Hi peeps! This post is long. It's a lot of venting. I apologize in advance.
It's been so long I don't remember how to do one of those breaks where you hide the rest of the text and people only have to read it if they click. Why can't I remember how to do that?
Anyway, here's where I'm at these days. I've got a bunch of injuries, arthritis, and general stuff going on. This weekend, I can't walk particularly well. Earnest is a massage therapist, but we haven't had mutual free time for a massage in about a month. He taped my knee with Kinesiotape last night and I was able to stand up and walk to the market about two blocks away, but the back of my knee was super angry on the walk back. I want nothing more than to go to the gym and lift heavy, and I've been sidelined for absolutely ages. I'm in workout clothes now. I'm going to go and I'm going to see what I can do. I am going to try to be satisfied with what I can do gently, safely, and with good alignment. If that's just a few chest presses, then at least I'm showing up. I'm going to gently work mostly upper body and stretch a lot.
I've had recurrent injuries and problems for a while (most notably, a dislocated knee 20 years ago, and a bike accident causing limited mobility in my neck about 10 years ago.) A year ago, I got heat stroke. Leading up to that, I was working out a lot and restricting pretty hard core. I was almost 100% raw vegan, and eating an average of 1200 - 1300 calories a day. I was taking boxing classes, playing capoeira, doing hot yoga, running, lifting fairly heavy on the machines in the gym (I have SO MANY QUESTIONS about how to get started safely with free weights, but that's a different post for when my knee stabilizes.) Working out almost every day, often twice. If I didn't work out, I usually walked to work to make up for it. That's 4.5 miles each way to one job, and 2.5 miles each way to the other. Yes, really.
I was tracking religiously. Some days I'd eat 800 - 900 calories. Some days I was up around 1400-1500, but most days I was between 1200 and 1300. You guys, that's below my BMR. That's just dumb.
I'd been doing this for nearly two years at this point. The first six months high raw vegan I had felt great and hadn't intentionally restricted calories or macros, and was still eating a little more cooked food. Then serious restriction slowly snuck in. Somehow, I started gaining weight. It fluctuated wildly. I often had swings of 6, 8, or more pounds in the space of 24 hours. There were tons of dramatic swings up after especially long work days, and an overall gaining trend. Also, I was orange. All over. Bright. Orange.
Everything pointed to just a whole lot of chronic inflammation, but I couldn't figure out how to make it stop. After all, I reasoned that a raw vegan diet should be 100% anti-inflammatory, right? I would blame the fact that I tasted some of the foods I cooked for seasoning - even though I would usually spit out the taste. I reasoned that I must have been absorbing some tiny amount from the cooked food, and that must have been triggering inflammation. (Did it occur to me that I needed rest days, and I ought to eat more than a banana to fuel my long workouts? Not usually.)
It was July. It was hot. We had had over a week of 90+ temps, and really high humidity. We had no AC in our 4th floor walk-up apartment. I'm a chef. When I'm not home or at the gym, I'm in a hot hot kitchen. I had not taken a rest day, or taken the time to cool off properly, in ages. I was hot.
I kept up my usual workout routine, despite the heat. In boxing class one night, I realized I was bright red, way overheated, and not sweating. I drank water and kept going, just a lot less intensely. A half hour later, I nearly fainted. Still red, still not sweating. Someone got me more water, and someone else got me a cold wet towel. I didn't go to the hospital because I'm a stubborn moron when I'm sick. When I got home I took electrolyte tablets and more water.
For the next week, the edema was so bad it was painful. My ankles were so wide I couldn't wear socks. I couldn't bend my knees. It was really hard to climb stairs. (Fourth floor walk-up apartment, remember.)
I kept going to work, though. Because I am crazy, and because I have so many bills that a couple of missed days of work will invariably mean that I'm late on student loan or credit card payments. Work means 10 to 14 hours of standing. No, I didn't walk to work that week. I may be crazy, but at least I knew I couldn't do that.
I started pulling muscles all the time. I had a pulled hamstring for two months. I had knots in my calves all the time. My butt and low back hurt all the time, because my piriformis muscles seized up. My upper back, shoulders, and neck hurt. The muscles wouldn't relax, even with massage. My elbows hurt. I lost grip strength, and couldn't cut straight. The soreness in my toes and hips and shoulder blossomed into serious arthritis. My digestion went from finicky to downright failing. I started eating more cooked foods, a few animal foods, a little more food overall. I became less orange, despite eating a least the same amount of carotenoids, often more. The anxiety and some of the neuromuscular symptoms started to improve as I ate more, but the arthritis slowly started to get worse.
The GI doc found not a whole lot. Primary care found some slightly wacky numbers, but nothing crazy. Finally got the feet looked at, and I have a whole bunch of things going wrong including at least two different forms of arthritis. Then my health insurance paperwork got lost and I'm temporarily not covered because the forms are completely overwhelming. So I haven't seen the rheumatologist in a couple months.
Over that time period, I tried a bunch of fads - I did a Whole30 in January, or was it February? I tried low carb for a little while. I actually gained while eating low carb. How is that even possible? That didn't last long for me, thank goodness, because I felt like shit and I LOVE FRUIT AND SWEET POTATOES! Any diet that says I can't have fruit or sweet potatoes is straight up lame.
I found Intuitive Eating, then Matt Stone, then Go Kaleo, and Eating the Food. Not sure how long I've been ETF, but it is helping a lot. Three months? Longer? The principle is simple: Eat the correct amount of food to support a healthy metabolism, move your body as appropriate for you, and stop all the restrictive dieting. I have a lot of allergies and sensitivities, which is a challenging balance to strike. But not impossible.
At first, I got belly bloat. That's normal, coming out of a restrictive eating disorder, or excessive dieting, or whatever you want to call it. I got that tummy overhang thing everyone talks about. They both went away. The more I eat, the more I can digest. It's amazing. My intestines mostly usually remember how to work again!
I stayed off the scale and the tracking sites for a while, because they just make me crazy. But I finally stepped back on the scale recently, and I've lost several pounds! Like, not just the initial ETF puffiness, but I'm a few pounds lower than my immediately pre-EFT weight! Not as low as I was before the gain started, but I hadn't had my period in six months then so perhaps I was a little too thin. My metabolism is getting back on track. My libido is starting to return. Things in general are improving. I still have joint pain and migraines, but my feet especially are SO much better!
Interestingly, my scale has a function where it measures body fat and muscle. I have not been able to work out often over the last few months, but even so, I'm experiencing a slight recomp in the positive direction. That was a surprise! More carbs, more rest, and more sitting around watching anime have actually led to more lean mass, and a little lower fat percentage. Hooray!
Also interestingly, when I have been able to work out, I'm lifting as heavy as I was when I was dieting and working out consistently. Dieting makes you weak! Eating food makes you strong. Who knew?
I've been getting acupuncture, and that has helped a lot with everything. I have a whole bunch of things going on. In the western terms that I understand, I've got chronic inflammation, autoimmune weirdness, exhaustion, overwork, stress, migraines, fatigue, the works. All those symptoms of starvation (a.k.a. what the internet calls "adrenal fatigue") and then some. According to my acupuncturist, I'm like a tangled ball of yarn and we need to tease out problems in layers. One of the underlying things is what TCM calls spleen qi deficiency. That is roughly equivalent to a depressed metabolism, in western terms. It has a lot of potential root causes/symptoms, but anorexia, too much cold raw food, overwork, and excess stress are pretty common ones. So, basically, my acupuncturist, my experience, and the ETF philosophy are right in line here.
I'm to eat more, especially more carbs from rice and GF oats. I love rice and oats so much! I'm to eat lots and lots of veggies, especially cooked. I'm happy to live almost entirely off veggies, so that's cool. No more living entirely off of salads though, as much as I absolutely adore salads. Raw vegan was convenient for me. I'd cook for others all day, and be so exhausted that green smoothies and salads were all I wanted to make for myself anyway.
There are a few other recommendations too - I don't have to feel obligated to eat all that protein. My acupuncturist recommends less or no meat. Thank goodness. I am allergic to legumes, so I have found I do need to eat some animal foods, but I don't have to feel obligated to meet some kind of protein target like I did on or after Whole30. A little fish or egg is plenty.
I am to avoid dairy, which I've found recently makes me feel slow and gives me acne. I'm to avoid gluten, which I already do because I am seriously intolerant and it makes me feel horrible for days. I'm to avoid very spicy food, which makes me sad, but it's temporary. Also caffeine which I gave up years ago, alcohol which makes me feel tired and shitty lately, and chocolate which I had mysteriously stopped craving anyway.
As much as I am upset and inconvenienced by the knee prohibiting much movement this weekend, things are generally improving. As long as I use eight or twelve months ago as the starting point, when all the fallout from heat stroke and malnutrition were at their peak, I'm definitely improving overall.
Three and a half years ago I was feeling great. I was eating, getting plenty of sunshine, and working only five days a week.
I choose to look at that as more of an inspiration of how I can feel again, not to measure how far I've fallen. Three and a half years ago I ate so much and stayed so slim that my co-worker said I must have a tapeworm. I was thin, strong, not feeling the old injuries so often. I was enjoying movement and food. I was doing a lot of creative work - knitting, sewing, and/or drawing just about every day. I danced, I ate, I walked on the beach because we lived near one then. Life wasn't perfect, certainly, but I was doing OK.
Getting back in balance, resting, and eating are all journeys.
Now I'm heading down to the gym. The knee and hip don't allow pushups or planks when they're acting up, but I just checked, and today I can do a few sloooooow careful squats to just above 90 degrees. Huge improvement over yesterday!
Time to stop typing and start moving!