Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Week 4: How Low Can You Go?

Before I get too far into this week's post, let me throw out a quick reference to the previous post which announces my return to teaching on June 23rd! That's right, I'll be back at Del Norte Club instructing the Intermediate class, also known as our "Yoga Love Fest." I can't wait to see you all then. Now for this week's topic...

I wrote out the title of this post one morning and then thought about the question all day long.

"How low can you go?"

I never knew how low I could go until I got there; and it was a pretty deep place of physical depletion. This spring, instead of experiencing renewal and rejuvenation, my body rebelled in ways that I didn't think were possible and I slipped into a dark well of fatigue, exhaustion and extreme cold. My hair became brittle; my skin lost its luster. My body became so puffy that my clothes didn't fit. I didn't want to exercise, I didn't want to socialize, I hardly had enough energy to be a mother.

Something was definitely wrong, so wrong.

After some major testing, I began a strong course of medication to support my failing endocrine system. I found my nutritionist. I swallowed handfuls of supplements and significantly changed my diet. I started to get better. My clothes started to fit again. My skin was glowing. My workouts were great. My social life looked more promising. The worried look on my son's face went away.

Then I went back to the doctor.

This last week, I found out that my thyroid is functioning at the level of a corpse, that I have the blood pressure of a newborn and that to begin to fix it all - somewhat naturally - I have to put my body in an unnatural state called kitosis.

I'm not totally dialed in to the correlation between kitosis and thyroid function but what I know is that as of last week, my diet changed dramatically and now I am eating a diet so low in carbohydrates that I'm pretty sure I'd qualify for an Atkins award.

Not that I want an award. But I do want to get better in the most holistic possible way. And potentially give up a medication that can't help my thyroid, can't help my blood pressure but can give me a synthetic sense of well being. Somehow, that just doesn't seem right. Anything that makes me feel good synthetically has to be short-lived.

Enter the new diet. Or, "The Plan."

My nutritionist reduced my carbohydrate intake to 20 grams a day. Did you know that a bowl of salad greens accounts for five carbs? Neither did I. But that's what I'm talking about: major caloric restriction.

I have to weigh every carrot, every nut, every lettuce leaf, every onion slice, ev-er-y-THING.

It was a major struggle at first. What to do when your run-of-the-mill protein shake has seven grams of carbs? That's more than a third of my daily allotment. Plain Greek yogurt is exactly half of my carb allowance. Forget an apple. Three strawberries? Maybe. If they're small.

Sydney, my nutritionist, promised that my thyroid would get better. She promised that my blood pressure would normalize. She promised she could get me there. And I believe her.

But I have to follow "The Plan." Strictly. Diligently.

This morning, as I was conducting a major science experiment called rationing out my day's carbs, protein and fat, my mom said what I needed to hear: "I know it's hard but you're doing it for Ben. I know you want to be healthy for Ben."

She's so right. Of course we'll do anything for our children, especially if our child's well-being relies on our own health. As a single mom, I carry this burden so heavily. Ben already spent most of the spring weeks with my mom, while I recovered. I do not want that to happen again. I can't lose any more time with him. So I'm acting. Embracing The Plan. Staying the course. Trusting in the process.

And it' working!

I know that I'm on my way. This is the best that I've felt in months, but boy is it hard, hard work.

Being ever-mindful of major dietary changes, I did quite a lot of research on low carb diets. What I found was surprising. It's not all bad. In fact, the low carb approach can actually be very good for most people. I'll be posting more about those findings.

As it is, I've probably given up grains forever and I never thought I'd say that. But it's a situation where the benefits of being without far outweigh the pleasures of a slice of bread, a bowl of rice or a handful of crackers.

Extreme? Yes. Indeed. But I've found that I can derive just as much pleasure by having a colorful salad with salmon, chicken or steak. And I simply feel cleaner without the grains. I can't explain it, but intrinsically I know that my body runs more efficiently when it's not burdened by the heaviness of most grains.

Lastly, I'm still on a big flax regime and I've added apple cider vinegar, too. I never knew of the health benefits associated with apple cider vinegar; there are so many! Vinegar has a great warming effect once it's in the body. I hadn't noticed it before because the amount I ingested was so minuscule compared to what I take in now. But it's another habit that I can easily see adopting as a life-long part of my wellness. In fact, many of my older clients complain of muscle cramping during our sessions together. Turns out, apple cider vinegar packs a huge amount of potassium. I'm definitely recommending it in lieu of, or in addition to, bananas.

I've deviated a little. I have a diet soda every afternoon. I had a little run-in with vodka. But I haven't touched the grains or the sweets in weeks and that feels like the biggest accomplishment of all.

Every day, I'm getting questions from clients and friends about my program. I'm happy to share what I've learned. Please send any specific inquiries to me or catch me at the club.

Tomorrow is my appointment with Sydney. I'll keep posting updates as I go. In the meantime, I'll be splashing with Ben in the pool, pushing hard on the treadmill, finding a new twist in yoga and enjoying the life that was returned to me!