Inside Out …

27 01 2008

I guess it’s the level of personal e-mails that got me to remember that I’d not given a little update on my Insides.  At last installment, said insides were still malfunctioning.  So many things have been happening through the last couple of weeks, I’d forgotten to give the rather interesting (at least to me) update until I got an e’mail reminding me that ATHLETES take care of these problems …

In my past, I probably would have been stopped by my having this apparently chronic cold and tiredness for the last several months.  I just didn’t seem to be able to kick it, but plowed through anyway.  I was trying to prioritize while reading everything possible about athlete nutrition.  Living alone makes huge dietary shifts somewhat easier, but living around people who don’t ‘get it’ causes a ripple in the pond.  The thing I kept reading was eating a lot of protein – especially eggs, red meat, and dairy.  I talked to a nutritionist who said that I needed to have those added back into my diet along with chicken and other stuff.  I have too much on my plate not to trust ‘experts’, but this one really caused me to have problems.  She kept saying they had to be in my diet, even thought I was dealing with a rash on my inner arms.

My dietary history: After years of being the good girlfriend – cooking very heavy meat laden meals – I became a vegetarian … mainly because I simply couldn’t stand the through of cooking … and cooking for one is kind of a bummer.  I wasn’t a ‘good’ vegetarian because I’ve got a deep seated love of dungeness crab (the only native Californian in the family; and San Franciscan to boot) which wasn’t going to go anywhere.  I’d eat whatever when I was with friends, but for the most part, due to finances and lack of time, the main staples in my diet were Corn Flakes, Salad, Coffee, Water and Smoothies … with an entire crab ripped with abandon on my floor when on sale at Lucky’s Market.

While as San Francisco State, I started having some problems with depression, anxiety attacks and breathing.  I got into a medical study which involved a series of allergy tests.  It appeared that my years of funky eating coupled with eating when finances allowed lead to my not having the intestinal flora to be able to properly digest most meats and the like.  Essentially – I’d better chew carefully and get all the nutrients out that way because my gut was simply going to make the meal go on the fast track for a day or two.  The breathing issue was more of a concern and that was when it was determined I had asthma.

So – due to finances and not liking to speed off to the ladies during a recording session … or *poufing* like a guy and embarrassing myself … I was back being more or less a vegetarian who wasn’t getting the protein necessary … because I’d become a somewhat reluctant cook.  One of my friends was from India and got me completely hooked on his wife’s curries.  I’m still a curry nut, but sometimes I have problems with it due to some of the other ingredients.

Moving to Colorado, I found that I picked up some somewhat destructive habits – fast food, fried, meat, sugar, dairy, etc.  Instead of the ‘treat’ of ice cream (yum) it’d be going down to the Queen Sooper and picking up a couple of pints of Ben and Jerry’s and sitting on my floor with a spoon.  Weight fluctuated, moods fluctuated, fanny flactuated (is that a word?) but I didn’t really care because I’d just accepted that there were things that didn’t agree, but I just handle it.

Just a smidge over a year ago, I embarked on returning to exercising.  It was Team In Training Disney World Marathon, as has been chronicled here and in other places.  My eating habits still sort of bit because of finances, so I ate whatever was around and when invited over to friends’ it was whatever was being made … didn’t want to be a bother, but knew precisely where the bathroom was.  By about mid year, I realized that I was truly addicted to my walking and that I started having to take better care of myself.  That’s when I talked with the nutritionist and started trying to understand eating for athletes.

Might I suggest when choosing a nutritionist choose one who has an athletic background and isn’t somewhat overweight themselves.  I took a luck of the draw at Kaiser … and that was a mistake.  Instead of truly listening that I might enjoy dairy products, they don’t enjoy me right back … same thing with meat (including somewhat sadly poultry) … she crammed all that into my diet.  There were things that were very upside down to my thinking, but …

For the second half of the year, as I was starting to truly put my walking ahead of most things in my life, I suddenly caught a cold or something and had no end of trouble staying awake.  I thought it was because I was burning the proverbial candle at both ends and surrounded by a somewhat questionable atmosphere at work where folks had constant colds, so I … ate more off of the provided list.  A full chuck roast baked in cream of mushroom soup over egg noodles (a family recipe) … that should have fed me for at least a couple of days was a meal at times!  Knowing this must be wrong, I scaled back but kept getting the “you must have x, y, z amount of protein” …

According to the doc for the study I’m in right now, I was an accident waiting to explode.  I had said that I had stubborn weight, however I’m over 40 and it was in that gut region which is stereotypically hard to lose.  I exercised like crazy, which heightened my appetite and I would eat whatever the ‘nutrition expert’ had put down for me.  I didn’t really think it was pounds of dead and decaying food that I couldn’t process!  Disney opened the dams!

If you’re familiar with the Monty Python Meaning Of Life skit that ends with “Just one tiny wafer” after a morbidly disgustingly obese man has eaten essentially the entire menu … then the wafer is popped in his mouth and he spectacularly explodes (Mom and I saw the movie together in the Mill Valley Theatre … right after lunch in a double feature) … well that’s what we’re thinking happened to me.  I was the only person to get sick off the sandwich wrap at the cash and carry at the resort.  Between the time that I ate the sandwich and went up to my room to change into shorts before going to the expo, my gut started to rebel.  Ok – it had turkey in it and maybe it was that processed crap I don’t handle well.  No mayonnaise or anything else … “Don’t worry, Shep.  It’s just a combination of nerves and pre-race jitters and being out of town… you’ll be fine” I kept telling myself.

I declined going to dinner with the team knowing that my bags were in the room and that I’d brought some of my own food that I knew I could eat (I thought).  Friday, I was careful and ate my oatmeal (I’d brought extra packs) and had a great time with folks.  At the TNT Pasta Party, I kept it really low key.  “You need to eat the protein!” which was Chicken … and I tried to eat a small piece … while absconding with as many bananas off the tables as my shoulder bag could carry! 

I was drinking bottle after bottle of water and still feeling dehydrated … then Saturday all hell broke loose … my calling my father for medical advice at 7 a.m. California time is usually a flag to friends … that means I knowI’m in trouble.  Dad did his best to help me out, but he’s never really understood my problem with meat as when I’ve been home, I’ve eaten whatever is in front of me … Mom’s pretty much got it down (her pre-race pasta and shrimp & scallops … gotta love her!) but I don’t like being a bother.  Dad’s “eat some hard boiled eggs and beef broth” was so well meaning, but I knew it would probably be the death of me at mile 2!  I promised Mom I’d call her after the race like I always do – but this time it was more ‘critical’ to them … and I said “Mom  …  If I don’t feel better, I’ll be calling you from the med tent.”  I’ll do just about anything to avoid an IV.

Sheila said I was right to try eating the bananas.  Talk to the athletic Mom!  It works every time.  I stayed around the hotel, found a hammock and drank my Gatorade cocktails (Gatorade and Water).  I wasn’t quiet about my being not right because I needed to trust that if I was being hard headed and stupid that someone would pull me off the course and make SURE that I didn’t beat myself up too much.  Kristen (a TNT Mentor and pediatric oncology nurse) was very concerned about my dehydration, mentioned something and kept an eye on me as a pal that evening and the following after the race.  On the course, a couple from my team who had done the 1/2 were out there cheering … one tossed me a banana that was at the exact right time.  Post race, I found new friends who I felt safe enough to trust … and safe enough if I fell over or said “Could someone walk me to medical?” they would.  It is rare for me to trust brand new people so much.

I’ve been complaining about this gut thing, but unlike most complainers – I knew I needed to deal with it once and for all!  A friend of mine had mentioned that he was one of the few that hadn’t gotten sick while at Disney … and he was the only more or less vegetarian of the group.  He gave me a chunk of advice over text … and the next day I was going past the health center on campus and some good things happened.

Most of you know that about 5 years ago I slipped in a patch of black ice on the Auraria Campus (where University of Colorado Denver is located) and ended up cracking the growth plate in my left ankle in several places.  It was amazingly painful and it took forever to heal as idiot here was spending more time walking in that stupid boot thing than she was supposed to via working in the studio, working live sound, living on the 3rd floor of a building without an elevator and volunteering at the Natural History Museum.  It took a long time to heal, but it did.  The doc who finally figured out what was going on was really amazing.  After I slipped and smashed my full left side a couple of months ago, he figured out how to slide me in for x-rays even though I wasn’t ‘supposed’ to qualify for the service.  We were talking and it turned out his son was embarking on a nutritional analysis of ‘older’ female athletes concerning, this blew me away, intestinal difficulties etc. 

“It’s sad that you’re not an athlete anymore, Lis, because he’s looking for women age 45 to 60 who are athletic at least 5 hours a week or more in an effort to generate alternative nutritional information for them.  Since you keep such good records on yourself, I could have probably gotten you slipped in!”

Very quickly I shed my jacket showing my finisher’s shirt for the San Jose Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon (that I’m particularly proud of) and said “Who said I’m not an athlete?  I not only am an athlete, but love long distances and keep careful records … and am going through intestinal hell right now!”  This was the first time I’d truly defined myself as an Athlete … because, damn-it, I am!  I can see a few of you swinging your arms in the air like Muppets on Espresso saying “It’s ABOUT freaking TIME!!!”

Doc G is about 10 years older than I am and was reluctant to add me to the study. Too young and he didn’t think a walker was an ‘atlete’.  Anyone who knows me, probably could see the glint in my green eyes and sweet smile when I said “I’ve got an idea.  Why don’t we go for a little walk and discuss it?”  Before he left to go back to his lab in CA, we went for a little walk.  I had something to prove … I kept my pace to a 12.5 minute conversational mile … and he was jogging next to me.  To be fair, he is from sea level … but to be also fair, I was dealing with my gut!  By the end of two miles, I sweetly said “Um … we’ve got one more mile …” …. in that “Just a tiny wafer” tone of voice.  The response was “You’ve GOT to be kidding, Lis!  Ok – you’re in the study!  Walkers are athletes!  We’ll use you as a benchmark!”  Then I took off for one more mile as he started writing out his notes. 

By Wednesday, I was starting to undergo a series of allergy tests.  Anyone who knows me well knows I’m absolutely terrified of needles, however I asked them to test me for allergic reactions to Cliff, Powerbar and every *ade that I could find.  Screw it – I am NOT interested in repeat performances of what I’ve been dealing with!  A detox and de-coffee … I’ve turned back in to a tea drinker!  The problem with the testing is that I’d gone from feeling a little wonky after mile one and then completing a 5 miler to being back at the Y because at about mile 3, I have to dive into the nearby rest room.  The doc thinks that I should be fine by before I leave as I’m getting everything out. 

The preliminary: If my system hadn’t rebelled, I was on my way to some really quite serious problems.  The upshot is that I am having to be VERY careful.  I’m not deathly allergic at this point to any foods, but I can no-longer be quite as cavalier as I’ve been in the past.  I can eat things I enjoy, but in extreme moderation.  Most meat and processed foods are out … fish/seafood is fine.  My ice cream habit is down to a treat every so often and my sweet tooth is just going to have to be capped.  My coffee addiction is to be curbed with a pot of tea replacing at least half of my coffee consumption. My situation was complicated by heightened yeast … which easily came from my post-race beer consumption … so that’s out as is most alcohol. I’ve always been a huge water drinker and this has probably helped me in more ways than one, but I’ve got to cool it with soda pop.  I’m cool with that actually as long as I’m around people who are accepting and not pushy. 

That statement is going to be the most interesting thing to deal with for the coming year.  I am looking at an amazing base year for growing as a distance (or whatever Dave’s got in store for me) Racewalker, and it all starts with keeping the engine (me) in top shape.  My somewhat lax attitude about my gut issues has made it more ‘comfortable’ to go out with folks and eat whatever it is that I see on the menu. Knowing I’d pay for it later, I didn’t really make any concessions in order to be with other people.  Those days are over.  When Sheila, Kerry, Janet and I went to Einstein’s after the Frosty’s Frozen 5, Sheila – my sister and sometimes ‘mom’ – said “Ok – you are feeling weak, this looks good, but the cheese might cause you problems….” I love my friends! 

Instead of being the caretaker of everyone around me all the time, I’m finally letting others take care of me and trusting that my fellow athletes want to keep me around.  Gone are the days, I think, where I’m heavily influenced by The Group to eat & drink whatever.  I hate feeling weak.  I hate throwing up.  I hate the trots. I hate feeling out of control. Time to take as good care of myself as I tend to of my dog!

I’m new at this, however.  I embarrass easily sometimes, but know when people are being true friends.  It’s going to take some time and effort on my part.  I’ve already run into some resistance, and that just means that those friends I’m not eating with … fine!  I was given a massive wake-up call … and I’m heeding it.

I’m an Athlete, damn it, and it’s time to start acting like I love my body – even though I just signed up for the Goofy for 2009.  Mel Torme is playing on the Sirius in the living room, and it’s time to make a pot of tea and clean.  Trusting my gut has taken on a completely new significance …

Hugs and Love –> 

 Dizzy Miss Lizzy — the Smiling, Clean, Green, Racewalking Athletic Muppet (I can’t say machine … sorry!)

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