How My Mom Taught Me to Enjoy Desert

I have this vivid memory of being about 22 and in the car with my mom. I was home from college for a weekend. And we were at an ice cream shop in my hometown. My stepdad walked to the ordering window for her and brought back a sundae. She was so excited about it.  She was around 150 lb. overweight at the time. To her this was a treat that she didn’t allow herself very often. To my stepdad it was one thing he could do for his sick wife. For me it was a meaningless errand that I was running with my parents.

As we were about to leave, I looked out the window to see a man and his twelve year old son in the car next to us laughing and making fun of my mom for daring to enjoy an ice cream sundae at her weight. I remember being torn between wanting to punch this man in the face and wanting him to just keep quiet so my mom didn’t hear.

A little background on my mom: when I was a child she started having frequent migraine headaches. Her doctor dismissed these as normal. But her health began to decline. My mother had volunteered at my elementary school weighing around 115 lb. and standing 5’5 tall. By the time I was in middle school she began to struggle with her weight, have even more frequent headaches and struggle to leave the house sometimes.

Finally, when I was in high school her doctor discovered that she had a brain tumor on her pituitary gland. A somewhat risky surgery removed the tumor during my senior year of high school, but left her pituitary gland damaged. She had Cushing’s Disease. Her health became very complicated from then on. I know that because whenever she would end up in the hospital for something (losing consciousness because of a urinary tract infection, etc.) that’s what the doctors would say, ‘your mother’s health is complicated.’

mom and baby

My mom in 1980. I’m the baby.

mom middle school

My mom in the the early nineties. These were middle school years for me. By this point she was having headaches, but hadn’t been diagnosed.

mom and betsy

This is my my sister with my mom post-surgery. I was probably in college at this point.

 

At some point during all of this my mom developed diabetes, painful joints, nonfunctioning adrenal glands, heart problems, anemia, low blood pressure, thyroid problems, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, and blood clots. She took a ton of medication including steroids. They all had their own side effects. And over time she gained a lot of weight. Her health became very complicated. Could she have had more control over her health and weight? Probably some, but not completely and not like most of us. She felt increasingly terrible.

Through all this though, she was a mom, a grandmother, a wife, a daughter and a sister. She continued to take me to lunch when I was in town, make art, sell antiques at the flea market, and answer my phone calls when I was having a rough day or had a question about how to bake a potato. Only in the last couple of years of her life, was my mom unable to really live a normal life. Her pain became so powerful, and she became so exhausted that moving from one room to another was a struggle for her. Still we talked frequently. She laughed frequently. And she still showed up for my daughter’s first birthday, even though it was a two hour drive and she would die less than two months later.

Fat activism became a thing I was really aware of only towards the end of my mom’s life. It has changed the way I think about my own body. But when I follow the movement I mostly think of her. When I see a 200+ lb. woman dare to enjoy food, clothes, or life, I see my mom having the strength to push herself to show up until the very end. But I also see the confidence that I wish my mom had been able to have when she was instead afraid to see people from high school out in public or ashamed to wear the clothes that she felt most comfortable in because she thought it’d “look ridiculous” post weight gain.

Now, for every photo, news story or ad that dares to celebrate a person who is overweight, there is some asshole who feels convicted to shame that person. They will reply in the comment section on Facebook or write their own article or blog post about how this person’s happiness and/or success is somehow an affront on everyone else’s health. And when I read/hear this person’s point of view, its like they’re talking directly to my mom. They’re telling her that her new outfit, the one whose print she adores, that fits her perfectly, is disgusting. They twist her story to say that her happiness and courage is teaching everyone else that they shouldn’t want to be healthy. They seem to think that the last ten years of her life should have been spent inside in complete shame.

If you happen to be this person, or at least sympathize with them, here’s what you don’t seem to get: The fat person that you just can’t let other people celebrate might be sick like my mom or they may have gained weight after experiencing emotional trauma, they may have a different body type but actually have pretty healthy habits, or they may eat a whole lot of calories.

The point is, you don’t know. And unless they feel like telling you their story, its not your business to know. Because, like my mom, we all live in bodies and circumstances that are only somewhat within our control. And like my mom’s, all of our bodies are temporary. But every single one of us deserves to live and enjoy life in whatever body we’re living in. Sometimes that means recognizing the beauty in that body.  And sometimes that means eating the fucking sundae.

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Hashi Who?

Last October I went to my sleep specialist for our last insurance-obligated appointment. After two sleep studies and sleeping with a CPAP machine for six months, he had ordered blood work in preparation for our last meeting.

As he went over it, he casually mentioned that there were antibodies present that indicated that my hypothyroid condition was also an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s. I wondered if I should be devastated- terminal illness style- or slightly disappointed like someone who gained ten pounds. He went on to explain that my body would eventually destroy my thyroid and that I would have to stay on medication for the rest of my life.

Sooo…. that didn’t sound good, per se. But I still wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. I needed to have a conversation with Web MD stat.

After a lot of research, many of my questions have been answered:

Am I going to die sooner because of this? No.

What can I blame on this condition? foggy brain, anxiety, infertility, ADD, weight gain, fatigue, joint pain (I’ve had all of these).

What should I be doing to help myself? As I read more and more, I stumbled upon the Autoimmune Paleo Diet and Mickie Trescott and Angie Alt. In the middle of reading their book, I visited my OBGYN for my yearly exam. We discussed my recent Hashimoto’s diagnosis and she pointed me in the direction that I was already headed, suggesting cutting out gluten and dairy and following a Paleo diet to slow down or even stop the progression of my condition.

I started the diet right after Christmas, around six months ago. Since then, I’ve started attending an integrative medicine practice, my anxiety is almost gone, I feel much more clear headed and I’ve lost 30 lb.

During the past six months I’ve been thinking about this blog and how I let it fall by the wayside but could use it more than ever. I have learned about so much in such a short time: kombucha, bone broth, essential oils, integrative medicine, supplements, massage, CSAs, cutting chemicals from my cleaning and beauty routine. I have so much to tell you about.

And I still have so many questions: Can I ever find an exercise that I don’t dread or a bone broth that doesn’t gross me out? How am I ever going to find a use for all the cucumbers that keep coming in my CSA? What don’t I already know about gut healing? How do I get over this two month long weight loss plateau that I currently find myself in? So many questions!

Thanks for coming along for the ride. ❤

40 Before 40

This year I’ll be 36. I don’t know what happened to the last ten years. But I do know that for the last several months I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can live a better, healthier life. This year I’ve discovered intuitive eating, started this blog, increased my exercise exponentially and addressed sleeping problems that I’ve been avoiding dealing with for years. Postive changes are addictive :).

I recently made this list of 40 goals I’d like to accomplish before I hit the big 4-0. Some are tiny. Some are huge. Most have been things I’ve been thinking about doing for a while. But time flies…

  1. Start meditating daily
  2. Have acupuncture.
  3. Wear gray hair with pride (Its been my natural color since I was in my late twenties).
  4. Be professionally fitted for a bra.
  5. Try a spinning class.
  6. Learn to make homemade biscuits well.
  7. Learn to sew.
  8. Find a hairdresser that I like.
  9. Have a pixie haircut.
  10. Visit twenty different houses of worship.
  11. Go on a camping trip.
  12. Get a professional facial.
  13. Get a chiropractic adjustment.
  14. Learn how to fold a fitted sheet.
  15. Make a collection of family recipes for the people in my family.
  16. Study our genealogy; and make a family history book for N.
  17. Knit a sweater.
  18. Make a craft and sell it.
  19. Go to a wine and design.
  20. Try a spinning class.
  21. Try a cross fit class
  22. Write and illustrate a children’s book
  23. Take a barre class.
  24. Become a National Board Certified teacher.
  25. Find our forever home.
  26. Have a second child.
  27. Learn an instrument.
  28. Grow a year round garden
  29. Write for something other than my own blog.
  30. Sew a quilt
  31. Buy a Vitamix.
  32. Visit Canada.
  33. Go deep sea diving.
  34. Go on a week-long trip with just M..
  35. Go on a train trip.
  36. Try one season of a community supported agriculture subscription.
  37. Save a year’s expenses in savings.
  38. Go on a cruise.
  39. Rent an antique booth for a year.
  40. Successfully make a layered cake.

There it is! I think I can do it. What about you? What do you hope to accomplish before your next big milestone?

The Power of Eating in the Now

I have a confession. I read a self help book- and I liked it.

Lost and found

image source

Geneen Roth has been on Oprah, Good Morning America, NPR and everything else you’ve ever watched on TV or heard on the radio. She’s been around for a while. But maybe, like me, you missed that.

This book, in a nutshell, is about being present. Being mindful and present as an answer to life’s biggest problems is certainly no new idea. What is a bit of a unique concept is the connection that Roth makes between mindfulness and the way we treat our bodies. According to the book- and I’m paraphrasing big time- when we take the time to really pay attention to our bodies and the food we put in them, we will know what we need and therefore come to a healthier place both physically and psychologically. Mindless eating, or any compulsive behavior, is considered a result of disengaging from the present. And it makes sense when you think about it. Why would a person eat when they’re not hungry or eat food that they know will make them feel bad? According to this way of thinking, we do this because we are checked out of the present moment.

Unlike the diet industry, this book makes no claim that being a certain size is the worst thing that could happen to you. The worst thing that could happen to you, in fact, is to be so disconnected from the present that your only reference for what your body needs is a number (scale, clothing size or calorie)- again this is my interpretation of the book. The answer then is listening to your body, not shaming it, not depriving it, but learning how to feel when you’re hungry and pay attention to what your body is really telling you it needs. Really paying attention to what your body needs is not easy when you’ve spent your whole life trying to overpower your body with diets.

Whether you’re into biologypsychology, or books like Women, Food and God you can find support for the same idea. Diets can be a distraction or even part of the problem when it comes to issues with food.

After reading this book, I realize that the diets that so many of us have been on for so many years, the ones I really hope my daughter never subjects herself to, are just the flip side of mindless eating. I realize that both cause you to avoid addressing what compulsion (to eat when not hungry- a really weird habit when you think about it) is all about.

This book is (figuratively) huge; and I’m really suprised I didn’t hear of it before. I know that there are tons of people out there like me who have been caught up in the diet/indulge/regret cycle for too long. I don’t believe this book has every answer. But I love that it in a sea of books and products that only muddle the issues, Geneen Roth is looking deeper.

I’m Sensing a Pattern.

When I started this blog I did it with the intent of changing one thing a week, mostly diet or exercise-wise, in an effort to become healthier every week and therefore super healthier in the longrun.

This is how its gone so far.

Week One: I cut out caffeine.

After two days of excrutiating headaches followed by three otherwise normal coffee free days I started remembering that I’ve read tons of stuff about coffee actually being good for you. Also I love coffee. Also I’m a better person in the morning when I drink coffee. And why was I even trying to give it up?

Week Two: Add 30-minute walks daily.

This was great for both me and my awesome dog, Riggs. This change is a keeper.

image1 (1)

Week Three: Cut out peanuts

This lasted one day before I really wanted peanut butter which is weird because I don’t even eat peanuts or peanut butter very often. I prefer almonds. Do you see the pattern I’m seeing?

Week Four: Add 45 minute walk every week day

I love these walks. 45 minutes is really not that different from 30 minutes except I feel like more of a winner and Riggs is even happier.

Week Five: Cut out dairy.

I thought this was a really a great idea for several days and then… yeah you probably can guess.

Somewhere during this period I added vitamins, added more fruit and vegetables, upped the walk to an hour, and had five different doctor sessions revolving around my sleep issues (Good news on that front, by the way).

So it turns out I’m like a bratty kid that rebels against anything they have to do and has to be treated very carefully… by myself :/. Is that crazy? That was rhetorical.

 

Music Monday: Sturgill Simpson

 

Country music gets a bad rep; maybe it’s largely deserved that reputation in the past thirty-five years. But every now and then someone like Sturgill Simpson comes along and gives hope to the beautiful, raw, uniquely American genre that country music could be.

Here he is on NPR’s “Tiny Desk” series a little over a year ago.

Happy Music Monday!