5/16/2014

Healthy.

This post was supposed to be entitled "Running Redemption." It was going to be about all the spiritual stuff being unearthed in my heart as I have been running. But then I saw my doctor yesterday (May 15) and found out that those 16 vials of blood drawn last week not only gave some real answers but also addressing those issues will require quite a few changes to my current lifestyle.

So, let me share with you the little bit I had already written, the jumping grounds for this post as it was originally intended:

As I've been doing this training, I just keep thinking about how I need to push harder. No matter how hard it is to breathe, or how my legs turn to lead, I have to go a little faster. I need to run a little longer. I need to achieve something just that much harder than yesterday.

I need to do more. I can't let the dream die. 

Nothing is ever good enough, because I'm afraid the moment I settle on something as having been decent then I'm done--that was the peak and everything is about to go back downhill, an increasingly lazier and fatter me hurtling toward my death from complications of morbid obesity circa age 40. 

I had an aunt dead of a massive heart attack at 42. She left her young kids motherless. This is the future I must work to avoid.

Talk about putting pressure on the moment.

It's such a redemptive thing, this running bit. It forces me to look at Jesus to ask for help discerning all the crazy in my heart. What is pressing into my weakness, to ask Jesus to help me press on past what I feel like I can't do? What is me doing more than my body is capable of, idolizing the need to feel fit, at the risk of actually harming myself? I have written so many blog posts in my head over the last two months, because I know this journey could be so helpful to others but particularly I want it to be recorded for me to read again later. I forget so easily what Jesus has done.

Well. I don't even know where to start, so I'm just praying this post makes sense, at least to myself when I inevitably read it later. I know it's "supposed" to be succinct, with clean writing, sticking to one topic. Frankly, I don't give a damn about any of that. My heart needs to get all of this out at once. For those who care, you'll read it. Those who don't, you won't read it. So be it. I just need to get this out of my head, to fill this empty white space with the words in my soul, even if there are a lot and it's jumbled and jambled into one imperfect thing. So like my life, really.

Let's do this.

I mentioned this before, but to sum up, I began seeing a nutritionist in January. January 5, to be exact. I started eating super well. No sugar, tons of leafy green and uber healthy vegetables (organic and local when possible), only certain very low sugar fruit, minimal dairy, lean protein (particularly grass fed beef and antibiotic free chicken), blah blah blah. No grain. No mochas (sadness). No bars and "healthy" prepackaged foods--not even paleo bars or Larabars except in emergencies. Careful with nuts and all the healthier stuff. Just downright awesome eating. In March I started running and ramped up to 35 minutes at a time; I was slow but I could run for 3 miles without slowing or stopping.

Ok, it's hard to tell, but I took this picture with my face all red and sweaty
after running for 10 minutes straight, heart rate averaging 160+ beats per minute,
to try and remind myself that maybe I was actually sorta working hard?
such. a. struggle. for. me. 

So, 4.5 months later and still doing all of that, I have gone from 275 pounds to 271 pounds. We tried testing food allergies. No dairy for two weeks did nada. No dairy PLUS no eggs for two weeks did nada. Plus, the eating didn't just not help me lose weight, but it also didn't address my fairly severe adrenal issues with fatigue and exhaustion. Upping my sleep from under 5 to almost 7 hours per night, plus 1-2 hour naps most days (fact: can I just say that being demanded to take a nap by health professionals is amazing? Boom!). My nutritionist recommended further work with a naturopath to figure out what was going on. So, I met with her and then had tons of blood work done last week. Yesterday I had the follow-up meeting with the results. I guess I expected to hear that it was hormonal and adrenal and this supplement and more of that food and none of this food and voila! In a few months I'd be down 10-15 pounds and, albeit at a slow pace, things would start moving in the right direction.

I was wrong.

I sat down in my doctor's office and she told me that we know exactly what's going on. There are some lesser concerns--my thyroid is a little low (but not enough to explain why I'm losing no weight), my calcium, vitamin B12, iron, vitamin D, and testosterone are all either just under or at the very low end of the acceptable ranges.I actually also might have mono. As in mononucleosis, because my monocytes are high. But my blood cells are fine so we're going to just recheck in 6 weeks when we recheck my thyroid after taking a plant-based thyroid stimulant. Just lots of little things, mostly that can be tweaked with some supplements, no biggies.

But there's a biggie. And I can give you the shocking details of the numbers, but that won't help me put it off: despite everything I have done, I am pre-diabetic. Insulin resistant. Headed toward the beast that is diabetes. The food and the exercise and the fact that I'm only 32 don't matter. I'm pre-diabetic. No, it's not who I am, but can we not pretend that this isn't horrifying news? Shaming news? Incredibly discouraging? I don't care if I'm not supposed to think and feel these things because that isn't making me not think and feel them.

The single silver lining here is that I'm not crazy. Something actually is very wrong. And no amount of perfect effort was going to fix this. My body, right now, actually is that broken. It doesn't matter if it sounds like an excuse (even to me), or if it's the rare exception to the rule to be this broken. My body is this broken. I actually am the exception to the rule. Yes, my past habits got me here, but no amount of correcting them without radical intervention is getting me out.

To be fair to myself, the a1c test, which determines diabetes, begins its "pre-diabetic" range at 5.7; a 6.4 is full on diabetes. My number was a 5.7, so that's just a tenth away from simply being the high end of the acceptable range. But still. The spike in my blood sugar, the spike in my insulin, then the crazy fast drops in each, plus the implications of that (you can read the article, but it comes down to this: my body turns all carbs and sugars--even "healthy" ones--into stored fat; I should say, though, that my triglycerides, blood pressure, HDL, all of that, are great. So at least for that.), were disheartening. I have worked so hard--I don't drink soda or eat ice cream or even eat whole grain bread, for goodness' sake. How can I be this careful and still be pre-diabetic?

My doctor talked me off the ledge. She's not a BSer, and she told me that the fact is, based on my lifelong weight struggles plus my family history on both sides, we're probably looking at 70-80% genetics here. Add in 27 years of poor environment (my horrible eating habits up until gastric bypass) and I'm simply fighting a losing battle against my body using traditional dietary and exercise methods. This explains why I stalled out and was only losing 4-6 pounds a month 9 months out from gastric bypass, despite stellar eating and 6-8 hours a week doing an intense gym routine. Why nothing has gotten significant weight off before surgery nor after having kids. Plus, even for me at this weight and with this information, she would start by recommending that I work with a nutritionist and getting my eating in line and adding in some exercise. For most people, that works. But since I have already done that, and it didn't work, it's time for the radical move.

The radical move is a special diet. In 17 years, she never advocated prepackaged food diets. Not that they're bad for everyone, she just found in her experience that they weren't a good long term solution for her clients. But then two years ago she learned about a diet that had made it's way to the US after almost two decades in Europe and Canada. She doesn't recommend it often, only when she knows it's the actual necessary choice. It's called Ideal Protein. It's similar to, say, Medifast and is specially formulated, prepacked foods with lean protein and specific low-carb veggies at dinner. Super strict, super focused, super regulatory for however long it takes me to get to a goal weight.

Long story short, it's the radical option to affect change for insulin resistant people when normal whole foods diets aren't helping. It's not cheap, and it's not going to be easy. It will be hard for me mentally to eat prepackaged foods on a low fat diet, with ingredients like soy (gah!) after so much work to eat healthy fats and minimal grains and death to soy and all that. But this isn't forever. It's to get me down to a healthy weight, get my body processing food and insulin and such the way it's supposed to, and then I can transition back to a paleo-esque, whole foods lifestyle.

Her only concern is that I will lose weight fast. Very fast. As in likely to be reaching a goal weight--even though that's a loss of 110-120 pounds--by late winter or spring. Can I just tell you that I can't even actually fathom that? The idea that after working so hard and nothing happening and then just dramatically losing weight and having a not morbidly obese body? Just...I'm not there yet. Mentally, I am so used to fighting a losing battle with my body that I am not sure this is real to me.

But, with regards to my original intent a week ago to write a post about my heart (spiritual) issues regarding running, we gotta go there.

Because I can't run. Doctor's orders.

This diet puts me into ketosis and I won't have the available glucose to support intense cardio. She told me that I don't even need to walk, but when I asked if I can she said yes, 20-30 minutes a day 5 times a week, as long as I keep my heart rate to 70-80%, which is 113-132 beats per minute. Thankfully, I have a heart rate monitor and can do that. It means I can't be super fast, but this is just about keeping the routine of keeping my body moving. Mentally, I just really treasure the time with Juliet and the fact that I'm doing something active. I fear that I'm BSing myself, but I think the fact is that I actually enjoy exercise. It's one part of why I've been killing myself to become a runner.

Here's the deal: I struggle under shame. I *know* I shouldn't, but I think about how the cultural attitude is that fat people just need to move more and eat less, and if they don't lose weight then they aren't doing that. If they say they are putting in real effort but are still fat then they're either lying or need to work harder This isn't a cultural attitude I think just exists out there--it's what I think everyone thinks about me. It's what I think about me.

So I work against that which I perceive to be true. I'm fat, I'm putting in the effort, but I'm still fat. I need to do more. I need to get thin on my own effort. I desperately wanted to eat well and become a runner and lose 100 pounds and be like, "See? I am not a worthless fat person. I used to be but I worked really hard to not only lose the weight but to gain your respect."

I am legitimately in love with the organic Power Greens mix from Costco.
Like, kale/spinach/chard speak to me. So can't 20 years ago me be that way?
As though eating kale would have fixed my heart. Sigh
This is so embarrassing, but I'm just going to be honest: remember my "Why Not Me?" posts? Both yesterday's and the original one? That I needed to be. a. runner. It's a fine dream, but Jesus just ripped the cover off of something I have been denying. Being told that I can't be a runner, that the dream is being pushed into the unknown future, made me stare something in the face: I feel ashamed of my past. I am ashamed of being not just the poor girl and the fat girl but, more than that, I am ashamed of being the desperate girl.

I just need to repeat that: I am ashamed of being the desperate girl.

With the grace in my life now, where I feel so much more free to rest in who Christ has said I am, I look back at my childhood, my high school years, and my college years with a heavy cringe. I just want to teleport back to her, to impute to past-Tami the maturity that today-Tami has grown into. Now, maybe that means I'm not actually all that mature. But this is the truth of what is in my heart. Me changing today is not enough.

I want to change who I was. And I want others to remember me not as I actually was then but as the me I wish I had been.

I was uncomfortably, openly desperate for love. I couldn't have guarded that open shame if I had tried. I had no idea how. I yearned and strived toward people being impressed with me.

How smart I was.

How funny I was.

How friendly I was.

How good at singing I was.

How nice I was.

How willing to help I was.

How easy to use I was.

Never how pretty I was, because that was a lost cause.

But how acceptably or even remarkably everything-other-than-beautiful I was.

And then, after Jesus claiming me as his own at 16, how good of a Christian I was.

Obedient. Faithful. Willing to serve. First to arrive, last to leave, and center of it all in between.

I just needed people to be impressed so much with whatever I could put out there as good that they would love me.

Somehow, no matter how much I have changed inside, the fat on my body reminds me of who I used to be. How I know people saw me. And I want to shed this fat and look as different on the outside as I am on the inside in hopes that somehow that will fix the desperation of my past. That if people from high school stumble across me on Facebook they go, "Whoa! That's Tami Keyser?" So that when I go to my 10 year college reunion this fall (whaaaaa?? TEN YEARS. I digress.) I see classmates and they just know that somehow the annoying, hyper-Christian, legalistic, obsessed with her one particular church girl is no more and someone more loving and tenderhearted and addicted to grace and actually in love with Jesus has taken her place.

Sigh. Ironically, this Ideal Protein deal may actually finally help me be thin. Like, able to shop in Old Navy and not only online thin. (Yeah, I have really high standards.) But that can't address the heart stuff, because no matter how thin I ever get, even if I reach my, "Yeah, right," dream of one day qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon, that will not take away the fact that I can't change who I used to be. I can't change how people who knew me then will remember me.

And my dream of being a runner? That's impaired by the fact that I have 5ks on 5.24 and 6.14 but I have to walk them. And, on the whole pushing myself part, my doctor told me that I wasn't lazy. It was way harder than it's supposed to be, not just because of the 270 pounds, but because my body doesn't access stored energy like it's supposed to. So I never got that runner's high or got healthier so that it would be a bit easier--I just felt like crap. And that made me push even harder, thinking I wasn't trying hard enough, which made me feel worse. Repeat cycle.

But there's still hope. Because if this diet really does work, really is the key to unlocking that heretofore inaccessible 70-80% genetic part of my body, then when I get to maintenance phase I can ramp up the fitness. She said, "Imagine running without carrying all this extra weight!"

You know what? Yes. Running without all this extra weight. I want that.

But not just body fat weight. This believing lies weight that I willfully haul around. I want redemption not just of who I am today, but for it to be enough that Jesus has always seen me as his. He has always loved me, even when I desperately sought for other people to fill that void in ways that I am now ashamed of. I remember hearing the verse about, basically, a horrible woman being like a city without walls, and believing the enemy when he said, "That's who you are." I was just a sloppy mess of a person who no one really wanted around but I kept hoping to be enough for someone. And I never was. I was never anyone's #1. I was never that preferred, seen, enough person to get the love I yearned for from anyone.

Instead, Jesus was enough for me. He took every flog strike, every nail, every thorn, the spear into his side, and said, "Tami, I am enough for you." He saw me in my weakness and rebellion and unbelief and flat out failure--that of my past, my present, and my future--and looked unto heaven from the cross, said, "Forgive [her] Father, for [she knows] not what [she does]." And then, though my record was filled with putrid unrighteousness, the rebellion of desperation sought everywhere but in Jesus, he sealed his perfect record for eternity, imputed his perfect righteousness to me, and said, "It. Is. Finished."

"'It is finished. And since it's so difficult to believe, I [God] have given you a part of me, my Spirit, whose whole job is to seep down deep into your ongoing regions of unbelief and preach one sermon: it is finished. It is finished. It is finished.'"

--Tullian Tchividjian, Romans series, sermon #11 (I cannot strongly enough encourage you to watch the whole thing, but if not that, then start at 46 minutes. Under 3 minutes of your life, absolutely unwasted.)

It is finished.

It is finished.

It is finished.



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