The Agony of Defeat


Dear Universe:

It's been 11 months since my spine surgery.  The first two months after surgery were rough, but my back is feeling much better.

But can we talk about my feet?  I wasn't surprised by plantar fasciitis and heel spurs in both feet.  I went through the same thing in 2007.  And yes, I know having surgery to fix those issues was my choice.  But the rehab has not been fun.  The peroneal and Achilles tendinopathy has been excruciating.

I have been going to physical therapy and doing my home exercises dutifully in the hopes that I will be able to go ahead with the second plantar fasciotomy/heel spur removal surgery sometime soon.


But I was really not prepared for having my feet run over by a LandRover at the DC Pride Parade (by a friend, he feels terrible, so please be kind).


Universe, I feel a bit inundated.  I feel like asking for 1 pain free day isn't too much to ask.  And if you can't give me 1 pain free day, can we maybe start thinking about not adding on to what I'm already dealing with? I know there are people in the world that suffer more than I do.  I know that there's no fairness as to who is dealt what hand.  I'd just like to think that at this point the number of freak accidents that I've had, and the number of chronic issues that I've had qualify me for a bit of a reprieve.  

Universe, it's okay if you disagree. You've thrown a lot at me and I've survived.  But can we try a different tack?

Thanks for listening, Universe.
-Robby

PS:  **fingers crossed that the MMP card arrives soon** (But I don't know if you can help the USPS)

The Path, The Dream, The Plan

I've spent the past two weeks binge watching all four seasons of Ugly Betty (aired from 2006-2010) on Hulu.  Some parts were a little hit/miss but some of it still rings true.

Last night I watched the series finale and it affected me a bit differently than it did the first time around.  The first time I saw it in 2010, I was wrapped up in her love life.  I was hopeful for her because if Betty could find happiness and a mate, then so could I.  This time around I was struck by Betty's central conflict of the last few episodes:  stay on the path where you're comfortable (and have some success/tenure) or do what you are passionate about?

In the last episodes she laments about not pursuing her passion project (blogging).  Sound familiar?
She also worries about what will happen to her family if she moves away (to London).  How will she fare in a place where she has to start over?

It started to make me think about the past 13.5 years in the same job (legal secretary) and in the same location (DC) and all the excuses and reasons I've relied on to help guide my decisions (either to stay or to go).  I'm currently in the "stay with the insurance that will pay for your next surgery" and "you have enough leave/FMLA" frame of mind.

I've also been thinking a lot about my health too.  There's complacency there.  It's hard to explain to people how hard the past 2 years have been.  Yesterday a colleague came to my desk to talk about his upcoming surgery.  He was always my cautionary tale of back surgery gone bad.  They're now taking out all of his hardware, cleaning up spurs on his vertebrae, and putting him back together.  He gets it.  It's physically and emotionally tiring to deal with chronic injury.

I also spoke with my general practitioner while at the physical prior to my foot surgery.  My blood results were amazing now that I've been gluten free for a year now (holy shit, just realized that now!!).

Iron (Under 11 is considered anemic for women)
2015 Ferritin: 8 ng/mL
2016 Ferritin: 18 ng/mL
-----Celiac Diagnosis-----
2017 Ferritin: 56 ng/mL

Vitamin B-12 (deficiency felt under 400 pg/mL)
2015 Vitamin B12: 296 pg/mL
2016 Vitamin B12: 367 pg/mL
-----Celiac Diagnosis-----
2017 Vitamin B12: 518 pg/mL

Vitamin D (the deficiency ranges have changed over the years) 
2010 Vitamin D: 14.8 ng/mL
(started supplementing)
2015 Vitamin D: 39 ng/mL
-----Celiac Diagnosis-----
2017 Vitamin D: 60.5 ng/mL

I am hoping that once my body recovers fully from the spine and foot surgeries, that I'll start actually feeling better and more energetic.  I miss going to the gym and being as active as I used to be.  I know that there are things I can do and adaptations that I can make, but my brain just isn't there. My brain is mainly trying to come out my eye sockets thank to allergy season and low pressure sinus headaches.  But Dr. Jack is handling that. 


One of Two

(I keep hearing over and over that blogging is dead. That it's all about microblogging now (tumblr, instagram).  FIE!!! I say FIE ON THAT!!! I shall keep writing.)

I super jinxed myself by saying things like "after my spine surgery, I'll be able to _____________"
Body's response was "NOT SO FAST THERE, FGvW."


Okay, this wasn't totally unanticipated.  After my initial injury in 2007, once I was able to stand up a bit better, I was hit with plantar fasciitis in both feet at the same time.  So when my feet started acting up after my spine surgery (I think it's due to having my weight shifted forward, pulling the muscles in the back of my leg tight), I started doing all of my plantar fasciitis protocol:  stretching, heating my feet before bed, etc. and so on.  Also would spring for some extra calf massage whenever I'd get a pedicure. 

Imagine my surprise when after a few months of these shenanigans and that the pain didn't go away, I went to my podiatrist's office and the x-rays revealed some pretty nasty heel spurs (my doc rated them an 8 out of 10, 10 being the worst).  We tried doing a cortisone shot in my foot and some PT, but it didn't work and I was in a lot of pain.

We decided to pull the trigger on surgery (a laparoscopic plantar fasiotomy (they cut through part of the ligament to release the tension and then it scars over) and a heel spur reduction (they drill that pointy looking thing down)) when I started to notice that I was walking weird and it was affecting my back.

I had 10 days off my foot, in a splint, and unable to wash my foot, using the iWalk2.0 (using my cane for balance b/c my other foot is still messed up):


And now I'm in a walking boot (and can wash, but not soak my foot!): 


My foot looks terrible (believe me, I have photos where it looks much worse, but this is the PG version), but it's getting better (with lots of massage to break up the bruise and ice). I get my stitches out tomorrow.  In a few weeks we start talking about the same surgery on the right foot.
 

I know that I sound like a broken record -- but chronic pain, injuries, illness are a BITCH.  If you know someone that suffers from chronic pain or illness, throw a little support their way. It may make a huge difference in their recovery or their life. 

Fiat Lux

Many years ago, someone bought me a very nice candle as a thank you for some work that I did for him.  As I'm not the kind of person to spend $40 on a candle (I'm more likely to spend $5-6), I filed it in the "to be saved for a special occasion" category along with other things like fancy/delicate stemware, clothing that I don't want to get dry cleaned, and shoes that only feel comfortable for the first hour.

The other day, I was cleaning and dusting, and took out the candle and opened it up for the first time in years to smell it.  It just didn't smell as bright and as fresh as I remembered it.

Okay, my point with all of this is that sometimes things in life are amazing and special, but they're also fleeting.  Sometimes you have to light the candle and enjoy it then and there because the "special occasion" may never come, or you might not know it when you see it.  Create the occasion and it will be special.

The next step: realizing that you're the occasion :P

FGvW Reviews: Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield

**waves** Hi everyone -- I'm not dead, I promise.  I started the new year very hopeful and then got the wonderful news that I have heel spurs in both of my feet.  They are very painful and it totally made me slam on the breaks with walking, going to the gym.  Steroid shots didn't work, going to physical therapy next.  But if that doesn't work, I may have 2 more surgeries ahead of me.  Fun!


DISCLAIMERS
1.  Rebecca Scritchfield is my dietitian and my friend.
2.  She did give me a copy of the book to review and enjoy, but not before I had purchased a copy for myself.
3.  I may be a little biased because I'm quoted in the book (pg. 219)



It's taken me reading the book twice to really process a lot of Body Kindness.  My first read had me thinking that the book was organized wrong, and the second read had me convinced that you could read each section out of order and see something you might have missed if you read the book from front to back.  I realized that Body Kindness wasn't organized wrong:  it was organized to undo a lot of the familiar harm (from easier to undo to harder to undo) we've seen in countless other diet/weight loss/fitness books and articles in order to open the reader up to a new way of thinking about not just their body but, more importantly, their life.  I should have known that Rebecca would be sneaky like that and make the book a gigantic head fake (a Randy Pausch term for indirect learning).

Body Kindness is divided into four main sections:

  1. What you do ("Habits like eating, exercise, and sleep choices");
  2. How you feel ("The thoughts and emotions that influence your day-to-day choices and overall life satisfaction");
  3. Who you are ("Your beliefs and values that help you focus on what's really important to you and why"); and
  4. Where you belong ("The relationships every single one of us needs that provide the opportunity to be part of something greater than ourselves").
Each section challenges the reader to challenge their thoughts/beliefs and behaviors in relation to how they feel about who they are and treat their bodies.  Where did these beliefs and behaviors come from?  From where are your goals and ideals springing forth–are they intrinsic or extrinsic? Do they reflect your values and respect your needs?  And Body Kindness asks the most important question of them all:  Do your thoughts/beliefs/behaviors contribute positively to the life you want to be living? Do you undermine your values with your thoughts/words/behaviors? Buried deep in the final chapters was a passage that brought me to tears, simply because I knew it to be true but hadn't been living it:
For me, it's humbling to think of my own life in the context of such miraculous and historical beauty [the Grand Canyon].  How can I waste another moment of my short years on this planet down-playing the miracle of this body I have been given?  From tiny cells we become the most beautiful thinking, breathing, feeling creatures on earth.  What an amazing gift we have been given, and how dare we squander and abuse it?

In other words, this book is about the pre-contemplation phase (I call it "foundation," but "re-calibration" also works) that every person must go through BEFORE deciding they want to make a change in their life.  And, in my opinion, the first part of that epiphany is realizing that you deserve a life that you love–a life that's more than just going through the motions of what is expected or what you think others want you to be.

Body Kindness doesn't just ask the tough questions, but it also offers a method (not a prescription) to build a strong foundation based on the Body Kindness Pillars of "love, connect, care."  Rebecca took some of the best lessons (such as mindfulness and forgiveness) and data (such as how diets are manufactured to fail) from many different places and put them all in one space without getting bogged down in pages of footnotes or endnotes.  Her words echo the wisdom of our bodies that we already know to be true–wisdom that has spent a lifetime fighting bad science, bad theory, and bad influences. 

I found that I would read a few pages and then need to put the book down because of a few reasons (1) it's hard to read books when you have cats (2) something rang true for my own life (3) something made me think of someone I loved (both alive and no longer with me) and I wished they had read the same words to help them escape their self-inflicted suffering. I found myself on Amazon, sending people that I love copies mid-sentence.  I found myself quoting it to friends.  The "Spiral Up" on page 260 helped me come to peace with some things that had been weighing me down but also took some time and compassion to let go of. 

I would recommend Body Kindness to anyone who needs to get a tune up and get their head back in the right place.  I'd recommend this book to anyone who needs to let go of the negative thoughts/feelings/behaviors that have constricted their life.  I would recommend this book to anyone who needs the reassurance to give themselves permission to trust themselves about themselves.  I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to reconnect with themselves and the world around them.  I'd also recommend this book because it had me laughing out loud quite a few times (ahem, page 245... that was unexpected, but such generous honesty).

I'd also recommend Body Kindness to anyone who needs to detox themselves from diet books, diet articles, fitness books, fitness articles, and self-help people trying to sell expensive ideas.  Rebecca might have screwed herself out of a sequel by publishing this very complete book. 

#GoTheDist 2017: Patience & Balance


At the end of 2016, I was cleared to start working out in the gym again (elliptical, light weights) and I had all these visions of going balls to the wall, of trying to reclaim what I couldn't do while I was injured or rehabbing.

Reading Rebecca Scritchfield's Body Kindness and seeing the documentary Embrace have kinda thrown a wrench into the works:  I started asking myself:

What's the big rush? 
What are you trying to reclaim?
What do you think you lost?

I got that sick feeling in my stomach when I realized I was looking at things the wrong way.  If fought to reclaim something that was "lost," I wasn't giving myself any space to experience my body as it is. I wasn't allowing myself to grow in a new direction.  

The second thought was that I wasn't giving myself much credit for how far I've healed.  I sometimes forget just how bad it was and what it's like to live in a body that's not in pain all the time.  Why would I want to do anything to jeopardize that simply because of a date on a calendar? This is still a marathon, not a sprint.  That has not changed.

I still need to be patience and aim for balance....

With that in mind, I announce #GoTheDist 2017:


I invite you all to examine how you bring patience and balance into your daily life.  How do you use patience and balance to care for yourself with compassion and kindness?  Are there areas in your life that are out-of-balance and could use a little more attention?  Do you find that you do not extend compassion towards yourself?  

Use this as an opportunity to let go of a little of the unrealistic expectations you may put on yourself and become in tune with what realistic expectations and goals look like.  Cheer yourself on when you choose to focus on how things bring joy into your life.  Look for opportunities to grow and use patience and balance to let go of negative thoughts and emotions. 

Maybe 2017 will be the year that we can all let go of the extraneous things pulling us out of whack and nurture the things that remind us of how good it can be to be centered in our own mind and bodies. 


How to Join #GoTheDist 2017

Instructions are the same as always: 

1. Click on the SUMMARY PAGE (bookmarking it would be a good idea as you will be using it often).

2. Fill out the next available line on the "Summary" spreadsheet.  You are responsible for filling out your biographical information (columns A–D), your tracking modality and goal (columns E and F), your quarterly goals (columns G, J, M, and P), and your half-year and full-year rewards (columns U and W).  

3. **CREATE YOUR INDIVIDUAL PAGE** (The information you have entered in step 2 should auto-complete to an individual page.  Check your line number and then look at the bottom of the page.  Match up your line number and double check that your information is correct.  Ask if you need help!).

4. Rename the tab "@[twitter name]" or if you don't have Twitter "[nickname]" 

5. Fill out the sheet as you wish.  See step #8.

6. Update your own individual page as needed (if tracking is too hard, consider printing out your page and filling it out by hand and updating it online once a week). The total mileage will automatically be updated on the Summary tab as you report on your individual page.

7. Follow #GoTheDist on Twitter for support if you need it or to support others when they do, to announce achievements, and find new/old friends!

8. PLEASE DO NOT DELETE LINES OR TABS! Do not SORT.  If you want to add columns, please add them to the RIGHT of the page.  Please do NOT move your page around! You CAN bookmark your individual page using your browser to find it easily.

Squaring Up

Just got back from a screening of Embrace and I think I need some more time to process. My thoughts are flying in a few different directions.

But I want to put to you all a question that I asked after the movie to the panel (but I am going to ramble a little more here).

So much of society and consumerism feeds off of insecurity -- keeping us from feeling comfortable and secure in who we are and what we look like. Essentially, we question our own worth and value.

The parallel in boxing is instability--when we get too narrow. When we "get narrow" it makes it easier for our opponent to knock us off balance at the same time it limits our range and power. Getting narrow with self-love often looks the same too--trying to take up less space and disappear.

The response is to "square up" (widen our stance to create a better foundation) -- sometimes only a single step in the right direction to restore our range, power, and stability.

What do you think is one way we all can "square up" in the direction of improving our self-confidence and body image efficacy? 

3/5: Disarming the Word "Diet"

There really should be water in the glass. Sorry dairy lobby.
It's about time I got to talking about diet.  I've already written about my thoughts about the other parts of the puzzle:  1/5:  The Foundation and 1/5:  Exercise.  Just to refresh, I firmly believe that wrapping your head around being healthy can be split into a pie with 5 wedges and distributed as such: 


1/5th — Foundation work
1/5th — Exercise 
3/5ths — Diet

I've saved the hardest one (my hardest one) for last mainly because it's something that I struggle with, but also because I couldn't figure out how to jump into it.  That is until this past xmas and I was talking with my dad (hi Dad!).

Dad and I always talk to each other a lot–and about a wide range of topics.  I think his least favorite topic is when I start talking to him about his health, or about how many of my issues with food, exercise, and my body were inherited from him and my mom (check out "Discovering Dad" Part 1 and Part 2!) (this is in the spirit of understanding, not blaming).

Turns out that dad really hates the word "diet" as in "What's your diet like?" 

Dad associates the word "diet" with fad diets and/or deprivation (like the time when he went on a super low fat diet; got results but was miserable).

I'm kinda on the other side of "diet" being a loaded word (thankfully).  I've been able to disarm the bomb that is the word "diet" and see if for what it really is (my definition):   the stuff you choose to put in your mouth, how much of it, with the intent of it helping you live (a healthy) life.   The thing is, the focus of the definition is on the word "choose."  Let that sit for a second.

Some people may choose to be vegetarian or vegan.  Some people may choose to be paleo, do whole 30, or suck air.  Some pick choose to pick up a magazine with pretty photos and promises of results.  Some people choose to believe government guidelines.  That's their choice.

But... what leads up to that choice? (what follows is my opinion)

(1) your attitudes about food  (such as certain cultural beliefs, your preference/taste, etc.)
(2) your knowledge of what your own body needs (your relationship with your body/mind affects the decisions you make regarding food–do you need more calories one day? do you need to focus on getting a particular vitamin? etc.)
(3) your relationship with food (is it fuel? is it an emotional issue? etc.),

That feels super complex, but most of those choices happen subconsciously. When we feel that we need to change our diet for one reason or another, we begin to pay more attention to how the question of choice breaks down. We bring consciousness to our beliefs and habits.  And sometimes it's gentle and constructive, sometimes it's harsh and detrimental.

We examine those ways we can choose what we put in our mouth and how much and for what purpose:
(1) Can you change your attitudes about food?
(2) Can you change your knowledge of what your own body needs?
(3) Can you change your relationship with food?

I think this is what most people are really doing when they "go on a diet"–they are reexamining those questions not through their own process and examining within, but instead relying on outside information rather than examining within.

I don't want to promote any diet over another.  Everyone has different needs. But I do want to advocate everyone looking at their diet and asking themselves if it's working for them.  And if it's not, I hope you feel empowered to try and make small, sustainable changes. Your body has a wisdom all its own–listen to it.

As for Dad, I drew my handy dandy quadrant diagram (still a work in progress).  The whole point of it is that all foods can be put on a spectrum and you have to know how to rate food.  In terms of volume (feeling full) you want nutrient dense but caloric efficiency.  You can have red meat, but understand that as compared to some other proteins, you should probably have less of it because there's less "bang for the buck."

Long story short–"diet" is not a dirty word.  It's the word that describes how we fuel our lives.
That's all.

Taking the Win

Say hello to my new friend.


It's so hard to say goodbye to My Cruel Mistress, but that's what life is about sometimes -- having to move on and leave the past behind so you can open yourself to the opportunities of the future.  In the end, she wasn't a cruel mistress, but a dependable friend and a constant in my workout routine. I missed her both before and after my surgery.

After many years, my office has upgraded the gym facilities.  Today was the soft opening.  I got there a little before 6 am to see the new digs.  The space and the new machines are really nice:  4 new treadmills, 2 new ellipticals, 1 lateral elliptical crosstrainer (which might be my hip flexors' new nemesis), new smith machine, new cable machine, various weight machines, new free weights, kettlebells, resistance bands AND a group class room.  We also have new locker rooms, but unfortunately, we can't rent/use lockers overnight.

But there were two HUGE new changes:  we have an in-house NASM-certified trainer (**waves** hi Kat!) AND we'll have access to Workouts On Demand in the group class room.

Anyways.... I woke up this morning with a singular goal:


It's been 5 months (as of tomorrow) since my surgery and I have been cleared to use an elliptical.  My goal this morning was to do 3.1 miles, or 5k, and to do the other 3.1m/5k in a second visit.  And that way I'll have earned my virtual "Beat The Blerch"  2016 medal.

Just as I'm about to cross 3.1 miles, I somehow manage to unplug the machine (the power adapter under the pedals, not at the wall).  So there's no pic, but it did happen.  Scout's honor.

But the title of the blog post is "Take the Win" -- what do I mean by it?  Well in the 5 months since my surgery, I've only gained 4 pounds. And in my mind, that's statistically inconsequential (it can be a normal swing from week to week and/or after my period).  

The Power of Partying

Andrew WK is a professional partier. He's a professional partier on a mission to spread the party lifestyle around the US and around the world.  


It's not what you think.  

It's not about headbanging (and getting a bangover), or doing the things that help people escape from their daily life (drugs, alcohol, vices and distractions).  Andrew WK wants everyone to reconnect with what it truly means to be alive and human. He wants everyone to step out from the darkness and choose to be in the light of hope, joy, possibilities.

Last night was more than just attending a speaking engagement by a rock star (with him taking audience questions and staying until after midnight to talk to everyone, take photos, and sign stuff).  I think Andrew WK wanted to connect with everyone in the room and remind us of the joy in life.  

I felt like a terrible audience member, but I took notes (via twitter) so I'd remember what he had said after the adrenaline had worn off.  Here's some of his gems: 


On this life:
  • "Getting to exist -- at all -- is the ultimate party"
  • "Hope is an activated, motivated belief in possibilities."
  • "I am here to serve this thing called JOY. It is counting on me. It is a part of a mission, a quest."
  • "Anything you do can be a part of...the ultimate quest to be a human being." (on even mundane tasks being part of a whole path)
  • "These hard times aren't necessarily bad times."
On connecting, evolving:
  • "I would like to be the invisible friend cheering you on."
  • "We can always get gooder."
  • "Sometimes your dreams dream you... Do you have the strength to rise to the opportunity?"
  • "We can no longer afford to squander these gifts... we cannot fix the world in a bad mood."
  • [Regarding my question on how to connect with people who you may not agree with, paraphrasing] Hold on to the glimmer of goodness we see in other people that makes you love them. Overflow them with love and invite them to the love, the party.
On coming from a bad place, having negative emotions, negative influences:
  • "Having a bad mood gave me something to push off against." (circa age 3)
  • "Negative people want us to doubt the legitimacy of joy."
  • "The naysayers... are just scared of letting things in their heart."
  • "Sometimes life is giving us this inner vitality by any means possible. Like pain. It is how we use it."
  • "Your mind floods your heart with all this distortion...."
  • "We are meant to party with our demons."
One of the people who asked a question was a girl, Alyssa, who talked to Andrew WK about how to find her identity and center after having lost her father a year ago. I could hear and see the anguish she was feeling, and I reached out my hand to her and she grabbed on to it. Later, I introduced myself and she said one of the more profoud things of the night -- that in that space, and in that moment, she felt able and supported to talk about her grief, fear, and vulnerability. Wouldn't it be amazing if we lived in a world where everyone knew that they could feel validation from another human being, from a room full of humans, actively being present for one another?

I've spent a lot of time both before and after the election thinking about the world. I've been called a "liberal femtard" and worse on Twitter. I've listened to people try to justify or condone a Trump presidency by saying we shoulod "wait and see" -- something John Oliver likened to a wombat flying a plane. I've listened to friends tell me how they're scared for themselves and their family about what could happen if their rights and protections are eroded (see list of places to donate below -- started by John Oliver as a reminder that the holiday season is a great time to make a donation to an organization that your bigoted friend/family member would hate).

I've spoken with some family and the more liberal ones are left trying to figure out how the more conservative ones could support a candidate that ran on a platform of hate, that could jeopardize the safety and future of people they love (either through changes in policy or because of the disgusting actions of many who believe their bigotry to be legitimized). I've spoken with my uncle and father as well about needing to fundamentally change the way my family relates to each other (less sitting around and talking/eating, more doing).

I'm going back to my roots -- my love of volunteerism -- to help me reconnect with my inner party, my joy. And as I've asked my dad, I'll invite you to help me be the radical shift towards love, towards joy, towards hope. I invite you to join me in this as much or as little as possible.

And if you don't know where to start, send me a message (fatgirlvsworld at gmail.com or on twitter @FatGirlvsWorld) and we can brainstorm together.


Planned Parenthood - plannedparenthood.org
Center for Reproductive Rights - reproductiverights.org
National Resources Defense Council - nrdc.org
International Refugee Assistance Project - refugeerights.org
NAACP Legal Defense Fund - naacpldf.org
The Trevor Project - thetrevorproject.org
Mexican-American Legal Defense Education Fund - maldef.org
American Humanist Association - americanhumanist.org

My favorite places to volunteer/donate/invest: