Monday, February 20, 2012

From the Heart (my heart, literally), Why We Are What We Eat

I just got back from an appointment with my cardiologist. I will be retuning again shortly, to do a stress test, so that I can be cleared for exercise. Having mitral valve prolapse, it's important that I have my heart checked regularly. My cholesterol is normal, and my blood pressure is a healthy 110/70. But there's the scale and a magical number that should grace the scale, but it didn't. Er...

Apparently, someone (my two thumbs pointing back at me) needs to get back in shape.

The last time I saw my cardiologist, back in 2005, I was 20 lbs. lighter than I am now. A size 2, who power lifted and spent two hours a day at the gym. I ate clean (read = Oxygen magazine clean), no added fats, dairy, carbs... veggie slices (fake cheese) in Pepper Jack flavor was the closest I got to egg whites with cheese. Dessert was a pint of strawberries with wheat germ and a swirl of Hershey's chocolate syrup. Decadent, to me, at the time.

That's me, the tan one in the swirly dress. Power lifting size 2. I want that back.

Now, I can't blame this added weight on having been preggers or anything, because by 2005 I had already been a mom for a handful of years. Thin came post-pregnancy. Here's what happened ...

I started spending less time at the gym. My life was fuller, my responsibilities greater, and I rested on the fact that I was in such great shape. I thought I could just level down to maintaining (which I could have, had I not started... eating cheese burgers and fries on a thrice weekly basis. Oh, and having two or three Stellas with that meal). I still worked out, less though, and maybe I gained 5 lbs. I wasn't as cut up as I'd been, nor was I spending as much time at the gym, but still, I was only a size (at that point) 4. Tiny.

First weight gain, 2006 and size 4 (blurry old cell pic). I remember taking this photo to remind myself that i was getting fat. Oh, how i'd love to look like this again.

Slowly, my gym time cut back less and less. Thirty minutes of cardio. Twenty minutes of lifting. Three times a week. Max. And my eating started getting worse.

Seven months later, I was a size 6. Okay, still not fat, but heavier than I was accustomed to being. My endocrinologist (I have Hashimoto's disease) told me to be careful. His concern wasn't that weight or size, but that it was climbing, which isn't good for your endocrine system. He asked me to restrict my diet and lose those 5 pounds. I restricted until the pounds came off, then ate them right back on.

I was bellydancing at an event, and remember thinking how fat I looked in this photo.

Summer passed, and I wore dresses and skirts the whole time. My bikini still fit, it wasn't pretty, but it fit.

I remember being in this bikini and seeing my belly (see it?) and knowing that I was no longer thin.

When autumn came, and I put on a pair of jeans, I could just get them buttoned (they used to be huge on me). 

This was the last time the size 6 actually fit with comfort. These were baggy two years before.

A year later, I had a condition that was being treated with steroids (Prednisone) so on went another 10 lbs. No more size 6. Ever since then, I've been fighting with those pounds. Now, straining in a size 8, I've had two doctors tell me to lose the weight. My cardiologist said it's not about appearances or fitting into a certain size jeans. It's because my heart doesn't want to do all the work of lugging those extra pounds around.

I cannot imagine what more I need to hear before it sinks in.

I have to stick to my good habits (the Greek salad with grilled chicken at the Denville Diner, the egg white omelets packed with veggies), and ditch the bad ones. My cardiologist is a woman who went through menopause and is a little older than I am, and she's thin. I asked her how she maintained her weight through it all and she said, point blank, she just doesn't eat the way she used to. She has to eat less.

Wish me luck. Now the only day I can have something fattening is FKF. No fried foods, grilled cheese, bread (except PB&J on wheat), bagels, pastas, cheese (except feta, goat, and the occasionally mozzarella on a slice (not three) of pizza.

And so it begins...

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