Friday, December 9, 2016

Don't you DARE give up!!

A year ago I was sinking into a quicksand pit of depression. Healthwise, 2015 had been a lousy year.  Strange infections, chronic bowel problems, facial skin cancer chemo, knee surgery, a pending Achilles tendon surgery, laryngitis, weight gain and--to cap it all off--a diagnosis of fibromyalgia which explained the inexplicable aches, pains and malaise I'd been feeling all year. Christmas was hardly more than an inconvenience.  I hadn't the inclination nor the energy to decorate or bake.  We ended up stringing a set of mini-lights on the jade plant in the living room, and called it good.

A year ago I thought I'd seen the last of good times, good health and youthful vigor.  The outlook was gray and foggy.

Have you been to that dim, shrouded place?  Are you there now?  I have good news for you: it is NOT your new, permanent home!  It's only a stop along the way to something far better.

Maybe you think you lack the power to change your life for the better.  Maybe you think there are no circumstances or influences that can make a positive change in your situation.  You are wrong on both counts.  You alone have the power to improve your life.  It's up to you to actively seek solutions and help from other sources.  No one else is going to do it for you.  As much as your friends love and support you, they can't shovel you out of a hole.  They've already tried.  You have to claw and climb out by yourself.  The good news is that it's a whole lot easier than you may imagine!  Just get the ball rolling, ever so slowly.  The rest will take care of itself.

I was blessed to have positive choices revealed to me in 2016.  I took full advantage of those opportunities, and I made the choices that would ultimately turn my health and outlook around. Yes, I still have fibromyalgia, but I've taken steps to minimize its effects on my life.  Yes, I still have "aging issues" like wrinkles, failing eyesight, and bladder urgencies.  My strength and coordination are diminishing.  But I can live with these "normal" processes.I have no choice there.  I do, however, have choices on how much I want to suffer from fibro's pain, stiffness and malaise.  And I've chosen steps that have literally given me my life back.

DO NOT GIVE UP.  Stop complaining, stop the self pity, get off your ass and try something new.  
The most effective change you can make:  
Whittle yourself down to bones and muscle.   

The second most effective change:  

If you are in physical or emotional pain, or if you're not happy with your life circumstances, my Christmas wish for you is that you put one foot in front of the other and start making the changes.  You only have one life and one chance.

As a very influential candidate said to a group of challenged citizens a couple months ago, "What do you have to lose?  What the HELL do you have to lose?"

Friday, November 18, 2016

Pain is gone! Remedy worked!

Good news!  The agony I experienced last night ago at bedtime faded with the stars and hasn't returned.

This validated my belief that I can control my fibromyalgia symptoms by "living right."  I expect I'll feel even better tomorrow as my system will be further cleansed of the stuff that made me hurt so badly yesterday.

Today I got up at 6 a.m. as usual and hobbled downstairs feeling like I was 95 years old.  Fed the dogs, then retreated to the basement for one hour of gentle but steady exercise.  Within minutes, the pain and stiffness with which I awoke had greatly diminished.  Usually by the time I've fed the dogs and gone downstairs, I'm feeling at least 50 percent better than when rising.  No matter how much I hurt upon rising, I can always count on that.

Things continue to improve over the next hour.  I keep moving at a moderate pace, from one piece of equipment to another, from one body part to another, never repeating the exact same workout two days in a row. The hour flies by ever so quickly.  At 7:17 I'm headed back upstairs to bed for a 45-minute"nap," where I stretch out in "corpse pose" and concentrate only on relaxing the muscles I have worked.

When I get up again, I shower and prepare for the day.  I am now pretty much pain-free. I fix my husband's breakfast and prepare a smoothie for myself.

For the rest of the day, I stay in motion as much as possible.  This keeps the "rust" from settling into my bones and soft tissue.

"Lunch" consisted of  two cups of salted-in-the-shell peanuts with a cup of coffee.  Not the best choice, but not the worst either.  High protein + high fat = satiation.

I stayed honest at dinner...I really missed my wine, but opted to refrain because I knew it would cause a negative reaction.  So I polished off some leftover chicken salad (just chicken and lettuce) with a glass of vitamin water in the wine glass.

Total calories for the day: about 1,000.  Just right.  No bloating, Quiet gut.  No inflammation.  Tonight I will sleep well, knowing I made the right choices to heal myself for another day.

The right foods for YOU + moderate, frequent exercise + water + rest = NO MORE FIBROMYALGIA least, not until I allow myself to mess up again. And I will.  But a "well lived" day is money in the bank that pays interest.  Those dividends will help me get through the next recession, otherwise called "Thanksgiving."

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I know why I hurt tonight

Tonight my joints are screaming.  Ankles, knees, elbows, shoulders are stiff and painful with inflammation that's so pervasive with fibromyalgia.  My brain is foggy too.  Today I nearly wiped out a woman at Costco with a frozen turkey I was slinging into my cart.  I kept running into other people's carts, and in the produce room I walked away from my own cart and grabbed someone else's by mistake.  I'm surprised I was able to make the two-hour drive home without incident.

But I am filled with optimism.  I think I know WHY I'm feeling fibro-like today...and that's why I'm going to change things tomorrow with the hope of feeling 100 percent better.

Here's what I think I did wrong today and yesterday to bring on the fibro attack:
  • I didn't drink enough water.
  • I didn't exercise for an hour this morning.
  • My sleep was disrupted because I was in a hotel room last night.
  • I ate crappy food instead of sticking to my regular regimen.

Tomorrow I WILL feel better.  I'll get up at 6a.m., exercise for an hour, return to bed for another hour, get up and drink plenty of water all day, and eat a minimal amount of food that is kind and gentle to my system.  There will be no gluten, refined sugar, or alcohol in my diet tomorrow.

Stay tuned and find out if I am in fact pain-free tomorrow evening.  I want to prove it to myself...and to you other fibro sufferers out there...that we really can minimize or eliminate our symptoms by "living right."

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Kicking fibromyalgia in the ass....

Find your magic hour

With four hip replacements behind me, I don't physically kick balls, stones or cans much anymore.  But for the past several months I've been kicking fibromyalgia in the ass.  I'm here to tell you that you, too, can kick fibro or most other chronic physical issues in the ass if you really get down to business.  In the process, you're going to lose weight, feel better about yourself, get stronger, and be able to live a somewhat normal life once again.  Without drugs.

My method, which I outlined in my last post, consists of these steps:
  1.  Eliminate foods that are difficult for you to digest.
  2.  Set aside ONE HOUR A DAY for some sort of exercise.
  3.  Go to bed earlier.  Take rest breaks during the day

For me, these three things are totally integrated.  I can't skip one and expect to feel well the next day. My favorite, however, is #2.  Set aside ONE HOUR A DAY for some sort of exercise.  So let's talk about that.

First, I credit my physical therapist, Stan, for getting me into this ONE HOUR A DAY thing.  He's been a therapist for 30 years and he knows his stuff.  He's seen it all.  He is passionate about this ONE HOUR A DAY mantra, which he says generally falls on deaf ears.  Face it, we've all heard this preached to us and most of us think, "Well, that would be nice but I simply don't have the time, and I hate exercise."

Now shut up and tell the truth.  You DO have an hour to devote to yourself, your well-being, the betterment and longevity of your life.  You just have to look for it or carve it out of your existing schedule.  Not only that....but you DO enjoy some forms of physical activity, whether it's dancing, walking your dog, bowling, raking leaves, or having sex.

To make this even easier, think how quickly you form habits.  Do anything for a few days or a few weeks in a row, and it becomes comfortably habitual.

So let's first find that hour in your day....that very special hour you devote to just yourself.  No excuses.  There's a way to do it.  My special hour--which has actually become the most precious hour of my day--starts at 6:15 a.m.  The dogs get me up at 6 a.m. for breakfast.  The feeding/pottying ritual takes about 15 minutes.  At 6:15 I head for my basement "gym" with my iPad in hand. Now, granted, my little gym would make most physical therapists jealous; I have a lot of exercise "toys" and I use them all during my workout because I like the variety.  But if I had to, I could get an adequate workout without any of it.  The key is to simply KEEP MOVING at a comfortable (not a killer) pace.  We'll talk more about exercises in a future post.

The 6:15 morning hour was the ONLY one I knew I could stick with.  At that hour there are no phone calls or doorbells.  The dogs have gone back to bed with my husband.  I seal myself off from the rest of the world, with the understanding that I am not to be interrupted unless it's an emergency.

As much as I enjoy exercise, I know that if it doesn't happen for me at 6:15, it's not going to happen that day.  I'm not talking about the additional spurts of exercise we all get during a normal day, whether playing at the dog park, splitting wood or grooming horses.  Sorry, but those don't count!    They should be IN ADDITION to your special hour.

Some suggestions for finding the hour:  

  • Instead of relaxing on the couch to watch your favorite weekly TV show, watch it streaming on your tablet while you peddle an exercise bike.
  • Get up an hour earlier...and go to bed an hour earlier too.
  • Put the dogs in crates so they can't bother you during your hour.
  • Tell your family members they'll have to fend for themselves in the kitchen during your hour.  
  • Buy some Leslie Sansone "Walk Your Way to Fitness" videos to use in your living room.
  • Ignore your phone!!!!!  YOU are more important than that thing!!!!

Next post:  

What you DON'T need to do to get a good one-hour workout. 

"Bucket List Weight Loss"--Order your copy today on Amazon.  Available on Kindle as well.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Feeling younger every day

Four months ago I sold most of my Size 6 jeans in a yard sale because I'd resigned myself to never getting into them again.  I ached all over virtually all the time, and was also resigning myself to a fairly depressing and scaled-down life of inactivity.  Moving hurt.  Living fatigued me.  That's what fibromyalgia is all about.  The arthritic knee didn't help either, and the Achilles tendon surgery I'd had last winter had taken its toll on my strength, stamina and flexibility.  I thought I was going to have to accept feeling like an 80-year-old, even though I was only 63.

Today I'm replacing the Size 6 jeans I sold....with more Size 6's.  I don't hurt like I did four months ago.  Even the knee is improved.  I have my life back again.

In fact, I feel like I'm getting younger every day.  I no longer feel 80, or 63.  Maybe 45 or 50.  I'll take that!

The secret?  Actually, I have two, and I'll share them with you.
1.  I gave up foods that disagreed with me.
2.  I changed my daily exercise routine.

Sounds pretty simple and common, I know.  But the turnaround in how I feel is anything but "common."  It's a freaking miracle.  First, a brief look at the dietary changes....

I stopped eating refined sugar because I knew it was causing inflammation and spikes in my blood sugar.  I stopped eating most gluten for the same reasons.  I eliminated artificial sweeteners and processed foods.  And I drastically cut back on my alcohol intake.  This all started as a water fast back in June, and it morphed into an appetite-killing realization that food often made me feel worse than hunger did.  Certain foods are safe and satisfying, so I concentrate on them and eat only what's necessary.  Most days I now consume about 1,000 calories.

The other secret:  I devote one hour of every day to uninterrupted exercise, immediately followed by total rest and a shower.  My hour starts at 6:15 a.m., after I've fed the dogs.  That's the only hour that works for me.  If I don't do it then, it won't get done.  The exercise is light but nonstop.  I don't even break a sweat.  I just keep moving, doing a wide variety of things to include yoga, resistance exercises, light cardio, and coordination drills.  After my hour, I return to bed for 45 minutes.  In yoga they'd call this time "savasana," a time to rest and rejuvenate the body after working it.   When the gentle alarm goes off, I rise and jump into the shower for a hot, invigorating scrub that leaves me ready to tackle the day ahead.

In future posts, I'm going to elaborate on how I came to adopt this new lifestyle.  I know it won't work for everyone--especially the "going back to bed" part.  But the combination of good nutrition and consistent exercise has turned my clock back about 15 years.  And there is no medicine that can replicate that feeling!

I'll be sharing my adventures in physical therapy with you too.  The four months of PT following my Achilles tendon surgery have changed my life.  Let me tease you by quoting the slogan that's plastered over the doorway of my physical therapist's office:  
 "Exercise is the best medicine."

More to come.  I might as well warn you, I'm going to be preaching my discoveries with a passion!!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A re-discovered pain reliever that works

Nearly three months ago I drastically reduced my daily caloric intake to less than 1,000 calories.  With only a handful of exceptions, I've stuck with the low-cal eating every day.  My average is probably about 800 calories

So how much weight have I lost?  I don't even know, and I don't care.  None of this was done to lose weight.  It started, rather, as an elimination diet to help ease my symptoms of fibromyalgia.  I was sure some common food groups, for whatever strange reason, were aggravating my fibro symptoms--widespread pain, extreme stiffness, lack of mobility, mental fog and depression, to name a few.

The first thing I pitched from my diet was sugar.  Sorry, but no one can say anything good about what refined sugar does to the body.  It's like slow poison to your insides, and it can cause inflammation in every joint in your body.  I used to live on candy when I was younger and in denial.  Now I avoid the nasty stuff because I know what it will do to me, and it's not worth it.

Along with the refined sugar went the artificial sweeteners.   I simply don't trust the chemicals anymore.  It's not often I use any sweetener but, when I do, it's all natural Stevia.

Alcohol also went by the wayside for a while, but I've started back on the booze in moderation.  I went several weeks without imbibing a drop, and then eased up a bit to enjoy a glass of cold Chardonnay once in a while.  I continue sipping wine or margaritas maybe two nights a week now, but could easily go without it completely. Certain triggers--like emotional stress, a wonderful evening horseback ride, or a crowded social event--can make me "thirsty," although I could be just as satisfied  with water instead.  I've all but given up beer for two reasons: the first is gluten (it makes me feel bad), the second is the bloated, uncomfortably full sensation it gives me.

So what's changed?  Is my new way of eating worth it?  Well, for the present, the answer is an emphatic YES.  There's no doubt I have food sensitivities that aggravate inflammation and cause gastric upsets, both of which contribute to a mental fog and mild depression.  That's all part of the fibromyalgia mystery.  After eliminating those problematic foods, I can wholeheartedly say I have a LOT less discomfort and considerably more energy.  Best of all, my outlook on life and the future has brightened by leaps and bounds.

Admittedly, a big part of this is due to the weight loss that was inevitable on a severely reduced calorie diet.  BEING OVERWEIGHT HURTS.  Since publishing my book, Bucket List Weight Loss, five years ago, I'd slowly gained back nearly half of what I'd lost. Never mind the reasons for now...I'll address those in a future post.  The important thing is that I gained back enough weight to make my already compromised body hurt even worse than it already did.  You should try carrying around a 10-pound bag of potatoes for a couple weeks and see how you feel.  If you're more than 10 pounds overweight, just imagine carrying around a layer of all the extra weight you now have.  Think you could do it?  Nope, not without some serious pain.  But carry that much extra right now!  So imagine how much BETTER you would feel if you lost that extra layer.  You'd feel like you were floating with your feet six inches off the ground!

Where am I going with this?  Right back to Bucket List Weight Loss.  I strongly believe that losing ALL excess weight is the best medicine and pain reliever for many common ailments--especially the age-related issues.   If you hurt, and have been overweight for much of your life, you truly may not know how incredibly good you could feel if the extra weight was gone from your body.  What a tragedy for you! 

It's not my job to tell you how to lose it.  All I can do is set an example of the end result and say, "You must find your own way."  The principles in Bucket List Weight Loss still work for me, and I am SO glad I wrote them all down in a book I can review from time to time when I need reminders.  Expect more posts as this "rerouted" journey continues. My goal is to help you, through weight loss and exercise, to reclaim your life and your health as you choose to define them.  Stay tuned.

Bucket List Weight Loss is available in paperback or Kindle at this link:

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Best Thing About Fasting

For more than three weeks now I've been thriving very happily on less than 1,000 calories a day.  I embarked on this low-cal venture, not to lose weight but to eliminate foods  I thought might be aggravating my fibromyalgia symptoms.  Diet has long been suspected of playing a major role in this incurable syndrome where the brain misreads nerve signals, resulting in widespread and inexplicable pain.

I've made some great, life-changing discoveries in the past three weeks...and I've also reaffirmed some long-held ideas of my own.

One of them has to do with fasting.  In Bucket List Weight Loss, published five years ago, I wrote about my love affair with Cambridge weight loss drinks.  Cambridge was basically a fast.  To have ultimate success, you were to drink three 110-calorie Cambridge shakes a lots of water.  And that's all.  Coffee and diet sodas were optional, but absolutely no other nutrition was allowed.  The beauty of Cambridge, to me, was its simplicity.  It was so restrictive that I couldn't even consider cheating a bit.  It was like locking myself in a cell with no access to food.  It was absolute.  And easy.  At least, after the first couple days.

Fasting is the same concept.  When fasting, you're limiting yourself to certain liquids each day, with the understanding that eating ANYTHING else will blow the whole thing, waste your time and money, and make you fatter.

Total water fasts are best done under a doctor's supervision and with total rest.  Neither of those was practical for me, so three weeks ago I reverted back to good old Cambridge.  I did that for a few days, then added a "real dinner."  That's pretty much what I'm still doing.

I fell off the wagon a couple times.  They were just little falls, but I felt horrid 12 hours after each incident.  Macaroni salad--can't handle the gluten.  Weiners--probably too much salt and chemicals.  Alcohol--gives me a headache.  Potato chips--lethargic after eating a few.  So I've been eating baby carrots (raw and cooked), strawberries, blueberries, grapes, spinach and a microscopic amount of lean meat.  Surprise:  I am satisfied, I feel great (relatively speaking), and I have no cravings.

Perhaps best of all, I've only weighed myself a couple times because I'm not obsessing about it!  I guess I've lost about 12 pounds and know that my final 10 will drop off without any effort.  With the weight loss, my joints don't ache as much, and my mental outlook is far brighter.  The idea of alleviating pain from my life is  much more motivating than shrinking down to a certain size.

It's this simple:  I eat the wrong things and I have pain.  I eat the right things and I don't have pain.  It makes my nutritional choices pretty darn easy.  The minor and transitory discomfort of an empty stomach can't be compared to the pain and stiffness that make climbing stairs impossible.

Fasting is to eating what abstinence is to birth control.  It works 100% of the time.  If you're inclined to try a modified fast for a few days, do your research first.  Learn how.  Convince yourself you're not going to die or compromise your health if you don't eat for a couple days!   Set your parameters, keep temptations out of sight, and just GET THROUGH the first two to four days. Let your body rest and heal.  Then start adding the foods you know your body appreciates and needs.  If you suspect some of your former foods harmed your body, you're probably right.  Trust your gut.  Once you feel better after fasting, you won't want to do anything that will bring that pain back to you again.