Learning how to fly with a broken wing – Taking care of myself after the damage is done

A personal diary/ accountability type of post today folks.

Please note: there are a lot of links in this post but none are affiliate links. They are all informational and to support what I’m saying in the post

For years, I’ve dealt with food allergies and gaining or having difficulty losing weight. It never got out of hand but I could feel how the extra weight made sports harder and I was a lot more tired than I should be after relatively little exercise. And getting the energy up TO exercise? Yeah, that becomes a vicious circle. Add to this a couple of compressed disks in my back and it’s a recipe for a sedentary lifestyle.

Lately even lifting a vintage sewing machine has become cumbersome.

Since some of our sports are of the motorized type, it might seem like they don’t take a lot of strength but that’s a misconception I held too until I started riding. Of course seeing how ridiculously fit Ryan has been the entire time I’ve known him should have been the first clue. There’s a reason you don’t see unfit professional motocross riders! It takes a lot of muscle to not let a bike boss you around and to make it go where you want and over obstacles. And when you don’t quite make it over the obstacles? Well that’s when you get to pick yourself up and then a more than 200lb bike whose natural at rest state is on its side.

The other problems that have been plaguing me for the last year or so are:
1. a tremor in my hands that sometimes also manifests in my neck/head causing a small “bobble”.
2. in the last 6 months or so a weakness in my hands to go with the tremor.
3. some periods of forgetfulness and difficulty reasoning my way out of things.
4. poor capacity for handling stress

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know how detrimental all of this is to what I do. I won’t film on a day that my tremor is visiting and without focus I don’t do well with finishing a post or even putting down what I’m thinking. I don’t even touch Lucey on a day that my hands are shaking. If I can’t loosen screws on a machine, I have to wait for Ryan to come home or risk stripping the heads.

Now, at the end of last year, I turned 40 and it would be easy to say that some of this comes with age and some of the changes we women start to go through around now but I’ve decided I’m not taking this lying down.

This year, I’m making a concerted effort to change how I feel. I spoke with my doctor and had several blood tests and tonight I have an appointment for an MRI to scan for issues in my brain. So far, we’ve only come up with an iron deficiency but 4 months of iron supplements hasn’t changed the major symptoms so there’s something else going on. After that is a referral to a neurologist to see if things can be sorted that way.

In the meantime, the plan of attack is 4 fold:
1. diet – Not Diet – as in the commercial version of the word. diet. As in evaluate what’s not working and what is and fix what’s broken permanently.
2. exercise – this is the tough one for most of us because it’s really not fun and it hurts sometimes – but if I can counterbalance or even build more muscle than I seem to be losing it’s worth it.
3. take better care of myself – sometimes we – especially women – have a tendency to neglect ourselves to take care of others. Especially my back which is damaged already but I don’t need to be making it worse.
4. downtime – enjoying the things I used to do more and not pushing so hard on all of the things that I feel should be done before doing the things I like to do

My main goal for this is not to lose weight – it’s to find what’s angering my body and that I need to stop eating to feel better. The weight loss is a happy side effect. As such, I didn’t step on a scale prior to starting, I don’t even know what I weigh now or before starting. What I do know is that this regime is working because I feel better and the happy side effect is that my jeans are loose enough that I bought the size down about 2 weeks ago and they’re getting loose now too. How have I done this?

For the last 6 weeks or so, we’ve been doing an elimination diet. It’s based on JJ Virgin’s diet (I got the book at the Salvation Army. 😉 ) but without the shakes and by modifying our already mostly healthy meals instead. At the core of it, it’s a lot like a paleo diet in its basic make up after a 3 week elimination period. After that, you challenge the 7 most common foods that might have been making you ill (and JJ Virgin says would cause inflammation and cause weight gain or weight loss resistance). It’s been a little tough to be off all the foods I love but the change is going to be easier to make permanent with recipes like this one.


Caution! If you make these – hide at least half the batch on yourself! I think they should freeze just fine so that might be a good spot. The next batch I make, I’m going to play with lowering the amount of honey because I do find them quite sweet. Other than that my initial changes were: Almond butter instead of sunflower seed butter and I added nutmeg. Anything that does well with cinnamon seems to love nutmeg too. 😉

So far, we’ve challenged:
– gluten – it caused a little bloating but that’s about it after 4 days of eating way more bread than I usually would.
– milk – this was not so good. Congestion and bloating so bad that it looks like I gained almost all of the weight back. Where I was starting to see a little of the muscle in my upper arms again, yesterday they were back to their “regular” swollen selves and my tummy was back. Two days off the milk and my new jeans are fitting better again.

This weekend we’ll challenge soy or corn. The corn is one she doesn’t suggest incorporating back into your diet if you can help it but we love our relatively authentic Mexican food and it’s been one of the hardest things to give up for the past 6 weeks so we’ll challenge it. I make corn tortillas from scratch and use only organic non-GMO corn for it. In fact, Mexican and Japanese have been the hardest to give up.

After that we’ll also do eggs, though we’re quite sure that I’m actually allergic. We’ll challenge because perhaps I’ve grown out of it or organic eggs – which is what we intend to use – may not bother me as much. A friend/client of mine – Gail Hall – also suggested once that I might tolerate duck eggs even if chicken eggs will bring me to my knees. If I can tolerate the eggs, we’ll likely make a permanent change to a mainly paleo diet – which is a bit of a shame because I love my Greek yogurt and my fresh ground wheat in a San Francisco sourdough but the pain and sluggishness is really not worth it.

The other 2 “foods” are peanuts and sugar. We won’t incorporate peanuts back in, neither of us really likes them and refined sugar is something we’ve been lowering for years. The harder part of this one is honey and the sugar in fruit and veggies. Obviously we don’t eliminate fruit but we change the way we’re eating fruit. In Alberta in the winter though this will become harder. Right now, we have access to fresh realistically priced produce. In the winter, that changes and I really don’t like a lot of the frozen fruit – the texture changes.

Whew! After all of that, it probably sounds like I’m one of the organic foodies, right? I’m not. I just know that my body handles a lot of the organics better than their conventional counterparts. I’m lactose intolerant unless I drink or consume organic dairy, then it doesn’t hurt me at all. We goofed on this one when challenging milk this time so we may try again in a few months with organic only and see what happens. We had a chicken from the farmer’s market that didn’t make me ill like the fatty tissue in a conventional chicken does.

In fact, that brings me to a point I’ve meant to address for a couple of years – since I started this blog in fact. I really believe that the allergies and intolerance to a lot of food that our grandparents ate with impunity are not actually due to the foods themselves but to what we’ve done to them. Years ago, an acquaintance who moved from Europe to here mentioned that peanut allergies are almost unheard of in Europe. That got me to thinking: What’s the difference? Maybe it’s what we’ve done to the food. It’s either how we’re roasting or otherwise preparing the foods for consumption or how we’re growing the crops to begin with. Yes, I’m talking about the GMO. We’re simply not smarter than Mother Nature. She’s had thousands or millions of years to figure this out and we think that in a few generations that we can do better? But what have we done? We’ve turned wheat – a whole food – into poison. We’ve ruined corn. We’ve introduced Soy – which is not a food – and put it in everything. Soy’s a known goitrogen – this means it messes with the thyroid. That is the LAST organ in your body you want to mess with. The thyroid controls all of your organs and determines how hard they work. Fast heartbeat? One of the first blood tests they do is on your T4 (thyroid) levels, along with iron and such of course. Problems with kidney failure are accelerated if the the thyroid is also compromised. In fact, the thyroid takes precedence in that case and is treated first. Soy also blocks the absorption of key nutrients like zinc, iron, calcium, and magnesium. It’s been linked to some cancers and it’s poor quality protein. It’s also a phytoestrogen – a plant source of estrogen. In most of North America, our food sources and even our environments are already very phytoestrogen or xenoestrogen heavy. Both men and women are being exposed to more estrogen in their bodies than is healthy. Excess unopposed estrogen also sets up a favorable environment for certain cancers. I personally won’t add another source on purpose.

Wait, soy’s not food? Why am I challenging it then? Small amounts of soy – such as an authentic properly fermented soya sauce (like I buy at the Asian food store) on my fresh sushi are unlikely to affect my thyroid and mmmmm,…. sushi. 😉 Used as a condiment and in moderation, there’s nothing wrong with soy. It’s the abundant over use of it in North America that’s hurting us.

I’ve also started taking some supplements that are supposed to help the nervous system, help my bones, and support the liver and immune system – zinc, magnesium, milk thistle, a B complex, calcium, and of course my iron supplement. I do think the magnesium is a key to the tremor. I went off it for a week before a blood test and the tremor which had been largely absent for a week of taking the supplements came back.

I’ve also increased my water intake which is huge for me. Ryan thinks I’ve spent a good portion of my life chronically dehydrated, which is possible because some days I take in less than 500ml of water and maybe a half cup of tea and I derive the rest of my liquid from my food – not unlike a cat apparently. 😉

Exercise: I’ve started riding my mountain bike again. If anyone out there has any tips on uh… hardening my behind easier, I’m all ears. Right now, I can go about 10 – 15 minutes before my “sitting bones” hurt so much that I don’t want to ride any more. I know this passes eventually but I don’t want to quit before it does. When I was a teenager – before I drove – I used to ride my 10 speed road bike everywhere. It was the only exercise I got and I was in amazing shape. Then I got a car. 😉 I’ve tried a few times over the years to start again but the butt thing has stopped me every time. I have a treadmill in the basement and may start using that again as well – more on rainy days though. Also a BOSU ball, a yoga ball and an ab roller. All of these will build the core. These are all things I will incorporate once I get back into a routine that the bicycle will help me do. Also, I have 2 very dusty kayaks in the garage that could use some water time. Eventually, I hope this all to build enough muscle that I can loosen screws on the sewing machines myself again and pushing the street bikes or picking up a dirtbike won’t wear me out and cause me to think I’m going to biff it and have a bike land on top of me anymore.

Taking better care of myself – this is obviously addressed somewhat by the diet and exercise but I’m also trying to reduce my exposure to unnecessary stress, reduce my dependance on the muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories for my back. I’ve decided I like my liver and kidneys and would like to keep them. One of the ways I’m trying out for my back is the use of a corset. The physiotherapist who was looking after my back around Christmas told me that the muscles stabilizing the disks between L4-L5 and L5-S1 were bound up so badly that it was causing a lot of my problems. So for a couple of hours a day, usually during activities I know I tend to slouch or otherwise put a lot of pressure on my disks, I wear the corset. No, I’m not waist training or trying to reduce my waist – the diet and exercise are doing that – this is for posture correction and support to hopefully “reset” the muscles and tell them they’re not the only ones on the job anymore. I also stretch the back and hip area liberally before I even get out of bed these days and that seems to be helping some as well. I’m also considering it for some riding on the street bike because I know that my posture is terrible on the bike – hint: your belly should not touch the tank!

Downtime – most of my posts on AA are written in downtime. I want to write more and spend more time doing things that you guys and gals will want to hear and read about. So the goal for now is to finish up a few of the drafts I have and to film a few more videos and get some text written for you all. I’m also going to try to take my camera out and take some more non-sewing machine photos.

With Ryan’s accident last summer, our schedule is still a mess so some of these changes are coming about more slowly than I’d like but they’re coming. 2 days a week he’s still in physio after work and the long days that result from this seem to take their toll on the rest of the days. I’m slowly catching up to everything but email and finally getting into the right head space to blog again.

Today’s post – Richie Sambora – Learning how to fly with a broken wing

10 thoughts on “Learning how to fly with a broken wing – Taking care of myself after the damage is done”

  1. Late to the party here, but I was especially interested to read that bit about soy and the thyroid. I have a friend with unresolved thyroid issues and passed on the info.

    So many of the things you said sounded familiar. We don’t think right about what we put in (and on) our bodies! Long story short, I have celiac’s disease and it was slowly killing me; I only functioned so long because I grew up on mostly home garden fruits and veggies, raw whole milk, and our own free-range eggs and grass-fed beef. I didn’t know I had food problems until I was 24 and it took 2 years to both be convinced I needed to totally eliminate every trace of gluten from my diet and figure out how to . I even react to it on my skin. Then after that stress was off my body and I was listening instead of just blocking all the misery, I gradually recognized about two dozen other foods I do better to avoid. Some are not easy, like onion. People, if your young child sees other people enjoying a food and begins to refuse it after at first eating it, realize that intollerance or allergy might be involved. My 5 yo has refused everything with onion since she was 2. My dad loathes onion because of the symptoms he gets if he eats it, and so do I. My girl has not been tested, but I figure third generation onion reaction is the culprit. May she always listen to her body and avoid foods that louse her up.

    Gotta say, I often get frustrated with having to make 99% of my food and never being able to just follow a recipe. I really can’t eat out, and have to bring my own to potlucks. But the alternative? So not worth the cheat.

    I made a corset as an experimental back support, originally to find out if it would work for a friend. It’s lovely, like wearing a back rest. My back went out after my previous pregnancies, so I will absolutely be using that corset after this baby is born.

    I suspect that by now, you have the diet down to routine and feel worlds better. This is the sort of testimony that should be on display in every one’s health class. We all need to find out what we’re eating and what the consequences can be.

    1. I think it was when I was learning about MSG and its other excitogen friends that soy came up. A friend has no thyroid and she has an RX for I think it’s pig thyroid? I guess she can’t use the synthroid and other pharmacologic options. Worth looking into for your friend. When you start to look into food in tolerances and the food industry as a whole, it’s fairly disgusting. Makeup and hair products are just as bad – if not worse in that they’re not regulated the same way.

      The hardest part is when the foods you’re sensitive to are “healthy” and they’re pushed on you from everywhere. And we do it to our kids too. My parents would try to force me to eat eggs and drink milk. I would tell them it made me sick but they wouldn’t hear of it, I had to eat / drink them because I was not going to get away with being a picky eater. Kids haven’t learned to ignore their bodies the way we have and they’re far better off for it – if we let them continue to be that open.

      You’re right, it can be frustrating to not be able to just grab something while you’re out and vacation food can be a real nightmare but at the end of the day, I think that this is a blessing in disguise. How many people just go through life with chronic pain and feeling miserable and don’t know why? You and I? We know what’s doing it and can make an informed choice to hurt or not for the next 4 days. I crave Neapolitan pizza – as in I dream about it and everything! – but I don’t indulge more than maybe once a year because of the pain and I know that it will hurt so I make sure it’s before a week that I’m not expected anywhere for anything. I’ve learned to make some substitutions that let me have reasonable facsimiles of my favorite foods and that helps a lot.

      The corset has done wonderful things for me. I got out of the habit of wearing it last year but even on the bikes I found that it made it possible to ride longer and feel less pain afterward. Used responsibly, I think they can be a great healing tool. Good luck!

      I have the diet down (except for the corn!) and we were really busy on the bikes this year. Now that we’re slowing down, I can feel my body’s objection to the inactivity. The goal this year was to slow my business down too so I could work a little on the lowered stress thing and finally into mid-October, I’m starting to slow down enough that I’m not working 8-10 hour days. A lot of it came down to learning the art of saying No.

      I really wish that more of the diet part was taught to our GPs and that food as medicine was more the emphasis than big pharma. As a society we’d be healthier and by being healthier, we’d be happier and maybe nicer to each other in general.

  2. Try a Bellicon mini trampoline for exercise. Jumping is fun and fantastic for the body. Also, the new generation mini trampolines using bungee cords are a big improvement over the previous generation using springs. Bungee cords give a much smoother jump.

    1. Hey Kathy! Thanks for that suggestion. I’m not sure my poor abused disks will put up with that sort of compression but I will see if I can find one of that brand in town and try it. I know several people who’ve used mini trampolines to get in shape and lose weight!

  3. Longtime reader & lurker here…. I have some localized suggestions for you. There is a holistic & compounding pharmacist (a real one) out in Stony Plain named Ched that is authorized by Alberta Health Care to run labs they cover, as well as review them – especially related to nutritional deficiencies, allergies/intolerances, and thyroid. His consultations are way cheaper than any holistic doctor currently practicing in the Edmonton area. The business is called “Stony Plain Wellness & Compounding Pharmacy”. It will come up on Google. If you run our of ideas, this guy might be able to help. I’ve heard nothing but good about him.

    About your bicycle… it sounds to me like the span of the saddle might not be wide enough for your sit bones. There might be other minor adjustments that can be done to make the bike more comfortable in terms of reach, handlebars, etc. If you have a bike mechanic that has some experience adjusting bike fit for women in particular, you could have a comfier bike that makes you want to get out there and ride. If you don’t have someone like that, my husband is a great bike mechanic, understands mountain biking, has a knack with fitting women to bikes, and is not expensive because his business is home-based. He also has a winter hobby of repairing old sewing machines when the bike business slows down. 🙂 If you look up “RBF Cycles” on Facebook, you will find him and he has messaging.

    1. Hey Grumpy Girl 😉 Thanks for all of that information! I will look Ched up and see if I can’t schedule something over the winter. We’re pretty sure most of the issues are anemia and magnesium related. Of course, anemia by its very nature will lower magnesium and I’m very prone to anemia so it’s a tough battle. We’re working on it though. I do find that if I get off my routine (like on a weekend or if we’re otherwise not on a regular schedule) I know it really fast by what my body tells me.

      I have a few things I want to tweak on my bicycle over the winter as well. I thought that my saddle should be wide enough – it’s a woman’s saddle – and it did hurt less as the season wore on but you definitely hit on one of the things – the reach is wrong on my bars. I’m short of stature and I’ve had to shorten my bars on my dirtbike so it stands to reason I’d have to modify here too. I may just be in touch with your husband over the winter too. Our neighbor helped set up my (not particularly expensive – or good Canadian Tire) bicycle but he’s used to the way male parts work on a bike, not so much girls. I’m going to let Ryan take some pics and see if we can’t figure out where my stance is wrong and work on what we can but if we get lost, we’ll be messaging. 🙂 I’m also thinking of getting a trainer to be able to use my bike in the winter and work things out in the winter so I can just ride in the summer.

  4. My FIL had his food sensitivities tested a few years ago and the results came back that he couldn’t eat red meat, wheat, and yes–chickpeas (or beans of any kind). I probably ought to get mine tested, too, as it is the quickest way to figure out the big culprits, but my naturopath told me that sometimes you don’t want to know because it’s too depressing to discover all the things you can’t eat. My FIL eliminated all his “no” foods, though, and almost immediately, a whole lot of his chronic health problems cleared up.

    The rice thing was interesting to me, too, but apparently there is something in the husk of the rice grain that is similar to wheat and has the same effects on my body. There are also some additives in food (probably derived from wheat) that just make me feel about 90 years old if I ingest them. Commercial bleu-cheese dressing is a good example. Now I make my own. Everyone is different, so what works for one person may not work for someone else. Like I said, I have been doing this for four years now and it seems like I uncover something new once a month or so, But I do feel better now than I did four years ago. 🙂

    1. See, and I’d rather know what I can’t have than find out by accident and trial and error. Yes, it can be depressing but at the same time you can “cheat” – while knowing how you’ll feel as a result but feel better most of the rest of the time. It’s like making an informed decision instead of spinning a roulette wheel. 😉 The huge eating shift at once though can be hard on a person though. The allergist a bunch of years ago told me: You can cheat but it will hurt. Your choice.

      I completely believe the rice husk given the type of crop that it is. Some rices do seem to have more of it left on the rice when we get it too. Commercial bleu cheese dressings and dressings in general have so many bad things in them. You’re much better off making fresh. We rarely do anything other than a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing here anymore.

      I think there’s a good chance your monthly discoveries may be related to each other – or grouped at least. I know I was discovering I couldn’t have hydrolyzed proteins, then protein isolates and then sodium caseinate, etc and they all turned out to be in the same family of neurotoxins as MSG. I’m glad you’re feeling better though.

  5. Good luck on your journey. I am still discovering things I can and cannot eat. I gave up wheat four years ago and can do white rice, but brown rice makes my joints ache as badly as wheat does. So does corn. We raise our own pigs and chickens now and grow as much food as we can in our garden every summer here in Montana. I don’t drink milk but I can’t live without cheese. And on and on and on….I think you’re right that it’s what we’ve done to our food to make it not-food that is what is hurting us. In any case, thank you for all your helpful sewing machine posts and I hope you start to feel better soon.

    1. Hi Janet! Thanks for that. 🙂 I’m actually already feeling better than I was. Today I stood with good posture and wrote this post, and I still have energy to spare by evening. I think that’s a giant leap forward. I found it really interesting to read that you can eat white rice but not brown. We already know about my bad reactions with processed free glutamic acids under their various names – sodium caseinate is the worst one for me and like I mentioned the eggs and milk but I think there are other things to evaluate too – citrus fruit, strawberries, I read that some people can’t tolerate chickpeas, etc. I think this is a good start and we do have to listen to what our bodies are saying. In fact, I think that’s actually the key. Our bodies do tell us what they don’t like we just need to be listening. That’s probably what this “diet” is really doing. Teaching me how to listen again. I wish we could raise livestock but we’re in town and I doubt my neighbors would appreciate it. I do have a modest garden though and we get a fair bit from that most years. I’m also very glad that the sewing machine posts are helpful to you. 🙂

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