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Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Celiac Journey - Part I: The weight loss competition

This begins a series of weekly posts chronicling my journey through my diagnosis with celiac disease. I began my blog with the intention of doing a celiac entry each Thursday (the day of my diagnosis), but I wasn't ready. I didn't know enough about what was happening to me.

The first several weeks will be a look back to the first months of 2008. Eventually I will catch up to the present. Perhaps then I will return to a weekly journal of my current life with Celiac Disease. Until then, I hope you enjoy reading my story.

(I know I say in the catchline that "predictability's for chumps", but I guess I can make ONE exception, right?)

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Part I: The Weight Loss Competition

I teach high school, not the most active of trades, and in January 2008, the beginning of second semester, my friends and I formed a weight loss group. $5 to get in, $1 a week from each losing competitor. Whoever saw the most improvement in their BMI would win the kitty. We decided pounds off was not just unhealthy, but unfair, as we were all coming from different starting points.

We locked the door to the bookroom, took our "before" pictures, and broke out the measuring tape. We brought in a communal scale for our weekly weigh-ins. We set BMI and weight loss goals. We swapped exercise stories and favorite workout class info and changed to healthier eating habits.

I found a great website called TOPS: Taking off Pounds Sensibly, joined up, and started following it as closely as possible. I was working out and eating right and drinking lots of water. And I got GREAT results, at first. I started to feel better and trim down, but then...

Something strange started happening to me.

I started feeling really sluggish, for starters. It got harder and harder to make it to the gym because I was so sleepy, just bone tired. I've always been able to sleep at the drop of a hat, but I lost the need for the hat. I would often come home from work and crash on the couch for a nap. Eventually, I'd have to drag myself to the kitchen to make dinner, and then I'd go back to the couch. I usually was able to stay up past the kids' bedtime of 8:30, but often I'd fall asleep while watching TV with Jim. I'd sleep for 8-9 hours before getting up the next day and starting all over again. This pattern became more and more normal for me.

I was SO tired. The tired-ness started affecting my work habits, my dress, my attention span, everything.

Imagine you're a teen-ager for a minute. You go to English class, and your teacher is pushing papers around, shuffling through different stacks. Then she picks up an attendance sheet and proceeds to take attendance for the last 3 days. This is then followed by the question, "Alright, what did we do in here yesterday?" and once in a while this one, "I didn't give you homework, did I? No? Good."

We made it work, somehow. My students still had about a 98% pass rate on their state tests that year, and most of them passed the class, too. I had no trouble teaching or grading, but my memory of what was happening day to day was shot.

I lost everything: keys, glasses, papers, homework, my purse, my phone... you name it. Most of those things were found later. Most.

After a while, I started noticing changes in my digestive system, too. I started getting really gassy, especially if I ate fast food, but for the most part I was eating well, so I didn't know what was up with that.

To make matters worse, even though I was still going to the gym once or twice a week, and only eating about 1,000-1,300 calories a day, I wasn't losing weight. I was gaining.

I blamed it on stress. I blamed it on my busy schedule: I had the school newspaper to revive, a college level class to teach, a regular level class - I was the anime club sponsor and the lead teacher for the 11th grade English as well. I blamed it on getting old, I was 30 after all. I blamed the weather. I blamed my lack of a work-out buddy. I blamed my lack of sleep.

It didn't matter what I blamed it on. The longer we dieted together, the less I could keep up. My friends were all losing weight, slimming down. They were looking better and getting bouncier. I was getting slower. My initial weight losses reversed. My measurements were going up. All my health problems were getting worse instead of better. And then, I started developing new problems.

I was scared.

My friends were confused. I was eating so well! Lots of whole grains, nice balanced meals, fruits and vegetables, too. I was working out. It was so strange. “Was I cheating at home?” they wondered. No. No, I was not.

I told myself it was nothing. It was just me being a hypochondriac again. But a little voice inside me pointed to the last time I thought I was being a hypochondriac.

I ended up with a bipolar disorder diagnosis.

See you next week for Part II: “You look allergic”


6 comments:

  1. Saying hi from SITS! Good luck on your midterms!

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  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. Let's hope it helps others that are struggling.
    Uncle Chuck

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  3. Thanks for sharing so openly. So many suffer and have no idea why...i pray your sharing will help many!!

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  4. I came over from A Teachable Heart. I, too, have Celiac Disease. It took over 10 years for me to get an accurate diagnosis. And I find that Dr's and nurses often still don't either know what Celiac is, or don't fully understand it. Scary, huh?! I have lots of other health problems now probably caused or exacerbated from my years of being undiagnosed. I hope that your journey to better health is going well!! :) Thanks for choosing to share your story...it may just help others too!

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  5. Sounds scary. I'm glad it seems like you found the reason at least. I'm curious to hear more about your adventure.

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  6. Wow. This is quite scary. I'm interested in hearing more.

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