Weight Weight … Don’t Tell me … I’m Fat?

Weight Weight … Don’t Tell me … I’m Fat?

Like many people, my relationship with food and body image has always been a complicated one. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t the happiest with my body when it looked lean and was full of big muscles. And while I’ve always aimed to achieve that physique, the truth is, for the majority of my life my body has not looked like that.

I don’t exactly remember when my body image came on my radar, but it was probably around the time I was in elementary school. I remember swimming at the community pool and some girl took a long, disgusted look at my pale, pudgy body and told me to put my shirt back on. After that I remember going home and looking at my body in the mirror and not being happy with what I saw. I’m not sure how much that girl’s comment influenced the new perception I had of my body, but it certainly didn’t help and definitely wasn’t the last time someone’s judgmental remarks about my body affected how I see myself.

After that day at the pool I tried to change what I looked like — I did as many sit-ups and push-ups as I could each day. I even started dying my hair blond as if that would make my body lean and chiseled like Justin Timberlake and the rest of *NSYNC (This was in the 90s). Though, I was never much of a fan I still desperately wanted to look like them.

But this was before I made the correlation between the food I consumed each day and what my body looked like. So when I didn’t lose weight, or even look better, after exercising, My young, naive mind thought something had to be wrong with the mirror I was using. I couldn’t possibly be that so overweight, especially with the baseball and basketball I was playing on top of my calisthenics.

Despite my lack of nutritional awareness, I didn’t eat unhealthy. In fact, I was a vegetarian as early as seven. It didn’t add up to me, but my body was going through prepubescent changes — body growth, hormonal shifts, you know, all the good stuff. So perhaps it was just unavoidable for my body to be chubby at that time in my life. Eventually I leaned out and started building muscle, but now twenty years later, I find myself in a situation even more frustrating than my prepubescent days. It reminds me that my body has undergone substantial transformations over my life and there will be more to come.

My Body

I was a healthy baby…

I was a good looking kid, too…

At 10 years old I was still healthy and looking good, but I started to put on weight (and bleach my hair blond). This is around the time I started becoming unhappy with how my body looked and subsequently questioned the efficacy of my mirror…

My body changed a lot as a teen — I started to go to the gym and add muscle to my physique. I was generally happier with how I looked…

By the time I made it to college I was what the kids these days call “jacked” (Actually, I’m getting older, do the kids still say that?). This is the happiest I’ve ever been with my body…

Then I got sick, grew a beard in honor of The Outlaw Josey Wales (and because I was too weak to shave). I started to lose a lot of weight, though I don’t have any photos that do it justice…

In 2013 I started to feel a little better (enough to shave again), but a lot of the muscle I put on before I got sick in 2010 had already withered away as the illness dominated my body. I didn’t realize it at the time, but four years into the illness I was really starting to get thin (and probably malnourished)…

In 2015 my condition worsened again. This time it hit a new bottom — the worst it’s ever been. I became bedridden and severely malnourished because I couldn’t eat solid food (but I could wear pink tanning goggles, so there’s that)…

In the last couple years, as my health has bounced around, but mostly trended upward, I’ve been able to eat solid food again and consequently put on a substantial amount of weight (Oh, and my hairline receded, but that’s for another blog post)…

Now

Much like looking at myself in the mirror in elementary school, I now find myself frustrated with how my body looks. I know I have all the excuses in the world to put on excess body weight, not that I, or anyone else, need an excuse. I hate how society puts so much pressure on us to look a certain way. I suppose I’m not the best advocate for the change we need around body image, but I do hope it changes. My thoughts and views expressed here are purely about myself, not how I see anyone else. There is absolutely nothing wrong with putting on weight and there is nothing wrong with the way I look. But that doesn’t change the fact that I want to look different and if it were within my control I would.

It’s hard to tell exactly how much weight I’ve put on because I’m too debilitated to stand and step on a scale. And perhaps that’s a sign that I need to worry about more important things than how I look. But when I see myself it’s hard not to focus on how my face is puffy, my stomach is bloated, and generally my body has layers of fat that I’m just not used to having. Right now my body is not a comfortable place to live. A lot of that comes from my illness, but weight gain definitely contributes as well.

The most frustrating part, however, is that I’ve done everything I can think of to try to get back to a body weight that feels comfortable to me. I’ve done juicing. I eat a gluten-free, low carb diet. I’m doing intermittent fasting — I only eat two meals between 6pm and 10pm. Yet I haven’t seen any noticeable improvements in how my body looks or feels.

I realize this may seem like a trivial complaint, especially when you consider the health issues I’ve faced, and that’s true, but it’s still a concern for me and doesn’t change the way I feel. Besides wanting to look and feel better, I also want to have a fairly healthy body weight when I start to walk again or just get into my wheelchair. After all, added body weight is added resistance when you’re trying to walk.

Lots of people have told me that I don’t look fat (I don’t like to use that word), but there’s no denying that my body does have more fat on it and less muscle than it used to. It’s an odd situation for me — I used to love my body. I still love my body. I love the amazing things it can do despite being plagued by illness. I just don’t love the way it looks. But that’s okay with me, at least for now.

In college I was a true narcissist, always obsessed with how good I looked. I was always posing in front of the mirror or for modeling photo shoots; I did bodybuilding competitions, flexing on stage wearing glorified underwear in front of hundreds of people. But things change, bodies change and deteriorate over time. But I guess I thought I had a couple decades before I ran into any issues with my body.

Perhaps that was naive of me, though. I mean I couldn’t have seen the illness aspect coming, but maybe my weight gain is partially a byproduct of inevitable aging — turning 30. Maybe it’s because I don’t burn as many calories as I once did — my metabolism, which is already impaired by MECFS, has surely slowed. But one thing is true, my issues with body weight and body image aren’t new. And while my outlook on body image may not be the most positive, at least I’m self-aware enough to admit that.

I’m also realistic. I know my weight gain is not from overeating or an unhealthy diet. As I said, I only eat two meals a day during a four hour eating window. It’s just not healthy to eat less than that. Take what I ate today — a tempeh patty with salad, then for my second meal — shrimp and green beans. Oh, and I had some cashews. It’s less than 1,500 calories. If my body was in a coma it would burn more calories than that by just keeping my organs functioning. So I guess it’s safe to say that my caloric intake isn’t the issue.

Then what is the issue? Maybe there isn’t an issue at all. But I think there is … I think it’s probably a combination of taking hydrocortisone, the steroid I’ve been on for the last three years, which is synonymous with weight gain. And the fact that I can’t exercise and my metabolism has slowed now that I’m in my 30s is probably in the mix too.

I’m sorry to say there’s no happy ending or even a transcendent epiphany to this post, though I definitely tried to think of one. The cold truth is that my critical view on my body is not going to change anytime soon — as long as I look the way I do I’m going to want to look different. But at the same time I don’t blame myself. I’m not over here beating myself up for something I have done everything in my power to change, something I have little or no control over. And perhaps that’s a good lesson for me — part of life is accepting the things I cannot change. Oh, and avoiding mirrors — sometimes life is all about avoiding those damn mirrors.

BEFORE YOU GO…

1. Thanks for reading!

2. If you would like to donate to support this blog I would be equally grateful!

3. I am fundraising to pay my medical bills so if you’d like to help out by buying a shirt or hoodie I would LOVE to see you rocking some Show ME the Money apparel like my lovely friends here…

Friends with Lyme: Kaylie

Friends with Lyme: Kaylie

I can’t remember the last time I saw Kaylie. We went to school together, so it was probably some time after we graduated from high school in 2007. Consequently, our class recently had its 10-year reunion. I couldn’t go because I have Lyme disease and ME/CFS, which makes it impossible for me to get around my house, let alone travel. But I did catch glimpses of the event on social media.

I’ll admit I was a little bummed not to be there, but at some point in my sullen mood, I realized that I wasn’t the only one missing out. Lots of people skipped the reunion. Kaylie was one of them.

Like me, Kaylie has Lyme disease. She has been finding her way through treatment for the disease, which I’ve been watching on her Instagram stories. This is where she regularly documents her battle with Lyme, as well as shares some amazing recipes from her website. The recipes follow Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), a viable way to reduce inflammation in the body through diet. Of her many recipes, I highly recommend the Almond-less Joys — a delectable combination of coconut and dark chocolate.

In reconnecting on social media, I became curious about Kaylie’s experiences with Lyme. So I thought I’d share some of the questions I asked her about living with the disease and chronic illness in general.

Kaylie had some really introspective responses to my questions. I would have liked to ask follow-up questions, but it’s hard to go back and forth online. That said, Kaylie will likely be reading this post, so please ask any follow-up questions you have in the comments section and hopefully she’ll respond.

Q1: When were you diagnosed with Lyme? What was that process like for you?

For years I always felt like something was off but I could never put my finger on what it was exactly. I was diagnosed with Lyme in the beginning of 2017. I first went to see a Naturopathic doctor in 2016 who was more concerned with my hormones and never really looked into the possibility of infections or Lyme. My symptoms never improved with this doctor and I felt like there was a lot more that needed to be uncovered. After spending about a year with this doctor (and a lot of money), I went searching for someone who would serve me better. I went to see a primary care doctor, a Chinese medicine doctor, an endocrinologist, and finally landed with a functional medicine doctor. With this doctor, I felt like I could finally breathe, like I was in the hands of someone who believed all of my symptoms and understood what was happening to me. I am now in the middle of treatment and my symptoms have begun to improve but I know I still have a long road ahead of me.

Q2: Do you remember any tick bites in your past?

I don’t remember any tick bites or the typical bullseye rash. However, I have found plenty of ticks crawling on me over the years. I’ve always been a very outdoorsy person; hiking and being in the mountains. My guess is that I was bit years ago but didn’t start showing symptoms until my immune system was compromised due to mold exposure, stress, gut issues and childhood trauma.

Q3: From what I remember, you were very active in high school — you ran cross country and always did well in PE. Now I see from your Instagram stories that you’ve been struggling with being less active as you battle chronic illness. How has living with a chronic illness affected your perception of both people struggling with illness and healthy people with boundless energy to exercise and enjoy life to the fullest?

Yes, I have been active my entire life. I played softball, basketball, soccer and ran track and cross country. In college, I turned to weight lifting and fell in love with it. After college I started doing Crossfit and did my fair share of obstacle races and 24 hour running races. I loved being active, it gave me confidence, helped me cope with many different stressful times in my life and really defined who I was. The day came where I couldn’t work out any more because my fatigue was so bad.

My perception has changed since becoming ill. I am a lot more understanding toward those who can’t exercise or do physical activities. Before, I would judge others who weren’t active and think that they were lazy. That is simply not true. I feel compassion for other people who are struggling with chronic illnesses and I understand the pain and loneliness that can come from it. In contrast, I feel envious of those people who have boundless energy, but I feel grateful that I know what that feels like. I have had energy before and I truly believe I will have it again. I have also come to realize that you can’t take movement for granted.

Q4: Do you consider yourself a person with a disability?

No. I don’t think I would ever consider myself a person with a disability. Maybe it’s pride or maybe, if I think that, then I would believe it and if I believe it, then I have accepted defeat by my illness. I am fortunate to still be able to live my life, even though it might not be how I want it to be. I realize that I can do simple everyday tasks and I am thankful for that. I do need to rely on my husband more than I ever have and even thought. I am someone who never likes to ask for help, I have become okay with voicing my need for extra support.

Q5:  Before I got sick I had been in a doctor’s office a handful of times, maybe. Then when I became sick I underwent a tough learning curve. Eight years later, I’m still trying to wrap my head around all the medications and medical theories relating to my illness. Have you experienced any difficulties learning about Lyme and navigating a health care system that gives very little attention to it?

Oh man, it sure has been confusing and there is definitely a learning curve. Just like you, I never went to the doctor. I think I only went to get physicals to be able to play in school sports. I feel like I am a little different than other people when it comes to chronic Lyme and healthcare. I first learned that I had Lyme from my functional medicine doctor, the doctor that I see now. Also my functional medicine doctor is an infectious disease doctor, so that helps a lot. I have never once felt like my symptoms were dismissed or like Lyme wasn’t a real issue. I feel really fortunate because I have heard other people having a lot of issues when it comes to western medicine and Lyme. I truly believe in functional medicine because it treats the patients as a whole being instead of just treating symptoms of disease.

A few things before you go:

1. Thank you for reading! Please check out Kaylie’s website and follow her on Instagram for lots of great AIP recipes and products.

2. I am fundraising to pay my medical bills so if you’d like to help out by buying a shirt or hoodie I would be very grateful!

3. If you would like to donate to support this blog I would be equally grateful!

Five Quick Tips For a Healthy Lunch at Work

For those working a long day, lunch may be the meal that suffers. It may be a problem of improper nutrition, or perhaps even it is the meal that gets skipped regularly. It’s hard to imagine anyone not wanting to enjoy a delicious lunchtime meal. Which leads me to believe it’s not a lack of desire that negatively effects lunch.

Whether you work 20 or 80 hours a week, there is no doubt work takes up a significant amount of your time. Surely you have more pressing things to do than think about what you’re going to eat for lunch tomorrow. All things considered, having lunch on the job can be difficult to maneuver, but with a little foresight and a few minutes of preparation, encouraging changes can be made.

Five Quick Tips for Eating Healthy at The Office

1.    A Little Preparation Goes a Long Way

A few minutes of meal preparation the night before, or the morning prior to work, can be the difference between keeping to a healthy diet, and resorting to a desperation double cheeseburger on a whim. Enjoying a homemade lunch at the office simply requires making your favorite healthy food ahead of time. Simple acts like mixing a quinoa salad, or packing a whole-grain sandwich are much healthier than any fast-food option. What’s more, pairing a complex carbohydrate and lean protein with a healthy and savory dressing can really boost energy levels and self-efficacy for a long workday.

2.    Pack a Snack

Bringing a snack along with your lunch to work is a helpful practice as well. A small portion of food on your daily trek can provide a boost when in need. Something small, yet nutritious, like almonds, or local produce, are perfect bites during a long client meeting, trip out of the office, or bumper-to-bumper traffic.

3.    Preserve Your Food

 

With your food already prepared, it will likely go uneaten for several hours. This is a potential problem – wilted salads and soggy sandwiches are far from enjoyable. Personally, I like to use an ice pack and soft cooler, or the office refrigerator to preserve my food. If you need to heat your food, make sure to utilize the office kitchen if there is one; if not, I advise preparing food that is best enjoyed cold, like a pasta salad.

 

4.    Find a Healthy Grocery Store

In a pinch, instead of running to Burger King, use the same effort to search out a local grocery store with an organic salad bar, or healthy deli. Doing so can be a nutritious lunchtime stop. The amenities of a healthy grocery store usually offer salad varieties, or calorie conscious wraps – far more healthy than any menu item at a fast-food place. Healthy grocery stores also stock food for specialty diets for those who are vegan, lactose intolerant and gluten sensitive. Not to mention, such a trip to the grocery store gets you out of the office. Can’t be mad about that.

5. Find a Healthy Cafe

Healthy and reliable restaurants can be scarce, but like a healthy grocery store, most areas have at least one. With that said, there is a certain amount of trust that should be established with a restaurant (chain or local) before one can give it a healthy stamp.