It’s about time I explain my journey through the tunnels of medicine and physical exercise to being where I am today. Most people who have known me for years have realized that I gained a tremendous amount of weight over the last three years or so but have recently started shrinking. 🙂 This is my story. I am not advocating that everyone who is over weight do this and I am not looking for pity either.
The picture at the start of this post is of me in the dress I wore to my college graduation on December 17, 2010. I weighed 248 pounds that day and was completely miserable! It was in the moment this picture was taken that I realized I have changed my life. I had no idea I was that big and am thankful for my ignorance. I don’t know if I would have continued to live my life if I had really looked in the mirror. I received looks from other people, their silent judgements, and had a hard time convincing people to believe what I was telling them but I never changed my outlook on life and my desire to live it.
This started in March/April 2009. I gained 40+ pounds in a 2 week time period. I went to an OB/GYN who told me that was normal. Normal? Who the hell calls that normal? I remember crying in his office and him getting up and walking out after telling me to talk to a nutritionist and stop eating sweets. My family makes fun of me for NOT having a sweet tooth!
I’m stubborn by nature. I got it honest. 🙂 So I didn’t take that as an answer and went to multiple doctors over the next year and a half. My great general practice Doctor in Austin finally ran almost every blood test listed on the blood work page and something came back positive. I was never so happy to have something wrong with me in my life!
I have an abnormally high level of antibodies in my thyroid. Everyone has some antibodies (typically <50) where as I have 250+. So what does this mean and what do you do about it? It means I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and there’s really nothing to do…Since I was so symptomatic (extreme weight gain, hair falling out, extreme tiredness, heart palpitations, migraines, bleeding gums, reproductive malfunctions) the doctor put me on a low dose of synthetic thyroid hormone to help balance out my levels. I had noticed that although my TSH (Thyroid Synthesizing Hormone) and T3/T4 levels were always normal, they bounced and varied in the normal range dramatically. Basically, my body is attacking and destroying my thyroid slowly which means sometimes it regulates my body correctly and sometimes it doesn’t. This low dose helped some of my symptoms and kept me from gaining more weight but didn’t help me loose it.
I was still have reproductive issues even though this medicine should have helped with that too so my last semester in college I decided to go to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale Arizona. My wonderful doctor in Austin suggested it. He said that they are the leaders in the world for medical knowledge and would be able to rule anything and everything out. My parents had recently moved to Scottsdale so it was kinda nice to stay with them for almost a month. My professors at Texas A&M were understanding but not as thrilled with my decision.
They ran test after test after test and looked over all the medical records I could provide to them. All the poking and prodding confirmed my previous diagnosis and yielded an addition…PCOS or Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. I have the endocrinology version, not the physical version so basically my reproductive hormone relationships are backwards for me but I do not have cysts on my ovaries (which is a huge relief for trying to have children later in life). So what does this mean and what do you do about it?
I started taking Metformin which is a diabetic insulin regulating drug used off-label to treat PCOS. The theory is if you can loose the weight then your body reverses the hormone imbalances that are causing you to gain the weight. PCOS meant that my body was becoming sensitive to insulin. I was absorbing the correct amount but my body was producing 3-4 times the amount of insulin needed to be able to absorb the right amount. This medicine did terrible things to my GI tract and made me miserable but I lost 1-2 pounds for the first time in 2 years so I continued to take it.
My doctor in Austin is truly amazing and recommended I take the information I had from the Mayo Clinic and find a nutritionist, personal trainer, and endocrinologist who had had success treating similar women. This was definitely easier said than done as I was struggling to pass my classes, finish college, find a job, and move. I was watching what I was eating and I was exercising but mostly I was just trying to survive and continue to smile.
After graduation, I took an engineering position with Kiewit. It involved a lot of travel and moving which makes diet hard so I focused on exercising. Being out on a jobsite for 18 hours a day also helped with dropping a little weight but I was still struggling and the medicine was still not sitting well with my GI tract. In August 2011, Kiewit moved me to Kansas City.
The KC Office is 2 blocks from Lifetime Fitness (Lenexa KS) and we got a terrific corporate discount so I signed up. When you sign up, you receive a hour meeting with a personal trainer to go over your fitness goals and review the equipment. I decided to sign up for personal training sessions and see the nutritionalist at the gym.
I have been working out with Brandon Goeman for 7 months now as my personal trainer and he has changed my life! Although he’s not cheap, he has been worth every single penny. I would work the street corner to be able to pay to workout with him (ok maybe that’s a little excessive but really). He’s into learning the basics which I never did. Things like push-ups, pull-ups, planks, free weights. He started slow and I’ve learned so much! He also recommended an endocrinologist in town.
Dr. Battmer is great. The first time I went to his office he listened to everything I had to say, paused a moment, and simply told me that he has successfully treated 165+ women just like me. I was a “normal” new patient for him and to have hope. I left thankful to have seen him. Thankful to have been to the doctor’s office for the first time in 3 years.
I started taking HCG shots in my stomach everyday. HCG has a bad rap and is widely misunderstood. I worked closely with Dr. Battmer’s partner, Tony. I was weighed and my body composition analyzed using electronic pulses. It tells me how much lean muscle, water and fat I have in my body and how much I should be loosing. I had to eat an extremely restricted diet the entire time I was taking the shots and it was hard. No alcohol. 500 calories a day. mostly protein and lettuce. But I lost almost 10 pounds the first week and remember stepping on the scale and starting to weep.
Dr. Battmer immediately took me off the metformin and started hormone shots every two weeks. He was in agreement with me that I want my body to have every opportunity to correct itself. It is a system and damaging one part (my GI tract) for the “benefit” of another (my thyroid) really didn’t fix the system. My hair quit falling out immediately and actually started growing back in after 3 visits. He told me my results were pretty typical. I am amazed!
HCG is used in rounds so I’ve done 2 rounds of it. I will probably not do another one. The second round was much harder than the first and my results weren’t as stellar.
I’m continuing to work on loosing weight. I’m smaller than I was in high school and much much more fit! I have body parts I’m not happy with and I have days that I feel like I have thyroid disease but those are much fewer now than before. I’m learning what foods make me feel better than others and what my body needs to be efficient.
Now I’m down in the 160s. It’s amazing how the stares have stopped and people are starting to take me seriously. I have to watch what I eat a lot more than the average person and I still get frustrated but I’m working on that too.
I decided to run a half marathon in February in Austin and it felt amazing! Brandon has done iron men and triathlons before so he coached me and developed my running schedule to build up my milage. It was liberating! Now I’m learning to swim (yes that sounds stupid, I know how to swim as a survival maneuver but now I’m learning to swim for exercise) and he’s pushing me to start cycling (we’ll see).
I never thought I would go through something in life that I would want to stand up and talk about but thyroid disease affects 1 out of 3 women, most of which don’t know it. If I can help one person learn something than my struggles will be worth it. Please feel free to ask me any questions or if you want to more information let me know.