- Strict diet that excludes dairy and simple carbs and emphasizes fiber, protein, and produce
- Stretching, walking… before long I’m adding aerobics, yoga, and hiking to my movement choices
- Lots. Of. Water.
- Journalling to clarify my thoughts and feel my feelings rather than devour and numb them
- Making stuff, from coloring pages to book binding, creativity energizes me and makes life feel full
- Savoring non-food treats like fresh flowers and comfy shoes
I resumed treatment with the Kind Naturopaths several months ago and I just received back some lab work on my blood. It’s not good. I’m nearly diabetic and have ridiculously high cholesterol. Like, one of the categories could not be calculated it was so high. That news, through the lens of my family’s history (Dad losing his fight with heart disease at the age of 44), felt like a death sentence. My mortality jeering in my face, demanding that I respond.
I’ve been struggling with making changes to my eating and physical movement habits for a few years. A one baby-step forward, two giant-steps back kind of struggle. I’m an emotional eater who comforts herself with food and lounging on the couch or buried under my covers in bed. And while I’m getting better at feeling my feels it’s not happening quickly enough for my physical health.
I expect that lots of American women are in this place. Life is hard and I don’t imagine that I’m so unique. But the numbers tell me that I’d better get unique when it comes to making big changes for my whole health, my whole life. My son’s life with his mother.
It’s a lot terrifying and a little bit exciting to take this on like a challenge. My body wants me to win. It’s giving me information that says, “Tend me and here’s how...” I’ve collected enough data to form a response. It will be a creative, mixed media type of piece applying body, mind, and heart.
Here are some of the ways that I’m working with my whole life to heal my body:
That’s where I’m at today. There are more good things to add to this list but I need to be gentle and realistic. A long list feels overwhelming and exhausting to me right now. The list is part of remembering myself, putting myself back together, with the good stuff that’s nurtured and engaged me in the past.
In this way, my blood is reminding me who I am and how I want to live. It’s a good message via a hard medium. And it’s got my full attention.
I've been so good for so many weeks. Alas, I fell into a 18-hour binge:
What triggered it? Mad cravings.
Maybe it was smoking less. Maybe it was the Family Law Orientation class. Maybe it was the heatwave we're in the midst of. Maybe it was being "in control" all these weeks, doing the right thing by my diet. Maybe it's just an old habit rearing it's ugly head - reminding me that it's still here, still in me. That I'm still falling back on my addictions to get me through.
Well, I'm back on track this evening. Drinking lots of water and packing a salad to enjoy at my friend's house tonight.
I'm wondering about the relationship between starting a good new habit and managing my stress. It's not enough, apparently, to abide by the Kind Naturopath's diet, even when I have good results (more energy, clear mind, weight loss). I also need to choose and practice alternative ways to manage my stressors - my ex, the FLO class, my boss, the heatwave - or else the new good habit turns into one more demand on me. I don't have a good answer yet, and I need one.
I should have taken a photo! But then you'd know exactly how much I weigh, which is 12 (TWELVE!) pounds less than I was a month ago but still more than I prefer to be. All that to say that I went back to the Kind Naturopaths this morning for a follow-up appointment.
Here's what I loved about today's appointment. I went in looking for next steps, having successfully adapted to the prescribed diet. I was (for no good reason) anticipating strict instructions to quit smoking and start exercising with vigor. But that's not what I got. Instead, I was met with gentleness, patience, and general kindness from the doctor. Through her treatment and conversation with me, she provided a good example of how I can treat my own body.
To my smoking she said, "Not worried about it. When you're ready to quit, you'll quit." To my minimal exercise she said, "Don't stress about it. Keep walking and when you're ready add another walk or go a little further." Her whole approach was to keep the stress down and the success up. Each little step was praised and encouraged. Talking to a therapist? Applauded! Connected with a community? Right on!
We're not shredding my body to be a bikini model on some urgent, immediate schedule. We're building sustainable changes for a healthy, happy, stress-managed life. So we're not going to make the things that are good for me into new stressors.
Her last question of the appointment was the hardest for me to answer. "What are you doing for self care?" Blank stare. "What are you doing for you?" I wracked my brain. But there are several things I'm doing for me: the healthy diet, walking, book club, Ritual, and visiting with friends.
What are you doing for self care?
The Kind Naturopaths prescribed me some herbal and vitamin supplements to help support my adrenal glands, help me recover from depression, and provide a little energy boost. I take all of them in the morning with food, and have the option of taking additional Adrenal Support and Active B-Complex in the afternoon when I feel a dip in my energy.
I started taking them this morning and I do feel a little extra charge of energy and clarity. I'd love it if that became the norm. But I really have no idea, today, what the new normal will be. I'll keep you posted!
Last week, the Kind Naturopaths prescribed some herbal and vitamin supplements as well as a new way for me to eat - Leptin Food Lists. It's a diet of primarily protein and produce, excluding starchy vegetables, grains, and legumes. I did a big grocery shopping for the week on Saturday with my new lists and have started in on the cooking. Roasted and steamed vegetables, baked fish and mini-frittatas, and chopped salad fixings and mixed nuts and tossed each into Mason jars.
It's all beautiful. Good for me. And time consuming! What the heck! It's not obvious to me how I'm going to keep this up on the usual 2-day weekend as well as rest, catch up with friends, parent, and do other chores. Good self-care is not self-indulgent. It's another kind of work, like tending a garden, or a baby, but yourself.
Curious about the Leptin Food Lists? Check them out here.
I went back to the Kind Naturopaths this morning with my Food/Feelings Diary. After reviewing it, they reasserted that my adrenals are in fatigue. This makes sense to me because it's not the first time I've heard it. When Little N was a newborn, Miss A sent her Medical Intuitive/Naturopath to visit me. In the course of our visit she discerned that my hormones were out of whack (duh, postpartum) and that my adrenals were struggling. I took this information to my GP who blew it off saying that I wouldn't have been able to carry a baby to term if there were issues with my adrenals. I yielded to the GP's assessment and went back to work, struggling, but making it.
It's now six years later, years of pushing myself through my job, postpartum and major depression, and ultimately this divorce, to hear the same diagnosis. Adrenal Fatigue.
The adrenals are two important little glands that sit just above the kidneys. The image below illustrates the many things that stress the adrenals. Most of these stressors are a regular part of my life, reinforcing my perception that the Kind Naturopaths are correct and that heeding their guidelines for healing will work for me.
The next steps include: an overhaul of my diet - supported by a list of good foods as well as recipes for using a crock pot (to make cooking more convenient), herbal supplements to support my adrenals, and methylated B vitamins. Besides helping me to lose the extra weight I'm carrying, this healing plan should also support me in recovering from depression.
I go back to the Kind Naturopaths in about a month to check in on how the plan is working, where I'm seeing success, as well as any challenges I'm wrangling.
I feel something like hope and relief. Like maybe my adrenals have been calling for attention all this time and we're finally getting to them. Like I have the direction and the team to truly help me heal and feel better in my body. The work is yet to be done, changing my eating is going to be a big challenge, but it's pretty amazing how having support (Kind Naturopaths, Beloved Therapist, Miss A) for this specific work of healing changes my perspective on that work. What once felt too big and impossible, now seems like a task I can start on (baby steps count!).
The naturopaths gave me a homework assignment at my last appointment. For 2 weeks, I'm keeping a log of what I eat and how I feel. It's become a useful exercise for me in learning to feel my feelings and start to understand why I eat what I eat when I eat it, as well as my "reasons" for smoking.
Here are some of my observations, so far:
But the exercise has done more than just help me realize some fairly typical dieting tips. In the act of jotting down how I feel, I've let my symptoms catch up to me a little bit and tell me something about how I'm living. Even if I still skip breakfast, or dive in the candy jar, or reach for a cigarette, I'm noticing when and why these things happen. That noticing provides information that I'm otherwise masking and blasting past in the course of my average, "survivalist", day.
Last year at about this time I compiled a list titled "self care for major depression" on my blog. Seems like I've known what's good for me all along…. Here's where I'm at this year:
I don't imagine a utopian lifestyle for myself where I can nap whenever I'm tired and cry whenever I'm sad (like, not at work). But I do think that the noticing calls me back in touch with my body and emotions so that I can treat myself well as much as possible.
Yesterday was my New Patient appt at the naturopath's office. They were supposed to draw my blood but couldn't because I was (am?) dehydrated. I knew I was thirsty and my lips were chapped and my skin was itchy but dehydrated? To the point where they can't siphon a drop of blood out of my (apparently) teeny tiny veins? Well, huh.
So instead we talked. A lot. About me. It was similar to therapy but with a little more prompting from the care professionals. I got both naturopaths for this appointment and it was fun and funny to watch their interaction. One with a sheet of paper and pen, the other tapping away on her laptop as I answered their questions about every ding dang thing my body does. Then they'd chime in with what they thought the symptom meant. "Adrenals" "Yup, her adrenals are spent" back and forth they'd ping pong the questions, interpretations, and information. I watched the volley - or was I the ball? - and tried to follow along to what it all meant.
It meant that things like waking up at 3 in the morning every night for months has to do with my liver, my grief, and my anger. It meant that diving into the candy jar every day at 3 in the afternoon for months has to do with cortisol, adrenals and stress. It meant that preparing to run from a tiger packs pounds on a 21st century woman's body, when that tiger is figurative and the running never ceases.
It meant that symptoms, which my very kind, very informative GP never thought to ask for and so I never thought to mention got seen and heard in the light of day. Symptoms that mean something about my health and happiness. Symptoms that point to challenges in my body, mind, heart, and the way I live.
It meant that I've paused, a little, and let these symptoms catch up to me (my figurative tiger? or maybe just his growl and threat) so I actually feel kind of crummy right now. Low energy. Emotional. Sensitive. But I think that's ok, because it also meant that I've found my safe cave where the tiger can't really hurt me. It's still prowling about outside. I hear it. I wonder about it. But with these kind women naturopaths I have hope of letting the tiger go on its way and living a fuller life free of him.
On Monday morning I had an appointment with a nutritionist at a local hospital. It was… underwhelming. We discussed my emotional eating and he gave me some handouts about what/how much to eat. He suggested a number of calories to help me lose weight. But that was about it. No plan, no support, no follow up appointments unless I requested it. It wasn't until I left the appointment that I recognized what I was hoping for. I want something creative, specific to my life, and with ongoing support as I make this endeavor. With this at the front of my mind I went into my free consult with a naturopath on Thursday morning.
Equipped with this clearer sense of what I need and want, I made the most of a 15 minute conversation with one of the naturopaths at Rain City Integrative Clinic. We dove right into my desire for ideas and on-going support for weight loss, nutritional support for recovering from depression, dealing with stress, and a family history of heart disease. Dr. Viriginia was energetic, personable, informative. She made it clear that this process will start with information about me - my bloodwork, my lifestyle, and my preferences. (We even managed to talk about Little N and the support that a naturopathic approach could offer to his needs with Autism.)
In addition to Dr. Viriginia's approach to me, I really appreciated her approach to her work in general. She's decidedly non-judgey and works with a folks in a number of Seattle subcultures, like the "geeks and gamers" and the polyamorous folks. Besides being open to the different ways that people live and express themselves, she's also supportive in her approach to weight loss - caring less about the number on the scale or your body composition (though that does play a part) and more about how you fit in your clothes, your energy level, and your emotions.
My next step is a new patient appointment next Thursday, with Dr. Chrys. I'll have to fast for some fresh bloodwork and then we'll do a thorough history. Then, I expect there will be a food diary tracking what I eat and how I feel, both in terms of physical energy and emotionally. So far I'm excited about this really personalized, supportive approach to my health and healing.
I'm also, gradually, re-reading Christiane Northrup's Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, one of my "Bibles" from younger years. In it, Northrup asserts a union (or in my current case a reunion) of body, mind, and heart. She also addresses the medical model of health, such that the body is a location of disease to be battled and cured at any cost. The alternative view includes seeing the body as a place of health and messages about how we live, believe, engage with our lives, and live each day. I don't mean to suggest that there isn't also room for Western medicine, but that how we approach the body matters. (I'll write more about the book as I make my way through it again.)
This distinction makes sense to me as I approach my own health and healing today. I rejected the one-diet-fits-all from the nutritionist. It was blind to my current lifestyle, emotional health, and particular physiology. The naturopath seems to take these aspects into consideration and value the different roles these factors play in my health. My weight isn't something we aim a standard diet at and hope it obliterates the problem. My weight is part of a whole life, a whole person. It carries messages about how I'm living. Working with the naturopath, alongside the Beloved Therapist, I am optimistic that I can make whole life, whole body, changes. These changes will include diet and exercise, as well as listening to my emotions and why I eat what I eat when I eat it, how I feel when I move my body, the influence of my relationships and my work on my eating and so forth.
My health, my life, is multifaceted. Seeking to address my weight brings other angles into view as well. So I'm not just signing up for diet, I'm engaging as much of myself as I can to establish better health in multiple areas of my life. Bringing a naturopath onto my healthy-me-team is another exciting baby step.
Out of the Attic
This blog started in 2006
on Blogger as
Out of the Attic.
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