"A ship in the harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are for." William Shedd

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Get Your Google-Fu On

I've got several posts in draft, but until those are finished. . .
This week, a not uncommon scenario played out at work; one of the other programmers I work with was tasked with a request from our boss.  This task was something they had never done before, so the first thing they did was email myself and the other programmer in our group to find out if we already had a program they could use to do this. . . As it turns out, no, neither of us already had a program written to perform this task, and in fact neither of us had any experience with how to do it at all - BUT, when I ran a simple google search, pages of code snippets and support documents detailing how to code for this type of data appeared on my screen.  And it was really pretty simple; just a few lines of code and, bob's your uncle, all done.  Hmmm. 
This event got me thinking about the difference between being handed an answer and learning to find information on your own.  I learned to code in an environment where there was no one to give me code they had already written, or even anyone to tell where to find the information on how to begin - I spent a lot of time on the net searching and a lot of time writing and rewriting code until it worked.  JUST AS I DID, AND STILL DO with food, exercise, and their relationship with my autoimmune disease.  In my work life, this means that if I'm given a project that involves unfamiliar territory, and there is no one available to guide me, I'm not lost - I know where to go to find the lay of the land, and I know with a little work, I can build my own map.  In my search for better health, I can do the same.
Paleo has really exploded in the past several years - there is a LOT of information available; everything from MD's (here and here), to researchers (here and here), to fitness coaches (here and here and here (had to throw the last one in special for the ladies!)),  to former researchers turned fitness coaches (here) and many, many plain jane/joe bloggers (here, heh); they're all talking about using paleo concepts as a foundation for better health.
So get your google-fu on!  Learn to use and evaluate all the information available at your fingertips and take responsibility for finding answers that work for YOU, and then you'll never find yourself dependent on others finding the answers FOR you! 
Got the camera out a couple weekends ago to capture all the gorgeous fall color. . .
Loved the look of the leaves in the creek. 
What IS that?
Two shots of 'Put the camera down and hurry up already!'
 Parting shots.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A New Beginning

It's time to start blogging again. . .  This post has ended up being rather long - making up for lost time I guess.  When I moved to St. Louis, the new complexities of my lifer here took precedence over time spent at the computer.  However, over the years I've spent a lot of time searching around the paleosphere, applying these ideas in my life, discarding what doesn't work and refining what does work - and it's still an ongoing process.  I really, really wish I had a record of where I've been, what I've done, and what I've tweaked over time. . . That, and occasionally feeling like I stumbled across the golden ticket and should be sharing the wealth, is why I decided to re-open the blog.

My own story, in a nutshell (more in later posts) - I always considered myself 'athletic', moving from jogging and some weight lifting in high school and college into road biking and eventually mountain biking in the years after college.  My understanding of nutrition was crude at best and based around the food pyramid/low fat dogma; if it was low fat or no fat, it was ok to eat, protein and carbohydrates were vaguely interchangeable components of all foods and vitamins/minerals could be topped off with a 'One A Day' pill.  Following a bad car accident and back injury that curtailed my physical activity, I began gaining weight, and then began having occasional bouts of general 'malaise' and intermittent bouts of diarrhea.  About nine years ago, I began suffering from chronic joint pain and fatigue, and eventually got to the point I seldom consumed anything solid at work because about 90% of the time, I would have explosive diarrhea within twenty minutes of eating accompanied by severe abdominal cramping and belly pain (but ironically, I had gained more than 60 lbs at this point).  I also developed severe cystic acne over this time, bad enough that I tried an extended course of the drug Accutane (the cystic acne came right back after I went off the drug).  I was eventually diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diverticulosis (likely related to the chronic diarrhea/IBS); my rheumatologist at the time was not entirely convinced that I didn't have Chron's disease or ulcerative colitis, even though full upper and lower GI's didn't show any active lesions at the time.  At this stage of my life, I was no longer able to do many of the things I enjoyed doing, was struggling to make it through each work day, in bed or on the couch sleeping through the weekends, and I wondered just where my life was going to end up.  I was only in my early/mid-thirties.

After a year or so of taking NSAIDS/DMARDS/biologics to treat my disease, and finding that not only were my symptoms not improving, but that the treatment was often as sucky as the disease, I began to research 'alternative' treatments, and began my journey into the world of paleo.  Today, while not entirely symptom (or pharmaceutical) free, my state of 'sick' has improved beyond my wildest hopes and I am living a full life; working full time, and spending a lot of my free time playing hard!  An avid mountain biker and roadie in my twenties, I thought that beloved activity was lost to me forever; I started mountain biking again about three years ago!  I hike, I lift weights; I am generally able to physically do anything I want to do, without excessive planning around, or stopping my life because of, my disease.
Thumbing through my old posts, I realized again how much I've learned since the early years on this journey.  I'll admit that I deleted a number of posts as, lets be honest, they were depressing.  The blog was originally more of a place to rant and rave at the injustice of being saddled with an autoimmune disease and a shitty (pun intended) colon.  And really, there wasn't a whole lot in those posts that was useful information ;-). 
So, my intention for today is to do some housekeeping and in later posts, quoting a phrase some of you may recognize, to outline "what it was like, what happened, and what it's like now". 
I will acknowledge that, depending on where you've been spending your time, you may be suspicious of paleo.  Paleo is a bit of an umbrella term that has gotten a bad rap in certain circles.  If the only exposure you've had to this paleo thing is an article in the NYT, your image of what this is all about is probably pretty limited.  Out in 'public', I tend to simplify things by saying that I eat a whole foods diet and leave it at that.  I'm always glad to talk about these ideas and how they've transformed my life, but I've found that most people, even those with severe health issues, just aren't interested.  It's familiar/easier/safer to stay mired in the habits that got one to dis-ease to begin with. . . And for those that are skeptical that food itself can have such dramatic results in the way the body functions, next time you go to the gas station, fill up with diesel (no, don't, really! - I worked with someone who's 16 year old daughter did this accidentally with the family car - EXPENSIVE!).  Same concept; use inappropriate fuel, fuel your biochemical engine wasn't designed to run on, and the engine may fail (depending on your genetic predisposition).

So, where to start learning about these paleo concepts?  Marks Daily Apple  is an excellent place to start.  One of the things I really like about his site is how well rounded it is; it's not just about food - changing what you eat is a great (and crucial) beginning, but there are plenty other behaviors that influence health, or lack of health, as the case may be.  Mark Sisson offers the Primal Blueprint, which I think is a comprehensive collection of the essential elements that everyone should consider a foundation of good health - that goes double if your starting point is 'sick'.  Spend some time there - there is a Primal Resource Guide that is very handy in laying out a metric shit ton of information right at your finger tips.  I've also provided links to two of Mark's books.

Robb Wolf is another favorite; although you'd never know it to look at him now, he came to the paleosphere from case of the 'sick' himself.  He has some extensive information about the paleo diet in relation to diseases of autoimmunity, and Robb's book (I've provided a link) has section dedicated his specific 'Autoimmune Protocol'.  Robb has also worked with one the men that got me started down this road.  Watching this video series of Prof. Lorain Cordain's talks about multiple sclerosis and 'neolithic agents of disease' were one among many of the early light bulb moments for me over seven years ago.

 And now to move from the 'general' paleo ideas, to more specific autoimmune focused paleo concepts.  Terry Wahls is a real MD, with a real autoimmune disease - multiple sclerosis.  She found, as so many of us do, that conventional medical treatment of autoimmune disease is at best, a way to slow the progression of disease through pharmaceutical intervention and at worst, a path to continuingly progressive disease with a slew of medication induced side effects. Seven years after her diagnosis, with the best of the medical establishment's available pharmaceutical treatment, she found herself in a wheelchair, and thus began her own journey.  By researching the biochemical foundations of disease, and how specific nutrition and lifestyle behaviors can improve that biochemical landscape, she eventually developed The Wahls Protocol.  Her 2011 TEDx talk is a condensed outline of her experience, and is also powerfully motivating for anyone with an autoimmune disease, as well as any 'I want better health' average joe. 

Most of Terry Wahls work came out during a time (actually, over a period of years) when I was completely buried at work, and mountain biking or hiking every spare moment as a stress reliever; I wasn't aware of the majority of her work until recently.  Her Wahls Paleo Plus diet (there ARE less stringent levels) is very similar to the diet I've settled into over time; a ketogenic based paleo diet with a daily 16 hour fast.  And I love, love the importance she places on moving the body/exercising as much as one is capable of.  Her book (I've provided a link) is a MUST READ (did I say that loud enough?) for anyone with autoimmune disease.  It's chock full of information that is easy to understand, even if you have no background in the sciences - and her writing voice is incredibly powerful and inspiring.  Terry has a gift with words; her almost poetic turns of phrase will light a fire in you to take back control of your health!

Peter at Hyperlipid will blow your socks off with some of the heavy duty science behind nutrition research, high fat/low carbohydrate nutrition in particular.  He holds an honorary place for a series of posts that led to some my early internet searches about insulin/inflammation and eventually led to my introduction to the world of paleo.  And this post introduced me to the benefits of intermittent fasting (IF) in relation to autoimmune/inflammation (more about IF in the future, I promise).

So, I've tinkered with setting up my links and composing this post for several days, and it's time to hit publish.  I'm heading out week after next for our annual family fall vacation at a cabin in the area known as the Arkansas Grand Canyon (hopefully temps will be cooler this year) and I leave you with a couple of photos from last year and a promise to post again when I get back.

Had to capture this on camera, the rolling hills and clouds and sun intermingled - beautiful!

A break in the shade; last year's vacation weather was hot and humid - Holly and Mikey NO LIKEY!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sneak Peak

I've been trying to catch up with my blog reading. . . yeah, it's going to take a while. . . Anyway, go over here to visit my favorite primal dude, Mark, and take a sneak peak his 'comprehensive diet, exercise and lifestyle book, The Primal Blueprint'. Mark's "Primal Blueprint" is the foundation for the eating and exercising habits that have had such a tremendous impact on my life over the past nine months or so. Enjoy!

(I've been looking for an excuse to use this pic for a while. . .)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More On Fasting

Peter over at Hyperlipid has an excellent post up, specifically about fasting and rheumatoid arthritis. Go. Read.


Monday, June 23, 2008

The Gorilla in Your House

Wow, every bit as good as Spoons. . .

From Mary, in the UK.

The Gorilla In Your House

With thanks to everyone over at Ouch.

Acquiring a disability is a bit like getting home to find there's a gorilla in your house. You contact the approved and official channels to get rid of infestations of wild animals (in this case, the NHS) and they umm and aah and suck air in through their teeth before saying something roughly equivalent to "what you've got 'ere, mate, is a gorilla, and there ain't really a lot what we can do about them, see..." before sending you back home to the gorilla's waiting arms.

The gorilla in your house will cause problems in every part of your life. Your spouse may decide that (s)he can't deal with the gorilla, and leave. Your boss may get upset that you've brought the gorilla to work with you and it's disrupting your colleagues, who don't know how to deal with gorillas. You're arriving for work wearing a suit the gorilla has slept on. Some days you don't turn up at all because at the last minute, the gorilla has decided to barricade you into the bathroom or sit on you so you can't get out of bed. Your friends will get cheesed off because when you see them - which isn't often, because they don't want to come to your house for fear of the gorilla and the gorilla won't always let you out - your only topic of conversation is this darn gorilla and the devastation it is causing.

There are three major approaches to the gorilla in your house.

One is to ignore it and hope it goes away. This is unlikely to work. A 300-lb gorilla will sleep where he likes, and if that's on top of you, it will have an effect on you.

Another is to try and force the gorilla out, wrestling constantly with it, spending all your time fighting it. This is often a losing battle. Some choose to give all their money to people who will come and wave crystals at the gorilla, from a safe distance of course. This also tends to be a losing battle. However, every so often, one in a hundred gorillas will get bored and wander off. The crystal-wavers and gorilla-wrestlers will claim victory, and tell the media that it's a massive breakthrough in gorilla-control, and that the 99 other gorilla-wrestlers just aren't doing it right due to sloppy thinking or lack of committment. The 99 other gorilla-wrestlers won't have the time or energy to argue.

I have known people spend the best years of their life and tens of thousands of pounds trying to force their gorillas to go away. The tragedy is that even if it does wander off for a while, they won't get their pre-gorilla lives back. They'll be older, skint, exhausted, and constantly afraid that the gorilla may well come back.

The third way to deal with the gorilla in your house is to accept it, tame it, and make it part of your life. Figure out a way to calm your gorilla down. Teach it how to sit still until you are able to take it places with you without it making a scene. Find out how to equip your home with gorilla-friendly furnishings and appliances. Negotiate with your boss about ways to accomodate, or even make use of, your gorilla. Meet other people who live with gorillas and enjoy having something in common, and share gorilla-taming tips.

People get really upset about this and throw around accusations of "giving up" and "not even trying". They even suggest that you enjoy having a gorilla around because of the attention it gets you (while ignoring the massive pile of steaming gorilla-turds in your bedroom every morning and night, not to mention your weekly bill for bananas). The best way to deal with these people is to smile and remind yourself that one day, they too will have a gorilla in their house.

What Are YOU Going to Do With Your Dash?

Last week, driving in to work, I heard a very good story on the radio that I've just got to share. I'm not the world's best story teller, so be patient with me. . .

A man told about how, as a young man, his father had taken him to his grandfather's grave site. His father told him to look at the headstone and tell him what the most important thing on the stone was. The man looked at the stone and saw his grandfather's name, date of birth, and date of death. Finally, he gave up and told his father he didn't know. His father pointed to the dash in between the date of birth and date of death. The father told the young man that that was the most important thing on the head stone, the dash. And then the father asked him 'What are you going to do with YOUR dash?'

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I ran across this a while back, and thought I would share. Anyone else use too many spoons because it was a 'holiday' weekend?

The Spoon Theory

by Christine Miserandino http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/

My best friend and I were in the diner, talking. As usual, it was very late and we were eating French fries with gravy. Like normal girls our age, we spent a lot of time in the diner while in college, and most of the time we spent talking about boys, music or trivial things, that seemed very important at the time. We never got serious about anything in particular and spent most of our time laughing.

As I went to take some of my medicine with a snack as I usually did, she watched me with an awkward kind of stare, instead of continuing the conversation. She then asked me out of the blue what it felt like to have Lupus and be sick. I was shocked not only because she asked the random question, but also because I assumed she knew all there was to know about Lupus. She came to doctors with me, she saw me walk with a cane, and throw up in the bathroom. She had seen me cry in pain, what else was there to know?

I started to ramble on about pills, and aches and pains, but she kept pursuing, and didn't seem satisfied with my answers. I was a little surprised as being my roommate in college and friend for years; I thought she already knew the medical definition of Lupus. Then she looked at me with a face every sick person knows well, the face of pure curiosity about something no one healthy can truly understand. She asked what it felt like, not physically, but what it felt like to be me, to be sick.

As I tried to gain my composure, I glanced around the table for help or guidance, or at least stall for time to think. I was trying to find the right words. How do I answer a question I never was able to answer for myself? How do I explain every detail of every day being effected, and give the emotions a sick person goes through with clarity. I could have given up, cracked a joke like I usually do, and changed the subject, but I remember thinking if I don’t try to explain this, how could I ever expect her to understand. If I can’t explain this to my best friend, how could I explain my world to anyone else? I had to at least try.

At that moment, the spoon theory was born. I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes and said "Here you go, you have Lupus". She looked at me slightly confused, as anyone would when they are being handed a bouquet of spoons. The cold metal spoons clanked in my hands, as I grouped them together and shoved them into her hands.

I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.

Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a "loss" of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control.

She grabbed the spoons with excitement. She didn’t understand what I was doing, but she is always up for a good time, so I guess she thought I was cracking a joke of some kind like I usually do when talking about touchy topics. Little did she know how serious I would become?

I asked her to count her spoons. She asked why, and I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of "spoons". But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many "spoons" you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting. She counted out 12 spoons. She laughed and said she wanted more. I said no, and I knew right away that this little game would work, when she looked disappointed, and we hadn't even started yet. I’ve wanted more "spoons" for years and haven’t found a way yet to get more, why should she? I also told her to always be conscious of how many she had, and not to drop them because she can never forget she has Lupus.

I asked her to list off the tasks of her day, including the most simple. As, she rattled off daily chores, or just fun things to do; I explained how each one would cost her a spoon. When she jumped right into getting ready for work as her first task of the morning, I cut her off and took away a spoon. I practically jumped down her throat. I said " No! You don’t just get up. You have to crack open your eyes, and then realize you are late. You didn’t sleep well the night before. You have to crawl out of bed, and then you have to make your self something to eat before you can do anything else, because if you don’t, you can't take your medicine, and if you don’t take your medicine you might as well give up all your spoons for today and tomorrow too." I quickly took away a spoon and she realized she hasn’t even gotten dressed yet. Showering cost her spoon, just for washing her hair and shaving her legs. Reaching high and low that early in the morning could actually cost more than one spoon, but I figured I would give her a break; I didn’t want to scare her right away. Getting dressed was worth another spoon. I stopped her and broke down every task to show her how every little detail needs to be thought about. You cannot simply just throw clothes on when you are sick. I explained that I have to see what clothes I can physically put on, if my hands hurt that day buttons are out of the question. If I have bruises that day, I need to wear long sleeves, and if I have a fever I need a sweater to stay warm and so on. If my hair is falling out I need to spend more time to look presentable, and then you need to factor in another 5 minutes for feeling badly that it took you 2 hours to do all this.

I think she was starting to understand when she theoretically didn’t even get to work, and she was left with 6 spoons. I then explained to her that she needed to choose the rest of her day wisely, since when your "spoons" are gone, they are gone. Sometimes you can borrow against tomorrow’s "spoons", but just think how hard tomorrow will be with less "spoons". I also needed to explain that a person who is sick always lives with the looming thought that tomorrow may be the day that a cold comes, or an infection, or any number of things that could be very dangerous. So you do not want to run low on "spoons", because you never know when you truly will need them. I didn’t want to depress her, but I needed to be realistic, and unfortunately being prepared for the worst is part of a real day for me.

We went through the rest of the day, and she slowly learned that skipping lunch would cost her a spoon, as well as standing on a train, or even typing at her computer too long. She was forced to make choices and think about things differently. Hypothetically, she had to choose not to run errands, so that she could eat dinner that night.

When we got to the end of her pretend day, she said she was hungry. I summarized that she had to eat dinner but she only had one spoon left. If she cooked, she wouldn’t have enough energy to clean the pots. If she went out for dinner, she might be too tired to drive home safely. Then I also explained, that I didn’t even bother to add into this game, that she was so nauseous, that cooking was probably out of the question anyway. So she decided to make soup, it was easy. I then said it is only 7pm, you have the rest of the night but maybe end up with one spoon, so you can do something fun, or clean your apartment, or do chores, but you can’t do it all.

I rarely see her emotional, so when I saw her upset I knew maybe I was getting through to her. I didn’t want my friend to be upset, but at the same time I was happy to think finally maybe someone understood me a little bit. She had tears in her eyes and asked quietly "Christine, How do you do it? Do you really do this everyday?" I explained that some days were worse then others; some days I have more spoons then most. But I can never make it go away and I can’t forget about it, I always have to think about it. I handed her a spoon I had been holding in reserve. I said simply, "I have learned to live life with an extra spoon in my pocket, in reserve. You need to always be prepared"

Its hard, the hardest thing I ever had to learn is to slow down, and not do everything. I fight this to this day. I hate feeling left out, having to choose to stay home, or to not get things done that I want to. I wanted her to feel that frustration. I wanted her to understand, that everything everyone else does comes so easy, but for me it is one hundred little jobs in one. I need to think about the weather, my temperature that day, and the whole day's plans before I can attack any one given thing. When other people can simply do things, I have to attack it and make a plan like I am strategizing a war. It is in that lifestyle, the difference between being sick and healthy. It is the beautiful ability to not think and just do. I miss that freedom. I miss never having to count "spoons".

After we were emotional and talked about this for a little while longer, I sensed she was sad. Maybe she finally understood. Maybe she realized that she never could truly and honestly say she understands. But at least now she might not complain so much when I can't go out for dinner some nights, or when I never seem to make it to her house and she always has to drive to mine. I gave her a hug when we walked out of the diner. I had the one spoon in my hand and I said "Don’t worry. I see this as a blessing. I have been forced to think about everything I do. Do you know how many spoons people waste everyday? I don’t have room for wasted time, or wasted "spoons" and I chose to spend this time with you."

Ever since this night, I have used the spoon theory to explain my life to many people. In fact, my family and friends refer to spoons all the time. It has been a code word for what I can and cannot do. Once people understand the spoon theory they seem to understand me better, but I also think they live their life a little differently too. I think it isn’t just good for understanding Lupus, but anyone dealing with any disability or illness. Hopefully, they don’t take so much for granted or their life in general. I give a piece of myself, in every sense of the word when I do anything. It has become an inside joke. I have become famous for saying to people jokingly that they should feel special when I spend time with them, because they have one of my "spoons".

© 2003 by Christine Miserandino Butyoudontlooksick.com