Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Always look on the bright side...

First off, the good news. Great news, really. We got a puppy, and she is the best ever.
Look at that FACE! Look at it. I just want to kiss her at all times.

So tiny. So cute.

Nick chose the name Kiwi because she's brown and fuzzy, like a kiwi (bird and fruit). I love the name, and she seems to respond to it too. She's a 10 week old rat terrier/something mix. Her mom was a terrier, and her dad clearly was not. Her brothers and sisters (she was one of 7 in her litter!!) look totally different from her. She was the last puppy of the litter to be adopted, and I have no idea why. She's sweet, if a little hard-headed, and so playful. After a rough first couple of days (puppies have to pee a lot. go figure), she is just a bundle of fun and energy and she make us so, so happy. It is a lifestyle change to suddenly be responsible for another little living creature. I like it.

Now for the not so good news? This whole "gain weight and be more slug-like" thing? It's not going well for me. In fact, it's a source of constant discomfort and stress. My mom asked me the other if my moods have been worse since I haven't been running, because she heard a story on the radio about a guy who ran to relieve his anxiety. She said it like it was a new thing! I thought that was funny because for years, running has very obviously been my stress-reliever/anti-anxiety tool of choice. So yes, my moods have been overall much worse than normal. I'm crying more, handling stress poorly, and generally just... sad. That is completely independent of the weight gain. I am doing ok, I think, but just worse than before. It doesn't help that the state of my hormones is weighing on my mind, plus work has been particularly stressful lately too. Ugh. On the plus side, the puppy lifts my mood. 

And how about that weight? Yeah... I haven't weighed myself lately, but I know that it's gone up. I feel puffy and uncomfortable. My clothes aren't fitting well. One of the women on the forums said to buy pants that are specifically your "conception pants" and to look at it through a positive lens, but I am having trouble. I just feel gross and unhappy. I feel guilty after almost every meal. Dessert doesn't feel fun, it feels like punishment and try as I might, I cannot stop thinking about calories in every. single. bite. I keep telling myself I'm making a positive change, but I honestly am not comfortable with it yet. I don't know if/when I will be. I really am trying to look at the big picture, but the day-by-day choices and feelings are hard. Feeling my pants cut into me all day or my upper arms chafe from new body fat is unpleasant. I can't sugarcoat and be all "LOL being chubby is the best!" because I don't feel that way. 

That's enough negativity for today. I'll come back when I have more puppy pictures.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How to plan a party for 1000 people and not lose your mind

Disclaimer: I am currently writing this in a haze of "the party just happened and I can finally breathe," so I might be overly optimistic about this.

Disclaimer 2: Just because I'm recommending these things doesn't mean I actually did them.

My workplace has an annual party, held in mid-January, that is our Big Yearly Event. Over half the site employees attend. With their spouses added in, the total attendees comes in around 1000. This is the big party of the year. None of the other celebrations come close, and lots of people look forward to it. No pressure, just plan this event that everyone will talk about and critique for the next year!

I have a team helping me plan, but because I'm a ridiculous control freak, I kind of took over planning this year. My team helped out when I asked them to, but I did quite a bit of the work myself. Here are my tips.

1) Be prepared for the questions. I'd send an email with a link to the FAQ document, and immediately be asked 10 or 12 questions that were in the FAQ. They're Frequently Asked Questions because everyone has them... and most people don't click links to find answers. They'd much rather talk to a person. So just roll with it.

2) Dates mean nothing. Oh the registration deadline was last Friday? That's cute, I'll be coming, and bringing a guest. What do you mean hotel rooms are sold out? The party isn't for 10 days, that doesn't make any sense! Where will I sleep!?

3) Rely on the hotel/other location event planner. They're professionals! They know what they're doing. When our band was asking me questions about the location and electrical requirements, I freaked out a little. Unnecessary, let the guy who runs the place answer those questions. When I started feeling like I was running around looking for answers that weren't within my range of expertise, I tried to relax and figure out who would be better qualified to get those answers.

4) Lots of people will back out, but lots of people will register last minute, too (see #2). Plan accordingly.

5) Be prepared for complaints. Whenever something, anything, is presented to 900 people, you'll get 900 different viewpoints on it. Everyone can't be satisfied, and that's ok. It's not personal, even when it feels like it.

6) Take the criticism.  I screwed up majorly and sent an invitation email to a group that was never supposed to receive it. These folks thought they were invited and I started getting questions and quickly realized it was not a good move on my part. Oops. Don't try and backpedal, just deal with the fallout. Can't unsend it, so go with it and do damage control.

7) Take the praise. This is a hard thing for me. I tend to take compliments and volley them back. My favorite saying is "Thank you, but.." followed by something about how I could have done better. I tried to stop that this year and just take compliments. Why yes, I am doing an amazing job, thanks for noticing.

8) Let it go. I said my team didn't help me much at the top, but when there was something they could do, I tried my best to give up control of the activity and just let it happen. If it does not matter what the table decorations look like, someone else can surely do them. And that means I can sleep instead of making table decorations.

9) Enjoy the damn party. Everything is basically done by the night of the event. Then, people just have to show up, eat, and enjoy themselves. Sit, breathe, dance, EAT, and bask in the glory of what you've done. Yes, the table decorations were in fact terrible, but only my mom noticed that.

10) Look amazing. You'll be on stage. People will be coming by to thank you all the time. Put on some lipstick and Spanx (or sneakers and a fauxhawk, whatever makes you feel fabulous and happy). 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Eat more, move less Part 2.1: move less!

Off the top of my head, I can tell you how many miles I've run in 2014. Zero. I can tell you how many I plan on running in January. Also zero. And February? Almost definitely zero.

Part of my HA recovery is running less. By less, I mean not at all. Why? (once again, I'll disclaimer by saying I am not a doctor, and many other women have written extensively and articulately about HA. Read them too) Because running stresses your body out. No two ways about it. Now, tons of women can run and have their bodies function totally normally, but I am not one of them. At least not now. When you run, particularly long distances and/or at a high intensity, your body sees this as stress and wonders if you're trying to run from something. As I said before, your body doesn't want to put energy into procreating if it's not sure the environment is safe.

I resisted making this change. Everyone else can do it! Famous marathoners run a ton and have a baby while never missing a beat. There are women regularly running 2 or 3 times what my PEAK, only happens 2 weeks a year mileage is. I justified my running in every way possible. Even when the reproductive endocrinologist recommended it to me, I pushed back. When I first saw him it was just before the NCR marathon, and I definitely wasn't going to stop just before my goal race. So I tapered, ran that race, then picked back up. I justified doing this by only running moderate paced runs, never longer than an hour. I never ran more than 4 days a week. That's hardly anything! I thought I was treating my body well. 

It wasn't enough. After reading these super duper helpful forums (Seriously, if you think you might have HA, get a snack, put on some comfy pants, and dig into those forums) that said that anything more than just walking and yoga is no bueno. So now I'm walking. Yeah.... not my favorite form of exercise. But I'm trying to see it positively.

Reason for running #1: gives me an excuse to take a 20 minute long, hot evening shower.
Satisfied by walking?: Yes!

Reason for running #2: provides quality time on the treadmill while watching trashy chick TV? (PS "Don't Trust the B**** in Apartment 23" on Netflix is the BEST THING EVER)
Satisfied by walking?: Oh yes.

Reason for running #3: gives me an hour of veg out time to decompress and process thoughts?
Satisfied by walking?: Definitely

Reason for running #4: allows me to use all my pricey running gear instead of letting it gather dust?
Satisfied by walking?: yes (I actually wore my Garmin 620 indoors a couple times, just so I could say I used it. It felt like overkill so it's been retired for now...) It is also overkill to put on my high impact bra of steel when I'm going for a leisurely stroll, but sports bras are comfy, so you can't stop me. 

Have I wanted to go run? Hell yes. I miss sweating. I miss feeling strong and pushing through the last few minutes of a run or one more interval. I miss good runs, and bad runs, and everything in between. But I can't right now because I want to be able to get pregnant far more than I want to run. I would love to say I'm 100% at peace with this, but I am not. Removing running while I'm trying to be ok with gaining weight and eating more means that running, which had been my healthy outlet for feelings and stress, is off limits. And let me tell you, eating and gaining weight is causing me feelings. Bad feelings. And stress.

I remind myself that this isn't supposed to be easy. I've made running my "thing" for the past several years. It's a big part of my identity. Not only that, I'm an exercise addict (I am not using that term lightly). And breaking an addiction is uncomfortable... hence why I still feel guilt for not running. I actually thought about upping my walking "mileage" because it doesn't feel like I'm doing enough. I'm not ok.

Although I'm not at peace, I just remind myself what the end goal is. That's what keeps me happy during these difficult times, and that's what will get me through to the other side. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Eat less, move more Part 1.2: eat more!

Subtitle: Overcoming hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA) by eating more chips.
Subtitle 2: Was it worth it?

I previously talked about my Hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA) diagnosis, and my weird eating habits in my early 20's. Now let's talk about my current state. I am not a doctor, so take this all with a grain of salt.

When we last talked, I was explaining how I screwed up my hormones by restricting my food intake for the majority of my 20's (I'm 28 now). When I learned that I likely have HA, and that it is likely caused by my food and exercise habits, you'd assume a normal person would do everything in her power to fix the situation. Just eat more! Ta-da!

Take a moment and think about how tiny this turtle is. Look at your fingertips, then at the turtle's relative size. Maybe think about your place in the universe for a minute. Then thank me for giving you this bit of introspection in your day. KIDDING. Sorta.. I mean, he is REALLY small. 

But... I'm a decent sized person. I'm not willowy. I'm tall, and this calculator says that my basal metabolic rate is about 1400 cal/day (let's just all agree that when I'm talking about food, the "k" in front of calories is implied? I feel like a jackass when I type "kcal") and on a normal day with some amount of activity I need much closer to 2000 cal/day. Well, for a long while I was using MyFitnessPal, which estimated that for my "sedentary" lifestyle, I needed less than 1800 calories a day to maintain my weight. According to the more sophisticated calculator I linked to, 1800 would maintain... assuming I did absolutely nothing else with my body all day aside from walk to and from my car at work. And that's not realistic, even if I don't work out. So my first step in my journey to eat more was to ditch MyFitnessPal. I can say that despite really, really wanting to, I haven't tracked calories in an app since December 20.

Sounds like a win, right? Except that I eat most of the same things all the time, and I know that my normal breakfast is around 3XX calories and if I have soup and veggies for lunch it's 4XX calories, plus afternoon peanuts are... you get the idea. My brain has enough info in it to act as MyFitnessPal. I'm proud and also disgusted. Part of the whole "stop restricting" thing requires that I stop counting what I'm eating constantly checking if it surpasses some limit I've set for myself in my head. Easier said than done.

So, I  tried to stop counting. And it worked! I no longer have a running sum of what I've eaten for the day in my head. But, and this is a big but (ha), that doesn't mean my hunger and fullness signals are accurate just yet. That's what I was talking about in my last post... I have tried for years to stifle normal hunger feelings. I have taught myself that being hungry is good. When I wake up hungry, I am proud of myself for not overeating the night before. In the past, when I've tried to be normal about eating when I'm hungry, or what I think normal is, I've gained weight and that was scary to me. I now know that was my body desperately clinging to calories in order to keep up normal processes.

A part of this whole thing has been to just eat. Eat eat eat. Eat snacks, eat dessert, eat a big lunch, eat. Stop feeling guilty about food. Just eat, damnit. When I did my elimination diet last February, I did actually think about not using allergies as an excuse to be even weirder about food, but that's exactly what I've been doing. The thing is, I legitimately feel a thousand times better when I avoid gluten, dairy and soy! Unfortunately, that also gives me a safe hole to hide in at group functions and parties. It's too easy to go into my "I can't eat that" mode and just eat tons of veggies and hummus and feel self-righteous in my hunger. I've tried just eating what looks good at parties, and then I get a stomach ache, and I feel bad about my food choices in addition to feeling physically bad. I don't have the social eating issue solved yet.

I really wish this was easy, but my head is so screwy that is's not. Nor is it fun. I'm forcing myself to do something that normal people just DO, and it's making me incredibly uncomfortable. Also, not to be all, "I blame the media!" but there is seriously an overwhelming about of stuff out there, constantly, about weight loss and how not to gain weight and how to be "slim" by Valentine's Day or Memorial Day or whatever. It's hard to look at all that and say, nope, I'll be over here, eating eating eating away. And all the little "diet tips!" that are everywhere, like how you should just drink water before meals, or eat a big salad before your main course, or whatever, THOSE are a part of my being at this point. I have seen them and lived by them for years, and now I'm trying to ignore it, yet seeing so much on facebook and blogs and magazines and.... ugh.
I'm posting this only because I hate it. I hate the term "drama queen" and I hate the prissiness of this graphic. Hate hate hate.

The thing is, despite all my whining, having something to work toward, having a reason for all this eating, is the most important thing for me. I want to restore my fertility and not challenge my bone strength. I want to be functional enough to have a child someday. That is the end goal, and keeping that goal in sight is the only thing that makes this manageable. Fat days and bigger jeans are worth it. The random guy at work asking me if I was pregnant is worth it (KIDDING. that will never be ok. dude just sucks.). This is all worth it.

Too bad it's so hard to get to that point.

Next, I'll talk about how the complete lack of running in my life is making me grouchy. Even grouchier than normal. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Eat less, move more Part 1.1: eat more!

Subtitle: Teenagers shouldn't be allowed to make their own decisions.
Subtitle: My blog is about to become real.
Nerd joke. Also I'm 100% sure I've used this joke/jpeg before, but I'm too lazy to check.

I wrote about my HA diagnosis here. I don't plan on writing about every step of our fertility journey on here because although I have about 3 readers, it's still too personal to share with the world. I will however write about this journey as it relates to healthy living and how I got where I am now. 

My mission: to eat more. It sounds so easy. I would think most people would think it sounds fun (me!). However, that has not been the case. This is part 1 of my weird eating story, where I go over how I got here.

Since 2009ish, I have been in a perpetual state of either wanting to lose weight, or struggling to maintain. Every time I thought I was in a good place, I'd relax a little about my eating, gain some weight, and then freak out and cut back again. And when I say cut back, I mean restrict my calories.

Let's go back in my past. Way back. To when I was a chubby kid, a chunky teen, and an overweight adult. In high school, I knew I could just eat less and exercise more and I'd fit in with my gangly peers, but I never had enough self-control. If I was hungry, I ate. If something looked good, I would eat it. My parents made sure my brother and I ate lots of fruits and veggies, but we also always had dessert in the house. I was pretty active during school, doing marching band, cross country (to get skinny), and swimming (for fun.. and to get skinny), so I didn't ever get terribly overweight until after high school.

In college I started to think seriously about weight loss and that's when I began rejiggering my hunger signals. If I was hungry, I'd stuff myself with "good" things in an effort to stop the hungry feeling. Sometimes it stopped there, and I felt triumphant. I had conquered food! If I still was hungry (I wasn't, but I thought since I'd been "good," I could still eat more), I'd eat ice cream or pasta or cookies until I was overly full and ridiculously uncomfortable. I don't know if I ever was a true binge eater, but I would easily polish off a pint of Ben & Jerry's by myself 3 or 4 times a week. I only lost a little weight this way (<10 lbs), gained it all back and then some, and started to feel out of control. To regain control, I went vegetarian part of the way through college, and I used it as a way to eat an unlimited amount of things that were "allowed." This also let me opt out of eating in social situations (I can't eat that, I'm a vegetarian!), because eating in front of people was too much stress for me to handle- am I eating too much? Too little? Am I normal? She's skinny, how much is she eating? I got weirder, but my weight just went up because I was still eating way too much of stuff I deemed ok, then cutting way back, then overeating, then.... I was engaged, and my husband-to-be noticed I was weird and tried to help as I gained weight while obsessing about what I was eating. But he couldn't change anything because I was deep in my hole of restriction/overeating.

And then we split up, and suddenly I was unemployed, living alone for the very first time, and on a limited income. This was the perfect storm for me. This is where I, at the time, thought I won the food battle once and for all. I had much less expendable income, so I cut back on buying food (win!). I had a routine of cheap things I thought were ok to eat, and I ate only those things (win!). I lost 40 lbs in less than a year, and picked up running. I ran for an hour, every day (win!). I had tons of free time, so I spent it watching tv and marching in place to burn calories (win!). This all sounds terribly unhealthy and utterly ridiculous, and it was. I can see that in retrospect. I learned to go to bed hungry, to ignore hunger pains and to drink water to feel full. I was still probably eating over 1000 calories a day, and I lost my weight at a reasonable pace, but I was in a bad place, mentally. The thing is, this was the first time in my life I was happy with how I looked. I was losing weight and people were noticing. I was getting positive attention from guys I had always thought were out of my league. Suddenly, I felt pretty.That just reinforced my thoughts that what I was doing was working. I had everything under control.. except when I bought pita chips. Or ice cream. Or cheese. Or the million other things I couldn't control myself around because I was constantly hungry. I still overate, but "made up for it" by restricting afterwards.

Somehow, I maintained that 40+ lb weight loss since 2009 by being obsessed with food and exercise. I can't sugar-coat it. This is probably a big contributor to my HA, because being in a semi-constant state of caloric deprivation makes your body try and conserve energy by not ovulating.

Standyby for part 2, where I talk about where I am now, in early 2014, and why I'm still struggling, even though the stakes (fertility, bone health) are so much higher now. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Why I'm not running right now.

I'm taking a deep breath and just putting this out onto the Internet. I have hesitated doing this for 7 months now, but since running is involved, and since my legions of readers (ha! hi Dad!) might notice something is up, I am going to start talking about this. It's really personal, but whatever. I need to talk.

In June, Nick and I decided we want to start getting ready to have a baby. I stopped taking the pill, and waited to get the ball rolling, so to speak. Well, the ball didn't roll. I saw my doctor, and she said my body was just adjusting, give it time. Fast forward 3 more months, and I still hadn't... "adjusted" (I'm trying to be non-TMI about the most TMI thing ever). I saw my doctor again, got a prescription that would hopefully kick start my body, and it didn't work. That brings us to October. I, of course, had spent many minutes of my life asking Dr. Google what was wrong before coming up with a likely diagnosis. I found out about hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA), which is a hormonal disorder where my pituitary, hypothalamus, and ovaries aren't talking to one another properly.

I said this has something to do with running, and it does. HA is related to exercise, body weight (specifically losing weight quickly), and stress. In my late teens and early 20's, I was overweight. I topped out at about 185 lbs, which is a solidly overweight BMI for my height. In 2009, I went through major life changes (broke off an engagement, lost my stable job, lived in a weird person's basement) and lost a lot of weight. In about a year, I dropped 40 lbs. I settled in at a steady 145-150 or so, and since then have slowly trended downward to about 135 (BMI of 20 or so). This is still technically a healthy weight for me, but my hormones don't believe that. The weight loss, plus lots of running, plus undereating make my body think that I am going through a lot of stress. If my hypothalamus doesn't know if it has enough energy to maintain my normal body functions, it most certainly isn't going to send out any signals to my ovaries to try and get me ovulating, which is yet another energy drain. Someone put it this way: if you're running 7 miles a day, the very basic parts of the brain think that maybe you're migrating, ergo, now would not be an opportune time to be knocked up. Exercise = stress, stress = put the baby-making equipment in a shut down state. Also, and more importantly for my long-term health, being in this hormonally screwed up state means that I'm putting my bones at risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis. That's a really scary thing to think about when you're 28. Even if I can never have a baby, I still want to be healthy and hiking and traveling the world with Nick when I'm older.

I have been seeing a reproductive endocrinologist about this, who confirmed that he thinks I have HA. He did a lot of testing and started me on some meds to see how my body responds. Unfortunately, this first round was a bust and now we're exploring our options for the best way to go in the future. If you read this post (I'm not Paleo, don't worry), I'm doing all those things... or trying to. The main things I'm doing are:

  1. Stop running. That's right. I stopped. My blog name is now inaccurate. My last run was December 26 (actually it might have been prior to that, I stopped keeping track). I have a lot of feelings I'm struggling with right now. I'll blog about this more later.
  2. Eat more. This is also very hard for me. I stopped tracking my food in MyFitnessPal, which I have used for years. This means I'm not counting calories on paper, but you better believe I'm still counting them in my head. I have a lot to say about this, and about how I got here, so I'll blog about this more later too.
  3. Sleep, destress, treat my body well. I might look like a "healthy" person on paper, but clearly, my reproductive system does not agree since it's not performing its evolutionarily required function. I am trying to sleep more. Because of my crappy sleep quality, I have some amount of chronic sleep deficiency. I am always tired. Iron supplementation has helped that, but being sleepy every single day gets really old. I'm also trying to drink alcohol less, and less frequently. Drinking a large amount, even once in a while, isn't good news for anyone. I need to stop that. As for destressing... well, infertility is pretty damn stressful, as is the number of doctor's appointments required for the diagnosis and monitoring of my condition. I can't decide whether being super educated about everything is helping or hurting with stress levels, but knowledge is power, so I'm reading all I can to educate myself in hopes of reducing the amount of stress I'm under just by feeling lost.

It is hard not to feel like I'm broken. It is hard not to question why trying to be "healthy" has made me dysfunctional. I find myself struggling with trying to figure out what the "right amount" of food and exercise is for me. I look at professional runners and other marathoners around me and cannot understand why they're pushing jogging strollers and I'm not. I miss running. Actually, I miss running and not feeling guilty about it. I am sad. I really hope there's a happy ending here.

**there is A LOT more to the science/hormonal side of this whole thing, and others have written in greater detail and with more technical accuracy than I can (check out here, here, and here). I'm paraphrasing, and I may have gotten 100% of this wrong. I might have a biochemistry degree, but I'm not an endocrinologist. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

December totals AND 2013 mileage!

December was my marathon recovery month. How did I do on recovery? The way I usually do, start off slow and low mileage, feel better, then immediately ramp up again. I'm the worst.

However, I did back off toward the end of the month to try and stop stressing about fitting workouts in and just let the rest of my life take precedence. That worked. It worked so well that I haven't worked out in almost a week as of today... yay me? December goes down as my second lowest mileage month for the year, with less than 50 miles run. The only month with fewer miles was April, with the wedding. I'd like to think that having these two months, the two where I was most focused on being with my family and friends. I'm balanced, yo.
They're weighing... fruit bits? Gushers? Such a weird photo.

That brings us to my total for 2013...... 1212.84 miles running (and 485 biking)!! Let's just call it 1212, because that's a nice number. I am delighted with this number, since it far exceeds my goal of 1000 miles. Yay me. Yay 2013.

December 1: off- walked on tmill a little
December 2: Elliptical 30 min, upper body weights
December 3: walk on tmill a bit
December 4: 3.1 on the tmill. Triumphant return to running!
December 5: 3.5 on tmill
December 6: 45ish minutes of HIIT
December 7: 3.1 in 22:24 (5K PR woo!)
December 8: off
December 9: 6 miles on tmill plus c/d. 6.25 total
December 10: 6 miles on tmill plus c/d, 6.30 total
December 11: 1 hour on the trainer, throwing in higher intensity stuff here and there
December 12: elliptical 30 min plus weights
December 13: swimming! ~2450 m in 45 minutes
December 14: off
December 15: off
December 16: 5.5 miles on tmill.
December 17: 6.3 miles on tmill
December 18: off
December 19: 7.25 on tmill
December 20: 45 mins on trainer
December 21: off
December 22: 5.25 on tmill, interval type thing
December 23: half hour of interval things
December 24: biking? don't remember
December 25: off
December 26: running? How do I not remember?
December 27: ice skating!
December 28: off
December 29: off
December 30: off
December 31: off

December totals: 46.55 miles run, 3 hr bike, 2 HIIT, 2 elliptical, swim 2450 m