Sunday, December 1, 2013

It's Like Magic!!

I've written a couple of posts about having anemia. What a pain in the neck it's been!! I don't know how long my iron levels were low, but when the blood work came back the doctor said she didn't know how I was able to keep going. (I was really, really anemic.) It got really bad in the few months before I was diagnosed. One of the many difficult aspects had to do with my weight. After losing 40 pounds in 2007, I very successfully kept the weight off for a long time. Recently, hmmm, corresponding to the anemia, perhaps, I found that I would gain weight at the drop of a hat, and then I could NOT lose it again. It was so frustrating!! I kept resolving to cut back, to weigh and measure, to keep a food journal, to go to a nutritionist, to work out more, and NOTHING seemed to work. I failed at everything, especially increasing my work outs, because my body was SCREAMING at me that I needed something I wasn't giving it. I had no energy for work outs. I couldn't get a handle on my portions because my body wanted me to eat more because it was in search of iron. And the scale just kept creeping up. I slowly regained 25 pounds. Seriously discouraging.

But then I went to the doctor. I told her I had no energy and I couldn't lose weight. She said these magic words... "let's do a little digging", and sent me for blood work. I got my diagnosis. After some trial and error (including a round of hives, the worst itch I've ever known in my life, caused by the sulfa in the iron tablets I started out with) I found iron supplements I could handle.

After a few months on the supplements I went back for more blood tests to see how I'm doing and my iron levels have just managed to squeak over the line to normal- hooray!!! Guess what else is happening. No really, guess. Guess, guess!! OK, I'll tell you. I'm losing weight again!!! I'm walking more often and with more vigor. My appetite is more in line with a normal human being's. I can portion control with some success again. I mean, it's still a challenge, don't get me wrong, but it's a challenge I can handle. My body isn't screaming at me anymore!!

It's amazing to me that such a seemingly small thing as how much iron is in my body can make such a huge difference in how I look and feel. And iron, of all things! I've always thought the stereotype of someone anemic was a thin, pale person. Not so much! I'm definitely not pale (I have rosacea, I'm always a little red, and sometimes a lot red depending on the circumstances) and the anemia was making me absolutely hefty.

It's a lesson learned. My mom, a retired nurse, is always fussing that weight is much more than a calories in, calories out kind of deal. She says there must be more to it, and in this case I found that to be oh, so true. While my calories in were definitely too high, and my calories out were too low since I didn't have the energy to exercise properly, (I could barely get through my days at the worst of it) there were driving factors behind it. I had a nutrient deficiency so my body was driving me to eat in order to make up what I was missing. I had cravings (although not for dirt or ice or clay or anything, which I understand is common with anemia) and I felt like I was starving all the time. (I kind of went nuts for peanuts, actually. They have some iron in them, go figure.)

I think that's why a balanced diet is the best diet of all. In the absence of any other medical issues, if you are giving your body what it needs, not in terms of calories but in terms of all of the vitamins and minerals it has to have to function properly, then you should be able to maintain a healthy weight. Michael Pollen sums it up the best for me: "Eat food, mostly plants, not too much". Then, of course, he goes on to define FOOD, which means real stuff, not processed food product that you find in the supermarkets nowadays. If you eat empty calories you will be hungry and you will crave more food due to your body's attempts to get those nutrients, and you will gain weight, which will make it harder to move and burn calories, and so forth. So if you are having trouble with your weight even though you are doing everything you can, have some blood work done and hope for a wonderful doctor who listens to you and says "let's do a little digging".