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    Primal Journal ~ Merryish

    Primal Fuel
    I've been tooling around the forum for a while now -- lurking constantly, posting occasionally -- and figured it was time to settle in. Also my friends are sick of me talking to them about my “lifestyle;” I need a new outlet!

    I've been overweight my whole life - I think I first really noticed something different in fourth, maybe fifth grade, and it's been all downhill since then. My dad is also extremely overweight, and one of my brothers. I've dieted a LOT over the years, and tried just about everything I could imagine to lose weight, but it's only ever gone up. I had years of terrible back pain, and now I'm going through a couple of years of bad knee and ankle pain, all as a result of the excess weight.

    My highest weight was 370, which I hit sometime around Spring 2011. By that time I had just stopped trying - I was eating crap that would make this entire forum cringe! Not just grains and carbs galore, but full-sugar cokes, giant bags of Doritos wiped out in a day, entire pizzas, big cans of pringles, bags of chocolates... I'm 41, and I think I had just decided there was nothing I could do about it, so I might as well wallow.

    I don't know what happened, but sometime last year, last summer, all of my back pain went away. I went from taking eight advil religiously every day to needing none, practically over night. I started doing some walking, because suddenly I could, and over a couple of months of that plus eating only marginally better (I basically stopped going to McDonald's and Burger King practically every day), I dropped about 50 lbs. I started seeing a personal trainer, because I wanted to ride what I was considering a rogue wave of health as long as I could.

    Then I twisted my ankle and my knee, and the advil came back, and so did McDonald's, etc etc. I gained back 20 lbs of what I had lost. But about that time, I also learned I was most likely gluten intolerant. I'd always had IBS symptoms, but had never been diagnosed. My stomach rumbled like a thunderstorm basically any time I ate, and even sometimes when I didn't. I had horrible, painful gas that had not yet reached the stage of embarrassing, but was definitely uncomfortable, and I was fairly sure some of my stomach sounds could be heard three offices down at work. On days when I knew I would have to attend meetings, I would simply not eat anything beforehand; I wouldn't even drink water.

    With some random and extremely unscientific testing, I discovered that if I skipped the bagel at breakfast, I had fewer stomach troubles. I tried a day without any bread at all, and that was even better. I asked my doc to test me for celiac, though, and everything came back normal, so I figured it was just random. Another few months of bagels ensued. Things worsened to the point where I was unable to ignore them, and finally I just cut out all gluten for a week to test it. It was the best week I’d had in years, so I started researching gluten-free diets, and ended up with Robb Wolf, and from there Mark Sisson and the whole Paleo crowd.

    So I started being seriously Paleo/Primal around mid-February of this year. I dropped the 20 lbs I had gained back, and just kept going. I had a three-week stall right around 300, which was intensely annoying – but after a 2-day carb re-feed I jumped up to 305 and then dropped like a rock, ending up at 293 today. I’ll have to keep that trick in my toolbox.

    I have so many things to say about what this has been like, and the mental and emotional changes of losing approximately a quarter of my body weight in such a relatively short span of time. But if I start on that, I’ll just be typing forever. It’s too late to make this brief, but at least I can put anyone reading out of their misery. Anyway – Hi, I’m Merry! Nice to meet you guys.
    Last edited by merryish; 07-17-2012 at 02:15 PM.

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    Just some quick health stats for the record. These were taken under the care of different doctors, so not all the same tests were done each time. I'm just listing the comparables here:

    5/10/11
    Total cholesterol: 200
    Triglycerides: 148
    HDL: 48
    LDL: 122
    HbA1C: 6.2
    Fasting glucose: 89
    Vitamin D: 42
    TSH: 2.68
    BP: 135/92

    7/2/2012
    Total cholesterol: 182
    Triglycerides: 87
    HDL: 54
    LDL: 111
    HbA1C: 5.7
    Fasting glucose: 78
    Vitamin D: 42
    TSH: 4.45
    BP: 120/73

    So, better, overall, though my fasting glucose has risen lately; I suspect it's due to staying in mild ketosis most of the time. But the A1C is down to the top of normal, so I'm happy with that. Triglycerides way WAY down, LDL down, HDL up, all good things. Blood pressure down a lot. TSH is high, so my doc is going to re-test me in a month to make sure it's not a fluke. Autoimmune thyroid problems would not be a huge surprise, since I already have one confirmed autoimmune condition.

    Which is dermatomyositis; most people haven't heard of it. It's an extremely rare condition in which the immune system attacks both the skin and the muscles. Muscles get achy and weak and waste; skin gets a rash in a fairly regular distribution, a butterfly rash on the face being the most recognizable. It can be managed with methotrexate, plaquenil and prednisone, or with some more extreme drugs and procedures if you're unlucky. I'm actually pretty lucky: among the vanishingly rare number of people who actually have dermatomyositis, there's an even more elite group who only get the skin problems, not the muscle pain and wasting. That's the card I drew. So while I have to deal with looking like I have a fairly bad sunburn year round, and have to stay indoors/in the shade/sunscreened up as much as possible between 10 am and 4pm (sun makes it worse), I'm constantly aware that I'm actually really fortunate. A lot of people with DM have lung problems as well as skin and muscle problems. And the muscle problems can affect your throat, making it hard to breathe; your esophagus, making it hard to swallow; or your heart, which. I guess I don't have to explain what that does. There's always a possibility that someone with the skin variant could develop muscle problems, and there's also an increased risk of cancer associated with DM -- in fact some research posits that DM may be an immune response to an occult tumor. In some people who do develop cancer, once the tumor is removed, sometimes the DM resolves completely. In other people, for reasons not at all understood, DM simply burns itself out and goes away. And then again, some people die from it. Not a lot, but some.

    Anyway, I'm very lucky. I should remember that when I'm hating my reflection. My doc rated my case as around a four on a scale of 1-10 at one point; he's one of the nation's few experts on this condition, so he would know. I've had this for almost 10 years, which means at this point I'm pretty unlikely to develop muscle problems. I'll take the sunburn and call it a day, thanks.

    The other way I'm lucky is, I found this place, this idea of repairing your health through repairing your diet. And it's already worked wonders for me; if I never lost another pound, I wouldn't go back to my old life. I can walk and climb stairs without getting out of breath; I don't have to run to the bathroom to, um, expel gas in various ways, every time I put food in my mouth; I know how important sleep is and make it a priority, so I can actually think during the day. I eat amazingly good food that's usually very easy to prepare, and I learn more every day about how my body works and what it needs.

    And I feel like, whatever my body throws at me now, I have weapons to fight back with. I have fasting to help boost my immune system if I get sick, cold showers to help me learn to tolerate New England winters if nothing else , ketosis to fight fat gain and maybe even cancer, who knows. Then there's the autoimmune protocol that I haven't quite managed to commit to -- I'm working my way up to cutting out dairy, eggs, nuts and nightshades for three months and then reintroducing to see what happens. That's the hardest thing for me, but I'm slowly building up the willpower to do it.

    I'll get there eventually. Those things will be hard, but not impossible, to cut. Thank god nobody thinks my immune issues are caused by coffee or avocados, though, because I would be completely SOL.

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    Last summer, when my lower back pain mysteriously vanished, I did too much too fast. I was giddy with relief and so happy to be able to move, I just went into it too hard. I didn't think about how other parts of my body might react. Within two weeks I was walking the mile and a half to the train station, all without pain! It was amazing.

    Then reality set in. One day my feet started hurting on the way. The next day I twisted my ankle and mucked up my achilles tendon. Before I could get my ankle sorted out, my knees started hurting because I was favoring the ankle in some weird way. It's been a year, and some days I can barely walk. Without painkillers I have trouble getting around. I've seen doctor after doctor to try and get the ankle fixed, and finally I'm working with a chiropractor who actually seems to be helping. But I still need the alleve, and I hate it. I already have to take so many pills for DM, plus I supplement with Vitamin D, calcium, fish oil and magnesium. So adding painkillers on top of that load -- painkillers that I know are impairing my gut function -- makes me crazy. But with them I can walk around like a normal person and without them I creak about like I'm ninety.

    I'm waiting at this point on the weight change to sort me out somewhat. I feel like the things that have gone wrong just aren't going to heal until I'm putting less constant pressure on them. And things have gotten better; it's slow and incremental, but it's happening. A few months ago even on the painkillers I was barely mobile; I couldn't even think about going anywhere other than work and the grocery store. Now I'm planning a trip to Chicago in August and NYC in September. So things are looking up, more every day. It's just sometimes hard to remember when I'm giving myself the necessary morning foot massage to get myself out of bed.

    But hey -- I'm working from home today. And it's a beautiful day out. Hot, but gorgeous. My room mate let the cats out (we each have one, and share a spare ) before she left for work, and I woke up to mad chirping outside my window that was definitely cat-inspired. I have bullet proof coffee in my immediate future, and probably some scrambled eggs. I think today and I will get along.

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    Congratulations on your weight loss and improved bloodwork so far!
    Liz in Cleveland

    Started Primal 7/17/12
    5'9"
    SW: 227.2
    CW: 213.6
    GW: 175

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    Thanks, Liz! Wow, from your sig it looks like you are just starting out - that is awesome! How did your first day go?

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    I didn't get enough sleep last night - missed by about two hours. And consequently, I bumped back up on the scale this morning. That's how it works for me. Sleep seems to be the governing factor; the more I get, the less I weigh in the morning.

    And I do weigh myself every morning; I know all the advice says not to weigh every day, but I think it's a healthy habit for me. It means I'm paying attention to my health and well-being; it keeps me honest about my intentions. It's when I stop looking at the scale that I know things have gotten dicey - it means I've given up.

    I think I deal with it in a healthy way, too. I'm used to the way my body works by now; I see a new, low number one day and then I bounce around that number, up and down by a pound or two, for a little bit. So when I see the low number, that becomes my new goal; but I don't feel disheartened if it takes a while for that number to "stick."

    I don't measure, either; I'm just not any good at it. I can never remember where exactly on my thigh or waist or hips or chest I should be measuring. Or where I arbitrarily decided to measure the last time. Instead, I keep track of what hole to use on my watch band (I've gone from the 2nd to the 6th since February!) and how far my body is from the steering wheel in the car (from two fingers to four).

    I did take pictures, though, at around 340. I haven't taken a second set yet; maybe I'll do that around 270, 100 down from my highest weight.

    Working from home yesterday, I ate just about everything I could get my hands on. Skipped breakfast because I was too lazy to cook, but then I went to Whole Paycheck and came home with watermelon and a pint of strawberries and scarfed them down. Then some tuna salad with cranberries and apple, and then some dark chocolate. I stopped eating in the afternoon because I ran out of handy grabbable things. My lovely room mate brought home an avocado for me from the farmer's market at her T-stop, and I ate that, too, with a bit of lime. And then for dinner I ate a side of grassfed beef. OK, not quite that much, but a LOT. It wasn't my smartest day ever in terms of food choices. But when I think about what I would have eaten a year ago.... *shudder*.

    It would have gone like this: get up, drive to Starbucks, get a venti triple white chocolate mocha with whipped cream. That right there is more calories than I sometimes can choke down in a day on primal. THEN stop at McDonald's for actual breakfast, which would have been two sausage mcmuffins with cheese and two hashbrowns. Then I would likely eat pringles or doritos all through till lunchtime, when I would have gone out for sushi, or gone to Burger King for a chicken sandwich, large fries and large Dr. Pepper, depending on my mood. More junk food all the way to dinner, and then for dinner I would probably order a pizza or a sub with fries or onion rings, or make the equivalent myself at home, and have a coke or two along with it. And then more junkfood until bed. All this while doing no more exercise than it takes to get from my house to my car and back again, or from my computer desk to the fridge and back.

    God, that is crazy, right? Never mind how much weight I gained; I can't believe how long I actually survived on that diet.

    For more contrast, today has been a weird food day. I meant to get up early enough for breakfast, and failed; then I meant to go get lunch between meetings, but the early meeting ran long, so I failed at that too. I've had nothing but black coffee, so far. So I'm calling this a random 24-hour fast day, because at this point I won't be able to eat till I get home tonight. I got hungry around mid-day, but not too much, and it passed after about fifteen minutes. I think I'll be fine.

    And oh, I almost forgot - a coworker that I rarely see anymore, because she works on a different floor, was walking past my office today. She glanced in and saw me and did an actual double-take. She said I was looking amazing, and that I had lost a ton of weight, and wanted to know what I was doing. I kept it vague, thanked her (blushed a lot), and she said whatever you're doing, just keep doing it, you look fantastic. *beams*

    So, I'm pretty happy about that. Today goes in the "win" column!

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    I was reading forum posts in the fitness area, and there was a thread about losing a lot of weight but people not noticing yet. It reminded me of a funny thing I forgot to mention here.

    I've been living in the same neighborhood and riding the same bus and train to work for a couple of years now. There's usually the same crowd around the bus stop every morning. About the same time I went primal, though, I switched schedules for a while and didn't see the same people; and then because of an ankle injury I actually just drove in for a few months. It wasn't until last week that I started hitting the stop again at my original time every day.

    You know how it is on a commute, you chat all the time, but you may not necessarily know each other's names. There's a guy I knew from before, just to talk about the weather and things, who was back at the stop on Friday. I had no idea what his name was, and had never asked, because he has a tendency to talk down to the women at the stop - that whole "smile!" and "be careful, honey, it's really icy right here" and "you should wear a hat, you'll catch a cold" sort of thing. Nothing malicious, just a tendency to act like women can't take care of themselves.

    Only this time instead of just saying hi, he introduced himself to me by name. I thought, huh, I must be looking better, I get to trade names now! And then... he welcomed me to the neighborhood.

    ... No lie. He asked if I'd just moved into the area and started telling me about the bus schedule like he'd never seen me before in his life, and it dawned on me very slowly that he actually thinks he's never seen me before in his life.

    I don't know if I'm more amused, or appalled. I've spent a lifetime as a fat girl - I'm still a fat girl! - so I'm used to the idea that above a certain size, most guys don't even see you. You're like wallpaper, their eyes just skate right past. At first I thought I had just turned that little corner, you know, the one where suddenly you may not be the best looking thing they've ever seen, but you're not completely out of the ballpark, either. But instead, apparently I look like a completely different person, which sort of cracks me up. Because I've been feeling like a completely different person for a while now, but it took Ron the Mansplainer at the bus stop to make me realize it's visible on the outside, too.

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    Yesterday was kind of exciting for me - I went to see my dermatologist!

    Weird, I know. But he's kind of a killer ego boost. I see him anywhere from every 6 weeks to every 3 months, and aside from being a generally great guy, he always notices if I've lost weight. (without a chart! They don't ask you to weigh in at the dermatologist's office. At least, not mine.

    So it was great for that, because I skipped a visit and it's actually been 6 months (and 60 lbs) since he saw me last, and he was pretty shocked and happy, which was awesome.

    He was also really happy with the state of my dermatomyositis. I haven't been taking my methotrexate because I don't want to double up on that and NSAIDs, and I've been dropping down on prednisone (only 6mg a day now). But my facial rash (which looks like a perpetual sunburn) is better, and he says he thinks I don't even need the methotrexate anymore! Which is AWESOME, and which I attribute largely to being completely, 100% strictly grain free for the past 5 months. He's added in a topical cream instead, and we'll see how that goes.

    Other than that, I've slowed down on the fruit and dark chocolate the past couple of days, and also on the cheese and the cream, and my weight loss has kicked back into the right gear. Plus, I just finished a normal period again - one that begins, ends, and stays ended. I'd stopped for almost 2 years, and I didn't believe my doctors when they said it was due to my weight. But since losing 80 lbs brought it back, I'm generous enough to put one in the win column for the whitecoats.

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    Nice work. Thanks for sharing.

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    Primal Blueprint Expert Certification
    It's been a crazy week for me. I went to a writer's conference on the 9th, and after a day, I called it a "20% weekend" and let go of a lot of my standards. I stopped avoiding carbs and sugar, which is my kind way of saying I ate a lot of M&M's and potato chips. I also ate some "gluten free" baked goods provided by the conference, and remembered why those are generally not worth eating.

    The one thing I did hang onto for dear life was avoiding gluten. But even so, I found that the old rumbling and heartburn came back when I ate any grains at all. I guess this will be the lesson I take away - my gut hates anything that's grain-based, not just gluten.

    I left at 291, and came back home at 294. Went up to 297 by my second day back. Then dropped back down over the next couple of days to 291, then down to 288. I know it's 99% water weight, both the up and the down, so I wasn't alarmed by it or anything. But it's crazy what the carbs do to your body, isn't it?

    The worst part was this past Saturday. Once I got home and started eating primally again (this is one huge benefit of having nothing non-primal in the house!) I dropped all the water weight so fast that I think it took a lot of electrolytes with it. The combination of that and my period starting left me feeling lightheaded and shaky all day Saturday.

    But all things considered, it could have been a lot worse. Two or three days off plan and the rest getting back on, it's not so bad. A week later I'm lower than where I started, and I roll with the averages, not the day to day weigh-ins.

    The other thing I did really well with was sleeping. Usually at conferences I get maybe five or six hours a night (there's a lot of drinking, and an unexpected amount of dancing, at the conferences I go to. . But this time I got in 7 to 8 hours a night. And now that I'm back, I've gotten at least 7 hours a night, even if I had to set my alarm later in the mornings. Committing to 7 hours a night without fail and making that a priority has shown me the impact of staying up too late; if I stay up late, I go in late to work, and too much of that makes you look bad, even in the relaxed atmosphere of my office.

    A couple of very cool things:

    1) For the first time in several years, I was able to get on a plane and NOT have to use a seatbelt extender. That is now the OLD normal. The NEW normal is being able to use the belt as-is and actually make use of the tray table without it being on a slant.

    2) When I got back to the office, even though I was several pounds heavier than when I left, our CFO stopped me in the hallway and whispered, "Merry, have you been losing weight? You look AWESOME." She's adorable, and very sweet, and it totally made my day.

    3) Several of the friends I see at my conference every year raved about how well and happy I seemed. One said I was glowing, and looked healthy and strong. It was lovely.

    So, those are the ups and downs of this past week. Leapt off the wagon (it would be a lie to say I fell; the wagon didn't hit a pothole, I flung myself out of it of my own free will). Learned my lesson. Got back on the wagon. And now, all is well.

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