Monthly Archives: July 2012

DIET OR LIFESTYLE?

Is it a diet or a lifestyle?  I would say both but either way we are surrounded by so many choices. I few blogs ago I wrote about how I have been reading all kinds of different books around this subject.  In the next few blogs I’m going to break them down for you and the reason being is that there are some important take aways for all people but especially people living with autoimmune diseases.  I’m not saying I recommend a particular one to any of you as I’m not a doctor but I am a self-proclaimed researcher.

Let me start by telling how this crusade got started for me.  No secret I have spent the last 9 years trying to make a better, healthier life for myself and conquering my challenges with MCTD.  I literally have tried everything you can imagine. One book told me not to eat strawberries or tomatoes or any nightshade vegetables so I didn’t but I couldn’t tell one way or the other if it was working.  One said eat omega 3’s at least 1 – 2 times per week and I did that but again I couldn’t tell if it was working.  Another one said eat quinoa for breakfast every day because it was high in protein and a grain that wouldn’t do any harm if I was even slightly intolerant to gluten. Ok, I did it but I got sick of that one really fast and quite frankly I love strawberries.  Tomatoes and nightshades vegetables sure I could live without them but there are things I don’t want to live without.

I gave up alcohol because it can be a trigger for my flares so I’m willing to give up anything if I can feel a significant difference and alcohol was an easy one to feel.  I drank I flared plain and simple.  However, when you can’t feel the difference that is when it is harder. I went on a gluten-free diet for a long time and sure I missed bread and pasta and sweets but it was worth it because I was at 200+ days without a flare and certain that this was helping. I was convinced that my blood work would show real changes and when it didn’t I was defeated.  At Kripalu I put gluten back in my diet and nothing significant happened for the worst so I was no longer gluten free.

So here I am, it is May and I have an appointment with a new doctor who has ever met me, knows nothing about where I’ve come from, what I have been able to achieve and what this sometimes fragile body is capable of.  Most people meet me; hear my story and they are amazed. She too was amazed but she also pointed out to me that I’m turning 40 and carrying a little too much in my middle.  Really? I work out all the time. I know I have been letting my food slip and eating more sweets but this was also a stressful time for me.  What she said was back off but I heard was you are fat fix it.  My husband was actually pretty frustrated with her because he felt like I was finally at a point where I wasn’t obsessing about food and what I ate and now I have been told to fix my eating habits.

That is when the crusade started. I wanted to read everything I could on what to do when you are approaching your 40’s.  Mostly I needed to decrease my middle section.  She thought my weight was fine and I have found if I go too low I actually flare so the extra 10 pounds I had gradually added were helping my MCTD.  Now how was this going to work?

I’ll tell you about all my findings over the next few blogs in between my challenge updates.  If you find it boring I apologize but I live for food, health, fitness and all it encompasses.  First off the shelf is “The Flat Belly Diet” this is a prevention book and I love prevention. I always keep it in my gym bag or purse because it is little and the articles are informational.  The book’s key points are good fats.  EVoo, avocado, olives, dark chocolate and nuts which I love all these things so easy right?  Well a lot of calorie counting because you have 4 – 400 calorie meals where you incorporate one of these good fats every time.  Some of the recipes I really liked but the flat belly comes from getting rid of all kinds of belly bloating things such as drinking sparkling water since the bubbles make you bloated, chewing gum since you take in extra air when chewing, no raw vegetables since they cause bloating.  Yes you have flatter stomach but I haven’t gotten to the root of the problem at least not for me but I bet it works well for others. In fact I gave my book to a co-worker and she loves the Mediterranean diet. This is not my lifestyle.

One day I’m listening to Jillian Michael’s podcast and she has Bob Harper on talking about his new book, interesting.  So, I look it up at the library and there are actually 2 Bob Harper books.  Ok I get them both and read them.  Very typical to what you would think from him.  Protein, carb, good fat at every meal and eat every 3 hours.  The having to eat every 3-4 hours is hard for me since I’m usually running to a meeting munching on some almonds or a granola bar or something.  I did really enjoy his right in your face writing as well as his exercise program and have even incorporated some of his moves into my weight challenge.  This has potential if I can only figure out the right combo of protein, carb and good fats.  My journey will continue.

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LAST WEEK OF CHALLENGE

This is my last week of my challenge but I realize it is not the last of my weight training.  I have been feeling so good during this last month that I have committed to continuing with my weight training and modifying it some more.  More to follow about my August challenges but first I must finish what I start and I’m still on the last leg of this challenge.

Today was my lower body training session.  I actually increased all my weights and reps and added 5 more minutes for some intense plank workouts at the end.  My squat form is looking so much better and my lunges are making me feel like a rock star.  Speaking of rock star I also did 6 real push-ups on my knees after my Bikram class on Sunday.  That right there tells me I’m creating progress as slow as it might be the progress is there and quite frankly I don’t have a deadline to meet so there really isn’t any rush.

Now as far as my Bikram practice goes that is a bit lackluster.  I haven’t been able to find classes to get into that have worked for this week and if I go to a Bikram practice once a week that is not enough.  My body has to adjust to the heat and humidity all over again.  I feel frustrated because it feels like I’m starting all over again and yes I virtually am when I grab my Bikram mat on Sunday morning only.  This week I will try to find 1 or 2 more classes to attend and work on keeping a strong Bikram practice.

The worst thing I can do is get frustrated so I stayed in savassanna longer than usual and just thanked my body for what it has been doing and what it can do.  Being frustrate is not the answer and really gets me nowhere fast.  Realizing the good things and appreciating my new accomplishments will get me further in this game of life.

HEART RATE MONITOR

I hear all the time, “calories in, calories out equals weight loss” but ever wonder how many calories you actually burn in a 24 hour period? I wanted to know for myself.  I have estimates from my fitbit.com and other websites like livestrong.com but I was curious as to what the actual was.  I decided to wear my heart rate monitor for 24 hours and see what it had to say.

I needed to pick a time when I was low key and not running around too much because I wanted an accurate account of a my calorie burn without the help of intensive exercise.  I also didn’t want to run around work with my heart rate monitor on all day so

Friday night when I got home I strapped it on and started the clock.  I wore it all night and no it is not very comfortable but it is only 1 day. I wore it all day on Saturday until 6pm that night.  A full 24 hours later I had my number.  My exercise during the day was a nice walk but my heart rate didn’t raise very much and I took a nap.  This way I know what I burn on a very light resting day and when I workout hard or go to the Bikram then I know I’m burning even more. 

The thing that wearing my monitor showed me was that I’m not taking in nearly enough calories.  As a woman I have this idea that 1400-1600 is a good amount of calories to take in but really I burn way more than that resting and sleeping. I burned 2800 to be exact doing hardly anything.  On days that I workout hard or multiple times I will be burning even more calories if I had to guess I bet I would burn up to another 1000 calories. 

I understand basic math and I understand the concept of calories in and calories out but what I don’t understand is do I really take back in all those calories? How would I actually consume them?  Do I need them all?  I do believe I need more but now my search begins to find out how much.

I have starting point so when I’m tracking I can take in some more calories and perhaps that will also assist in my muscle definition. I’m working hard on toning and creating more muscle mass. My thought is that if I eat more and especially proteins that I might be able to increase and hold on to my new found muscles. 

With MCTD our immune systems fight against us and take our muscle mass making our bodies feel weak and rapidly decreasing or muscles even with relatively hard work.  I have fought wanting muscles against not having them for 9 years now. I have worked with trainers and tried to do it on my own.  Now I’m wondering if maybe I was sabotaging myself by keeping my body in deprivation.  The following weeks will guide me one way or the other.

WHO IS THAT?

As you know this month I’m focusing on weight training and trying to change my idea about exercise from doing harder shorter instead of more longer and cutting my work outs down to quick sweaty bursts of intense exercise and not focusing so much on getting a workout in the morning and going back for another one at lunch time.  Two things are happening for me. The first is that when I was at Bikram for my last practice it had been a while since I was there.  I’m staring at myself in a mirror for 90 minutes and I’m noticing that I have muscle definition.  I can see it in arms, core and legs.  I’m looking at the woman in the mirror and thinking, who is that?  It is quite inspiring to notice new changes in yourself even if subtle. 

The second thing I have noticed is that I’m less stressed even considering that I’m working out less.  I use my lunch breaks to walk leisurely and read which feels better than an intense workout for the 2nd time in a day.  I think the less exercise is helping and my leisure walking is more for hormonal balance and recovery not exercise.  I have ditched my heart rate monitor and I’m not keeping track of any calories burned at lunch time. That time is strictly just some relaxing and taking it easy time.  I have been up at the library several times getting more and more books because I just have created some extra time for reading.  My husband is thrilled that I’m backing off of exercise since it means more time for he and I to spend together.  For instance this weekend we are ditching our phones and the only plan we have is for us to spend quality time together. Summer comes and goes so quickly and we jam pack all kinds of stuff into a short amount of time and forget the really important things. He asked if I was going to Bikram and getting home at noon today. I told him no that I was walking instead and he was more than welcome to join me and after a really scrumptious breakfast we could do whatever we want.  I am looking forward to our day together.

INTERVAL TRAINING

Today I completed day 9 of my weight training challenge by going to my Body Blast full body weight training class. I didn’t really follow the rules today because I wanted to try some sprints only had time to do them before my weight training class.  Therefore, I did cardio before weight training today. I know this is not ideal but it was the only way I was going to be able to do my interval training today.  I knew I would be my strongest in the morning so I went ahead and broke the rules.

I started at a walk for a few minutes, took it into a jog for a few minutes and jumped on the rails of the treadmill, turned up the speed as I high as I felt comfortable without falling and jumped on the belt to sprint as hard as I could until I couldn’t breathe and jumped on the rail again, rested 15 seconds and did it again. I completed this session for 3.0 minutes and then took the machine to 4.5 to recover completely and did the session again.  I ended the 30 minute session with 5 minutes of recovery walking at 4.0 and called it done.  My legs were tired and I knew my weight training would fatigue them even more but I’m doing this all in the name of conditioning.

I truly do feel stronger and sprinting like that was really empowering. I didn’t even know if I could sprint or if I would fall down and break something but I really wanted to try it.  I will do it again very soon and it makes the 30 minutes fly by literally.

WEIGHTS FIRST

Today I completed day 8 of my weight training challenge.  I headed right into the weight room and did my upper body work.  I’m getting stronger and did 3 real push-ups on my knees but they were real in the sense to the floor and pushing back up.  This is an accomplishment for me that I’ll share with you.  Most people would be embarrassed to say they can only do 3 pushups but I feel like I’m making progress.  I can be in downward facing dogs for 8 minutes or longer but the lowering and pushing back up really takes a toll on my shoulders and I’m not there yet but I’m working on it.

After I finished my weight training I went to my morning fusion class which is a combo of cardio, weight training, and yoga.  The weight training part I took it easy because I had already done my more intensive weight training and I’m not looking to overdo anything just gain strength at a normal pace and keep my new strength. The yoga part felt good and I’m really looking forward to getting back into the Bikram studio tomorrow morning. It has been since Sunday and that is too long for me to go between practices.

For my MCTD readers because I have been feeling stronger lately and I’m at 70+ days without a flare I have decreased my plaquenil at the recommendation of my doctor to 3mg from 4mg.  This is not a big jump but the first jump I have made in 9 years.  He had recommended that when I feel up to it to try decreasing my plaquenil. I wanted my diet to be good, my weight training to be consistent without flares and pick a time when I’m less stressed.  Put all those things together and now was the time to try.  I’m only 3 days in and he said I will be able to tell if I can stay at 3mg after about 3 weeks or if I have to go back to 4mg.  Or, if I have problems I can stay at 3mg plaquenil and up my prednisone to 6 or 7mg but you all know I’m not doing that. I’m desperate to get to 4.5mg of prednisone never mind going up.  Our bodies dictate what we need and I’m hoping my body says ok to the weight training and good diet and decides it doesn’t really need so much prescription meds going forward.

INCREASING WEIGHTS

After a full and busy, but fun weekend I was exhausted last night. I actually thought about skipping my workout this morning and doing it at lunch time.  However, when morning arrived I pulled myself out of bed to head to the gym for Day 7 of my challenge.  I have learned over the years that I do get in many workouts again during my work day but I can’t rely on being able to make that time, therefore, first thing is always best for me.  As it turns out I have meetings today and won’t be able to hit the gym so I’m glad I forced myself up and to my weight training session to fulfill my challenge.

This morning I focused on lower body and since I have been feeling stronger I increased my weight.  I thought I would do the first fatigue with higher weight and drop to lower weight for my second fatiguing.  When it came to squats I could do both sets with higher weights and this encouraged me to really push this morning. I did many more reps before I felt the fatigue when doing hamstrings, outer legs and abs.  The inner leg and calves still need work, but right now I consider myself a work in progress.  I got in some good intense weight training and ended with a quick series of Bikram on my own and only 1 set of each posture instead of the prescribed 2 sets.  Bikram in a regular temperature aerobic room is not the same but the benefits were still there especially stretching out my hamstrings after I had worked them hard.

I threw in mini intervals of cardio using my step just to increase my heart rate along the way.  Although squats and lunges raise the heart rate naturally some other exercises I was doing were fatiguing my muscles but not working my heart.  I think I’m getting better at this whole training.  I have literally plugged into 6 health and fitness podcasts and take the common threads in each of them to decide what my routine will look like.  I also keep hearing the common thread of no need to spend hours in the gym and work harder for shorter periods of time.  I’m trying to adopt that philosophy but I have spent years in the gym doing many hours, anywhere from 2-4 depending on my day.  I need to change my way of thinking. Timing is everything and the podcasts are bringing me around to that.

Walking and listening to podcasts is not the same and I keep walking as much as possible now I just have extra incentive so I can keep listening.