As those of you who read my blog know, I just got back from a womens-only stage race. The racing was great, and I've hashed it over and over for all to re-live. As I said, the positive energy was really special, and it made for an event that I'll remember always. However, there are a few things that happened that made me go hmmmmm and I decided to record them for all posterity.
Now, for the record, I work with mostly all men. I am not used to hanging out with large groups of women for long periods of time. I observed that hanging out with super-fit women made me very self consious about my weight! Now, I have a long history with weight, due to a very serious case of Hashimoto's hypothyroidism. I was always the skinny kid who could eat anything and never gain weight. Unfortunately for my social status, I was also not blessed in the bosom department...something that now I find completely fine, but when I was 16 was not so great. But, I could eat and eat and never gain a pound. I was very active, ran cross-country, track, spent lots of time exercising my dogs, etc, and weight was something I never thought about. The 'fat kid' in my mind was someone who didn't take care of themself.
This all changed when I was in graduate school. My husband (rather new at the time) had a very very serious medical condition which transformed my role from student to student/caretaker, which threw me for a serious loop! All of a sudden my time was entirely consumed by things I would never have imagined. My progress on my experiments slowed, and I became exhausted. Even after the issues subsided, all of a sudden I found myself exhausted all of the time. I would come home from work, and fall asleep on the couch, unable to do even the simplest things like run the dog, cook dinner, etc. It all seemed to take so much energy! And although I continued to eat the same, I gained about 20 pounds.
This continued for like the next 6 years! I graduated, got a great job at UCSB, moved across the country, started a new life, and still had these nagging issues with weight and energy. Even with unhealthy amounts of caffeinated beverages, I could not stay awake for a 4-5pm seminar, or even drive home some days! I thought I was just working too hard, trying to establish my research program and show dogs on the weekends. I thought i was pushing hard, and pushing hard is the lifestyle I like! Thankfully when I turned 30 I had some bloodwork done, and my doctor called me the day the results were in. This is how the conversation went:
Doc: How are you feeling?
Me: Fine, tired.
Doc: You need more blood tests
Me: What's wrong with me?
Doc: Don't know yet, go get more blood tests. Are you sure you can drive yourself to the hospital?
Me: Yes, I've been driving for years.
Doc: Ok, but be careful.
The new tests came back, and I was diagnosed with severe hypothyroidism. My TSH was so high, my doctor was actually afraid of me being non-functional! She prescribed thyroid hormone replacement right away, and I had to go in for ultrasound scans to rule out cancer (my mom had thyroid cancer). Thankfully no cancer, but I did have an irregular and enlarged thyroid. The next problem was that the t4 synthetic hormone replacement did nothing for me. So here I was with this diagnosed condition, was getting a synthetic hormone that made my TSH bloodwork look fine, and yet I still had no energy, and I was still not able to lose weight. This went on for a couple years.
Finally I had had enough. This was just not going to take control of my life. I already lost 6+ years on it and I was not going to let it happen again. So I decided to do an experiment. I am a scientist...and I determined that there must be SOME level of calories I could eat and actually lose weight. So I went kind of anorexic like on my self, and started basically not eating. Ok...so I was eating 1000 calories a day. I did lose a couple of pounds...but hardly any! And i was careful! I also started exercising like mad during this time. So I was running an hour a day, eating almost nothing, exhausted, and not even losing weight! (at this point I was still about 30 pounds heavier than I wanted to be). I went to my endocrinologist who proclaimed my thyroid treatment just fine. I explained that I wasn't losing weight and I still had no energy, and he looked me in the eye and said:
"if you eat less you will lose weight". Arrrrggggh. I lost it, left his office sniffling back tears, and vowed to figure this thing out.
Endocrinologist number 2 was a different story. He had a much more progressive outlook on thyroid disease. He said that although my TSH bloodwork looked fine, clearly my body was not responding to the hormone I was being given. He gave me a different hormone combination, one that combined the two hormones, T3 and T4, and I immediately felt a difference. All of a sudden my brain felt like teh synapses were firing again! Wow! Out of the fog! Due to the energy, my hour long runs became a lot brisker, and the weight started to come off! I was still eating way too little, but i was losing weight, and that made it positive reinforcement. I started figuring out why people become anorexic...the positive reinforcement is really addictive.
It still took a LONG time to lose the weight. And although I never thought I was that body consious, I guess I am! I lost 30 pounds and gained a lot of muscle. I trained for a marathon, and I eventually started cycling, which changed my body even more. I was feeling pretty good about the whole process, and I even adjusted my eating habits so I can eat pretty normally these days. My thyroid, while not entirely stable, is at least manageable these days. I feel like I got my life back.
However, the weekend of being around women bike racers...well, that brought some weird feelings into the old head... All of a sudden I felt fat again! I felt all self-consious in the skin suit, and noticed that when hanging out, the conversation would often turn to 'how thin someone was' or 'how great someone's body was' or 'why can't I have muscles like that.' It was bizarre... I also found myself not wanting to eat the twizzlers I like so much, or too much 'bad' food. :-) I even found myself staring at the computer with a bit of trepidation when looking at the race photos, for fear I would 'look fat'! How crazy is that! A situation that causes a normally self-confident, independent, successful woman to feel so self-consious about something like weight! Weird...
Anyway...I am determined not to get weight consious. I know I need to weigh a certain amount to be healthy, and I am not going to lose that perspective in order to climb a hill a few seconds faster. Just remembering to not take 2 water bottles on a 9 mile hill climb race will do that! And I'm going to remember that I am who I am...and a couple of pounds is not going to change that...no matter what people may say about me or my appearance.
I am bigger than that. (pun maybe intended)