Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Personal sustainability

I need to lose weight, and I'm not saying that because it's a new year. I need to lose weight because my knees are objecting to carrying around 160 pounds. I had three knee operations when I was 13 and 14 years old, and at the time, the doctor told me I'd have bone spurs in my knees in my 30s. My knees did fine until about five years ago. I gained 20 pounds the year after we moved out here. I blamed easy access to too much goat cheese, but the reason was irrelevant. Vanity was irrelevant. My knees were important, and they were objecting loudly. Having been through steroid injections, physical therapy, and surgery, I had no desire to go running to the doctor. I assumed that with less weight to carry around, they'd be happier. I was up to almost 170 and lost 20 pounds to get down to around 147, which is not bad for someone who is 5'7". My original goal had been 135, which is ideal, but by 147 pounds, my knees were happy. Apparently, my knees have less tolerance for weight now.

January also marks one year since my neck first locked up and I was diagnosed with arthritis. I had just finished teaching and started to turn my head when a sharp pain shot through my neck, and my head would not turn. It's been a frustrating year of x-rays, an MRI, discovering an allergy to narcotics, an intolerance of all things NSAID, and a propensity for exhibiting side effects when taking muscle relaxers. Of course, it did not thrill me to learn that the manufacturer of one drug does not know how it works. And the FDA approved it? Hmm, perhaps if they don't know how it works, there are a few other things they don't know about it?

After months of frustration, I decided not to trust my future to the doctors, the drug manufacturers, and the FDA. When we talk about sustainability, we think about renewable energy, organic gardening, and big-picture things. But really, sustainability starts right here in our own bodies. It means being responsible for what we weigh and how we feel, both mentally and physically. I can't fathom the idea of taking drugs for the rest of my life, which could be another 30 or 40 years.

What have I done about this? I've read Heal Your Aching Back by Jeffrey N. Katz, M.D., associate professor at Harvard Medical School, as well as a variety of interesting articles on the web, including The Pain May Be Real, but the Scan is Deceiving from the NY Times. The article says about the same thing as the book, but in 250 less pages. Basically, they're not really sure what to do about back pain. In situations like this, I go with common sense. If it feels better, do it. If it doesn't help, drop it. And since pills don't cure anything, use them as little as possible.

It's kind of ironic that I've spent my whole life worrying about my knees giving out, but it appears they might last longer than the rest of me. Since September, my right hip sometimes causes so much pain, I'm walking like a much older woman, limping along slowly. I had enough of doctors in 2008 though, and with my hip, I think the logical answer is as simple as it is for my knees -- lose weight.

So, here are my personal sustainability goals. If you want to call them New Year's resolutions, fine, but in my mind, they're life resolutions:

  1. Get down to 135 pounds by eating real food and just paying attention to what I put in my mouth!
  2. Practice yoga daily. (The stretching is great for my arthritis!)
  3. Learn to meditate well. (Most of my pain is caused by muscle spasms, which are supposedly a protective mechanism for those of us with arthritis, which is why muscle relaxers are a common prescription.) I've been trying to meditate for 20+ years, but I'm terrible at it. My mind jumps around more than my little bichon. No more complaining though, I just need to learn how to do it!
Until I've mastered these three things, I'll be writing about them in my blog, but don't worry, I won't be giving you daily weights, confessions about eating a piece of apple crisp, or anything like that. First of all, daily weights are meaningless -- when I say I weight 160, that means that over the course of a week, the scale says everything from 158 to 163. Second, I don't intend to starve myself and feel guilty for days when I'm not starving. We're talking about sensible eating here, but then if you've been around my blog for long, you know that "sensible" is the litmus test for everything I do.


Jody said...

Best of luck to you. I am sure you will reach your goal as you sound very determined. I gave up dieting along time ago and now focus on just trying to do eat as healthy as I can and run on my treadmill 3X a week and pump some iron.

Deborah said...

Thanks, Jody! I don't diet either. I just haven't been paying attention to how much I eat lately.

Carolina Trekker said...

Not sure if this will help you, but I have noticed that especially my knees & all my joints, includeing my fingers, hurt and are stiff when I eat salty snacks. With the holiday Bowl Games to watch we started snacking on salted popcorn and salted corn chips and now I am takeing the stairs one step at a time comeing down. This has happened before and when I cut back on salt I was back to being ok with no pain and stiffness in my joints. So today I need to start avoiding salt & drink more water. Not sure if the water helps, but somehow my noodle says it does.

SkippyMom said...

I think Carolina has a great point about the salt/retaining water thing.

I might also suggest - a dime a dozen, I know - but smaller meals more frequently goes a long way to losing weight.

Don't deny yourself, but eat a smaller portion more often and you will feel sated [is that the right word] and not be snacking on unhealthy stuff or eating huge meals.

I have, unfortunately, the opposite problem. We like to call it the "Lupus" diet...giggle...ever since I was diagnosed I just can't stomach a lot of food. But my joints still hurt [side effect of Lupus] I love to cook and my husband is a great cook, but no deal.

Hang in there - you are obviously very active on the farm, so that goes a long way towards your goal and I don't see your weight as being exceptionally high, except that it effects your joints.


clink said...

Hang in there! I need to lose about 12 lbs that I put on this fall... I need to lose a little more but my body says "X-lbs is where you should be".

But as long as you are eating well -- lots of veggies, lots of water -- it will come. I have issues with serving size. That is always a struggle for me.

Good luck -- and you are not alone!

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Deborah, another thing you might try that I have had good results from is taking a daily glucosamine/MSM supplement. Rick has had success with it in horses as well; my horse gets a weekly glucosamine shot. It can improve joint condition and comfort. Try it for six weeks; by then you'll know if it is helping. I get mine inexpensively at Costco.

I lost 7 pounds last year, and have gained several of them back since Christmas. :-( I want to lose those, plus another 10 this year. A very reasonable goal; my main challenge is eating between meals. I DO weigh every day (it motivates me) and I DON'T eat lots of small meals. Your body needs at least four hours to digest a meal; we don't have a "blanket digestion" system like grazing animals do. A well-known oncologist said once in a presentation that one of the biggest contributors (not causes, mind you) to cancer is eating between meals. Our body only effectively fights rogue cells when not occupied with the digestion process, and most people give their bodies precious little time to do that.

Deborah said...

Thanks for all the support and the tips. I will have to keep track of what I eat and see if that makes a difference in the stiffness.

I am reading "In Defense of Food" and "French Women Don't Get Fat," which are really two sides of the same coin -- enjoy food, and stop worrying about "nutrition." When I'm done, I'll post reviews on the blog.


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