Tag Archives: Diet

Seven pounds

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A picture speaks a thousand words, right?

Meet my little bundle of claws, Molly.

She’s seven years old and weighs fourteen pounds.  She’s my feisty baby. :) This picture shows her in one of her favorite places giving me the old ‘turn the water on and I’ll hairball all over the clean laundry next time you leave it piled on the guest bed’ look.

Does it help conceptualize how big she is by seeing her in the sink?

Good.

Now chop her in half and attach one of the halves to my butt.  Because that is how much weight I’ve gained on Prednisone since June.

I know that sounds horrible in several ways. I realize I need to not be so vain. I realize that I’m lucky to have access to healthcare and medications.  I realize I need to be happy that I guess I’m feeling a little better (although I now think I’m getting the placebo rather than Enbrel because I’ve dialed the Prednisone back to less than 10mg and I’m not feeling as good) but I’m really upset about the weight gain.

I weighed 113 when I went to college.  I admit that was too skinny- I’m 5’6. At my heaviest, after long term Prednisone use, I wore a size 12 and was teetering on having to go up a size.  I have a hard time looking at pictures from that time. But I started to feel better, got off Prednisone, and took back control of my diet and exercise. In May/June, I was a size 4.

I worked my butt off.  Literally.  You know how on all the weight loss shows they have super scheduled workouts, controlled meals, top notch trainers, supportive friends and family, and then they all somehow get fabulous makeovers for the finale show?  Um, yes….that doesn’t really happen.  I did splurge on a trainer who was enormously helpful for the diet and exercise part and am considering doing this again.  But scheduled workouts?  No, anything beyond our weekly appointments was up to me to make sure happened.  Controlled meals?  Again, all on me.  Supportive friends and family?  They tried. “I’m so proud of how hard you’re working, Amanda.  Now let’s go get Mexican and drink lots of beer.”

I am still waiting for my makeover.

So to gain 7 pounds so quickly after it took AGES+ literal blood, sweat, and tears to get it off….I’m having hard time not completely freaking out about it plus I feel gross and bloated and uncomfortable.   But I’m also really weak from this dang flare so really getting in a workout right now is tough.

I started easing myself back into the gym this week.  On Monday, I did 12 minutes on the elliptical- there was much hacking and wheezing and general feeling like I was dying!  I had intended to do 15 minutes and then some light weight training but my legs felt like jello.  I took yesterday off mainly for the courtesy of the other people using the gym.  Today was better. I did 20 minutes on the elliptical. Then I did 3 reps of 10 on the leg press at 40 pounds and 2 reps of 7 of walking lunges with 8 pound free weights.  (Point of reference: I used to do 3 reps of 15 on the leg press at 75 pounds and 3 reps of 25-30 walking lunges.)

Then I sat down on the bench and did a mental checklist of weight exercises I used to do: nope, can’t do that one yet and that other one would be a lot of force on my knees which isn’t a good idea yet.  And oh heck no, I am NOT doing that one because it completely sucks. So then I went home.

But it’s a start and I’m happy with what I did tonight.  My goal is to work up to 30 min/3 times a week for both weights and cardio.

I have a fun fall coming up: heading back to DC for the American College of Rheumatology’s Advocates for Arthritis where I’m ESPECIALLY excited to see some of you there, two trips to California, a Lady Gaga concert, tickets to see the Carolina Panthers, hopefully another trip back to SC, and a birthday a month from tomorrow. Ok, I’m not really excited about that last thing.

I would really like my present to myself to be the absence of those freaking seven pounds.

Note: no cats were chopped in half for the writing of this post.

Returning to the land of the living

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I’m slowly starting to feel better.  Slowly.

I credit Prednisone with that for now- I start my new meds this week.  I think.  Can I get a very sarcastic THANKS FOR NOTHING sent out to BC/BS for dragging their feet so long on approving Remicade that I was able to fully enroll in a study at my rheumatologist’s office instead?  So instead of dealing with their craptastic coverage and customer service as well as paying co-pays for all sorts of things, I’m going to get a little bit of extra cash, free meds, free labs, free x-rays, and weekly appointments with my doctor for….free.  SUCK ON THAT, BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD.  I really appreciate it.

Anyway.

This past weekend was the first weekend since probably April where I really felt that I was present and engaged in my life at a level resembling normal.  I’m trying to slowly increase my activity levels both physically and socially. I went on several short walks around the park.  I went to the Farmers Market and got a ton of fresh fruits and veggies for $15.  Then I came home and I marinated chicken in tequila, lime juice, onions, and garlic.  Then I popped it on the grill with fresh farm grown squash and corn on the cob.  I served all of the above with fresh home made salsa.

I have to say that even for someone who hates cooking, there is something satisfying about your whole house smelling like cilantro.

The whole preparing of the meal, the actual cooking, and even the cleaning was easy activity level but busy enough activity wise to keep me from being bored.

And I didn’t burn the condo down.  SCORE.

I didn’t realize until Saturday night just how “not there” I’ve been.

I met a group of people out for drinks at one of our usual haunts.  I walked in, sat down at the bar, and ordered a glass of wine.  At a lull in the conversation, another friend came up to me and said that a bunch of people were going outside to play bocci ball and did I want to come.

“OH!  YEAH!”  I slid off my chair and started following her outside.  I LOVE bar games. I didn’t intend to play myself because my wrists are still sore but when there are drinks, balls/darts/other things that must be thrown/rolled/hit/flung and then you add in my friends…something funny always happens.  Particularly at this bar where the nimrod who installed the bocci ball court made it face a busy street with a low wall.

Nope, I’m not missing this for anything.

Before I could even walk 10 feet, my friend stopped and turned around smiling.

“Wow.  That was actually sincere!”

I just smiled.

For sure.  But ouch. That clearly implies that she knows that most recently I’ve only been going through the motions of things and maybe not terribly enthusiastic to hang out with her and the others even when I thought I was putting up a good front and that…sincerely hurts.  On the flip side, the fact that she/they continue to include me when I’m sure that some nights I’m about as much fun as a root canal…means the world.

I really do have awesome friends.

My friends didn’t disappoint- neither cars nor pedestrians were injured in our game but one of my friends hit the back wall with such force that it split the ball in half.

And, as yet another sign that I’m still not back to 100%, I woke up Sunday morning feeling that groggy, super tired slight hangover feeling.

Really? 2 glasses of wine?  And lots of water?

What the heck?!?

That’s just wrong.

HTNWBBKQ8XV5

Tequila is gluten free.

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So yes, that’s pretty much my big take away from the weekend that started early Saturday morning with a shot of Toradol in my ass.  We’ll get to that in a moment….

Have you seen the movie Mean Girls?  It’s one of my favorite movies- snarky, hilarious and very well written (in my opinion).  If you haven’t seen it, in one of the plot lines, Cady is trying to sabotage Regina by telling her she should go on an all carb diet to lose weight.  Regina, not the brightest crayon in the box, keeps holding up items of food and asking “is butter a carb?” or “is bread a carb?”

So yes, that’s kind of how I feel right now grocery shopping.  It’s taking me forever and I literally read every package to see if it’s gluten free or not.  If I can’t tell by packaging, I whip out my trusty Blackberry and google “is rice gluten free?” I’m sure it’s pretty funny if you see it in action- me staring with a vacant, blank, confused stare intently at what is for most people a very simple package of food.  I’m sure it’s even funnier if you know much about my cooking style which I’m pretty sure I’ve alluded to here on multiple occasions.

Welcome to my home.  Allow me to heat you a wonderfully fresh gourmet Lean Cuisine.

But I’m slowly getting there.  I’m still cheating…but not as much…and have found a couple of things I really like.  I’ve found some items that are gluten free that really surprised me- TEQUILA and rice.  I even made a delicious Lentil casserole tonight.  And with that statement, somewhere, somehow, an angel got its wings.

I was being overly ambitious thinking I could go gluten and dairy free at the same time.  In fact, that’s what I was cheating with most often (I sprinkle a little bit of cheese everywhere- feta on eggs, cheddar on salads etc- and the soy cheese was awful.)  So I’m going back to baby steps- gluten free first.

So, about that shot in the ass….

I’ve give you the short version for now.

-  I went to a friend’s 30th birthday party on Friday night.  I rested all week for it, bought a new dress, and was really excited.

- Friday am, in true RA form, after a few days of feeling a little bit better, RA decided to make things more interesting.

- Things were so interesting Friday night midway through dinner that I left early.  I am still embarrassed- I tried to leave quietly but everyone asked why I was leaving and I had to give a bit more info than I wanted to at that time, especially to people who for the most part I don’t know.

- Saturday morning I woke up and things RA wise felt curiously differently.  By curiously different I mean REALLY EFFING AWFUL.  I wound up going to Urgent Care in tears, getting a shot of Toradol and prescriptions for another Medrol pack and Vicodin.

If I ever have children, they will be named Toradol and Vicodin.  For real.

That afternoon my neighbor, who witnessed my early morning emotional breakdown in the parking lot, came over to check on me.

Neighbor: So, how ya feeling Rockstar?

Me: A little better. Tired.  Sore.

Neighbor:  (chuckling) You must’ve had quite a night.

Me: (annoyed stare)

Neighbor: Ok, if you don’t want to talk about it…was it that bad?  Was he old or was he just not hot?

Me: (finally getting what she thought had happened) No, I was not drunk.  No, I was not walk of shaming home in tears.

I appreciate that though.  That’s awesome.

I would really like for my insurance company to hurry the heck up and approve this new medication.  Like immediately.

Embarking on a new adventure

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And one I’m not terribly excited about nonetheless.

After much reading of books and blogs and much discussion with several friends who’ve made the leap, I am going gluten free, sugar free, and dairy free.   

Immediately.

I am waiting another month, for the good of all mankind, to go caffeine free.

I am in considerable grief about saying goodbye to my favorite food group- processed- and full of confusion as I dropped all the Cokes off at the communal office kitchenette.  I may have to go back in and, with a sharpie, write on all the  bottles “NOT FOR YOU AMANDA.”  And then, most tragically, I ended my quite lengthy relationship with the best, most dependable, tastiest men on the planet (except for you James Franco)- Ben & Jerry.  SOB.

There are several reasons why I’m making this switch- first, there have been studies showing significant improvements in RA patients who follow gluten free diets.  Since I’m not doing well right now, going gluten free definitely can’t make things worse.  So, why not? Second, if the phrase “you are what you eat” is really true, then I am a Chocolate-Caramel-Macchiato-Lean Cuisine-Calzone-Coke-Easy Cheese-Angel Hair Pasta-Bottle of Red Wine-Chicken Wing rather than an actual person. Third, I’ve always had food sensitivities and allergies.  I’m allergic to shellfish and avocadoes- allergic to the point that when I accidentally get these in my system, I immediately develop huge sexy Angelina lips that are so NOT sexy because they are accompanied by some pretty impressive wheezing and (wait for….wait for it) EAR SWELLING.  Let’s just say that I was the complete life of a Superbowl party one year without intending to be.  Cringe. I’m also lactose intolerant.  It would make sense to me that if 3 known foods lead to some very violent reactions in my body, it is possible that another type of food could lead to a less pronounced and immediate reaction.

I’m at the point where something’s got to give and I need to make sure I have all my bases covered.  This is something I’ve been considering for awhile and something that at this moment I feel like I can’t put off any longer.  I’m also dropping the last remnant of dairy in my life (cheeses) and eliminating sugar (at least in a refined form- I’m still eating natural sugars.)

So yes, back to the events of this week.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

My weekly trip to the grocery store yesterday took me over an hour.  I’m usually in and out in 15 minutes- I walk in, grab some oranges, and then head for the freezer section.  But yesterday, I walked in with a list and had to read the ingredients on all of the packaging before I put it in my cart.  I also switched grocery stores- from Harris Teeter to Trader Joe’s because TJ has a more extensive gluten free/ organic selection- so I had NO CLUE where anything was.

I am happy to report that I can eat corn tortillas and found gluten free refried beans and soy cheese.  That is my favorite meal, as disgusting as it sounds.  So, suffice it to say that I shall not starve although I am about as excited at the prospect of “soy cheese” as I usually am about dental work.

My immediate goal for now, besides that whole “I have no freaking clue how to cook thing” or that irritating “so I’ve read the book, now how do I really do it” is to find replacements for the things that I crave and/or eat frequently.  There’s just no way I’m going to succeed at this if I don’t.  And quickly!

To do this, I have emailed our local culinary school to see if they offer continuing ed classes that would help me to better understand what I can eat and how I can prepare it.  And maybe, just maybe, they can include a quick little seminar on Water: Tips For Boiling.  LOL.  

This could be interesting.

I feel like such a dirty hippie. :)

Does Trader Joe’s sell patchouli? 

Note: give me a day or so and I will have my reading materials posted for those who may be interested.  If you’d like to start where I started, do a Google search on “wheat gluten mechanism AND rheumatoid arthritis.”

Just a few thoughts on a Sunday

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This is random and scattered.  Just a warning!

-I got my bill for my joint aspiration last month on Friday.  All in all, total cost of aspiration was about $400, most of which was covered by my insurance.  That’s a miracle.  Especially since it was coded as “in office surgery.” If I’d known I was having “surgery,” I would’ve made some special requests.  Namely that awesome laughing gas I received when they took my wisdom teeth.  

- I went to church with friends this morning.  I’m a bit of a church snob because my grandfather is a Methodist minister.  Let’s just say that Granddad would be none too impressed that I went in jeans and flip flops.  I was kinda weirded out by that too but with how my feet feel lately, flip flops are amazing.  Anyway, the pastor was talking about financial freedom and about how he’s not trying to tell us what to purchase and what not to purchase but rather that we need to make decisions that give us freedom from debt.  So I was bored (I know, it’s wrong to say I was bored at church…but I was) and started thinking about if there are any choices I could make that would give me freedom from RA.  Not freedom by not having it (trying to be realistic here) but freedom by marginalizing it, by “putting Baby in the corner.”  

I realize that I need to make better choices about my health.  I live how I live until I flare and then I get all self righteously indignant on how “I had a salad last week dang-it and it sure did have  lot of veggies and I chose the LOW FAT dressing too because that is how terribly committed I am to my health.”  But come on Amanda: if you were as terribly committed to taking better care of yourself as you say you are when you’re flaring, you would’ve had that salad chock full of veggies more recently than last week!

I do realize there are other things that factor into flares but with this one, I am my own worst enemy.  I am very successful at making dietary changes….for about two weeks.

And before I turn people off by appearing to be anything close to deep or broading, I will tell you that I got the silly giggles during the last song (hymn? is it still called a hymn in a contemporary setting?) when everyone around me was swaying with eyes closed and hands in the air.  

-And finally, you know you’re taking Prednisone when you walk in to pay for your gas and find yourself lustfully eyeing everything “Little Debbie.”  OMG Zebra Cakes.

Date Night

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I bet that caught your attention.  No, not that kind of date.  I will forever remain coy on that subject when it comes to the trusty old Internet.  

But, I did have an all day date Saturday….with my immune system.  Actually, it was a three way date- I brought my joints along too.

Why?  Because I need my immune system to start putting out.  Or rather, if you want to get technical about it, stop putting out.  Or maybe it just needs to put out correctly?!?  Yes, that’s it.  I need to be in an exclusive relationship with my frigging immune system.  Right now, I feel like it’s whoring itself out all around town. So I don’t think that’s too much to ask.  Keep it in your pants, immune system.  GEEZ.

After sleeping in late, “we” got up and enjoyed my new specialty.  An egg white frittata with spinach, tomatoes, and feta cheese.  I was psyched- I’m trying to learn how to cook and I made it all by myself.  And people liked it.  AND NOBODY DIED.  Ok, so just me but still, it’s a start.

Then “we” went to get a massage.  I have a funny story for you here, which actually served as inspiration for calling this day of relaxation a “date.”  I’ve been going to the same place since July- generally going 3 times a month.  It is glorious.  So when I called to schedule my appointment, a new girl answered.  I asked for Saturday morning with the same person I always go to and said my name.  The appointment was confirmed and that was (I thought ) the end of the story. Until I get there Saturday morning.  The same new girl checked me in and handed me the clipboard of paperwork for new patients.  I looked at her, confused, and said “I’ve been going here for months- do I need to do new paperwork?”  She looked at me and said “No, that’s for (my last name).  I don’t think he’s been here before.”  It took a second for it to sink in what had happened.  I started to say “who the heck is….” when it hit me and I laughed so hard that I couldn’t breath.  Folks, she somehow took my first name and last name and booked me a couples massage based off of that.  

Niiiicccceeee.

So, the massage was fantastic (as usual) and next “we” went to the gym.  I showed the joints and the immune system who’s boss by doing 20 minutes of elliptical and then treated them to 15 minutes in the hot tub and 10 minutes in the steam room.  (May I add in here what an experience my gym is- a guy I know calls the men’s locker room at the same gym “the gauntlet” which I never understood until recently.  The reason he calls it the gauntlet holds true in the ladies locker room- everybody walks around naked. And not just “I’m changing my clothes and had nothing on for a split second” but full fledged strutting in birthday suits. WEIRD.) A fruit smoothie later (they called it organic with immune boosting additives but I’m doubtful) and “we” head back to my place to shower and clean up.  

Originally the plan was to end the date here because I had other plans with other folks but “we” were having so much fun that “we” decided to party well into the night together.  Ok, so my plans got shot to heck and I ended up curling up on the couch and watching movies.

It was lovely.

In other news, I finally got in with the rheumatologist.  I’m kinda frustrated.  Instead of presenting new options like I’d asked for , he increased dosages of methotrexate and Humira and told me to discontinue sulfasalazine. I go back in 3 weeks for an injection into the joint as well as a joint aspiration if this doesn’t help.  Can you feel my excitement???  In the confusing-shocking but only to me-not sure what to think of this news, my bloodwork came back (drumroll please) negative for RF.  Hmmmmm.  I’ve always been positive.  So I’m not sure what to think about being negative.  While I can find all sorts of articles explaining patients going from seronegative to seropositive, I cannot find anything on the reverse.  Which makes me feel like a freak of nature, yet again.  He shrugged it off like it was no big deal.  Actually, his exact words were “You still have it- your CCP is elevated and you have symptoms.”  But still….anyone else experience this?

Tolerating the fifth food group

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I’ve started seeing a nutritionist, a decision which I will outline in more detail for you in a later post that I don’t have time to write but you can probably imagine why.

One of the things she has suggested is using “medical food” to help my body recover after flares and, in the interim, until I can successfully kick my Starbucks and chicken wing lifestyle to the curb in favor of a more, ummmm, well balanced diet plan.  It is a specialized blend of all sorts of junk and is made to reduce inflammation.  I am committing to trying it for 6 weeks.

So, medical food is my new “fifth food group.”  It is about as glamourous as it sounds.  

A few things I have learned over the past few weeks:

-If it looks like chalk and feels like chalk and smells like chalk, it will most likely taste like chalk.

-If you try to overcome said chalk sensation by purchasing a “flavored” variety, it will taste like flavored chalk.

-Chalky substances are downright horrible in both milk and fruit juice.

-Trying to force yourself to savor and drink something you’ve already decided looks, smells, and tastes nasty is not an easy task.

-The easiest way to consume this crap plain is to pinch your nose and CHUG, CHUG, CHUG.  (Hmmm, as I write this, I wonder if I could funnel it….)

So, this weekend while snowed in, I was determined to find a way to make this bearable if not tolerable.  Mimosa in hand, I started throwing everything produce wise I have into the equation. Yes, this is what I did when my friends were out having fun. And finally, I think I have cracked the code.

I used:

- 1 blender

-Chocolate Soy Milk

-100% all natural unsweetened cranberry juice (I think this was the magic ingredient- the tartness breaks up the chalkiness)

-Blackberries (I also tried it with strawberries and blueberries together and actually liked this even more)

-A small handful of baby spinach (no worries- you can’t taste it.  IRON!)

-A tablespoon or so of fresh ground flax seeds.

- Medical food as directed (mine calls for 2 scoops)

Blenderize and you’re good to go!

And the finished product…..looks remarkably like a chocolate milkshake.

I don’t see restaurants picking it up and I doubt I will ever be invited to be a guest on Rachel Ray (especially if you know anything about my cooking habits or general lack thereof) but it has a sweet and sour tang to it that is 500% better than it was plain.