A while back I mentioned on Facebook that I was taking the first steps on a new journey to understanding my health. A few people asked me to write about my experience, so here it goes. I am nothing if not honest in all aspects of my life, so be warned, this will be a very open discussion and the TMI alert is set on full. (Mom, Dad, you’ve been warned!)
I want to share with you all what led me to my breaking point a few weeks ago, but to get there, we have to go way back and follow a series of dumb luck events. This might take a while…
I’ve been overweight since about the third or fourth grade. And while this story is about so much more than just a weight issue, my inevitable struggle with body image stems from being a girl who was bigger than most of the boys from fourth grade to sixth grade. I’m considered on the short side now, but I tell you I have not grown an inch since fifth grade. I was 5’4″ then and I’m 5’4″ now. My weight has fluctuated my whole life.
I started playing sports in late grade school and through junior high. I loved basketball and soccer, and it made my body stronger and quicker. But I still wasn’t skinny or small by any means. When I reached high school I didn’t make the basketball team simply because I couldn’t keep up. I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma around age 13. I didn’t know such a thing existed. Dumb luck moment of my life #1. I was crushed when I didn’t make the team and I think having the asthma and being told I wasn’t good enough led me to kind of give up on physical activity in general. I dove into music and writing and even quit the soccer team my junior year.
In college I was walking miles to class and eating less because of money. I was also working summers as a camp counselor and very active. I would say this was the most fit time of my life. I got married when I was 21 and the year leading up to that was all about looking my best. My beloved roommate Nicole forced me to get up and go to the gym with her many mornings. She motivated me a lot and I was seeing results. On my wedding day I was probably a size 8 and that’s the smallest I’ve ever been.
It’s a far cry from the size 0 and 1 models ever present in our society. I was thrilled to be a size 8 (as anyone should be) as I spent most of my life hovering around size 10-11.
After graduation from college I started a desk job and thus propelled myself into one of the most debilitating lifestyles you can imagine. I hate being stuck at a computer all day. I started to feel like it was impossible to fit a healthy lifestyle into one that required me to sit for at least 7.5 hours a day. I tried the South Beach Diet and lost weight, until I ate bread again. I tried Pilates (which I love), but gave up on it when I no longer has suitable space to work out. I bought a treadmill because I was so depressed that I couldn’t exercise at all, but it now site in the basement covered in junk.
The point is, I’ve had an up and down struggle with my body, exercise and food for a really long time.
Then dumb luck moment #2 happened. In my early 20s I went for a 5-year physical and found that I had hypothyroidism and high cholesterol. In my mind I was terrified. Isn’t high cholesterol something that happens to you when you’re 50? 60? And what the heck is a thyroid? Nothing much was explained to me at that time and I was put on Levothyroxine and Zocor to manage my levels. I’ve had blood drawn more times than I care to count and have to have my levels checked at least once a year.
When I moved to a different city and started seeing different doctors, one finally explained to me that my cholesterol was hereditary. When it happens at such a young age, it is usually a genetic thing, and taking medicine was effective, but really the only thing I could do.
I still had no idea what the thyroid did until recently. The thyroid gland controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and controls how sensitive the body is to other hormones. It’s basically complicated (oxymoron?). Mine is underactive. And when I was pregnant and/or off of birth control my thyroid level fluctuated, actually operating better. When my doctors discovered this, the reaction was, “Huh…well let’s change your dosage.” No possible explanation, just take these and we’ll keep checking you.
The past 9 years or so have just been a confusing mess. With two chronic issues to manage, the introduction of birth control right before I got married, and trying to manage my weight, all while bouncing around to different doctors because either they moved away or I didn’t mesh with them, has been discouraging and frustrating.
I felt like no one really knew me or cared about what was going on with my body. It was scary. I felt so lost and alone.
I was researching things on the Internet blindly, not knowing what to believe. I was so confused with conflicting studies and opinions, especially about diet. I found an article on Live Strong that said people with hypothroidism should avoid things like spinach, kale, strawberries, broccoli and foods with fiber because they can interact with thyroid medication absorption. So suddenly, all these really healthy things that I enjoyed eating were supposed to be limited. And I felt angry.
As someone who has struggled with weight my whole life, I had finally found a good routine of somewhat healthy eating, only to be told I couldn’t, I shouldn’t. I just cried.
I started to look around at my friends, my family, and all the people I knew who didn’t have to try too hard to be skinny. People who were blessed with high metabolism and great genetics. People who would feel fat as a size 8. I started to feel really sorry for myself, stacking up all the things that were weighing against me that I couldn’t control and I felt very defeated.
I was worried constantly about my health, stemming from watching my father go through cancer and a triple bypass surgery within a year of one another.
On top of all that I was basically working two full-time jobs and watching my son part time, so the lack of having any time to plan healthy meals, or having money to buy organic things just drove me further into depression.
Another area of my life was also suffering. (insert parental TMI alert here) As I mentioned, I started birth control shortly before getting married at age 21. And for the past 10 years I can tell you without a doubt that a low libido has plagued my marriage more than any other single issue between my husband and I. Sex should be part of a healthy marriage and I love my husband dearly, but my body refused to respond. That’s the best way to describe it I guess. I just never really cared about sex.
On top of that, I have PMDD (basically really bad PMS) that was taking me through a crazy roller coaster every month from high highs to low lows, anger, fatigue, irritability, depression, feeling out of control, sleep problems, etc. etc. etc. And my husband took the brunt of these things more than anyone. You can imagine it wasn’t helping our chemistry together.
So a couple months ago I stopped taking birth control, on the idea that maybe the hormones (although I was on a low-dose and had tried various pills) were contributing to the PMDD and low libido.
I don’t remember always feeling like this, so I was going to try anything I could to change. The intense hormones I was experiencing were causing me to doubt my feelings for my husband, which was very scary because quite simply, I adore my husband.
The breaking point came in conjunction with reading about the foods I was supposed to avoid and experiencing continued frustration with my libido. On top of which I was dealing with the chronic issues and really not understanding what was going on with my body, consequently spiraling into a very bad depression.
I started researching about hormone replacement therapy and came across Dr. Shelley Alexander at New You Health Studio. She is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine with a new business not far from me. I had a free consultation with her and was sold after 30 minutes.
Dr. Alexander’s office is in a very well-to-do area of town, and while this type of medical treatment is not covered by insurance, I decided I would not let society or money dictate what my life was going to look like. I just simply did not care about the cost, being at my wits end, and I didn’t want to look back on my life and think, I wish I would have done things differently.
My experience with Dr. Alexander has been life changing already. I will talk more about my first experience with her next time. I can’t wait to share this journey with you.
Here’s to our health…