Meds and Weight Gain: Thought Experiment (Hopefully)

Hey guys! I didn’t post results last week because I’m maintaining now. In the future. Forever. Henceforth posting “Yep, staying the same!” every week is probably off.

That being said….something has come up to disrupt my flow. Sort of.

As I’ve mentioned a few times in the past, I suffer from chronic migraines, have since I was in my early 20s. I’ve tried dozens of preventative regimens, I know my triggers, I have an army of pharmaceutical soldiers for when they strike, and yet still they plague me. Recently I met with my doctor yet again about on-going skirmishes in this battle and she recommended we try a new/different preventative medication, which my neurologist could prescribe.

To say I was hesitant is an understatement. All of the other things I’ve tried I had to discontinue due to being a special snowflake side effects that made continuing either dangerous or very uncomfortable, ranging from “blacking out in the bathroom for 2-3 minutes and scaring the hell out of my husband with concomitant ambulance trip and ER visit” to “suicidal ideation” to “weird bone and joint pain.”

But. That tantalizing possibility of less pain hanging around out there makes me willing to try…just…one…more…time. So I’m crossing my fingers and hoping we only have to keep trying these drugs with off-label migraine uses until they come up with something specifically for migraines, and my hopes and fears are currently fixated on the CGRP drugs currently in human testing, making them a year or two away from being approved. But until then…

I started the new drug on Friday last week. So far I haven’t had any real problems, no depression, passing out, weird pains – so far so good. One weird thing though, that may or may not be related, is that my weight shot up about 4 pounds since I started and nothing else in my diet or exercise program has changed. That’s a thing I pay attention to. So far we’re still in “swing range” for my body, but since I weigh every day I know that to go up, up, up without any down motion over a 5 day period is not normal for my body.

That’s where the thought experiment comes in. What if weight gain is a side effect for me on this drug? So far it’s only a few pounds, but what if it continues? Obviously I can’t tell yet whether it is preventing migraines because I’ve only been on it for 5 days so far, but let’s say for the purpose of argument that it DOES work and suddenly I no longer have to get 1-3 migraines a week.

For that, yes, absolutely, 4 pounds, no problem here. Happy to trade it.

But what if this is only the beginning? How would I feel if it was 10 or 20 pounds, or, god forbid, 30 or more? What’s the cutoff to the amount I’m willing to accept for an absence of that chronic, debilitating pain? At what point do I shut it down and go back to regular migraines, and declare this yet another loser to side effect bingo?

I have to take into account how central weight management has been to me and how hard I’ve worked for it the last 13 years. Am I willing to trade all that for a reduction in agony? How much of a mental hurdle will that be for me, to know that for as long as I want to experience a pain-free existence, I’d have to maintain a weight that makes me unhappy.

I don’t have any of the answers yet, and a lot of it will depend on 1) how well this drug works vs 2) how much weight we’re talking about here. But it’s probably something I should figure out, if the results I’m seeing on my scale are going to continue in an upwards trajectory.

Yes Before No

There are so many theories and ideas out there about how to eat or not eat to manage weight. I like to go with what I call “Yes Before No.” Basically, I have a list of “yes” foods that I can eat any time I want, as much as I want, without restriction. And I have a set of characteristics that make foods “no” foods, but they’re not forbidden.

A lot of diets, or at least, a lot of the old-school diets I grew up with in the 80s and 90s, give you a big list of Nos. For example, “No cookies, no candy, no baked goods, no dessert, no potatoes, no fat, no sugar, no life, no fun.”

Jesus, who wants to sign up for a big list of forbidden things? Nobody. All that’s going to happen if you give me that list is I’m going to fixate on all those things I can’t have and then they’ll be the things I crave desperately on hard days and can’t wait to get finished with the program so I can go binge on them. That’s counter-productive.

How about a list of things I can have? In fact, how about a list of things that I can not only have, but I’m required to meet a minimum? Here’s my yes list:

  • Fruits – any kind
  • Veggies – any kind

I can have as much as I want of all the fruits and veggies in the world. In order to not get bored, I can find new recipes and experiment with as many different kinds of fruits and veggies as exist at my local market. In fact, I am required to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day (but for me a day when I only eat 5 servings is extremely rare, I usually average around 8-10 per day).

A serving is one medium-sized piece of fruit, or a cup of veggies (leafy greens like lettuce or spinach are more like 3 cups when raw though).

I can eat as much as I want though! I don’t have to restrict myself whatsoever, and most of the time I don’t measure anything if I’m eating fruits and veggies. Why bother? More is better – my only restriction is a minimum, not a maximum! That’s how I get through things like parties and barbecues – I graze all day long on fruits and veggies, so I’m never hungry and I can munch away like a normal person.

Now that I’ve shown you my yes list, here’s what’s characteristic for a no: Stuff that’s highly processed, deep fried, or wouldn’t be recognizable as food to my ancestors. But it’s not a “No Forever.” It’s a soft no. The real no for me is: No eating other stuff until I’ve had something on my yes list first. I know I have to eat a minimum off my yes list, so if I’m feeling a craving for something that’s not so great for me, first I need to find out if it’s actual hunger, or just a passing craving based on an emotional fluctuation (like with chocolate when I’m down). After I’ve eaten some fruit or veggies, I can have the thing. Most of the time I don’t want it then.

Food is fuel, so I try to eat the things that fuel my body in the most constructive way. I know the things that are going to make me feel sluggish and bad, and a good way for me to avoid them is to stick with my yes list first. Maybe this is something that will work for you – focus on eating more of the good stuff you can have, without feeling deprived right off the bat by setting up a big list of things you can’t have. Set a goal that’s a minimum, not a list of don’ts.

Also maybe bring less of the non-supportive food into the house. It should take effort to sabotage yourself.

Weekly Results and a New Thing: Crossover Drills

I went to three parties this weekend – two barbecues and a pool party, so naturally I didn’t expect to lose anything this week. I did, however, follow the plan I laid out on Friday, sticking to fruits and veggies and lean protein, eating before, avoiding alcohol, and exercising each morning.

I wish I could say that I avoid alcohol in an effort to maintain my weight, because if that were the case then I could occasionally plan to indulge. No, after years of experimentation and trial, it’s become clear that one of the fastest, most pervasive migraine triggers for me is alcohol of any kind. I can perform a complicated pharmaceutical regimen occasionally if I feel an event is worth it, which allows me to drink without an immediate migraine, however I can’t use it too often, and it doesn’t always work. So it’s mostly not worth it.

I’ve been thinking, lately, about how to engage more of my leg muscles when I run. Mostly running uses the muscles on the front and back of your thighs. But there are also muscles along the inside and outside of your thighs, and those don’t get nearly as much work duringĀ  a run (they get some, I know because if I stop for a while then restart they are sore). So I started experimenting with crossover drills. Basically, I pick a block with evenly spaced trees, and I go from one tree to the next leading with my right side, then at the next tree I switch over and lead with my left side, so I’m moving facing sideways instead of facing forward.

I can do about 3 sets of those per run, because man they are hard! They really take it out of me – both the physical movement, which is new, and the mental effort required to do it without tripping myself! Also it’s fun and I think I look like a Srs Bzns Athlete when I do it. Even though I’m just doing it going down the sidewalk and the only ones who see me are oblivious cars passing on the road.

Oh, this week I was down .4, almost a half pound (missed it by a tenth). I didn’t expect to be down at all, what with all the socializing and festive eating (which I mostly didn’t partake of) over the long weekend, and my home scale hovering in the same general region all week as if I’d plateaued. Four-tenths of a pound is well within the margin of error, but I suppose if the margin keeps moving slowly downward that’s good for me. Total loss since March 25th is 13.6. I don’t want to do any of the things that might move the needle down any faster, because I’m right at the threshold now of where I might start to enjoy my life less were I to do those things, and I’m not willing to decrease my happiness for faster weight loss. This has to be sustainable.

BBQ Weekend Ahoy!

Yes! Three day weekend coming into view! Let’s do this!

Everybody, remember to:

  • Eat before you head to the parties and don’t arrive starving!
  • Bring something supportive to throw on the grill – like veggie skewers, lean protein, or even fruit – BBQed pineapple FTW!
  • Drink non-caloric beverages to stay hydrated – alcohol isn’t your friend, just an acquaintance with bad ideas!
  • Get your workout out of the way first thing in the morning before the partying begins!
  • Keep your hands busy – take pictures, or play with the dog!
  • Hang out where you can’t even see the food table!

We can do this! We’ll get through without shooting a hole in our long-term goals! Keep your eye on the prize! And…GO!

Results: I don’t even know what week now

I’ve lost track on this current push to lose 20 pounds. There were two weeks that I was on vacation that I’m not counting because I wasn’t tracking, then I think I’ve been back three or four weeks? The day after I got back I was up 3.2 pounds, the next week after that trip I was down 5, then the next week I was up 2.8, then this week I was down 3.4 pounds.

As I mentioned last week, things are kind of up in the air right now with big changes happening in my life, and last week was an absolute emotional roller coaster that still hasn’t coasted to a stop. I spent most of last week and the week before with a giant knot of stress and worry in my belly. I was not in the least surprised to be up 2.8 pounds last Monday due to the anxiety hormones my body was producing. I’ve heard anecdotally that stress makes the body hang onto water, or something. Plus my birthday was that week and I had some champagne and a cupcake.

Anyway, I think maybe I should stop tracking weeks and weekly change and just track total against my goal. So far I’m down 13.2 pounds – loss continues! My loss rate is slowing as I approach my goal, but also I’m not killing myself with calorie restriction and over-exercising, so I’m not expecting a fast loss. I now have 6.8 pounds to go to my goal. I don’t think I look any different, however my clothes fit again and that is win enough for me – that’s honestly the major thing I wanted out of this!

Looking back through my posts, I started the current push on March 25th, so it’s basically been three months or twelve weeks. That’s a pretty slow rate of loss, but who cares? For something I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life, it’s more important that I find and establish a routine that I can stick to and that is adaptable to different situations – travel, weekends, holidays, regular ol’ workdays. When I set up a system that is flexible enough to stick with despite big changes and many different types of days, then all I need to do is live and my body will do what it is supposed to do, and be where I want it to be.

Yesterday I needed a quick workout because I didn’t have much time, and I found this Cardio Bootcamp Boogie workout from my favorite YouTube trainer – 25 minutes, can be done in very little space, and intense enough that my clothes were soaked through by the end. Check it out if you need a quick travel workout (or just some inspiration at home)!

FitBit Flex – Review

I got myself a FitBit Flex a few weeks ago because I won a gift card to a sporting goods shop. So, I don’t have any particular investment in the outcome here as it cost me nothing. But having worn it for a few weeks, I can give you my review:

They shouldn’t call it a FitBit, they should call it a StepBit, because that’s the only kind of fitness activity it is capable of registering. Walking, hiking, and running are great forms of exercise, however many people who work on weight management every day (like me) have a whole lot more in their universe of physical activity than just step-based exercise. For example, that 60 minutes of yoga/pilates fusion that produced rivers of sweat and shaking limbs? Not registered as active minutes. The 40 minutes of metabolic training from which I was sore for three days after? No active minutes. Lifting weights? Nada. An hour-long bike ride? Not recognized. Swimming? Can’t register, not waterproof.

An active person, engaging in a wide variety of exercise adventures, doesn’t need a FitBit, and in fact will only find it frustrating and disappointing.

The only other tracking available with the Flex is the sleep tracking (all other tracking it claims to offer are things you have to input yourself via the app – I don’t need a FitBit for that). While interesting, it’s not telling me anything I don’t already know – when I have a restless night I know it because I wake up feeling tired. Having the FitBit nag me because I only got 6 hours 18 minutes sleep and was restless or awake 32 times isn’t really actionable information.

My husband has had one for a few months longer than me and I asked him how he felt about it. He said he liked it for the silent alarm in the morning so he could get up without waking me. And that otherwise it was only good for sating slight curiosity about how many steps/miles he took in a day. But the miles calculation is only approximate, so that’s not particularly awesome either.

All in all, for anybody who is already accustomed to tracking their fitness life using another method, like I am, or does a variety of exercise regularly, I can’t say I’d recommend a FitBit Flex. For me, it’s not adding anything I didn’t already know or suspect, and the activity it’s incapable of measuring is a significant portion of my regular routine. Would not purchase again.

However, if your only form of exercise is step-based and you think counting them each day might help you challenge yourself to walk more, then maybe? Mine was about $70. I know there are models with more capabilities, but I haven’t used those so I can’t speak to whether or not they’ve figured out how to detect other activity.

Please Stand By…

I was doing great posting lots of updates before but I’m having some big changes right now and not much to report on the weight management front.

The big news is that I gave notice at my day job and my last day will be July 1st. That’s going to be a huge change to everything – my routine, my livelihood, my identity. You name it, it’s changing. Well, I mean, my husband and I are not moving or breaking up or anything, but my job has been a big part of who I am and how I see myself ever since I started working. I’m planning to take some time off and figure out what’s next. And if I want to keep working in tech or do something completely different.

But, a new chapter is coming soon. Two more weeks, then I will need to figure out what’s next.

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