Tuesday, April 29

Accelerating out of the Curve

When I was 16, I took my boyfriend Chris to meet my grandfather, Robert Bourbon Bunyan Maples (aka "Bob") of Ojai, California. Bob came from Texas to California in a covered wagon in 1904, when he was four years old -- and he was a character like something out of a book.

Two decades later, Chris told me the main thing he remembered about the man was his repeated insistence to us (having watched some inspiring documentary just before we arrived) -- while dangerously waving his large cane for emphasis -- that we have sheep in our eyebrows!

I can see how that might stay with someone.

It embarrassed the hell out of me at 16, but seemed hilariously sweet in retrospect, when grandpa was gone.

From the time I was five years old, he'd make me read the newspaper to any fool crazy enough to get near.  ("She's smart as a whip!" he used to say to everyone.) And he loved to give advice. When I got older and I was around 17, he loved to opine to me while driving. Especially about driving.

"When pulling out of a turn," he intoned as he took the circular curve of an on-ramp, "You have to feel the car," he says, as the 'pull' from the end of the hard curve took us. "Then accelerate out of the curve." To example this, he promptly accelerated to about Mach 2 just as we reached the 101 Freeway. (Given its daily percentage of PI lawyers, drug lords and movie stars, this went totally unnoticed.)

I felt both terror and trust. We were like my once-favorite Roadrunner cartoon, but in an old American car only slightly smaller and lighter than an Abrams tank.

I later came to consider his advice an aphorism of sorts:

After all the twists and turns one goes through, when you finally see the road is straightening out ahead, that's not the time to relax from the stress, it's the time to get ready. Use the stress at the end as something to push off from, put some power into it and get yourself on the straight and narrow.

Well, it makes sense to me, anyway.

I'm just about there now, with health and nutrition. I won't lie, I am frankly exhausted, emotionally, from the effort it has taken over years to try and figure out what went horribly wrong with my body, my diet, my health, where my energy went (where my damned hair went!) and so on.

But this isn't the time to let go or relax. I think I may actually see the highway up ahead.

My Poster Child License Has Been Revoked

I quit blogging here for a long time. Even for years before that, it was nothing but barely.  That's because I began this blog waxing-on about low-carb. VLC helped me lose 170 pounds and feel awesome.

Until it didn't. I "crashed" into fatigue and other health symptoms so severe I'm lucky I've survived.

Of course, you know what it's like: One day I'm the Poster Child for VLC and the next day you must have been doing it wrong. 

Well, clearly whatever I was doing was wrong for my body. But I was pretty damn successful with eating the expected foods and getting the expected results... initially.

We could back-seat drive the "what-if's" all day to no useful end.

I am fairly rejecting of the medical system. This is due to my being a little bit 'Type A' personality ("I'm fine!" I once hollered as nicely as I could at a nurse, while ordering an overnight delivery of a new laptop computer to my hospital bed so I could continue work. Seriously). But it's mostly due to my having utterly lost respect for allopathic medicine's expertise on anything beyond rescuing one from the most acute version of poison or injury or something gone amuck to the far extreme. And even in those categories, it's more that they simply hold the legal monopoly of access and power for the equipment and elements needed. They still rate very low on the common sense list of treatment strategies in my view, even then.

My family loves doctors. They believe everything they see on TV or are told by someone in a white coat. They all end up on chronic medication (sometimes multiple), missing minor organs (as if any organ is minor), and gradually getting sicker at a financially-lucrative-for-pharma slow pace, opining to me sometimes -- as if this means anything -- that they are sick "because they're getting old" (even if they're in their 40s) or that their chronic skin cancers have nothing to do with the fact that they've been taking rat poison daily for years and can't have vitamin K, no, the doctor explained it's because they were out in the sun a lot as a kid. (Insert facepalm here.) Don't get me started.

So, I didn't go to the doctor. Anybody else with even half the severity of my post-VLC symptoms would probably have been on their way to a whole list of tests and labels and medications.

But me, I just sat motionless (it was all I could do) and used google to search, and read, and search and read. Every night, every week, every month, every season, for a long time, years really, though I cycled through brief bouts of optimistic ideas (which failed) during that. I was trying to learn more about what my body might be missing and how I could fix it. Along the way I also found a lot of fascinating substances and techs and historical people and nutrients and so forth.

I even discovered that the "unique" elements of my weight (and that of both sides of my family, though I am the far extreme) are in fact predictable and part of a known syndrome/disease (lipedema) with a huge estimate of affected women. Something which diet and exercise won't 'correct' (explaining why I lost 170# and none in those areas!) and for which there is no known cure. 

Excuse me while I leap from this ledge.

But moving on: whatever the solution, I knew one thing: VLC worked great for losing weight and feeling great, right up until it didn't. Maybe partly because of my lipedema, but maybe just because.

Then my job went insane and for 10 months I worked so many hours I didn't have time to pee regularly let alone eat regularly. I annihilated what was left of my health, working from bed until I fell asleep on my laptop around 3-4 am, woke up and continued around 7am, seven days a week for six months. A few less hours a week 6 days a week for another four months. My best friend yelled at me more than once that a cocaine habit would have been less destructive to my life and health, my kid all but flunked out of school while I obviously wasn't looking closely enough, my web coding projects fell to pieces, my friends huffed off telling me when I felt like being a friend again to get in touch, since I hadn't answered an email or called in months -- in short, it ruined "the rest" of every area of my life that the health-crash following from my eating plan 'diet success' hadn't already covered.

Once I finally had some hours back in my life -- and a lot less active web projects or friends, alas -- I wanted to blog a little more. My fatigue was even worse by then, by far. But I didn't have much to say about food that wasn't either depressing or confused. And that's not the kind of stuff I want to share.

I would like to have shared some of the stuff I was reading about a given nutrient or DIY-health idea. But with a blog called "The Divine Low-Carb" it seemed ridiculous to be blogging here if I didn't have anything to say about low-carb. 

By the time I finally started reading the blogs I had before in the LC/Paleo world (both back "when I had hope" and was blogging sometimes, and before the Google Reader debacle where I lost all my RSS feeds), I realized I was right in line with lots of other formerly VLC people who'd had similar results. All the things I thought were only about me turned out to be embarrassingly predictable.

Still, I suspect it is as much about the accumulated nutritional status and integrity of the body when someone takes VLC on, than the eating approach itself, that leads to whatever end result someone has.

None of us have a clear idea how healthy our organs are, or how nutrient replete we are with everything down to the spectrum of amino acids. It's a black-box situation.

I suspect we are all on a long road to understanding what works vs. doesn't for our bodies, and even what does work or doesn't at one point may change later.

I Missed Congeniality

In the last couple years in particular, I have learned something important from folks in lowcarb forums. I forgot how much I missed them when not visiting those worlds.

Lowcarb is the most awesome community of good people on the internet. I've been on the 'net since 1993, and I've been part of many and owned several forums, and I'm telling you from a solid base of experience that most the people in the low-carb world are just inexplicably really nice people.  

Especially compared to the internet at large.  Whatever else that eating plan is doing for the world, it is at the least a great contribution to a sense of community.

And guess what? It turns out, they don't care if me or others are still eating lowcarb or not. They actually learn to like people for being people -- imagine that!

A lot of the people in the "low-carb" forums I lurk in or post in are not even LC at all. Some are paleo, some are even Weight Watchers or vegetarians or whatever.

Because once people get to know each other, the detail of whether someone else might be eating honey becomes irrelevant. It doesn't have to be religious dogma by which all others are judged.

Carbism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be eating a potato.

Many people I know have "cycled through" nearly every diet book and approach there is. Hell it's their body anyway, not mine, so who cares, sheesh. Right?

That's the way it should be in every food community. It's not, I know. And maybe there are corners of LC where it's not, also. But in the main forums I visit (dominantly Active Lowcarbers [for my journal] and Lowcarb Friends [where I'm mostly a lurker]), that's mostly the way it is.

The people there are just Really. Damn. Nice.


Now that I am "accelerating out of the curve" and onto something a lot more like "an actual life" again, at a very low level yet the best I've had since about 2008, I've decided to take up occasional blogging again.

I had previously (a few years ago) revised this with a big caveat that it was not-a-diet-blog. But now, at some point in the next month or three, I'm going to rename this blog something else, as soon as I think of what. That will change the address too, alas, but with a bunch of fancy footwork I think I can work it out.

Suggestions for a new name welcome. I don't want it to be about food or nutrition solely, I just want it to include that, along with anything interesting to me. Maybe I should just make it my name. That seems dull!

Lions and Tigers and Bears

So just lately, I've been reading so much about the "gut biome" that my eyeballs keep falling out.

I'm excited for the simple reason that this falls into the crack of what I have not yet tried. 

So, it's got enormous "potential."

My growing "food intolerances" suggest this may be critically important. I've heard some people say they actually resolved their food intolerances by repairing their gut biome. Literally that the things that used to give them major 'gluten-ing' symptoms now don't. That's stunning! Wow, if that's true, that's amazing.

It turns out our entire body especially gut is filled with teeming hordes of bacteria who are living like whole forests and jungles of creatures, or whole cities and planets of life. An entire sub-cosmic ecosystem.

Wars of hand to hand combat and devious intrigue are going on in our guts all the time, with lives that cover the space of minutes or an hour in our timescale, and we don't even notice.

Our gut environment is affected by food and even stress. I bet it functions like the mysterious will of the Far Being Retzglaran inside: Luck, synchronicity (and the inexplicable Will of the Divine) to the life within.

I find it kind of amazing. We have a whole universe of creatures -- inside our intestines!

And sheep in our eyebrows. Right! :-)



Elaine Lee said...

Sorry - messed up my last comment. We're in the same place - ruined by low carb and stressed, and now discovering the gut as a possible treatment avenue. Please feel free to stop by my blog and say hi sometime. I love your writing and its great to see you back, even if briefly. I wish you the best of luck in this!

Almond said...

I really like your blog. I hope you return to blogging sometime soon. All the best.

Vickie Ewell said...

I can so so relate to a lot of this. I lost a ton of weight, gained most of it back, endured the low-carb purists telling me I had to be doing it wrong; and now, because I didn't quit soon enough, I have more autoimmune diseases than I did when I first started this journey.

I have tried to walk away from the whole mess, and just live my life as a fat gluten-free person, but low-carb people keep writing to me and begging for help. I don't know what to do with that.

Funny thing is, I've been wondering about the gut thing myself lately, since celiacs are prone to leaky gut syndrome and like you, it's actually something I have never tried. I live in damned bubble these days, thanks to low-carb products made with wheat protein. I get glutened just by being around most people now. My friends or family come over, hug me good-bye, and I'm in the bathroom for days. I can't even eat at the same table with anyone else eating gluten. It's just ridiculous.

Carole Medley said...

PJ, I just stumbled upon your blog again, after skipping for a long time. Great to hear your "voice" again, and wonderful to hear some hope in that voice. Do keep up with the blogging, huh?; we can sure use you around the Low-Carb world. Carole

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Daron said...

I just checked in on your blog after not visiting in probably well over a year. Thanks for the post. I am from Big Daddy D's lowcarbohydrate.blogspot.com on which I've not posted anything in years either. Low carb worked great the first several times. And even now if I were to do it, I'd lose probably 30 pounds the first month. But every month, I lose half of the previous until I don't seem to be losing at all. I experimented a little with carb cycling to break this cycle which seemed to work a little but not extremely well. I then tried my hand at calorie counting and using a fitbit for a while. I lost more slowly but more consistently with this method with few peaks and valleys in my progress. I get really tired of counting and tracking everything that I eat. I typically keep most of the weight off for a year or so. Then I quit tracking and monitoring and become plump again before I realize what had happened. For a while there, I had in my head that there is a mind-body-spirit connection whereby I thought that if I focused on my mind and spirit that my body (cravings, etc.) might fall into alignment. You know, working on my mind and spirit is actually much more difficult than working on my body. It entails major lifestyle changes and potentially carrier changes and perhaps a less complicated life, etc. It's not just a matter of frame of mind and meditation, it's all-encompassing. When you are young, it's all about choosing a path. But as you get older, the path becomes rutted and it's hard to get out of a rut. If if you get out of a rut, if your path is not in a COMPLETELY different direction then you just keep falling back into the rut. My brother recently went through a doctor managed program where he had mostly a liquid diet which was supposed to have all the nutrients and vitamins that he needed. That had a huge impact on social activities. Our social worlds are largely wrapped around food and dining. My wife has expressed some interest in trying the doctor monitored liquid diet. It sounds so intense and intrusive that I am not yet sure if we should go down that road. But, it still beats surgery! I don't think most weight loss surgery is safe. Not sure if to follow his road. It would get the weight off for sure but there are so many other ways to do it too.