Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Searching for Some Truth

A friend mentioned in a comment that he read David Perlmutter's Grain Brain, and is especially interested in the studies that "show a strong relationship between high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and cognitive / neurological problems." I, too, am very interested in all of these ideas, so I decided to check out Grain Brain. Just a few pages into the book, I was thinking, "My gosh. This is some scary shit." Part of me wanted to think Perlmutter is fear-mongering and working for some big business of some kind, and that eventually I was going to get to the chapter where Perlmutter was going to try and sell me something. Granted, I'm not that far into the book yet, so I haven't come across the selling chapter if there is one, but what I've read so far has been extremely interesting, making me want to continue reading.

A month or so ago, I read Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck, and one chapter in her book that really got me thinking focused on cholesterol, specifically the push in the medical community to have everyone with a low cholesterol level. I had my own cholesterol levels checked a couple of years ago. At that time, I was considered "borderline" so my doc didn't prescribe a medication for me. I most likely wouldn't have taken the medication if she had as I'm of the mind I need to help myself and this happens through what I consume. Hubby totally disagrees with me (he's a pharma rep--go figure). He has stated several times that I need to be on a statin or I'm going to develop heart disease. We've had numerous back-and-forths about this matter the last two years, but I have continued to eat my eggs, bacon, liver, and shrimp. After reading her book, and now, seeing Perlmutter echo much the same about cholesterol in his book, I'm glad I didn't make any changes to my diet simply to try and bring down my cholesterol levels.

But I am left with a question: what is one to believe about cholesterol? On one hand, there are studies that suggest high cholesterol leads to heart disease. On the other hand, there are studies that suggest low cholesterol is directly linked to diseases of the brain. The camp for low cholesterol pushes for a diet of veggies, beans, and limited meats, eggs, and seafood. The camp for protecting brain function pushes for a diet of meats, eggs, seafood, butter, and lard while limiting grains and refined sugar. How is a person supposed to know what the truth is?

My approach to eating has become one of eating real food: grass-fed meats, free-range eggs from a local farmer, raw milk from a local farmer, veggies, and fruits (though limited). Grains and sugars have been placed on the "Limit Consumption" list. I feel like my body has responded well to this approach. Since I really buckled down seven weeks ago and have taken more care to avoid the grains and sugar, I'm 13 pounds down, having lost another pound this past week. Lovely Beautiful Daughter commented last week that my jeans were getting a bit saggy; I prefer to think of them as extremely comfortable. So while I may not know what the "truth" is about diet/cholesterol and their effects on the heart/brain, I know how I'm feeling. I'm feeling pretty darn good.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Small Moments

Wednesday I received the all-clear from the doc to return to whatever activities I wish. He seemed pleased with my healing and said to check in in three weeks, so I bounced out of his office, happy, happy, happy. My mind since then has turned to getting back on the bike, but I have three more weeks of school, family obligations sometimes come first (actually all the time come first), and the weather is up and down, making getting on the bike a bit difficult.

I was able to ride to work Friday, and it was just so pleasant. As I passed the crossing guard at the elementary school, as the kids were arriving for the day, he checked his watch and called, "I'm timing you!" I replied that my speed was a constant slow. He laughed and waved. On my return later that afternoon, he called, "There she is! I'm still timing you!" I was still just meandering along, in no hurry.

Yesterday, I had hoped to get out for a 10 miler, but the trip to Chicago for a birthday lunch went longer than I anticipated. A few years ago I would have been annoyed by not being able to do something I really wanted to do, but yesterday, I didn't mind at all. I was in the company of my mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, and friends of the MIL, all celebrating my  MIL's 88th birthday. We ate, laughed, caught up with each other, and simply enjoyed being together. The afternoon flew by, and before I knew it, daylight was fading. The memories, though, of my MIL beaming over the fact that we were all there to celebrate her, are still very bright.

Today the gardens were calling, so I spent time cleaning and tilling. By the time I finished, the storm clouds were moving in, with thunder rumbling in the distance. No sooner had I put all the tools away that it started raining. And it's supposed to rain for the next three days, so cycling might not be happening for a few days. Maybe I'll use the rainy days to get my yearly self-eval done for work. Maybe.

With just a month remaining before I begin my summer cycling adventure of getting to know central Illinois, I need to get some mileage under my belt. Then again, I could just go into it with the mindset of letting the chips fall where they may. My rides will be for pleasure, for raising MS awareness, and for getting to know what's right here in my backyard. I'll not be racing. These days, I prefer slow. I prefer settling in, immersing myself in the moment. That's the direction I'm leaning for the summer,  mileage or no mileage before June 1st. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Very Bearable Lightness of Being

This morning was "weigh day," so I turned on the shower, and while it was warming up I stepped onto the scale. When the number that appeared showed a 5 pound loss, I stepped off, let the scale reset, then stepped back on. The same number appeared again. Just to make sure the scale wasn't messing with me, I stepped off one more time then stepped back on. The same number popped up. I figured three times in a row wasn't a fluke. The next thought that entered my mind was: did I have 5 pounds worth of flesh removed with my surgery? I'm pretty sure I did.

One of the most notable changes I'm experiencing since the surgery is how light I feel. Pre-surgery, I was constantly adjusting, re-adjusting, and uncomfortable. Sports bras were the worst comfort offenders, mostly because I had to wear two to really get any support out of them. Back when I was into the sprint triathlons, I had to wear either two sports bras or one really tight sports bra to keep the melons in check. The downside to minimizing their moving about was I could barely breathe, which is so not conducive to running a 5k. Now, I reach points in the day where I realize I've not had to adjust my clothing, and I'm not thinking about how uncomfortable my clothing is. I like that I "forget" about a part of my self that used to be very troublesome. Maybe when I'm completely healed up, I'll give running another try. Who knows, I might find my "lightness" translate to running a faster 5k.

To date, I'm 12 pounds down since my consult, when I learned how much I'd gained over the last year and a half. The moment I stepped onto the scale then and saw the number, I vowed I was going to make a change. I started logging everything that goes into my mouth, and I mean everything. I set my caloric intake at a reasonable 1500 calories a day, but I'm coming in under that most days. I reduced even further the amount of refined sugar I consume (but yeah, I allow myself a cupcake here and there), and I moved away from low-fat foods. It's whole milk for me these days (or raw milk when I make the time to drive out to the farm to get it), and as fat-filled yogurt and cottage cheese as I can get (which takes a lot of hunting--most grocery stores only carry the low-fat or nonfat varieties--so I'm on a quest to begin making my own yogurt). I also reduced the amount of carbs I eat that come from grains, rarely eating any kind of bread. In the six weeks between the consult and the surgery, I lost 7 pounds. With the 5 pounds since the surgery, I'm now only 3 pounds away from goal (I'm pretty sure I'll reset the goal, but for now, I'm just a mere 3 pounds away). While I'd like to be able to eat anything and everything, I simply can't. My 50-year-old body needs limits and responds best to those limits.

This afternoon I have my check-up with the doc. I'm hoping he's as happy with the healing as I am. The swelling is much less, the bruises are fading, and the pain is only here and there (weird little surges of pain that come out of nowhere and only last for a few seconds). I'm also hoping he clears me to get back on the bike. I'm pretty sure I'm ready, and I'm eager to see if my new-found "lightness" translates to climbing hills even faster than before.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Emotional Rollercoaster

Today has been a rough day emotionally. After kind of just wandering around the house, outside, and through the grocery store, I thought the best way to handle my emotions was to write.

When I went to the consult for the breast reduction surgery, the doc had me raise my right hand and swear I would not get angry at him about the size of my breasts post-surgery for at least six weeks. He went on, saying I would go through a period of swelling and not seeing the true results for at least that long, maybe longer. When I went in for my check-up this past Thursday, he measured me, and with a bit of a smirk he said, "You're bigger now than you were last week." To someone who has always tried to minimize the big, this wasn't what I wanted or needed to hear, especially from a man who was trying not to laugh about it. This morning, I could tell the breasts are even bigger than they were on Thursday. Yeah, not funny at all.

So I'm trying to convince myself this is just temporary. I'm trying to remember how Doc said the swelling and the bruises will work their way down through my torso and this takes time. I'm trying to remember what I used to look like and be happy that I don't look like that any longer. I'm trying to be thankful the incisions are healing well and actually look great considering I'm not even two weeks post-surgery. I'm thinking ahead to maybe being able to get back on the bike next weekend. All of these are positives. I'm trying really, really hard to be positive.

But then I look in the mirror, front then side, and I don't see any difference in how I look now versus how I looked before the surgery. I can feel the swelling but my emotions say this is how I'm going to look from here on. I feel like I'm right back to having to camouflage, hide, take pains to reduce the size of my breasts. The thought that I wasted a lot of time and money on this keeps flitting through my mind.

The only thing I can do is wait. Wait for the swelling to dissipate. Wait for the breasts to settle in. I waited a long time for the actual surgery to happen. I can wait another five weeks to see what the actual results will be. Patience? That's another issue altogether.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cutting the Watermelons From the Vine

Initially I thought I wouldn't write on this subject, feeling like it was too private/personal to put out there. Now, after giving it some consideration, I'm finding I'm completely okay with others knowing what I did for myself. For such a long time I tried to camouflage/hide/create a sleight of hand kind of appearance, and I'm sure I'm not the only woman to do so out of poor self-image. So, here goes.

I am obsessed with . . . wait for it . . . breasts. Specifically, my own. No need to back up and re-read. You read it right the first time, and now you're sitting there with your mouth hanging open and WTF!?!? going through your mind. Want to know more? HA! Of course you do.

It all began way back when, when I was a mere 13 years old. That summer, my body changed. I went from being flat-chested to having quite a pair in what seemed like just a few weeks. Along with the dramatic increase to what I disdainfully refer to as my "two watermelons on a downhill race" came despair. The constant teasing (though I'm sure this wasn't a daily occurrence but sure seemed like it was) from family members and friends put me on a quest to hide beneath baggy t-shirts and sweatshirts. The unwanted and embarrassing attention from boys made me want to figure out a way to smash the emerging melons as flat as possible. While I never went so far as to wrap myself with an ace bandage, I came close to trying it before deciding to go with minimizer bras instead, and for the past 37 years, I've been minimizing what many (mostly men--go figure) refer to as my assets as much as I possibly could. Though the minimizing helped me come to terms (honestly, that's a lie; I've never come to terms with being well-endowed) with my figure, I always dreamed of having smaller breasts. Pretty breasts. Perky breasts.

My kids will tell you that yes, their mom has talked of having breast reduction surgery for as long as they can remember. They will also tell you that their mom had a "Titty" jar (actually it was just a savings account) for any extra money to go into to help pay for the procedure. Finally, in February, there was more than enough money in the savings account to cover the cost. At that point, I made the appointment for the consultation, and let me tell you, the excitement I was feeling the day of the consult was overwhelming. I managed to get through my classes though I can't remember what lesson plan actually happened that day. Let's just say my mind wasn't into student writing. All I could think about was when I could actually schedule the surgery. I was hoping the doc would do it that afternoon, sort of like when I had gone to him to remove the super freckle on my cheek. I went in thinking I was going to have a consult then schedule the day to have the freckle removed. Huh-uh. No sooner had he looked at the freckle that he then said, "Lie back. I'm going to take that off right now." Two minutes later, the freckle was gone and my face was sporting a nice bandage. That's what I wanted to happen at my breast reduction consult. I wanted to hear, "Lie back. Let's do this" (which would probably be one of the one and only times I would unequivocally and enthusiastically agree to a man telling me to lie back!). Yeah. That's not exactly what happened.

At the consult, the doc examined the melons: measuring (the left melon came in at EE, the right melon came in at DD/E--yes, I had one melon very visibly larger than the other), lifting, prodding, and every now and then turning to engage in argument with Hubby over the benefits or lack thereof of mammograms, as I sat there bare-chested. Once the doc had taken down all his notes, I dressed and proceeded to his office to discuss options. There, the doc walked me through what he believed would be the best course of action by showing me images of the procedure, what the incisions would look like, how he would shape the breasts, and what size I would end up as afterwards. When he said C cup, I shook my head. I was determined to go B cup. Doc assured me the C was as small as I really wanted to go with my build (I'm pretty sure that's a standard line no matter what build a woman has; I mean, come on, have you ever heard a man say, "Yeah, C cup or larger is just too darned big?). No. You haven't. Hubby suggested I take Doc's advice as he was the professional in the room. My head was telling me to stand my ground as I was the one who had lived for 37 years with breasts I truly hated. I was the one who had saved for years for this moment. The doc and I came to a grudging agreement of small C.

A week later, after thinking about the procedure and discussing it with Hubby, I called and made the appointment for the surgery. When the day came for me to go in and get marked up for the procedure that would follow the next day, I asked Doc to please go B cup. He said he would as he went to work measuring and drawing purple lines all over my breasts to mark where the incisions would go (and again turning every now and then to engage in argument with Hubby over how much the doc was going to make doing this procedure, leaving me standing there bare-chested with purple marks while they hashed out the cost). When I returned home from being marked, I went into my undergarments drawer and threw out every single bra I owned. Then I went to the department store and bought a new one in the size I would be after the surgery. The rest of that day was simply waiting in anticipation for the surgery the next morning.

My surgery happened Wednesday morning of last week, and while I'm only six days past the surgery, and the bruising and swelling are still quite evident, I already know undergoing breast reduction is one of the best decisions I've ever made. When I put on a v-neck t-shirt sans bra two days after the surgery and looked at my image in the mirror, I wanted to cry. The watermelons on a downhill race had been cut from the vine. In their place are smaller, firmer, in the beginning stages of development cantaloupes. For the first time in a very long time, I didn't turn away from my reflection because I felt so ugly. Instead, I felt attractive. I just wanted to stare, amazed at the difference, and even today, I continue to be amazed by what my breasts now look like. So yeah, I'm a bit obsessed. I know I won't be flaunting my new "cantaloupes." That's just not who I am. But I also know I won't go to the great lengths I used to to minimize them, to hide them. Not anymore.