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Update: first of the year

So I had my annual physical with my primary care doctor today. I really like working with her because she listens and tries to help based on my lab results, how I’m feeling and what might have been treated by other doctors in the past. Below is my update on issues I’ve mentioned in the past:

  • Iron level: still sketchy. I tested 6 months ago and it was low. Now, it dropped almost another point even though I take iron 3 times each day and liver pills. Since I have heavier cycles, I’ll be getting some testing done with an ob/gym
  • C reactive protein level: still elevated BUT…lower! In the past, I had hs CRP measured but the lab with the doctor just did CRP. And from my understanding, the conversion is based on a factor of roughly 10. So in converting my 39.5 CRP to hs CRP, I would be at a 3.9! This is AMAZING!!!!!!! My last test was done at the end of 2020, around November and it was 19

So, mixed results. My weight was about 8 pounds less than last year but I’m not really concerned about weight. I’m more than okay where I am. I’m just trying to see what is going on with these iron levels!

What are my health intentions this year?

1. Increase iron level

2. Continue to decrease c reactive protein

3. Better mobility in knee and neck areas

To help, I started the autoimmune protocol. It’s basically an elimination diet to help lower inflammation, heal the gut and find out what food triggers I might have by systematically reintroducing foods with a journal of results. I’m starting with 3 months but may go up to 6 months if needed. And I’m trying to find a functional or integrative doctor.

What are your health intentions this year? How are you going to make it happen? All the best in this new year! 🤩

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What’s your why?

Everyday, I have a decision to make: to either do all the things to give me a chance to feel great that day or revert back to old habits that weren’t the best for me. Every. Single. Day. I say this because every day is NOT a great day but I choose to move forward with something that can help tomorrow.

Why? Even when it’s hard. Why? Even when I seem stuck. Why? Even when there’s no progress. Because I cling to my reasoning behind what I’m doing. See, when I started my journey in getting healthier, my nutritionist asked – what’s your why? I took that to mean- what’s the reason that is so strong that even when I don’t feel like it, I’ll keep at it. My why?

Elimination of pain

So as I’ve mentioned, PCOS can cause low grade chronic inflammation which I definitely deal with. Well when everything is inflammatory, then it can have negative effects on the body including the wearing and tearing of joints; this can lead to osteoarthritis. And arthritis is painful. Pain is that motivator for me.

I plan to start the autoimmune protocol diet in January to start targeting what may be causing pain and to heal the gut, which I need in the worst way. When you wake up in some level of pain everyday, then you will look for ways to reduce pain – physical therapy, gentle exercise, NSAIDs, more sleep, Epsom salt baths, CBD oil, dietary changes, weighted blanket. I’m trying them all in an effort to minimize pain and enjoy each day.

So what is your why? Whether you are just starting or looking for ways to stay motivated, I encourage you to find a strong reason to stay on track. Writing it down and sharing your reason with accountability partners are both great recommendations that I’ve used. On my vision board, I even include ways to accomplish my goal.

What is YOUR why? Share below and motivate someone today!

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Meal time

I have been asked by some family members and friends a lot – what do you eat?! I think the misconception is that I barely eat or eat “weird” food. One person asked when I was going to go back to eating real food. I thought that’s what I had been eating! 🤷🏽‍♀️

So I’m including today’s meals. Breakfast was a homemade smoothie. I’m dealing with a flare up with my joints so I try to really focus on nutrients more at this time. I don’t have a picture but I just included –

  • Vitamins (I just open them up and dump into the blender)
  • Collagen powder
  • Flax seeds
  • Turmeric powder (have to get this inflammation down)
  • Cinnamon powder
  • Parsley
  • Dollop of walnut butter
  • Frozen berries and cherries
  • Coconut milk
  • Ginger root
  • Splash of honey and vanilla extract

Breakfast is super easy and I tend to have smoothies when it’s warmer or when I’m managing a flare up. Lunch was just a protein bar. I run errands on Saturdays and need something that I can have on the run. Not the best nutrient wise but it’s so much better than crying over fast food! True story!!

This was Saturday dinner. Weekend dinners tend to be different than what I eat during the week as I try to find something I wouldn’t get during the week. I happened to go to a particular grocery store and snow crab clusters were on sale 🤩🤩 the pic is 👇🏽

Trying to focus on nutrients and reduce this inflammatory response, I decided to have blueberries for antioxidants, black beans for fiber to get toxins out, roasted collard greens chips to capitalize on nutrients and crab legs for protein. I eat seafood wayyyyyyy more than any other protein so sale prices are always welcome 🤗 And I try to get at least 6 servings of vegetables and fruit each day. Again, focusing on nutrient density.

If I’m feeling up to it later, I may have a square of dark chocolate. Your thoughts on the food choices? What would you recommend? Until next time…

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Sugar Rush

It’s that time of year when sweets are in abundance EVERYWHERE! I even saw this display at a local big box store. There were even TWO displays and they were gone within a couple of weeks 😱

Bags of sugar!

And it’s sooooooo tempting to give into all the sweets. But the sweets are laced with so much sugar! And yes, I used the word “laced” because sugar lights up the same parts of the brain as drugs. I have been researching the effects of sugar for years and while I don’t have the links for proof, please take the time to research what I mention below:

  • Sugar is addictive (as mentioned above)
  • Regular sugar has no nutrient value to add to your food
  • Sugar suppresses the immune system, making it harder to get better when you’re sick and consuming it
  • Sugar in excess seems to affect the level of sweetness that your taste buds become accustomed to
  • Sugar is detrimental to so many body processes and functions

When I consume too much sugar in a sitting or in a day, I can quite literally FEEL all these areas of my head lighting up because I try to minimize sugar as much as possible. My joints ache and hurt, making mobility much harder. And the uveitis in my eye begins to flare and it’s really hard to get that down. Whew!

So what do I do? When I do add sugar on purpose, it’s usually honey or maple syrup. I do have treats sometimes – there’s a non-dairy frozen dessert that I like or I may have portions of organic dark chocolate. But pain is a motivator and on my quest to live and feel optimally, then avoiding excessive sugar is a must.

Enjoy your holiday season! I’m just reminding you to be mindful of what you eat. Everything affects your body and wouldn’t it be great to be at your best over the holidays? 🤩 That’s my goal!

Got any recommendations on how to keep the sugar to a minimum during the holidays? I would love to hear your advice!

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Then and Now

About a month into my journey to feel better, I started taking pictures to chronicle my progress as the scale doesn’t always correlate to progress. And I still do it because the body dysmorphia is real! I may not see myself as the size that I started, but I also don’t see my current size the same way others do.

So …the left hand picture is from September 2018. I remember buying that shirt; I loved it! It was a size XXL from JCPenney. The picture on the right is from last week. I am going to a funeral and, as usual, most of my clothes are too big *sigh*. I live by a Gap factory store that has AMAZING prices so I headed there to find something appropriate. The sweater is a small 😱 I haven’t worn a small since 8th grade while running track! The skirt is a size 8, both by banana republic 😱 I don’t ever remember wearing anything below a size 9. I’m always amazed when I see these comparisons.

How it started. How it’s going

And as you can see, I still have a knee sleeve on as my right knee continues to be a challenge. That day, I had gotten steroid shots in both knees so I’m still researching ways to improve joint health and minimize inflammation and arthritis. I plan to start the autoimmune protocol (AIP) in January to continue to reduce inflammation and figure out what triggers I may have.

I’m also focusing on gut health and started a new probiotic that is supposed to be great. With all the research available about the gut and the need for bacterial diversity to support health, I’m hoping that the probiotic, along with continued modifications, will help. And on most days, I aim for 5-6 servings of veggies and 1-2 servings of fruit along with protein; I eat a good deal of fish. All of this is a change from then to now.

Let me know what changes you’ve made and seen in your health. And any tips to reduce inflammation are great appreciated! To your good health…

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Experiencing Cryotherapy

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.

Sooooo I decided to give cryotherapy a try! It’s touted to help decrease inflammation, which I am still trying to work on. So I thought- why not?! I decided to search for locations in a couple of areas and landed on one that has a special if you were visiting for the first time. Great!

Near the entrance

While the location that I visited was small, the staff was super helpful. I used the changing room to switch to shorts and a workout shirt. Then I had to pile on a ton of safety gear so that there’s no frostbite or anything; this includes heavy gloves, extra thick socks, heavy slippers and a covering for my ears. I felt like I was going camping in Alaska!

Then the attendant explained that I would walk into the first chamber for and be there for 20 seconds. He would then buzz for me to enter the freezer where I would be for 3 minutes! I do like that they allowed me to pick my choice of song that would be played inside the chamber to take my mind off the cold 🥶

Just outside the cryo chamber

The first chamber actually was not that bad. But when I had to step into the freezer – 😱 is I’m sure what I looked like. Well not at first. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I tend to get cold really easy. But it wasn’t bone chilling cold, just I’m shivering through these 3 minutes cold! But I made it out 😁

Would I go again? Yes- I want to get tested for my c reactive protein level before I go again and then retest in about six months to monitor the effectiveness of cryotherapy. They also have an option to do localized cryotherapy which I could try on specific parts, like my knee. I think that would be helpful.

So what about you? Have you tried cryotherapy or similar? Let me know what you think and share your story!

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Trying CBD

So I’ve read the info about CBD oil and given my battle with inflammation and sleep challenges, I decided to give it a try because why not 🤷🏽‍♀️ What do I have to lose but inflammation?! And if I sleep better, inflammation naturally decreases.

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 tried more than one brand on my way to choosing the one that I use now. Since I don’t want a potential lawsuit, I’ll not mention the names of the others. The first was from a health food store that I frequent often. It seemed to work but the taste was awful. Just imagine eating weed. That’s how the oil tasted as it was unflavored. I don’t know how anyone could use that long term. So I decided to try flavored CBD oils. One flavored one was from another health food store that I go to alllllll the time. A plus for the flavor but OMG- I stayed sleepy with that brand and always had brain fog. So I kept researching until …

I decided to give One Farm a try. Now, I really didn’t want to try it because I have to order online and I’d rather get something in person, if possible. I learned of the brand through my part time job; I work for a research doctor who had discussed the results of studies and mentioned this product. So I made sure to order a flavored version.

And – this one has a great taste which is a plus for sure. I tend to sleep better when I take a dose along side winding down at night (easier said than done!). I’m not sure where I stand with inflammation levels just yet. I am researching functional doctors so that I can get my C Reactive protein tested and see where I land. My trial period is always 3 months to decide whether I’ll stick with a practice as natural methods tend to take more time to resolve issues.

Just a note – I am not affiliated with One Farm. I do not get any kickbacks from mentioning the product here. They have other products that I’m going to try in the future and will share the results. Have you tried any CBD products? What has been your experience?

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Eating across America – Wellness Wednesdays

One of the hardest parts of changing my eating habits was finding an acceptable place to eat when I travelled, especially for work or vacation as I may go to an area that I’m not as familiar with. So today I’m doing something different than my other posts. Let’s chat about great places to eat that may meet dietary restrictions.

As I mentioned before, I follow a cross between the paleo diet and the AIP protocol, focusing on nutrients like iron, my continued problem child 😃. So I can’t just say- oh let me grab a breakfast sandwich from this chicken place that has wonderful biscuits and chicken! And that can create a problem. I have quite literally sat and started crying because I’m hungry but have no idea of what food is in an area that I won’t have a reaction to later. whew!

So…let’s share recommendations of where we can eat. I’ll start with what have been go to places for me.

  • Whole Foods market. Prior to the pandemic, this was by far the best place for me to go. The hot bar lists what is in the food so it was an easy choice. I went to Whole Foods in: Manchester, NH; Chapel Hill/Raleigh/Durham, NC; Baltimore, MD; Philadelphia, PA; Long Island, NY; Charlotte, NC; Atlanta, GA; Orlando, FL; Louisville, KY; Cincinnati, OH; Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; Huntsville, AL; Nashville, TN; San Antonio, TX; Santa Cruz, CA; Sacramento, CA. Yes, it’s that’s serious!
  • Restoration Cafe in Manchester, NH has great smoothies. I cannot do almond butter and almond milk but this place carried other nut butters and coconut milk.
  • Founding Farmers in the Washington DC area. I love love love this place. The menu is seasonal and always super fresh.
  • Zoe’s kitchen is one of the only chain restaurants that I frequent but the quality isn’t consistent. Some are always great but others aren’t so good.
  • First Watch is probably the only other chain restaurant that I go to and only for very specific items. Quality is always consistent so when I get a quinoa bowl in Franklin, Tennessee, it tastes the same in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  • Green District Salads in Louisville, KY. A relatively newer place with a few locations around the area. You can customize salads or wraps and they’re always tasty and fast.
  • Zameen at the Point in Capitola, CA. This is a small Mediterranean spot that I came across while in the area. It was soooo good and very fresh.

What places do you recommend? If you live outside of the United States, I invite you to share your recommendations as well – have passport, will travel! And if you have enjoyed the wellness Wednesday series, let me know and I’ll keep posting. The series was to be limited to summer so this may be the last post; let me know!

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Turning Off Nerves – Wellness Wednesdays

For the last few months, I have been working with a pain management specialist regarding some areas of osteoarthritis that I still contend with. The area of greatest concern is my neck which seemed impossible to fix, no matter how many physical therapy sessions I go to.

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 have had a hard time with mobility in the neck cervical area. And sometimes it can be worse than others to the point that I have to take Aleve to try to get the area to move more. Is it better than before? Yes, but it is still not great. Then there is the pain that occurs at times, which can lead to a headache. What to do?

My physical therapist in North Carolina recommended that I see a pain management specialist to see what options might be available so that I don’t take meds as often. That can have its own side effects and I don’t want even more issues.

So I worked with a specialist over several months. For insurance purposes, I had to go through a couple of rounds of testing to see how well the procedure might go. And I passed those, which was great. I then did the formal procedure. The procedure numbs the nerves for up to a year with radiowaves. I was given a bit of pain killer to take the edge off the pain. But it still hurt!

And while I’m not 100% (yet!), I have seen some improvement. I started physical therapy again and my physical therapist noticed a difference too even though I hadn’t been in 6 weeks! Has anyone else found a way to better manage arthritis? If so, I invite you to share your experiences. See you next week!

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Anniversary Sunday!

Three years ago, in the latter half of August 2018, I decided to make a real effort with getting healthier. I was tired of being sick and tired all of the time. Nothing was working and it seemed that something new was wrong all of the time. And I knew that I needed to do something in a different way this time.

See I had been to an expert in PCOS while living in Baltimore. And I was told to just take birth control pills until I died, unless I planned on having kids and we could look at other meds then. WTH! 🤯🤦🏽‍♀️ ummm, no I’ll pass. I had been following different docs for awhile and kept hearing about keto and thought – hey why not? Nothing else had worked.

Left – before an interview, Aug 2021. Right – before work, Aug 2018

So I started on keto and did that for 3 months until I literally had no appetite and couldn’t sleep. While I lost weight, keto was much too harsh for me physically. Some do well on it; I just couldn’t continue. I then migrated over to paleo. The weight released slower but it was a much more sustainable way for me, especially due to a heavy travel schedule for work.

And after doing the work, here I am, 3 years later. It’s not all about the number on the scale. Yes I’ve lost 100 pounds which is AMAZING and I’ve kept it off. But I also can sleep more than 4 hours per night. I don’t feel sluggish and sick all the time. Brain fog is gone. My outlook on everything is more optimistic. PCOS is much improved. Are there still challenges? Absolutely, but as I continue to research, read, learn and grow, I hope to find ways to smash those challenges too.

Left – Aug 2021 brunch bday celebration. Right – Apr 2018 work gala (I had very few full length pics that year 😲)

Change is hard. Growth is hard. I get that. But I had to learn that to get where I wanted to go, I had to change and grow. And you know what? You can too! I’m not so special that being healthier is exclusive to me. Just start, today. And that decision to start in August 2018 has led me to where I am today. Until next time, to your health! 💥