Category Archives: Health

I spent $2000 for a week at fat camp…

Did I really volunteer (pay $2000 to) work out 5+ hours a day and wake up at the crack of dawn six days in a row? I asked myself that quite a few times over the last week while I was doing my nth set of reps or sprints at the weightloss resort my friend and I had spur-of-the-moment booked a trip to — how could one week of health-based torture hurt?

I really wasn’t sure what I had signed up for — would it be military-style “yelling in your face” bootcamp, or something a bit more gentle? Would everyone there be morbidly obese – and I, just “barely” obese, would be the fittest in the bunch, outpacing the others and not pushing myself hard enough to get any value out of the program?

It turns out that the program we picked had quite the mix of people – from those who were really already quite fit seeking to lose a few pounds to people who were well over healthy weight. Many guests, to my surprise, were staying for multiple weeks — and quite a few were repeat visitors, which I saw both as a good thing (they liked the program enough to return) and a bad thing (they couldn’t stick to the healthy lifestyle on their own so they have to come back to the program again and again to lose weight.)

Even though I had quite a few qualms about the program, overall I think it was a very positive and worthwhile experience. My husband thought I was a nut to spend $2000 on a week weightloss program because you can’t actually significantly change your weight in a week. I know that. It took me six months to lose 40 pounds and six to put it all back on. But one can accomplish a lot in a week mentally. Sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone to break through places you’re stuck.

While all the exercise was helpful in getting me from barely-able-to-move to sprinting for two minutes at a time again in a very short while, what really impacted me was the nutritional element of the program. We were fed breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, which amounted to about 1200 calories per day, and were provided with snacks (take as much as you want) which were limited to hardboiled eggs, almonds, fruit, and a few other protein items. We were supposed to be eating about 1500 calories per day.

When I lost 40 pounds last year, I did eat about 1500 calories per day on average, plus exercised 3 times a week for 1 hour (not 5 hours 6 days a week.) However, my diet was very unhealthy. I felt sluggish and hungry all the time. In this program, the chef made meals that were perfectly balanced so that we’d feel full and not hungry before our next meal, despite all the working out. I supplemented with two hardboiled eggs for breakfast and a fruit, and a serving of peanut butter before going to bed if my stomach was growling. We were also allowed unlimited access to the salad bar which was not so impressive but it did teach the lesson that one should fill up with salad before eating to help eat enough nutrients and feel full. Lunch always was a tasty soup around 75-95 calories and a main dish. Dinner included a main dish and a desert. Breakfast was a protein, a carb and a fruit, with one serving of fat – such as eggs, a piece of sprouted toast, small dab of butter, and a few pieces of melon.

For someone who typically eats NOTHING *or* Half-a-loaf-of-bread for breakfast (with half a stick of butter) — it was a new experience to be eating a healthy balanced meal every day at 9am, especially after already having worked out for two hours on a challenging (to me) hike.

By eating balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day, I rarely got hungry, and I also discovered my mood to be much improved. It may just be that I was on vacation, or that the endorphins from suddenly exercising five hours per day were making me loopy – but I could feel my blood sugar remaining balanced, which really helped me not experience the depression dips that I’m used to (and I went off my starter zoloft for the week because I didn’t think I needed it.)

At the end of the week I lost 3.5lbs (1.6% body fat) and about 2 inches in my waist. I still have a long way to go to be healthy (I wasn’t really healthy last year when I was 140 pounds, nor am I healthy now at 173.) But I’m going to try REALLY HARD to stick to this food lifestyle and eat 3 balanced meals per day. No more binging. No more wasting calories on sugar that mucks up my emotions. I really feel like I’ve experienced a substantial change and I’m ready to see this through – the rest of my life. I don’t want to be one of the people returning to the program year after year (nor can I afford it.) I want to be my own success story.

The Cost of Getting Healthy: Worth It

With my somewhat aggressive savings plan, my networth has eeked over the $480k mark, leaving “just” $20k left for the remainder of the year to hit my annual and “before giving birth*” goal of $500k. (*still not pregnant, so it’s looking more and more likely that I’ll hit this goal.)

While I’m far from frugal, I started doing some longer term calculations and realizing that perhaps I’m saving too much of my paycheck (is there such a thing?) I’m not a Mustachian — I have no desire to “retire early” — and maybe I don’t need $200k a year (after inflation) in actual retirement because I hope to always be able to work (albeit in a different, lower paid and more meaningful job once I’ve saved enough.) Continue reading

The Slow March of Death: My Father’s Cancer and Necessary Denial of Mortality

Yesterday, I joked with my husband that it’s difficult to say “poor dad” in any scenario. My father, with his chronic narcissism, is quick to blame you with a massive guilt trip for any slight mistake, to debate your opinion to the ground telling you you’re flat out wrong, and to make thousands of careless mistakes only to get extremely angry at you if you dare to call him out on any of them. Yesterday was a day when “poor dad” would be the tinge of empathy I feel for him bubbles to the surface.

It has been nearly 10 years since the doctors told him that he has an aggressive form of late-stage prostate cancer and he had “two years” to live. He is 67, and with all his health issues – his obesity, his diabetes which he fails to keep in check, and the cancer which was supposed to take his life long ago, has surpassed the lifetime of Carrie Fisher and many others who have died too young. Still, there is never a good time to die, and despite his personality shortcomings we all want him to live as long as possible and as comfortably as possible. I had a bit of a breakdown years ago about his looming mortality, and then as time passed and the drug concoctions they put him on started to slow down the growth of his cancer we all just put the thoughts of death out of our minds. He briefly lost weight and seemed a bit happier. Then he returned his old habits – overeating, yelling horrible things at my mother, and being his typical anxious, narcissistic, grouchy self. Continue reading

My Cousin Tried to Kill Herself

There is nothing harder to get through than adolescent depression. Not only are you dealing with the darkness that is a depressive episode, you are stuck in an environment where drama is amplified and your hormones are raging and you are trying to figure out where you belong in the world as you transition to adulthood. It’s really fucking hard.

Yesterday, my aunt texted to tell me that she was back in the ER with my 15-year-old cousin, I’ll call her Jen. I just visited Jen last week in a special group home for youth with various mental illness. I visited her twice in the 10 days she was in the home after previously giving her school counselor a note saying she had a plan to kill herself. The first visit went relatively well, but was short because I got there after work and they have an early curfew. Continue reading

PCOS Women: Avoiding BPA – is it possible?

BPA (bisphenol-A) – a synthetic estrogen used to harden polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin – is a troubling element of most plastics that we use on a daily basis. It is proven to be an endocrine disrupter, which is especially worrisome for women who are trying to get pregnant, especially those of us with PCOS.

BPA-Endocrine Disorder (source):

  1. Reduces the number of oocytes (cell in ovary that may undergo meiotic division to form an ovum)
  2. Lowers successful number of births
  3. Changes gene expression
  4. Reduces the function of Estrogen Receptor Beta
  5. Negatively affects mitochondrial function
  6. Alters hypothalamic pituitary / increases testosterone
  7. Lowers progesterone
  8. alters GnRH secretion
  9. Increases glucocorticoids
  10. heightens response to stress, elevates levels of anxiety

Continue reading

In this Friday, July 8, 2016 photo, a pharmacist holds a package of EpiPens, an epinephrine autoinjector for the treatment of allergic reactions, in Sacramento, Calif. Price hikes for the emergency medicine have made its maker, Mylan, the latest target for patients and politicians infuriated by soaring drug prices. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The Giant American Prescription Drug Scam

In the US, we pay more for prescription drugs than ANY OTHER COUNTRY. By a lot – more than double. The reason for this is complicated. And the amount of attention brought to this issue ebbs and flows. Last week, a bunch of pissed-off parents made it clear that the epic price hike on the EpiPen (used for major life-threatening allergy attacks) was not an acceptable move on the part of drug manufacturer Mylan — the same company whose CEO received a 671% salary increase in just eight years from under $3M to over $18M.

[Sign the Petition Against EpiPen Pricing Here]

Luckily, I don’t have allergies or the need for an EpiPen – which now costs $400 per pen or about $415 after insurance for two pens. In Canada, a hop, skip, and snowshoe north of our borders, the pens are distributed by Pfizer and cost just $100 a pen. In France, the pens cost $85. Perhaps allergies in Canada are not as vicious as those in the States? Maybe French people are allergic to allergies so they just don’t get them? No — the EpiPen in all countries serves the same exact purpose… it’s just a lot more expensive to acquire in the US. Continue reading

The Big Bet: Weight Loss and $1000 On the Line

Last summer, following my engagement, I decided to put a significant amount of money on the line to commit to losing weight. At the time I was about 170lbs, and I refused to walk down the aisle that overweight. My healthy BMI, according to the charts, is – at its highest – 140lbs. My goal, then, became to walk down the aisle at a healthy BMI.

I found a site called HealthyWage which allowed you to pick your weight loss objectives, timeline to hit those goals, and how much you want to put on the line. I bet $1000 because I figured that was a very substantial amount of money – substantial enough that I wouldn’t fuck up. I gave myself 10 months for the weight loss… I had to lose about 30lbs in 10 months, which was less than 3lbs a month – totally doable.

Then, I went through a period of depression and gained back some of the weight I was losing. I still stayed under my max weight, but suddenly the easy weight loss goal became much more difficult. I hired a personal trainer. I found that even with eating healthy and working out 3x a week I was only losing four pounds a month on average. I wasn’t losing weight fast enough, and my final weigh-in was getting closer and closer.

Today, I have a little over 5 weeks to lose 10-11lbs. While that’s theoretically do-able, it’s extremely hard (it’s basically 2lbs per week consistently.) There is plenty of literature that says you can lose this much, but it gets harder the closer you get to your goal. It’s one thing to completely botch this exercise but to end up just 2lbs away from my goal will be emotionally devastating. It’s quite possible it will come to that. Or, I can figure out how to kick the final 11 pounds to the curb once and for all. It will take more focus and determination than I’ve ever exhibited in my entire life. But, as I’ve always said, if you aren’t going to be willing to kick your ass into shape for your wedding, when in life will you be willing?

I’m focused on increasing my cardio and a very low carb diet, taking one day at a time. I’m at the point where every calorie counts and no matter how badly I want to sleep in or go home at a reasonable time, I need to work out to force my body to lose those two pounds a week. I believe on a strict ketosis diet with substantial exercise (still eating a healthy calorie count) I can get to my goal, but it’s going to be very, very hard. With my average of 4-5 lbs of weight loss each month on a healthier-than-usual diet, my body may not be willing to part with the pounds. But I’m putting my best effort forward here and will not be eating sweets on Easter or giving in to drinking anything other than tea and water.

April, you are my clean eating month, my super healthy, shrink my fat arms and stomach down marathon. You are my opportunity to win $900 or lose $1000. To be a winner or to fail despite losing over 15 pounds.

By April 14, I need to be down to 145lbs. That is my current focus. Six pounds in a little under 3 weeks. There’s my two pound a week goal, and a good half way point to check in on. I don’t know why but I’m feeling optimistic here that I can do this. I really hope I’m right. I’ll do whatever it takes.

What’s Making Successful American Women Feel Sick?

14-successful-women-sick.w529.h352

Lean In. You can have it all. We’ve come so far in our society to tell ourselves this lie. Yet according to a new survey of super-successful women at Fortune 500 companies, women who are wealthy and highly educated reported to feel less healthy than those who were less successful. Despite the fact that these women were actually less likely to be overweight  and more likely to get six hours of sleep a night, they seem to judge themselves against an unattainable ideal, which makes them feel less healthy.

The Title of the Harvard Business Review Article “The More Women Earn, The Less Healthy They Feel.” It’s not that these women are actually unhealthy, just that they fail to find time to dedicate to their health, especially when it comes to finding time to see a doctor – 48% said they could not see a doctor due to workload. And women who are in high-powered roles find it challenging to find time to exercise – 25% had not participated in any kind of physical exercise in the last month.

As I’ve moved up in the work world to have more responsibility, I find it much more challenging to make time for health. I’ve never been a healthy person, so I’m not the ideal sample, but to perform my job well I should wake up at 6am or earlier and be on a 7:30 train to arrive at work, stay at work until 7 and – I should – attend after work networking events, to return home late in the evening. This is overwhelming to me and I don’t even have children or other responsibilities. I’m trying now to get exercise in by having a personal trainer come to my apartment at 6am three days a week, to make me work out for an hour. But that doesn’t work well when I’m falling asleep at midnight and I need eight hours of sleep a night to function. And my diet, albeit an improvement over what I ate in my 20s, is still hit or miss. Sometimes I’ll go to bed having not eaten enough calories for the day which leads to binge eating the next day. It’s a horrible cycle.

I would assume this is just as hard for men, so the study of women only is an interesting one. There are other reports which show that men often do less housework, especially which children, so women are often more busy due to managing both household responsibilities and work. That may be why this study about women’s health is worth an HBR article.

The other thing that isn’t mentioned, however, is that women generally have more medical concerns than men, and more medical visits required just to maintain their health. I don’t have any idea how a woman finds time to see a doctor over any fertility issues – though I guess I may have to figure that out over the next year or so. As a female executive, I think there is a larger fear that every moment out of the office, every doctor’s appointment, every hour not focused on the job, will be a huge ding against one’s record. Men don’t have to worry about that (typically.) And when the majority of senior leaders in a company are men, such topics don’t come up until you have to have awkward conversations — “I’m trying to get pregnant but I can’t get pregnant so I need to take some time to go to a doctor a few times every month.” Who wants to have that conversation with their boss?

But, beyond this, it’s sad that women in leadership roles feel so unhealthy. What is wealth and success if we don’t have our health?

 

 

Do I Choose to be Stressed?

A friend of mine, a stay-at-home mother who is married to an engineer who is likely earning over $200k a year, has told me to stop making choices that make me so stressed. I should go to a mindfulness class, she says, as this helped her resolve the majority of her own anxieties. They aren’t rich by any means for this area, but they do have a small condo that the husband’s parents purchased and they are renting the unit from them. I agree with her that I put myself in stressful situations and even when I don’t I have a tendency to stress about every little thing, but it’s hard to have a conversation with her about the stress I feel about money and the ability to live a comfortable life. I hear my mother’s voice, someone who doesn’t really want to understand money or retirement savings, but who just assumes it will all work out. And maybe it will for her. And maybe it will for me. But maybe not.

In the case of my life, I just don’t see it all magically working out. I have to make it work. And,  yes, that is stressful. I am literally making the choice between jobs that will pay over $150k and jobs that would pay $60k — and the crazy thing is it’s easier to get hired in the former right now. Those well-paid jobs come with a heaping dose of responsibility and the corresponding stress.

Here I am, one month from turning 32, and — this is the year I’ll get married and when I want to try to have children. I know having children will be challenging due to my health issues, and I also know that stress can contribute to infertility and miscarriages. I need to focus on being healthy and stress-free right now, but that’s hard to do when I am staring down these startup jobs that I’ll always feel under-qualified for and incapable of any sustained success. And just logistically these companies don’t have paid leave for maternity or anything, so I’d basically have to quit when I have a kid, if I have a kid. Which really sucks since I’m currently the breadwinner (well, at least prior to getting the axe!) I don’t know how I can make this work. It works FINE now – living in a one bedroom apartment and being ok with having to move if our rent goes up too much… but I can’t do this with kids. I mean, people DO do this with kids. But if I’m stressed now… then I can’t imagine how I’d feel then. And I don’t want to be a stressed out mother around my future children.

Today, I’m trying to decide whether to do COBRA for health insurance or to purchase it on my own. Neither option is great. For $550 a month I can have a $1500 deductible plan… or I can buy my own and do something like $350 a month for a $5000 deductible. In either case, it’s just a catastrophic plan and any other health needs… like… pregnancy stuff… wouldn’t be covered (well, it would go towards that impossibly high deductible or not at all.) My fiance doesn’t have insurance through work so it’s not like I’ll be better off when married. We’ll just be paying more in tax (if we’re both working) as our big reward for tying the knot.

I know I’m fortunate to even have these problems… but the next few years of my life are legitimately terrifying. These are the years when I either become a mother OR become a woman who never has kids. Either is a major, major life-defining situation. I want kids, even though I’ll never feel ready. I don’t want to watch my 30s go by and have just let work become the only thing that matters in life. And I’m the type of person that is all or nothing — it’s so hard for me to be just enough, but not too much, especially when in the startup world the general unspoken agreement is that you should work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week (give or take.)

Becoming a contractor would be ideal – for the flexibility – but then I’ll really have to deal with the health insurance situation… I mean, after rent, health insurance, and car insurance … that’s about $1800 a month right now. I just don’t think I can – for the long term – do the consultant thing. I think, even though the stability kills my drive, I need it. I just don’t know WHAT to do. It’s not like I can bring up the whole “hey… so I may get pregnant in the next year or two… and also, I may need to take crazy hormones and take time off of work in order to get pregnant because my body doesn’t work so can I negotiate some of flexibility into this contract or you know what just go hire some woman who doesn’t want kids or who already has them at least or just someone who probably won’t have substantial medical issues trying to get pregnant.”

My friend would tell me that I shouldn’t be stressing over this. But, I guess, I would want to ask her if she’d be stressed if she didn’t have a stable place to live and a husband with such a well-paid, high-stress career. She says she doesn’t care about money but I know she likes nice things — she has good taste — and I know she says she doesn’t really care about money because that would be too stressful, but that’s because at this point, perhaps, she doesn’t have to care, or she chooses not to think about it or be involved in her financial future.

There really isn’t anyone I know who is in a similar situation either — my friends here (the female ones) are either married and stay-at-home mothers or part-time self-employed types with husbands who have high-paid tech jobs, or they’re in a situation where they’re making about the same as their significant others and will probably leave the area since their careers don’t provide the salaries needed to last here. I don’t relate to (or have any friends to people who are) powerful women who have high-paid jobs. I mean, I’m not that type, I’m just faking it… for now. I really want to just tell these companies I’m interviewing for all the reasons they shouldn’t hire me… because I’m so tired of being a good interviewer but then feeling like I just don’t know what to do or how to do it when I start – or especially after I get through the few things I know how to do… and am left with a whole bunch of “figure it out” that never goes so well when I’m in charge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weight and Finances, Keeping Both on Track

As I head towards what will likely be my actual marriage year (2017), I’m fully aware that both poofy white dresses and slim, sleek white dresses accentuate one’s curves – for better or worse. I’m on a mission to actually lose weight and keep it off this time. Yes, I know I’ve said that virtually every year since 1983. Ok, maybe not 1983 because when I was a baby I did not say that. But you get the point.

The last time I was at a healthy weight I was extremely depressed and quite frankly not eating enough calories paired with riding a bike 5 miles a day in hilly terrain to commute to and from work. I didn’t notice the pounds just melting away over a three month period, but melt they did. Somehow my then-typically 155b body slimmed down to 120lbs. I wasn’t toned or anything so I still felt heavy, and to put this into context for those of you who understand women’s clothing my 120lbs was an adult size 8, not like a 2. I’m rather petite, so 120lbs – next time with some muscle and a little less fat – is my ultimate goal for W-day.

Unfortunately, since 2006 and my massive weight loss, I put all the weight back on and then some in the form of further depression and my binge eating habit. It was easy to not eat a lot when I was feeling anti-social and had no car, and no place to really hide my food, living with roommates and not wanting to leave the house other than to go to work and come home. Then I got a car and started to drive to and from work, a work with a vending machine and a crappy cafeteria which I ate at for lunch, often eating unhealthy food. I’d drive to taco bell for a treat and have two tacos and a pepsi. Needless to say, my body is very sensitive to caloric intake and I blew up like a blimp just as fast as I lost the weight.

When I stepped on the scale at a recent doctor’s visit and weighed 180lbs, I knew something I had to change. I only saw that number once before and that was two years ago, when I started to get my act together, and got down to 155lbs, only to drop back into a depression and eat myself back up to 180. It’s really frustrating, because it takes so long to lose weight and it seems it’s so easy to just pack it all back on and then some. And every year one gets older metabolism can slow so that makes weight loss even harder.

I also want to lose weight because I know if/when I have kids, I want to be able to have the energy to run around with them. I definitely can feel myself – my body – getting older. I’m not treating it right. I have to hyper focus on my health as I have on my finances throughout these last 10 years. Perhaps my 20s were really my financial fitness years, my 30s will be my personal fitness ones.

What’s most challenging for me is that I’ve never been the athletic type, but I love to move. I have so much energy in me and sitting at my desk all day just numbs me. I’d love to go to an adult dance class but my social anxiety typically keeps me from it. Or I’m just too busy traveling and it’s a waste of money. I know, excuses, excuses. Mostly I just am too caught up in my depression to get myself to do much of anything. At least I’ve been walking some to and from work – I try to get in 1 to 4 miles of walking a day during the week, and now that it’s spring a longer hike on the weekends with the beau. I also have a gym membership through work which is awesome and I really need to use it more. I just spend so much time commuting that my energy is shot by the time I even think about going to the gym.

I know more than anything being healthy takes long-term dedication. Being healthy is different from being in top shape, and before one can even consider becoming fitness-model worthy, she must spend a heck of a lot of time just getting to basic health. So that’s my first goal. I want to lose 1lb a week and not get off track this time. According to my scale, which I think is too low, I’m at 173lbs now. I’ll be tracking there as by the end of May I want to be at 167lbs. I still can’t believe how I got myself to 155 two years ago and completely messed up the downward trend, but it is what it is. At least my boyfriend hasn’t proposed to me yet. I think he will on our nine year anniversary, which is next month. So that gives me some time to get myself presentable for a wedding. One he officially proposes to me, and once I’m down about 20lbs back to 155, I may splurge on the personal trainer to help with the last 30.