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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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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!!

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Surprises with the AIP

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.

Capturing how I’m feeling!

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!

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Less Stress – Wellness Wednesdays

Over the last couple of years, I have purposefully been looking for ways to de-stress. I would only take self care seriously when I went on vacation but that’s not enough to sustain a stress free lifestyle. As variety is the spice of life, below are things that I started incorporating more regularly.

Yoga – I have taken one on one yoga classes to learn how to modify various techniques. The breath work in yoga has helped so much. I even did a yoga workout on PBS this morning that is chair based. It also helps with flexibility concerns so it serves as a win-win.

Massage – love love love to get a massage, especially deep tissue massage. That has helped so much with the arthritis symptoms as well as serving as an outlet to destress.

Prayer – some call it quiet time or contemplation time. This is so essential for me to bring stress down. It helps me to keep life in perspective. I tend to get a little hyper or think “what if’s” and this helps temper those.

Meditation – this is the most recent addition for me. I use a meditation app at night to just relax and breathe. And it helps me to fall asleep. Meditation is a great way to lower your blood pressure too.

Exercise – aerobic exercise is your friend. Walking and hiit workouts are such good ways to just get the stress out of my system. I love being able to just forget about what bothered me before the workout.

Beach. Outdoors. Nature – the ultimate stress reliever! Nature is a such a good way to disconnect from stresses, work, pressure. When it’s nice outside, I try to get out almost every day. Reconnecting with the earth keeps you grounded, research shows.

What things have you incorporated to reduce stress? What works well for you? See you next week!

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Meditation – Wellness Wednesdays

Meditation moments

I will admit – I used to think meditating was all about chanting and making some weird noises over and over again. And that it was only for hippies, not this African American city chick. And I was so wrong!

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.

Growing up, I wasn’t into yoga or meditation. I stretched after working out because that’s what the exercise classes did and I stretched for running track. I started trying yoga-esque workouts in my early 30s when I moved to North Carolina the first time. I started because my walking seemed to be uneven and yoga like workouts seemed to really help; this was well before I knew the issue with osteoarthritis. But I still hadn’t really delved into meditation.

I didn’t really begin meditating until some time after the age of 40. I was still going up on sugar so I looked at meditation as a way to bring me back down. I tried a couple of apps on my phone for free trials and thought little of it. It wasn’t until I learned more benefits of meditation and the difference between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems did I begin to make more of an effort.

See, for me, meditation touches on everything that blows up with PCOS – inflammation, irritability, irregular sleep habits, high cortisol, constant fight or flight nervous system, food cravings and anxiety. (I had to take a breath just writing that) These all correlate with the sympathetic nervous system – go, go, go, go. Think of the fight or flight response of a tiger chasing a hunter.

Meditation helps bring all of that down for me, especially being relaxed enough to actually sleep and stay asleep. In that way, I’m able to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system – rest and digest, relaxation and decreased heart rate. (Via Science Direct). And when I am more relaxed, the body can function as it ought to more easily.

I still use a meditation app on my phone, Headspace. I’m still not that person who can meditate for hours on end, or even 30 minutes for that matter! But I do appreciate the time that I take to let the day slip away, relax and prepare the body for sleep. If I feel anxious during the day, I may do a short meditation on breathing to bring the heart rate down. It’s all about balance – high stress response leads to high cortisol which leads to more inflammation which leads to a host of issues for me. So I use meditation as a preventative measure.

If you have tried meditation and seen great results, please share your experience below ⬇️. And if you haven’t tried it, I would recommend giving it a whirl. Until next week …

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Exercise – Wellness Wednesdays

Welcome to Wellness Wednesdays! Today’s focus is exercise. 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.

For most of my life, I’ve tried to incorporate some type of exercise. As a teenager, I ran track for a couple of years. I tried out for field hockey and made the initial cut to do conditioning but that level of running left me exhausted. Looking back, this should have been a stop sign to find out why I was so exhausted. In college, I worked out fairly consistently my freshman year and lost about 25 pounds. But when my course load increased sophomore year, physical activity decreased. After graduating, I worked at an hmo and went to the gym there several times a week but it seemed that I toned more than lost weight. And the saga goes on and on. Frustrating, yes?

Around 2011, I started having issues with my hip and so I chose yoga and stretching to help ease the concerns. And it worked! Another clue but I still hadn’t taken the time to put all of it together. I walked a good deal and did other higher impact aerobics but was just maintaining weight. Then I started following doctors and nutritionists who focused on PCOS. That was a game changer.

Basically, I had been doing a lot of the wrong type of exercises for me. While exercise is wonderful, the body believes there is stress and increases cortisol- your fight or flight hormone. Well with pcos, that hormone is hard to get back down and that increases the storage of fat and inflammation, especially in the gut. So I’ve changed to longer, slower walks and always stretch at the end. I try to do a yoga or Pilates based workout twice a week. Weight training probably once per week. I limit hiit workouts to maybe twice per month. Sometimes I cycle or do the elliptical at the gym, when available. And that’s it! After years and years and years of thinking that the harder I went, the more I would lose 🤯 I don’t have to do that. How amazing to have that revelation! And I have still lost 97 pounds in the process! 🤩

So I encourage you to find the workout that is best for you. Comments, questions? Drop them below and share what works for you. See you next week!