just about treating yourself like you might treat somebody you care about greatly - a friend, a family member, a spouse. Often we put ourselves behind others, leaving us frazzled & overworked. 

yup, this is how I feel a lot of the time. Source
Learning to ease up on this behavior has been a hard lesson for me to learn, and one that I am still learning every day. I feel like many things are expected and needed from me on a daily basis, and when I'm recovering from surgery or feeling fatigued enough to sleep for 15-16 hours, those things aren't getting done. My house isn't clean, my productivity at work is down, my social life is non-existent. But who's the only person beating up on me during all of this? Me. I think we have a tendency to create tasks & projects, both at work & at home, that only we can do. I'm using the "we" here, not because I'm trying to impose my actions on you, but because this is something we as Americans do. We don't go on vacation, or even when we do, we've brought our laptops & cell phones with us to stay connected to work & other obligations. We can't let go and know that work/home really will go on without us there. 

This has described me in a big way, especially since moving into our current home about nineteen months ago. I took off work when my husband & roommate didn't, because I felt like I was the only one who could unpack/organize. They would both agree that I'm better at it, but I could've let them help. I could've let them help plan furniture layouts, put together IKEA furniture, and a million other tasks I'd convince myself that I alone was responsible for. After a lot of days filled with frustrations and weeping, my husband finally helped me let go a little bit. He's still helping me, because when I want to cry because the laundry isn't done and the front room that is always clean in case we have visitors isn't clean and all I can do is lay on the couch like a blob, he tells me it's okay. 

But self compassion doesn't just extend to one's daily tasks. Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks told Sheriff Harry Truman that he likes to do one thing to treat himself, every day. Cooper says
"Don't wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of goodhot black coffee."

And doesn't this look like a man who knows how to take care of himself?
Often, when people in our lives say they've treated themselves to a new item of clothing, a dessert one day during lunch, or one drink too many, we brush off their concerns and say don't worry about it, of course you deserve it! But how often do we say that to ourselves vs. how often are you sitting there beating yourself up over that pair of shoes you bought? 

What puts self compassion in such a great middle ground is that you wouldn't be so supportive of a loved one if they were, say, eating cheesecake for lunch, spending all their rent money on video games or even books, and constantly running down their body and their finances. It's important to be honest with ourselves about where on the spectrum from self deprivation to self compassion to self indulgence our behavior lies, and try to make adjustments accordingly. For example, I could write another blog post - I've got lots topics on my immediate list - but instead I'm going to catch up on VMA coverage over at Go Fug Yourself. Because I'm compassionate like that. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Post Gallbladder: Health Apocalypse

I had really hoped that after getting my gallbladder removed, my health would start to improve, or at least get back to normal. There were a few things I was worried about, for example, how my digestive system would adjust to having one of its organs removed. Both before & after the surgery, the hospital was measuring everything I excreted (fun fact: my bladder will hold about 200ml of urine before I get the urge to pee). Although I didn't make any bowel movements while I was there, I was told that one of the criteria I had to meet before being sent home was that I was "passing gas." Apparently, farting is a sign that your digestive system is waking up after the anaesthesia. 

I also read some rather horrible stories about how one's digestive system can react with no gallbladder. I was also told by co-workers and others I knew that had their gallbladder removed that they could no longer eat certain foods, as it would give them tummy troubles, followed by toilet troubles. Dr. Zink (my surgeon) said she didn't expect that I would have any of those symptoms, given that my diet was already quite healthy. Her only long-term concern was the very small chance that the pieces of gallstone she saw in my main bile duct could grow larger, eventually obstructing the bile duct, causing great pain and probably, a need for more surgery. 

I wasn't having trouble eating anything - my biggest test was 5 days after surgery, when I had calamari - and rather than having urgent needs to go to the bathroom frequently, I was actually constipated for quite some time. But things got back to normal in my bowels, and I went back to work 9 days after surgery. 

This is when things started to go downhill. I began getting quite fatigued, although my energy levels should have been improving. I was sleeping for 12-15 hours and still feeling run-down, and at one point I was running a fever. The surgeon's office didn't think that it was related to the surgery - if I'd had an infection, the reasoning went, the symptoms would be much more severe. They recommended I see a general practitioner. This was not as easy as it sounded - I had trouble getting an appointment anywhere, even from offices that allegedly were accepting new patients (according to my health insurance provider's website). Eventually, I was able to sign on as a new patient with Dr. Scott at West Linn Family Health Center, although my appointment was actually with Cherie Martchenke, a nurse practitioner. 

Cherie was great about listening to my concerns about fatigue, especially when I mentioned that these concerns are not exactly new, but they've become a much bigger problem recently - especially sleeping for such a long time. I had missed a day of work. She ordered blood work, including a thyroid hormone test and CBC. When she called back with the results, I was surprised to learn that my thyroid test had come back normal, since I would have liked to pin my frustrations with weight loss (or rather, lack thereof) and the fatigue neatly on hypothyroidism. What she was able to tell me is that I did have deficiencies in Vitamin D and Iron. The office called in prescriptions for supplements, and I need to return to get my blood levels checked in 8-12 weeks. 

I was a little surprised to hear that I had an iron deficiency, since I eat a lot of foods that are quite rich in iron, such as lentils, garbanzo beans, black beans, fish, broccoli, spinach, and even tofu. The vitamin D deficiency made more sense to me, since I tend to stay out of the sun if possible & wear sunscreen with a high SPF when I will be exposed to the sun for more than a few minutes. 

Right now, I'm taking a Vitamin D supplement weekly, with a strength of 50,000IU. The Iron supplement is 325mg of ferrous sulfate, and I take it daily. I'd like to give a shot-out to my pharmacist for warning me that iron supplements can make your urine or feces differently colored, because I would have been freaked out without that heads-up. I've been feeling a little better, a little up & down - last night I slept for 16 hours, so a little more down than up, perhaps. 

The last immediate recommendation from the doctor's office was that I see a dietician. The theory right now is that the training program I was doing may have had something to do with both the gallbladder attack and the sudden fatigue. I had heard that exercise and fat loss can lead to various toxins being released in your body, but this was a new one. Apparently, the training can put strain on your liver, as the liver performs several roles in carbohydrate, lipid & protein metabolism, as well as the breakdown of toxic substances - stress on the liver can translate into stress on the gallbladder, as the gallbladder stores extra bile that maybe the liver is too preoccupied to produce. The liver also has a role your body's absorption of iron and vitamin D. Before I start the same level of exercise, a dietician may help me reconfigure my diet to best help with these issues and take a look at my recent weight gain. 

I haven't yet seen a dietician, since I'm not sure whether or not it's covered under insurance - my insurance is saying that these services are covered for preventative care only and not as part of a referral for a medical condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. The girl answering the phone at the insurance company couldn't say whether my situation would be considered preventative care or not, so I've got to call my doctor's office again and see if they can talk to insurance and sort that out. The business end of getting healthy is not always pretty. The next step, if insurance won't cover it, is finding out how expensive those services might be, because in the end, it's a service I probably need to move forward.

Henna Hair Color

I admit it: I love to color my hair. My first experience with hair coloring came when I was 12 and my mom let me use Clairol Natural Instincts. There was also something on the market around that time called "hair mascara" - essentially temporary hair dye you applied with a giant mascara wand, and it would be gone the next time you shampooed. I used it to put blue streaks in my hair for Lilith Fair '97. But I digress. The point is, I love hair dye, but it can expensive (bad for financial wellness), damage your hair (bad for follicle wellness), and it often uses a lot of nasty chemicals (bad for the earth's wellness). I tend to gravitate towards the reds when getting my hair colored. 

Exhibit A
Lately, I've been trying to stick with colors in the brown family - they're easier to maintain, since they don't fade as quickly and they are closer to my natural hair color (light brown). This was a picture I took the day I last got my hair done:

Brown, with just a hint of red in there. Well, this picture was taken a little while ago, and my roots are starting to bother me. 

It's like my hair has horizontal stripes.
Hmm, I've been thinking to myself, my hair sure does look bad. But gallbladder surgery and wisdom tooth extractions have not been kind to my bank account. Then I realized, opportunity was knocking! I could try something I'd been curious about for a while: Henna. 

I've done plenty of at-home dye jobs, some good, some not-so-good (let's not speak of the time I decided to try black hair dye), but I'm confident enough in my abilities to give it a whirl. So, after work today, I went down to the store and picked up Rainbow Henna in Persian Burgundy.

The instructions say that to tone down reds/make browns richer, to use coffee instead of boiling water when making this concoction. Perfect! I've got some flavored coffee samples that I don't particularly want to drink, but they would be quite lovely in my hair. So, I got to brewing my coffee, only to boil it. The henna, as it turns out, is an odd green color. Behold:

When reading the instructions, I noticed that they advise to add a little vinegar to the mixture if you're worried about covering your grays. I'm not, particularly, but I know that it will help the color hold. So I tossed a little in there. I also noticed that the instructions advise to add a little olive oil if your hair is dry, so I add that, too, although this starting to sound suspiciously like a recipe for henna vinaigrette. What it looked like was particularly green baby poo:

I applied to my head while it was still warm, which was actually rather pleasant. I had to do a little resourceful improvising - I didn't have an actual dye brush on hand, so I used a (new) paint brush, and I didn't have gloves, so I used plastic wrap. But it worked, and I got my head pretty well gooed up. 

Back to the instructions. Since I don't have a heat source (unless you want to count the fact that it's been quite hot this week and I don't have A/C), I needed to leave this on for 60-75 minutes. Done. I wrapped a Target plastic bag around my head and watched this week's episode of Project Runway (sidenote: Danielle TOTALLY deserved to go home. She is not, as she claims, a great designer). 

Then it was off the shower to rinse out the dye, then dry my hair to see the results. Here are the roots, after henna:

Also after curling, so you'll have to pardon the slight frizz
Much better! I have to say, though, that the color was definitely not as dark or as red as I had anticipated. Next time I would probably go with a darker color and follow the directions for adding Red Zinger tea to enrich the red tones. Overall, though, this experiment cost less than $10 and definitely works between salon visits.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Goodbye Gallbladder

Alison (my running buddy) & I had been diligently following Hal Higdon's 10-K training program for the novice. Well, I don't know if diligent is quite the right word - I had injured my knee during the Race for the Animals 2011 and had to take some time off from running. But, Alison was ready to complete the 10-K distance for the first time on Sunday, July 17, and I said I would gladly join her for the last 2 miles or so, to keep her motivated and get myself back in the running game. 

That morning and early afternoon, I was feeling a little nauseated, but I ignored it - I figured it would be fine. By the time Alison arrived, in the late afternoon, I was feeling a little woozy. She had already run just over 4 miles to get to my house, and I wasn't about to let her down by skipping out on a wimpy 2 miles. Alison & I keep each other motivated like that! 

The run was actually not too bad - it was lovely out, and we were keeping a nice slow-to-moderate pace. The run actually helped suppress the nausea, and it was exciting to be with Alison when she met such a big fitness goal! We got back to my place and chatted a bit before I drove Alison home. 

It was on the drive that I really began feeling sick. I thought I was going to have to pull over on the way home and throw up. Or die. I was wretched. I managed to get myself home, where I immediately collapsed on the couch and begged Adam to go get my favorite nausea remedy, Reed's Nausea Relief.

Under normal nausea conditions, this stuff is amazing. I have one of these, some water, and some saltine crackers, and I'll be feeling much better in 15-20 minutes. Not this time. I was on the couch, I was on the bathroom floor, I was kneeling over the toilet, I was walking around moaning like a woman in labor, and nothing was helping. I told Adam I thought something was wrong. 

He promptly rushed back to the store and came back with what he thought was the big guns: Pepto-Bismol. I don't like to take it, but, willing to try anything at this point, I complied. 30 minutes later, I was feeling even worse. I was sweating all over the place and was feeling real pain along with the nausea. Somehow, I managed to get myself out of running clothes and into a t-shirt & jeans before demanding Adam drive me to the ER. 

We went to Providence, which has practically been our second home this year, and I checked myself in. The ER was much less crowded than it had been on Valentine's Day, when Adam broke his arm. They took my vitals and gave me anti-nausea medication almost immediately, then sent me back to the waiting area until a room was open. It's hard to judge how long I was waiting, given the delirium that sort of pain can bring. I was  having flashbacks to an ER visit we'd made to Biloxi Regional in the summer of 2009 - I'd woke up in the middle of the night with sharp pains originating somewhere near my sternum. They told me I had heartburn, treated that, and sent me home. I was dubious then, and even more so during the intervening time period when I never ever had heartburn again. 

But, before I had time to ruminate further, I was called back into a room. It was much larger & fancier than the room we'd gotten in the ER on Valentine's Day - this one had its own bathroom, and a TV, and was at least twice the size. They asked me for urine & blood samples, then gave me an IV and immediately put some morphine in it. I was feeling a little better, although disoriented and a bit uncomfortable (I think the IV and the hospital gown had something to do with it). The doctor came in and asked to rate my pain, then poked me in various spots on my abdomen, trying to ascertain where the pain originated. He made that noncommittal hmm sound they must teach you in medical school, then left the room until the blood & urine test results were in. 

While waiting on the results, Adam & I contacted those people you immediately tell when you're in the ER - my dad, my sister, & anyone we had plans with in the next 24 hours. My dad came. The pain subsided a bit. The doctor came back and said my urine tests came back fine, but my blood tests indicated that I had an elevated white blood cell count. They were concerned that I was exhibiting early symptoms of appendicitis, so they ordered a CT scan. I'd never had one of those before, but the tech was great about explaining what she was doing while she was doing it. As she was injecting the contrast material, she warned me that I'd feel a warm tingling sensation throughout my body; I'm glad she added the part where it would feel like I had wet myself, because for a split second I was mortified that I'd peed myself! The CT Scan was done using some giant GE machine that looked rather like a plastic doughnut - I was lying on a platform that would slide me so my belly was in the doughnut hole. I'd have to breath in & out for a certain number of seconds while the machine was taking images. The tech said that often, people have trouble following the breathing instructions, but we got everything they needed the first time around. I'd like to thank my running, yoga, and singing habits for the breath control! 

I spent some more time chatting with Adam & my dad back in my ER room, feeling nervous about the results of the CT Scan. The doctor came back, and, instead of telling us what was wrong straight away, said "Well, I've reviewed your CT Scan" and then proceeded to knead my abdomen in various areas and ask me to rate how badly it hurt for several moments before ending our suspense: the elevated white blood cell count was due to an infected gallbladder; I had several stones in the gallbladder, and they weren't happy. I had what is called Acute cholecystitis, commonly referred to as a gallbladder attack. 

One of the good (or bad, depending on your viewpoint) things about Providence is that they always give you your options, even if the other options are clearly idiotic. The doctor immediately recommended that I be admitted to the hospital and scheduled for surgery as soon as possible, but also gave me the option of treating the infection with antibiotics and sending me home. I opted to be admitted, even though I was immediately overwhelmed with conflicting emotion. Maybe some of you have been a similar situation. While the gallbladder attack was some of the worst physical pain I've ever endured, including braces, I'd never had surgery. It was a scary concept. I cried a little bit, because I always cry - it's one of the traits I often wish I could change about myself. I asked my dad lots of questions about what the gallbladder does and what life would be like without it

When the ER nurse came in to check on me, I was visibly shaken. At least I got some crackers & juice out of the deal - by this time, it was 11pm, and I wasn't allowed to eat after midnight, in case I could be squeezed into the operating room schedule in the morning. Transport came and got me and took me to a rather small hospital room in 4G. 

The last time we had been at the hospital overnight, we had stayed on the 8th floor, in the orthopedic unit. Lemme tell ya, they got it nice up there--big, new rooms, armchairs that turned into a guest bed, DVD players, nice views--there was none of that in 4G. My room was tiny, the nurse had to bring Adam a cot, and while I did have a TV with cable, there was certainly no DVD player. Nevertheless, we settled in for the night - Adam went home to feed the cats and grab a few things, while I posted a status to Facebook and left a voicemail for my boss. 

A few moments after my Facebook post, I got a call from my aunt. She was making sure that I was okay, and that I had opted for the surgery. Her husband (my uncle) had his gallbladder removed earlier this year, and he had let several gallbladder attacks occur before opting for the surgery. She told me his gallbladder was gangrenous when they finally removed it. It probably looked something like this:

I certainly didn't want a gangrenous gallbladder! I felt a little better after talking to my aunt, or better enough to watch HGTV well into the night before finally drifting off to sleep, anyway. It's hard to get good sleep in the hospital (unless they've given you the good drugs, but I'd only been given antibiotics & fluids since the morphine in the ER), especially when your vitals are being monitored rather closely. 

In the morning, I met with the surgeon, Dr. Zink of Portland Surgeons, PC. She really set my mind at ease. She told me that up to 30% of people in their 20s and 30s have gallstones, but wouldn't know it - many are small and don't cause any pain. She admitted that we don't really know what causes gallstones, although there are plenty of guesses and correlations. After looking at my chart & talking to me a bit about my lifestyle, she said she thought this was most likely a hereditary issue (I know for certain that my grandmother, great-grandmother, and two aunts had their gallbladders removed, and it was very unlikely that I would have to make any dietary changes in the long run to accommodate my new digestive system. 

Dr. Zink really did a great job explaining the surgery to me - the procedure done these days is called laparoscopic cholecystectomy, and she had previously performed over two hundred of these babies. She even made me a little sketch while she was explaining everything:
The way she drew the stones makes the gallbladder look sad.
The surgery is performed under general anesthesia, during which they make four small cuts in your belly - for me, one in my belly button, one just below my sternum, and two on my right side somewhere in between. The laproscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted into one of the cuts, while the other instruments are inserted through the others. While they're inserting everything, they pump gas into your stomach, so the surgeon can see better. As Dr. Zink explained it to me, they make a couple snips to detach your gallbladder from the bile duct and the liver, then pull that sucker out. She did tell me that she always orders a cholangiogram during surgery - this x-ray is done to make sure they aren't snipping the bile duct and to make sure nothing else is stuck in there. Here's an awesome animated video of the procedure:

While I was waiting to find out when my surgery would be, I got a call from my uncle, who actually works at the Providence Medical Center. He wanted to make sure that I had agreed to the surgery - by the time he had called, I had already signed all the waivers, which included verbiage stating I'd allow Providence to dispose of all the left over parts. No keeping the gallstones in a jar for me, but hey, I still have a sketch! About 10 minutes after I got off the phone with my uncle, somebody from surgical transport came to fetch me. Adam & I were escorted to one of the waiting rooms on the surgery floor, which is when I started to freak out. 

It's hard to convince your limbic system that what you understand on an intellectual level means there is no cause for alarm. My blood pressure skyrocketed. I could hear the grumpy old man on the other side of the partition complaining about how cold it was and how long it was taking, and I wondered what he was in for. The very nice OR nurse tried to reassure me, saying the surgery would be a breeze! Soon enough, the anesthesiologist came in and put something in my IV to relax me. I'm not sure what it was they gave me, but I was very loopy within seconds. We were on the way to the OR, the anesthesiologist was asking me questions, and I could barely form the words to respond. I couldn't tell you now what he was asking me. 

I remember getting to the OR and thinking it looked like a storage room and felt like a fridge - on TV, you always see operating rooms as these fairly pristine, large rooms. This room was about the size of the old mailroom in my office, and there were tons of boxes stacked along the walls. Dr. Zink was putting on her scrubs. The other people in the OR moved me from the stretcher onto the operating table. They told me what they were doing, although I could barely acknowledge what I was hearing. They strapped me down at mid-calf and mid-thigh, telling me that sometimes patients have jerky legs when they're under. Then, a mask was put on my face. Maybe 30 seconds later, I heard the anesthesiologist tell me he was administering the medication that would put me under - and that was it. 

There's no fade-out when they put you under. I didn't even count backwards from ten. The next thing I was aware of, I was waking up in the post-op room and I couldn't speak - the breathing tube had really done a number on my throat. Adam told me that I was in surgery for just over an hour, but I napped for a good three hours afterwards. When I came to around 4:30pm, the nurse brought me a popsicle, both to help with my still-store throat & to see if I could eat anything. My voice wasn't right until the next day, but the popsicle certainly helped. My dad, my sister & Maria (our former roommate - she's like family) all stopped in during the evening to check up on me. I watched more HGTV and ate some rather terrible hospital food; while I was not restricted to the liquid diet menu, they did advise that I eat something light and not too fatty. The night passed without incident, unless you count the tech who woke me up at 4am to draw blood.

The next morning, Dr. Zink came to see me again, and let me know that I was going to be released. She said everyone was great, except this one little thing where there were some gallstone bits that had escaped into my main bile duct, and if I felt any, you know, excruciating pain in the next few days, that I'd need to come back to the hospital. With that reassuring send-off, I was homeward bound to begin my recuperation and eventually, my new, gallbladder-less life.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Do I want to be skinny?/what are my goals?

The biggest question, after asking if I'm fat, is asking if I want to be skinny. The short answer is no. I don't want to be skinny, I want to be healthy. I want to be strong. I want to be well. I think focusing on weight loss as opposed to an overall sustainable and healthy lifestyle is harmful to our wellness in the long run.

Wellness, to me, isn't just your height/weight ratio or if your skin looks good today--it's more than that. It's a state of well-being that is mental as well as physical, it's being comfortable in your own skin and having self-compassion, it's having joy in your body and in your life.

I am currently unwell.

I've been trying my darndest since 02/02/09, when I first turned that Wii Fit on, to become well. I think I've made some great strides, but every body has its limitations, and in the past couple months, I've come crashing headfirst into mine. From emergency oral surgery to emergency gallbladder surgery and extreme fatigue, I've recently been faced with a lot of physical challenges. It's a lot for anybody to deal with, and I'm tired of taking it lying down (often literally).

So, while being skinny isn't a good goal - it's too vague, it's not necessarily healthy, and you are often setting yourself up for failure with that goal - goals are important. Goals are even better when I'm publishing them in a public forum, because now the world is going to hold me accountable for reaching them. 

One of the biggest mistakes I've made and seen other people make when deciding they want to make some life changes is to try and do it all at once. Let's start small--eventually all those tiny changes will add up to a different life. So here's my first goal: Taking Stock of My Matter

I'm going to weigh myself daily and measure myself weekly (measuring both my mass--you can argue about the definition of mass in the comments, if you must--and the amount of space I'm taking up. That equals matter!). You might ask me, Why? You just said your goal wasn't getting skinny. You've got a point there, but my goal IS to feel like I'm at a healthier weight. My normal healthy weight is about 20 pounds less than what I currently weigh - if I don't get to that point on the scale, I'm okay with that - but that's where the measurements come in. I'd really like to be able to fit into a size 10 again. I'm going to make Adam take part in the mass & space bonanza, as a special bonus. 

You can look at our weight and measurements here. I've also made a permanent goals page for the blog. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Am I fat?

Those of you with a Wii Fit (I myself have a Wii Fit Plus with Balance Board, because I am fancy like that) may be familiar with the board's chant of "That's overweight!" or even "That's obese!" Although I came within 1.2lbs, I have never actually been the "normal" zone on the Wii Fit. But what is normal? A few months ago, a friend and I were doing a weigh-in, and the animated balance board once again took the opportunity to remind me that a healthy weight for me would be 148.6lbs. I laughed and said, "can you imagine me losing that much weight? That's more than I would want to lose." My friend just looked at me and said, "but you used to be skinny..."

I haven't been "skinny" since before puberty hit. Sure, if you think back to fall of 2002, when I was on the water polo team and doing 300 crunches every night, I was pretty thin. I still didn't have flat abs, though, and I was okay with that. Between 2003-2004, I suddenly got hips & breasts, and I've never been able to fit into the same clothes since. Like many women, I struggle with body image, but I've accepted that I can't change my basic genetics - my stomach will never look like Fergie's, but I'm cool with that. I don't think a six pack on a lady is particularly appealing, just like I don't think being way skinnier than your creator intended is particularly appealing.

Take Jennifer Hudson. In this recent article in PeopleJennifer begins by saying she didn't even realize she was considered plus-sized until she came to Hollywood. In just seven years, she went from thinking she was normal to this:
By sticking to a strict regimen of portion control and exercise, Hudson eventually lost 80 pounds and went from a size 16 to a 6 and says: "I'm prouder of my weight loss than my Oscar!" (emphasis mine)
Jennifer went from acknowledging the crazy body-image standards in Hollywood to buying into them in the same interview. Amazing, although no longer surprising. According to Pamela Peeke on WebMD, the average American woman is 5'4", has a waist that is 34-35" around, and weighs between 140-150lbs. The average American woman wears a dress size 12-14. 

As of this writing, I wear a size 12-14, I'm 5'9", and I weigh 185.2 lbs. My waist is coming in closer to 36", so apparently some size 12 garments are quite forgiving. So, yes, it would appear that I am fat. Or at least a little pudgy. According to my friend the Wii balance board, I need to lose 16.5 lbs to bring my BMI to 24.98, on the border between "normal" and "overweight".  My weight on 08/22/11 was exactly the same as it was on 02/02/09, the first time I ever weighed myself using the Wii Fit.

Somewhere in there, I had lost 15 pounds and some change, and somewhere in there, I got it all back. It's baffling, given the diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes I've made in that time frame. We're going to get to the bottom of this.


Last night, I was sitting at the computer, reading the comments Mila Kunis made to Glamour. Again.

But when people say, "I can’t lose weight", no no no, you can. Your body can do everything and anything, you just have to want to do it.
I've read the quote a few times now, and each time, I want to punch Mila in the face a little bit more. 

Maybe that's overreacting. Maybe what I'd really like to do is explain to her how that harms the public discussion about weight, health, and that overall term wellness. I don't believe that pushing your body to its limits or being skinny necessary connotes wellness, but that seems to be a popular perception. I could bitch about celebrities and misguided public health officials all day, but there are plenty of places on the internet that already doing that. 

What struck home about this particular article, for me, is the recent feeling that my body can't do everything. 

After all, if I was reading this article last night, why didn't I post last night? 

Because I was tired. Because I was tired, and because I was in pain. I wanted to lose weight, Mila. I wanted to be strong, I wanted to be well, but my body more or less quit on me. While I found Mila's comments abrasive, the friction finally gave way to a spark. I've reached the point where I want to bridge the ever-growing chasm between mind & body. Along the way, I'm going to try and span the disconnect between me & all of you.