It only matters what works for you.

Archive for March, 2012

Hindsight

I just got back from a visit to my former home of Colorado Springs, CO. You may or may not know that most of Colorado Springs is at 6000+ ft in elevation.

I lived at what is considered ‘high altitude’ (over 5000 ft) for about 14 years. I liked the dry climate and the low air pressure. Or I thought I did. Many residents find that if they visit sea level for any length of time the first day or so they feel a little winded when they get back. (Lungs are just really easy, they’ll take any oxygen on offer no questions asked.)

I was pretty winded during my trip, but I expected that. What I didn’t expect was that I would sleep poorly and need to dramatically increase my cortisol supplements to stay on an even keel.

Which leads me to wonder if my body ever liked living at altitude at all? I can track my food allergies and some of my adrenal problems back to childhood, but how did the extra stress of altitude effect their presentation over the long run?

I’ll never know the real answers unless I someday move back and track things with some hard numbers, but isn’t it an interesting question?

I love an interesting question.

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Leading sheep

I don’t think it will surprise anyone reading this that I have a problem with mainstream media reporting. The other evening was a case in point. The 6pm news was telling us all about how former President Clinton was looking great and has apparently gone vegan. And that by eating red meat you have a 10% greater chance of dying.

I have a huge problem with both of  those points.

Lets look at red meat. Greater chance of dying as compared to what, exactly? Last I checked, the death rate among humans is 100%. I suppose they mean dying earlier than necessary, but who knows. I’m not sure even the reporters know what they mean by that. All they’re doing is embracing a political agenda put forth by someone who knows someone. Unsubstantiated statistics may be a classic tool for the media and ratings, but they make me very angry. There are people in my life who will take these statistics and believe them. Make changes in their lives based on them. Without ever checking to see what they really mean.

Then there’s the recent vegan craze. I’m not personally in favor, but the personal and ethical choices of others aren’t really my business. Except that many people aren’t making a considered, reasoned choice. They’re hearing a few sound bytes on the news and deciding that that’s what they should do to be healthier and happier and sexier.

Vegan is not an easy choice and requires a lot of careful planning to stay healthy. Vegetarian can be a challenge to some people. Many vegetarians eat a ton of soy products because they are assured that it is a complete protein. It is not. Soy doesn’t contain methionine, which is a ‘conditional protein’. That means your body can make it. The question is, are you getting all the other components your body would need so your body will actually make it? Maybe not if you don’t even know its an issue! It is absolutely possible to get all the proteins you need in a vegetarian diet, but not if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you still eat eggs and cheese, then its relatively simple. Take away all animal products and its much more complicated.

Then there is the little matter of B-12. This is the reason I personally believe that Vegan is unnatural for humans and not generally a good idea. Humans must have B-12 and we do not make it. It is only found in animal products. Or bugs. In countries like India getting B-12 is not a big deal even on a vegan diet because their water isn’t treated like ours, their produce isn’t as clean as ours and their processing isn’t as destructive as ours, so the B-12 left in the soil from animal feces and bacteria and in the bugs that are mixed with their vegetables and grains are an adequate source much of the time. In our super clean industrial food, we don’t have these sources.

If you already know all these things about vegetarian and vegan diets and want to pursue one, I wish you the best of luck. I’m not about restricting the choices of others. What I am about is wishing people in general would be just a little less sheep-like and would take the time to understand some of the choices they’re making outside of what they heard on the 6 o’clock news.

I suppose we could ask for a little more responsibility in reporting, but I’m pretty sure that’s a lost cause.

Fighting Dogma

I’m currently following very strict low carb guidelines as a part of my HCG program.

I followed a strict low carb program from 2005 until 2010 as well. Even when it stopped working for me.

It is so easy to buy into a way of doing things and then become trapped in the idea that you are following the One True Way. It happens all the time from diets to schooling to politics to almost any kind of thought pattern that involves a lot of people. You work a program, you associate with people who also work the program, and you believe the program.

So what happens when the program is no longer achieving the results you wanted? We often get the advice that its something we are or are not doing that has caused the change. You aren’t being strict enough. You don’t want it enough. You just need to stick with it.

On the one hand, that’s decent advice for someone who hasn’t been on the program long. Someone who hasn’t followed the rules very well. On the other hand, when it happens to someone who is a long time devotee, I think that’s a pretty stupid reaction. And I was definitely pretty stupid to accept it and keep trying harder and longer.

What really happened is  that, like many middle aged women, my body does not do well with the very low carb diet I followed for years. The harder I tried, the more damage I did. My adrenals were fatigued to begin with (untreated of course) and the longer and harder I worked, the worse everything got.

My question is, why are we always so inclined to believe that we are at fault? That we aren’t trying hard enough, doing enough, believing enough. Why are we so mean to ourselves and always inclined to believe we’re slackers first, and fight back later, if ever? How did we get conditioned to behave this way.

I’d love some discussion on that, I’m not sure I have any brilliant insight on that problem. I just know its really pervasive.

As for my current low carb phase, this is my first true round of HCG so I feel that following the rules as well as I can is probably in my best interest. That said, I’m not entirely sure how much longer I’ll be able to do this, so I may begin to experiment sooner than later.

It’s around here somewhere…

An amusing aside from my recent doctor’s appointment.

For whatever reason, the intake nurse didn’t get my blood pressure when she was doing everything else. It may have been that I scared her when I said she’d likely get a better reading by using a normal cuff and taking the reading from my forearm.

I reminded the doctor to take it before we concluded my appointment because it is a concern. I mentioned about taking it at the forearm. He said he’s very suspicious about readings taken that way, they are often unreliable. Ok.

He started by using the stethoscope to find the pulse at my elbow instead of just going ahead. And I learned something brand new about the weirdness that is my body that makes perfect sense now that I know.

It seems my brachial artery is oddly positioned. Which makes it hard to find after you’ve pumped up the cuff. Which causes them to pump the cuff multiple times, which causes that unexpectedly high reading they often get.

It also explains why the professional and experienced people at many blood donation centers haven’t been able to find any vein other than the little one off to the side. The main one isn’t where they’re looking.

Learn something new every day.

Where I win the lottery…

The ‘pick a random physician’ lottery that is.

Its very odd that the current state of medicine encourages us to look at a list and pick at random someone to share intimate personal details with. Who thought that was a good method? Yes, bean counters, I know.

As someone in a new town I don’t yet have a network of my own to get referrals from. No one to ask for opinions. I did a fair amount of searching online but there are many doctor review sites and very few actual reviews, and that’s only worth so much anyway. Some of you may have read my post angsting about my likely treatment, both personally and professionally.

I’m delighted to report all that worry was, as it so often is, for nothing. My new doc is great.

I’m not saying he’s an expert in all the areas I need support in. He’s not. The important thing is, he knows he isn’t. He actually admitted it. When’s the last time your physician admitted flat out not to know much about something you needed? Not often, I’m quite sure of that. I was happy to reply that I knew he was a primary care physician so I expected him to know something about an awful lot of  things, but it isn’t his job to be a specialist about everything.

He asked the expected questions about whether or not I’ve considered surgical options for weight loss, but when I said they weren’t the right choice for me he didn’t try to push. I get the feeling its on the list of standard questions they need to ask rather than something he felt like I should choose.

We discussed my blood tests showing a reverse T3 thyroid issue, which is outside of his training. He can’t help me, but he isn’t going to obstruct me either, which outside-the-box people often see. He was happy to refill my existing prescription and when he asked to rerun my TSH for my records, he was happy to order the non-standard tests that will let me figure out if I’m getting anywhere.

Overall I found him friendly, patient, and respectful. Things you’d expect to find regularly in a physician but don’t really find that often.

The office was also respectful in subtle ways. The instructions for everything are clearly posted. The office staff was all extremely pleasant as was the intake nurse. The scale is an electronic model that goes up to 400 lbs so they can honestly weigh patients of all sizes. The front waiting area had a mix of armed and armless chairs. The ‘put your stuff on’ chair in my treatment room was armless. I don’t know if its planning or serendipity, but it was welcoming either way.

I knew early on in the appointment that it was going to go well though. For whatever reason, his BS was actually in physics. Physicists turn up in the oddest places having nothing at all to do with physics. When I meet one, it almost always works well. Like the time I dated a physicist turned software engineer and married him.

HCG review, the first part.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently doing a round of the hcg diet. Its working extremely well, almost like instant gratification as far as dieting goes.

If you don’t know, hcg is a hormone that pregnant women secret that, among other things, releases a mother’s fat stores to nourish the baby. It can be used in non-pregnant people to do that same thing. It’s an ‘off label’ use, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work well. Not that many doctors will prescribe it, I’m fortunate that my doctor in my former home was a firm believer. I think because as a doctor of integrative medicine, meaning a western MD plus all manner of alternative solutions integrated together, he specializes in patients who aren’t successful with more traditional modalities. There is a thriving business in oral homeopathic drops. I’ve read good things about them but have no personal experience, so no personal opinion.

You take your drops or injections and you follow a 500 calorie diet from a very specific list of foods. Wouldn’t you lose on a 500 calorie diet anyway? Of course you would. If you could stay on it longer than 5 minutes without eating your own arm or the family pet. The weight you’d lose would be a combination of fat and muscle. With the hcg you’re supposed to only lose fat. Reports from people with access to body composition monitors seem to support this.

I’ve been following this for 3 weeks now. Today was my last injection. I’ve lost 25 lbs. In 3 weeks, that’s what I said. Some of that will be water of course, but my clothing assures me that there’s plenty of honest to goodness weight gone.

I’m always asked about the 500 calories. “Aren’t you starving? How can you do that?” I won’t say its easy, but its much easier than many of the diets I’ve been on before at much higher calories. Most of the time I feel that I’d like a little something. When I’m really and truly hungry, its generally time for a meal. It hasn’t been bad at all.

The protocol is set for either 3 weeks or 6. Many people with significant amounts to lose will opt for 6 but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stick to such limited choices for such a long time. I’m heartily sick of the options available to me, which are more limited than normal because of my food allergies. I also think that at my weight the diet is quite physically stressful and I think I’ll be better for a short round.

On the other hand, I firmly believe that we can manage almost anything for 3 weeks.

72 hours after your last dose you move into the next phase which is supposed to reset your hypothalmus and give you a new stable body weight set point. For the next 3 weeks I should eat low carb, specifically no sugar and no starch although lower sugar fruits are allowed which traditional low carb doesn’t encourage. I’m to remain with 2 lbs of the weight I was this morning. That means what I will continue to lose over the next 3 days becomes a cushion for when I start to eat more and put on weight just from water and having food volume digesting. It seems reasonable from this side of things. I’ll report back when I get to the other side.

After those 3 weeks you’re supposedly able to eat as you like, or as a sensible normal human anyway, without gaining back. Again, we’ll see how that goes. You’re supposed to take a break before you do another round of hcg, if you intend to.

I intend to do 2 more rounds of 3 weeks each over the course of the summer. I’ll keep you posted.

If you’re interested in learning more about this protocol, please read Pounds and Inches by Dr. Simeons. Its available here for download or as a .pdf many places on the web.