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The last post in here was forever ago!  My life has been chaotic to say the least.  I had my surgery (after a last minute approval which I’ll detail later) on July 29th.  I was out of the hospital on Aug 2nd and apparently doing fine.  As part of my at home recovery I had to give myself shots of Lovenox, a blood thinner.  A few days later I was back in the hospital with a major GI bleed.  My blood count dropped to a 6.  I had transfusions and many IVs to clear the blood thinner out of my system.  I had to wear a heart monitor since my heart had gone into tachycardia while I was so anemic.  It was pretty frightening.  Again, I’ll go into that later. 

I returned home from the hospital on Aug 10th.  That was an expensive stretch.  Then on Aug 22nd I was back in the ER with extreme digestive problems and pain.  It turns out I picked up a bug from the blood issue hospitalization.  I had allowed myself to get extremely dehydrated too.  All of that combined into a nasty spell of a few days being hooked up to IVs and having various tests run again.  I missed the first two weeks of school because of it.  I had to resign from my fall coaching position and my surgeon was there to witness the waterfall of tears.  When I returned to school I was a mess.  I still had a hard time eating.  I was still dehydrated.  I was trying to make up for my absence with getting to know the kids and getting all of my grading done.  It was beyond stressful.

I worked and worked these past three months.  Now, finally, Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away and I have time to type.  I’m down about 80 pounds from my heaviest last January when I went in for the consultation with the surgeon.  That should be great news, right?  Ha!  Being so damaged from constant negative fat comments, I still think I look huge.  I am still always on the verge of falling into the hopeless and negative thoughts that are so intertwined between food and mood.  These two things have been my life since I can remember – even as a child.

The R.A. is what this is really about.  There is research and I’ll post a link if I find one that suggests if an R.A. patient undergoes the RNY gastric bypass that the digestive re-routing has a positive effect on joint pain.  In other words, that the effects of changing up the digestive tract counteracts the R.A.  Whatever the real research is there, I can say that my feet have not hurt in all of October and November.  That searing hot, stabbing pain that was a dreaded part of my every morning as my feet swang from my bed to the floor is gone.  What a relief!  I also notice that my fingers aren’t as stiff.  I wonder if it is the cutting back of sugar from my diet?

The post-op RNY diet is extreme and that accounts for the weight loss and lifestyle change.  I was eating absolute trash all along before this.  I was even binge eating at times, usually times that correlated with depression, anxiety, loneliness, and stress (which is pretty much 90% of my world).  Post-op, if I even eat one bite too much of something I end up praying to the porcelain gooddess…so to say.  It isn’t pretty.  I’m learning through just such negative reinforcement to portion control and be wiser in my food choices.  If what I eat isn’t guaranteed to make it through me, than I better pack what I do eat with nutrients.  Thus, the 80 pound difference.

Would I suggest RNY to morbidly obese friends and family members?  Absolutely! 

While there is nothing easy or quick fix about medically altering your physiology, there is hope in it where diets and will power have failed.  Even the positive effects of gastric bypass may be negated, the pouch can stretch from overeating, food choices may revert back to old habits, high caloric foods and drinks may still lead to weight gain – etc.  I know those risks exist and threaten my success each day.  I know my mind is still the same mind that allowed myself to turn to food for self-medication.  I’m still me no matter what the scale and closet say.  This is where I need to get real serious.

There is a lot of work to be done introspectively.  I need to meet my mental demons head on.  I need to grieve and process anger.  I need to recognize the hard struggles I’ve endured and make ammends with my regrets.  There is a long road of psychological atonement that I must walk, and just like the weight loss it must be slow and steady to be effective.

As far as the insurance company goes, they paid for everything.  I’ve had to cover some co-payments here and there, but otherwise it is all good!  Thank the good Lord!  There is no way that I could have handled the estimated expenses I was looking at as all of the bills poured in.  Three separate hospitalizations was REALLY, REALLY, REALLY expensive!  I’m grateful to be feeling better, doing better and walking, biking, and even jogging, for the first time in a long time.  I’m glad that I did this bariatric procedure!

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I remember watching the Julia Robert’s movie, Erin Brockovich and thinking how is it possible for that insurance guy to be able to go along with that memo/mandate from the powers that be and deny patients their health coverage?  Then, this past year the very same thing happened to my sister.  She suffers a congenital degrading disc thing in her back.  She is a fit, previously healthy 29 year old.  She had a discetomy in her lumber region when she was in high school.  Since then she has lived with continuous back pain.  She has seen specialists all over the Chicagoloand area.  She continues to suffer extreme pain.  Finally, her main specialist suggested a fusion.  This would be a major operation and require pre-authorization.  BCBS-IL denied her because she had not attempted other means of fixing the pain.  Her previous discetomy was too long ago to be considered a viable attempt at fixing a “degenerative” situation.  So, in December she had another discetomy and recovered to only a slight amount of relief.  I now blame BCBS-IL for basically turning my otherwise healthy younger sister into a near Vicodin addict.  She has been popping major pain pills for almost a year now.  And now, NOW, BCBS-IL finally approved the fusion surgery because the various specialists all determined that the discetomy was not a viable treatment option for a condition that will only continue to get worse with time – as the “degenerative” label so obviously suggests.  So, until the fusion surgery she will continue to pop the Vicodin just to grit and bear it.  She has talked to lawyers and sought an outside review of the whole situation, but her situation has been resolved with the scheduled date of the operation.  Now she faces an even more interesting situation since the “spinal” issue will flag her for future insurance plans and thus cost her more.  The method of how BCBS-IL handled her case is just one example that completely frustrated her (and our family).  It coincides with my own.

I was denied for Surgical Treatment for Morbid Obesity.  Let me update this whole thing because I am not HUGE, but I am obese by BMI standards and having R.A. makes working out something that helps to combat joint stiffness, but doesn’t necessary allow me to attack flab with the gusto that I once enjoyed so much.  I looked into this two summers ago and began jumping through all of the BCBS-IL hoops toward approval.  Two years ago I was also a cardiac patient as a congenital heart condition came to light at the same time as my diagnosis with R.A.  Actually it was the chest pain that got the whole health assessment ball rolling.  The cardiologist suggested a follow up appointment with a rheumatologist and the rest is history: LBBB, R.A., and hypothyroidism.  That was a fun year: 2008.  I wasn’t really THAT overweight in 2008, I had previously lost a lot of weight in 2007 due to my obsessive working out that I did to cope with mourning a death.  I just thought that I was sore and my family was worried that my massive weight loss, combined with pain, was something heart related – especially since our family has heart issues on both sides.  Anyway, as 2008 hit me with all the medical woes, the working out scaled back and almost stopped, with the rare exception here and there.

With the slide into unhealthiness and the mental shock of dealing with a diagnosis of R.A. – the same disease that has possessed my mom – I was not the most motivated patient when it came to hitting a treadmill or lifting weights.  If I did what I used to be able to do with such little effort, I would be so sore and so stiff that I could barely function the next day.  I wore magnetic bracelets, sought Eastern therapies, and began to discover what life with R.A. was really like.  I had been heavy, then fit, then fat, then less fat, then really fat, then just mushy….all my life going up and down the scales and clothing sizes.  All my life I had done one thing or another to address my body composition.  Finally, the rheumatologist suggested that I look into Lap Band.  Getting all and any extra body weight off my sore joints was hugely important.  So in 2008 I attended an informational meeting about it.  There seemed to be so many insurance hoops to clear just to get to the point where they could submit to insurance.  I didn’t have the time and I really didn’t have the money.  So I continued to attempt diets.  The bariatric doc from 2008 suggested that I see another doc who prescribed the OptiFast diet.  I’m not sure how many readers can ever, ever say that they sustained a long-lasting success using this p.o.s. plan.  I did the weekly weigh-ins, meetings, and extra vitamin shots (those weren’t free either).  This was all very expensive, but I sucked it up because it was a “non-surgical” treatment.  I starved on that program, had migraines, flare-ups, and all kinds of digestion problems.  So I stopped because I couldn’t continue to feel like crap from doing that.

I had acupuncture.  I had a permanent pin in my ear in order to “curb” my appetite.  By the way, the acupuncture was super helpful, and of course, since it was able to actually relieve my R.A. pain (I mean “relieve”) it was not covered by BCBS-IL, so I became poorer in my paying out of pocket for it and then had to give it up since I just couldn’t do it because of cost.  Nonetheless, I continued to gain weight and hurt.  The vicious spiral or R.A. and weight….it hurts to work out, so you don’t, so you get heavier, you hurt more, you become even more sedentary.  Last January (2010) I finally resolved to see out the bariatric surgery option, really as a last resort.  My surgeon said that I should have no problem getting it covered because of my BMI and the co-morbid condition of R.A.  Well, if only it was that easy.

I began to work with my new PCP who not only was the THIRD doc to explicitly recommend The South Beach Diet as part of my “medically supervised diet” but who also addressed the heart related issues that I needed to have monitored.  BCBS-IL paid for these monthly appointments, the mandated pulmonary and gastric testing, and other appointments with specialists as part of the pre-op process.  There was a sleep study and an upper-GI – these exams are by no means cheap, and BCBS-IL paid them.  Then, as the scheduled date for surgery approached I received a letter to say that my coverage was denied due to two reasons.

The first reason is crazy.  They claim that I have not documented that I am 18 or older.  I’m sorry – every doc’s note shows my birthdate on it…are they kidding????

The second reason states that I have not attempted appropriate non-surgical treatment!!!  What?!  Come on BCBS!  They want to see a medically supervised diet!  Didn’t I just do that?  But they wanted Weight Watchers, NurtiSystem, or Jenny Craig.  That is nuts!  The South Beach Diet was recommended by THREE different doctors.  Am I supposed to be doing a “medically supervised diet” that goes against what a medical practitioner says to do so that I can go to a strip mall store front and check in with a part-time customer service agent?  Give me a break, BCBS-IL!  You are purely playing a numbers game and denying me the procedure because you think that you can.

I’m going to fight!  I pulled together the 54 pages of the previous submittal and re-submitted with a cover letter that outlines the points of their contention.  My PCP wrote a letter stating the “medically supervised” part of the process.  I just heard today that BCBS-IL turned it down again.  The date was set for July 19th, is now pushed back to July 26th.  It looks like it might be pushed back to December now since they want me to do Weight Watchers.  I intend to get this in the calendar year 2010 since I don’t want to have to go through paying my deductible all over again – which is probably a factor that they have considered.  What a nasty numbers game!

So I surfed the web to see what other factors were going on with BCBS and was shocked to see what a large number of consumer complaints there are.  I’ll begin by saying that their pre-authorization procedures for my case (and for my sister) are ridiculous!  I can’t also begin to express my absolute and utter DISGUST at their automated phone system.  Their help line needs help.  They will not pass me along to anyone who can do more than simply restate what was in a letter or what the plan states.  They don’t HEAR you, they don’t LISTEN.  BCBS-IL will find any way it can to keep the BIG MONEY that it gets paid.  It is all about profits.  It is rather sad that people’s hard-earned cash gets funneled into this system that makes it impossible to get the coverage when it logically makes sense to provide it.  Hanging up coverage on a tiny technicality here or there, forcing my sister to have an operation that the specialists knew would not do a thing for her, just because the damn insurance company wanted to see that procedure first, is inhumane.  She suffered pain, loss of time from work and family, and a year of her young life to pain.  Their system, that she, me, you – all of us pretty much have to fund FAILED.

Just to make things all the more disgusting, try this.  Do a web search of BCBS CEO’s salaries.  Their salaries aren’t nearly as shocking as the “bonuses” and “payouts.”  There are fat-cat corporate dudes getting rich because of my monthly paycheck deductions.  Yet, I have to continue to jump through hoops for some company that can fly their execs around on Leer Jets!?  Unbelievable!

I’m going to the Illinois Insurance Reform Group’s site and seeing what my next steps are.  I’m going to ask BCBS-IL to do a peer-to-peer review.  I am also going to have an outside review too.  I’d love any thoughts/ideas/suggestions for how to get some actual answers from someone who can actually do something.

Hello reader (or hopefully readers):

I apologize for the long absence.  I’ve been a busy school teacher/tennis coach.  School has ended which means I will be back blogging.  I have a lot of stuff to cover.

1. I’ve been holding my meds for over a year now and seem to be okay.

2. I’m having gastric bypass in a month and I’m freaking out.

3. I’m going to update the whole mom story soon.  Remember she was diagnosed with R.A. in 1983.

4. I am going to explore the effects of Eastern medicine on treating chronic pain.

5. I have some funny, funny stories about me and my arthritis gloves at school.

Anyway, I will be back.  It is my goal to be a loquacious blogger this summer.  I have much, much, much to share!

Thanks!

John Clease played a funny peasant in Monty Python’s Holy Grail.  In a scene where the townspeople want to burn a witch he claims, “she turned me into a newt.”  Then, since he is obviously human he adds with a goofy smirk, “I got better.”  Whenever I do get better from something I hear that character’s voice in my head.  My back is doing better.  I have realized that a lot of the pain was coming from my glutes and hamstrings.  Nevertheless, my back was seriously messed up and until about two days ago I was wondering when it would improve.

Despite the pain and the spasms I continued to work out – at a much, much lighter level.  I stabilized my back and did a lot of upper body stuff and smooth cardio.  The gym has a Cybex elliptical that is so smooth I can’t tell if I’m moving forwards or backwards.  It is awesome!  I also did walk in the therapy pool.  I had to spend a couple of hours sewing up a tear on my new swimsuit.  The last time I used it at the club I put it into that spin-dryer.  Since it is a larger size it got all twisted up on the machine and I had to rip it out of there.  It was a brand-new suit and so I was determined to stitch it back together so that I could get my money’s worth out of it.  My mending job makes it look like some Frankenstein thing.  Anyway, I managed to salvage it and use it!  I also kept up with the ice and heat therapy at home.  I continued to take anti-inflammatory meds – but not the prescription.  I forced myself to keep active after brief periods of resting.  The result is that I’m doing a lot better.

Today I had a one hour swedish massage at a little spa in the downtown area.  The newspaper kids gave me a gift certificate there and I couldn’t imagine a better time to use it!  Wow, this was just what I needed.  The therapist found all of my knots and sore spots.  She spent a lot of time on my back, shoulders, and legs.  When she asked me to flip over I could barely move – that was because I was so relaxed.  The lavender aroma-therapy oil also helped to soothe away my tension.  I could really get used to such luxury, too bad my bank account can’t.  One thing that I wish I could take better advantage of is that foot massage.  Once, when I had visited San Francisco’s Chinatown I found a reflexology place.  I don’t know what they did to my feet, but it took an hour and I never had happier feet!  The massage today included some work on my feet.  That really helped me relax and feel better.  I will research online and see what other places in the vicinity might have reflexology.  I’d like to do that.

I would also like to re-visit accupuncture.  I did a series of treatments a little over a year ago.  It was too expensive to keep up, but it was awesome!  I could feel the chi responding to it; I also became aware of listening/feeling my body.  I am admitedly a needle-phob.  It takes a lot of mental prep to get me in to the lab for bloodwork.  So the idea of me laying on a table with needles sticking in me was pretty overwhelming at first.  But these needles are totally easy to handle.  They are tiny and flexible.  Sometimes I didn’t even feel them going in.  It turned out to be a very relaxing and rejuvinating experience.  The worst part was when I would feel chilly.  Anyway, the cost was my main hang up.  Scheduling time for the weekly sessions was also tough.  Once things got too crazy with my time and finances it was the treats like accupuncture that had to go.  I do think that it is extremely helpful for combating the chronic pain of R.A.  There are a lot of other things that it can help – which I read up on  – but, for me, the almost instant relief from joint pain was the deal maker.

So to add to my wonderful debt, I bought a Wii.  I’m not sure if I’m keeping it yet.  I’ve been wanting to get one for a long time.  Since I like the idea of interactive play, this seems to be a justifiable purchase.  I am thinking of taking it back because I can’t afford it.  I also can’t believe that I can drop the weight I need to drop and get my health to where it needs to be by playing video games.  That is a lot of money to gamble with on that notion.  I once bought a PS2 and barely even played it because I’m just not good at video games.  I’m already annoyed with the tennis games because I’m standing up and swinging like I would if I was actually hitting a ball and it messes up the shot and I end up hitting the net or hitting wide.  I almost just have to wrist the shots to make them go in.  I have one more week to figure out if I’ll keep the Wii or not.  Maybe I can see if my health insurance will pick it up.  Just kidding.

And regarding that whole health care issue: the government initiative thing.  I wish that I could understand the concept better.  I’m smart and I feel like I can wrap my mind around complex stuff – but, this gets me confused.  At times I think that one fair government-based health plan might be a good thing;  but then on the flip side I can not deny that we have an amazing state-of-the-art medical system that has thrived on competition and the capitalistic nature of our society.  We have “The Best” because we have created a market where one can buy the best.  If we level that field, then I’m not sure what will happen.  It is extremely complicated.  I’m glad to see that really smart people are at work on the problem.  I’m not sure what is really going to work to convince me one way or the other.  I fell asleep during the press conference – I was tired from working out.  I also can sense a lot of spin from the ultra-conservative side of the media.  I’m not liberal and I’m not conservative.  I guess I try to be ethical and educated when I feel a tug of war in things where my one little opinion is supposed to matter.  That is why I can’t say what I think.  Is re-vamping the system smart?  Not sure….Is it ethical?  Not clear.  So, for someone like me with a life-long battle ahead combating a disease that will spawn other medical conditions where I will want the very best care from the most adept and highly qualified doctors that benefit from cutting-edge advancements at pristine facilities paid in part from an insurance policy that I’ve worked hard to earn by getting my higher education and certificates and by paying into the benefits that my career allows me to enjoy….well, I guess, I’m just not so sure about this.  I guess I just want to see and know that I can be taken care of by the best.  But, at the same time, I want that for my fellow citizens too (as that is ethical).  The whole thing feels like a catch-22.

So what can I learn from this?  1. I got better.  2. I value alternative medicine and wish that I could afford to keep up with it.  3. I’m skeptical about the Wii actually keeping me motivated and on track (but that is all about me and nothing that an eletronic device can combat).  4. I can’t sort out the reality of our country’s health care dilema.  5. I’m way to wordy.

My ambitious nature is truly a double-edged sword.  In most cases, my drive helps me to launch into things with vigor.  However, when I do run full throttle, it is hard to hit the brakes.  There have been many instances where only some sort of outside force will become that figurative brick wall that I hit head on – which then, finally, does stop me…dead in my tracks.

This past Monday I went back into the gym and hit it…hard.  I was only twenty minutes into an hour workout when I could already feel my very unused muscles screaming at me.  My hamstrings were cramping up, I could feel that uncomfortable tension behind my kneecaps and up at the base of my butt.  Then my quads started to burn.  At about forty minutes in I dared to attempt two sets of 20 reps of a kettlebell thing.  I’ve never done this type of lift/swing thing and it looked simple enough: do a half squat, grip the thing, explode up in the legs sending the weight up in front of my chest, then use my core and legs to counter the weight as it swings back down, use momentum to repeat the swing in a steady rhythm.  This might have been doable had my legs not already been trashed.  Since they were, I think that I used my lower back to produce the lift and the swing.  This was a terrible, terrible move.  After my first set I could feel a sharp shooting pain seizing up.  Since I was trying to be “tough” I did not listen to this warning sign.  I just powered through in pain.

Pain is something that RA folks just deal with.  Even with medications, pain is still ever present and a part of life.  I’ve been dealing with pain and other health things for so long that I just didn’t believe this back pain to be any different.  So after a little rest I did the second set of the kettlebell lifts.  Even though I could feel the sting of a sharp pain in the first move, I clenched my teeth and gutted out 19 more.  I knew that I would be sore, sure, I’ve done that before where I killed my hammies and could barely stand up a couple of hours later.  I just figured it would be like that.  So, I cooled off with some very painful stretches on the floor and then went to grab my bag from the locker and head off to teach some tennis.

As I lifted my bag up, I couldn’t even clear my head to sling the strap across my shoulder.  The pain was electric, hot, and frightening.  I dragged myself to my car and lumbered to get into the seat.  Then as I was driving, I was stuck in traffic behind a truck that had caught fire.  Thus, I  ended up sitting for close to 40 minutes before I arrived at the tennis courts.  As I had been sitting in the car I could feel my back and my legs tightening up.  I turned off the engine and cringed as I tried to open the door.  My legs were so heavy and I had to use my arms to help swing them out of the car.  As I tried to stand up, I felt something twinge – slip – pinch – wobble…it hurt…and then it didn’t stop hurting.  There was no way I could stand up fully.  I was trapped at a high school parking lot with my tennis classes about to start across the street.  Fantastic!

That was Monday morning.  I quickly got my classes covered with other coaches and went home to begin ice therapy and I-Be_Hurtings (ibuprofen)…800 Mg geltabs.  I popped the Advil and hobbled to the floor.  I thought that I was hurting pretty bad for DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness – have had it before with legs and just thought that this was an extreme case).  I didn’t sleep as the pain just continued to get worse.  So I phoned my sister who had some pretty bad back issues a while back.  She agreed I should just keep icing it and see if it gets better.  It got worse.  Later that night I couldn’t move without clinging to a wall, countertop, on the bottom of my putter as I used it like a cane.

For three days I had endured and only ever felt a little okay when I was sitting still with an ice pack in place.  Finally, I got to the doc’s today.  Herniated disc.  No big shock there.  So he wants me to take prednisone.  Ahhhhh, no!  He also said no lifting…terrific, there goes my trying to get in some extra hardcore workouts before the crazy schedule of school started again.  Now, I’m taking even more steps away from fitness because I let my ambition get the best of me.

I will listen to my doctor about not lifting, since I can’t anyway.  He suggested that I walk in the pool in order to keep mobile.  I’ll listen and do that too.  But I’m still not so sure about taking the roids.  I just don’t like the thought of that.  So, even though not listening to my body got me into trouble in the first place, I’m still not sure that I will take the prescription.  In any case, I pushed too hard and now I’m paying for it.

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.  Seriously, the pace of my life has been such that securing even the slightest bit of time for anything other than sleeping, laundry, bill payments, and cleaning was damn near impossible.  It is funny how my sister, the new mom with an 18 month old, can summon help within moments of placing a phone call.  Meanwhile, spinster big sis, me, can receive no such help because I have no entered the noble business of providing my family babies.  Ok, I love my sister and that does sound terribly jealous.  It isn’t that I’m jealous.  I babysit all the time and realize how hard doing things that I do all the time are when you have a baby to watch after too.  I love babysitting because it reminds me of the simple freedoms I enjoy by not having any kids.  However, it is frustrating that so much of my family’s attention, time, money, and effort is so completely consumed in one place.  As I’ve been struggling and asking for help, I am not getting it.  That leaves me feeling terribly alone.

Since my last post, I’ve continued to hold my methotrexate injections.  One, I simply hate giving myself the shot; I get all creeped out that I’ve done it wrong and I’ll get some sort of crazy flesh-eating disease at the injection site.  Secondly, I was just so damn spent that I needed to get some sort of immune system back online to help me finally kick an 8 month long sinus infection and associated, disgusting, side-splitting cough.  I even ended up with pnuemonia.  I can’t remember if I wrote about that, I don’t think that I did.  I was coughing so badly that I couldn’t get any air in and I was freaking out.  It kept me awake at night, caused me to have to pull over while driving, and happened at the same time that the Swine Flu outbreak started.  So, with such a nasty cough and all over crappy appearance, everyone around me seemed to quaratine me away.  Finally, I made my way to the urgent care and was pronounced with walking pnuemonia.  This is the first week I’ve even started to get back to feeling good.  Thank God for summer sun, fresh air, and vacation!

All of my health struggles have really played havoc with my fitness plans.  That isn’t to say I’m defeated, as I know I am not.  I am merely just getting back to some strength.  Not having any sort of medically based treatment plan in place for the R.A. makes the pain a little tougher to bear, but I do.  I’ve even enjoyed going to the driving range to hit golf balls.  I had my clubs regripped with “an arthritic” grip.  I also bought a new bag that only weighs 3.5 pounds.  It makes it a lot easier to get in and out of the car.  I’ve noticed that my hands stiffen after golfing – just as they do with tennis – so I’ve found that if I just tuck them under my butt to keep them warm and compressed, that works.  I do this while sitting to watch TV.  I have to admit that asking the golf store guy about grips made me feel old.  They even recommended that I try the “transition” clubs for seniors.  Maybe I’ll do that eventually, but for now I still like swinging my heavy and powerful Big Berthas.

Golf aside, the tennis is fine.  I am continuing to run programs despite the effects of this slumping economy.  Sign-ups are down.  My costs are the same.  I will not make a profit this year.  I am okay with this since I prepared for it.  I’ve been really cutting out all kinds of frivolous spending.  Still, I will probably have to dive into some credit to get through the next nine weeks.  I’m still having to wrestle with my food issues.  Luckily, being on such a tight budget limits me from over indulging in much of anything.

I’ve been keeping up with my Go-Wear-Fit.  It is one of the coolest things I’ve ever purchased for fitness.  I had my bike tuned up and I’ve been riding.  This hurts me all over, but I don’t care since I can endure it.  I love feeling like I’m flying when I get up into a high gear on a flat stretch so that I’m barely pedalling and just screaming along!  It is great and my hopes are to get my mileage up.  I still need a day to recover after I’ve done a ride.  Whereas, that stiffness and soreness just pissed me off at first, I now embrace it as part of just knowing that I am doing it.  I don’t know many R.A. patients that can still do twenty-five miles.  Of course, I also don’t personally know many other R.A. patients, I just know that my mom hasn’t done anything like that since the early 80’s.

Speaking of R.A. mommy, she has been doing Pilates.  She spends beaucoup bucks to have private lessons on a reformer machine.  My mom claims to be having a whole heck of a lot of bad days.  She is really limping and says that it is painful in all of her lower body joints.  She has been changing her meds and adding in new stuff for the always new conditions that seem to errupt from complications of this and that.  She scolds me for not taking my shots.  She also buys these subscription only, hosptial based R.A. newsletters and magazines.  She gets two copies and always gives me stacks of this stuff to read.  She claims that I need to be well informed.  I agree that is probably true, but I’d rather my doctor is well informed for me.  I have enough to think about and keep track of.  I also don’t like to use my free time to read up on my friggin’ disease.  Yuck!  I don’t want to think more about it, I just want to tough it out.

Maybe this thick-headedness is not the best thing for my long-term joint health, but I don’t care right now.  I just need to do what I think is right for right now.  So, for now, I’ll continue to try and work out, eat healthy, sleep better and more, and enjoy some down time with my vacation.  More later as I’m sure I’ll have some more stories to share.

I decided to post today since I wanted to try and get some more feedback from my new GoWearFit.  Surf http://www.gowearfit.com – very, very cool!  This gadget, which I totally could not afford, is AWESOME!  You strap a little sensor to the back of your left arm and that is it.  It records the amount of calories that you burn doing everything – even just sitting here now typing this.  You can even wear it through the night and see the average calories per minute you burn while sleeping.  Not only that, but it also counts steps using a different technology than my crappy $16 pedometer.  Then using METs, you can track how many minutes of moderate and vigorous activity you do each day.  For all three of these options you can set goals.

My goals are to burn 3880 calories, walk 8000 steps, and get 60 minutes of moderate exercise.  I’ve been trying to get into the vigorous range, but I think that is reserved for running, because I’m totally pushing myself on the bike and elliptical and not getting above that 6 MET range.  So I’m seeing some interesting numbers.  First of all, it is damn hard to burn 3880.  I haven’t yet.  I can get to the high 2000’s – but that is with my normal walking around school and doing a bike or elliptical in the morning.  I haven’t yet done 8000 steps.  I didn’t realize how hard that is.  The moderate exercise is okay.  I think I need to change from 3-6 METs as the range to 4-6 since I don’t think my walking up and down the stairs is really enough to see progress.

There are some other cool features.  I’ve had the MSG! warning come up.  I guess the device can sense that crappy additive.  I ate a french fry on Thursday and no sooner than had that hit my lips than did the indicator start beeping.  That is really cool.  So, of course, I Googled MSG and found a bunch of really frightening stuff.  I don’t think I can go a day without some MSG and/or derivative getting into me.  It is everywhere.  Also, you can set the display to give you an alarm and message when you need a reminder – like to take some medicine.  All of this interfaces through the website.  The website creates reports and charts – it is awesome!  I tried to log food, in order to compare the calories burned to calories consumed.  The javascript failed and I was unable to complete this step.  It is purely a fault of my older computer, nothing against the company.

I am so used to the heart rate monitors I used to use almost religiously.  I wish I could see my heart rate.  However, I do understand that trying to scale feedback to fit a certain number does not provide as much feedback as this device.  My heart rate is unique and just because it is at a certain number doesn’t mean anything.  When you boil it all down it is all about banking.  In order to drop weight I need to burn more than I consume…that is what this helps you do – pretty effectively.  I just need to know what I’m actually consuming.  Considering the amount of calories it says I’ve been burning than two things could be happening here.  One, I’m eating a ridiculous amount of food – like over 3,000 calories a day.  I remember hearing that Michael Phelps eat 10,000 calories – that is a boatload of food.  I’m not sure what 3,000 calories of food looks like, but it seems like a lot and maybe that IS really the case.  I just don’t know since I’m too crazy to actually follow portion control.  The other thing I’ve considered is that my medication and thyroid thing is effecting how I actually metabolize fats.  That is, even though I’m burning a lot, the question is does it actually go away?  Is there something causing me to still bloat and stay heavy?

I ask this because I really, really want to get back to running.  I have dreams about running sometimes.  The impact from that kind of exercise combined with my weight gain has made running impossible for way too many years.  I just want to run and jump and not worry that my knee or ankle will twist and shatter beneath me.  I was watching the frosh football players do sprints last week and just wished so much that I could blast through the air like that.  Granted  that they are twenty years younger than me and in way better shape than I’ve ever been or will be, but it was great to see their huge kicks, explosive steps, and balance.  I want that!

So I decided to play a lot of tennis today.  I ran as much as I could.  Amazingly, I was awesome.  I haven’t hit that well and that hard in so long.  I was ripping serves, chasing down short balls, blazing forehand return winners, and getting down for my backhand.  I could sense that it hurt, but the rush of just doing it overcame the sting of each step and tightening in my fingers.  I know I am going to really hurt tomorrow.  It was more activity than I’ve pushed myself to do in more than eight months.  My boys tennis team starts tomorrow and I am going to try to be active with them.  I know that I’ll have good days and bad days with my RA, but I just need to push through the pain.  I’m only getting older, so make the most of the moment.

I saw a lady last week with really, really deformed hands.  Her knuckled were so swollen and her fingers were twisted in the “swans neck” shape.  Her hands stand out as the most shocking ones I’ve ever seen.  It made me grateful that I am not that bad – not even close.  I Googled images for RA hand deformity.  I don’t resemble anything like those images.  My fingers are a little curvy and my big, middle joint can get knobby, but I can use my hands fine once I get them going.  So, I did decide to buy the Thermaskin gloves – as a preventative thing.  I use them at night while I sleep.  I helps to prevent me from clenching my hands into fists while I dream.  I often wake up with nail marks in my palms.  The gloves keep me warm and relaxed.  So far, I think they are a good purchase.

So, as far as the RA goes this week, I just don’t care about it.  I want to and believe that I can get fit once again.  It is a long road and there will be pain with every step.  But there would still be pain if I did nothing too.  Might as well just adopt a fighter attitude and know that if I use my new “toys” the right way I can make some strides.  Ok, time to cook something for dinner.  Have a happy week ahead!

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I’m currently reading:

The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki