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Fitbit and the Plague January 13, 2019

Posted by mareserinitatis in personal.
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One of my Christmas presents this year was a new Fitbit Versa.  I was overjoyed with this because I had done some serious damage to my previous Fitbit.  I had also been eyeing an Apple watch but wasn’t entirely happy with some of its limitations.

I began wearing it immediately and played with fun functions like assessing my health level and that jazz.

Then I got sick.  It started as just a head cold that I caught from older son.  After a couple days, he was fine and back to normal.  I, however, had started hearing rice krispies and bag-pipes in my lungs.  I had a nice visit with the doctor where he informed me that I was dealing with one of the worst asthma attacks I’d had in years and it was probably set off by the cold and the exhaustion from the semester (and, let’s be honest, probably not taking my inhaler as regularly as I should’ve been).  I came home with a whole pharmacy in my purse and began trying to get things under control.  Of course, a few days later, I had to go on a trip for work.

My Fitbit was my guide through all this.  As I started on the prednisone, it very helpfully informed me that fitness level was rapidly decreasing relative to other women my age.  While I was already aware that slowly walking to my various destinations was causing severe shortness of breath and coughing, my Fitbit so helpfully informed me that was I was reaching the top levels of my cardio zone.  When I would wake completely unrested from having woken up coughing several times, it reminded me that my sleep was incomplete and that I hadn’t met my sleep goal.

Of course, my favorite was the helpful reminders that I only needed 200+ steps within the next ten minutes to meet my daily goal (before I died from pulmonary insufficiency or an aneurism from all the coughing).  I felt like I was being judged worse by the watch than by the people who were obviously angry with me for bringing the plague onto their aircraft.  (The doctor said I wasn’t contagious!)

I was very much starting to resent the thing after a couple days of this.  I kept wishing there was a way to tell it I was sick so it was stop trying to encourage me to hack up a lung.

As much I like my Fitbit, I think that next time I get sick, it will probably go on a hiatus until I recover.  I don’t need to be stressed out AND sick.

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Time equals food February 17, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in food/cooking.
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One of the most frustrating aspects of having Celiac disease is the amount of time it takes away from…everything.  It shouldn’t be that bad…I just have to stay away from gluten.  However, it seems that I’m basically stuck making everything from scratch now.

It’s amazing how many things contain gluten.  I can’t even buy many types of frozen vegetable mixes (!) without running into gluten.  (They use it to thicken the sauces.)  It’s a bit nerve-wracking buying anything that doesn’t have a ‘certified gluten-free’ symbol on it, and even then you have to be careful.  (It turns out that there are limits to the test, and I’ve found I react to anything that has gluten-ingredients, even if it is certified gluten free.  Apparently it’s just too hard to get rid of all of those nasty epitopes in things like vinegar.)

Of course, there are boxed alternatives to most foods that are gluten-free, but you’re paying 2 to 3 times the price for those items.  When we switched over to a gluten-free diet, our eating out expenses pretty much dried up, but the grocery bill jumped enough to make up for it and then some…and I don’t even buy that much processed food.

There is the option of taking a tax deduction at the end of the year to feed into your medical deduction. In order to do this, you have to keep every receipt, denote the items that are gluten-free, find a comparable item that contains wheat, determine the difference, and keep track of the differences.  The problem is that if you don’t hit the minimum on your medical deduction, you can’t use all this anyway.  We seriously considered doing this until we realized that we probably would not exceed the necessary amount to do anything but the standard deduction, and it would take a LOT of time and research to begin with.  Therefore, it seemed like a big waste of time.

Now I’m down to trying to make most things from scratch to keep expenses down, but this is certainly not helping with the time issue.  One example is (decent) bread.  If you buy gluten-free bread, it generally tastes unpleasant, though some brands are more tolerable than others, and you’re easily paying twice the amount of money for a loaf that is a 1/3 to 1/4 the size of your average wheat loaf.  At least.  I used to buy the fancy artisan bread from the local baker and it was probably the same amount as the gluten-free stuff, but it had a LOT more bread.  If you’re used to the grocery store stuff, it’s even more dramatic.  And the choices are pretty limited, too.  If I want a loaf of sourdough, I have to make it myself because there just simply isn’t any premade available.  (And seriously…who doesn’t love fresh sourdough bread?!)  This is not a quick and easy process.

This whole issue wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t enjoy food so much.  As much as not needing to eat would be convenient, I don’t think it’s in the cards.

New Year’s Goals: The 2015 FCIWYPSC edition January 1, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, family, grad school, personal, religion, research, running, work, writing.
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I’m not doing resolutions and haven’t done them for a while.  Goals, however, are another story, particularly when they’re of the quantifiable type.  While some of these are large goals (like with running), I break them down to weekly and daily goals, as well.

Writing this out is helpful because not only does it provide me with some accountability, it helped me realize I was bogging myself down with too much.  I had to cut a few items.

These are the things I think I can manage with some consistency:

  • Career/Work: Publish at least one paper and attend at least one conference.
  • Career/Dissertation: Set a minimum amount of time to work on my thesis each week, though the weekly total will vary if there’s a holiday involved.  (I do some version of this, but I think I need to make my planning a bit more specific.) Also, attend one conference this year.
  • Family time: Family play day once per month.
  • Marriage: Keep up with the weekly date with the spousal unit.
  • Self-care/Religious: Center down (or if you prefer, meditate or pray) for at least ten minutes a day, not necessarily all at once.
  • Self-care/Sleep: Stick to a consistent (and early) bed-time at least 4 days per week.
  • Self-care/Physical activity: Run or walk 500 miles by the end of October.  I did about 200 outdoor miles this year but didn’t keep track of treadmill time at all, so I think this is doable, especially in light of my next goal.  I’ve also learned I like to ramp down the activity around the holidays (too much to do), so that amounts to about 11.5 miles per week.
  • Fun goal: Do half-marathons in two new states this year.  Two down, 48 to go. I’m hoping to cross Wisconsin and Michigan off the list this year.  (And I’ve already registered for one of them.)
  • Misc/Blog: Post on the blog at least twice per week.  (I do that on average, but sometimes there are long gaps in between.)
  • Misc/Email: I will keep my main mailbox below 3000 messages.  That may sound horrible, but this is 1/5 of what it was just last week.  I need to either delete those messages, read them, or unsubscribe from all the spam I’m getting…probably mostly the latter.  Lots of unread email makes me overwhelmed.

So do you have any goals for the year?

The runner’s physique November 25, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in running.
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I have been running just over three years.  It’s been a struggle because I’ve had problems here and there, but I’ve kept it up.  In the past year, I ran a marathon relay, two half marathons, and the run leg of a sprint triathlon.  I occasionally do 5ks, as well.  I think this means I am officially a runner.

The problem I’ve run into a couple times, however, is that people simply can’t believe I run because I don’t have the “runner’s physique.”  Yes, not all runners are skinny and fast and muscular…not even ones who’ve been doing it for years, who watch what they eat, who train religiously.

A runner can and does have myriad body shapes and fitness abilities.  If you’ve ever participated is a really big race, you can see the whole spectrum of runners from the ultra-skinny to the ultra-heavy.  In fact, a good way to tell if someone runs in actual races is whether or not they are cognizant of this fact.  Running is not a slam dunk, and once you begin doing it, there is no guarantee that you’ll lose weight.  In fact, in talking to several runners I know, many of them find that they gain weight when training for longer distance races.  I’ve seen people who are larger than I am but have done dozens of marathons.

That isn’t to say it can’t be done, but I guess the frustration that someone who is active and health conscious will be skinny is very simplistic.  It certainly doesn’t take into account a lot of other things, the major one being life.  That’s right: life is stressful and you don’t get enough sleep and you have kids to chase around and you can’t always eat as well as you’d like or you do and you’re ill or what have you.  Life gets in the way, and I think it’s awesome to see anyone of any size, shape, and physical level get out there and move…slow or fast.

The experience I had most recently in this regard was one I’ve run into a lot: doctors who jump to the conclusion that you’re not very active because of your size.  It’s noticeable in the types of treatments they recommend for problems, and in my experience, can seriously inhibit the process of getting a good diagnosis for just about any type of problem.

I encountered a new internist recently who was involved in a conversation with myself and another person.  This other person and I started discussing a race we’d both been to before he had to excuse himself.  The internist and I chatted a bit, and she exclaimed she was really surprised I’d done a half marathon.  Unfortunately, I was not surprised by her surprise because this is a reaction I get all the time.  All I can hope, however, is that she will take this back to her practice and not make the assumption that people who aren’t skinny are also not physically active.

In fact, it’s an assumption I wish we could get rid of.  All of those concern trolls who claim to worry about people because of their weight need to be more concerned about their own ignorance regarding the spectrum of body types.  We all need to remember that you can’t tell much about a person just by looking at them.

Malevolent butterflies in the stomach June 7, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers, research.
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I’m sitting at my computer this morning with somewhat bated breath.  I was supposed to be presenting a paper at a conference about now.  Instead, I am at home, and my major accomplishment was getting out of bed and getting dressed.  Oh yeah…and I ate a bagel and a banana without getting sick.

I was on my way to the conference and decided to leave a day early.  I was going to spend the night in Minneapolis with some friends and then continue on the next morning from there.  I was doing great until about a half hour before I got there, and then I started having stomach issues.  The problem with having celiac disease that was undiagnosed for so long is that I’m *always* having stomach issues, and I more or less ignore them now.  “Oh gee.  I must’ve eaten something that didn’t agree with me,” is one of the most common phrases I’ve used over the past five years.

I met my friends for dinner and then went back to their place.  I found that the stomach pain kept getting worse, though it was coming and going intermittently.  After about two hours, I needed to go to the ER because I was in very serious pain along the bottom of my ribcage.  I spent the next couple hours getting checked for gall stones and pancreatitis and losing my dinner and getting lots of drugs.  The doctor’s conclusion is that I either had a bug…or I did eat something that disagreed with me.  The only problem is that I have no idea what it could have been.

Fortunately, a colleague was also attending the conference, and he agreed to give my presentation for me with the consent of the session chair.  I got to come home (which is a long story in and of itself), and rather than worrying about how I was going to do on the presentation, I get to worry about how my colleague will do.

The whole situation is ironic, however.  I’ve always told people that I get sick to my stomach before I have to give a presentation, but I guess this time it was literal.

The symptomatology of a glutening June 2, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in food/cooking.
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I’m going to be traveling later this week, and I realized that I am slightly terrified after having a bad ‘glutening’ over a week ago.  I went to Jimmy John’s and ordered a gluten-free unwich.  Then, without thinking, I asked them to add extra lettuce.  The extra lettuce came from a bin into which people wearing contaminated gloves had been sticking their hands.

It was awful.

The first thing I noticed was during a run the next morning.  A couple friends and I were doing an 8-miler (and that’s a good thing to have friends for because it’s a LONG run without them).  My hand was really starting to hurt, and I asked them if their hands ever swell up while running.  Both of them said, “Yep,” and I didn’t think much more about it…until the next morning, when I couldn’t get up.  In fact, I spent three days unable to get out of bed because of crushing fatigue and horrible brain fog.  I desperately wanted to get up, but even when I managed it, I would do something inconsequential, become exhausted, and not be able to focus on anything anyway.  And pain all over my body.  Not achiness, like the flu, but pain and swelling.  GI symptoms started two days later.  And then a week after that, with still swollen hands, I developed a rash (probably dermatitis herpetiformes (DH)…I still have purple marks) all over my right wrist with a couple spots on my hand.  At first I thought it was poison ivy, but I hadn’t been anyplace where I would get it, and the rash was too diffuse.

I had this fantasy that maybe, once I’d been off gluten for a while, the reactions wouldn’t be so severe.  I was wrong and they’re actually worse.  (While I had skin problems most of my life until getting rid of the gluten, the DH is something entirely new.)  I am terrified something like this will happen on a trip and I’ll be laid up the entire time.

This is me after a glutening.  I don't think this would work well at a professional conference.

This is me after a glutening. I don’t think this would work well at a professional conference.

On the up side, it really does make me appreciate how much better I feel the 99% of the time I have managed to avoid gluten.  I like not feeling sick and exhausted and brain dead all the time.

The norovirus diet April 26, 2014

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A few years ago, rotavirus became a bad word in our house. The younger son was a baby and caught it daycare. Being the sharing kind, he gave it to the rest of us, and we all got very sick. In fact, Mike ended up in the hospital for a couple days.

This week, we got acquainted with rotavirus’ cousin, norovirus. They’re amazingly alike, except that norovirus is even more pestilent. Mike got to go to the hospital again after passing out. Fortunately, it was a short visit and they booted him after making sure he was sufficiently hydrated.

We’ve spent the last couple days enjoying foods that are usually not allowed in the house: Gatorade, lemon-lime soda, jello, and store-bought bread (gluten-free). It amazes me that I can eat junk food like that and lose five pounds overnight. To be honest, though, I was okay with my pre-virus weight…and I certainly enjoyed the diet more.

running update: 23 months September 22, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, older son, running.
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I went for a run today for the first time in a month.  It was nice, particularly since I could actually feel my feet the whole time.

Yeah, that sounds strange, doesn’t it?

I haven’t run the past month because I ended up in the hospital.  Some of you may recall that about a year ago, I had a bad reaction to some medication.  Some of my doctors have been dubious that this was the case, however, given the reaction was extremely rare.  (By extremely rare, I mean I-managed-to-find-a-whole-three-medical-case-studies-on-pubmed rare.)  I was given the medication again, and this time I had a similar reaction, only it didn’t stop when I stopped the meds…and I ended up spending some time in the hospital.  Some of my (two) readers may have noticed I didn’t post much a couple weeks ago.  That’d be why.

As an aside, while the hospital food wasn’t all that bad, I was very ticked that they put me on a ‘heart healthy’ diet despite my complete lack of metabolic disorder.  I suspect I may have gotten some gluten contamination while there, as well.  My husband has been informed that any future trips to the hospital will require him to cook and bring me food, which he thankfully said he’d do…although it may just be a lot of gluten free egg rolls and scrambled eggs.  🙂

The good news is that things are getting better…I can stand long enough to teach my classes without getting dizzy and, as I said, feel my feet again…most of the time.

Needless to say, this is putting a bit of a damper on my race plans.  I had planned to run a 10k next month with the older son, but I’m trying to take it slow.  I’ll probably just try the 5k.  I was initially rather upset that I’ve been running for almost two years now and am having to start over.  However, after my run this morning, I came to an important realization: I ran more than I had planned because it felt good to get out and move.  My body knows what it’s doing now, so I’m really not starting over…just giving myself some space.

The difference a diagnosis makes August 6, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in food/cooking, societal commentary.
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I’m almost upon the 1 year anniversary of receiving my official diagnosis of celiac’s.  It’s a happy thing for me because I’m feeling and looking far better than I did a year ago despite the fact that I still have a ways to go.  I’m still waiting for my ability to digest peaches to be restored.

To celebrate, the FDA has just released new regulations stating that gluten-free items must have under 20 ppm of gluten.  (Coincidence…but they were supposed to have come out with a decision on this months years ago.)  My friend Kari posted an article about this on FB:

The 3 million Americans with celiac disease and all those traumatized against grain by the Atkins craze a decade ago will soon be shopping with ease. The Food and Drug Administration, after a six-year delay, has set new standards for what food can carry the label of “gluten free.”

It was an interesting article, but their whole ‘gluten-free is just a fad’ undertone got on my nerves.  I’ve seen a lot of articles like this (I discussed one at length in this post).

This sort of thing gets on my nerves because for years I had to listen to people tell me how my low-carb diet was a fad and not healthy for me.  I went on a low-carb diet at the age of 22 because I had fibromyalgia (*ahem* not really, but I didn’t know that then) and having weight problems.  Miraculously, I got better after going on the diet.  (Not so miraculous now that I know what I have.)  However, the fact that I felt better and lost weight didn’t phase people.  I continually heard from doctors how I was going to end up with high cholesterol, how the weight I’d lost was ‘water weight’ (ummm…I’m sure that 80 lbs. was all water), and on and on.  I was flummoxed: I was told I needed to lose weight but once I did, I was lectured on how I did it the wrong way.  As a side note, the fact that I was no longer in pain and my fatigue had gone away were irrelevant.

Going to any social gathering was even worse.  I would be rather careful about what food I ate (and I never felt I was overly picky…just asked them to please hold the bun or whatever), but it never mattered.  Inevitably, some stranger would come up and begin lecturing me on my poor food choices.  I came to the conclusion that there were really a lot of busy-bodies out there who had nothing better to do than search out people who really weren’t looking for any advice on their diet in order to fill their ear.

I’ve been putting up with this for 15 years.  I can no longer count how many times I’ve had to justify to ‘strange’ dietary choices to people.  And the funny thing is, they never want to hear how as a vegetarian/vegan or on a normal diet, I actually grew sicker.  (Celiacs, it turns out, impairs the body’s ability to digest protein.) The implication was that I must not have been doing it ‘right’…whatever that means.  The fact that, in the last few years, it wasn’t working was an additional reason for people to come out of the woodwork and criticize my choices…nevermind that what they were telling me was exactly the wrong thing to do.

Now that I have the magical diagnosis, it’s amazing how differently people react.  I always bring my own food with me to social things.  If someone asks, I just say I have celiacs.  Rather than telling me how unhealthy my diet is, I most often get the observation that I am eating very healthy.  No one grills me about why I eat the way I do or tells me that I’m making poor choices anymore, but they ask questions about how I handle it and what things I need to look out for.  Occasionally, I will get comments about how they know someone who has celiacs, as well.  In fact, in the past year, I have had ONE negative comment about how gluten-free diets were a fad…and that person was obviously so woefully uninformed about that (and several other topics) that I didn’t bother wasting too much brainpower on him.

This has me stunned.  The reason why I’m stunned is because I’ve hardly changed my diet at all.  It was very easy to transition to gluten-free because all I really needed to do was cut out a slice of bread or a dessert here and there.  (Okay, so I did have to cut out my favorite Chinese restaurant permanently, and I do have to buy all gluten free soy sauce, which is a bit of a pain.)  Most of my diet was already protein and vegetables, and I’ve really found that sticking with that has been pretty easy as I’d already been doing it for 15 years.  The only major difference I’ve noticed is in people’s perceptions.

This is why I get frustrated when I see these judgmental articles about how people who are doing things ‘gluten-free’ or ‘low-carb’ are just following a fad.  I don’t suppose it’s ever occurred to the writers of such articles that food can have a profound impact on how your body feels and that, just maybe, some people really are paying attention to that.  People don’t like to be sick or fat or tired all the time, so if they say something is helping them to feel better (particularly when 40% of people with celiacs have no symptoms), then I’ll cheer them on for making healthier choices.

New year’s…ahem…goals, Pt.1 January 1, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in personal, running, younger son.
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It’s very easy at the end of every year to look at the numbers on the scale and feel disappointed that they aren’t smaller.  Or I can take measurements of my body and be upset that my diameter is definitely not where it should be.

It’s frustrating to me because I watch my diet fastidiously and am very physically active (well, when I’m not in front of the computer).  But here I am.

Granted, this year has been been better than most as a result of my celiac diagnosis.  I’ve been on the diet about 4 1/2 months, and it’s unbelievable the amount of positive feedback I’ve gotten about how much better I look.  So obviously things are going well on that front.  However, progress, as always is slow.

I also am not one to make resolutions as they can be easily dropped.  So instead I set goals.

I never try to set the goal of reaching a certain weight or size.  It turns out that since I started the celiacs diet, I haven’t really lost more than about 5 pounds.  However, people tell me constantly that I look it.  And, from what they’ve said, they think I’m lighter than I am.  Mike has made the observation that I appear to be denser.  However, after that comment almost resulted in physical violence, he amended it to “more compact”, which was, in my opinion, a more agreeable euphemism.

My goal, therefore, is to continue to improve my health by watching my diet and running.  (In fact, I have already signed up for a half-marathon in May.)  I am hoping that my efforts toward these goals will result in weight loss, but I will try not to shoot for a particular number.

There is one thing that makes me sad about my becoming “more compact”.  When the younger boy was about 4, I remember him wanting to cuddle on someone’s lap.  He decided to try dad’s lap as it had the closest availability.  He went and sat down on Mike’s lap…and proceeded to wiggle around for five or ten minutes, obviously unsettled.  He got off Mike’s lap, looking disappointed.  Then he came and sat on my lap.  With just a few minor adjustments, he ended up completely still with a contented sigh.

“Mom, you’re soft.”

I want to be healthy and will work toward that, but I want to be soft enough for little boys to want snuggle on my lap.

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