Thursday, May 4, 2017

8th Annual Lovely Rita Fundraiser

The Milli Vanilli of Pole returned with an original piece for Twirly Girls' 8th Annual Lovely Rita Fundraiser to benefit the National Kidney Foundation.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Psoriasis and Gluten

I was diagnosed with psoriasis when I was around 12 years old.  I remember being given a list of foods I shouldn't eat -- essentially it was anything gluten or sugar filled.  Anything delicious.  I don't really remember my diet changing at that point.  I wasn't really in charge of what I was eating.

Even though auto-immune diseases affect you on the inside, really -- with psoriasis -- it's the outside that usually bothers us the most.  The dry skin everywhere is embarrassing (and can be painful, especially when the weather is super dry and it cracks).  Seeing my red arms in the mirror during Tahitian dance class would always make me feel self-conscious.  The greasy medications leaving trails everywhere make me crazy.  On pole days, I'd have to choose between using lotions and medications (which means I won't stick to the pole) or having a good pole (but bad skin) day.

I initially played around with the idea of going gluten-free in 2011.  I remember trying out a gluten-free pizza and it completely hurting my stomach (probably related to the gastric bypass).  I don't think I actually tried very hard and would certainly not say I really tried going gluten-free.

Ellen strongly suggested I go gluten-free when we started working together in 2014.  I wasn't ready.  I promised to just eat less bread (while I was limiting sugar), but I just couldn't be on a "diet" (although I guess cutting sugar was being on a diet...whatever...let's change one thing at a time here...I'm change-resistant).

My psoriasis has been flaring up lately and I recently decided to get back on Stelara (check out that link for "before photos").  Ellen was disappointed that I didn't come to her to talk about potential diet changes before getting back on medication but I was desperate.  However, she did finally talk me into going gluten-free.  I have officially been gluten-free for a whole week and a half, and no one has died, including me!  (I recognize I won't know if it's the Stelara or the diet fixing my skin, but I don't care...I lost three pounds and did notice that my eyelids are suddenly less swollen so I'm going to guess the inflammation is already going down.)

I rarely just buy bread to keep at my house, so that isn't difficult.  It's really what happens when I go out.  For example, when I had a doctor's appointment in San Jose (an hour plus away from my house...more like 2-plus hours when in traffic), I decided to get dinner before heading home.  I used an app on my phone to find a gluten-free pizza place with good reviews.  The pizza was delicious, although it did upset my stomach a little.  I am trying to avoid changing my diet to a "gluten-free processed food filled" diet.  So, really, I'm trying to just be better at what I tried a few years ago -- just eating less food filled with gluten.  However, I won't lie...I get easily overwhelmed when it comes to food so I have picked up some gluten-free raviolis for dinner this week.
Two weeks after first Stelara shot

Gluten seems to be tucked away in so many places.  Soy sauce (a lot of sauces and salad dressings, actually).  Licorice.  Shredded cheese (rolled in flour so it won't stick to the bag).  Some chocolates.  Black Angus uses wheat butter on their steaks.  Going gluten-free isn't just about not eating bread or products containing wheat.  It's checking every label (I'm using a scanner app that will tell me if the foods in the grocery store have gluten in them).  It's knowing all the weird foods that may have something hiding in them.  It's not eating french fries at places that also fry their breaded chicken in the same fryer.

Ellen recently put out a newsletter about gluten:

"The reality is, gluten is unsafe for 100% of humans, 100% of the time. Our digestive systems lack the enzymes necessary to break down the protein structures, which means these large undigested proteins make their way through our systems. As they do, the inflammation created irritates the walls of the small intestine, creating something called intestinal permeability, aka leaky gut."

You can read the rest of that newsletter HERE.

A recent article mentioned a study linking gluten-free diets and Type II diabetes.  You can read that article HERE.  It is unfortunate that they don't mention that the most likely cause of the increase in diabetes would be that gluten-free processed food diet.  When food companies remove things like fat or gluten, they generally replace it with sugar so it will still taste good.  I remember when Weight Watchers did their fat and fiber program, they required you to eat fewer than 10 grams of fat and more than 10 grams of fiber.  What people did was eat a ton of processed "fat-free" sugar-filled food.  I understand it was a disaster and seems to have been a precursor to their points system that now takes calories into consideration.  

As with cutting sugar a few years ago, this has been fairly easy.  I think because Ellen has once again let me come to my own conclusion that I would feel better if I tried this rather than trying to force it on me.  I am trying not to be "that girl" when I'm out at restaurants.  I don't want to ask a bunch of questions about what is in every menu item.  I'm using my app to do a little research before I go and then I'm just making better choices about the food I eat.  As it comes down to...always...just eat more real food!  

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Healing Viking Warrior: Four Months Post-Op

Well, here we is four months behind me and I am completely back to all of my activities.  You can read my two month update HERE.

So what does that mean?  I'm back to all yoga classes, pole classes, and I added Tahitian dance (I called it hula in another post but that's not truly accurate).  I am handstand'ing.  I am throwing around babies.  I have a short morning strengthening routine and evening stretch routine that I am shooting to hit 3-5 days per week.  I really feel like I am back to my pre-surgery strength.  In fact, it's past time to start pushing myself at pole to get back to climbing and potentially inverting.

Am I happy with the results?

mmmmmm....yes and no.

Sure, my boobs are lifted and my poor nipples are more even.  But are they $15,000 worth of lift and even-ness?  Are they worth the time off from work and exercise?  Worth the pain and short return to a Vicodin addiction?  Worth the fat tax bill I got stuck with for cashing out a retirement account?  I'm not sure about that (even at my check-up yesterday, the surgeon seemed disappointed that they weren't as high as she had hoped they would be).  I joke with Dave any time he sees them that he better be enjoying his visit to the Maldives because we easily could have taken a nice vacation with that money instead.  But sure, I like them well enough to not be bitter about any of that.

There is some scar tissue building under one breast (left one, so the non-dominant side), and one scar/fold is slightly off from the other (again, left side).  My surgeon is suggesting massage and a slight scar revision, which would cost another $800.  I didn't even ask about the recovery timeline.  It would be under local anesthetic instead of general (she believes I can handle the needle, which means she doesn't know me at all).  But if she's re-cutting, I worry I'd need more time off work and activity.  I have a couple of months to decide.  We will discuss it again at my six month check-up.

The effects of the anesthesia are gone.  I generally spend the first month post-surgery feeling pretty foggy.  I also lose a lot of hair.  I never get bald spots but I can definitely tell my hair is thinner.  Having dark hair makes it seem more dramatic as I can really see my white scalp.  I seem to have stopped losing hair and am hoping it will thicken up over the next few months (it always has in the past).

Anyway, that's the latest update.  Unless I decide to go through with the scar revision, I hopefully shouldn't have anymore recovery updates.  I am feeling pretty damn good -- both physically and mentally.  Now to get off my lazy butt and start climbing that pole consistently.  Any advice for how to make me stop mind-fucking myself into not doing the strength moves would be greatly appreciated!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Stelara Re-Match

Everything in my life seems to run in cycles.  Currently, I'm about to re-visit my relationship with Stelara.  Stelara is a treatment for psoriasis (it is an immuno-suppressant).  Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, wherein your over-active immune system essentially starts attacking you (your skin regenerates every 30 days; however, in spots where I have psoriasis plaques, that is sped up to every three days).  Super short version and probably not completely accurate as the explanation of the disease has changed several times since I was diagnosed as a pre-teen.  Stress is, and always has been, blamed as a common trigger for an outbreak.

I first started Stelara in 2012.  I had tried other biologics (injections), however none worked like Stelara (maybe a post for another day is how this shot costs my insurance almost $20,000).  I enjoyed clear skin for about four years.  Then, as part of trying to heal my liver, I decided to stop taking Stelara.  I just decided I didn't want to take medications if I didn't have to.  Although Stelara specifically didn't include elevated liver enzymes as a potential side effect, other biologics did.  So, I went off Stelara in November 2015.  My skin has stayed fairly clear for the last year+ (you can see an old post with photos HERE).  I'm not sure what changed but suddenly my skin is breaking out again.

I am using topical medications and lotions twice a day.  They are barely doing anything for me.  I'm even using one medication on pole days, which doesn't help me stick to the pole well.  I have become extremely self-conscious about my skin. Normally, I could care less.  Lately, I care a lot.

So, back to Stelara I go.  I sometimes feel like I am choosing this medication to be vain, but these plaques really do affect my quality of life.  I am currently sitting on my couch and seeing pieces of skin all around me.  It's disgusting.  The topical medications leave greasy trails everywhere I have to put my arms down.  I do need to be more careful on this medication, as I am more prone to infection.  Last time my nurse told me her experience was that people didn't get sick more often, they just stay sick a little longer.  So I can do things to take care of myself and lessen the chances of getting sick in the first place.  I have to get a yearly tuberculosis test, as that is apparently easier to pick up.  One very rare, but scary, side effect is cancer.  I feel like I did well on the medication the first round, so hopefully the second round will be fine as well.  My doctor did warn me that some patients do not do as well the second time around, but I have decided that will not be the case for me.  My dermatologist has agreed to monitor my liver enzymes to make sure they don't go up during my time on the medication.

Speaking of my liver...let's re-visit that little gem too.

So last year, my regular doctor told me I was doing to die of fatty liver.  I found out he was full of shit and fired him.  You can read those posts HERE and HERE.  While I will agree that I should be careful with my diet to keep my entire body healthy, I took issue with him trying to push diet pills on me to lose weight.  My liver enzymes have been slightly high for...ever.  There was no proof that taking medication that is probably processed through the liver anyway was going to make me lose weight and guarantee lower liver panels.  Even at my lowest weight after gastric bypass, I was getting calls from my doctor about my high liver enzymes (apparently quick weight loss can actually cause fatty liver, so my surgeon told me not to be concerned).   And a specialist confirmed that I was not the only healthy patient sent to him by my previous doctor with an incorrect diagnosis.  Even without the diagnosis of "nonalcoholic fatty liver disease," I am still trying to be kind to my liver.  I haven't been good to my body in general.  I've spent years eating high sugar, (bad) fatty foods, and I was on the birth control pill for 24 years.

I got my new liver panel results today and was quite pleased to see that despite my recent bout with enjoying alcohol a little too much, my liver is doing quite well.

Date          Weight          AST (10-30)          ALT (6-29)
                                         (Ideal: 22)             (Ideal: 25)

5/03              330                   43                           36
3/13              257                   33                           21
6/14              257                   57                           37
9/14              246                   42                           29
12/14            244                   39                           29
6/15              255                   48                           30
9/15              255                   51                           46
1/16              242                   35                           26
6/16              245                   40                           26
3/17              238                   36                           16

So, as you can see, I will not be dying of fatty liver today. I will, however, continue to monitor my liver and try to take better care of myself so I can continue living the life I was meant to live -- without the annoyance and pain of these skin plaques. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

My 13th New-Birthday

On this date (St. Patrick's Day), 13 years ago, I was under a shit ton of anesthesia, having my insides completely rearranged -- all to be skinny.  Unlucky number 13.  The number 13 has such a bad reputation.  I mean, some hotels don't have a 13th floor, as if the 14th floor can't figure out they are still getting screwed?!  I refuse to give it that much evil power.  In numerology, the number 13 is about purification.  Although it symbolizes death, it is also about passing on to a higher level of existence.  I feel like this 13th year is actually going to be a great year -- as I have been learning about myself and growing as a person -- I hope to continue that trend for the foreseeable future.

I have been going through old blogs to prepare for this one, and it was funny re-watching myself transform from pro-surgery to pro-what-the-fuck-did-I-do-to-myself.  I almost skipped writing again this year to commemorate my new-birthday.  I am still in a weird place. 

This surgery changed me completely.  I had gastric bypass surgery to lose weight and "be healthy."  I was told that if I didn't lose weight, I would die a fat death of all the fat diseases.  So, at 27, I went under the knife to "save my life."  So, isn't it interesting that most of my health problems are now related to the malabsorption from the surgery?  I've gone over this a million times in other blogs, so I won't rehash it much here.  (You can read about my surgery HERE and vitamins HERE.)
Addiction transfer has become a very real problem in my life.  I've started to see a trend, mostly switching between food and spending money (you can read my latest blog about that HERE).  (THIS blog also touches on the addiction aspect, as well as the body image issues.)  They said this surgery would fix me.  Why am I not fixed?  I guess the first step is to say I was never broken in the first place.  It takes a lot of energy to be broken.  I feel a lot less anxiety now that I've decided I'm not broken and never was.  Sure, I still deal with some anxiety, but I can usually trace that back to eating too much sugar, or PMS'ing.  Sure, I have some things about myself that I would like to change, but I'm not a broken human being.  I wake up every day to go to a job I enjoy, I am surrounded by a good group of friends and family.  I have enough money to do fun things.  As I love to say, my life doesn't suck. 


Back to those old blogs.  HERE is my six year update.  I was still very much pro-surgery and weight loss.  I was rambling about needing to get my cardio in to lose weight.  I'm sure I was counting calories.  Not much changed the next year.  I gathered up all my old posts about surgery.  You can read the seven year update HERE.  My eight year update from 2012 can be found HERE.  I was still battling my weight.  Still unhappy.  That is the year I went to the job from hell in San Francisco (in October).  My nine year update is HERE.  I really hated that job and I was starting to have issues with plantar fasciitis (bone spurs in the feet, most likely from calcium deficiency due to the surgery).  I was gaining weight from being unhappy, eating crap food in San Francisco, and not exercising as much.  My favorite lunch was a grilled cheese sandwich with macaroni in the middle of it...with a cookie on the side!  Divine.  Plus, I was picking up cupcakes from the Cupkates truck at least once a week.  I feel like year ten was a turning point for me.  You can tell a little in the blog post (which you can read HERE), but leaving that job was the first step in changing my life into the life I wanted.  I skipped year 11, but my 12th anniversary post is HERE.  I'm on the right path.  Finally.  In February 2015, I got the job I have now -- a job I really enjoy with people I like.  I had started working with Ellen in 2014 to make myself healthier and was continuing to make changes (you can read a post about that HERE).  In August 2015, I got out of a relationship that wasn't working for me.  Years 11 and 12 were big years in the emotional health and personal growth departments.  Nothing like waiting until you're 40 to get it figured out! 

Nude Artista in 2017 with Roz the Diva
So, let's get back to this 13th surgiversary thing.  I'm in a good place.  I won't lie.  I'd still like to lose a few more pounds, but I'm not obsessing over it.  Please don't ask me to explain why I still want to be thinner, when I've just spent a ton of time explaining that thinner doesn't mean happier.  I just do. 
I feel like I lay out all of my emotions on this blog more often than not.  Is anyone sick of my emo shit yet?!  I appreciate the outlet, but I do have a lot more fun than it probably seems.  My weight doesn't define me.  I do look forward to continuing to grow into a person who doesn't just say she has no fucks to give about what people think about her body, but actually does have no fucks to give.  Here's to a year of no fucks!  Wait.  That didn't come out right.  Here's to a year of being more awesome, having more fun, and loving the life that I have!  But let's have plenty of fuc...well, you know what I mean. 


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Artista Apparel: Who's That Girl?!

I have proudly joined Artista Apparel (formerly Artista Active Wear) as an ambassador again this year.  Please check out my bio on their site!

Don't forget, if you shop on their site, use ABALM10 for 10% off at checkout!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My New Addiction

A few months back, I had a conversation with a therapist who is well-versed in weight loss surgery and the issues that come along with using food as your coping mechanism.  I was slightly frustrated and complaining that I was the only person in my family who got this "raw deal."  No one else is a fat ass who wants to eat 24/7.  He said, "not so fast..."  He told me to think about my siblings and whether they deal with addiction in their own way.  Sure, no one is an alcoholic, however, I guess some could make the argument that one brother loves video games a little too much and the other spends a little too much on lotto scratchers.  That being said (when someone reads this and runs to them to tattle on me), I don't really think they have a problem.  Like me, they have their vices (or, as I like to look at it, something they enjoy doing that other people like to give them shit about), but we all get up every day and go to work and support ourselves (and, in their cases, their families).  However, the argument could be made that we use those items to escape something...whatever "something" is. 

Here we go again...

After gastric bypass in 2004, I lost my coping mechanism.  Food, glorious food.  They don't show you how to deal with yourself after weight loss surgery.  They just tell you that your stomach is the problem and once they cut it out, you'll lose the weight and live happily ever after.  Sure, they say all the right things: "this is a tool, and it is up to you to use it wisely..."  But they don't actually show you how to do that.  And most people spend the rest of their lives still living in diet mode.  That was the one thing I didn't want.  I just wanted to wake up one fucking day and not have food be the center of my universe.  I mean, I have to eat, right?  We all do in order to live.  It's not like a drug from which you can completely walk away.  What's the Overeater's Anonymous saying?  Something about drug addiction being like a tiger you can cage.  But when your drug of choice is food, you have to take it out and walk it three times a day.  

Once my stomach was chopped out, my drug of choice changed.  Sometimes shopping.  Sometimes sugar.  Sometimes sex.  Sometimes prescription drugs.  Usually I would realize what was happening and reel myself in.  I often noticed, though, that my pants would get a little tight if I didn't have access to one of my vices.  That being said, I also never actively picked up one vice in order to avoid another.  For instance, I never said, "hey I noticed I'm gaining a few pounds, so maybe I should start taking Vicodin and pull out the credit card in order to lose them."  Hopefully that makes sense.  My mind just naturally and fluidly moved from one vice to the next as I engaged in restrictive behaviors. 

My life has been pretty sweet lately.  Honestly, ever since I got out of my relationship almost a year and a half ago, and left my stressful job almost two years ago, I've been in a really good place.  My weight is down almost 30 pounds from my highest post-surgery weight about three years ago.  I haven't put myself into credit card debt.  I had access to Percocet post-breast lift surgery in November, and although I milked it a little bit, I have weaned myself off now.  In short, I'm good.

So, why am I drinking so much alcohol? 

I'm not drinking every day, but I am probably going out with friends and binging heavily at least once a week.  That's a lot for someone who used to drink maybe one drink once a quarter.  (I did go through a "drinking phase" in 2009 after I met Rob, but that's because our mutual friends were bar flies and we were just out in the bars four or five nights a week.)  This is the first time I think maybe I am using alcohol as my crutch.  And I really don't know why.  That's the thing, though, right?  If I had a handle on why I did any of this stuff, I probably wouldn't do it anymore.  Certainly, I'm not complaining, as I am appreciative of my recent weight loss and the fact that I'm not in debt.  However, I recognize that my liver only recently got a clean bill of health, and I should be protecting that at all costs.  An old friend of mine who is about the same age, had gastric bypass after me, and struggled with alcoholism just DIED waiting for a new liver.  I need to take this more seriously. 

I started watching the TV show, "This Is Us" recently.  It follows a family with triplets.  One of the girls is extremely overweight.  Some of the stuff she does on the show is triggering for me.  So sometimes I kind of stop paying attention if I think the dumb shit she's doing is going to bother me.  Today at lunch, I went home to watch the latest episode.  The show began on episode one revolving heavily around the birthdate of the triplets (which is also father's birthday).  I never knew what that date was.  Until today -- and it's my birthday.  August 31.  I don't know why that made me sit up and take notice.  In this episode, the fat girl goes to fat camp.  And I'm watching her struggle -- and I have to assume the actress herself struggles with this shit because that look on her face is fucking real.  And I'm distancing myself from her.  She's fatter than I was.  She's more obsessed with calories and dieting than I was.  She has way more issues than I ever did.  And I watched all of her issues bubble up and suddenly I felt like I got punched in the chest.  I started sobbing uncontrollably.  I don't fucking cry over television shows.  Apparently I need to deal with some issues.  I'm still processing what upset me but I'm sure it has to do with the flashbacks to her childhood. 

I guess I'm not here to offer answers to anyone struggling with the same issues post-weight loss surgery.  I'm just acknowledging that surgery doesn't fix our brains and staying on top of our issues is a lifelong commitment.  I'm coming up on 13 years out from my gastric bypass, and I'm still dealing.  Two friends have independently brought up the alcohol consumption to me, however, and if they are worried, I need to address it. 

I don't want to say I'm going to stop drinking -- seems like such addict behavior.  But I think I can easily return to just have a casual single drink once a month or so.  I'm using yoga and meditation to keep my head in the right place and help me deal with issues as they arise.  But I really would love to wake up one day and not have this be the theme of my life.  Until then...I keep sharing my stories with you and I always appreciate the comments and messages, as it lets me know I'm not alone...and neither are you.