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Watch for the Supersizes!

I mentioned earlier this year that I started school and would share information from time to time. I started a nutrition class this fall (yay!). And this week we are talking about designing a healthful diet, which includes portion and serving size details.

So, why is this a big deal? How often have you bought a pint of ice cream and finished it in one sitting? 🙋🏽‍♀️ no one else, just me?? That pint is actually 4 SERVINGS! So rather than having a 250 calorie treat, I smashed 1000 calories in record time.

And manufacturing has not helped in managing portion sizes 

I believe the lecture that I’m watching was recorded in 2020 so the picture below references the year 2000.

Comparison of food sizes, 20 years apart

…supersizing foods is real! So we not only supersized food while adding additives, clothes manufacturers implemented vanity sizing so while you may no longer be the same size physically, you wear the same numerical size… MAKE IT MAKE SENSE!

Just a note – a kid’s meal or junior meal at most restaurants is what a proper portion size should look like. Tracking food intake from time to time helps me stay mindful of how much I’m actually eating. And while I knew that food portions have grown in volume, seeing the comparison in picture was mind blowing.

Has anyone else notice the larger portions being served?

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Relief!

Allow me to remind everyone that I am not giving medical advice, but just sharing my journey that has allowed me to move toward better health.

That being said, I started using Humira to stop/slow the progression of Ankylosing spondylitis. The rheumatologist recommended it and am I glad that she did! I can move better and more and I no longer need to get up an hour plus earlier than a normal person would to start my day. While I still get tired (working full time, part time and going to school part time will do that!), the all day fatigue has lessened. The knee swelling that made my right knee look double its normal size has gone down. And so many more benefits!

I got news of the biggest change yesterday!

I’ve mentioned working on my bloodwork numbers before, especially iron and c-reactive protein because iron would be low and CRP (an indicator of inflammation) would always be super super high. I had been trying everything – lifestyle changes, totally changed how I eat, exercise, supplements. I had to do bloodwork yesterday morning to set a baseline on the medication.

EVERY SINGLE FACTOR CAME BACK NORMAL!! 

Even my iron level went up to normal and the C-reactive protein dropped to a normal level; the CRP level had been crazy high when I first had it tested in 2018. If my calculations are correct, my original CRP level was about 100!!!!! That’s at the border of the high level and points to an autoimmune condition. Now it’s less than 3! I am so thankful and so grateful for finally getting relief.

I realize that everyone does not go the medication route but after trying alternative solutions for 4 years, I am elated to find something that has been most helpful!

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Finding balance

I’m sitting on the beach at a lake in Ohio. As my brother jokes, this has become my new favorite place. 🏖 and in a way, it is. I can get outside, enjoy the sun and disconnect for a bit before going back into the business of everyday life.

And I’m thankful that the beach is only 30 minutes away!

I decided to bring a book today along with my usual snacks. It’s called Body on Fire by Drs. Aggarwal and Rao and I’m already hooked on the first few pages. It goes along perfectly with my desire to find balance, or homeostasis as mentioned in the book. And for me, that’s everything at this point. So many times, I’m going from one thing to the next all day and not resting until it’s time to sleep!

And I’m on a such a mission to regain balance that I recently put in my notice at work without having another job lined up immediately. There’s a travel component that is just too much for me physically as I learn how to manage Ankylosing spondylitis. But the wild thing is that once I made that decision and put in the notice, I started receiving TONS of interview requests; and while that’s a post for a different time, it brings a level of validation that others positively view your skills the way you see your skills but your current place does not.

But, I digress …I am finally saying yes to myself and all that entails. And my yes may look very different from your yes, and that’s okay. Each of us is so unique and it’s time we celebrate our uniqueness in healthy and balanced ways. So as I continue to read, and begin class again next month, I hope to hold this moment to look back on when I don’t always have a moment to pause.

Wishing you all the best from the beach! And check out the book 📖

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Birthday update!

Yesterday was my 46th birthday! 🥳🥳🥳🎉🎉🎉

And I’m so grateful for another year. I started an active rehab program with a wellness center to have better mobility and build strength, both of which I need. Since being there, I’ve been able to go forward down the steps rather than turning sideways, bend the right knee more regularly (yay!!), do water exercises weekly and incorporate more yoga on the floor rather than in a chair.

I also started taking medication for Ankylosing spondylitis and that helps tremendously for pain and fatigue. I’ve got a way to go (because brain fog is real! 🤯) but I’m so glad that I’ve made progress. I’ve even started walking more regularly, which had been a challenge because joints would be painful with swelling.

And I’m continuing to work on diet and lifestyle. My sleep is still spotty at best, but I’ve started reintroductions for the AIP and I’m now on stage 2. I did add black and pinto beans early because I needed the calories and feeling of fullness from fiber!

And I’m including a recent photo comparison. The pic on the left is from my cousin’s wedding, just over 5 years ago. The one on the right is earlier this week at the beach with family.

Hope your health journey is going well!

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Food can be medicine!

Allow me to remind everyone that I am not giving medical advice, but just sharing my journey that has allowed me to move toward better health.

I’ve been doing sooooo much reading about how certain nutrients can specifically benefit certain conditions. One book that I read was Eat to Beat Disease by Dr. William Li. Mind blowing! A friend even purchased the book after hearing me talk about it so much.

When we eat, we are choosing what outcomes are body will have – health or disease. Now is this perfect? No. Epigentics plays a huge factor on us but we can assist our bodies by being as preventative as possible through our choices. So I wanted to share some of the insights that I found out via Dr. Li and other sources. I am now experimenting with all of the recommendations below in a search for better health and hoping to put the autoimmune condition in remission!

  • Did you know… watercress’s antioxidants have been linked to lower risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease? It has over 100% of the recommended daily amount of vitamins K. And one cup is only 4 calories!!
  • Did you know … eating processed meats 4 to 5 days per week is equivalent to accelerating your age one year for every year you eat that way?
  • Did you know …having lycopene-rich foods/juices (guava, tomato, watermelon, etc) before having X-rays reduced the damage done to the DNA by the radiation?
  • Did you know …eating 40 grams of dark chocolate daily can positively influence gut bacteria and reduce the body’s stress markers in only TWO weeks?
  • Did you know …high salt intake is not only linked to high blood pressure but it also strips away the protective mucus lining of your stomach?
  • Did you know …cherry, San Marzano and Tangerine tomatoes have more lycopene than other varieties?
  • Did you know …fasting cycles might be used to build a fresh immune system?
  • Did you know …pomegranate juice can rebuild the gut lining?

And why try to incorporate healthy, whole food? 420 million people worldwide have diabetes AND it leads to 1.6 millions deaths each year!! You and I have such a great influence on our health! Are there any recommendations that you have to improve and enhance health? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

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Body dysmorphia

I had a recent conversation with a friend who had visited family that same day. The friend mentioned how family members were proud of the weight loss and has kept it off. But my friend made an interesting statement:

I don’t see myself as smaller like they do. I see myself as the size I started at.

Now, I have older pictures with this friend and I KNOW the person has lost weight so I was initially confused at this statement. The person went on to say that a mutual friend is the same way – the second person will always see a larger version. Another surprising statement to me. But then I got to thinking …

While I have lost the weight and kept it off and have had to BUY clothes that are much smaller than where I started, I don’t see myself as a size 8. I don’t see myself at the point where I started; I think I see myself around a size 14. Hard to believe when I have given away all my size 14 clothes. I’m including a picture comparison below from not my highest weight (maybe 30 pounds less) and a picture from last month which is about 95 pounds less.

Again, I don’t see myself as the left picture but when I look at the right picture, I see a size 14 rather than a size 8. The mental aspect of being consciously aware of the present takes time. And I’m working on that, being present in the here and now which includes recognizing where I am now. It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only person even in my friend circle who deals with this. But I am also determined to learn how to deal with body dysmorphia.

Has anyone else learned how to overcome body dysmorphia? It rather reminds me of overcoming imposter syndrome. Can the same strategies be applied? Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Let me know what you think!

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What is this Ankylosing spondylitis?

In my last post, I talked about finally being diagnosed with Ankylosing spondylitis. And it’s still a huge thing to wrap my head around, especially since I’ve made such dramatic changes in my health. I’ll admit- sometimes I just want to say forget this push to be healthy and order a pizza (especially from my faves in Chicago) or drench everything in bbq sauce!!! But reality sets in and I know the consequences later will not be worth it so I don’t.

And this autoimmune condition of Ankylosing spondylitis, or AS, has no cure according to the resources that I’ve read. Any condition that ends in “itis” is indicative of inflammation and this is an inflammatory condition of the spine. It can also affect other joint areas. There are secondary issues that can occur with AS such as uveitis, inflammation in your eye which I’ve written about too as I’ve had that multiple times starting in 2009. And the cause of AS? No one knows though it’s believed to start with a leaky or impaired gut.

AS makes you really stiff, especially if you sit for a long time. Movement helps AS a great deal but it’s hard because when you’re in pain, the last thing that you want to do is move around! Stretching and functional movement are helpful and research shows that water based exercises are great as these don’t impact the joints. So I got a referral for that! If left untreated, AS can also cause fusion in various areas with your bones and you lose alllll flexibility and range of motion! 🤯🤯

While no doctor has stated this, I think AS is why I developed severe osteoarthritis at such a young age. The doctors just ask why I developed it so early; 🤷🏽‍♀️ how would I know?? I’m not a doctor. But to be better informed, I ordered a couple of books that are written by doctors who also have AS. Unlike me, both of these doctors have a genetic marker that is often seen with AS. And both found out much earlier than I did in the progression of the condition.

The doctors’ books offer insight on how they manage AS naturally, now. Both had taken different medications and decided that they would move forward without the meds. That’s the level that I eventually want to get to. I’ve been approved to take a VERY expensive medication to help relieve the chronic inflammation that I have. I’m hoping that as I start implementing the doctors’ recommendations, I can work with my doctor to decrease the medication. I’m also going to continue to focus on healing my digestive system and will move in the direction of working with a functional doctor who specializes in these types of conditions. And since stress can play havoc on the gut too, I took up my health care system’s offer to speak to a counselor. My hope is to find ways to better manage stress. Whew! That’s a lot!!

But I’m hopeful! If you are interested in the books by the doctors mentioned, leave a comment and I’ll include them below!

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Finally diagnosed …

I was in a car accident two weeks ago. A guy rear ended me and it wasn’t super severe. But since I already have neck issues and stiffness, I thought it best to get checked out. So the police officer had the paramedics take me to the ER. While there, the physician assistant sent me for X-rays and a CT scan to check for fractures; I had no physical bruises though I was sore on my back.

Fast forward to my results – the attending physician noted no fractures and stated that my images were consistent with someone who has Ankylosing spondylitis. Now, I’ve researched this condition on and off for a few years but this was the FIRST time a medical professional has ever said – yeah, you have this. The recommendation was to follow up with my primary care doctor which I did.

What is Ankylosing spondylitis? Easiest explanation is that it’s inflammation of the spine that can affect other joint areas as well. Since talking to my doctor last week, I’ve been poring over the research and I’m so angry that no one thought this might be a problem before. I’ve had two rounds of physical therapy for my knee and two rounds for my neck area. I’ve taken LOTS of aleve. I exercise and totally changed my eating habits and lifestyle yet I couldn’t have just ONE doctor to say – hey I’ve put two and two together and that equals this autoimmune condition????

So today, I just want to stress that you have to advocate for yourself. I was sent to see a rheumatologist who really listened. I’ve seen one before; he did a visual test and sent me for some bloodwork. Since I didn’t have the genetic marker and don’t fit the profile (I’m not a middle age white male), then he dismissed it. UGH! I’m so glad that the new rheumatologist listened, put two and two together and is working with me for a plan of action.

I’m fortunate – I work for a research doctor who is familiar with the condition. My cousin and a friend work in the pharmaceutical industry and provided more details on the medicine that is recommended. But so many others don’t have those resources at their fingertips. *sigh* and this is another reason for me to push with public health. Studies show that women of color don’t get the treatment that they need for so many conditions and just as often, they don’t even know what to ask for.

Whatever your medical state or condition, please advocate for yourself. Take the time to do the research. Keep pushing the envelope. It shouldn’t take a car accident or other incident for you to get the treatment that you need.

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Confessions of a former carb and sugar-binger

Where do I even begin on this blog post? I was talking to my mom the other day and was talking about my current heath challenges (I’ll update in a separate post but have to see another specialist as I was rear ended in a car accident last week). So much of the “health advice” given when I was young has been proven to be so, so wrong now. And I believe it has a long term effect on my health and the health of others.

One of my first memories of wayyyyy too much sugar and carbs involved eating cereal. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well it is when it’s a sugar laden cereal (think the orange animal who claims the food is great or something similar) and I put additional sugar on top of it! And then moistened the cereal with canned sweet milk. OMG!!! There was also the syrup with the side of pancakes. Or my love of pop tarts. I even did Nutrisystem at a young age and had to drink skim milk. 🤦🏽‍♀️

Remember this was the 90s when fats were vilified so I stayed away from “fat” products. But the substitutes were laden with sugar, sugar and more sugar- Snackwell cookies and candies. My go to meal substitute was a bag of skittles while on the run, again no fat.

And the low point was in college. There was a sweet shop in the cafeterias on campus and a “light” ice cream machine and the waffle machine. Carbs and sugars everywhere. When you have PCOS like me, this is the recipe to have crazy and uncontrollable cravings. Like I wanted sugar all. of. the. time! One thing I’ve never admitted and I’m so embarrassed and ashamed even now because I can’t imagine that I did this- my roommates would have pop tarts which were my biggest weakness. I would sneak and have one at times without asking. 😭😭😭 I would eat and within two hours be hungry again because I lived on carbs.

So why mention all of this now? Sometimes you have to remember how far you’ve come, especially in light of various health challenges. I am pretty sure that my overindulgence of carbs and sugar left me so nutrient deficient that my body was like – chick what are you doing?! I am so thankful that I learned how to appreciate real, whole food. And I know that this health journey will take time. Clearly, none of this happened overnight.

Maybe that’s where you are today, thinking will anything ever improve? How long will this take? Let me encourage you that you can be healthier and support a healthy lifestyle. Each day is the opportunity to make great food and lifestyle choices that move you to optimal health. That’s the goal. So if this former carb and sugar-holic can move past the above mentioned habits and food choices, everyone can!

Now versus the carb/sugar-holic (7 years ago)
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Healthy with Friends

As I’ve mentioned, I really started focusing on new ways to get healthier in August 2018. But before that, I had tried so many times to lose weight and would get to a certain weight and get stuck! In the in-between times, I would just think – screw this – and eat or do whatever I wanted, even if it wasn’t healthy.

What I have learned in this health journey is that having others who are moving in the same direction as me is key. That being said – a memory popped up on FB today from 7 years ago with a good friend. In the “then” picture, she had lost 15 pounds and I had not even tried again.

And then there’s our now pictures. We took very different paths to achieve better health but look how far we’ve come! My friend is a workout queen, working her way down to a size 6. I am more the lighter workout (think yoga, walking, bike riding) person and am at a size 8. And we both changed our eating habits, though I am much more strict since I’m following the AIP.

And I have other friends who are working on their health too! Be that person who motivates others to make a change to become healthier 🤗. I recently read a quote that where you will be in 5 years will depend on the people you hang around. Get some friends traveling in the same direction as you. It makes a difference!!