Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Strong is the New Skinny or "Unobtainable Goal is Unobtainable, and I Don't Care"


Every woman knows how she's supposed to look. She knows this, because she's been conditioned. She's been fed the image of perfection from the time she's a little girl. Disney Princesses, Barbie dolls, teen magazines, TV, movies...they all tell us what we're supposed to be.

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Her. We're supposed to be her. Tall, willowy, with legs that don't touch. Heidi Klum is 5'9" and around 135#. That's pretty thin. I've been 5'10" and 136 so I know whereof I speak. Of course for me, with these child bearing hips, I still didn't achieve the ideal. I didn't last long at 136, nor should I have. It was not cute.

The last few years there's been a strange dichotomy in the cultural message. We're still bombarded with the Heidi Klum's of the world. Still tall, still walking about on stilt legs that don't know each other. These days she's joined by a different type of ideal. The "body positive" movement that declares STRONG IS THE NEW SKINNY and glorifies women with more muscular figures. Most of my exposure to this is through CrossFit (it was a cult I joined for a while, I'm in recovery). Instead of tall and willowy with divorced thighs we are presented with...

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Behold the Dottirs

Ok, so basically the same girl, but with really defined abs and shoulders. Some of society looks at these Nordic Goddesses and thinks "ew, manly", but the remainder is basically salivating over them 24/7. They're all 5'7" and around 150#. So yeah...heavier. But still pretty tall and thin, you dig? I'd lay money that they all wear size small shorts on their perfectly chiseled asses. Me? I'm still 5'10" and more like 164# at the mo. I'm sporting a size L on my squashy backside. These ladies are impressive physical specimens. Strong certainly. Still skinny.

My bad. We're calling it "lean" these days.

Whatever you call it, they're outliers. Heidi Klum? Outlier. All the Dottirs? They're outliers, too. Beautiful, beautiful outliers. I'm never going to be like the outliers. And that's okay.

I did CrossFit for a little over 5 years. I've also done some weightlifting, and lately some powerlifting and strongman type stuff. I spent my twenties trying to achieve that long-limbed gazelle like physique. Mostly by starving myself and running a lot. Never quite made it. When I started doing CrossFit, that morphed into the quest for jacked arms, visible abs, and a squat booty. I got stronger, but I never achieved that ideal CF body. I've been lighter, I've been heavier, but my body shape has remained essentially unchanged. Eh, I've got a little more upper body muscle, my ass is a little higher, but nothing has really changed that much. That breeds it's own sort of body dysmorphia. At this point in my life I'm trying to figure out what I like, and worry less about what others prefer. I'm the one that has to navigate life in this meat suit, after all.

In previous installments, I outlined cutting weight and then attempting to normalize my eating and just try to maintain. I've had sporadic success. I popped up above 75kg and felt fat AF, then cut back down to 71kg for a meet in August (that's 156# for you real Americans) and felt like I might blow away in a stiff breeze. I had a great meet incidentally, setting three meet PRs including a lifetime deadlift PR.

270# ish. I should've gone for more.

After cutting, my macros were creeped up to see where I settle out. Right now I'm hovering around 74kg give or take. I'm eating 165g of protein a day. I read back some older blogs wherein I bemoaned getting 135g of protein a day. Yeah...

As a result of all this protein consumption, I've been getting thicker. 

That thigh is a FULL INCH thicker than it was in April.
The other one is, too...I'm not just squatting with one leg.

This is a far cry from what I used to strive for. I still have a pretty substantial layer of insulation...I mean that shit still jiggles, you dig? But I'm 41 and I think the days of firm thighs are behind me. My clothes still fit, even though I'm up a couple of kilos, and I'm beginning to embrace this new normal. 

Kinda Fit, Kinda Fat and kinda okay with it.

I'm really trying to appreciate my body more. Working in a hospital casts all the things that could be going wrong into sharp relief. I see people my age and younger with serious medical issues every day. The older I get, the more I realize how lucky I really am. Aside from some shitty varicose veins (that's a work in progress, insurance is fun), I don't have any health issues. I'm rarely if ever injured. My body doesn't hold me back from anything, and I know that's rare. I've made some pretty serious strides from a strength standpoint this past year, and from an aesthetic standpoint, too. All I had to do was quit CrossFitting it seems. 

It's weirdly hard to let go of self criticism, because it is what's familiar. The constant monitoring of my weight, measurements, and intake has had an unanticipated effect. I've become more analytical about by body...but less critical. Do I still flip out a little when the scale goes haywire? Oh...hell yeah I do. You don't spend your teens and early twenties getting mooed at without some neuroses sticking around. 


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Me when I get above 75kg

That said, I'm much better at looking at my data and realizing...yeah, I ate a shitload of salt yesterday so of course I'm up today. I am better at identifying what I need to do to "fix" things when I start to slip. I'm less ragey about measuring my food. I hate meal prepping less. I don't LIKE it, but I hate it less. I can look at myself in the mirror and feel good about what I see. Except my hair. My hair is shit.

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I might be going bald. It's fine. 

Historically, I've not been terribly confident in my ability at a strength athlete. That's changed quite a bit this past year, and the past two months especially. I've started approaching the barbell with more excitement and less trepidation. I'm starting to believe I will squat 100kg and more. When I approach a deadlift, I know that shit is coming off the floor. I feel better about my bench (even though it remains impoverished), and I know staying consistent will pay off in the long run. I'm even kind of enjoying My Fitness Pal these days. Mostly because every time I up my macros it seems vaguely horrified. I can feel it trying to subtly convince me that 1200cal/day is where it's at, with it's little red messages reminding me to "step on the scale and update your weight" and "your goal is to eat less than 190g carbs/day".

So basically I hate-track in MFP. Fucking MFP.

For the record, I'm sitting at 190c/85f/165p as of this week. 

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Incidentally, you'd have to swallow a half a cup of semen 
to get the protein available in one egg white.


The next few months should be pretty dull. I might compete Oly...or not. Might do a local Strongman...or not. Might jump into a last minute PL comp to see if I can pull 300# before the end of the year...or not.  Hopefully get my fuckin' veins fixed.  Just focusing on getting stronger for now. Little by little, day by day. 

October kind of snuck up on me. It's 30 day yoga challenge time at Jenstar once again. I made it to day one and have plans for day 2 this evening. I'm working on doing the splits. With luck I won't break a hip. Swole and flexy, or some shit. 

The dog is a huge help, as you see.


I've never done the splits in my life. Anybody wanna bet I never will?



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Here's your take home message for today. Love yourself. You might as well. 

The Rock would approve.













Tuesday, May 22, 2018

When "Ugly" Becomes a Medical Condition or "Raise Your Voice, Woman"

We've previously established that I'm old, haven't we? Because I am. Old. Getting older by the day, and developing old lady problems.

Specifically problems related to being an old lady that's crapped out a child or two (or three). These are my legs.

Let's talk about them.

I have ugly legs. They've been ugly most of my life. Don't jump all over me for that statement. I'm not talking about their length, shape, or size. All of those things are perfectly normal. They do all the leggy things a person's pins are supposed to do (except dance, they don't do that). They're just ugly. In addition to my clumsiness leaving me with constantly evolving bruises and scars, I developed spider veins and varicose veins pretty early on. Every job I've ever had has involved many hours on my feet. That combined with a genetic predisposition to varicosities, left me with little squiggly blue marks all over my right shin by the time I was 17.

Bruises, scars, and spider veins. Hawt.

The varicose vein at my ankle appeared in college when I was a waitress/pharmacy technician, working on my feet 40-60 hours a week. I wore capris and pants for many years to hide the ravages of time and genetics. My attitude has been much more "Eh, fuck it" in recent years, but it doesn't change the baseline ugliness.

These are my legs without their camouflage. 
The right leg is way uglier than the left.

After college I got my first job as a pharmacist...again working on my feet 60+ hours a week. A little purple mark appeared at the back of my knee. A little purple mark that was constantly remarked on (by my own boyfriend/fiance/husband no less) with "How'd you get a bruise there?" Well, it's not a bruise. It's a spider vein, but thanks for noticing. My first pregnancy bought me a lovely blue number that runs down the back of my knee into my calf.

FUCK! There's new spider veins back there, too!
It's a nice calf, though, yeah? Meaty.

My third pregnancy? Two little branches at the top of my thigh. This is where shit gets real. A couple of years ago the branches got bigger, one got a little squiggly. About a week and a half ago I felt something give in my pelvis when I stood up out of a chair. Now I've got a situation. My little non-issue branches have become a big damn problem.

Don't worry, you're not getting a picture of my ladygarden.

Suddenly sitting, standing, squatting, deadlifting, walking around, riding in a car, and just about everything else had become uncomfortable. Something was wrong. Lying down is the only time it's not visible. The only time I don't feel it, but I can't just spend my life lying down. I have shit to do. My hormone cycle makes it exponentially worse. The awful bloating I get once a month is worse, too, and never seems to fully go away.

So I did what I do. I researched. I researched varicose veins and spider veins and vulvar varicosities and pregnancy related varicose veins. (Don't Google that shit, you'll regret it). I ran across a condition called Pelvic Congestion Syndrome that explains everything I've been experiencing, including symptoms I didn't even recognize as related. Pain, pressure, heaviness...even the goddamn bloating. Shit, even back pain could be related to this.

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Bingo.


Being a woman is total bullshit sometimes, you know? Not only do you have to bleed for 25% of your life and all the associated pain that goes along with that, you may also have to gestate humans which literally tears you apart from the inside out. In ways you can't even imagine. PCS is most often reported in women who have had two or more pregnancies and vaginal births.

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Yaaaaaaaay.

Ok, so I have a starting place. Fucking now what, right? I know what it is...but how is it treated? Who treats it? A surgeon? A radiologist? A gynecologist? 

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Because everybody is a specialist, but where do you start?

Let me first say this. Once you use the words "varicose vein" as a woman, you're pretty much going to get dismissed as a nuisance. Everyone assumes you're just being vain (homonyms, bitches) and because it's summer you think your ugly legs are an emergency. The veins in my legs don't concern me at the moment except as they relate to the larger problem. They're ugly, but no uglier than my scars and cellulite. Offices only see "vein patients" once or twice a week. I was reduced to hissing "The varicosity is in my GROIN, and it is GETTING WORSE" in order to get scheduled to see anyone.

I already do all the shit you're supposed to do to prevent/alleviate varicosities. I wear compression stockings when I fly and when I'm going to be on my feet and for recovery. My body weight is utterly normal. I don't smoke. I exercise. I'm the goddamn poster child for health. AND YET.

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Tell me again all the things I should be doing to prevent this. I'm taking notes.

Last Wednesday I saw a surgeon. A female surgeon. She was...mean.  Cold, unfriendly, and worst of all? Dismissive.  "I'll cut it out. Make a couple of incisions and just pull it out." Really? You don't want to do any diagnostics? No vein mapping? No CT or MRI to see if there's a larger issue? Just cut it out. I'm a powerlifter. You don't think it could just recur?  "Well, I guess it could recur." So I should pay you to flay open my mommyparts and yank out the vein...just so it can come back? And you can do what? Cut it out again? Sounds sexy. Also I'm pretty sure there's not an unlimited amount of vascular tissue down there.

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Yeah, ok. Thumbs up.

I don't need touchy feely. You don't have to be nice. But for fuck's sake, you will address me as an equal. I'm a highly educated, skilled medical professional in my 40s. I'm not a child and I'm not a dummy. Beyond that, I am a human being who has come to you for help with a painful, somewhat delicate problem. I just had to sit here in a goddamn drape so you could prod me and then basically tell me to suck it up. "You've had kids, you know what pain is, you can handle it. It doesn't even look that bad, and your legs look fine." She says after examining me lying down

Thanks a heap, sister suffragette. Excuse me while I get appointments with literally anyone else. I got an email with a patient satisfaction survey yesterday. I can't wait to fill it out. 

Friday I went to a vein center. They only do legs. No help there. Can't really blame them I guess, ugly is where the money is.

Monday, though...holy shit. I hauled myself to Neenah to have a consult with a radiology group. I wasn't hopeful. I thought I'd probably get another "we only do legs" spiel.


But sweet chocolate Christ...they listened. I met with a NP who looked at my veins and asked me a few questions. She then began to explain PCS. I stopped her and said "You're describing Pelvic Congestion" and she looked at me and said "You have a medical background". I told her what I do for a living and she went into a detailed description of exactly what the practice can do for me. They'll set up an abdominal MRI at my very own hospital, and if it shows what I think it will, a simple intervention will occlude or ablate the abdominal varicosities, and by extension fix my pelvis. As in the veins may simply disappear on their own. No surgery. My ugly leg can be dealt with at a later date whenever it's convenient. Because I already understand what's up, I may not even have to have another visit with the Interventional Radiologist prior to the procedure. They'll just call me to discuss the findings and set up a date. 

This could all be over soon. Pending insurance approval, of course. Fucking insurance. Truthfully, I don't even care. I'll make payments until I retire to have this fixed. 

Praise Jesus girl
Hallelujah.

My point in relaying all of this to the internet at large is that you have to be your own best advocate when it comes to health care. Especially as a woman. The medical system is patriarchal and paternalistic. It's a lot of "Listen here, little lady, you just do as I say" and most doctors don't take kindly to questioning, especially by female patients. I mean, we're just dumb girls! WTF could we possibly know about our bodies?!? The proof of this is in the treatment for everything even remotely gynecological. Oh, you have an icky uterus problem? You should see a gynecologist, or better yet - just take these birth control pills. That'll fix it. We think. There's not a lot of research on it...or really anything else that goes on in your demon abdomen, but hey it's worth a shot! 

Even a female surgeon didn't want to offer me more than a "I'll do this, make an appointment". I had to make her sit down and listen to my concerns, while I sat half naked on a paper covered table, because that is a position of power. 

I have been very fortunate in my OB/GYN. I lucked into his practice when he was just a little baby doctor and 18 years later we still have a strong doctor/patient relationship. He can't retire until I die because he is amazing and I don't ever want to see anyone else. What sets him apart is that he listens. Find a provider who listens to you. It is so important. 

Another reason I dump all this shit into cyberspace is that so often we don't seek help for problems we see as embarrassing. Me? I'm not going to beat around the bush (TWSS, also how excellent of a phrase is that for this situation?). There could be any number of women reading this who have a similar problem and don't want to talk about it, or don't realize it could be a symptom of a larger syndrome. So I'll talk about it. I've got no one to impress and nothing to lose.  

You don't have to settle for sub-standard care. There is nearly always someone else to consult. Make them listen, and if they won't? Find someone else who will. Get a second opinion. A third. A fourth. Ask for recommendations. Don't be afraid or embarrassed. Bodies are weird and messy and gross and stupid and wonderfully magically complicated. The first answer isn't always the right one. Keep pushing. If you know that something is wrong, keep pushing. 

All I want is to be able to do the things I love to do without pain. I want to lift weights, and ride my bike, and run, and wear shorts. I want to stand on the sidelines at my kids' rugby games and not hurt. I want to be able to sit in a chair or drive my car without my damn leg swelling up or feeling like my pelvis is bruised. I'm done using my uterus, but I'd like to continue using the rest of my parts for another 40 or 50 years thank-you-very-much. I don't think that's too much to ask. 40 is the new 20...except with more wrinkles and a hip that can feel the rain coming.

If all goes well I'll have some fancy pictures of my inner workings and a couple of embolization coils. Like jewelry for my ovaries (you thought your belly button ring was hard core). What I won't have is pelvic varicose veins. 

And maybe I will have those spiders and leg veins ablated. It might be kind of nice to only have bruises and scars. 

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Friday, May 4, 2018

72kg and Holding or "Refeed Me, Seymour"

It's been about a month since my powerlifting meet, which means it's been about a month since the end of my cut. The lowest weight I hit was 70.7kg (155.5#) about 3 days before the meet when I was so paranoid about waking up above 72 that I wasn't eating a calorie out of place. Rigid AF. The morning of the meet I weighed in at 71.2kg in my granny panties and sports bra (sorry, coach). I have never been so relieved in my life.

This morning I woke up at 71.7kg, and I feel pretty fucking good about that.

Flex Friday, bitches.


After the meet I took a week off of counting macros and measuring everything. My only directive from Alex was "Don't eat like an asshole". And I think I did pretty well. My weight didn't change appreciably, and neither did my measurements. Miraculous.

My reverse diet started at the end of that "free" week. My macros have been increasing incrementally so we can see where my tipping point is. I don't need to be exactly 72kg every day of my life, but I kind of like where I'm at aesthetically and I'd like to stay within striking distance of competition weight. 72kg is a good place to sit for Strongman and Oly as well since 75kg is the top of my weight class for both. Competing without cutting? Sign me up. 

Now that I've been at this a few weeks and my food numbers are ticking up, it's time to add a *gulp* refeed. At the conclusion of my cut I was eating 145g of carbs, 43g of fat, and 120g of protein every day. That is some high protein starvation level shit. It's almost miraculous that I wasn't a husk of a human on those numbers. Now I'm at 175 carbs, 60 fat, and 135 protein.

135 protein. That's a lot of fucking protein.

In addition to these new numbers, every Friday I'll be doing a refeed. In simple terms, I'm carb loading. On Fridays I get 275g carbs. TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE GRAMS.

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So I whipped out MFFP and tried to figure out what the hell I was going to have to eat to hit these numbers. 

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It was like a game. A delicious game.

So what did refeeding look like today? 

WELL. I woke up and got the news via email so I promptly made myself a lovely cup of coffee with half and half plus some delicious maple syrup.

Can't carb all day unless you start in the morning.

I went to hot yoga this morning, and I generally keep what I eat before yoga on the small side. Full belly is no good in the upside-down and there's always the chance of that. 

Just a little bit of something.

After yoga I came home and got my shit together for the day. I'd decided that pancakes sounded nice and carby. Turns out you also have to add a shitload of fruit to make the numbers work out right. I also included a bunch of egg whites because 135g protein is a lot of fucking protein.

Behold.

It took me quite a while to eat this. That's good though, because it kept me from feeling weird and overstuffed afterwards. Kodiak cakes made with milk and egg white, a banana, a cup of strawberries, and a third of a cup of maple syrup. 

I let that settle for a bit and headed downstairs to lift. I had some Oly shit to do today, but my outdoor platform was a bit wet so that was postponed and I worked on some power stuff instead. It was cold as fuck in the basement. Even in two layers with my sweaty-knees gear it was tooth chattering down there. It's the dampness. Makes the cold sink into your bones. And I'm old, so I feel that shit.

My standard coconut whey mixed with cold brew and creatine.

One downside to multiple layers and a lot of food?  Trying to close your lever belt without ralphing.

Hork

My program today was heavy triples. I managed to triple at 180, which is about 90% for me. It was painful, but I haven't done that in quite a while so it was also kind of exhilarating. Then I had to push press. With my power bar, because my Oly bar is in the garage. I scraped the shit out of the back of my neck doing Klokov presses a few days ago. That center knurling. Ouch.

Does push pressing make anyone else feel like they're going to puke? Every time I push press...actually it happens when I jerk, too now that I think about it. Something about it makes me gaggy. I think the nerves in my collarbones are wired wrong or something. Heart openers in yoga make me feel barfy, too. Yep. Miswired for sure.

Funny woman screaming surrounded by cables not able to make them work
Basically

After my basement session I showered. I even washed my hair, which is a big deal. My sons had a mother/son event this evening and I wanted to at least look clean, because my overall appearance has the whisper of white trashiness about it. 

I had some lunch.

Barley risotto. Deliciously carby.

Then I headed off to Costco. I bought a bunch of veg and a shitload of shrimp. Because 135g of protein. Have I mentioned that's a lot of protein? Because it's a lot of protein.

I did some studying when I got home and prepped the fruit and veg for the kids' dinners. For myself I made salmon, broccoli, and rice. A whole cup of rice. I even had enough fats left over to put some butter on that fluffy white shit.

Nom.

So how did I do hitting my numbers today? 

Check that out. I'm fucking impressed with myself.

Hot damn. 

I imagine it was a tiny bit easier because breakfast was more like brunch so each meal wasn't too far off the last one. It'll be interesting to see what refeeding on shift will be like. Along with this is a day each week without tracking at all. Estimating portions, minding my hunger level, and not getting my food scale out at all.

It's a little scary, but exciting too. Because maybe I can really do this. Maybe I can stop going on and off diets. Maybe I can eat like a reasonable person instead of an asshole. A girl can dream.

After dinner I walked the boys over to school for the mother/son deal. There was kickball and floor hockey. Moms vs. boys.  We lost at kickball, because little boys are sneaky little shits. Kicked their asses at floor hockey, though. I scored 3 goals. My sons and I may have alarmed some people...we were the only ones trash talking each other. Everyone else was being very supportive and enthusiastic. I may have shouted "You're mouth's writing checks your ass can't cash" and "I'm not above stiff arming a child" at my boys on a couple of occasions. I am an excellent mom. Nurturing AF.

I'm glad I wore black. I sweated straight through this shirt.

I was wearing jeans and slippers as shoes. Lesson learned. Next year I'm dressing for athletic business. I spent fully one hour running around a middle school gym. Hustle I've got. Also total disregard for the safety of children.

I'm going to say refeeding today was a success. I never felt like stuffed poultry, which I think means I did it right. My lifting session was aces, and I felt good all day. I'm not supposed to weigh myself the day after refeed, but I've weighed myself every damn day for the last 5 months so I probably will tomorrow from just force of habit. I'm also interested to see how I feel in the morning with the extra carbs on board. Power club is early to accommodate an event at the gym, and I wonder if all this glycogen will carry over to tomorrows lifts. I never really did much carb loading when I was a distance runner, so I honestly don't know. 

Only one way to find out. n=1 and all that.

Got 10 hours of sleep last night and I'm looking forward to another 10 tonight. A little powerlifting in the morning and some Oly in the evening. Sounds like a fantastic little Saturday to me. 

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Word.