Monday, May 12, 2014

Successful Weight Loss Experience and Performance Boost

I have not written in a while, life has been very busy, interesting and exciting, so I owe my readers a recap of the past 12 months. Since my last post, in a nutshell, I quit my job, started a business, lost 14 pounds, PRed at the 24 Hour Event as well as my 100 mile PR in a split in the 24 hour event. Most important of all, I am feeling so much better, happier and I have so much more energy.

Now for the Who, What, How, Why, Where, and When of all this.

Changes in Health Care: While I enjoyed certain things about my nursing job, namely, working with the patients, nursing is an extremely stressful profession. Add many of the changes that health care is undergoing in this country, and the trend toward corporate mergers and huge health care conglomerates and their profit-focus, and it becomes even worse for those who do the actual work in the trenches, serving the public. All the money is being siphoned off directly to the top.

This is something you might want to keep in mind when you do go to a physician. Many of them are no longer in independent practices, they are being bought up and controlled by these huge so-called "health care" companies. Physicians are among the employees who do the work in the trenches, and their employers' profit focus also forces them to modify the way they see patients.

Additionally, the increasing use of the electronic health record, while advantageous for information sharing, has been co-opted by a multitude of regulations that essentially have changed the primary focus of the practitioner's time to documentation. It is very difficult to focus on the patient and a face-to-face conversation when there is this computer that demands input that can eat up to 80 percent of the nurse or physician's time.

Finally, some of the political maneuvers happening in my local hospital were apparent to me, and I wasn't going anywhere. I wanted to work with patients and make a positive difference in their lives for wellness, and that just wasn't going to happen inside of that box. It's not a good time to be in health care, at least not in the corporate world of so-called "health care". So I made a decision to take things into my own hands and move on.

Stress Reduction: As soon as I got out I felt better. I had gained a lot of weight, I was up to 132 pounds from 112 in 2007. I was drinking a couple of beers daily. I was running, but I felt horrible doing it, all the weight was a load on my body and mind. I had been eating too much, mostly just stress-related eating, not paying attention to portions, eating comfort foods (I have a weakness for ice cream), eating too many restaurant meals, and in general, just not doing well.

I strained my hamstring sometime in May or June of 2013. I believe it was a couple of weeks after a disappointing performance at a 24 hour race in Cleveland. I wasn't recovered and I continued to run for stress relief. I signed up for two marathons and a few 5Ks in the 6 weeks following the Cleveland race, and felt horrible, and somewhere along the way acquired this nagging hamstring strain that would not go away.

I ended up missing several races I had signed up for in the fall, most disappointing of all was the 24 hour national championships. But in retrospect, I wouldn't have been in very good condition anyway, so I'm glad I didn't go from a performance standpoint.

Once I quit the job my sleep improved dramatically, too. While working at the hospital I had been waking up during the night unable to go back to sleep, I was having hot flashes, and I felt tired during the day. I felt irritable and it was hard to focus or think clearly. My patience with everything was wearing thin. As soon as I quit, the tension melted away and I slept through the night most nights. That led to a much clearer mental focus and ability during the day.

Increased Activity: Having more available time and more energy from sleeping, I began to increase my physical activity to about two hours per day. it wasn't all running. First I needed to heal the hamstring. I took some time off, did some pool running and swimming, and spent time on the bike, which I mounted on a trainer over the winter in my living room. I was doing a lot of studying for some certifications for my new line of work, so I would sit on the bike and spin and ready my study materials. As of the first of the year my hamstring was much better and I began training for the spring racing season.

At the beginning of the year I also changed my diet dramatically, with the intention of dropping the weight I had gained in recent years. I was thoroughly disgusted and sick of carrying around weight, having a belly, having to go up in clothing sizes, and how it felt to be carrying a lead brick around with me while running. My TSH at the beginning of all this, by the way, was 1.0, with Free T4 and Free T3 at about the same place in their respective lab ranges.

One of my patients had told me about a new book that had helped her lose weight, and I am not usually one to pay any attention whatsoever to diets or popular fads. This particular book emphasized a lot of activity, and that alone made it more credible. I decided to check it out. Here's the information if you want to. State of Slim. 2013. Hill, James O. and Wyatt, Holly R. Rodale Press. ISBN 978-1-60961-491-1

I read it cover to cover and found it extremely well-done and credible. I think there are a lot of very good points in the book and good information that can be taken and applied to your own habits. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who has a hard time with moderation or needs to avoid too much protein. The diet is quite heavy on the protein so if you have kidney issues or some other reason to avoid a lot of protein, it isn't for you.

It is broken down into phases: I, II, and III. I never formally got to phase III because I just incorporated my new changes into my regular (healthy) diet. Phase I, I did do religiously, and stuck pretty close to Phase II.

Besides the increased physical activity (keep in mind that I had not been doing typical ultra training for quite some time and I was not working out the way I normally do at the time I was reading this book)I found the following guidelines most helpful to me personally:

Portion Control and Keeping Track: I wrote down every thing I ate for about the first 6 weeks. It helped me track how much I was eating and how often. It kept me on track and was a reminder throughout the day that it was time to eat, and I could see what I'd already eaten and it helped me think of what else I could eat- more veggies, different recipes.

Eliminate Sugars and Most grain-based carbs: Within the first two weeks Phase I has you completely eliminate grain based carbs with the exception of oatmeal. There is no fruit in Phase I, either, and this helps you reduce both your sugar intake and consequently, your sugar cravings. Most of your carbohydrates come from vegetables. The emphasis on vegetables is another thing I liked about it.

Eat Frequent Small Meals: I ate 5 or 6 small meals a day. Each meal or snack contained a small amount of protein. I believe this frequency of eating was the single biggest contributor to my success, because I never was hungry, never had cravings, and sometimes it was hard to get to that 6th meal. It felt like I was eating all the time.

New Ideas: I came up with a lot of new, easy, quick, creative ideas for snacks and meals that were healthy and helped me stay away from those sugar cravings. There were some very helpful ideas regarding convenient foods without sugar. I love the powdered peanut butter, that has become a staple for me. I also am now addicted to their pumpkin chili recipe.

I was able to stick to Phase I very easily because it did eliminate the source of my problem: craving sugar. Eating sugar makes you crave more. The blood sugar spikes and crashes are eliminated if you simply eat a small amount of food with protein every couple of hours. I did not cheat at all in the two weeks of Phase I. The hardest thing for me to give up was beer. When you get to phase II you are allowed to have a "cheat" meal once a week. The thing I wanted was not something sugary or sweet, but a beer.

I was able to train intensely and the only thing I eliminated at first were the gels from my training run fuel. I ate some almonds but tried to stick to real food for my runs. I was in phase II by the time I started doing long runs, so I never had a problem fueling myself. I eventually added the gels back in. I also took sweet potatoes with me, and tried to avoid doing gels unless absolutely necessary. Even though the gels are sugary, I used them only while running and they never seemed to cause cravings.

I had a lot more energy all the time and was surprised, during my long runs I didn't seem to need as much fuel.

Does it last? Can you keep the weight off? I've always felt that two weeks is a good time frame for changing a habit, and that seemed to hold in this case too. Within two weeks I felt confident that I wasn't going to relapse.

I lost 7 pounds in the first two weeks, then quickly dropped another 3, until after two months I had lost 14 pounds. I weighed in at 118 a couple of weeks before my race, right before I started my taper. I did slack off a bit in the month leading up to my 24 hour race but I weighed in at 121 pounds a couple of days after the race. I slacked off really bad this past week following my race and I can already feel how bad sugar and overeating makes me feel. So I'm back to phase I to clean out the system again as I finish my rest and go into my summer training for the fall racing season.

I am pleased to say that I have proven to myself that it is possible to lose weight, eliminating the stress was the number one thing that made it easier. But sticking to a tightly regulated intake for a few weeks to re-establish healthy eating patterns, changing the things you eat and eliminating all those sugars and carbs, and getting enough physical activity, are the other parts of it.

Nothing we haven't heard before, but actually taking those principles and applying them in a disciplined manner and allowing them to play out, really worked. It did for me.

Running performance-wise, I ran 11 miles further in 24 hours and improved my 100 mile time by 2 1/2 hours. Earlier this spring I also ran my fastest 50 mile time in about 10 years. And, I turned 50 in March, so age is no excuse.

I'm not saying that State of Slim is the magic bullet, it has it's flaws, it does take a lot of planning, and it's not convenient for people with busy schedules, but it definitely has some good take home points, great ideas, and recipes. I highly recommend READING it.


  1. It's interesting that you have pursued eliminating sugar, extra carbsfrom your diet. I, too, have been heading in this direction. Thanks for suggesting this book - I will check it out. Another book I am going to read is the "21 Day Sugar Detox" by Diane Sanfillipo. It looks healthy and realistic, too. A great recipe for a snack on the run is for Cocoa Kissed Chia Energy Bombs. Just do a google search for them and the recipe is on Natural Noshing. Healthy and very good! The recipe does use honey or agave so not sure if that is allowed for a diet that is mostly sans sugar. Glad to hear you are feeling very well!

  2. Thanks for the tip, Kathleen! I hope you are doing well these days.

  3. Thank you SO much for this blog... I've just read your thyroid story and almost wanted to cry because "I am not losing it, then"!!! I am a ---well, I WAS --- an ultra runner as well and have been feeling ...well... you know how, I could have written your post;It's been going on (and off) for so long now, and I have been trying to ignore it, mostly blaming myself for being "lazy" and not being able to get up in the morning ... let along run as i used to!So I didn0t voice how I was feeling because i was feeling "whiney" and ashamed... But, turns out I'm not "mentally tired" (my husband) or "running too much!" (my husband, the world ahah), in fact I have just discovered my TSH levels are high and don't know where (literally) go from here; I kept hearing the "of course you're tired you run so much" answer and comment for so long I am afraid I can eep having this kind of reaction;we're runners, we know what is "normal" for us but non runners don't understand... and I am glad results shows I am not, indeed, going crazy (I was put on anti depressants, as well!!) as I want my old self back; reading about your experience gave me hope! Though I am scared about finding a good doctor which is so hard --especially over here (Italy!)... Well, I wish you the best,sorry for the long comment and thank you so much for sharing your experience!!

  4. Luna, thank you for writing and I am glad my experience has given you hope. The important thing is to believe in yourself and trust what you instinctively KNOW, and then find a doctor who will listen to you. I don't know what it's like in Italy but just keep trying until you get what you need. Please let me know how it goes. It can be a long road but now that you know what's wrong, you are on your way to getting better. Be persistent! Best, Alene

  5. Thank you so much Alene!I was able to get an appointment with and endo for next week, meanwhile got my T4 levels tested and they're low, but antibodies look ok... Will see how it goes!Will let you know!Thank you again :-)

  6. Great news Luna, did they test your T3? Just curious. Glad you'll see the endo, hopefully the endo will do a complete thyroid workup and you'll be on your way to feeling better. Remember, when dealing with the doctors, that it is about YOU feeling like yourself again, about having the energy to enjoy the things you like to do, and feeling good. Don't settle for less.

  7. My story is similar to yours, though I'm not a runner. I have hashimotos and take both synthroid and cytomel. My thyroid was removed about six years ago as it never stabilized in size and had several nodules. My weight and energy has never been the same. Anyhow, I've been looking into the State of Slim lifestyle and was wondering if you adjusted anything for timing with your meds or anything you found difficult pertaining to thyroid issues.

    1. I did not have to adjust anything with timing of medications for myself and the only thing I would add is that the exercise part of State of Slim is a huge part of it. Without doing the physical activity it will not be as effective. The thing about State of Slim is that it is a very high protein diet so keep that in mind if you have any health conditions that require you to restrict protein.

  8. Hi There -

    So glad I stumbled on your blog. I am newly diagnosed hypothyroidism. I start medication (synthroid) Monday. I am curious if you've run across any links between hypo and stress fractures. I run and have had 3 tibial stress fractures (in same spot) over the last 2 years. Before that I hadn't had any. I've been feeling crappy in general for 2 years (which I now see is hypothyroidism - depression, emotional, weight gain, dry scalp, brain fog). I've found a couple references to thyroid imbalance being a risk factor for stress fractures and/or inhibiting their proper healing. Would love to know your thoughts.

    1. Cindi, I haven't seen any recent links between hypothyroidism and stress fractures, however I will tell you my thoughts. (warning what I am about to say is not evidence based, just my educated guess). Do you know if your hypothyroidism is due to Hashimoto's thyroiditis? Sometimes people with Hashi's can have periods of hyperthyroidism, which certainly could contribute to bone loss. However, even if the fractures are unrelated to your thyroid condition, being hypothyroid certainly could impair healing. Also, if your thyroid is not functioning correctly, the thyroid makes another hormone called calcitonin which is involved in calcium regulation...if you are deficient in calcitonin or blood calcium, then it could be a thyroid issue. My short answer is, though I don't know for sure, I think they are probably related.


Please feel free to leave a comment. Sharing your experience can help someone else who feels they are alone! (Note: I do not endorse anyone's product. ALL attempts to sell a product WILL BE DELETED- don't waste your time!)