Yes, it is!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Just Another Mom Diary: Journey Back to Wellness, cont.

Just Another Mom Diary: Journey Back to Wellness, cont.: Now that my sleep apnea is being treated, my energy level has greatly increased. Still, I didn't have enough motivation to return to th...

Journey Back to Wellness, cont.

Now that my sleep apnea is being treated, my energy level has greatly increased. Still, I didn't have enough motivation to return to the gym more than the Monday Zumba class I faithfully attended. That all changed, though, when my friend, Gloria, invited me to join her and a couple other of her friends at a class while all their boys were at basketball practice at the YMCA. I almost decided against it because I just was not feeling at home anymore at the Y. I was considering terminating my membership and looking into another (and more affordable) gym. I didn't usually even go to this particular Y branch and the house we bought last summer was a few miles farther away from the branch I usually went to. So, I really need to give a little credit to Gloria because if wasn't for her inviting me to join her that night for this Body Pump class, I never would have known how much I would like that class. I was hooked from the beginning even though that first class kicked me in the hiney. That was in February. I continued to attend even after Gloria and her friends abandoned me (😁) after their boys were finished with basketball in March.

My birthday was in February and since my husband had no clue what to give me, I told him that I wanted a spa day with a few friends. The spa place I had in mind had several different spa packages listed on their website, including birthday theme. However, when I called to inquire about it, the person working the phone that day had no clue what I was talking about and suggested that I call the next day to talk to another person who would know. I called the next day and talked to that person and she also had no clue about that package, which included a spa lunch. This person said that the spa lunches were NOT included and then she quoted an outrageous price for this supposed package. I know I called the right place because I triple checked the address and phone that was listed on the website. So I decided to forget about that. I was really bummed because this was supposed to be a special birthday and my special trip to Florida to celebrate with my relatives and closest friends was canceled due my husband's special work project that had been previously delayed. I wasn't one to ask for big and expensive things for myself but this year, I really wanted my husband to do something extra special for me.  Finally, a few days after my birthday, I decided that perhaps some personal training sessions would give me the boost I needed to get back into a good gym routine. I asked the hubster about it and he was absolutely cool with the idea.

I signed up for 12 personal training sessions and I began working with the trainer at the beginning of April. I went into this with the primary goal of gaining my strength back and to lose some of the weight that I had gained. I really didn't expect to lose a lot of weight because I just wasn't very confident in myself. I definitely wanted to get toned again, though.

Before I attended my first training session, the trainer told me to start a food journal. She also said she would weigh me every week. I thought that was odd at first because I had never been asked to keep track of what I was consuming. I had worked with a personal trainer several years ago but we really didn't do anything beyond the personal training. That trainer would work me out and that was it until the next time. And she never weighed or measured me. (She really was good for me at that time, though, as I learned to enjoy becoming fit and I became stronger.)

So, this food journal and weekly weigh-in idea was new to me. But, I was determined to get back into shape no matter what it took. I started to keep track of everything I consumed. The trainer, Tammy, also encouraged me to be aware of the sugar content of what I was eating and drinking. Even though I was buying what I thought were healthy choices, I soon discovered that I was consuming a lot of sugar and carbs. Since I have lactose intolerance, I was buying coconut milk ice cream and an organic sorbet instead of regular ice cream. It turns out that those items have a very high amount of sugar per serving. My favorite organic granola bars also have a high amount of sugar. That food journal really was a great idea!  As soon as I realized how much sugar I was eating, I quit buying those so-called healthier foods. Not only did I cut back on the sugar consumption, I also cut back on the carbs. It was not easy in the beginning. Those first 2 weeks had me questioning if I could even do this. I felt like like throwing in the towel at one point. I even got mad at the hubster when he brought home a dozen donuts (my weakness) soon after I started my new journey. I wanted to cry. Actually, I did cry one day because I was so frustrated that I was craving sugar so badly but I also wanted to get back into shape and get healthy again. My weigh-in the next week at my second training session gave me the boost I needed to keep fighting against the addiction to sugar. By the end of the second week, I realized that my craving for sugary foods was decreasing and on top of that, my desire for carbs was almost gone. I now understand what people mean when they say that sugar addiction is like a drug addiction. My body went through withdrawal from sugar.  Keeping that food journal made a huge difference and kept me accountable.  I am now eating clean at least 80%, if not more. It feels so good, too.

In addition to the personal training, Tammy encouraged me to consider attending a variety of the other group exercise classes offered at the Y. I soon added to my repertoire of classes. I was becoming stronger and the weight was coming off. I was feeling more and more encouraged each week as I weighed in with Tammy. I still enjoy Zumba but my new favorite classes are PiYo and Body Pump. I recently took a step class and was immediately hooked.

Tammy is a fantastic trainer. She's a great listener and encourager.  She has helped me to meet new friends at that Y. She has shown a true interest in me, not only as a client but as a friend, too. She has also inspired me to consider renewing my AFAA certification so I can teach exercise classes. My new friends at the Y have also been very kind toward me and have encouraged me as they can see how much I've changed just in the last nearly 3 months.

I am so thankful that I did not terminate my gym membership at the Y. I really believe that if I had quit the Y and joined another gym, I would not be where I am today. Would another trainer have had me keep a food journal so that I could see exactly what I was consuming? Would they have been as encouraging, yet challenging, as my current trainer? I don't know. I do know that the timing of how everything fell into place was perfect. If I didn't have my sleep apnea treated, I wouldn't have had the energy to join Gloria at that very first Body Pump class. If I had not attended that class with Gloria, I probably would have never tried it and known how much I really like it. If I had not liked that class so much, I probably would never have signed up for personal training and my poor husband would still be wracking his brains trying to figure out what to give me as a birthday gift.

Since all of this began, I feel like I have a new outlook on life now. I'm sleeping better, I'm eating better, I have energy to do more things with my kids. I feel healthier. I feel like I have a little family among my new friends, friends who don't care if I don't fit a particular mold. (I'm really missing them a lot right now as I'm in Florida for several weeks.)

The best part of this journey, so far? The loss of 25 pounds since my last physical in December. I have to admit that I'm amazed at the difference. I'm determined to continue the clean eating lifestyle and working out. My next goal is to renew my AFAA and teach my 2 favorite groups of people, the special needs and the senior populations.

June, 2015:

One year later, June 2016:

Wow! You can see my eyes again!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Journey Back to Wellness

I'll be writing about my latest journey to wellness in the next couple-few posts.

During the past few years, I started to struggle with different health symptoms and issues. However, I didn't seek help for far too long because I was too busy taking care of everyone else and frankly, I was plain scared that something very serious was going on in my body. Until a few years ago,  I was fairly healthy and fit until I just slowly began to lose motivation and energy. My gym time greatly decreased and I slowly began gaining weight.

The past couple of years were very difficult for me in more ways than one.  In addition to some very stressful situations (I'll write about in future posts), I felt like my physical health was declining more than ever. My panic attacks increased in intensity, I had very little energy, I was having difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep. When I did fall asleep, I constantly woke up gasping for air which led to increased anxiety about sleeping. Other symptoms I was experiencing included racing heart, swollen limbs and heavy feeling in my legs upon awakening, daytime fatigue, chest tightness, dizziness, weight gain, and more. My reflux was also getting worse. I was starting to become afraid that my children would wake up one morning to find me unresponsive. Still, I kept a lot of this to myself mostly out of fear.  Occasionally, Tim would comment that he was worried about me but I would just tell him that I was fine.

Last July, I made a quick trip to Florida to be with my cousins after my aunt died. Thanks to a very noisy hotel overnight on my way to Florida, I was unable to sleep and by the time I arrived at my mother-in-law's house, I had gone nearly 36 hours without adequate sleep. Amazingly, I didn't feel very tired even after arriving at my destination. On the way back to Illinois a few days later, however, it was a different story. I had a very scary near incident that made me realize that I seriously needed to seek help. I was already north of Atlanta and making good time to stop at a friend's house outside of Chattanooga when I suddenly felt my body going to sleep. I had never fallen asleep at the wheel before and now I can relate to how quickly this can occur. I got off at the very next exit to get out and walk around a few minutes. I also got something to eat since I had neglected to do so earlier when I had stopped to let the kids eat lunch. Within 20 minutes, I felt refreshed enough to finish the drive to my friend's house safely.  Despite all of that and realizing the danger that I had potentially put my children in, it still took me another several weeks to seek help.

After consulting with my primary physician, he agreed that I definitely needed to see a sleep doctor for a sleep study.  After receiving my referral to a sleep doctor, I had to wait a couple months before my appointment time arrived.  When that day came, I really didn't expect to receive much help. I had been diagnosed with sleep apnea many years ago but was told that it wasn't bad enough to treat. My expectation was so wrong about this latest appointment because the doctor I saw actually listened to every concern I shared. He treated me with great respect and compassion and he truly seemed to appreciate my desire (and need) for help.  I left that office feeling encouraged. I was surprised at how quickly I was scheduled for a sleep study considering that I had to wait a couple of months for my initial consultation.

The night of the sleep study arrived and although I had followed all the instructions to avoid any food and drink containing caffeine, avoid daytime naps, no sleep aids,etc., I had extreme difficulty falling asleep. I had wires attached all over me so that didn't help matters. I actually fell asleep for a few minutes around 10:30 (early for me!) but woke up soon after because I had to pee. As tired as I was, I could not get back to sleep. The lab technicians were so kind and asked me if there was anything they could do to help me fall asleep.  I finally suggested some sort of relaxation music and they allowed me to turn my phone on to find a YouTube page with relaxing music. It took awhile for me to fall asleep but I finally did so sometime between 2:30 and 3:00 am.

I received a phone almost a week later that I needed to go back for a second study, this time with a cpap machine. Although I didn't think I slept well enough for any data to be collected at the first study, they apparently collected enough to diagnose me with moderate sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. I was actually shocked at the latter diagnosis. Also, my oxygen saturation was going below 70%.  No wonder I was waking up feeling awful nearly every morning for the past several years! This second study was to determine what pressure should be set on the machine that I would eventually receive.

I received my cpap machine toward the end of December and I have been faithful to use it every night.  Sometimes, I wake up and the mask is not on my face but the respiratory therapist assured me that this sometimes happens even with those who gave been using a machine for years. Within a couple of weeks, I could feel a significant improvement. I was finally sleeping soundly without waking multiple times gasping for air or to use the bathroom. I was waking up feeling more rested. The discomfort I was experiencing every morning previously was disappearing. The daytime fatigue was not as frequent. My reflux symptoms even improved greatly. Before my sleep study, I had considered dropping out of Masterworks Chorale because I was beginning to feel like my voice was starting to be affected by all the symptoms I had been experiencing. But within weeks after treating the sleep apnea with the cpap, I felt like my voice was improving again, with better control, and I was starting to reach the higher notes again as before.  Best of all was my increased energy level. It probably took longer to fully regain my energy than anything else but I am now back at the gym and working out on a regular basis again. I still sometimes struggle to fall asleep but once I'm asleep, I usually stay asleep.

I can't neglect to touch on the restless leg syndrome. When I went for my follow-up in March, I saw the PA who ordered a complete iron panel. When I saw the doctor the next month in April, he was very pleased to see how much better I felt. He also explained how I was iron deficient and that he believed that was the root cause of the restless leg. He offered a couple of treatment options. I chose the more conservative option which was to take a prescribed iron supplement. I'll have another iron panel in August along with another follow-up with the doctor. I'm hoping for an improvement as I really don't want to go with the other option which involves taking a medication that is prescribed to Parkinson's patients, although in a much smaller dose.

Since my energy has come back, as I mentioned above, I have jumped back on the wagon at the gym. And let me tell you, the changes are dramatic and I hope to keep it that way. It involves not only fitness but a completely new dietary lifestyle. I'll share about that in another post.

I'll conclude this post by saying it's amazing what a difference a cpap and adequate sleep has made in my life.  For those who are dealing with significant sleep issues, I strongly urge you to seek help NOW.  Untreated sleep apnea can lead to heart disease and/or premature death. I recently underwent heart ultrasound and month-long heart monitoring. I'm waiting on final results but I'm believing that all is well. God knows my husband is not equipped to raise our children alone. 😊