Sometimes, I don’t feel as energetic or as pain free as I’d like to be now, even after being diagnosed with Ankylosing spondylitis. Then I remember where I was just one year ago! I am so thankful for the improvements and positive changes that I’ve had over that time.
I started recording my walking and workouts on the app Map My Walk in June 2018. How do I know this??? LOL I looked it up yesterday because I went walking at one of my favorite local places. And it was FAST; well fast for me. I looked at the app to check whether I had ever recorded a mile pace that fast.
And NO I had not! 🤩
Yesterday’s pace was a 23 minute mile. I was listening to music and imagine my surprise when the music diminished and the voice of the app stated the one mile mark with the pace time! I even went back and checked last year’s workouts when I was struggling just to get out of bed. I didn’t have the exact date but I did have a couple of times listed for February and both one mile pace times were over an hour!
AND, I was still walking with the cane then!!! 😧
I am so thankful and grateful for the opportunity to pursue better health and to actually feel better. Days like this are a wonderful reminder of progress. And thank you for rocking with me throughout this journey!
I’ve not had a chance to write as much this semester because I’m taking two classes, working part time and volunteering to plan for a virtual college fair. Whew! I was able to take a nutrition course this semester and it has been so so good!
Nutrition is foundational to EVERYTHING. And sadly, our system here in the US does not support proper nutrition to all. Food access is a huge issue, food insecurity is real and food swamps are a thing. Food swamps are areas that are flooded with fast food chains and quick marts. There is nothing wrong with these places but they are not replacements for real grocery stores and fresh food markets.
But I digress … I had to write a paper on the myth that organic is more nutritious than conventional, and with a few minor exceptions, it’s not. And did you know that seafood is not regulated as organic in the US? 🤯 If you see any seafood labeled organic, it’s typically based on the label from another country. Organic produce does limit what type of pesticides might be used but that doesn’t generally affect whether the food is more nutrient dense.
And I had to compare an online newspaper article with the study that the journalist pulled from. And there was sooooooo much information missing from the newspaper article so reading the original writing is recommended, if you have access to it. The study detailed the various chronic diseases that are associated with drinking both diet and regular soft drinks. But the newspaper article left out much of the details. And I get it- I was a journalism major and you only get so much space to write an article. But it can be a disservice to those reading it.
As I always say, take control of your own health. Definitely do the research and work with your health care practitioner. There are so many ways to improve your health, maintain the health you have or even work to put health conditions in some form of remission just by addressing nutritional deficiencies.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!!
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 been on AIP (the autoimmune protocol) since January 1 and while there have been challenges, it has not been as dramatic of a change as I thought it might be. I had a win Friday! 🙌🏽
I manage osteoarthritis and get steroid shots in both knees a couple of times per year. In not planning as well as I needed to on Tuesday, I had to grab a protein bar to eat something while prepping for a lunch time meeting. Keep in mind, I had that same protein bar before AIP and thought that it did not affect me. But, later that night, I felt a twinge of pain in both knees and my ankles were much stiffer. I knew it was the bar! 🤦🏽♀️
So I readjusted and made a puréed vegetable soup to really focus on nutrients. And when I got up Friday morning, no more ankle stiffness or pain twinges. That was a great learning experience and it shows how far I have come. Before, when eating foods that arthritis doesn’t like, I’d be in a ton of pain in less than 2 hours! Like barely walking with the cane type of pain.
And then today … I did part of a yoga workout on the ball and could bend and lift knees, though not as high as instructor! 🧘🏽♀️I have not been able to get the right leg to bend and lift for months doing the exercise!How amazing is that! That’s combined with doing a short 1000 step walk beforehand without my knee sleeve!!! 🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽
This is such an unheard of breakthrough for me. I’ve read so many testimonials from people who have had such amazing health wins once they started AIP but those are generally from people who have autoimmune diseases. And technically, I don’t. Osteoarthritis is not and while PCOS is akin to autoimmune disease with a published paper making the argument that it should be, it’s not either. But I thought hey, what could it hurt to try and focusing on nutrient density is always important.
I will continue to document this journey, including reintroductions to find out what works for me and what doesn’t. If you don’t know a lot about AIP, I would definitely recommend finding out more, even just to dive deeper into better health. And if you know someone who has an autoimmune condition and think they could benefit, share this post with them!
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.
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…
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.
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.
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! 💥