I have been overweight most of my life and have tried a lot of diets out on the market over the years. I have had some successes but mostly failures. I am an emotional eater. No matter the emotion I am going through, I grab food and not the nutritious/healthy kind either. None of my doctors throughout the years dealt with the emotional aspect of a diet. They always had food and exercise plans, but my issues were also emotional and without dealing with that aspect I was going to fail.
It wasn’t until September this year when I started seeing a Naturopathic Doctor that I was able to work on both the emotional and nutritional side of dieting. The healthy lifestyle journey I am currently on is due to neglecting my health and almost dying because of it. I have learned over the past year the importance of certain medications and the risks involved by not taking them. However, I have also learned that you can become healthy without being on a ton of medicines. Here is the story of how this journey began and where I am at now.
In October 2014, I decided to move from Western Pennsylvania to North Carolina the end of December. In the process of planning for that move, I made appointments to see all of my doctors in December so I would not have to worry about hurrying up to find a doctor in North Carolina. I did my yearly physical and got refills for my thyroid medicine to last me a year.
I moved the last week of December 2014. Spent the next six months looking for a job not thinking about a doctor. I did have health insurance, but I had it in order to get my prescriptions filled and emergencies. I was waiting to get a job to get on their plan, then go to the doctor. I got a job in June 2015, yet I still put off looking for a doctor. As time went by, I just kept refilling my prescription and working. Then the second week of December 2015, my thyroid prescription ran out. I did not think it was a big deal, it was just my thyroid (yes, a very stupid assumption by me).
I really didn’t feel anything different for about two weeks. Then the effects of not taking the daily thyroid pill started happening. I was constantly getting headaches, I thought they were from stress. I was lightheaded, dizzy and started to lose my balance which caused me to run into things. I swelled up so bad that my clothes that fit me weeks ago, started leaving marks around my stomach, waist, and chest from being so tight. My vision got blurry, at first I thought it was because of staring at the computer screen for too long. I was starting to feel numb in my arms and face. I had pain in my upper leg. My emotions were so raw I was crying and breaking down so quickly and so often. My concentration was impaired. I was slurring my words. I got to a point I knew I needed to see a doctor. There were a couple times that one of the owners where I worked wanted to take me to the emergency room because I almost passed out.
I called a doctor’s practice on the recommendation from a friend, but the doctors in the practice were scheduled out two to three months in advance. The receptionist said if I was ok with a physician’s assistant they could get me in with her in two weeks. I made the appointment with the physician’s assistant for February 16, 2016. At this point I had been without my thyroid medication for over eight weeks.
I got to my appointment and the physician’s assistant was nice and concerned. She didn’t know me, but knew from what all I was telling her and what she was seeing, something was wrong. They drew blood that day in the doctor’s office and analyzed it very quickly in order to determine what dosage to start me back on with the thyroid medication. She also indicated that my kidneys were starting to fail. My thyroid results were off the chart, results she hadn’t seen so bad in a person before.
- TSH was 89.190, normal is 0.3-4.5
- T3 was 10, normal is 90-178
- Free T4 was <0.25, normal is 0.6-1.6
Because she was not sure if the headaches and blurry vision were also attributed to the lack of thyroid medication, she scheduled me for a brain scan and an eye specialist. Luckily the brain scan came back normal. The eye issue was not necessarily related to the thyroid. A lot of the issue was the prescription strength I was currently at with my glasses. The eye specialist did extensive tests to make sure. My eyes were better once I got the right prescription.
The Physician’s Assistant started me back on the thyroid dosage I was on previously. I was retested in four weeks and did not have significant movement in my numbers. She bumped me up to the next to last highest dosage for thyroid medicine. I was retested in six weeks, my numbers started improving. My kidneys were also retested and were improving. She retested me in May and had me start alternating between two different dosages. I am still on the alternating of the dosages until further notice. I get retested in February.
I started feeling better by May, however, I still had some swelling that would not go away and I just felt like something with my body wasn’t right. When I was tested in February, the doctor tested a lot of things in the blood work and most of my results were off the charts. The only things that have been retested has been the thyroid and kidney, nothing else.
Meanwhile, I had joined a couple groups through Meetup.com and had started going to some events to meet people. Two of the events I went to the Naturopathic Doctor I am now seeing was lecturing. I had the pleasure to talk with her after the lectures and liked how she approached the healthy lifestyle changes. I made an appointment to see her the end of September for a consultation. I liked what I heard and her thoughts on changing how I eat and ways to reduce my stress level.
Here in North Carolina, Naturopathic Doctors are not covered under health insurances (some states they are), so all the cost for this is out of pocket. For me it is worth the price. I took the money out of the funds I have been saving for a house. It will delay a house purchase for six to twelve months, but at least I’ll be alive to enjoy it.
After my first visit, which was three hours, she started me on smoothies with meal replacement powder for breakfast and dinner. For lunch I was allowed food on the grocery list she gave me. On the list there were foods highlighted in green, yellow, and red. If it is highlighted green, I can eat it for snacks or lunch. Yellow meant I could eat it occasionally and red were foods I should avoid. However, if I had a choice between eating something not on the list (like a donut) or something in red, I am supposed to eat what is in red. This was the start of the plan for the first two weeks.
During the two weeks between the first and second appointments, I got a full panel of blood work done. The lab took 11 vials of my blood for testing and they still forgot one I had to go back and do a couple days later. The doctor and I went over the results at my second appointment. Most of my numbers were still off the chart. She compared them to the blood work from February and several had barely improved. My thyroid was improving, but everything else was in a very dangerous zone.
If I didn’t change my lifestyle soon I would be in the hospital or dead. I got a copy of my results and did some research on my own and she was right with everything she told me about my results. It was scary. That weekend, I did some sole searching and made up my mind I was going to do this, I was going to change my lifestyle and live a healthy long life.
Two weeks later at my third appointment, I started the two-week detox plan she gave me. Which was strictly vegetables and fruit for lunch. Breakfast and dinner were smoothies with the detox powder. After the two-week detox, I went back to the meal replacement powder in my breakfast and dinner smoothies and lunch being a vegetable and protein.
I have officially been on this plan for a little over ten weeks and have lost almost 30 pounds. I did break out of the diet when I visited a friend over Thanksgiving where I had dairy and other things that were not on my list. The good part is I did not gain any weight back during that time. I did eat things that were not good for me, but I ate them in moderation. In the past, I would have stuffed myself to the point of not being able to move, but instead I ate enough to satisfy my hunger.
There are days when I do struggle with the plan because of something emotional and I want the bad foods (think chocolate, cake, cookies, etc.), but I have stayed strong with the will power to get through it. That even includes a Holiday brunch we had at work on Friday. There were so many good things that I wanted to eat, but I kept my head in the change and only ate items that are on my list.
With the exception of the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, I have not had the following since starting this plan:
- Caffeine, I used to drink two cups a day with creamer and sugar.
- Dairy, including cheese which I used to put on most things I ate.
- Sugar, except what is in foods naturally.
- Regular salt has been replaced with sea salt
- Sweets, especially candy bars, cakes, cookies, and pastries.
- Alcohol, I used to drink a glass of wine a couple times a week, but it’s been replaced with non-caffeine herbal teas.
- Fast food, I used to eat this a lot due to laziness when working late.
I have been struggling with water intake. I am supposed to drink at least 70 ounces of water a day, but I continue to fail at that requirement. I still need to add exercise to the schedule. Once I can do those two things, it will really help me get health and the weight will come off. I will get another full panel of blood work done again in January to see officially how my body is reacting to the plan. I will say I have more energy and the swelling has decreased. I still have a long way to go and once I meet my goal, I need to learn to maintain. I do not want to revert back to my old weight.
If you want to become healthy and/or lose weight, you have to actually want to do it. It cannot be someone forcing you, shaming you, or bribing you. It has to be something you are committed to doing and the mindset to do so comes straight from you. I have failed so many times because my mindset was not there. If you start doing it for the wrong reasons, you may have some good results, but ultimately you will fail. Think about your lifestyle and make the changes at the appropriate time. You will know when the time is right.
Final thought, change is not easy. I know I will have moments of weakness, but as long as I get back on track, I will continue to succeed in the lifestyle change. I don’t want to die young, I want to be around for a long time.