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Alien

“Hey Dr. Kathryn, guess who I am!”

Harry Potter, Hermione, her mom, or any number of other possibilities wouldn’t have surprised me. But my young patient didn’t imitate any of them.

She imitated me — and she had me laughing at myself even before she told me she’d “done me” at a party the weekend before. People paid her because they thought it was so good.

When you’re a doctor, people watch you. They look in your grocery basket, pay attention to the kinds of places you visit, how you dress, the things you say, and even who your friends are.

They’re putting their health in your hands, referring their friends, family, and co-workers in, and they want to know that they can trust you.

But now that I no longer practice, I’m realizing that people watch you no matter what you do. And sometimes they’re watching and listening far more closely than you realize.

And that’s why it’s not only okay, but vitally important that you be honest, courageous, and most of all, yourself.

But that’s hard.

Yes, it is.

As I transitioned from doctor to writer, it became increasingly clear that being successful as a writer hinges on being an open book.

 

“The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.”
~ Maya Angelou

 

If you want people to read your material, it can’t be all wishy-washy.

You have to tell your story, with your biases, mistakes, emotions, motivations, triumphs, and fears laid bare for the entire world to read.

And let me tell ya, it scares the crap out of you when you’re doing it right.

But it also gives other people a chance to learn from your mistakes, know they aren’t alone, experience places and people they’ve never known, and form their own ideas and beliefs.

And the biggest surprise of all? When I started writing about my life as openly as possible, my life started changing for the better. People started sharing my posts with others and sharing their lives with me.

I started seeing past patterns that held me back and began doing something to change them. After all, you can’t be open with the world without first being open with yourself.

And then, I found myself wanting different experiences, longing to travel, and even wanting deeper connections with people. You can’t be interesting, life-changing, and intimate in your writing without actually being those things.

Sticking out tongue

What if someone doesn’t like you?

Impossible! I’m adorable, witty, and loveable!

But someone out there definitely doesn’t like me. Like it or not, someone out there doesn’t like you, either. And that’s okay.

Maybe she’s projecting her own issues. Maybe he’s scared of really living life and facing the challenges that come with that. Maybe we have different beliefs and your version doesn’t allow for peaceful differences. Maybe he’s scared you’ll tell someone what he did to you as a kid, so he tells lies to make people doubt you in case you ever decide to tell.

And maybe some people just don’t like you or me.

When you decide to start sharing, to stop trying to be what someone else wants you to be and start being who you are — when you start doing things that scare you because they really matter — someone isn’t going to like it. But a whole lot more people will love it. And they’ll love you.

You’ll feel alive. The people in your life will be there because they like you as you are. All that stress over what people think will slide off your shoulders and you’ll have more energy for the things and people that truly matter.

You’ll breathe deeper, be happier, and influence the world more.

How Do You Get Started?

Start small. Do one thing this week that makes you happy.

Next week, tell someone how much they changed your life, good or bad.

Or dare to dream again about that thing you’ve always wanted to do but were too scared to go after.

If nothing else, find a short YouTube video that teaches a single lesson about something you’ve always wanted to learn.

Walk away from drama. You don’t have to fix the world. You can’t. But you can fix yourself.

In the nature of practicing what I preach…

Ten Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me

1. I’m ornery.

I’ve “Vaselined” a toilet seat (my wiry roommate actually got stuck in the toilet and had to be pulled out), hung a glowing skeleton in a bunch of scary spots and put red Jello in a showerhead (this is especially fun when people are reading Stephen King), scared the bejesus out of my husband more than once, and helped pull numerous pranks that always ended with all involved laughing until it hurt or at least laughing and talking about it for weeks.

I’m considering a t-shirt that says, “Did that comment make my ass look smart?”

2. I’m agnostic.

Most of my patients thought I shared their belief system and would even argue with each other over it. Not because I claimed any religion, but because I could talk with them about theirs. I studied several religions when I was in high school and college, but in the end, an agnostic approach was the only one that made sense to me.

Does it make me uncomfortable when someone says they’ll pray for me? Nope. Nor does it make me uncomfortable to go to my brother’s church and listen to him preach. He lives his beliefs to the best of his ability every day, and I think he’s a better man for it.

With the exception of psychopaths, we all want to be better people. If religion helps you in that pursuit, I’ll fully support you in it. Harm others because of your religion, and I’ll not take kindly to it.

Faith is important, and we all have faith in something or someone throughout our lives.

The most common question I get when people find out I’m agnostic relates to what motivates me if it isn’t hope for heaven or fear of hell. My answer is that I live doing my best to treat others the way I want to be treated and striving to leave the world a better place for my living in it. The results of that are my reward and the mistakes I make along the way often feel like adequate punishment.

3. I went to school, studied with, played catch with, and went fishing with Dennis Ryan. Google his name plus Rulo, Nebraska if you don’t know who he is.

I know that he did terrible things, but when I knew him, he was just a kid who wanted to be a doctor, liked baseball, and disliked homework as much as the next kid.

A year or two before he moved away, we were catching fish and releasing them when one of his didn’t swim away. He cried when he realized that the fish he’d caught was going to die. I smeared pond mud all over his face and clothes to make it look like he fell because he was terrified his dad would know he was crying. (For those of you who don’t live on a farm, farm pond mud pretty much always has cow poop in it.) He stunk like crazy, but his dad bought the story and he didn’t get in trouble for crying.

It still saddens me that a parent led someone with so much potential so far astray. In different circumstances, Dennis would have been saving lives instead of taking them.

I know a psychopath that is incapable of empathy, and Dennis was nothing like that. He was just a horribly misguided kid. I wish my parents would have had the courage to help me be a friend to him while he served his sentence, but they were so alarmed just that they knew the family at all that I’m not sure they ever even considered it.

Group playing music

That’s my father on the guitar, not me, but a crowd playing music was a common sight at our house.

4. I play the guitar and really loved bluegrass music while growing up.

I was lucky enough to be at a campsite in Winfield, KS that Mark O’Connor sat down and played at until dawn. I’ll remember that night forever.

Before they became famous, and when they still played bluegrass, the Dixie Chicks asked me to go on the road with them. I turned down the offer and chose to go to college instead. Although I like most of their music, I’m still glad I picked school.

These days, I listen to and enjoy a much broader range of music, but I don’t play as much as I once did. There may come a time when I do, but for now, writing calls to me more when I have time and energy at the end of a day.

5. The Game of Thrones has something in common with my heritage.

The Red Wedding portrayed in Game of Thrones is based on a real event from Scottish history called the Black Dinner. I read the Game of Thrones books and shuddered at the horror of that massacre. Then I started researching my family history on my father’s side and learned that I’m descended from the line of people who were slaughtered at the real dinner. How bizarre is that?

6. I am both very forgiving and patient and very intolerant and impatient.

I believe we all have areas we struggle with, areas where we excel, past mistakes, and moments of glory. If someone is working to change the less positive areas, apologizes for their mistakes, sincerely works to not repeat mistakes, and they’re trying to live a better life and make a difference in the world, I’m extremely forgiving and patient with them as they grow. In fact, I admire people going through that process. It’s how I want others to treat me, so it’s how I treat them.

When someone isn’t willing to admit their mistakes or work to grow, I have a lot less patience and tolerance with them.

7. For all the years I was in practice, I didn’t cuss. Or at least it was extremely rare.

I strive to avoid cussing most of the time, but I think there’s a time and place for it so I don’t totally avoid it. If I talk with a particular friend, I’ll swear for days (you know who you are, damn you!). If I’m around someone who finds it offensive, I don’t need to cuss, so I don’t.

It isn’t that there’s anything wrong with cussing, it’s just that I realized that I’m less creative in my language when I rely too heavily on swear words. However, there are times when I think swearing is the only thing that adequately and succinctly expresses feeling. That’s why I use it in my writing and life sometimes.

And I giggled when I heard that my husband’s friend’s son got in trouble for saying to his kindergarten teacher, “Well, ship high in transit!” The child is a sailor. What did she expect?

 

Boat Dock

8. For those who see my sailing pics and think that I love sailing, I don’t.

In fact, I hate being on a boat. However, I love my husband. And next to me, sailing is what he loves most in this world. I think the boats are pretty on the water; I just don’t want to be on one. I do like taking pictures, though.

We make it work.

9. There’s been much speculation about why I closed my office.

Some family members tell people I burned out. I’ve heard rumors that I secretly won the lottery (man, I wish that one were true!)

The truth is that I closed because I was sick. I ate at a restaurant in 2005 and left with 5 parasites, but the first test only showed one. By 2007 I wasn’t doing very well and a few more were found. By 2009 when I closed, life was vastly different and I was a shadow of my former self. It’s been a long ride, but this year (yep, it took a really long time to get one of them diagnosed and treated) I think it finally ended. Talk about an expensive meal!

Will I go back to practice? No. Between the parasites and not knowing that I had celiac disease until I was 37 years old, there’s a bunch of joint damage that just doesn’t let me stand all day or do the physical work I did before.

But I miss it, and I miss my patients. Most of them were fantastic people. I think of them often and hope they’re well and happy.

And although I miss it immensely, I absolutely love my new writing career. People pay me to write stuff! And most of them are talented and interesting people that are fun to work with.

10. I talk to animals like they understand me, and sometimes they do. I’ll also talk for them.

“Dude, did you see the haul she brought home just now? I feel a little bad that all I put by her bed this morning was one mouse.”

“I left the ball with the bell in it by the mouse. She’ll love me more than you because she can play with the ball forever. She’ll eat your mouse in a couple bites.”

“Didn’t she give you that ball for Christmas?”

“Crap!”

Stuff like that. It entertains my husband far more than he’ll admit to.

Man, that was long!

Yeah. Did I mention that I’m chatty sometimes?

So, there you have it. Things you didn’t know about me.

But the thing I want you to take away most is that if I can be open about my life, so can you. Trust me when I tell you that it will positively affect people more than you can imagine.

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The Way of the Cancer Warrior

Jeffry and I met in the cancer treatment center. Both of us were there with our fathers. We talked freely about cancer treatment, the side effects, and how sad it is to see someone you love be sick. The biggest difference between us was that Jeffry was four while I was forty-two. His dad was younger than me and half the age of my father…and I’ve no doubt that he was dying.

Spending time in a cancer center or the cancer ward of a hospital is often an experience that stays with you. On one level, it’s a place of business going about its daily activities. But on another level, people are fighting for their lives. The waiting room is a mix of chit-chat, tears, symptoms, and laughter — old, young, happy, angry, fighting, resigned, rich, poor, and a variety of other factors — it’s all there.

My time with Jeffry affected me deeply. He was such a brave little soul, and it was refreshing to talk with someone who was so open about the entire experience. The dad was going through his third series of chemo and radiation (all for different tumor locations), most likely hanging on and fighting so intensely to spend as many days as possible with his son. Despite the bravery of the pair, it’s likely that Jeffry’s days with his father were severely limited.

I rarely cried at the hospital or cancer center as my brother and father went through treatment, but I sat in the car and cried the day I met Jeffry.

Cancer affects everyone these days, either directly or via friends and family. Treatment options are advancing, but the day when there is a certain cure for all forms of cancer is not here yet. Until that happy day arrives, the best we can do is support each other and fight cancer with the treatment options we currently have.

My friend, Nate Miyaki, recently lost his dad and father-in-law to cancer while his sister continues her fight. The experience moved him to write a book to help others, and he asked me to edit it. Because my father, brother, nephew, a close friend, family members of friends, friends of my family, several community members, and a few past patients have either fought or are fighting cancer, I felt privileged to be part of something that might help make the journey less taxing for others.

Nate’s background is one of fitness and martial arts, and you’ll notice those influences while reading. Maybe you don’t view recovering from or dealing with cancer as a fight or a competition, and maybe you really relate to the martial arts or sports approach. Regardless of your background, The Way of the Cancer Warrior: 34 Strategies For Your Cancer War gives strategies for helping you, your family, and your friends successfully approach and emotionally deal with cancer. (If you don’t like the battle-theme, just skip straight to the strategies and ignore the lingo…you’ll still find good ideas.)

Now, you may not need all 34 strategies, but you’re likely to find at least one that makes the process easier. In fact, I think the strategies apply to any chronic or severe illness and possibly any major life-challenge. I wish I’d had this book when I was fighting for my own life several years ago.

Please check out The Way of the Cancer Warrior: 34 Strategies For Your Cancer War, and if it helps you or someone you know, I hope you spread the word and tell others about it. Part of the purchase of each book goes to various cancer charities.

(If you don’t have a Kindle, remember that you can still read Kindle books on your computer after a free install of the Kindle reader for PC’s. )

May we each live to know a cancer-free world.

 

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Homemade Mayo

*This is SCD legal and works for a Paleo diet, too, depending on your choice of oil.

IMG_2762

A simple lunch: broiled chicken breast, mixed greens, and homemade mayo on a coconut wrap. (The wrap is just coconut, nothing else.)

You might be thinking, “Why in the world would you make something you can easily buy at any grocery store?”

Because:

  • It doesn’t have soy, high fructose corn syrup, or sugar.
  • It tastes yummy.
  • It’s easy to make — way easier than most recipes out there would lead you to believe.

 

Why do you eat fat? I thought you wanted to be healthy?

Fat isn’t a bad thing unless it’s trans fat. You have to be mindful of your overall calorie intake, of course, but a little extra fat at a low carb meal won’t pack on the pounds or harm you in any way. Instead, it can serve as energy and the building blocks for important hormones. If you want extra assurance that your belt isn’t going to have to be loosened, only eat added fat (like mayo) with low carb meals and limit your total daily calories to the amount that will keep you lean.

Mayo Ingredients

Ingredients

The juice from ½ lemon

½ tsp. Real Salt (or any sea salt)

½ tsp. garlic granules (or 1 clove, minced, if you want fresh)

1 tsp. mustard (I’ve used powder or the condiment and both work fine, but the condiment has a stronger flavor)

1 egg – I use a raw egg that is as fresh as possible and wash the shell before cracking it…but I’ll give you the standard warning that eating raw eggs may result in food poisoning.

Dash of paprika

Dash of ground pepper

Dash or two of granulated or powdered onion

1 cup of your favorite oil (olive oil will make it taste like olive oil, but sunflower, macadamia nut, and avocado oil are all less strong in taste)

Stick blender — not an ingredient, but the tool that makes this super easy

 

Directions

Put all of your ingredients (yes, all of them…even the oil) into a jar with a wide enough mouth to allow your stick blender to reach the bottom. Set the blender on top of the egg and on the bottom of the jar. Turn on the blender but don’t move it for about 30 seconds. You’ll see mayo appearing all around the blender. After 30 seconds, move the blender to incorporate the rest of the oil.

That’s it. From start to finish it takes 1-2 minutes to gather ingredients, get your blender, make the mayo, and enjoy. Store any leftovers in the fridge.

IMG_2758

Before someone asks, I’ve not tried it in a regular blender and have no idea if it will work…feel free to try and let us know in the comments. My guess is that it won’t emulsify and will just be a mess.

Options

1-3 tsp. white vinegar (I don’t use this but adding it makes it taste more like Miracle Whip if that’s your thing)

2 Tbsp. honey ( I don’t use this either but adding it makes it taste more like Miracle Whip if that’s your thing)

More onion, fresh or dried

Diced red, yellow, or orange roasted bell pepper

Smoked paprika

Basil

Use lime instead of lemon and add a little lime zest

Peeled and de-seeded cucumber, diced (only add this right before serving)

1 tsp. cold water (I’ve never had a problem with separation, but this will prevent it)

Chili seasoning

Smoked paprika

Powdered smoked adobe

If you try something not on the list, leave a comment and let us know!

Turkey

Homemade mayo also tastes great on left-over turkey. 🙂

 

 

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The first time I saw Tornado, he was a tiny black bundle of fur wiggling around in a cardboard box, willing to give little puppy kisses to anyone who got close enough.  My boyfriend (now husband) had arranged to pick him up at a work party.  One look and I knew he was really too little to be leaving his mother and litter mates, but coming with us meant he got to live.

Tornado

Tornado wasn’t to be mine, but he didn’t know Matt and I had only been dating a few weeks, so he claimed me.  My husband swears that I only stayed with him because I couldn’t stand to leave Tornado.  I have to admit, I really do love that dog.  ;)

 

For a dog who was supposed to live outside, he seems to enjoy sleeping in our bed.  Sometimes he even leaves me enough room to straighten my legs.  My husband grumbles about Tornado hogging the bed, crying if he can’t be in the room with me, and that remnants of his food are sometimes on our kitchen floor, but Tornado has taught me several valuable lessons.

Because of his persistence at dropping tennis balls into them every time I go to the bathroom, I have learned that underwear actually make pretty good sling-shots.  I also learned that there really is no way to save face when your finest lacies are proudly tossed over your brother-in-law’s knee and licked.  Wrap them in newspaper, lock them in the hamper, bury all of it in cement, and Nado will still retrieve a pair of undies in two minutes…five minutes, tops.

Tornado taught me that a lot of UPS delivery people are terrified of dogs.  When the dog hides, waits until the UPS person is directly in the middle of the second of three large windows, and then jumps at the second window and barks ferociously—some UPS people will be so scared that they throw your packages in the air (and on the lawn or roof), fall into the bushes opposite the windows, and flail their arms and legs about like an excited baby.

I learned that you shouldn’t smile back or laugh when your dog looks at you and smiles after doing this because he will only want to make you laugh again.  (My apologies to that guy…I tried not to laugh, but really, you should have seen yourself.)  I also learned that you should tell your husband not to be proud that the dog learned the above trick by watching him scare you the night before in a similar fashion. It only results in scheming about what else he might learn.

 

Tornado taught me that a dog is good company on a well-hidden, remote trail when a strange man believes you will make easy prey.  My sweet puppy bared his teeth, raised his fur, and growled fair warning that neither of us would go quietly.  When we both started walking toward him, the strange man decided that we were not choice prey after all.

When I miscarried, when my brother died only to be followed by a dear friend just a few months later, when I made the heart-breaking decision to never have children of my own, and when I was so sick that I wasn’t sure I was going to live, Tornado made sure I knew I wasn’t alone.  He cried with me, licked away my tears, and begged me to be okay.  After all, “Dad” really wasn’t very good in the kitchen and was pretty stingy when it came to handing out treats.

When I did the happy dance that Matt and I were engaged, when we got the house we wanted, when my great nieces were born, when I finished my first novel, when my brother was pronounced to officially be in remission, and several other monumental occasions, Nado was there for those too, wagging his tail, smiling his best puppy smile, and rolling around on the floor in pure happiness with me.

 

Time has flown.  Matt and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary last week which means that Tornado is almost 12 years old.  He’s not a puppy anymore, but he’s still willing to give kisses to anyone who gets close enough.  There’s grey in his muzzle, on his paws, in his eyebrows, on his chest and in his tail.  (There’s also currently some paint in his tail, but that’s a different story.)  Some mornings I lift him off the bed so he doesn’t have to jump.  He still brings me tennis balls, but now he chases them down the hall a few times and then lies down for a massage.  I’m a push-over when it comes to him, so he gets the massages more often than not.  He wants to go for long walks, but he hurts if he does, so we take shorter routes than we once did.

 

The older he gets, the more I realize the day is fast approaching when he will no longer be by my side every possible second of the day or curled into my knees at night.  But for now, we still do yoga every day— he’s very good at one of the positions — and we still play each day.

Today while editing, Tornado wouldn’t stop nosing my arm off the keyboard or “side-lipping” me (putting his muzzle on my arm and then dragging it sideways which results in a bunch of slobber that is really quite gross).  Once upon a time I would have been frustrated with him.  But Tornado taught me that patience is a virtue, and patience (and persistence) with those you love is just good form.

 

I think the biggest lesson he continues to teach me every day is that there’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be as good of a being as he is.  There isn’t a soul in his life who doesn’t know how he feels about them, he kisses those he loves most goodnight and good morning every day, and he balances work and play so that even in old age, he is happy and playful.

Good boy, Nado.  Good boy.  :)

 PS The above is an older post originally published on my other blog in 2011. In April of this year, Nado died quietly in my arms with Matt also sitting at his side. In my heart and mind, he lives on. I still reach for him when I write, still miss playing with him every day, and dream of him often. Without question, he is one of the best souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of living with.

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The Paleo Solution, Wheat Belly, Against All Grain, etc., etc. Gluten-free lifestyles are everywhere. You might be sick and tired of hearing about them. I am, and I live gluten-free. But it’s not a fad for me.

 

When I first heard the suggestion that I should stop eating gluten, I was already sick and tired. I wish I could say that eating gluten-free solved all my problems, but it didn’t.

 

Some things got better: my appetite dropped a fair amount, I hurt a lot less, and it was easier to relax. I lost weight more easily than I ever had in my life. The rough skin I’d had on the back of my arms since childhood turned smooth. A rash (little blisters that ultimately made spots on my hands look like they were burned) went away.

 

What didn’t get better was my balding head and lack of energy. And the most ridiculously small amounts of gluten exposure brought back the aches and the gluten-induced appetite (which, in turn, brought back all the weight I’d lost). I’d do better, get “glutened,” fight my way back to almost where I was, get glutened again, etc.

 

“Give it time. It takes at least two years without any gluten for everything to heal. Just hang in there. You’ll get better.” Docs and other people with celiac disease persisted in telling me those words, and I chanted them to other people too. I now think those comments are complete crap, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

 

Before I go on, let me define what I mean when I say “gluten-induced appetite.” I once decided to see if I could recreate the amount of hunger I feel for several months after gluten exposure.

So, I stopped eating. I got hungry, wanted food, and by the third day it was getting harder to sleep. But even after three days, my appetite was still a teeny-tiny fraction of what it is 24×7 after gluten exposure. Realizing that it might not be possible to recreate the appetite, I stopped fasting and returned to healthy food on the fourth day.

No wonder I went to such lengths as a kid to eat every piece of food I could get my hands on — I was starving beyond what any of the adults telling me to stop eating could have imagined.

 And by “gluten-exposure,” I’m not talking about “cheating” and eating pizza. It’s goofy stuff like someone at the store accidentally dropping flour on the floor and me breathing enough of the airborne stuff to react.

 

In 2012, I was glutened twice, and the second time, I’d had enough. After six years of gluten-free eating, making slow progress over several months only to have it all yanked away by unavoidable exposure, I was done.

 

I knew I couldn’t eat gluten. That would have been suicide. But I also couldn’t stand the thought of having constant problems just because I wanted to have a normal life.

 

I’m meticulous, some would even say AR, about my diet. If I couldn’t make it two years without some sort of exposure, and it took at least two years without any exposure to fully heal, there was no hope for me or the folks who were far more reckless than me. But I just couldn’t accept that. There had to be a way for me, and others like me, to heal and get back to a normal life in a reasonable time.

 

Enter SCD (The Specific Carbohydrate Diet)

 

A couple docs I’d chatted with online suggested a slightly more restrictive version of the diet (specifically, no dairy and no nuts even though they are technically allowed). I fought it. I was tired of everything that went with a restrictive diet and they were suggesting I restrict things even more!

 

But really, what choice did I have? Stay sick, keep cycling through the nasty cycle I had been, or give up? No thanks.

 

I begrudgingly agreed to 30 days. In fact, I had a new guideline: anything I tried made a difference in 30 days (60 if you could give me a compelling reason and back it up with science) or it wasn’t worth sticking to. It didn’t have to totally reverse all my problems in 30 days, but I had to see a measurable difference.

 

I started the SCD intro diet February 03, 2013. By the end of a week, the gluten appetite was gone. Two weeks in, and what I’d thought was joint and muscle relief with a traditional gluten-free diet was put to shame. By the end of a month, my hair was noticeably filling in. I could exercise consistently at least 3 times each week without getting progressively sorer. The only thing that didn’t really improve was my energy. I stuck with SCD for 238 days. 🙂 And in all of that time, I never caught a single cold or flu after catching everything that went around for several years.

 

Six weeks of SCD did more for me than six years of gluten-free…and I was pretty close to paleo-style eating before starting the intro diet. So it isn’t that I stopped eating junk and felt better. I think it was key for me to do the intro.

 

And here’s the most amazing part:

As it turns out, I was inadvertently glutening myself from December 2012 until July. The lip balm that had been safe for 6 years had added wheat germ oil and removed the word ‘gluten-free’ from its ingredient list without changing the label’s appearance. In July, I ended up in the ER for the first time in my life and lost 30 pounds in about 40 days.

 

After removing the lip balm, my hair filled in even more and my energy started to return, but my appetite is a little quirky— not as bad as full-on “gluten appetite”, but not as good as a healthy person.

 

Near my birthday this fall, I stopped SCD for two weeks. The first day, I ate a sandwich made with gluten-free bread. I lost so much hair in three days that our shower had to be unclogged. My stomach bloated to the tune of 14 pounds…overnight…from one gluten-free sandwich. It was obviously water from inflammation, but still.

 

I went back to SCD and added some ideas from Feast Your Fat Away. My energy soared. I felt better than I had in over 7 years — possibly better than I have since I was in my 20’s.

 

This weekend, I enjoyed a few non-SCD meals. I avoided the stuff that makes my hair fall out, but I indulged.

 

Tomorrow, I start the intro diet and head into a year of dairy-free SCD combined with some aspects of Feast Your Fat Away. The last time I used SCD, it was just to feel better. This time, I want to feel better and lose fat. The structure of Feast Your Fat Away seems like it’s going to help with that.

 

I’ve been close to a healthy weight a couple times, and there was one year for a few months when I’d lost enough I was happy with my body, but the gluten appetite has always been my downfall. I can’t count the times I thought I had the entire fat loss struggle beaten, only to regain it all.

 

What makes me think I’ll succeed this time?

 

It’s not that I know I will. But I do know that SCD makes me healthier while Feast Your Fat Away provides a structure that makes it easier to lose fat. The combo worked for my 30-day test. If it stops working for more than 30 days, I’ll tweak it and seek help from a coach or my doc if needed, but I’m committing to 365 days.

 

It took me almost a year of experimentation to find a combination that works for me.  Actually, it took 7 years if you count from the moment I first went gluten-free, or 39 years if you count the first time I went on a diet…that’s right, I dieted when I was 5. I was extremely obese and my brother told me he’d take me to a movie if I lost five pounds in a week. I lost two. He took me anyway.

 

If you’re struggling with your health despite a gluten-free diet, I encourage you to try SCD for 30 days — do it dairy-free and nut-free for the first 30 days. I also took an SCD-legal multivitamin SCD Complete (not an affiliate link) and the SCD-legal probiotic from the same company.

 

If you don’t feel better, maybe SCD isn’t for you. If you do feel better, you can add in other foods over time and maybe even eventually totally stop the diet, so don’t panic about how restrictive it is. It is tough, but at least in my case, it was worth it a million times over. I direly wish someone had told me about it when I was first diagnosed.

 

If you’re struggling with your weight, Feast Your Fat Away has a calculator, templates, and a structure that makes fat loss easier than any program I’ve ever seen…and I’ve seen and tried a ton of them.

 

If I don’t know if I’m going to succeed, why did I write this post?

Because it’s important to know that other people are out there trying and refusing to give up.

 

Slightly over a year ago I realized that I was able to rise from the life I didn’t want to create one I did.

 

Since then:

  • My then-struggling marriage turned around, stabilized, and is doing well. No. Not just well. It’s better than it’s ever been thanks to my hubby also working on it.
  • My energy improved enough that I’ve been able to work at least part time consistently.
  • I went from unemployed to working part time to making a pact with myself that I’ll turn the part-time work into a full-time business if I can improve or at least hold my health steady between now and next March.
  • I’ve (mostly) stopped comparing what I used to be able to do with what I can currently do.
  • The energy that comparing used to take is now funneled into brainstorming ways to make life better.
  • Some of my family and I are closer than we’ve ever been.
  • I was able to help my mom when she got sick without it totally knocking me out of the game for a week or more. Since 2007, that’s been impossible until recently.
  • My health is better than it’s been in a really, really long time. I’m still sick, but I’m also still getting better.

That’s a pretty good year for someone who’s broken. 😉

 

How did I make all of those changes? I’ll get to that in future posts, so stay tuned…

Here’s a link to the SCD book I used if you’re curious:  Breaking The Vicious Cycle

And a link to Feast Your Fat Away.

🙂

Kathryn

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Goodbye for now

Have you ever known that it’s time to move on, but you linger anyway? Perhaps you stay because of sentiment or because you aren’t ready to admit that things have changed. For me, it’s a bit of both.

 

I loved my practice—the patients, the emotional reward of helping people and feeling like I made a difference, the independence of being my own boss, the hard work, and the constant learning. The entire experience was a perfect fit, until it wasn’t.

 

Most of the people currently reading my blog are here because they know me or have worked with me. Others come from searches. Those searches usually relate to my series about Lemons vs. Turds and How to Deal with Drama, but then there’s the ever popular cashew nacho “cheese” recipe. So, I guess people come to my blog seeking non-dairy alternatives for when the chips are down. 😉

 

I said that jokingly. It’s the truth hidden within the witty remark that makes us laugh, though, isn’t it?

 

My patients probably couldn’t tell you exactly what it was that made me a good doc or why they sent others to me, but I can. When I was a kid, someone taught me that I always had a choice—that no matter what the situation, I was capable of making a choice that made a positive difference. If I couldn’t change the external problem, I could change my internal response. With lots of practice, I learned to apply that to everything in my life…and to the problems of my patients.

 

You see, it’s not that people fail to realize they should eat healthier, exercise, make changes, or take better care of themselves. The problem lies in their inability to create steps that let them feel safe enough to leave behind the old and reach for the new. In other words, they can’t see the bridge between who they are and who they want to be, so they stop searching (and ultimately believing) that there’s a way to make the necessary change. Patients came to me because they were in pain, but they came back and brought others with them because my solution for their pain often involved the above and no one else was teaching them how to think that way for themselves.

 

Because Charlie taught me that there is always a choice, I looked closer for a solution than many of my colleagues. Most of the time, the solution was simple. It’s just that we tend to think that the more pain we’re in, the more complicated our problem is. Typically that’s the complete opposite of the truth.

 

I can’t tell you how many painful shoulders (the kind of pain that left patients unable to comb their hair, fasten their shirts, take off their bras, reach over their heads, and do their jobs) were solved by simply moving a mouse and keyboard to the correct spot which then stopped the chronic irritation that ultimately led to monster pain. Although that example was for a physical problem, the same concept applies to emotional issues too.

 

The tiny things we do and think every day tend to affect us much greater than the massive things that happen on rare occasion. However, something massive changed what I can and can’t do every day…which brings me back to how much the tiny things we do and think about all the time matter.

 

Although I frequently think about the people I know who read this blog, it’s been months since I’ve been willing to make time to write a blog post. It’s just not a priority right now. That’s not fair to those who signed up from a health-related article hoping for regular posts. (For those who are friends, you know how to get in touch with me. I’m certainly not saying that you’re a lower priority than a project, but me writing a blog post doesn’t do anything for our friendship.)

 

Right now I can’t say if I will or won’t be back, but this is my last post at least for a while. I may post personal stories over at AComfortableSoul. If you’re interested in celiac disease, that is part of my personal story and there will be times I write about it. If things go as expected, I’ll likely move a few posts from this blog to that one before eventually disabling SatisfactionAndBeyond. I love to write and am likely to continue with it as a hobby, but until I have more energy, the stories will be rare.

 

Thanks for reading along the last few years. I hope you’ve found some posts helpful. I’ll leave with the following:

  • Eat whole foods and drink good water
  • Move – every joint, every day
  • Rest and recovery is as important as work and a healthy amount of stress
  • Love yourself and those around you with fierce and gentle compassion
  • Remember that you always have a choice and that your thoughts and perspectives are powerful…that can be positive or negative, so be mindful to keep them positive

🙂

Kathryn

Hidden sex-appeal

Nado and I stepped out of the cabin one morning just before sunrise. Thick mist swirled through the timber like cream freshly poured into hearty coffee. The crisp, cool air filled our noses with the musky scent of fallen leaves and damp earth. In short, a perfect fall morning promised a beautiful sunrise as reward for rolling out of bed early.

Nado in Autumn

About fifty steps into our walk, I heard a low, whistle-like animal call. I’d lived in the city for many years and was rusty on animal sounds, but decided it was probably a wild turkey. I used to love to mimic birds and squirrels, so I whistled my best reply. I was thrilled to hear the turkey call out again.

 

“Ow-heee,” I whistled to my new friend. It replied again, but this time it sounded closer. I wasn’t worried. Unlike coyotes, turkeys have no interest in eating humans or old dogs. I decided to continue the conversation.

 

I wondered just how close the turkey would get, when the sound of branches moving and leaves crunching met my ears.

 

Another call, a lot more guttural and less whistle-like raked through the mists. I might have been city-fied, but I hadn’t been gone that long. Unless Big Bird was roaming wild, my whistling friend was not a turkey. I decided there had been enough chitchat. Nado and I continued on our way. Our chatty friend followed for a while, but without my replies, it eventually took a different route.

 

I asked someone about it before returning to the cabin, and she giggled profusely. Apparently, she’s heard that sound during deer mating season. We joked and laughed about my hidden sex appeal that can attract young bucks with just a whistle. I had no idea I was really saying, “How you doin’?”

 

It was a good laugh, but it turns out that the sound actually comes from fawn calling to their mom (which sometimes happens during mating season). Later that day, I noticed the twin fawn that often grazed through my “front yard” were alone. I’d seen them many times, but never without an attentive doe. No one is supposed to hunt on the property without written permission, but people breaking the law don’t tend to ask for permission. Someone had taken down the doe and left the twins.

 

The fawn weren’t nearly scared enough of me, so I yelled and chased them a short ways. They needed to learn caution. However, I also set out a bucket of water a good distance from the cabin and left some apples near it just to give them a day to sort out that their mom wasn’t going to answer. They consumed both and slept by the bucket that night. Fortunately, another group of deer adopted them the next morning.

 

Doe and twin fawn

My apologies for the poor picture quality, but this is the doe and her twins

I’m not sure if it was the hunter, a doe, or the fawns themselves chatting with me during my early morning walk. I could have been prey, predator, parent, or potential mate depending on how the other end of the conversation perceived me.

 

Life is like that, isn’t it? Others define us based on their expectations, needs, and desires. They hear our “whistle” and decide what we are to them regardless of our actual intent. There’s nothing wrong with that. You and I define other people just as often as they do it to us. It only becomes wrong when we aren’t defining ourselves—when we let other people place us in boxes that have nothing to do with who we are or want to be—and when we refuse to see that someone else doesn’t belong in a box we assigned to them.

 

I’ll come back to that idea and others related to it in later posts.

 

Meanwhile, I want to share a great book with you. My good friend, Ryan Murdock, recently published his story about travelling through remote parts of the world. You can read my review of it on Amazon. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and it touches on the idea discussed above with a lot more wit and adventure.

 

Take care until next time,

🙂
Kathryn

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Misadventures…

Have you ever heard of the movie, The Grey? The basic premise is that Liam Neeson fights for survival as he faces a pack of starving wolves that hunt him. A few weeks ago, I had a similar experience while walking through the timber at dusk. I knew how Liam felt with just a couple exceptions:

  • It was coyotes, not wolves.
  • I ran like a chicken. We’re not talking ‘it’s time to go, and your mom just used your middle name’ kind of hustle. I ran as if I’d just realized I was a red shirt-wearing extra on Star Trek.

Moon

If you’ve ever heard coyotes howl, you know it can raise the hair on the back of your neck even if they’re a mile away. Well, this was a pack and they were only 40-60 yards away…and they weren’t howling. They were on the trail of prey and closing in quickly with excited yelps.

Nado, my old dog, bravely stepped between them and me, snarling his fiercest warning. He held his ground with hackles raised. Well, he held his ground until the human holding his leash had sprinted to the end of the rope’s slack and practically yanked him off his feet as she fled, dragging him with her. In fairness, I was yelling, “To me! To me! To me!” the whole time, but apparently he couldn’t hear me over his snarling or the coyotes yipping. The jokester part of my brain (it seldom shuts down) harassed me, “That a way. Call the coyotes to you.”

Nado is old and not used to running at night, so he kept tripping over roots and sticks. Just as I was about to hoist him over my shoulders, we burst out of the timber and into the lighted edge of the nearest farm. The coyotes suddenly shifted direction. I was relieved until I realized the cabin I was staying in was in their path, and I’d left the door open with only a screen between my cats and them.

I’m a rational person, and I grew up with coyotes howling in our timber and pastures. Even as my feet were flying over the ground, my brain was trying to make sense of coyotes attacking a human and dog at a time of year when other prey was still abundant.

Rational or not, I opted to ask for a ride back to the cabin where I was staying—telling myself the whole way that there was no way the coyotes would risk breaking into a home this time of year just for a couple of cats. To my horror, they started the hunting yelps again at exactly the wrong timing. When I made it to the cabin, the cats’ dilated eyes looked as though it had been a bad day at the optometrist’s office, and they jumped into my arms the moment I came through the door…but they were unharmed.

The next morning, I went back to where I thought I’d initially heard the coyotes. They were, indeed, just about 40-60 yards away when they started the chase. They had been crashing through the timber and gaining on us too. With a closer look, it appears that the pack startled a deer that just happened to flee in the exact same direction of Nado’s and my walk. When Nado and I made it out of the timber and into the light, the deer saw us and shifted direction back through the timber and toward the cabin. The coyotes must have temporarily lost the deer, and then picked up its trail several yards below the cabin. Nado and I were probably never in any real danger except for tripping over a tree root in the darkness.

The moral of the story: Exercising with others really can motivate you to push yourself harder.

Next in the misadventures series: Hidden sex-appeal

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Top 3 Desk Jockey Myths

We live and work in a world filled with computers and lots of chair time. We started training for it on our very first day of school. Our days of running around freely are replaced by structured chair time. By the time we enter the work world several years later, we think nothing of sitting for 3-4 hours without moving.

 

Since marathon sitting is such a common experience, several myths have developed. Let’s discuss them so that you don’t make avoidable mistakes.

 

Myth #1 — I look like a computer user, but it’s no big deal.

 

We’re not talking about geeky pocket protectors or glasses with the nose piece taped. If you’re in an office now, look around at your co-workers. Most of them are slouched forward; their heads are sitting over their laps instead of squarely over their shoulders (and it remains forward even when they stand); if they’re typing or using a mouse, most likely their elbows are not tucked in at their sides; and their legs may be crossed or else they’re sitting with their feet tucked under their chair and only their toes are bent back and touching the floor.

 

Since most of your coworkers fit the above description it’s easy to think that it’s no big deal. But it is a big deal. Over and over people came to my office for issues that are the result of “looking like a computer user.”

 

Things like:

Carpal tunnel syndrome (and other repetitive stress and impingement syndromes)

Impingement syndromes (a nerve is pinched enough that pain shoots up or down the arm, neck or both; another symptom is numbness or tingling)

Early osteoarthritis—also known as early joint degeneration

Disc bulge or herniation

Headaches

Pain—neck, shoulder, wrist, and lower back pain are most common

Fatigue—slouching gives your lungs less room and getting less air makes you sleepy

Muscle tightness and tension

Strains and sprains that happen when a desk jockey sits 5 days and then suddenly explodes into a sport on the weekend

 

None of that sounds fun, does it?  And that list doesn’t express the extent that pain and lack of mobility and strength rob other areas of your life. When your wrists hurt so much that you can’t pick up your coffee, imagine what else you can’t do.

 

Myth #2—There’s nothing that can be done about chronic pain that started from the repetitive nature of my job

 

Maybe you already knew that looking like a computer user isn’t harmless because you have friends or family members dealing with desk jockey issues…maybe you even recognized some of the symptoms in yourself. I hope you aren’t one of the people who think you just have to live with pain!

 

It always made me sad when a patient came to my office for one complaint, and never even mentioned another area that obviously hurt. They had accepted that their knee, shoulder, lower back, or whatever area was always going to hurt, so they didn’t even mention it. They’d decided that chronic pain was an acceptable way of life.

 

Sadly, in a few instances that meant that so much damage had occurred that we couldn’t make enough long-term changes to give them long-lasting relief. But much of the time, people were stunned to realize that something they’d learned to live with could be reversed enough that they got to enjoy a pain-free and active life again.

 

Even if your job is repetitive, small changes can make huge differences in the effects it has on you.

 

Myth #3—I know sitting is bad for me, but I have to work so there’s really nothing I can do about it.

 

While it might be true that you have to sit to do your job, there are things that can be done to minimize your chances of developing any of the problems associated with sitting.

 

We are all natural athletes. Our bodies are exceptionally talented at adapting to the positions and movements we perform most frequently. Though you probably never thought of it this way, by sitting all day you’re essentially training yourself to be a better sitter. If there were an Olympic event for desk jockeys, you’d probably qualify.

 

Don’t throw yourself in the dustbin just yet, though. There’s hope for even the most rigidly chair-shaped among us. It starts by sending your body a few reminders throughout the week, making sure your work station is set up well, and doing a bit of warm-up before you play hard on the weekends. By adding just a few simple movements you can do throughout your day, you can “cross train” your body to be good at more than just sitting.

 

You want a couple of examples?

 

2 Exercises That Help

and you can do them at your desk!

 

1)    Hip Releases

 

Hip (a)

Sit tall, cross your right leg over your left so your ankle is resting on your thigh (not your knee cap), and slowly lean forward while keeping a tall spine. You can apply gentle pressure to your right knee by lightly pressing it toward the floor, but be gentle. You can also use your left hand to hold your right ankle in place. Hold the position for a few seconds, sit up, put your right foot on the floor, and repeat with the other leg.

 

Hip (b)

Slide forward to the edge of your chair and sit tall. Move your right foot so it sits flat on the floor about a foot’s length from the side of your body. Slowly “drop” your knee toward your other leg and down toward the floor. Your foot will come up on its inside edge as you lower your knee. Hold for a few seconds. You’ll feel this on the outside of your hip, and into your upper and inside thigh muscles if you’re really tight. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.

 

Hip (c)

Slide forward to the edge of your chair and sit tall. You’re going to perform a seated lunge. Move your right foot back in a straight line until your knee is pointing at the floor. You’ll already feel this in the hip flexor of the extended leg. Squeeze your right glute to get an even deeper stretch. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

 

2)    Chest and Shoulder release

 

This one’s easier to do standing, but you might be able to stay in your seat depending on the chair you use.

  • Stand tall, reach both hands behind you, clasp them together at the base of your low back, and then gently push your hands toward the floor. Your shoulders will automatically “square” and your chest will expand.
  • Take five slow, deep breaths and push your hands a bit further down with each inhale. Even if you can’t actually reach further down or you move only the tiniest amount, try to push your hands toward the floor.
  • After five breathes, relax and release your hands.
  • Repeat this at least twice a day, but as often as once an hour.

Myth Busting—When Will I See Results?

 

You’ll notice immediate small changes right after you do these exercises. If you do each exercise 2-3 times per day, you’ll see continued improvement over the course of a few weeks.

 

 

 

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6 Gluten-Free Myths

The media often mentions gluten-free living these days. ‘This actor went gluten-free and lost weight or an athlete eats gluten-free and performs better!’ In general, I think the media attention is good for those of us who really need to eat a gluten-free diet. However, a few misconceptions need addressing.

 

Homemade gluten-free bread

Homemade gluten-free bread

1. If you have celiac disease, eating a gluten-free diet is enough.

For some people that might be true. For a lot of others (probably even the majority) it’s far from the truth.

 

Celiac disease causes damage to the part of the intestine that absorbs nutrients. Without adequate nutrients, a whole lot of bad can happen. Anemia, osteoporosis, constant hunger, more injuries/aches/pains, nerve damage, infertility, food allergies, headaches, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, skin rashes, etc., etc., …given that you have to have nutrients to build and repair all aspects of your body, the symptoms can range extensively from person to person.

 

When you stop eating gluten, the damage stops getting worse, but it takes time to heal. If you developed food allergies, failing to remove those foods from your diet too (at least temporarily) slows or stalls healing. Once gluten and any food allergens are gone, it’s a matter of nutrient dense food, probiotic, probably some supplements, and time and patience.

 

2. Gluten-free eating is just a fad.

Not for those of us who have celiac disease. Companies have realized the opportunity for more money by marketing their products as gluten-free. Unfortunately, they may not realize that it doesn’t take very much gluten to make someone with celiac disease sick.

 

20 parts per million is accepted as the safe amount of gluten a person with celiac disease can eat without getting sick. Imagine breaking a cracker into a million pieces and then counting out 20 of those pieces…not a very big serving is it? If there’s more gluten than that, those of us with celiac disease end up having an autoimmune reaction that lasts for at least 6 months and symptoms that last for days to months. That’s why the certified GF symbol means so much to those with celiac disease.

 

3. Things like gluten-free soaps are ridiculous because you have to eat gluten to have a reaction to it.

My soap touches my lips. My toothpaste goes inside my mouth. When I wear lipstick, sometimes I lick my lips. I am allergic to wheat in addition to having celiac disease, but I’ve met others with the disease whose anti-bodies stayed elevated until they switched all the products they use to gluten-free. So gluten-free non-food products are anything but ridiculous.

Salad

Chicken, avocado, tomato, and red pepper on a bed of spinach and romaine.

 

4. Eating gluten-free is a great way to lose weight.

Being healthy, making nutrient-dense food choices, and living an active life is a great way to lose weight. If you’ve been starving because you can’t absorb nutrients and you finally start absorbing nutrients, it can massively change how hungry you are. However, eating gluten-free in and of itself is not a weight-loss diet.

5. Performance will improve if you avoid gluten.

Again, if you have celiac disease or are gluten-intolerant, that is definitely true. Being able to get more nutrients from your food and not experiencing the negative reactions to gluten (like inflammation and autoimmune reactions) can do wonders.

 

Sometimes avoiding gluten means avoiding convenience foods and eating more nutrient-dense food. That can help performance for almost anyone. But as more companies jump on the gluten-free marketing bandwagon, going gluten-free can just mean changing from one sugary snack to a gluten-free sugary snack. Performance won’t improve if that’s all you do.

 

gluten-free pumpkin pie

Gluten-free pumpkin chiffon pie with topping

6. “I could never give up gluten! I mean, what’s left to eat if you take away foods with gluten?”

Meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, cheese, and plenty of other foods are gluten-free. For those who can tolerate other grains and take the time to learn to cook with them, you can even enjoy freshly baked bread and your favorite pasta dishes. You’d by no means starve if you avoid gluten.

 

Despite the abundance of non-gluten food, “I feel so sorry for you; I could never give up eating gluten!” is the phrase I’ve heard the most from other people when they learn I have celiac disease.

 

Eating gluten-free means: I’m not hungry 24/7 regardless of how much food I’ve eaten, all of my joints hurt a lot less, sections of my skin don’t blister and look like I was burned, I don’t get sick all the time, an intense workout doesn’t leave me sore for days, and I’m way less likely to experience the cancer that has taken the lives of several of my relatives. There’s a lot there to feel happy about, not sorry for.

 

What someone is really saying when they say they “could never give up gluten” is that they don’t want the inconvenience of choosing different foods and they don’t want to deal with how eating a special diet affects them socially or financially. They’d miss the taste of some of their favorite comfort foods and the traditions they’ve built around them.

 

You know what? Every person I know with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance feels, or at least initially felt, that way too. (For the record, there are very few comfort foods and traditions I’ve not been able to replicate gluten-free in a way that is at least as good as the original.)

It’s just that for those of us with celiac disease, gluten is a poison. No one I know, with the exception of addicts, would ever say, “I could never give up eating poison!” or “It only has a little poison in it so you should be fine, right?”

 

When you realize what gluten is doing to you, you find a way to give it up. Yes, even the person who eats bread with every meal. Feeling sick and tired all the time eventually is more uncomfortable than the discomfort of giving up gluten. You might test it a time or two or twenty, but eventually feeling good wins.

Besides, you can have your gluten-free caramel cheesecake and eat it too! (Just remember to eat more nutrient-dense foods most days! Almost all of the pics I used on this page were from a Thanksgiving feast, not our standard meals.)

Gluten-free cheesecake

Gluten-free caramel cheesecake

 

🙂
Kathryn

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