An Update and a Non-Update

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Hi All, I’m stopping by for a quick update.  I have some good news to share about Operation Up Scale…a week into calorie counting I’ve gained a pound.  Yay!  I haven’t loved eating all those extra calories.  There were plenty of times this past week where I had to take a deep breath and force myself to finish those last few bites, but I did it.  I’m relieved the weight is returning and I’m hoping within the next month I might be back to my target weight.

I wish I could give you an update on Operation Lace Up, but alas, I cannot.  The very same day I posted that I was working on these goals again, I got sick. It was Saturday and my throat hurt so bad I headed into the clinic at my doctor’s office to have a strep test.  Other CFers may understand what I mean when I say I was really, really hoping it was strep.  I know, that sounds crazy, right? The thing is, strep is easy to cure with a few days of antibiotics.  The alternative, a virus, is much harder for my body because there are no medications available to give me a hand.

But…it wasn’t strep.  My doctor sent me home with strict instructions to rest and sleep and drink a lot of fluids.  She warned me that the viruses she had been seeing were starting out with sore throats and sinus issues and landing in the chest three or four days in. She said that they were hitting [otherwise healthy] people hard. You can imagine the trepidation I felt at hearing those words!  Please, not a repeat of December!

About 24 hours into the virus I noticed a few key differences. First of all, I never got a fever.  Second, my appetite wasn’t nearly as affected as it usually is when I get sick.  My throat hurt like crazy, my sinuses weren’t great and I was very tired, but that’s it.

I’m six days in now and feeling decent, almost normal. I’m still more tired than usual and am trying to be careful about my energy.  Because of that, I haven’t been on the treadmill since last Friday, hence no update on Operation Lace Up.  I’m hoping to feel strong enough to get back to it this weekend.

Although that goal was temporarily sidelined I’m feeling extremely encouraged and so very grateful that I didn’t get too sick with this virus or require medical intervention.  As Lucas would say, Hoooorayyyy!!

Hooray!!

Hooray!!

Things are looking up around here! (Get it?)

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Operation Up Scale and Lace Up…Take Two

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As you know if you’ve been following along, I’ve been struggling with my health these past few months.  I’ve lost weight and I haven’t been consistent with exercise since I got sick in December.  This week I decided it was time to get back on the scale and back on the treadmill.  It was time to see exactly what I was dealing with and start working my way back to “normal” again.

Well, sadly, it looks like in both areas I’m back to square one.

[Gasp], Not square one!!

[Gasp], Not square one!!

Yes, square one.  *Sigh.  I have lost all of the 5-6 pounds I gained during “Operation Up Scale” last spring and summer. This is not terribly surprising. I need to consume more calories than the average person simply because I burn more calories breathing and talking and walking around because of the strain cystic fibrosis puts on my body.  I also am unable to absorb all the nutrients in my food. Because of both of these factors, when I get sick (and I’ve had both a respiratory illness and the stomach flu these past two months), I am unable to come close to meeting my body’s calorie demands, and the weight falls off rather quickly.

When I stepped back on the treadmill, I found that I could only walk at 3.5 miles per hour for 25 minutes which totaled 1.5 miles. Right before I got sick in December, I was jogging 2 miles in 25 minutes (at about 4.7 miles per hour) thanks to “Operation Lace Up“.  This big drop confirmed what I have been feeling, that my lungs are struggling.  Even when I started my modified couch to 5K program last July, I was able to start running and walking at 4 miles per hour.  Upon reflection, I realized that at that time, I had a much higher base level of fitness.  With the nice spring and summer weather, I had spent several months outside playing with Lucas and had logged many miles of walking by pushing him in his stroller to the parks, to the bus stop, to Jaime’s office and the local museums. This time I’m getting off the couch for real.  (Hmmm, the couch. So much more comfy than the treadmill.)

Now I’d like to tell you that these setbacks didn’t faze me but the truth is, I was pretty discouraged and upset at first, especially about the exercise. It took me several conversations with my husband, and several conversations with God to find peace with it. It’s hard when you work hard to achieve something and then have to start over due to circumstances outside of your control. On one hand, cystic fibrosis makes these falls harder and faster than they would otherwise be, and the journey back to health is longer and more difficult. But on the other hand, this is just life and these types of setbacks happen to everyone. So after about 18 hours of feeling disheartened and dealing with those negative voices telling me I’d probably never get back to my previous level of fitness and health, I screwed up my courage and got to work.

First I got back on MyFitnessPal and started tracking my calories.  I set my goal at 3200 calories again but cut myself a little bit of slack this week.  I’m still not feeling 100% so my appetite is reduced.  I did notice that I was able to get closer to my goal each day and yesterday I finally hit the target.

I got back on the treadmill the very next day, and the day after that, and the day after that.  I was even able to push up my speed to 3.7 (baby steps).  When I did Operation Lace Up last summer, I only worked out three times per week, but I think this time I’m going to try to walk almost every day.  Because my activity level is so much lower due to this freezing cold and snowy winter, walking more is the only way I can get the base level of fitness I’m going to need if I want to try the running again.  I’ve decided just to focus on walking for a few weeks and once that gets easier, I’ll try that modified couch to 5K again and hopefully work back up to running the two miles.

So!  Here we are, Operation Up Scale and Operation Lace Up, take two.  Hopefully the shock and dismay I felt at being back at square one will turn to joy…

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and laughter…

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when I meet these two goals again.  (I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…)

Operation Lace Up

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I’m happy to report that Operation Up Scale is completed!  Surprisingly, after plateauing for a few weeks, I gained the extra pound and another half pound to boot!  It’s time to start working on my next goal, Operation Lace Up.

I mentioned in a previous post that I used to jog but I haven’t for several years because of pregnancy, childbirth, and general lack of extra energy due to caring for my active boy.  I am feeling strong right now and am ready to give some planned exercise a try.  I’m going into this realistically, however, and if I need to pull back because it’s too much, I’m willing to do that.

There are several reasons why I want to get back into exercising.  Exercise is good for everyone, but it is especially good for CF patients.  It is one of the few things that can actually increase lung capacity.  It also strengthens the body and the immune system.  A strong body means extra endurance for the challenges associated with cystic fibrosis.  And exercise is a natural way to clear the airways of excess congestion.

Exercise is also good for bone density.  People with CF are prone to osteoporosis and osteopenia.  This is because nutrition, lung disease and bone health are related.  If a CF patient has poor nutrition due to malabsorption or low appetite, the body does not get sufficient vitamins and minerals which are essential for strong bones.  Lung infections cause inflammation which can also lead to bone loss.  Sometimes CFers are inactive for periods due to illness and this weakens both muscles and bones.  If that weren’t enough, some common CF medications such as steroids and appetite stimulants cause bone loss.

When I first started thinking about exercise I was considering doing a Couch to 5K program.  However, after careful consideration I’ve decided that running three miles is not necessary for me.  Before my pregnancy I was running and my fastest pace was a 13 minute mile.  In other words, it will take me nearly 40 minutes to run a 5K once I work up to it, and that’s too much time and energy to devote to running right now.  My doctor has stressed in the past that 20 minutes of consistent aerobic exercise will give me all the benefits I listed above.  I don’t need to do more than that.  I don’t want to have to cut back on all the activities I do with Lucas just so I can run a 5K.

I’ve decided my goal will be to run two miles, about 25 minutes of jogging for me.  I found a Couch to 5K program online and am using it as a guide to help me get started, but I’ll be stopping at the two mile mark.  It combines jogging and walking.  At first you walk more and as the program proceeds the ratio changes until you’re only jogging.  If the pace is manageable, it will take me about six weeks to work up to running two miles.

Lucas picked out some awesome pink running shoes for me for my birthday.  He was very excited to give them to me.  He will be happy to see my wear them.

imageI’m ready to lace them up and hit the road!  This is going to be very difficult for me.  I know that.  When I get discouraged I’m going to glance down at my bright feet and think about my boys.  I’ll remember how much they love me, how much I love them, and remind myself that many worthwhile things in life don’t come easy.

Operation Up Scale Update (and the zoo)

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Things are going well with Operation Up Scale.  I’ve gained four pounds which is just a pound shy of where I’d like to be.  I’m having a difficult time getting that last pound on and I suspect I will have to add even more calories to my daily intake if I want to gain it.  My body seems to be resisting more weight and it’s hard to know how much to push.  I feel comfortable at my current weight, I just wanted a little extra cushion 😉 because I’m hoping to add focused exercise into my life soon.  I often drop some weight when I start a new exercise routine.  But 3200 calories a day is about all I can stomach :).  Okay, enough with the puns!

It also seems that in order to maintain this higher weight, I will have to continue eating this much.  I’ve been at my current weight for several weeks now in spite of the higher calorie intake.  Between my CF needs and active days caring for my boys, I must be burning lots of calories.  I get tired of eating, and I’m not thrilled about continuing at this rate, but if this is what my body requires, I just need to do it.

The calorie counting (made tolerable by MyFitnessPal) has caused this process of gaining weight to be so much easier than it ever was in the past.  It has kept me on target.  And it has shown me some of my shortcomings when it comes to getting enough food.  For example, last week we went to the zoo.  We had a great time!

Lucas liked the fake animals almost as much as the real ones!

Lucas liked the fake animals almost as much as the real ones!

Elephants!

Elephants!

Lunch Break!

Lunch Break

Flamingos!

Flamingos!

I ate a good breakfast before we left.  I packed a decent lunch.  But a zoo trip takes a lot of energy!  I pushed Lucas around in the stroller.  I lifted him up to see various animals.  I chased him around on the playground.  And we walked a lot (we clocked it later and it was nearly two miles) to see all the exhibits.  It was also very hot and humid at the zoo (a big appetite killer for me) so in spite of all that activity, I didn’t feel like snacking.  I ate a good dinner but not a high calorie one.  I had an event in the evening, and when I got home I realized I hadn’t inputted any calories for the day.  When I finally did, I was almost 1000 behind my goal!  Thank goodness for Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups; there’s 200 calories in just three.  With those and a few other (healthier) high calorie choices, I was able to make up the difference before bed.

This type of deficit is common for me if I’m not mindful because we are out and about a lot.  If I don’t pack plenty of snacks, I don’t get the calories I need.  I’m working on being better about making time to take care of my own needs before leaving the house, not just Lucas’s.  I never forget his snacks, but I forget mine quite regularly.  So next time we are out, whether we are at the zoo, a museum, the park, a play date, or the pool, I’m bringing along my peanut butter cups!  And maybe some other snacks too.

Operation Up Scale – Calorie Counting

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I’m a little over a week into my quest to gain some weight and things are going pretty well.  I mentioned in my first Up Scale post that I have to count calories in order put on weight.  I hate counting calories.  However, I found something that has made it so much easier!  A friend of mine told me about MyFitnessPal (http://www.myfitnesspal.com/), a free online tool and smartphone application that tracks calories and exercise.  Most people use it to lose weight, but it is possible to adjust the settings in order to make a weight gain goal.  I added a target number of calories I wanted to consume each day and I was on my way.

It’s a really cool app.  I can scan bar codes off a package with my phone and the nutrition information will come up.  From there I can edit the serving size and it modifies the calories for me.  I can also search the database for foods that don’t come with bar codes like fruits and vegetables, and all the nutrition info is added in.  I can input recipes that I make regularly and it calculates the calories for each serving.  Each day, I simply enter what I eat under breakfast, lunch, dinner,  and snacks.  It deducts the calories consumed from my target amount of calories, and even adjusts for exercise.

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It shows me what percentage of my calories are consumed in carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. I can also see some of the major vitamins and minerals.

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I found out that I wasn’t always getting the recommended daily amount of sodium (adjusted for the higher calorie intake) which is especially problematic for me since I need extra salt.  This is because when a CF patient sweats, the sodium and chloride (salt) that carries water to the surface of the skin are not reabsorbed into the body like they should be (this is part of the basic defect), so I lose lots of salt, especially during the hot weather months.  In fact, you can actually see grains of salt sitting on my skin on the hottest summer days.  Low salt levels lead to weakness, dehydration, and other problems so it’s important for me to be aware of how much I’m getting.

With the help of this application I’ve been able to consume roughly 3200 calories each day for about 10 days running now.  I’m not going to lie, I’m sick of eating.  (Anyone else out there lose their appetite in hot weather?)  But I have gained more than a pound already which is motivating.  I’m happy to be on my way, and thrilled to have found a way to make it easier!

 

The Most Important Meal of the Day

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Eating nutritious foods is one of the ways I try to maintain my health.  I’ve made a lot of changes to my diet over the past several months and it has helped tremendously.  I haven’t seen any improvement in my lung function tests, but I have noticed positive changes in my energy level, the amount of congestion I wrestle with every day, and my ability to fight off infections.  I only got sick once this past winter and was able to completely avoid several colds my boys brought home.  That’s notable!

This study of diet came out of a frustrating situation.  You see, as cystic fibrosis progresses, bacteria colonizes in the lungs.  That means that even if I’m not sick, there is always bacteria present in my lungs.  Sometimes it just sits there relatively quietly, contributing to inflammation but not making me acutely ill.  Other times it flares up and causes acute symptoms, perhaps because I got a virus or sometimes for an unknown reason.

There are inhaled antibiotics that are used routinely to keep this colonized bacteria under control.  They are helpful because they go straight to the source of the problem.  Unfortunately, I have tried them all and cannot tolerate any of them due to my asthma (they cause wheezing, chest tightness, and lung irritation).  Out of frustration Jaime started researching natural remedies and we found there are a lot of foods out there that can help with my specific issues: inflammation, bacteria, and the need for a strong immune system.  Eating healthy was not new to me; I was raised eating all kinds of fresh and healthy foods, but the idea that I could eat certain foods to address my specific issues was new and exciting!

As I mentioned before, I cut dairy out of my diet due its links to asthma and congestion.  Then we started looking for foods that would help with immunity, inflammation and bacteria and were surprised to find many great options! I won’t write about all the foods I eat in this post, but let me tell you about my breakfast.

imageI try to eat this dish several times a week, and here’s what’s in it: coconut oil, eggs, kale, red cabbage, mushrooms, freshly grated turmeric root, chia seeds, freshly ground black pepper, and quinoa.  Here is how these foods help my body:

Eggs are high in vitamins, protein, and healthy fats.  They help me keep my weight up.

Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, helps with nutrient absorption, is anti-microbial (kills a variety of disease-causing bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites), and helps stabilize blood sugar.  (According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 43% of adults with CF over the age of 30 develop cystic fibrosis related diabetes.  I don’t currently have diabetes but I did have gestational diabetes during my pregnancy and am careful to eat foods that keep my blood sugar stable).

Kale is very high in vitamins A, C, and K.  Getting a lot of vitamins A and K is especially important for me because they are fat soluble, meaning they need fat in order to be soaked up by the body.  CF patients tend to be deficient in them because we have trouble absorbing fats.  Kale is also high in antioxidants which boost immunity.  I’ve even read that it reduces the amount of mucus in the lungs!

Red cabbage boosts immunity, is anti-microbial, and antibacterial.  In fact, it has been shown to kill the bacteria Staphylococcus (both regular Staph and Methicillian resistant Staph), and Pseudomonas.  Both Staph and Pseudomonas common CF colonizers.  Red cabbage is also effective against the fungus Aspergillus which can live in the airways of CFers. Red cabbage improves digestion and is high in vitamin C.  (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3171003/)

Mushrooms boost the immune system, increase white blood cell count to aid in fighting infection, have antibiotic properties,  and stimulate the appetite.

Chia seeds are have high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids (to keep me smart 😉 ), are high in protein, have high levels of antioxidants to boost immunity, are easily digestible, and stabilize blood sugar.

Black pepper aids with digestion, reduces congestion, is anti-inflammatory, and has antibacterial properties.

Turmeric root is a powerful antioxidant, is antibacterial, and is anti-inflammatory.

Quinoa is high in calories and in nutrients.  It has a lot of protein and a good amount of vitamins.  It aids with digestion and stabilizes blood sugar.

I’ll be writing more about diet and foods in upcoming posts.  I’m still reading and learning about it and adjusting my diet to meet my needs.  I got a lot of personalized help from my friend Erin who is studying to be a dietician and is a wealth of information.  Check out her blog here:

http://20somethingholisticliving.blogspot.com/

Jaime found a blog called “CF and Healthy,” and reading that blog was what prompted this whole study.  There is a lot of CF specific diet information and links to news articles which are very interesting:

http://cfandhealthy.blogspot.com

I admit, preparing these kinds of foods takes time.  It’s a lot more work than pouring milk on a bowl of cereal.  But I’m feeling stronger and healthier, and that makes it well worth the effort.  Health, it’s what’s for breakfast!