Dealing With Holiday Weight Gain

I never know how to open (or close) a blog.  It always feels awkward.

Ok, so here goes- My name is Sierra and I am a recovering anorexic.  Bam.

I’ve been in recovery for a long time.  I’ve had babies.  Weight has been gained.  Weight has been lost.  Stretch marks have happened.  So has a lot of hard work and personal growth.

I was at a sweet spot, weight wise, for me.  Somewhere I can be comfortably, at which my body is happy and the crazy is generally kept at bay.

Well, I’ve been enjoying lots of good food and kicking back breve iced mochas at work and a couple extra pounds have appeared as extra insulation on my tummy and hinny.  I stepped on the scale and faced the music and indeed, it wasn’t bloat or my imagination.  Sadface.

Instead of going into pyscho- anorexic mode and beating myself up I’m handling it much differently.  I stared at my body in the mirror and saw all the things I do like.  I (man this sounds so cheesy, but go there with me) affirmed my body.  I bit bigger than I want to be, but it’s still my body and I love it.

However, I don’t want those couple extra pounds to gain long term squatter status so I do have a loose plan in place.  I’m going to hit my strength training workouts hard.  I’m going to cut back on sugar and empty carbs and focus my diet on high quality protein and fats.

I’m not going berserk or punishing my body.  I’m approaching it from the standpoint of treating my body as a temple to be treated with care and respect.

The scale will go back to normal and I’m not going to stress about it.

For many of us who have struggled with eating disorders- a lot of it stems from having an intense (obsessive) personality with a heavy dose of perfectionism.  I realize now that this can be a good thing.  I am probably always going to be obsessing about something.  I’m probably always going to have some discontent in my life, striving to be better.

The times in my life that I have been the happiest have been the times I’ve focused all that obsessiveness on the only one worthy of all my devotion- Jesus.  So while I strive to do well by my body, my main focus is keeping the focus firmly where it belongs.

 

Long Road to Health

I guess I should specify that I am not a medical professional, just someone who has spent countless hours looking for answers to my own health problems.  I waded through a lot of scams and wackiness and found helpful tidbits here and there until I pieced them together into a more complete picture.  I have tried a gazillion different supplements.  I am basically a guinea pig. 🙂

I wish I had found very clear answers early on, without a sales pitch.  I also realize that everybody is different but basic health advice applies to everyone.

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Me at 22 (on the right)

 

 

I personally have a strong family history of auto-immune disease.  My paternal grandma died of cancer and lupus.  Many of my aunts and uncles from that side have auto-immune issues.  My sister has celiac’s disease and lupus.

When I started feeling awful in my early 20’s I had no idea why.  With a stressful pregnancy at 22 I believe my celiacs got into full swing.  But it started before that.  As a young child I had recurrent ear infections and was on dose after dose of antibiotics.  Antibiotics, especially when given heavily to a young child, greatly damage that gut bacteria which in turn affects all areas of health and development.  I remember getting a lot of stomach aches.  I was rail thin.  I had a major sweet tooth (candida, anyone?) and started dealing with some anxiety and depression early on.

So it took many years of searching to find out why I felt so awful all the time.  I thought I might have chronic fatigue syndrome because I felt bone-crushing fatigue almost every day.  On top of that I had insomnia.

Let me preface to say that all foods are inflammatory to some degree.  Even breathing causes aging through oxidation!  But some foods are more inflammatory than others.  If you have a weakened gut through family history, stress, antibiotics, etc. you are more likely to develop digestion problems like leaky gut or full blown celiacs.  If you are eating inflammatory foods with a weakened gut you are going to crash and burn, health wise.

With a compromised gut wall; certain proteins from food can leach through the gut lining and cause auto-immune problems when your immune system decides that say, gluten, is a threat to be attacked.  Then your own immune system is attacking your own gut.  Obviously problematic!

This was going on with me for years.  I eventually realized that it wasn’t just gluten but also soy lecithin, carrageenan, preservatives, and nitrates that were causing my gut inflammation and misery.  All grains also tend to be inflammatory to people who already have damaged guts.  So out with the gluten free pasta and bread.  Gut inflammation caused my nutritional deficiencies and exhaustion.  I felt like an old lady and much of my hair fell out.

I found out through some blood testing that I was anemic and deficient in vitamin D.  I wasn’t making vitamin D through sunlight.  It must be a lupus thing- a lot of sunlight just caused more inflammation and exhaustion.

There are a lot of good blogs out there with good info but the lifestyle they advocate is so extreme it can be overwhelming.  Like- I need to live on organic free-range bone broth and kale?  Just shoot me now!

I don’t think most people need such an extreme lifestyle.  Just some tweaks here and there.  I am on a pretty restricted diet cause I have to or I will feel awful.  But I am seeing big improvements in my gut and general health and hopefully will be able to successfully incorporate more foods.

Supplements that really helped me are turmeric (great anti-inflammatory), probiotics, iron, and of course vitamin D.  I was taking 2,000 IU’s a day and that wasn’t making a dent in my deficiency.  I’ve upped it to 10,000 IU’s and that has made a big difference.

People with auto-immune issues tend to be Vitamin D deficient.  Whether the deficiency causes the problem or the problem drains the body’s resources, I don’t know.  But in either cases getting those levels up is crucial.

Symptoms are clues to an underlying problem.  I tried to treat my hair loss for years with topical stuff with limited success.  Addressing my gut health and vitamin deficiencies made my hair finally stop falling out.

Limiting caffeine is also helpful.  It is a vicious cycle when you are so exhausted you become more and more caffeine dependent and that caffeine disrupts your sleep at night and you become more tired and caffeine dependent.  At one point I was drinking up to five cups of coffee a day.  Not healthy!  Now I try to stick to two cups of half-caff coffee in the morning.  I sleep so much better.  Too much caffeine also messes up your hormones.  My cycle gets messed up when I have too much caffeine.  (Hello psycho P.M.S!)

Most of us are deficient in magnesium too.  I take magnesium citrate every night before bed for good sleep.

I also most shop the parameter of the grocery store- fresh produce, meat and dairy.  I make most things from scratch to avoid icky ingredients.  It takes awhile to adapt but every thing tastes so much better.  You get used to good homemade food and everything else is subpar.  I do make bone broth and make some crazy good soups that are also super healthy.  I stock up on staples like kerrygold butter, organic cream, leafy greens, regular old chicken breasts, and of course coconut oil at Costco.  We probably spend less on groceries than an average family of five.

I don’t always buy organic because it can be ridiculously expensive.  But I do when I find deals or comparable pricing.  We usually don’t eat canned food either because it is super high in BPA and is not as nutritious.  Plus, canned food just tastes icky.

Also, exercising is very important too.  Especially strength training for bone health.  My ankles used to crack whenever I tried to run and feel like they were giving out on me.  Yikes!  I’ve been building up my strength with weights and plyometrics and I feel strong and healthy, and no more cracking ankles.  Heavy impacts and weight loads don’t just affect your muscles but your bones as well.  You can build up bone strength, no matter your age.  Weight lifting is also great for metabolism and even brain health!

I really feel better than I have in years.  I hope that others who are in the same hard place with their health that I was find hope in that you can feel better, that there is hope.

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Me Now (29)

God Bless, Sierra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sailing through Flu Season

I have three kids.  Two bring home every germ from their elementary school and the other one is regularly exposed to many other little kids in the daycare at my gym.  Avoiding flu germs isn’t really an option for us.  A couple winters ago I was literally sick off and on like all winter.  It was awful.  Sick-boy

I’ve learned a few tricks since then and I have not been sick once this year (knock on wood) and only my youngest has gotten a touch of the flu.

The biggest ‘trick’ is Vitamin D.  It is gaining popularity and with good reason.  Our bodies manufacture it from sunlight.  But if you live in the frozen dreary north like me (Minnesota, represent) you get basically zero for months on end.  Vit. D is crucial for health in general but if you don’t have enough you will have no immune system.  My levels were abysmally low at my last physical so I take 10,000 iu a day.  I give my kids vitamin D gummies every morning.

My next trick up my sleeve is probiotics.  We take them every day.  They even have tasty, chewable ones now that kids love.  They keep your digestive system happy and give a major boost to your immune system as well.

We also avoid antibacterial anything.  Antibacterial soap leads to super germs…and decreased immunity to them.  Yikes, no thanks.  Hygiene is good but exposure to germs isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Many experts now site our overly sanitary lives as reasons behind the rise in asthma and allergies.  Our bodies aren’t being exposed to enough germs so they become hyper-active towards them.  A better bet is building up our immune system to be able to handle whatever is thrown at it.

I’m not diving into the controversy that surrounds the flu shot but suffice to say we wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. 🙂

When my kids do still catch some junk I have three other tricks that really help.

For that dry cough that keeps everyone up a night- a spoonful of raw honey is just as helpful as cough syrup.  Plus, you won’t have to force them to take it.

Running my essential oil diffusers with certain oils works almost like magic to suppress coughs so kids (and the parents!) can get a good night sleep.  Oils I have found to be the most helpful are; lavender, frankincense and cedarwood.  They also smell amazing.  If you don’t have a diffuser you can put a few drops of lavender (pretty easily obtained at even a regular grocery store) in a humidifier.  Shut their door at bedtime so they are breathing in moist air with healing properties all night.    lavender

When they wake up with the ‘sick’ look- glazed over eyes, snotty noses, etc.  I will put them in a hot bath with Epsom salts (about two cups) and the essential oils I mentioned (five drops each).  It also does wonders.

I also will rub lavender and frankincense or myrrh (diluted with oil or lotion) onto their chests and massage their lymph nodes to promote drainage and calm an irritated respiratory system.

If you’re just getting started with essential oils just be cautious and always dilute when applying topically.  They are very powerful and effective so kids don’t need much.  For a massage you only need one drop of each oil you are using, diluted in at least a tablespoon of lotion or oil.  You also don’t have to spend a fortune to get good oils.  Aura cacia is widely available, inexpensive and IMO just as good as any other brand.

Also; basic things like eating well, sleeping enough, exercising and managing stress are also biggies.

Here’s to your healthiest flu season yet!

 

 

 

 

Waiting

So I did go in on Tuesday to see where my thyroid was at and to test for the presence of anti-nuclear anti-bodies (which indicates the potential presence of an auto-immune disease).  I had my first strange experience of having a doctor that is (probably!) younger than me.  I am 29 but she looked about 25!

It is also strange that now we can see test results online with only google to help us figure out what it means.  My ANA test was positive.  I haven’t heard back from the Doctor though.  So I am in the limbo period.  I’ll probably need more tests to figure out exactly what is up.  0e1407027_waiting-series-graphic

Today I am feeling just exhausted.  I am pretty bummed because this has affected my quality of life so much for most of my 20’s.  Summing up much of the last decade in my life I would use one word- tired.  And with three kids I can’t exactly nap or sleep in.

My little guy Gabe is going through the ringer with his eczema.  He’s been having trouble sleeping every night and keeping us up too.  I let him stay home on Tuesday because he had been up much of the night and scratched himself raw.

So we are at a real low point.  It’s been pretty brutal.  It kills us to see him suffering day after day.  He is going to see a specialist next week and hopefully we’ll get some answers/help with this.

In times like this I am grateful though for my husband.  He is such a good dad and a loving partner.  Having that support through tough times is everything.

We are trying to see glimmers of hope through this.  It’s been tough though.  Not gonna lie.  We get really frustrated that God hasn’t yet answered our prayers for Gabe.  We’ve started wrapping him up in seran-wrap and packing tape at night so he doesn’t scratch all his skin off at night!  Almost funny, like a little plastic wrap mummy.

I don’t know for sure if I have lupus yet.  Obviously, there is something auto-immune going on with me- causing the fatigue and hair loss.  Hopefully I’ll have more answers soon.

So it is what it is.  We could definitely use prayers, especially for Gabe.

Good News!

I know my posts have been glum and sad lately but today I am very hopeful.

We noticed that Gabe’s eczema has gotten much worse since we moved to a new area a little over a year ago.  Despite using all sorts of creams, ointments, and steroids.  I think a huge contributer is the water here.  You can smell the chlorine in it.  For months every time I get out of the shower my skin is itchy all over with red rashes on my neck, face and shoulders.

We have Gabe soak in the water every night as part of his treatment.  It is really frustrating to think that all along the water was making his situation worse.

So we splurged on a whole house water filtration system.  I am really hopeful that it will help his skin immensely.  Chlorine is nasty stuff.  It is toxic even in small amounts.  WIth every shower it actually absorbs through your skin and you breathe it in, adding to a daily toxic load.  Children like Gabe just can’t handle it.

Another option is to add ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to children’s bath water.  A small amount (like a tsp.) will help neutralize the chlorine.

There are also special shower heads that filter out chlorine that are supposed to work really well too.

My Kinda-Sorta Lupus

After a decent night sleep I woke up feeling exhausted.  Like so many mornings.  I drank my coffee and did my devotion time, feeling awful.  I got my kids on the bus and drug my tired self to the gym.  I mentally pushed aside the exhaustion to get in a good workout, like so many mornings.  After two cups of coffee and a heart-thumping workout I feel somewhat energized.  Like so many mornings.

A few days ago would have been my Grandma Margaret Terrell’s 92nd birthday.  But she died relatively young, her early 60’s, in large part due to lupus.

My older sister recently had to go on prednisone to get her lupus under control.

So I’ve been thinking about lupus and of course it’s effect on my life.  I’ve never been dianosed.  When my health started going south a few years ago I really felt more frustrated and misunderstood in the various doctors offices than anything else.  I guess I developed the mindset that ultimately I am responsible for my health and there are no easy answers.

Things got better when I started to figure out how huge diet was.  Certain foods make me feel like the walking dead- gluten, carageenan, soy lecithin, and nitrates.  When I am on a super strict diet I feel so much better.  However, these four ingredients are in like 90% of common foods that you would eat at restauraunts, cookouts, potlucks, etc.

I also have chemical sensitivities, like many of my Aunts (daughters of my Grandma Terrell).  A strong whiff of perfume can give me an instant headache.  I avoid any artificial scents in anything because they make me ill.

I think it started in my teen years.  I developed the trademark ‘butterfly’ red mark on my face.  My hair started falling out.  I felt tired and depressed.  Of course, my diet was terrible then.

Now I take really good care of myself because I have too.  I think if I threw all caution to the wind and ate a crappy diet I could be bed ridden with lupus really quick.

I certainly would not declare over myself that I have lupus.  I feel like there really is no point in getting a bunch of testing done because there is no cure.  The best approach is healthy lifestyle.

I just wanted to share because you may feel like something is your fate.  It may be in your genes.  You may have symptoms.  You may feel defeated at times.  But don’t give up.  Don’t curl up in bed with your sickness.  Life is for living.  We all have to do the best with the hands we are dealt.

Lifestyle factors actually have an enormous effect on gene expression.  And of course, there is power in prayer.  I pray daily but I don’t think God is going to let me get away with not doing my part and wallowing in self pity.  I don’t know what my future holds.  Maybe I’ll be bald in 10 years.  Maybe I’ll be vibrantly healthy.  I know that whatever happens I trust God.  He has a good plan no matter what.  WeAreMoreThanConquerors

So I’ll keep doing my best to (try!) to eat consistently healthy and keeping a positive attitude.  Maybe your hardship is God’s invitation to be gloriously triumphant, an overcomer in life.

Join me in making this your battle mindset, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

Eczema Protocol

20150811_172331_resizedI’ve shared before about my six year old, Gabe’s battle with eczema.  It has gotten significantly better lately and I just want to share for the people who care about him or are looking for help with their eczema.

20141113_173742This picture here was from when he was recovering from a really bad staph infection when his eczema got really infected last winter.  I won’t post pics of it at it’s worst because it was pretty gruesome looking. 😦

On the right is what Gabe looks like now.  Just trust me when I say it is looking a lot better.

We have used topical steroids and mupirocin, which helped a lot at first but seemed to be losing their effectivness.

We have tried many creams and lotions, some that worked better than others.

I think the biggest thing in getting the eczema under control was doing nightly soaks in the tub with sea salt.  I’ve been using Trader Joe’s lavender salt scrub in his baths and that is helping a lot.  We let him play and soak in the tub for 20-30 minutes.  20150811_102855

We use a minimal amount of natural soap, because it dries out his skin and kids really don’t need tons of soap.

When we get him out we glob on a mix of honest company’s healing balm mixed with this natural calendula lotion.  I usually add in a few drops of myrrh or another essential oil.

We are still praying for the day that he doesn’t have to deal with this at all.  Thankfully though, it has gotten a lot better.  Thanks to everyone who prays for him.  We really appreciate it.