Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Back in the Saddle...Again

Class with Jen
I have been pole dancing for seven and a half years.  In that time, I have become an instructor (beginner level) and have had a lot of fun.  But I know I am not a particularly amazing or strong dancer.  I don't do tricks.  My flow isn't that always great.  I lack strength and flexibility.  I often freeze during free dance and have maybe five go-to moves.  Basically, unless I'm going to push myself, I've pretty much done everything I'm going to do. 

So I realized last week, it is time for a change.  I subbed Grace's beginner class the past two Mondays in a row.  Last week, Janet subbed the intermediate class after mine.  This week, Jen subbed.  It made me realize it is time to get outside of my comfort zone (I am still training to be a hospice volunteer and need to find time for that as well; in addition, I've been missing my Sunday yoga class lately and needed to find a place to fit that back in).  So, I re-arranged my life.  It used to be (in a perfect world if no conflicts came up), that I would have Tahitian dance on Mondays and Thursdays.  Yoga with David on Mondays at lunch.  Pole on Tuesdays (I would help Bel teach her beginning class, then I would often stay to take the Intermediate class).  Yoga with Theresa Sunday mornings (yeah, except it has been a month since I've been to that class). Sometimes other bonus classes would be thrown in, but that was pretty much my schedule. 

Class with Janet
I decided to let Tahitian dance go.  It wasn't that I don't enjoy it...but I needed to prioritize what I spend time on and I need more yoga in my life if I want to sleep well (eventually, I'd like to get back to four days a week, but I have to start somewhere).  I have been getting up and doing 10-20 minute yoga videos in the morning, but I need a good, deep stretch at least two days each week. 

So, the new schedule is yoga at lunch on Mondays, pole with Grace on Monday evenings, yoga on Tuesday evenings with Theresa, pole with Janet on Thursday evenings, and yoga on Sundays (when I'm home).  This is in addition to my morning yoga, which takes up very little time but seems to be packing a decent punch.  I'd really love to re-add in my morning strengthening exercises and evening/stretch-while-watching-TV exercises, but I haven't actually been home much, or watching a lot of TV, and I've been sick for so long, I haven't been able to wake up early enough to do much of anything except drag myself into work. 

My Artista swag!  ABALM10 for 10% off!
So, let's talk about Janet's class and why I chose this class in particular.  Janet's class is called Bottoms Up.  The whole point of the class is to gain strength for inversions.  That's what I need.  I think I have a long way to go, but I feel like I am at a crossroad.  It is either time to push myself or find a new hobby.  I'm going to ask Janet if we can find an exercise, move, or some other way we can measure my progress through photos or videos.  I will be happy to share it here.  I am going to call it "Project Get Lori Upside Down." 

I'm really excited about this new path.  Sometimes your life gets in a rut.  Groundhog's day.  Wake up groggy.  Go to work.  Workout.  Go to bed.  Although I kind of need some routine in my life, it can also be maddening.  I am inspired by all of the women in the plus sized pole group that I help moderate.  I know I have the strength to do more than I do...I just need to start choosing the path of least resistance and stop mind fucking myself.

Last week, I taught the intermediate girls most of the Dangerous Woman choreography:



Last night, Jen taught us some sexy choreo:



Monday, June 12, 2017

The Art of Worrying

How many of us spent our childhoods just itching to be grown ups?  "When I grow up, no one is going to tell me when to go to bed, what to watch on TV, where to go...I won't have to go to school or do anything I don't want to do.  I cannot wait!!"  Then we grew up and started wondering how the fuck we get off this shit show merry-go-round and go back to having almost zero responsibility.  We replaced school and homework with jobs and projects.  We need to keep our house in order, keep the boss happy, find some time to exercise, feed ourselves, and for those of you crazy enough, take care of the spawn who are oblivious to the fact that they are living the high life right now!

I know I've written about anxiety before -- I won't bother to repost links.  I used to poo-poo people with anxiety...just suck it up and tell yourself everything will be ok!  It's pretty simple.  Then it happened to me.  I started to worry about everything.  Did I say something stupid?  Do I have something in my teeth?  Why did I trip on that stupid crack in the sidewalk, I should have been paying attention!  Do I look fat?  Are my clothes ugly?  Did I write something stupid in a blog so everyone could see it and judge me?  I always associate depression and anxiety issues with my weight loss surgery.  I'm sure I've always had it a little bit, but it didn't flare into a "thing" until after I lost a ton of weight.  One theory for women is that estrogen is stored in fat cells and when all of that is released at once, it kind of turns you into a crazy person.  Another theory, and probably the one I feel affected me the most, was that we thought life would be perfect once we were thin(ner) and it wasn't.  Skinny people are all millionaires with no real jobs and housekeepers for those fat houses they own, right?  However, we woke up to find we still had to go to work, pay the bills and live our normal (and apparently boring) lives. 

I still deal with both anxiety and depression, although I feel like I've really gotten a handle on it over the last five years or so.  I find that unrealistic expectations along with not taking action when I'm in an unhappy situation can lead me down the road of feeling shitty.  And if I let myself spiral out of control, I can go from being on top of the world, to feeling like a hormonal teenager where everything and everybody sucks and my life is over.  So the trick for me is to not let it spiral.  I try to catch it when it's happening, and remind myself that "this too shall pass."  I remember being in the middle of a break up almost ten years ago.  My ex was asking me to stay and work things out.  He just kept telling me to "fake it til you make it."  And I thought, what a stupid fucking concept.  I had no ability to fake it.  In fact, when I'm pissed, you know.  Everyone knows.  I'm not always loud and angry, but my brooding teenage silence will let you know.  If I stop talking, you should probably leave the area.  In that case, faking it wouldn't have worked.  I was done with that relationship and needed out.  However, now I apply that in another way.  I don't necessarily fake it til I make it, but I DO reframe and remind myself of all the good in my life so that I can pull myself out of the spiral. 

You're probably wondering why this is even a blog post.  Yesterday, Dave told me about a friend who had died doing something he loved.  He was sad and we were discussing having dangerous hobbies.  I told him how, when I rode horses on a regular basis, I had people give me a hard time on many occasions because I didn't wear a helmet.  My response was always essentially that if I fell from a horse as tall as mine, I was going to break my neck, so a helmet would do nothing.  And also, people should know I died doing something I loved -- so celebrate me and my awesome life, rather than mourn my death.  (I also don't have a family to support, so I get why people choose to wear helmets; it is just something I don't choose for myself and people should respect my choice.)  So, after we got off the phone, I guess I just started thinking about all the things I do appreciate in my life.  I have an awesome group of friends and I truly enjoying hanging out with my family.  Don't even get me started on how much I adore those babies (who are growing up WAY too fast).  I have a body that I have spent a lifetime abusing but it still shows up and allows me to dance, do yoga, and throw babies in the air.  I love my job.  I have a roof over my head, clean water and a table full of food.  I don't know.  I guess I could start comparing my life to people who have more money and the ability to travel and do many things I am not doing right now, but then I think the depression and anxiety would kick in again.  So I don't.  I have a good life.  I have goals...more things I want to do...but if I died today, I know I made my mark on some people.  I don't want to spend the second half of my life worrying about the little things.  I want to travel more and continue the adventures.  I want to spend more time with my friends and family laughing and living a great life.  I am not saying there aren't things worth worrying about.  But I am saying is there is no need to sweat the small stuff.  If I worried a car might hit me every time I leave the house, I could easily become homebound and never experience things like amazing sunsets or horseback riding on the beach.  I'd never get into the paraglider with Dave.  I'd never take a trip out of the country. 

Life is long if you're miserable but can be too short if you're making the best out of every day.  I guess maybe I have embraced "fake it til you make it" but only in the context of keeping my life filled with positive people who embrace me for who I am rather than telling me I'm doing everything wrong.  I know I haven't been posting much on this blog lately.  I have definitely had a lot going on.  In addition to regularly scheduled life, I am training to be a hospice volunteer, and have spent the last 4-6 weeks being pretty sick (see my previous post about gluten).  I am heading back into the studio tonight and tomorrow to both teach and take pole classes, though.  I sometimes feel like I should be making more efforts to progress and become stronger at pole, but I'm kind of enjoying just growing and being comfortable with free dance and flow.  As always, I am not the strongest poler or the best dancer, but I certainly do enjoy the fuck out of dancing my heart out. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Gluten Dilemma

On this trip, I was rocking an awesome cold
I wrote about going gluten-free two months ago.  Was that only two months ago?  It felt like six months ago.  You can read that HERE.  I initially felt like it was fairly easy to do.  Sure, I felt like I'd miss out on a few things here or there, but for the most part, I figured I would be fine and my health would be better for it.

I've spent the last month being sick.  Maybe allergies, multiple colds (one chest infection that actually has me thinking there is mold in my office...the air is actually being tested right now!), a UTI (with antibiotics), an ear infection (again with antibiotics, but I got off schedule with my probiotic, which gave me a yeast infection), a threatened sinus infection (thwarted by a nasal rinse regimen) and now a cold sore (not A cold sore, like 12 cold sores covering half my face...I haven't had a cold sore in over 7 years!!).  Seriously, my body is harboring some crazy kind of ick and it is trying to get OUT.  At some point, I expect my head to spin and to puke out green slime.  I'm off my exercise schedule.  I'm not sleeping right so I wake up overly exhausted every day.  It has become a joke at work how I am such a mess.  Let's play a game: What's broken on Lori today?  It's hilarious.  Clearly, my body missed gluten and I should start eating it again immediately!!

Babies don't have time for a sick Aunty
My friend joked that all of her friends who eat healthy are always getting sick and maybe we need that shitty junk food to make our bodies constantly fight germs to stay healthy.  Maybe its stress.  Or maybe about a month ago, I started stressing less about gluten and wouldn't beat myself up if I took a bite here or there.  Bite of a cookie.  A small piece of regular pizza at a work event because no one really gives a shit about the gluten-free people.  These aren't instances of sneaky gluten getting into my food.  They are instances of me being lazy and an idiot.  I am paying the price.  This has been the worst month I've had in...years. 

Anyway, back to being strict about not eating gluten.  I have way too much going on to spend my time laying in bed.  Last weekend was the first time in over a month that I felt decent and I spent it drinking and dancing with friends.  I expected that to ruin me but I feel fantastic.  I'm not made to sit on a couch and rot. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

8th Annual Lovely Rita Fundraiser

The Milli Vanilli of Pole returned with an original piece for Twirly Girls' 8th Annual Lovely Rita Fundraiser to benefit the National Kidney Foundation.

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Psoriasis and Gluten

I was diagnosed with psoriasis when I was around 12 years old.  I remember being given a list of foods I shouldn't eat -- essentially it was anything gluten or sugar filled.  Anything delicious.  I don't really remember my diet changing at that point.  I wasn't really in charge of what I was eating.

Even though auto-immune diseases affect you on the inside, really -- with psoriasis -- it's the outside that usually bothers us the most.  The dry skin everywhere is embarrassing (and can be painful, especially when the weather is super dry and it cracks).  Seeing my red arms in the mirror during Tahitian dance class would always make me feel self-conscious.  The greasy medications leaving trails everywhere make me crazy.  On pole days, I'd have to choose between using lotions and medications (which means I won't stick to the pole) or having a good pole (but bad skin) day.

I initially played around with the idea of going gluten-free in 2011.  I remember trying out a gluten-free pizza and it completely hurting my stomach (probably related to the gastric bypass).  I don't think I actually tried very hard and would certainly not say I really tried going gluten-free.

Ellen strongly suggested I go gluten-free when we started working together in 2014.  I wasn't ready.  I promised to just eat less bread (while I was limiting sugar), but I just couldn't be on a "diet" (although I guess cutting sugar was being on a diet...whatever...let's change one thing at a time here...I'm change-resistant).

My psoriasis has been flaring up lately and I recently decided to get back on Stelara (check out that link for "before photos").  Ellen was disappointed that I didn't come to her to talk about potential diet changes before getting back on medication but I was desperate.  However, she did finally talk me into going gluten-free.  I have officially been gluten-free for a whole week and a half, and no one has died, including me!  (I recognize I won't know if it's the Stelara or the diet fixing my skin, but I don't care...I lost three pounds and did notice that my eyelids are suddenly less swollen so I'm going to guess the inflammation is already going down.)

I rarely just buy bread to keep at my house, so that isn't difficult.  It's really what happens when I go out.  For example, when I had a doctor's appointment in San Jose (an hour plus away from my house...more like 2-plus hours when in traffic), I decided to get dinner before heading home.  I used an app on my phone to find a gluten-free pizza place with good reviews.  The pizza was delicious, although it did upset my stomach a little.  I am trying to avoid changing my diet to a "gluten-free processed food filled" diet.  So, really, I'm trying to just be better at what I tried a few years ago -- just eating less food filled with gluten.  However, I won't lie...I get easily overwhelmed when it comes to food so I have picked up some gluten-free raviolis for dinner this week.
Two weeks after first Stelara shot

Gluten seems to be tucked away in so many places.  Soy sauce (a lot of sauces and salad dressings, actually).  Licorice.  Shredded cheese (rolled in flour so it won't stick to the bag).  Some chocolates.  Black Angus uses wheat butter on their steaks.  Going gluten-free isn't just about not eating bread or products containing wheat.  It's checking every label (I'm using a scanner app that will tell me if the foods in the grocery store have gluten in them).  It's knowing all the weird foods that may have something hiding in them.  It's not eating french fries at places that also fry their breaded chicken in the same fryer.

Ellen recently put out a newsletter about gluten:

"The reality is, gluten is unsafe for 100% of humans, 100% of the time. Our digestive systems lack the enzymes necessary to break down the protein structures, which means these large undigested proteins make their way through our systems. As they do, the inflammation created irritates the walls of the small intestine, creating something called intestinal permeability, aka leaky gut."

You can read the rest of that newsletter HERE.

A recent article mentioned a study linking gluten-free diets and Type II diabetes.  You can read that article HERE.  It is unfortunate that they don't mention that the most likely cause of the increase in diabetes would be that gluten-free processed food diet.  When food companies remove things like fat or gluten, they generally replace it with sugar so it will still taste good.  I remember when Weight Watchers did their fat and fiber program, they required you to eat fewer than 10 grams of fat and more than 10 grams of fiber.  What people did was eat a ton of processed "fat-free" sugar-filled food.  I understand it was a disaster and seems to have been a precursor to their points system that now takes calories into consideration.  

As with cutting sugar a few years ago, this has been fairly easy.  I think because Ellen has once again let me come to my own conclusion that I would feel better if I tried this rather than trying to force it on me.  I am trying not to be "that girl" when I'm out at restaurants.  I don't want to ask a bunch of questions about what is in every menu item.  I'm using my app to do a little research before I go and then I'm just making better choices about the food I eat.  As it comes down to...always...just eat more real food!  

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Healing Viking Warrior: Four Months Post-Op

Well, here we are...surgery is four months behind me and I am completely back to all of my activities.  You can read my two month update HERE.

So what does that mean?  I'm back to all yoga classes, pole classes, and I added Tahitian dance (I called it hula in another post but that's not truly accurate).  I am handstand'ing.  I am throwing around babies.  I have a short morning strengthening routine and evening stretch routine that I am shooting to hit 3-5 days per week.  I really feel like I am back to my pre-surgery strength.  In fact, it's past time to start pushing myself at pole to get back to climbing and potentially inverting.

Am I happy with the results?

mmmmmm....yes and no.

Sure, my boobs are lifted and my poor nipples are more even.  But are they $15,000 worth of lift and even-ness?  Are they worth the time off from work and exercise?  Worth the pain and short return to a Vicodin addiction?  Worth the fat tax bill I got stuck with for cashing out a retirement account?  I'm not sure about that (even at my check-up yesterday, the surgeon seemed disappointed that they weren't as high as she had hoped they would be).  I joke with Dave any time he sees them that he better be enjoying his visit to the Maldives because we easily could have taken a nice vacation with that money instead.  But sure, I like them well enough to not be bitter about any of that.

There is some scar tissue building under one breast (left one, so the non-dominant side), and one scar/fold is slightly off from the other (again, left side).  My surgeon is suggesting massage and a slight scar revision, which would cost another $800.  I didn't even ask about the recovery timeline.  It would be under local anesthetic instead of general (she believes I can handle the needle, which means she doesn't know me at all).  But if she's re-cutting, I worry I'd need more time off work and activity.  I have a couple of months to decide.  We will discuss it again at my six month check-up.

The effects of the anesthesia are gone.  I generally spend the first month post-surgery feeling pretty foggy.  I also lose a lot of hair.  I never get bald spots but I can definitely tell my hair is thinner.  Having dark hair makes it seem more dramatic as I can really see my white scalp.  I seem to have stopped losing hair and am hoping it will thicken up over the next few months (it always has in the past).

Anyway, that's the latest update.  Unless I decide to go through with the scar revision, I hopefully shouldn't have anymore recovery updates.  I am feeling pretty damn good -- both physically and mentally.  Now to get off my lazy butt and start climbing that pole consistently.  Any advice for how to make me stop mind-fucking myself into not doing the strength moves would be greatly appreciated!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Stelara Re-Match

Everything in my life seems to run in cycles.  Currently, I'm about to re-visit my relationship with Stelara.  Stelara is a treatment for psoriasis (it is an immuno-suppressant).  Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, wherein your over-active immune system essentially starts attacking you (your skin regenerates every 30 days; however, in spots where I have psoriasis plaques, that is sped up to every three days).  Super short version and probably not completely accurate as the explanation of the disease has changed several times since I was diagnosed as a pre-teen.  Stress is, and always has been, blamed as a common trigger for an outbreak.

I first started Stelara in 2012.  I had tried other biologics (injections), however none worked like Stelara (maybe a post for another day is how this shot costs my insurance almost $20,000).  I enjoyed clear skin for about four years.  Then, as part of trying to heal my liver, I decided to stop taking Stelara.  I just decided I didn't want to take medications if I didn't have to.  Although Stelara specifically didn't include elevated liver enzymes as a potential side effect, other biologics did.  So, I went off Stelara in November 2015.  My skin has stayed fairly clear for the last year+ (you can see an old post with photos HERE).  I'm not sure what changed but suddenly my skin is breaking out again.

I am using topical medications and lotions twice a day.  They are barely doing anything for me.  I'm even using one medication on pole days, which doesn't help me stick to the pole well.  I have become extremely self-conscious about my skin. Normally, I could care less.  Lately, I care a lot.

So, back to Stelara I go.  I sometimes feel like I am choosing this medication to be vain, but these plaques really do affect my quality of life.  I am currently sitting on my couch and seeing pieces of skin all around me.  It's disgusting.  The topical medications leave greasy trails everywhere I have to put my arms down.  I do need to be more careful on this medication, as I am more prone to infection.  Last time my nurse told me her experience was that people didn't get sick more often, they just stay sick a little longer.  So I can do things to take care of myself and lessen the chances of getting sick in the first place.  I have to get a yearly tuberculosis test, as that is apparently easier to pick up.  One very rare, but scary, side effect is cancer.  I feel like I did well on the medication the first round, so hopefully the second round will be fine as well.  My doctor did warn me that some patients do not do as well the second time around, but I have decided that will not be the case for me.  My dermatologist has agreed to monitor my liver enzymes to make sure they don't go up during my time on the medication.

Speaking of my liver...let's re-visit that little gem too.

So last year, my regular doctor told me I was doing to die of fatty liver.  I found out he was full of shit and fired him.  You can read those posts HERE and HERE.  While I will agree that I should be careful with my diet to keep my entire body healthy, I took issue with him trying to push diet pills on me to lose weight.  My liver enzymes have been slightly high for...ever.  There was no proof that taking medication that is probably processed through the liver anyway was going to make me lose weight and guarantee lower liver panels.  Even at my lowest weight after gastric bypass, I was getting calls from my doctor about my high liver enzymes (apparently quick weight loss can actually cause fatty liver, so my surgeon told me not to be concerned).   And a specialist confirmed that I was not the only healthy patient sent to him by my previous doctor with an incorrect diagnosis.  Even without the diagnosis of "nonalcoholic fatty liver disease," I am still trying to be kind to my liver.  I haven't been good to my body in general.  I've spent years eating high sugar, (bad) fatty foods, and I was on the birth control pill for 24 years.

I got my new liver panel results today and was quite pleased to see that despite my recent bout with enjoying alcohol a little too much, my liver is doing quite well.

Date          Weight          AST (10-30)          ALT (6-29)
                                         (Ideal: 22)             (Ideal: 25)

5/03              330                   43                           36
3/13              257                   33                           21
6/14              257                   57                           37
9/14              246                   42                           29
12/14            244                   39                           29
6/15              255                   48                           30
9/15              255                   51                           46
1/16              242                   35                           26
6/16              245                   40                           26
3/17              238                   36                           16

So, as you can see, I will not be dying of fatty liver today. I will, however, continue to monitor my liver and try to take better care of myself so I can continue living the life I was meant to live -- without the annoyance and pain of these skin plaques.